Score:Zero from Wonky Resistor for the Raspberry Pi – review

Young Archie Roques has recently set-up a company called Wonky Resistor. His first board for the company is called Score:Zero. Archie sent me one of the boards to assemble and try out, so that’s what I did and here’s what I think.

Review

First of all, the Score:Zero is a kit. You have to put it together yourself. Using a soldering iron. The good news is, however, that it’s very well-designed and is a perfect project for those new to soldering, or even those who have never done it before. It is a white circuit board with silvered solder pads and holes. It comes with a selection of different buttons that need soldering onto the board, as well as a 40-way header which goes on the underside of the board and allows it to connect to your Pi.

Looking closely at the board, I can report that the traces are curvy rather than straight. This is likely to upset those who like their angles, but I think it gives the board a bit of ‘artistic’ flair.

A link is provided on the product page to a worksheet which tells you how to assemble it. There’s a little help with how to solder, although I would like to have seen more on that, even if it was a link to a video. The instructions are clear, although you do need to be careful which side of the board you solder the header onto – clue: The black part goes underneath with the pins poking through to the top. It’s a minor thing – perhaps future revisions of the board could have a note ‘header goes this side’ or something.

The soldering, as I’ve said before, is suitable for beginners and all you need to do is be careful, as you always should with soldering. I enjoyed the assembly process and could imagine it being used in schools, homes or clubs to teach the skill of soldering.

Software-wise, there is a GitHub repository to download which gives you three examples: detecting the button presses and separate scripts for turning the board into a keyboard or a mouse. The process for installing the software you need is all there, and I found it very easy to get it to do what I wanted. The best news is that the examples use the GPIO Zero library to make things super-simple and easy. It would make an ideal games controller for something like PyGame or even a robot controller/programmer.

Cost-wise, the price of the Score:Zero is £4.80 (plus postage). That’s less than a fiver. You know what? That’s just about right for the kit, perhaps even on the low side. It makes it a great ‘stocking filler’ and if you should mess up the soldering, it’s not the end of the world!

Opinion

Above all, the Score:Zero is a bit of fun – it would be great to use this in a ‘learning to solder’ workshop, for example. Charge £5 for the workshop to cover use of tools and the board itself, ideal. And you end up with something you can really use with your Pi. Nice job, Archie – I look forward to seeing what you produce next!

Recommended for beginners and for those who want a (very) simple controller.

Buy the Score:Zero from Wonky Resistor’s online shop.

Physical computing from a PC or Mac using a Raspberry Pi Zero

Gordon Hollingworth, over at Raspberry Pi, has just blogged an exciting new development that means you can now use a Raspberry Pi Zero’s GPIO pins from your PC or Mac. You’ll need to install Raspbian x86 Stretch on the non-Zero machine first. Now it looks like you don’t need an SD card in the Zero (which is cool), but the post on RPF doesn’t say that explicitly, but it does mention something about network boot, so try it without!

Install a new bit of software on the x86 machine to detect the Zero…

sudo apt install usbbootgui

Then, plug in your Zero using a USB cable (into the Zero’s USB data port rather than the power port) and the new GUI should pop up to tell you you’ve done it. You can then communicate with that Pi Zero using Scratch 2 GPIO or Python.

Read more and follow the instructions here.

Building a Twitter-enabled Raspberry Pi-powered snow globe

Every year, Spencer Organ tries to make something Christmassy to make his house more festive, and to show off at various events he attends. This year, he 3D-printed a plastic house and placed it inside a snow globe bell jar. Beneath the house, he added a Raspberry Pi Zero W with a Pimoroni Automation pHAT and Unicorn pHAT. He soldered everything up and then did some programming to connect the project to Twitter, allowing him to specify keywords to achieve different effects inside the house. You can read more from Spencer here, including how to build your own.

New MagPi issue celebrates beginning electronics, text adventures and a new Google AIY product

The new issue of The MagPi (number 64) seeks to be an electronics starter guide with explanation of the normal components and some simple projects to get you going. They even recommend the CamJam EduKits as a great way to get hold of the components, which is lovely, thanks folks! Also in the issue is a long tutorial on creating text adventures and a feature on the new Google AIY Projects: Vision kit which you can also read here.

Oddly, the AIY kit is currently only pre-orderable from MicroCenter, which is very strange as I thought this was a UK-published magazine, but what do I know? Oh, wait, apparently there will be worldwide availability from Spring 2018. That’s all right then.

You can read the new MagPi for free here or order a print copy/pick it up in newsagents.

New Christmas-themed resources from the Raspberry Pi Foundation

Scary carol singers

Raspberry Pi’s Laura Sach has just announced that there are some new Christmas-themed resources available to get you into the festive spirit. I know, I know, it’s still November, but anyway!

The first project is in Scratch and shows you how to build a memory game using Christmas jumpers. Take a look at that one here.

The second uses a SenseHAT to create an advent calendar with lights you can ‘open’ each day using the Pi’s clock to control access. Take a look here. (Obviously, this will only be worthwhile from Friday onwards!)

The next project teaches you how to use Sonic Pi through coding the Twelve Days of Christmas carol. For this project, visit this page.

The last project is a bit more involved on the coding front and uses Python to help you to analyse a Twitter account for tweets made in the last year. By training a ‘classifier’, you can work out if the person who owns the account has been naughty or nice! Take a look here.

For their article on the resources, go to Raspberry Pi.

Detecting a rain shower with your Raspberry Pi

Alex Eames, over at RasPi.TV has been experimenting with a rain sensor. He’s figured out how to use the digital-out of a breakout board to trigger a buzzing alert when water is detected. By tuning the breakout with a potentiometer, it can be configured to detect the first few drops of rain and let you know. That means that your worries about not bringing the washing in when it rains are gone! You can read a tutorial and see the code here and you can get hold of a small kit to do the project yourself here.