A Case of Zero Security

I picked up an official Pi Zero case at the Pi Store last week and only opened it yesterday – I’m notoriously easily pleased but was thrilled to find there were three different case tops included! Plus, as icing on the cake, a tiny cable to connect a Pi camera module tidily inside one of the lids.

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As luck would have it I already had a Pi Zero W handy and set up with MotionEye so it took minutes to clip the whole thing into place. I’ve been looking for a nice security camera case for a while and this ticked all of the boxes at once.

I tried it on the dining room wall but the field of vision didn’t cover the whole room – something that was rectified by a £5 set of smartphone lenses from Tiger  – the set came with a fisheye and “diamond” lens but the Wide Angle one was perfect for the job. While there I also picked up a 3 metre white USB cable for £3, which let me mount the camera high up in the room.

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Cheap wide angle lens superglued to the case.

The lens was easily superglued to the case, and I made a bracket out of Lego to hold it at just the right angle near the slope of the ceiling. The case was fixed to the bracket using 3m self-adhesive velcro pads (on special this week at Lidl)

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Fixed to the wall with sticky velcro pads

To finish the job I tidied the cable with some thin self-adhesive conduit, which is mostly tucked away behind a curtain. I’m so pleased with the end result, it only took about a half-hour to put everything together and it looks really clean and subtle on the wall. Now I can keep an eye on the cats without needing them to wander right in front of the camera!

This was also a great first experiment with camera lenses – my next big Pi project is camera “focussed” and we’ll be using the wide angle lens again as part of the build. Maybe not a pink one this time though.

A Trip to the #RPIstore

What to do with the kids at half term? A pilgrimage to the new Raspberry Pi store in Cambridge of course! I’ve been feeling an irresistible magnetic draw since the shop opened, and we finally got to visit last week. 

What to do with the kids at half term? A pilgrimage to the new Raspberry Pi store in Cambridge of course! I’ve been feeling an irresistible magnetic draw since the shop opened, and we finally got to visit last week.

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First impressions were great, much bigger than I expected with Pis set up all around the store, showcasing the many different things you can achieve. Lots of hands-on stations for kids (and adults) too, making it easy for customers to get interactive.

I came to shop though – I only had a short window of dedicated pi-time before the wife & kids caught up with me, so I headed straight for the shelves. There was a pleasantly surprising array of products, with lots of HATs, kits and accessories, even maker staples like packs of jumper cables, far more than just the Pi-branded gear I had imagined. First to be scooped up was an official Pi Zero case – I have a fair few zeros but no cases and this thing looked so small and cute I had to have it. Next I grabbed a Pi-branded mug and tote bag, and finished off with some Sugru, which I haven’t seen in the wild since Maplin closed down.

It was fascinating to see the responses of other shoppers too – while I was ogling the cases a lady next to me pointed out the boxed Pi 3s interestedly to her husband, who responded “I think you’ll find that’s just the mouse in that box”. I resisted getting involved.

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After a while the family arrived and we tried out some of the Pi stations, then busied ourselves opening all of the MagPi magazines & specials we could find to pages showing my projects and left them out on the coffee table.

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As shops go it’s pretty impressive and inspiring, though we were naturally biased! Plenty of helpful staff around too. I did think it could do with being a little bit brighter in there, but obviously it’s early days. We’re all looking forward to a return visit next time we’re in Cambridge (or when the Norwich branch opens – cmon please?)

We’re in the MagPi Issue 78!

Very excited to have a project featured in the MagPi this month, it’s a vintage Hitachi television I converted last year. It displays digital TV from another Raspberry Pi running a TV HAT, and uses the original rotary tuning dial to change channels.

As you can see hard copies are available in shops as well as the pdf version online. It’s a great issue all round and I’ve already been inspired to grab some arcade joysticks and buttons to try out some of the tutorials.

The article covers my experiences using the TV Hat with a converted TV from the 1970s – the original TV build Instructable write-up is here and the more recent TV Hat version is here. The simple Python script used to change the channels is available on GitHub.

There’s also a YouTube video of the unboxing and setup of the TV Hat…

…and one that gives a bit more information about how the Hitachi Pi TV was converted.

I’ve always been fascinated by televisions, as evidenced by the photo they included of me unboxing my first TV, aged around 10. 

Portable @Raspberry_Pi Scratch / Prototyping Station

This old Dell monitor has been given a new life as a portable Scratch / Development station for Raspberry Pi projects – it has an integrated Pi 3 A+, fixed breadboard and Lego tape on either side for holding components in place.

A portable Pi workstation for Scratch and Prototyping

I put it together mainly to make it easier to dip in & out of Scratch projects with the kids – with the Pi and breadboard attached to the monitor it takes seconds to set up, and with the Lego tape either side the kids can build structures to hold LEDs and other components in place while building code.

It’s also really useful for me when I’m developing code for projects, having everything in one place makes it harder (but not impossible!) to get sidetracked by trailing wires and loose connections.

It works look!

My favourite part though is the Pibow Coupe Tangerine case (hotglued to the monitor) – I bought it because it looks great, but on assembly I noticed it has all of the GPIO pin numbers on it – this makes coding so much easier. I had originally planned to print & stick a GPIO guide on one side of the monitor but this saves all of the squinting and pin-counting.

Developing code is much more convenient now, but obviously not all frustrations and distractions can be removed.

Around the back the leads are all neatly cable-tied in place, with the Pi connected to the ol’ Dell with an HDMI > DVI adaptor. For power a single trailing extension lead connects it to the mains, with a plug-through USB adaptor fixed behind the monitor powering the screen and providing 2x 2.1a USB supplies for the Pi and accessories.

Nice jumper bandolier you have there!

It was great fun to put together, and the monitor only cost £5 at a charity shop, PAT tested with a fully tiltable base. It’s especially useful in the winter months when the workshop is icy cold but we still want to get hands-on with the Raspberry Pi.

Winter Hiatus

With winter staring to really bite this week it’s getting harder to be creative in the workshop, it was down to 3 degrees in there yesterday evening, as you can see!

As soon as the weather warms up a bit (or I sort out the insulation/heating) I’ll be back to making regular projects and videos, the T-card planning board in my office is full of ideas for 2019 and I can’t wait to get cracking.

If you have any project/video ideas or suggestions let us know on the contact form, and stay tuned for updates!

 

Mickey the (USB Power) Bricky

A quick hack to bring some retro gaming cheer to a USB power bank!

I’m working on a Retropie project at the moment, and want the end result to be as portable as possible, so that only an HDMI cable is needed to connect it to a TV. I needed a power source with enough stamina to run the Pi through a gaming session, but without interfering with the analogue style and portability.

The solution – embed an unused 2500 mah power bank into an old gaming cassette box!

This Guji power bank came free with my phone and was the perfect solution – it’s almost exactly the same size as a cassette box.

 

 

 

 

A few trims with the Dremel and the box was easily modified to snugly hold the power bank, leaving a good air gap around it.

It’s a nice little solution and only took a few minutes, but the power bank is now much more tactile and will hopefully fit nicely with the finished project.

Rotary Tuning with the Pi #TVHAT

The Raspberry Pi TV HAT arrived a week or so ago and we’ve had great fun setting it up and using it. It does a great job of streaming a digital TV signal around the house, and I use it daily.

For me though the critical thing was being able to easily stream TV to other Raspberry Pis – I have several converted vintage TVs (Like the Hitachi Pi and Casio Pi) and really wanted them to be able to display actual live TV broadcasts.

With a bit of Python I now have the 1982 TV Experience live on the Hitachi Pi! It uses a script to step through four separate VLC playlists (to match the four channels we had in 1982) using the TV’s original rotary tuning dial. The script is on GitHub and is really simple – you could also just use a push button.

I’ve covered my experiences (with some assistance from the cats) in the “New Spec Review” video below, and the write-up is live on Hackster and Instructables.

The next project is definitely going to be finding and adapting a nice vintage case for the TV server Pi – stay tuned for updates!

 

 

 

 

New Project: Retro-Fit a Google Home Mini

Bring some analogue style to your digital assistant by Retro-fitting it into an old cassette player or radio!

This simple and fun project only took an hour or so but brought a great-looking smart speaker to the wall of the workshop. I’ve covered the whole build from start to finish on YouTube…

… and the full build instructions are on Instructables and Hackster .

This is a great way to make practical use of an old or broken cassette player,  securely wall-mounting your Google Home Mini into the bargain.

I had the Home Mini kicking around the workshop in its box for almost a year before getting round to building this, and now I use it literally every day. It’s especially handy when you’re up to your elbows in solder and components and need to change the music or podcast.

The #TVHAT Has Landed!

So excited to receive my Raspberry Pi TV HAT in the post this week! I’ve converted several old TVs using the Pi recently, like the Casio Pi and the Hitachi Pi but there’s always been something missing – an actual digital TV signal.

With the launch of the TV HAT so many possibilities have opened up, from adding a TV tuner to an OSMC Kodi build to streaming digital TV across the home network to other devices.

I’ll be releasing a “New Spec Review” video once I’ve fully got to grips with it (Mostly done, I’m half-watching a live stream of Carry on Cabby on the other monitor as I type), and I’ll also be testing it with my existing TV conversions – and maybe even making a nice retro case to hold the TV Server Pi in style. Stay tuned for updates!

 

Google Pi Intercom in MagPi’s 75 Greatest Projects

We’re honoured to be mentioned in the MagPi’s 75 Greatest Raspberry Pi projects article this month, the Google Pi Intercom made number 10 in the “Top 50 Reader Voted” section.

It’s always a special occasion when we have a project in the MagPi, even more so in this case to be surrounded by so many other inspiring builds – there’s absolutely tons of inspiration to be had from this issue.

You can download the .pdf version for free but I’d recommend nipping to WH Smith or Sainsburys to get the super-tactile foil-cover hard copy!