An evening with friends… And retro computers!

Last Saturday (20th) I had the pleasure of spending an evening with some of my Raspberry Pi friends/conspirators 😉 at the truly awesome Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, UK and I thought that I’d just do a short blog post about it! I had a great time with Daniel Bull, Ryan Walmsley, Mike Horne, Tim Richardson and, of course, the infamous Jim Darby.

For those of you who do not know The Centre for Computing History is an excellent museum in Cambridge dedicated to collecting, preserving and maintaining computer history. Does that mean that it’s just a big room with a load of PCs in glass cabinets? Quite the opposite in fact – the interesting thing about the the museum is the fact that it is completely hands-on. All of the computers (from Apple ][s to BBC Micros) are in full working order and can be used by the public to reminisce/learn/muck-about-with! I volunteer there and run the Raspberry Pi Workshops – for any of you interested then don’t forget to check out their website here. Around a year ago I even did a montage video for the Centre and you can watch that here (a lot has changed since then though!):

So what did we get up to then? Well we all had a good look around and a chat of course! Played a few retro games (which I was obviously the best at) and Jim started unscrewing old Acorn computers which looked very valuable and rare. We spent a good few hours in there but I could easily spend days playing retro games, learning about the PCs of the 80s and also just marvelling at some of the lovely, beige-coloured, whizzy and beepy goodness that the museum holds. Some pictures shall explain this best:

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The Raspberry Pi Gang – from left to right: Dan, Me, Ryan, Mike, Tim and Jim!

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The front room of the museum – featuring the Apple ][, PET computers and the original Macintosh!

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Arcade cabinet goodness! All still working!

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Now isn’t that a lovely CRT monitor – the design movement is most likely ‘Atomic/Space’ design – sorry… I am now regurgitating GCSE Product Design!

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Every geek’s dream – all lined up and functional! Amstrads to Ataris!

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8-Bit Tape-y beautiful games! This is now my Nexus 5’s wallpaper

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Now that is a pretty computer – Sinclair playing the famous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 42. Nothing more.

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Ahh… Jet Set Willy was a favourite for all. A rather enjoyable game.

As I am sure you can tell we all had a great time and headed to the pub after. I would wholeheartedly recommend that anyone and everyone should visit the museum: it’s extraordinary and not just for geeks!

2014-09-20

Posted in centre for computing history, friends, pi, raspberry, videos

A well deserved thanks!

If any of you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that I have been having a lot of trouble with my website recently – it has been constantly crashing and rebooting for no apparent reason. So… Who do I go to then?! The answer comes in the form of two people (mainly, lots of others provided help to!): Jim Darby and Ryan Walmsley. The former tidied up my Apache settings – essentially too many processes were spawning and this was causing the whole system to crash. Thanks to Jim that is all fixed now! And the latter is now hosting theraspberrypiguy.com and has provided more help for which I am eternally grateful…

Thanks guys! Let’s hope that the website won’t be plagued with these kind of issues again!

Posted in thanks, Uncategorized

A Five-Ninja-Sized ‘Slice’ of Pi?!

After I woke up this morning and checked the Twittersphere (yes I do that after waking up!) I noticed a large commotion in the Raspberry Pi community. Upon investigation I discovered the source of this excited unrest: the Slice, a new Raspberry Pi Compute Module based media player that has just launched on Kickstarter. The tag line of a ‘user friendly media player with internal storage and a Raspberry Pi heart’ is full of promise but what makes this so special? Raspberry Pis have been used as media centres since the product launch over 2 ½ years ago!

slice

First off: take a look at it. Made of an aluminium anodised body and with a strip of pulsing LEDs the Slice is one handsome piece of kit. It is slick-looking and I would love to have one underneath my TV.  The idea behind Slice was the desire for an ‘easy to use, self-contained media player that… stored the data on-board rather than needing an internet connection’.  In my opinion this is a great aim as I have discovered, from personal experience, that the current generation of media players are becoming more and more internet dependant – featuring fancy streaming options that demand lots of bandwidth, a problem for people like myself who live in villages that have poor internet connections. It runs a custom version of XBMC that looks rather polished as well.

But… Why am I interested in it? I am rather intrigued by the use of the new compute module – its only the second commercial device to use it and the team behind Slice (take a look at the Kickstarter page to see some familiar faces) have made a very neat custom PCB that houses the hard drive and other bits and bobs – I’d love to have a look at that in the flesh!

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What does all of this come to in terms of price then? Sadly the Slice is not cheap… The model that includes the 1TB hard drive comes in at a steep £164 (early bird option). When you can run a Raspberry Pi as a media device for little under £50 is this premium worth it? Only time will tell however you have to take into account the fact that it is obviously aimed at the user who wants a polished package… By the looks of things the Slice is going to have no trouble making its Kickstarter target. I wish them the best of luck!

Check the Slice out on Kickstarter here!

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

3D Printer Dilemma!

I am taking a small break from revision at the moment ;-). A much needed break I shall add!

There is no doubt that nearly everyone has heard about the relatively new 3D printing revolution – if you haven’t heard of it and have been living in a cave for the past year or so then learn about them here. Being a geek I of course want one and recently not only have they gone down in price but they have also gone up in quality (both in terms of the actual printer and also the stuff that it produces!). I think it is about time I invested in one for the purpose of robot chassis building/world domination.

However! What one should I get?! There is such a choice nowadays… The budget is preferably under £800 here. Daniel Bull has been my source of 3D printing knowledge and he has recommended getting the Mendel 90 (pictured). He talks of it highly and currently it is what I am swaying towards – I was just wondering if anyone else had anything more to add? Have you got a 3D printer that you think is the best? Let me know in the comments below! I need all the advice I can get!

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The Mendel 90 – recommended by Daniel Bull and produced by Nop Head
Posted in 3D, help, pi, printer, printing, raspberry

What?! No new videos?!

Just thought that I would let everyone know that there will not be any new tutorials or videos for the next two weeks. I am currently on holiday in Rome and the week or so following that will be filled with my Year 10 GCSE mocks. I am deeply sorry but sadly this can not be averted!

Rome

According to Craig Argh, an Assassin’s Creed player, (also of Twitter fame: @CraigArgh) ‘…if you climb on top of that wall, you should find a secret chest with gold.’

But! When I come back there will be a whole plethora of new videos – everything from tutorials to a shiny demonstration of my new world-dominating robot – Dave Mk II! Stay tuned!

Posted in pi, raspberry, sorry, tutorials, videos, youtube

Raspberry Pi Compute Module – what does it mean?

As some of you may well know the Raspberry Pi Foundation have just announced their newest product – the Compute Module. It was unveiled in this blog post here.

CM_and_pi-small-500x375The Raspberry Pi Compute Module in all of its glory

First off: what on earth is it? What have they done with the cute looking Pi? Why does it look like a stick of RAM?! The answer to those questions is industry, and by industry I mean that this Raspberry Pi is for industrial users. Essentially the Compute Module is a shrunken down Raspberry Pi without any of the ports (instead you access it using the connector pins) and a 4GB eMMC chip (used for the operating system, instead of an SD card). The Compute Module features the same ‘guts’ as the traditional Pi: the CPU is the familiar BCM2835 processor and it features an entire 512MBs of RAM.

So what? How is that of any use to me? What does this actually mean? As I hinted at before the reason the Compute Module is being released is for industrial users: people who want to use the power of the Raspberry Pi professionally and don’t need things like the HDMI port. The Foundation say that ‘… the Compute Module is primarily designed for those who are going to create their own PCB…‘. That means that in the future we will see Compute Modules being used in very specialized circumstances.

However this board is not just for corporate companies. The Foundation are also launching something called the Compute Module IO Board:

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The accompanying Compute Module IO Board. Empty on the left. With the Compute Module on the right.

The Foundation describe this as: ‘a simple, open-source breakout board that you can plug a Compute Module into. It provides the necessary power to the module, and gives you the ability to program the module’s Flash memory, access the processor interfaces in a slightly more friendly fashion (pin headers and flexi connectors, much like the Pi) and provides the necessary HDMI and USB connectors so that you have an entire system that can boot Raspbian (or the OS of your choice)‘. The IO board makes the Compute Module friendly for the people who don’t have degrees in engineering! Yay! By the schematics provided (avaliable on the original blog post) it looks like IO board will harness a *lot* more of the Raspberry Pi’s potential power. For example one of the things I am looking forward to is that pair of camera connectors – 3D filming anyone?! Here is a recently released video of the board in action:

First look at the Compute Module in action

Whilst all of this news of new products and new possibilities is exciting a significant amount of questioning has arisen from this. Countless people have been complaining that the Foundation are not focusing on their primary aim: the education of young people. This was quickly explained by Liz and the team: ‘This is a way for us to raise that money. All profits go straight to the Foundation: we use every penny sales raise to build more educational resources, donate more Pis to more schools, train more teachers and help more kids.

When can I get my grubby mitts on one?! Sadly not for a little while: ‘These kits will be available from RS and element14 some time in June. Shortly after that the Compute Module will be available to buy separately, with a unit cost of around $30 in batches of 100; you will also be able to buy them individually, but the price will be slightly higher. ‘

In my opinion I think that the Compute Module and it’s accompanying board will be an excellent addition to the Raspberry Pi family – it offers a much more customizable approach and enables the Foundation to pump more money into their educational goals. I look forward to getting my hands on one!

Posted in compute, Module, new product, pi, raspberry

Website is finished!

Just a quick post to let everyone know that www.theraspberrypiguy.com is finally finished. *fist bump*. It has taken me over a year of hair pulling and Googling to get the site to a presentable state and I hope that you all think it is worth it. This blog will contain all my latest exploits, things I have found interesting and Raspberry Pi information – I hope to update it regularly and so make sure to keep an eye out for new posts!

I’m going to go and take a lie down after all of that typing and clicking…

Posted in finally, finished, website

Competition winners!

A quick post today in order to announce the competition winners for my anniversary video. Firstly, I have been amazed at the amount of entries – I never expected the response to be as fantastic as it was! Thanks go out to everyone who entered.

The range of projects was truly awesome! People emailed me about Maglev, moving pictures and underwater ROVs – projects that I would have never thought of.

Without further ado lets announce the winners:

Raspberry Pi Model A – Mike Hamilton for his excellent drone project

Arduino Leonardo kit – The Beckers family for their great work with motors

Raspberry Pi Camera – Liz Smith for her cool wearables project

Tandy Multiface – Cody Rickard for his portable Pi

Motor kit – Daniel Fowl for his time lapse rig

Congratulations! Hopefully you wouldn’t mind sending me a few pictures with your prizes for a future blog post?

Thanks again to everyone who entered!

Posted in competition, raspberry pi goodies, winner