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.

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.

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.

Prep for #RaspberryFields

It’s less than a month to Raspberry Fields and we’re trying to get organised early to save a last minute panic!

After picking up an old TV turntable at the car boot at the weekend the Pi VCR is ready for show-and-tell time, but will it still work 3 years on?

Cards and stickers have also arrived, the kids are very excited about dishing these out, not sure we’ll have enough so come and get one early if you want one!

Showing the Google Pi Intercom and ’75 Info-TV is challenging as they’re both wall-mounted, so I’ve slung together a display stand out of scrap wood, including an illuminated Old Tech New Spec sign (currently taking up lounge space).

We’re super-excited to be a small part of this event and hope to see you there.

A Historical Pointer

Just imagine – It’s the 1970s, you’ve just returned from your first package holiday and the neighbours are assembled in your front parlour to sit through your slide show. The fondue is flowing. But how are you going to point out your hotel room or that dog in the background that stole your calamari? Use a bamboo cane like an animal?

Thankfully Boots has you covered, with their “brilliant light arrow” projecting Screen Pointer!

Another find from Beccles antique market, this piece of 70s culture set me back a modest £1.50. It’s basically just a torch with an arrow filter and a focus mechanism. I’m not sure how well or even if it works as the connections are corroded and the bulb long blown, but it could make a really interesting and practical conversion.

Using AA or coin cells instead of the original SP11 (C Cell) batteries would leave lots of room to manoeuvre inside, and the bulb could be replaced with a super-bright LED, a COB (Chip on Board) LED from a modern torch or even a laser, using the original switch to power it on.

Poise on a Budget

I like to record voice tracks for my videos, but with a Pi, cables, keyboard etc strewn around the desk a microphone on a stand can really get in the way, as well as picking up unwanted noise.

I decided an anglepoise stand would be better, less intrusive and more versatile. As usual I decided to make rather than buy, saving the money for more old tech and Pi accessories.

The car boot was kind as ever and I got an old angle poise lamp for £3 as a starting point. The shade part removed quite easily, and its swivel bracket was adapted to hold the mic with some hacksaw trimming and drilling (and meccano).

My mic has both a standard and 3/8 (camera tripod) mount, so I was able to repurpose a thumb-wheel bolt from an old selfie stick to fit it to the anglepoise bracket.

With all of that assembled solidly, if slightly inelegantly, I turned my attention to the ‘pop’ filter. My daughter handily had a spare embroidery

hoop and I tracked down some old speaker covers in the garden shed.

A bit of a trim and the speaker fabric was snugly fitted into the frame. Next I secured the assembly to the angle poise arm with some cable ties and a flexible metal “goose neck” from a USB LED strip I picked up for 50p at a sale over the weekend.

It was great fun to make, works well and cost practically nothing!