Hardware Group at C4DI


Tonight we had our first meeting of the new C4DI hardware group. There seem to be lots of peple who are keen on getting to grips with hardware and embedded systems, with interest in Raspberry Pi, Arduino and Gadgeteer to name a few. I took along some toys, as had other folks. Above you can see the insides of my Tagomatic device, along with some pinball machine related shenanigans which includes using an Arduino to capture messages inside the pinball table circuitry and some coils of electro-luminescent wire. That lights up and looks really cool. 

Stay tuned for details of future events, this looks like it is going to be great fun, and it's not too late to sign up over at the meetup page for C4DI.

Raspberry Pi fun and Games


The room just before we started.

Today we had a bunch of folks from a local school come and see us and play with our Raspberry Pi systems. To say we had loads of fun would be a bit of an understatement. Great stuff. With kids like these I can see why folks become teachers.

I said I’d put some links on the blog if you are thinking of getting a pi. You can get the Raspberry Pi, plus cases, power supplies, keyboards and mice (or a kit with all those) from CPC. Follow the link here. You can get the wiring kit that we used in the labs from SK Pang, here.


Simon and me with a couple of satisfied customers. We’ll post the notes for the labs once we’ve finished tidying them up a bit.

Windows Phone Picture Workflow


Not too shabby for a phone camera, eh?

My plan was to spend today writing content for a Raspberry Pi course that we are doing next week. The idea of my session is that we connect a Raspberry Pi to a bunch of LEDs and switches and then have fun writing Python programs that read the switches and flash the LEDs. Of course, the content needs lots of pictures of the hardware and the wires. And of course this is the one day of the week I didn’t bring my camera to work. So I used the one in my Lumia 920 and the results were astonishingly good.

To make things even better, I could take the pictures on the phone and then, when they appeared on Skydrive a few seconds later I could cut out the images that I wanted and paste them into the document on my PC. This made for a really fabulous workflow. If I had been using a “proper” camera I’d have had to take the pictures, get the SD card out of the camera, plug it into the computer and then drag the pictures off one by and drop them into the document in the right order.

Mobile phone cameras are great for close up photography. This is mainly because the focal length of the lens in a mobile phone camera is very short, which means that it has good depth of field (near things are focused as sharply as far things). This is great when taking pictures which are very close to the lens, when it is hard to make sure that everything in the frame is the same distance from the sensor.

The bad news with mobile phone cameras is that tiny cameras make for tiny sensors, so that images can be grainy. But my Lovely Lumia doesn’t seem to have that problem and so I was able to get good quality pictures into my document much more quickly than if I’d remember to bring the camera in. I’m definitely going to work this way again, it might even be worth making a little macro stand for the phone.

Raspberry Pi Take 2

The audience, still smiling at the start of the session.

We had our second Raspberry Pi session today. Good to see more people keen on spreading the word about the fun you can have with computers. And the Raspberry Pi is a great vehicle for that. If you want a really nice guide to getting started with the Pi, one of the folks that came to see us yesterday, Mark, has put together a most excellent guide which you can find here. You can also find the notes from the last session, along with another set of smiling faces, here.

Raspberry Pi Introductory Session

Just as we were getting started.

Tonight Emma-Jane, Simon, Neil and myself did our first “Raspberry Pi” event. Thanks to Emma-Jane’s special trip to the supermarket we even had some actual raspberry pi’s to eat, which was nice.

The event was organised for local schools and colleges who want to find out more about the platform and how it can be used for teaching and fun. Simon showed off the neat way that you can interact with Minecraft from within a Python program and I told my polar bear joke. Again. It was nice to see so many people who were keen to work with this splendid little piece of technology. You can download the slide deck for the presentation from here. If you want to find out more about my Raspberry Pi powered arcade table you can find out here. And yes, it is still “nearly finished”…

We are repeating the whole thing tomorrow, including probably the polar bear joke….