Join Twitter today and follow @Pimoroni for great discounts and stuff to do! #freeboot #raspberrypi #microbit

The piratical pirates over at Pimoroni are at it again! They’re running a Twitter-powered activity week with great discounts on all sorts of stuff and prizes awarded throughout. You can read all about the week’s plans here and you will need to follow them on Twitter to take part. See all the responses by following the hashtag #freeboot. A really great opportunity to get your Christmas shopping done, if nothing else! 🙂

This post was completely unsponsored – just thought it would be nice to share the coolness 🙂

Christmas Shopping Guide 2020 for Raspberry Pi and micro:bit fans

It’s around this time of year that I take a look at lots of Raspberry Pi stores and pick out a few things for the Pi-lover in your life. This year, of course, Raspberry Pi Pod has broadened out and added the micro:bit, so there will be some of that as well!

Last year, I split it up into sections. I’ll do the same this year, but this time looking at retailers. Let’s start off with…

Pimoroni

The Sheffield-based company that everybody loves.

This year, they’ve concentrated a lot on their Breakout Garden family of products. Their great base boards (both HATs and smaller varieties) allow you to connect up various different sensor boards, inputs and screens, just by inserting them into the slots.

Recently, they added the GPS board you can see above but I also love the little colour screen next to it. Just make sure when you’re buying that you get the right combination of I2C and SPI devices – they are different, as you can see! The base boards and the sensors are not the cheapest you’ll find (actually, the GPS one is pretty darned close!) but they are of very high quality, all come with software libraries and are hours of fun to plug in, in different combinations.

Also on my RADAR is their newest, just-released product, the Inky Impression. This is a 7-colour, 5.7″ e-ink display.

At £66, it’s not a frivilous purchase, and with a refresh rate of 15 seconds for the full screen at full-colour, it’s not the speediest thing in the world, so you’ll have to have a product in mind for it. I quite like the idea of doing a weather clock with it, but I’ll leave that to my good friend, Tim Richardson, who does that kind of thing in his sleep!

The pirates of Sheffield also carry a nice range of micro:bit gadgets

My favourite is the enviro:bit (above) which adds more sensors to the microcontroller board.

The Pi Hut

Probably the largest Pi retailer, The Pi Hut has been around since the beginning and has a large range across Raspberry Pi, micro:bit and general maker-y-type umm stuff.

With the recent release of the Raspberry Pi 400, The Pi Hut, being one of the official resellers (along with Pimoroni) of course has the basic unit and also the full kit, containing everything you need apart from a screen. They also do this nifty sleeve to keep the Pi 400 in, you just have to be lucky to find it in stock (although I do believe they’re expecting more in imminently, so sign up to be notified!).

They also have a very nice collection of lenses for the new-ish Raspberry Pi HQ camera.

If you want something a bit different for the enthusiast in your life, you might find a lot of value in the hackable Bangle watch, also available from The Pi Hut.

On the micro:bit front, The Pi Hut has a lot of stock from various suppliers, including Kitronik, 4tronix and ElecFreaks. I’m particularly impressed with Jamie & co taking on the MonkMakes range including this cute little servo controller board:

Basically, if you want to get a lot of smaller bits from multiple different manufacturers, The Pi Hut is a great place to shop.

4tronix

Robotics specialist Gareth, over at 4tronix, always has something different to offer. At the moment, the jewel in the crown, in my opinion, is the M.A.R.S. Rover Robot.

It started out just as a micro:bit product, but Gareth has now converted it to be used with the Raspberry Pi Zero. It costs £120 (inc VAT), so it’s not cheap, but you get a lot for your money, including a chassis made out of the PCBs. Take a look here.

RasPiO

My good friend Alex Eames has got some lovely products in his web shop including…

the brilliant Pro HAT which brings out all the GPIO pins, in order, to female headers with a convenient breadboard in the middle. He also brings out the GPIO pins again to an unpopulated header, giving you lots of options when connecting things up into a temporary or permanent project. Also on his site is…

… an Arduino-compatible Night Light that comes as a kit, giving you an hour or so’s fun with your soldering iron and then letting you program it yourself, if you so wish. I have two in use at home, and they’re great fun and very useful!

Red Robotics

Neil Lambeth might only have one product so far (this not being his full-time job!) but it is incredibly impressive, not to mention useful…

The RedBoard+ is the retail iteration of his RedBoard robotics board. It is ideal for pretty much any robotics project where you want to use a HAT on a Raspberry Pi. It takes a wide range of power inputs and allows you to control 2 sets of DC motors and up to 12 hobby servos! It’s full of little features, too, like the broken-out I2C pins. Take a look here.

Pi Supply

Their current big offering is their LoRa range, which is all about transmitting small packets of data over a long distance.

There are node boards for the Raspberry Pi and for the micro:bit and, of course, there are Gateways too to receive your messages. LoRa is fairly specialist, but it’s ideal for Internet of Things applications.

Kitronik

Based in Nottingham, Kitronik is a great site for makers. They have all kinds of things on their site, from e-textiles to maker materials such as 3D printer filament or Perspex sheets. They also have an extensive in-house micro:bit range including

the Zip Halo which gives you a circle of super-bright LEDs to play with.

Crowdfunding Campaigns

Here are a couple of campaigns that you might want to back for an “alternative gift”.

The first is from Andrew Gale (who has run several Kickstarters before and has always delivered). It is a four-month Soldering Subscription package with four soldering project kits delivered to you on a month-by-month basis. There are a couple of options – you can choose for your first month’s kit to be a Christmas tree that will plug into the new Raspberry Pi 400 so it stands up, and there is also a surface-mount option for those who like a bit more of a challenge. Checkout the campaign here and view the campaign video below:

Another one that’s come to my attention is the new campaign from the CodeBug team:

The CodeBug Connect is an updated version of their previous board and now offers:

  • 5×5 RGB LEDs.
  • Two 5-way joystick buttons.
  • Onboard accelerometer.
  • Expansion header at the top to allow you to add other capability boards (as shown in the picture).
  • Lots of other enhancements and new features.

They will be manufactured in the UK (which is nice) and there is an option to get a hand-soldered board early (before Christmas). Take a look at the campaign here and view the video below:

Other stores

I’d also like to recommend the following stores that have a variety of bits and pieces that will make great Christmas presents:

  • AB Electronics – a UK retailer offering lots of HAT and pHAT-sized add-on boards.
  • OKdo – CPC/Farnell’s new maker/hobbyist arm has a lot of what you would expect, from kits to add-on boards.
  • Rapid Electronics – they have a “Christmas Shop” which is worth a look, but have a browse and see what you can find!

Dual-computer cyberdeck is beautiful, functional and very expensive to build!

Over at MSG Labs, they’ve created a wonderful new cyberdeck, confusingly called “The MSG”. Sporting an Intel NUC 10 (where most of the money went!) and a Raspberry Pi 4 4GB, The MSG has a KVM switch underneath the case so that, with a button press, the 7-inch touchscreen can be used for both systems. A Planck keyboard sits on top and gives the whole thing a very “cyber” feel. A Mini Black Hat Hackr, a Pico HAT Hackr and a Hat Hackr HAT bring the GPIO out to the upper front panel and also allows the use of a Micro Dot pHAT for displaying diagnostics information. A lot of 3D printing brings the project together. There’s even room for a small e-Ink display on the top panel which is used to display the MSG logo in the picture above (I bet you thought that was a sticker!)

A complete parts list is available on the msglab.co website where you can also see a video of the screen-switching in action. You can also read a lot more about the project over on the special website.

If you’d like to have a go at creating your own cyberdeck, take a look at this excellent page over on Cyberdeck Cafe. It takes you through all the decisions you need to make and parts you will need to construct such a project.

Maker decides to mill his own custom PCB for the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4

Frankfurt-based Maker and Twitter user timonsku decided to create his own carrier board for the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4. He milled the PCB as a single copper layer with no vias or solder mask. He soldered it up, attached the CM4, provided power over USB-C and lo and behold, the screen sprang to life and displayed the OS he had loaded via a microSD card.

As he says on the Twitter thread, this wouldn’t pass any sort of certification, but the HDMI does work:

Here’s another pic showing just the carrier board:

This was just a proof-of-concept without any bells and whistles such as GPIO breakouts, but he did it just to show how relatively easy it is to do a simple carrier board for the CM4.

You can view the Twitter thread here. The project has been uploaded to Hackaday and you can access the PCB files on GitHub.

Thanks to Albert Hickey for spotting this!

Build your very own Stargate with a Raspberry Pi

Kristian Tysse loves the show Stargate SG:1 (he has good taste!). On that show, teams of “off-world” explorers use a device called the Stargate to travel to other planets, some of which are similar to our own, some of which are completely different. They meet alien races, encounter strange civilisations… I’d better stop before my words switch to another sci-fi series!

The Stargate is a non-natural wormhole generator which connects between one planet and another. Teams cross the event horizon of the wormhole and whoosh! They arrive shortly at their destination.

Kristian decided to create his very own, miniature Stargate and accompanying scenic elements. The entire project took 18 months and Kristian has covered the process extensively over on his website, The Stargate Project. He replicates, in miniature, the whole Stargate, including the DHD (Dial Home Device) which is used to select the address that the gate connects to.

The address is “dialed” on the DHD then the miniature gate is activated, its inner wheel rotating and the chevrons animating as the address locks in. When the final chevron engages, the gate activates and the wormhole opens. In this case, the wormhole is an infinity mirror which gives a lovely effect. The whole thing is accompanied by sound effects from the show and is, I think, a very impressive build. He’s even created a tablet showing valid addresses!

Only using a valid address will activate the Stargate and allow you to travel!

He uses three stacked Adafruit DC and Stepper Motor HATs on top of a Raspberry Pi 3B+ (see the HAT at the Pimoroni store. Also available at other stores including, obviously, Adafruit and The Pi Hut). You can see what pins it uses over at pinout.xyz. Attached to the HATs are lots of motors to control both the inner wheel and also the chevrons and he uses lots of LEDs for the infinity mirror. The DHD is 3D-printed (as is the rest of what you can see) and inside is controller from an old keyboard, a custom circuit board and lots of tiny tactile buttons. The complete list of materials and bits and pieces are listed on the website.

You can see a video of it in action below and you can read a lot more over on the project website. He has made the design files available to buy (quite reasonable, I thought), so if you’d like to build your own, you can!

Raspberry Pi launches new all-in-one Pi 400

Raspberry Pi has just announced the launch of the Pi 400. This is, essentially, a Raspberry Pi 4 inside an official Raspberry Pi keyboard.

TL;DR – it’s really nice and will certainly be a solution to “I just want to use a Pi as a desktop machine!”.

Get on from The Pi Hut or Pimoroni.

Away from the basics, it actually contains a redesigned Pi 4 board that is much larger than normal, but also much shorter than the regular board. It contains an updated Broadcom 2711 processor that will run at 1800MHz and breaks out all the ports to the back of the keyboard. You can see the insides of the keyboard here (thanks to Jeff Geerling for this photo):

I was lucky enough to get access to a Pi 4 unit a week or so ago. It’s extremely well-built – the moulding is of the highest-quality – with no creaking even when twisted. It feels very solid (thanks to the very large heatsink plate stuck to the processor) and, actually, quite “expensive”.

The Pi 400 is available on its own at $70 (or your local equivalent) or at $100 with all the gubbins you need to get going, such as the official power supply, cables and a copy of the Official Raspberry Pi Beginners book. There are also local variations of keyboard that will be available soon.

Other non-UK resellers can be found from the Resellers page on the Raspberry Pi website.

Thanks to The Pi Hut for the full kit image!

You can see a nice walk-round video from Matt Hawkins of Raspberry Pi Spy here

 

Good video from Adafruit:

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