New LoRa boards on Kickstarter aim to forge long-range communications links to your Raspberry Pi

Apologies for the dearth of posts recently – work’s been a bit… intense and Pi Wars preparations have taken their toll!

Pi Supply have launched a new Kickstarter campaign for several different types of add-on boards which use LoRa technology. So, what is LoRa?

LoRa is a revolutionary new method of sending small amounts of data over very long distances using long range radio and low power. It’s designed for the Internet of Things (IoT) so it’s perfect for communicating with sensors such as weather monitoring, air quality, smart homes etc.

You will need at least a Gateway and a Node to make the communications link work, and Pi Supply are offering both. The different Node boards work with the Raspberry Pi, micro:bit or Arduino and a Gateway HAT completes the equation as a receiver.

You can view the campaign video below and visit the Kickstarter campaign to pledge to get hold of the board(s).

Make a MIDI piano with the Raspberry Pi and a PiCap

The PiCap from Bare Conductive uses conductive ink to transfer touch impulses to the Raspberry Pi. They’ve written a lovely little tutorial on how to do it yourself and have put the code on GitHub. If you want to do it “properly”, you’ll need to follow their screen printing tutorial but you can get similar results by just painting the note ‘buttons’ on a piece of paper or card. The code is based on the FluidSynth synthesizer which uses sound fonts and is the basis for my own music tech project, the Music Box. Take a look at the tutorial here.

Raspberry Pi PoE HAT encounters problems with USB power

The recently released Power-over-Ethernet HAT from Raspberry Pi was designed to allow the Raspberry Pi to be powered by a single power-enabled Ethernet cable. Aimed mostly at the industrial market, this HAT uses the extra 4-pin header on the 3B+ to receive the power from the cable and includes a fan for cooling.

However, users of the HAT have quickly encountered problems and have reported them on the Raspberry Pi Forums. The problems have boiled down to under-powered USB ports when using the HAT. In an interview with The Register, Eben Upton of Raspberry Pi Trading has explained the cause of the problems and why they were not picked up during the (apparently limited) testing. RPT is now offering refunds through vendors for returned units, although suggestions for fixing the hardware issue have also been given (not for the faint of heart!)

To read the full story, head over to The Register.

You can see the issue illustrated in the EEVBlog video below. Thanks to AB Electronics for spotting this!

Bring mobile communications to your Raspberry Pi with SB Components’ PiTalk

Ivan Holland from CPC has been taking a look at the new PiTalk board from SB Components. The board, which was originally a successful Kickstarter campaign is a 3G-enabled mobile tele-communications solution for your Raspberry Pi. Plugged into the GPIO pins, and with a SIM card added with an appropriate data package, you can trigger actions on your Pi from another phone. Very nifty. With the use of an extended GPIO header, you can piggyback other GPIO boards and HATs and produce versatile projects. Aside from a few issues with the accompanying software, Ivan gives the product a thumbs-up. You can read the full review here. You can find the PiTalk at SB Components website in a variety of packages and the main board also available at CPC.

EMF Camp mobile GSM network powered by Raspberry Pis

A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that the EMF Camp badge for this year would be a fully-enabled GSM mobile phone. EMF Camp set-up their own GSM/mobile network for the badges to work on and each of the 16 base stations were run on a Raspberry Pi 3B+ with a LimeSDR Mini attached. As it turns out, for most of the time of the event, the system didn’t work, but you have to admire their ambition! Addendum: it apparently was working, it was just a problem with some of the badges. Take a look in the comments to read more about this. Read more about the project over at Hackaday.

Stargazing tapestry created using a Raspberry Pi-enabled knitting machine

Australian software engineer Sarah Spencer has taken a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino-compatible board and written some PHP and Python code to interface to hack a Brother KM950i knitting machine. The resultant set-up allows her to send an image to the machine over her network with more than two colours in any single row of knitting. Her latest project, Stargazing: A Knitted Tapestry, measures 4.6 metres (15 feet) wide and 2.8 metres (9 feet) high and was displayed at, and was funded by, recent geek festival EMF Camp where I was privileged to see it up-close-and-personal:

The work had been embedded with LEDs that lit up constellations. You could request a light-up from a website which was then sent over to the tapestry. I’m not sure if this involved a Pi too, but either way it was very clever, though non-functioning when we visited. You can see Spencer giving a talk about the knitting machine at EMF Camp here and you can read a bit more here, where there are links to her website.