Raspberry Pi Zero Released

On November 26, 2015, Eben Upton and his engineering team at the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced the release of another member of the Pi family – Pi Zero. As far as I know, this is the first usable computer that runs Linux and costs $5 USD. This is an amazing accomplishment.

RaspberryPi-ZeroRather than blog out all of the technical details, I suggest you download the latest issue of the MagPi. This is one of my favorite magazines, and the 40th issue is one of the best ever. It contains everything you need to know about the new Pi.

Cynics may argue that this Pi really does not qualify as a $5 computer since you need to invest in a couple of special cables to make is useful. Also, you need to solder in a pin header if you want to use the IO capabilities. So what? This is just another proof of Sopwith’s theorem – “If it works out of the box – what fun is that?”

The fact anyone can purchase a computer with this power at a $5 price point says it all. I suspect this device will be more popular with hackers and makers than with schools, but this remains to be seen.

Eben posted a video explaining the reasoning behind building a $5 computer.  I am struck by his passion and dedication to the education of young people. His humbleness is striking.

Sopwith

Take back your TV

After a year of living in London, Mrs. Sopwith and I are now back in our USA home in the Los Angeles area. Our life in the US is more complicated than life in the UK. In London, we rented a small flat and used public transportation to get around. Life was so simple.

Here is California, we have cars, a big house and lawn to maintain, insurance, taxes, utilities, and all the other headaches of living in the Western US. One of my biggest gripes about life in the US is the cost of mobile telephones and television. Ol’ Sopwith does not like to complain, but I have a strong belief that many companies in the US are committed to ripping off the unwary public.

Take DirecTV for example. I have been a customer for 15 years. Five years ago, I upgraded my satellite dish and receivers to the digital package. My monthly bill is $110 USD for TV  programming without movie packages or any other add-ons. To me, this is a lot of money. When I looked at my bill recently, I discovered they were charging me $26 in junk fees every month. I usually smell smoke when I wire up my electronic projects wrong; in this case I smell smoke from a greed driven satellite provider.

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Interesting KickStarter project

Ol’ Sopwith has been pretty slow to warm up to the crowdfunding frenzy. My friends over at the Pi Supply Store alerted me to a pretty cool project that has it all; Pi’s, Pi cameras, nature, hacking, and young people.

I have hacked lot of projects using the Pi cam and have been on the constant lookout for a rugged case to use outdoors. Bingo.The Naturebytes Wildlife Cam Kit Project is a brilliant idea from a very passionate group of talented founders.

NatureCam-frontNatureCam-insideTake a look at this project and send a few dollars their way. Project has to be funded by July 25, 2015.

Sopwith

“Yes – something so fun can be really useful”

About a year ago I posted a ‘How-To‘ document describing how to connect an AM2315 temperature sensor to a Pi. I received many emails and many people posted responses to my blog entry.

One of the most interesting emails I received was from Dr. Michael Glenn, Plant Physiologist and Director of Research, at the US Department of Agriculture. Dr. Glenn was trying to solve a problem.

As we all know, global warming is an important topic today. Regardless of your personal views on the subject, the only way we will ever know the true facts about the impact of a warmer earth is to study it. Dr. Glenn and his research team do just that.

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‘How-To’ Series – More Temp Sensors

There continues to be great interest in hacking weather sensors on the Pi. A while ago I wrote a ‘How-To‘ for the AOSONG AM2315 temperature/humidity sensor that was quite popular. Today I have released another ‘How-To‘ for the AM2315’s siblings – the AM2302, DHT11, and DHT22 sensors.

Temperature/Humidity Sensors

Temperature/Humidity Sensors

I have found that experienced Pi/Linux users can get these sensors up and running in a very short time. For many hackers new to the Pi and or Linux, it is a challenging learning process, sometimes even intimidating. Sopwith’sHow-To‘ series are guides designed to help these folks succeed in their Pi project.

Each ‘How-To‘ includes screen shots for nearly every step of a project. Although this takes some work and makes the documents longer, I have found it is these images that help Pi enthusiasts understand each implementation step.

You can download the ‘How-To‘ below. The Zip file also contains the modified test Python script described in the document.

 

Post a comment if the ‘How-To‘ Series helps you with your projects. Improvements, edits, bug reports, and requests for other ‘How-To‘ topics are most welcome.

There is a kid out there who would love to help you hack your Pi.

Sopwith

Pi 2 is a ‘Humble Pi’

Ol’ Sopwith was fortunate enough to order a couple of Pi 2’s before they quickly sold out. I received them on February 4th and immediately started to hack.

I did not expect this news about my new Pi’s. They are very camera shy. There is a published report on the Register UK web site that the Pi 2 does not like its picture taken. It seems that Pi 2’s will crash when you take a photo of them using a Xenon flash. How crazy is this?

I did what any good hacker would do – recreate the problem. I whipped out my trusty old Canon PowerShot A650 and took a picture of my Pi 2 when it was running a temperature sensor test suite.

Sure enough, the instant the flash went off my little Pi went to sleep. Dead sleep. Some YouTube videos show their Pi’s rebooting, mine shutdown completely. The crash did not affect my Pi; it immediately booted fine when I cycled power.

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Raspberry Pi 2 Released

The Raspberry Pi Foundation released another new Pi last week. Officially called the Pi 2, the new changes are all about performance. The form factor is exactly the same as the B+. The big news is the use of an ARMv7 core processor that has 4 cores plus a boost of additional RAM to 1 GB. Initial reports say this Pi is 6X faster than its siblings. Wow!

Pi-2_Adafruit

Photo courtesy Adafruit via Flikr

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Raspberry Pi A+

One of the great things about the Raspberry Pi Foundation is you never know what they are going to do next. In November 2014, they released a + version of the Model A. It has the extended GPIO pins (40) of its big sister the B+. It is also smaller than any other Pi at 65mm in length.

In order to shrink the footprint, the A+ has no Ethernet port, a single USB port, and 256MB of SDRAM. This not only reduces the physical size of the device, but also the amount of power it consumes. I recently purchased an A+ with the very cool Pibow Royale enclosure. What a beautiful combination of high tech and art.

Raspberry Pi A+

Raspberry Pi A+ with Pibow Royale enclosure (Photo courtesy Adafruit Industries on Flickr)

I am sure many folks are wondering why bother with a a Pi that is so… ‘legacy.’ For me, this is exactly what I was looking for. Small, simple, lightweight, and capable. Trying to jam the original Pi’s into security camera enclosures has been a headache for me. Not anymore.

Also, the low power requirements of the A+ make it much easier to power the device for long periods of time using batteries or solar power.

The folks at the Raspberry Pi Foundation are not only mad scientists – but geniuses as well. Tip of the hat to you all.

Stay tuned for some of the great projects I plan for this fantastic Pi.

Sopwith

Tracking Airplanes on a Raspberry PI

One of the great things about living in London is the fact glossy Linux magazines are so cheap. These magazines are published in the UK and sell in stores for about 6 Quid. The same magazine in the US is $15+ due to the exchange rate and shipping costs. I buy one every chance I get.

I came across a very interesting article in the December 2014 issue of Linux Magazine titled, “Plane Spotting.” Written by Charly Kuhnast, the one-page article describes how to use a USB DVB-T device to capture airplane traffic and plot it on a Google map. What a cool idea! Ol’ Sopwith decided to purchase a DVB-T and see if it would work on the Raspberry Pi.

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Velleman FM Radio Kit

Being far from home and living in London is very interesting. As a hacker, maker,  and hobbyist from the US, a Radio Shack or an order from Mouser, Adafruit, etc is taken for granted. Things are different here.

There is not a Radio Shack nearby. The nearest equivalent is Maplin and these stores are everywhere. Every time I walk by one – I ‘pop in’ as they say here.

Last Saturday I ‘popped in’ to one and found a very interesting electronic kit. The Velleman Digitally Controlled FM Radio (MK194). Velleman is a Belgium based company that makes all kind of neat stuff. The kit was on sale for £12. How could I resist?

This kit is about as close as you can get to re-living the good-ole’ days of Heathkits. In the 60’s and 70’s Heathkits were all the rave among us geeks. I built a digital alarm clock that worked for more than 25 years. What is the big deal? Well, I was 14 years old when I built this clock. And it served as my alarm clock until I was 39. Every day – it was there. The power supply finally failed and its service ended.That my friends, is the definition of loyalty. Hand built and reliable.

Anyone that ever built a Heathkit remembers the yellow assembly manuals. They are legendary for their quality. Oh the joy of a Heathkit!

Heathkit Digital Clock

Heathkit Digital Clock

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