Saturday, 5 November 2016

Bake a Fresh Raspberry Pi: Never Struggle To Configure A Pi Again

[David Ferguson] has put together a nice little tool called Pi Bakery. Half MIT Scratch, half configuration utility, it puts a nice visual face on all the various start-up scripts, and kludges that the Raspberry Pi community uses to configure the popular single board computer.

Raspberry Pi’s are a little weird. They mostly get crammed into the slots microcontrollers used to live in. The nice part about microcontrollers is that they just turn on and start going. There’s no OS to boot. No file system to mount. Of course the downside to microcontrollers is often that there’s no OS to boot and file system to mount. Regardless, mostly you’ve got to spend a bit configuring a Raspbian install before a Raspberry Pi really starts to encroach on the microcontroller’s territory.

Pi Bakery abstracts all this. You can drag blocks, representing scripts, in the order you’d like them run. If you want to your Pi to boot up, connect to WiFi, and then start a VNC server it’s as easy a dragging the blocks in the right order and filling in the blanks. You can see an example of it in operation in the video after the break.

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Tuesday, 1 November 2016

SSH Enters the Mosh Pit

With so many systems depending on Linux, the secure shell SSH has become a staple for many developers. If you are connected to your Raspberry Pi via a cable or a wireless router a few feet away, SSH can provide you with an encrypted connection straight to the box. However, if you have a system out in a swamp somewhere with intermittent slow network access, SSH can be a real pain. When your IP address can change (for example, roaming on a cellular network), SSH has problems, too.

To combat these and other problems, you might consider an open source program called Mosh (mobile shell). There’s two parts to Mosh. One part works as a server while the other is the client application. Neither of these require root access. You can see a video about Mosh below.

Using Mosh is pretty similar to using SSH (and, in fact, you can use SSH to initially launch Mosh). The Mosh server has a system that synchronizes the screen, so it doesn’t waste time sending characters that won’t really appear to the user. In addition, the client keeps its own notion of the screen and it attempts to handle some operations locally. For example, in SSH every character you type echos through the server. While this is useful to know the server is there, it isn’t good for responsiveness. Mosh handles echo locally and also predicts certain things like insertion and deletion of characters. Unlike SSH, Mosh uses UDP datagrams so packet loss isn’t a big deal.

In fact, if you switch networks or if your computer sleeps and wakes up, Mosh will stay “connected.” Because Mosh doesn’t send data you won’t see, you can easily interrupt a long scrolling output (Mosh selects a frame rate for scrolling based on the network connection’s quality).

Seeing the Future

When you type something in Mosh, it might make a prediction. If the network isn’t robust, Mosh will presume that most characters will appear at the current cursor location. It also expects certain behavior of keys like backspace, right arrow, and left arrow. Of course, there’s a chance it is wrong, so it underlines guesses until they are proven right. The software gathers batches of predicted input (epochs) that it validates (or refutes) as a group. Certain characters (like the up and down arrow) heuristically start new epochs.

For example, if you start typing inside emacs (or vi), you will start building an epoch that does not display on the screen. When data comes back from the host computer that validates the guess as correct, Mosh will display the epoch and continue to display its guesses until something (like an up or down arrow) changes the epoch. Then it will go back to not performing the local echo until it is once again correctly predicting. All this works well, but you can turn predictions off if you wish.

If you want to see the behavior firsthand, open up a Mosh session and start typing on a shell prompt. For example, consider you are going to enter this command:

find / -name 'mosh*' -print

Type up to the first slash. Now disconnect your network (pull the cable or shut off your wireless). Type some more of the command and you’ll see the speculative characters show up underlined (see below; the red cursor indicates the connection is currently not up). Now either reconnect the network or turn on your phone’s hot spot or otherwise connect to a different network. Finish typing the command and it should all work.


The Kitchen Sync

Mosh also claims to solve a host of other display-related problems stemming from the use of Unicode and escape characters. However, the real engine is the synchronization piece which can actually keep any abstract object in sync across two devices. Mosh uses two instances of this sync protocol (SSP); one to keep the screen buffer and one to handle the input buffer. The reality is that Mosh is just a terminal emulator built over SSP. It seems like SSP could find use in other applications where two machines need to stay in sync over a low-quality network.

Mosh is available on a surprising number of platforms. In addition to the usual suspects, you can get Mosh as part of the JuiceSSH client on Android. Windows users can use Cygwin or a version that runs within Chrome. It also runs on a Mac or any of several Linux and BSD distributions. Of course, you can also build it from source. Installing it on Raspian is as easy as issuing the usual command:

sudo apt-get install mosh

If you are just a desktop or server Linux user, you might never care about Mosh. But if you deploy systems to places where network connectivity is spotty or changes, it is worth a look. Even more importantly, if you have a need to keep an arbitrary object in sync between two different computers despite a poor network, you should really check out SSP to see if you can bend it to your will.

Filed under: linux hacks, Raspberry Pi

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Sort Your Candy With A Raspberry Pi And Google Cloud Vision

If you have been off trick-or-treating and returned home with an embarassment of candy, what on earth can you do to mange the problem and sort it by brand?

Yes, it’s an issue that so many of us have had to face at this time of year. So much a challenge, that the folks at [Dexter Industries] have made a robotic candy-sorter to automate the task.

OK, there’s something of the tongue-in-cheek about the application. But the technology they’ve used is interesting, and worth a second look. Hardware wise it’s a Lego Mindstorms conveyor and hopper controlled by a Raspberry Pi through the BrickPi interface. All very well, but it’s in the software that the interest lies. They use the Raspberry Pi’s camera to take a picture to send off to Google Cloud Vision, which they then query to return a guess at the brand of the candy in question. The value returned is then compared to a list of brands to keep or donate to another family member, and the hopper tips the bar into the respective pile.  They provide full build details and code, as well as the video we’ve put below the break. So simple a child can explain it, sort of.

Machine vision remains a challenge, as we can see from our list of stories tagged with it; only  a few of them over all the years Hackaday has been in existence. Using a cloud service might not be to everyone’s taste, but it provides an alternative route into machine vision as well as the extra power of the Google engine, and could open up the technology to makers who might not otherwise use it.

[via Recantha]

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Monday, 31 October 2016

Hackaday Links: October 30, 2016

Diablo. Mech Warrior. Every LucasArts game. There are reasons to build an old PC, and no, emulation cannot completely capture the experience of playing these old games. [Drygol] set out to create a retro PC and succeeded brilliantly. The built features an old desktop AT case (when is the last time you saw one of them?), a 233MHz Pentium with MMX technology, an ancient PCI video card, and an old ISA Ethernet card (with AUI connector). Incoming upgrades will be an ATI 3D Rage PRO, PCI SoundBlaster, and hopefully Windows 98SE.

Right now, we’re gearing up for the Hackaday Superconference next weekend. It’s going to be awesome, and we’re going to announce the winner of the Hackaday Prize. We have another contest going on right now – the Enlightened Raspberry Pi Contest. The name of the game here is documentation. Build something, document it on, and you get some cool prizes.

It’s no secret to Hackaday readers that I’m a gigantic dumbass. A few weeks ago, I speculated Espressif’s ESP32 module won’t see out of stock issues unless someone figures out how to run a Nintendo emulator on it. [Sprite_tm] took this as a challenge and put an NES emulator on an ESP32 dev board as a test. Now, [Derek Lai] built the WiFiBoy32, a very simple PCB with a few buttons, speaker, LCD screen, and an ESP32 module built just to play old Nintendo games. Great, now the ESP32 will see Raspberry Pi Zero levels of adoption.

The VoCore is a tiny router SoC-based Linux computer that’s an acceptable solution in some cases. We’ve seen a few tutorials, and a few people playing Doom on it. Now there’s a VoCore2 on IndieGogo. There are two models, The VoCore 2 and VoCore 2 Lite, with the Lite model available for $4 + shipping. That’s really cheap, even if the ‘tiny board that runs Linux for under $10’ market is getting a little crowded.

@mwichary got lost in Spain and stumbled upon something fantastic. Instead of following the signs for the Dali museum, he found another sign for the ambiguously named Museu de la Tecnica. What was inside? The greatest collection of typewriters on the planet. There’s the original Sholes typewriter, a weird two-keyboard typewriter, a dual typewriter, bizarre ball typewriters, everything is typewriters, and it’s all in a tiny, tiny town in Spain. Thanks [Beth] for the tip.

The ATtiny85 is the new 555. Want proof? Here’s a ring watch, constructed out of nothing but some perf board, a few resistors, buttons, and an OLED. The ATtiny85 is the only active component in the project.

Your input requested. This is the Hackaday Retro Edition. Currently, it displays five random Hackaday posts every five minutes, stripped of all JavaScript, CSS, and Web 2.0 cruft. The idea is to make a destination on the Internet that is accessible from every computer, from Commodore 64s to computers running an Intel 4004 (this is possible, and it happened). The Retro Edition is my baby, and over the next few months, I’m going to take some time to fix it up. What would you like to see in an updated Hackaday Retro Edition?

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Saturday, 29 October 2016

Protecting Your Home Against Potato Invaders

Not sure where the potatoes were sneaking in, [24Gospel] did what any decent hacker would do: strapped a camera to a Raspberry Pi, hacked a bit on OpenCV, and built himself a potato detection system. Now those pesky Russets can’t get into the house without tripping the tuber alarm.


OK, seriously. [24Gospel] works for a potato farm as a systems/software developer. (How big does a potato farm have to be to require a dedicated software guy?) His system is still a first step, but the goal is to grade the potatoes, record data about size and defects, and even tell different potato types apart. And he’s found decent success so far, especially for the money. We don’t often build projects that need to operate in hostile environments, but we appreciate the nice plastic case and rugged adjustable steel frame that supports the Pi and camera over the sorting bed.

Even more, we applaud the hacker spirit here. [24Gospel] is obviously working in a serious production environment, but still he’s trying out new things in an attempt to make it work better. While it would be impossible to quantify the impact of this kind of on-the-job ingenuity, we bet it’s not insignificant. Why don’t we see more documented workplace hacks around here? Would the unsung heroes please stand up?

[via /r/raspberry_pi]

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Friday, 28 October 2016

ODROID XU4 Runs Cool as Water

We did a bit of looking through the ODROID forums and apparently it’s quite possible to squeeze an impressive amount of performance out of these little single board computers, if you don’t mind them getting boiling hot.

Now, some people have taken pedestrian routes. It’s a low power single board computer after all. A bigger heatsink or a fan appears to be enough for most. [Micky] and a friend, however, decided this is a problem that can only be solved with a healthy bit of overengineering.

Using a water cooler meant for a full CPU, a modified chipset cooling block (meant for the North or South Bridge), a liberal application of plexiglass, and some thermal paste they manage to triple the cost of their computer set-up with this wonderfully overkill desk ornament.

Now it can do all the things a Raspberry Pi can do, faster and watercooled.

Filed under: computer hacks

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Monday, 24 October 2016

Raspberry Pi Zero as a USB Stick

The Raspberry Pi Zero is small enough that it could almost be mistaken for a USB gadget, rather than a standalone computer. Maybe that was the inspiration that drove [Novaspirit] to completely “donglify” his Zero.

This is a great convenience hack if you’ve got a Zero just kicking around. With minimal soldering, he converted the Zero’s onboard female USB jacks into a male USB plug. From there on out, it’s all software, and the video (embedded below) takes you through all the steps on Windows.

First, he attaches the Raspberry Pi Zero running Pixel OS to his main computer as a USB network device, and then configures it to be useful. He sets up VNC on the Pi so that you can log into its desktop in a window, sets up networking on the Pi so that it can connect to the wider Internet through the laptop, etc. He installs OwnCloud so that the Zero serves as a cloud storage solution, only the “cloud” is plugged into your laptop’s USB port. The point of all this is getting the maximum benefit out of a Pi Zero without having to lug around any cables: just plug it in and you’re networked.

Of course, [Novaspirit] isn’t the first person to have ever connected a Zero over USB networking. But his hardware hack is neat and dead simple, and setting up the software side will teach you something if you’ve got a Windows background. Check it out.

Filed under: Raspberry Pi

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The Animated Gif Camera, Brought To You By A Raspberry Pi

Friday, 21 October 2016

Send a Raspberry Pi Back in Time to 1980

One of our favorite hacker-scavengers on YouTube, [The Post-Apocalyptic Inventor], has been connecting his Raspberry Pi up to nearly every display that he’s got in his well-stocked junk pile. (Video embedded below.)

Modern monitors with an HDMI input connect right up to the Pi. Before HDMI came VGA, but the Pi doesn’t do that natively. One solution is to use a composite-to-VGA converter and pull the composite signal out of the audio jack. Lacking the right 4-pole audio cable, [TPAI] soldered some RCA plugs directly onto the Pi, and plugged that into the converter. On a yet-older monitor, he faced a SCART adapter. If you’re European, you’ll know these — it’s just composite video with a different connector. Good thing he had a composite video signal already on hand.

online-with-my-1980-tv-set-huc2ls56hwimkv-shot0004The pi├Ęce de resistance, though, was attaching the Pi to his 1980 Vega TV set. It only had an antenna-in connector, so he needed an RF modulator. With a (presumably) infinite supply of junk VCRs on hand, he pulled an upconverter out of the pile, and got the Pi working with the snazzy retro TV.

If you’re interested in running an old TV as a display, just because it looks cool, this video is a must-watch. As usual, [The Post-Apocalyptic Inventor] turns his pile of junk into something useful in the end, and you’ll probably learn something along the way. And that’s why he’s one of our favorite frackers.

Filed under: video hacks

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A Slice of Ubuntu

The de facto standard for Raspberry Pi operating systems is Raspbian–a Debian based distribution specifically for the diminutive computer. Of course, you have multiple choices and there might not be one best choice for every situation. It did catch our eye, however, that the RaspEX project released a workable Ubunutu 16.10 release for the Raspberry Pi 2 and 3.

RaspEX is a full Linux Desktop system with LXDE (a lightweight desktop environment) and many other useful programs. Firefox, Samba, and VNC4Server are present. You can use the Ubuntu repositories to install anything else you want. The system uses kernel 4.4.21. You can see a review of a much older version of RaspEX  in the video below.

If you are used to using Ubuntu, this could be a great convenience. The project claims the system is much faster than the stock OS, although it doesn’t offer any explanation for why that should be so.

Then again, some Raspberry Pi boards don’t need an operating system at all. Or, you could always try Google’s entry.

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Thursday, 20 October 2016

RPi Show and Tell Saturday and NYC Meetup on Monday

Join Hackaday for the vanguard of cool emerging technologies next week at our meetup in New York.

Like all our meetups, we’ve gathered some of the neatest technologists to spill the beans on what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Madison Maxey, founder of Loomia and designer of soft, blinky circuits will be there. Dr. Ellen Jorgensen, co-founder and executive director of Genspace, the citizen science biotech ‘hackerspace’ in the heart of New York will be there too. Kari Love & Matthew Borgatti of Super-Releaser, most famous for their super cute pneumatic soft robots will also be there. It’s still up in the air if we’ll be racing these robots. Of course there will also be opportunities for you to present a lightning talk at the meetup.

enlightenpiThe meetup will be at Pivotal Labs, 625 Ave of the Americas, on Monday, October 24 starting at 6:30 PM. An RSVP is required, so if you’re coming head on over to the Meetup page.

Live Video Show and Tell on Saturday

This Saturday join us online for a special show and tell all about Raspberry Pi projects from 7-8p EDT (UTC-4). Hosted by Limor Fried of Adafruit and Sophi Kravitz from Hackaday. This live show is hosted on our YouTube channel and will feature projects from our giant collection of Raspberry Pi projects on and entries in the Enlightened Raspberry Pi contest.

A lot of people have already signed up for the Show and Tell but we do still have some time left for your project. Email to get on the list.

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Dumb Terminals And Raspberry Pis

Back in the old days, the cool kids didn’t have an Apple II or a Trash-80. The cool kids had jobs, and those jobs had Vaxxen all over the place. The usual way of working with a Vax would have been a terminal, a VT220 at least, or in the case of [Sudos]’ experiments with a Raspberry Pi, A DEC VT510, a single session, text only serial terminal.

Usually, when we see a ‘new hardware stuffed into old tech’ project like this, the idea is simply to find a use for the old hardware. That makes sense; a dumb terminal from the late 90s should be a bit rarer than a Raspberry Pi Zero. This is not the case for [Sudos]’s build. He recently came across a few Raspberry Pi Zeros at Microcenter, and looking for a use for them, he decided to turn a serial terminal into a Real Unix System™.

As you would expect from a serial terminal, connecting a Raspberry Pi and putting some awesome character graphics on the screen is as simple as a Max3232 board picked up from eBay, a WiFi dongle, and an Ethernet adapter. Connect the Pi to the terminal with a serial adapter cable, and you’re off to the races.

While the VT510 serial terminal is just about the end of the line as far as dedicated terminals go, there are classier options. The VT100 terminal, older than most of the Hackaday readership, features a port on its gigantic board, meant to connect to whatever weirdness was coming out of Maynard in the late 70s. You can attach a BeagleBone to this connector, making for a very slick stealth mod.

Filed under: classic hacks, Raspberry Pi

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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

A Win For The Raspberry Pi Compute Module

News comes from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, of something of a coup for their Compute Module product. Support for it is to be integrated into NEC’s line of commercial displays, and the electronics giant has lined up a list of software partners to provide integrated signage solutions for the platform.

It is interesting to note how NEC have done this, while it’s being spun by the Foundation as a coup for them the compute module sits on a daughter board in a slot on the back of the display rather than on the display PCB itself. They are likely hedging their bets with this move, future daughter boards could be created to provide support for other platforms should the Compute Module board fail to gain traction.

Given that this relates to a high-end commercial product from just one manufacturer, what’s in it for us in the hardware community? After all, it’s not as if you’ll be seeing Compute Module slots in the back of domestic TVs or monitors from NEC or any other manufacturer in the near future. The answer is that such a high-profile customer lends the module platform a commercial credibility that it may not yet have achieved.  Until now, it has found a home mainly in more niche or boutique products, this appearance in something from a global manufacturer takes it to a new level. And as the module finds its way into more devices the chances of them coming within the reach of our community and providing us with opportunities for adapting them for our purposes through the Pi platform become ever greater.

The use of the Compute Module in displays made for public signage is oddly a continuation of an unseen tradition for ARM-based machines from Cambridge. Aside from British schools a significant market for the Acorn Archimedes platform that spawned ARM was the embedded signage market, and even today there are still plenty of signs concealing RiscOS machines out there in the wild.

We covered the launch of the Compute Module in 2014, but it’s fair to say it’s not appeared much since in the world of Raspberry Pi projects from hardware hackers. This is not because it’s not a good platform; more likely that the Raspberry Pi models A, B, and particularly the Zero are so much cheaper when you consider the significant cost of the Compute Module development board. At the Raspberry Pi 4th birthday party earlier this year, while covering the event as your Hackaday scribe but also wearing my metaphorical Pi kit supplier and Pi Jam organizer hats I stood up in the Q&A session and asked the Foundation CEO Phil Colligan to consider a hardware developer program for the platform. Perhaps a cut-down Compute Module developer board would be an asset to such a program, as well as driving more adoption of that particular board.

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Monday, 17 October 2016

Hackaday Links: October 16, 2016

You need only look at the weekly user account leak from a popular web service or platform to know there’s a problem with security. Reusing passwords is the dumbest thing you can do right now, and the Mooltipass Mini is the answer to that problem. The Mooltipass originally began as a Developed on Hackaday series, and we log frequent sightings of the Multipass (maxi?) at security cons. The Mini is smaller, has exactly the same capability, and is completely unrepairable. It’s very cool, and if your email password is the same as your banking account passwords, you kind of need this yesterday.

Last weekend was the Open Hardware Summit in Portland. All the talks were worth watching, but editing the talks down into something sensible takes time. In lieu of this, OSHPark has gone through the livestream and timestamped everything

⡱⢎.io. Just look at that. Isn’t it awesome? It’s the latest iteration of Hackaday’s weird domains, and it looks just like the new-ish, not-frequently-used Hackaday logo that fits into the family of other SupplyFrame (our overlords) logos.

Would you like to learn about phased array antennas and radar? IEEE has just the thing for you. It’s a workshop and symposium free for all students that demonstrates how phased array antennas are built at Lincoln Laboratory, how to make your own phased array sensors, and talks by the people who really know what they’re doing with RF. If you’re around Boston next week, sign up by October 14, 2016. It’s free!

SOLAR FREAKIN’ ROADWAYS!!! How are those things going? Is that $2M Kickstarter making anything that produces power? Any successful installations? Oh. That’s not good.

Bad news in Baltimore. Someone stole the couch, but at least Mr. Trash Wheel has a girlfriend now. Also, Baynesville Electronics has shut down. This was one of the East coast’s secret electronic nirvanas. but they were online only, and Digikey and Mouser exist.

We missed a big one, guys. The Minnesota Vikings recently purchased some property from Delta Air Lines. Of course, there was a lot of junk sitting around in this property that quickly headed to the auction block. The lots included a half dozen full-motion DC-9 sims, a 747-200 and 747-400, and a 757. All of them were full motion flight sims. How much did they go for? A DC-9 sim went for $6k. Anyone up for renting a truck, going out to the desert, and picking up a 727 cockpit?

The Uzebox is a tiny, palm-sized video game console with similar specs to the NES / early Genesis / Mega Drive generation of gaming. Now there’s a Kickstarter for a Direct-to-TV version of the Uzebox. This device has been around for the better part of a decade, and it is a very important milestone in the recent history of DIY electronics. Now, everything can fit inside a SNES controller. Pretty neat.

Here’s a shop that’s cashing in on the ESP-32 craze, but this one is different. They have bare ESP-32 chips. The going price seems to be $3.60/piece in quantity one.

The Hackaday Prize has entered the final stretch: we have our top 100 finalists now. All those projects are now off to our fabulous celebrity judges to decide who will take home the crown this year. One of these projects didn’t make it. Sadly, it was one of the best. The Raspberry Pi Project, a project concerning Raspberry Pis and Raspberry Pi accessories, was not selected as a finalist in the Hackaday Prize. I have many regrets in my life, but this is the biggest: the Raspberry Pi Project should have won the Hackaday Prize. [Editor’s Note: Benchoff!!!]

Oh, cool, something we can actually argue about. Dylan got a Nobel for Literature, and the Pitchfork average for his albums hovers at around an 8. We’re not going to argue about the critical merits of Pitchfork – that’s already a foregone conclusion – your literary assessment of Bob’s work is welcome in the comment section.

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Sunday, 16 October 2016

Weather Ticker Shows How Easy It Can Be

[Petru] seems to have designed his weather ticker project with beginners in mind. Leveraging the inexorable forces of both the Raspberry Pi and cheap online auction house modules, it’s nearly the Hackaday equivalent of painting by numbers. But not everyone is a Picasso, and encouraging beginners to get their feet wet by painting happy little trees is a good cause.

Behind the simplicity is actually a clever architecture. An installation script makes installing the right Raspbian distro simple, and installs a few scripts that automatically update the user code from a GitHub repository. To change the code running on the machine, you can upload a new version to GitHub and press the reset button. (We would also want a way to push up code changes locally, for speed reasons.) Something like this is a great idea for a permanent Pi-based IoT device.

But as a first project, the hope is that something like this will encourage folks who find code too abstract, but who are nonetheless drawn by the allure of blinking lights, to play around with code. And unsurprisingly, this has already been entered in our Enlightened Raspberry Pi Contest which focuses on the simple-yet-impressive stuff you can do with a tiny computer and some electronics.

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Saturday, 15 October 2016

Amazon Dash Reboots Your Pi

We all know feature creep can be a problem in almost any project. A simple idea can often become unusable if a project’s scope isn’t clearly defined in the beginning. However, the opposite problem sometimes presents itself: forgetting to include a key feature. [Zach] had this problem when he built a Raspberry Pi magic mirror and forgot to build a physical reset/shutoff switch. Luckily he had a spare Amazon Dash button and re-purposed it for use with his Pi.

The Raspberry Pi doesn’t include its own on/off switch. Without installing one yourself, the only way to turn off the device (without access to the terminal) is to unplug it, which can easily corrupt data on the SD card. Since [Zach]’s mirror was already complete, he didn’t want to take the entire thing apart just to install a button. There’s already a whole host of applications for the Dash button, so with a little Node.js work on the Raspberry Pi he was able to configure a remote-reset button for his mirror.

This is a similar problem for most Raspberry Pi owners, so if you want to follow [Zach]’s work he has done a great job detailing his process on his project site. If you’re looking for other uses for these convenient network-enabled buttons, he also links to a Github site with lots of other projects. This pizza button is probably our favorite, though.

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Friday, 14 October 2016

Keep Tabs on the Weather with rpi_status

[Facelessloser] is interested in glanceable information. Glancable devices are things like your car’s dashboard, your wristwatch, or widgets on a smartphone lockscreen. The glanceable information distribution system in this case is rpi_status, [facelessloser’s] entry in the Enlightened Raspberry Pi Contest.

[Facelessloser] coupled a ring of eight WS2812 RGB LEDs with a small OLED screen managed by a the common ssd1306 controller. Since he was rolling his own board for this project, [faceless] some buttons and a BMP180 temperature sensor. Going with popular parts like this meant libraries like the Pimoroni unicorn hat library for the WS2812 were readily available.

A simple display like this can show just about anything – from status of a nightly software build, to traffic along your morning commute. [Facelessloser] is using it for weather data. His data source is Weather Underground’s API. Weather information is displayed on the OLED. The WS2812’s display the temperature. A single blue light means cold. The ring fills as the temperature warms up. After eight degrees of blue, the color changes to orange, followed by red.

Check out the video after the break for a short demo of the board.


Pave the path to learning and win prizes:

Enter the Enlightened Raspberry Pi Contest!

Just teach us a how to do something awesome with a Pi. (See more entries)

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Thursday, 13 October 2016

From CRT TV To All-In-One Console

When the Raspberry Pi first appeared there was some excitement among Raspberry Jam attendees at the prospect of a computer with a video output on a board small enough to be concealed inside a TV. But while the idea is a good one the prospect of poking around among the high voltages of an older CRT model has meant that surprisingly few such ideas turned into reality.

One person who made the idea into a reality was [Jon], who took a [Dora] The Explorer branded CRT/DVD combo in a fetching shade of red and turned it into an all-in-one retro console gaming system with an embedded Raspberry Pi.

nintendo-crt-tv-thumbnailThis is however not merely a Pi stuffed inside the rear casing with a few holes for cables, instead he took away the substantial part of the DVD mechanism and mounted his Pi safely in a plastic box. Some USB extension cables bring all four USB sockets to the front panel through the DVD slot with a bit of Sugru to hold them in place. An HDMI panel-mount extension goes to the TV’s rear connector panel, as does a power switch for the Pi which is wired to a USB charger mounted on a trailing mains socket inside the case. The composite video from the Pi is wired to the TV’s AV in video socket.

We don’t blame [Jon] for not looking at the TV’s power rails to find power for his Pi, though a TV of this recent age would have safely mains-isolated rails that’s still a task fraught with hazards. The resulting unit is a high quality retro console, and as a final touch he’s given it a Nintendo logo and some storage for his gamepads on the rear.

We’ve had a few CRTs with integrated computers before here at Hackaday, but not all have been as they seemed. This Pi for instance sat in a vintage Singer TV, but the CRT was replaced with a modern LCD. Our favourite though it this Chromecast driving a 1978 GE model.

Filed under: Raspberry Pi

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How to Send Class 0 SMS Iphone

How to send a Class 0 SMS to an Iphone

  1. Register on
  2. Check email for activation
  3. Go to Outgoing
  4. Go to Free SMS
  5. Choose Flash and type the mobile number and message and press send!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Raspberry Pi Boots CP/M

Retrocomputing is an enjoyable and educational pursuit and — of course — there are a variety of emulators that can let you use and program a slew of old computers. However, there’s something attractive about avoiding booting a modern operating system and then emulating an older system on top of it. Part of it is just aesthetics, and of course the real retrocomputing happens on retro hardware. However, as a practical matter, retrocomptuters break, and with emulation, you’d assume that CPU cycles spent on the host operating system (and other programs running in the background) will take away from the target retrocomputer.

If you want to try booting a “bare metal” Z80 emulator with CP/M on a Raspberry Pi, you can try EMUZ80 RPI. The files reside on an SD card and the Pi directly boots it, avoiding any Linux OS (like Raspian). It’s available for the Raspberry Pi Model B, A+, and the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B. Unlike the significant boot times of the standard Linux distros on the earliest models of Pi, you can boot into CP/M in just five seconds. Just like the old days.

The secret to this development is an open source system known as Ultibo, a framework based on Open Pascal which allows you to create bare metal applications for the Raspberry Pi. The choice of Free Pascal will delight some and annoy others, depending on your predilections. Ultibo is still very much in active development, but the most common functions are already there; you can write to the framebuffer, read USB keyboards, and write to a serial port. That’s all you really need to make your own emulator or write your own Doom clone. You can see a video about Ultibo (the first of a series) below.

We’ve covered other bare-metal projects in the past. If you’d rather go old school, you could try reproducing the Rum 80.

Filed under: Raspberry Pi

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Friday, 7 October 2016

Orka Controls the (Pi) World

If you deploy a lot of Raspberry Pi computers, you might find it inconvenient to log into each one to perform different tasks. Orka, an open source project by [Karthik K], is a server that runs on a desktop PC (Windows, Linux, or Mac) and can control multiple Orka clients (that can run on a Pi, or a desktop PC). We understand that [Karthik K] is looking for Mac testers, by the way.

From the server, you can execute commands and create tasks. You can also receive notification when a client PC reaches a threshold (for example, over temperature or too much CPU or RAM usage). You can open a shell on a client and do other operations.

You can find both the server and the client Javascript source on GitHub. The project is brand new, so we wouldn’t be surprised if it has some rough edges, but since it is HTML and Javascript and it is open source, you can probably fix or enhance anything you like and feed it back to the project.

We’ve been seeing a lot of Raspberry Pi clusters and we’ve talked about exposing a Pi on the Internet. If you have a lot of Pi boards out there, Orka might be a useful tool.

Filed under: Raspberry Pi

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Thursday, 6 October 2016

Galaga Cabinet is Out of This World

Like many of us, [Alex] spent a large part of his childhood feeding coin after coin into one arcade game or another. Galaga is one of his all-time favorites, and he has wanted to build a Galaga cabinet for a long time. Once his workshop was ready for the job, it was time to cross it off the list.

The cabinet is built to 4/5 scale. This is a great size because he gets the stability and feel of a full-size machine, but it’s much easier to move it around. As you might expect, there’s Pi in the cabinet.  The display is an old TV that [Alex] found in a Dumpster. And although it works great, it would go into standby instead of powering off along with everything else. To get around this, [Alex] built an automatic remote control with an IR LED and an Arduino Diecimila. After a five-second wait, it sends the power-on code to the TV and switches the input. The TV is supposed to be in portrait mode for Galaga, but this proved to be a challenge. Changing the orientation at the Pi level resulted in poor performance and choppy sound, so he changed it at the game execution level.

We are continually impressed by the diversity of [Alex]’s builds and the care that goes into them. Who could forget his beautiful sidewalk graffiti machine or the time he showed us how to photograph stuff that’s not there? Make the jump to see a brief demonstration followed by a two-part build video.

Filed under: Raspberry Pi

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Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Win Loot with the Enlightened Raspberry Pi Contest

Have an awesome Raspberry Pi project in mind (or maybe sitting on your bench right now)? Show it off for the Enlightened Raspberry Pi contest and you can score some excellent loot.

The Raspberry Pi has changed the face of experimental computers. These little $35 Linux powered boards can do incredible things. An active community has sprung up around the Pi. With it have come thousands of projects published on the web, in books, and in magazines. Many of the best Raspberry Pi projects are seen right here on Hackaday and published on, which boasts over 1000 user created Pi powered projects (yes, we counted). Show us how you pull off those projects and you’ll be eligible to win.

Prizes and Judges

One thing we’d like to see more are really well documented projects — showing off everything anyone with an average skill set needs to perform the cool hack themselves. Do that and you’re well on your way to claiming one of eight great prizes! The grand prize winner gets a Pi-top Raspberry Pi laptop. First prize is the new Pi-top Ceed all in one. Second place is a 32×32 RGB Matrix kit. And the list goes on.

Pi-Top Pi-Top CEED 32x32 RGB Matrix Kit

Submit your entry as a project on and use the “Submit Project To…” option on the left sidebar of your project page to add it to the Enlightened Raspberry Pi contest. When entries close on November 9th, the Hackaday Staff will begin judging, bringing in some help to choose the top winners. This help comes in the form of a few VIP judges!

Alvaro Prieto Matt Richardson Ken Shirriff

[Alvaro Prieto] is a Firmware/Electrical engineer who works on electronics for work and for fun. He previously worked at TI, Apple, and Planet. You’ve seen him hacking micro quadcopters, and as a presenter at the 2015 Hackaday SuperCon,

[Matt Richardson] is a Product Evangelist for the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the co-author of Getting Started with Raspberry Pi. We’ve seen [Matt] building heads up displays for bicycles, and removing celebrity gossip from our TV’s.

[Ken Shirriff] writes a popular blog ( on reverse engineering everything from chargers to microprocessors. Ken was formerly a programmer at Google and has a PhD in computer science from UC Berkeley. We’ve covered his microprocessor work as well as his teardowns of knockoff laptop chargers.

It’s All in the Details:

Entries are open now, show us the details that make great Raspberry Pi projects happen! The full rules can be found on the Enlightened Raspberry Pi Contest page. Fire up your soldering irons, warm up your 3D printers, and load up your favorite code editor. It’s time to start hacking!

Filed under: contests

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Making A Book Reader That Can Survive Kindergarten

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Raspberry Pi, Send Me a Letter

The abundance of small networked boards running Linux — like the Raspberry Pi — is a boon for developers. It is easy enough to put a small cheap computer on the network. The fact that Linux has a lot of software is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is a good bet that anything you want to do has been done. On the other hand, some of the solutions are a bit large for a tiny embedded system.

Take, for example, e-mail. Historically, Linux hosts operate as mail transfer agents that can send and receive mail for all their users and possibly even relay mail to others. In today’s world, that’s usually overkill, but the capability is there. It is possible to install big mail transfer agents into a Raspberry Pi. The question is: should you?

What Do You Want?

The answer, of course, depends on what you want to do. If you have a dedicated board sending out text and maybe even files using an external mail server (like, say, Gmail), then the answer is no. You don’t need a piece of software listening for incoming connections, sorting through multiple users, and so on.

Luckily, there are some simple solutions if you know how to set up and configure them. The key is to avoid the big mail programs that do everything you don’t need.

Mail Front Ends

Let’s tackle sending mail first. If you try to grab the mailutils package, you’ll see it drags along a lot of stuff including mysql. Keep in mind, none of this will actually send mail. It just gives you some tools to get mail ready to send.

Luckily, the bsd-mailx package has a lot less overhead and will do the job. Look at the man page to see what options you have with mailx; you can do things like attach files, set a subject, and specify addresses.

It is a little difficult to set up for Gmail, though, thanks to Google’s security. You’ll need the certutil tool from the libnss3-tools package. You’ll need to create a certificate store, import Google’s certificate, and then set up a lot of options to mailx. I don’t suggest it. If you insist, though, you can find directions on the Web.


By default, programs like mailx and other Linux mail commands rely on a backend (often sendmail). Not only does that drag around too much overhead, it is also a full mail system, sending and receiving and relaying–overkill for our little Pi computers.

Luckily, SSMTP is available which only sends mail and is relatively lightweight. You need a configuration file to point it to your mail server. For Gmail, it would look like this:

# Config file for sSMTP sendmail
# The person who gets all mail for userids < 1000
# Make this empty to disable rewriting.

# The place where the mail goes. The actual machine name is required no 
# MX records are consulted. Commonly mailhosts are named

# Where will the mail seem to come from?

# The full hostname
# Are users allowed to set their own From: address?
# YES - Allow the user to specify their own From: address
# NO - Use the system generated From: address

You can use a mail agent like mailx or you can just use ssmtp directly:


Enter a message on the standard input and end it with a Control+D (standard end of file for Linux).

Google Authentication

There’s only one catch. If you are using Gmail, you’ll find that Google wants you to use stronger authentication. If you are using two-factor (that is, Google Authenticator), this isn’t going to work at all. You’ll need to generate an app password. Even if you aren’t, you will probably need to relax Google’s fear of spammers on your account. You need to turn on the “Access for less secure apps” setting. If you don’t want to do this on your primary e-mail account, considering making an account that you only use for sending data from the Pi.

Sending Files

Depending on the mail software you use, there are a few ways you can attach a file. However, the mpack program makes it very easy:

mpack -a -s 'Data File' datafile.csv

The above command will send datafile.csv as an attachment with the subject “Data File.” Pretty simple.

Receiving Mail

What if you want to reverse the process and receive mail on the Pi? There is a program called fetchmail that can grab e-mails from an IMAP or POP3 server. It is possible to make it only read the first unread message and send it to a script or program of your choosing.

You have to build a configuration file (or use the fetchmailconf program to build it). For example, here’s a simple .fetchmailrc file:

protocol IMAP
user "" with password "yourpassword" mda "/home/pi/"
folder 'INBOX'
fetchlimit 1

You can leave the “keep” line out if you don’t mind fetchmail deleting the mail after processing. The file should be in your home directory (unless you specify with the -f option) and it needs to not be readable and writable by other users (e.g., chmod 600 .fetchmailrc). According to the fetchmail FAQ, there are some issues with Gmail, so you might want to consider some of the suggestions provided. However, for simple tasks like this, you should be able to work it all out.

In particular, the file is where you can process the e-mail. You might, for example, look for certain keyword commands and take some action (perhaps replying using ssmtp).

Special Delivery

You might not think of the Raspberry Pi as an e-mail machine. However, the fact that it is a pretty vanilla Linux setup means you can use all sorts of interesting tools meant for bigger computers. You just have to know they exist.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, linux hacks, Original Art, Raspberry Pi, Skills

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