Hacklet 24 – Raspberry Pi Projects

Experimenting with embedded Linux used to mean reformatting an old PC, or buying an expensive dev board. In February of 2012, the Raspberry Pi was released, and it has proven to be a game changing platform. According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, over 3.8 million boards have been sold. 3.8 million translates into a lot of great projects. This week’s Hacklet focuses on some of the best Raspberry Pi projects on Hackaday.io!

rpfpvWe start with [richardginus] and the RpiFPV (aka Raspberry Pi First Person View) project. [Richardginus]  is trying to build a low latency WiFi streaming camera system for radio-controlled models using a Raspberry Pi and camera. He’s gotten the system down into a respectable 160 milliseconds on the bench, but in the field interference from the 2.4GHz R/C transmitter drives latency way up. To fix this, [Richardginus] is attempting to control the plane over the same WiFi link as the video stream. We’d also recommend checking out some of those “outdated” 72 MHz R/C systems on the used market.

piholgaNext up is [James McDuffie] and his RPi Holga. Inspired by [Peter’s] Holga camera project, [James] has stuffed a Raspberry Pi model A, a camera module, and a WiFi adapter into a Holga camera body. The result looks like a stock Holga.  We saw this camera up close at the Hackaday 10th Anniversary event, and it fooled us – we thought [James] was just a lomography buff. It was only after seeing his pictures that we realized there was a Pi hiding inside that white plastic body! Definitely check out [James’] instructions as he walks through everything from hardware mods to software installation.

cluster2No Raspberry Pi list would be complete without a cluster or two, so we have [Tobias W.] and his 3 Node Raspberry Pi Cluster. The Raspberry Pi makes for a cheap and efficient platform to experiment with cluster computing. [Tobias] did a bit more than just slap a few Pis on a board and call it a day though. He custom machined an aluminum plate to hold his 3 node cluster. This makes wire management a snap. The Pi’s communicate through a four port Ethernet hub and all run from a single power supply. He even added a key switch, just like on the “old iron” mainframes. [Tobias] has been a bit quiet lately, so if you run into him, tell him we’re looking for an update on that cluster!

pivenaFrom [Tim] comes the PIvena, a Raspberry Pi laptop which takes its styling cues from [Bunnie Huang’s] Novena computer.  Pivena is a bit smaller though, with a 7” HDMI LCD connected to the Pi. The case is made from laser cut wood and a few 3D printed parts. Everything else is just standard hardware. [Tim] kept the PIvena’s costs down by using a wooden kickstand to hold up the screen rather than Novena’s pneumatic spring system. The base plate of the PIvena includes a grid of mounting holes just like the Novena. There is also plenty of room for batteries to make this a truly portable machine.  The end result is a slick setup that would look great at any Hackerspace. We hope [Tim] creates an update to support the new Raspberry Pi B+ boards!

Our Raspberry Pi-based alarm clock is chiming the hour, so that’s about it for this episode of the Hacklet! As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Open Source GPU Released


Nearly a year ago, an extremely interesting project hit Kickstarter: an open source GPU, written for an FPGA. For reasons that are obvious in retrospect, the GPL-GPU Kickstarter was not funded, but that doesn’t mean these developers don’t believe in what they’re doing. The first version of this open source graphics processor has now been released, giving anyone with an interest a look at what a late-90s era GPU looks like on the inside, If you’re cool enough, there’s also enough supporting documentation to build your own.

A quick note for the PC Master Race: this thing might run Quake eventually. It’s not a powerhouse. That said, [Bunnie] had a hard time finding an open source GPU for the Novena laptop, and the drivers for the VideoCore IV in the Raspi have only recently been open sourced. A completely open GPU simply doesn’t exist, and short of a few very, very limited thesis projects there hasn’t been anything like this before.

Right now, the GPL-GPU has 3D graphics acceleration working with VGA on a PCI bus. The plan is to update this late-90s setup to interfaces that make a little more sense, and add DVI and HDMI output. Not bad for a failed Kickstarter, right?

Pivena – The Open Source Raspberry Pi Case

Raspberry Pi Laptop

Still not too sure how to house your awesome Raspberry Pi B model? Don’t worry, [Timothy Giles] has got you covered! He’s just finished this very sleek open source PIvena case for anyone to use.

Why is it called the PIvena? He’s basing it off of [Bunnie’s] Novena project which is a hobby-based open source laptop! For more information you can checkout the recent interview we had with [Bunnie] himself!

Anyway, back to the hack — it features a laser cut case which has plenty of room for the Pi and any additional hardware you want to add. Like the Novena, the screen also functions as a lid, opening up to reveal the electronics, allowing for easy tinkering. All the files can be acquired over at Thingiverse, and he has assembly instructions available on Instructables. Continue reading “Pivena – The Open Source Raspberry Pi Case”

Hacklet #5 – Hackerspaces and DIY Laptops

The Hacklet #5


sector67Did you know that Hackaday.io has a hackerspace index? That’s right, you can enter your local hackerspace’s info, pictures, videos, and social media links. Members and crew can link their hackaday.io profiles and drop comments about their latest projects.

The map up at the top of the hackerspace index’s page is interactive too – zoom in on your country and local area to see any spaces nearby. It’s like one-stop shopping for awesome. Well, except that this awesome is free.

It really is great to see all the pictures of spaces large and small. Some of the most stunning shots are from c-base, in Berlin, Germany. Founded in 1995, the c-base crew have created an incredible space. Take a look at the workstation in the photo. Is it Steampunk? Matrix-punk? Heck no, that’s 100% c-base.



Do It Yourself Laptops

You don’t have to be Bunnie Huang to build your own laptop. All it takes is some time, ingenuity,and a good hot glue gun.


Our first laptop is actually inspired by Bunnie’s Novena. The OpenTech-Laptop uses two binders as it’s shell, but inside hides some decent computing power. [OpenTech] used a miniITX motherboard with an ATOM N2800 CPU. The screen came from an old laptop (long live matte 4:3 screens!) [OpenTech] even hand wired a Low Voltage Differential Signaling (LVDS) cable so the motherboard can push those pixels. A wireless keyboard, hard drive, and speakers round out the build. [OpenTech] is still looking for a portable power solution.Why not follow Bunnie’s lead and grab some R/C Plane LiPo batteries, [OpenTech]?


Next up is a MiniBSD laptop computer created by [Jaromir]. MiniBSD is based on RetroBSD, a PIC32 based BSD single board computer. Rather than use a premade platform like the Fubarino, [Jaromir] laid out his own board with everything he wanted – a microSD socket, SDRAM, real-time clock, and all the trimmings. He then added a graphical LCD, a LiPo battery, and a sweet retro keyboard from an old Czech computer company called Tesla. [Jaromir’s] next task is a 3D printed case. The only problem is the case is 2cm wider than his current printer’s bed!


You didn’t think we’d leave the Raspberry Pi out, now did you? Laptop-pi is [Bram’s] project to convert an old DVD player (remember those?) into a Pi Laptop. Not only did [Bram] build a QWERTY keyboard from scratch on perfboard, he also hacked together an on-screen keyboard so he can type with just a D-pad. He’s currently fighting with a dodgy audio amp, but we’re sure that’s just a temporary setback. We think Laptop-pi will be a killer portable for retro gaming!


That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, stay tuned for next week when we bring you more of what’s happening at Hackaday.io!

Youthful Destruction at Maker Faire


Who didn’t get in trouble for taking things apart as a kid? The TakeItApart booth at the 2014 Maker Faire was among my favorite. It let anyone (especially the kids) grab a piece of electronics headed for recycling and crack it open just to see what is inside. The good news being that you didn’t need to be able to put it back together again since it’s just going to be ground up for its constituent materials anyway.

There’s something cathartic about watching a 7-year-old stabbing at a Walkman radio with a slotted screwdriver (those plastic cases are more robust than you might think). I asked if anyone had managed to slice open their hand back-to-the-future style in the process and thankfully the answer was no. But there was at least one instance of “free daycare” where the parents wandered off — there are plenty of distractions at MF — much to the chagrin of their progeny.

Seeing this made me think of this recent interview with [Bunnie Huang] in which he mentions taking chips out of their sockets on an Apple II when he was a kid. He would pull them and replace them backwards to see what effect it would have. Ha! If you have a similar childhood experience to share we’d love to hear about it in the comments. If you just want to see the guts of a bunch of stuff head of to TakeItApart.

The Hackaday Prize: You Build Open Hardware, We Send You to Space


For weeks we’ve been teasing you that something BIG was coming. This is it. Six months from now one hardware hacker will claim The Hackaday Prize and in doing so, secure the grand prize of a trip into space.

You have the skills, the technology, and the tenacity to win this. Even if you don’t take the top spot there’s loot in it for more than one winner. To further entice you, there are eyebrow-raising prizes for all five of the top finishers, and hundreds of other rewards for those that build something impressive. You can win this… you just need to take the leap and give it your all.

Continue reading “The Hackaday Prize: You Build Open Hardware, We Send You to Space”

SOAP Drama: An Interview With The SOAP Creators

A few days ago, we caught wind of SOAP, a Kickstarter project for an Android-based home automation router. With a quad-core ARM, quad gigabit Ethernet ports, 802.11ac, SATA, and every radio under the sun – all for $100 (sans display, $170 with display), it seemed too good to be true. At the time, it probably was: the images from the PCB prototype were taken from [Bunnie Huang]’s open source laptop, there weren’t enough Ethernet ports for a router, and the hardware just seemed all wrong.

The guys behind SOAP have decided to respond to these accusations by posting a huge update on their Kickstarter page and answering a few questions from me. Interview follows below.

HaD: There’s a BOM/cost analysis breakdown for the Essentials package (the SOAP sans display) that puts the total cost at about $130. This is the reward for pledging at the $100 level. How accurate is this cost analysis, and how do you plan on meeting that reward level?

SOAP: This cost analysis that you mention is very accurate. We will not profit on the early release pricing of $60.00 we have taken the loss leader pricing to attract backers and press (and we think we have done a good job). We are working with a large router manufacturer and this is really the link that makes the pricing possible without them we couldn’t do this.

HaD: You’re using a Quad Core Freescale i.MX processor for SOAP, and putting a four port Gigabit router in there. The Quad core i.MX chips only have one Gigabit port, and that’s limited to 470 Mbps. How are you solving this problem, and what are you using as a MAC/PHY?

SOAP: First off let me state that we are very aware of the CPU limitations and we have done a lot of work on finding a solution and we do have a unique solution. We have support from a big player in the router industry that has offered us a unique solution that we have been working on to bypass this issue. We will post more on this after our trip to San Jose. This is our fallback method and yes its benchmarks are not as pretty as we want them but they are getting there and we feel with enough tweaks we can get this to decent level.

This is from our layout guy: We are planning I.mx processor’s gigabit port will be connected to external IC working as a switch. 1Gb ethernet -> 1 to 4 switch -> 4x Gb Ethernet ports. Possible  http://www.ti.com/lit/ds/symlink/tnetx4090.pdf. Use 4 ports from there plus put RGMII Ethernet transceiver from Marvell  for each ETH port and we will have on board Ethernet switch.

HaD: What WiFi chipset/chipsets are you using? Will that/they be able to do 802.11ac at full speed, and how are you doing this with (I think) only one antenna on the updated board images?

SOAP: The speeds have varied greatly on the chipset and how buggy the software was for the day but we have clocked speeds over 1 gigabyte per second and we will continue to develop this further to achieve maximize speeds this is where our new Union with the guys over at Droidifi will help.

In our prototype we tested Avastar 88W8864, Broadcom 4360 , and a couple more that failed to actually work.  We didn’t get those all functioning like we would have wanted as there is little support for android and router chipsets to date. We demo with a Broadcom chipset.

We want to use Quantenna QAC2300 but at current funding we will be using the Broadcom we have received a lot of suggestions from our backers and a new big player behind us that thinks they have the right match we are waiting to announce this after our meeting in San Jose.

We have one antenna on the most current design but we are planning on adding two more for the final design. We didn’t place them on the most recent design because we are waiting to see how much funding we get to finalize the wifi chipset. We didn’t want antenna design that worked best with a Broadcom when we switch to Marvel or Quantenna.

HaD: What is the status of the software? Do you have a repo somewhere that people could look over?

SOAP: We have been working with a new player from the older kickstarter project called Droidifi. We will be working with them on the software. This is a something we haven’t been able to announce till we lock it down but you are the first to know about this union. Check out our update later today.

HaD: Finally, do you have a functional prototype with the quad-core i.MX, four Ethernet ports, and WiFi? Can we see a video?

SOAP:  If you mean a mass production ready device that can be used by an end user then no. We have a solid functioning proof of concept prototype. We have a lot of Demo videos of our POC that show  what we have developed so far.  We  have to have the current PCB design manufactured to get down to the more rigorous testing and qualifying. All the specs listed on our kickstarter are what we currently are planning and we hope to fulfill the tech specs.

HaD: There are some other questions in the Kickstarter comments section, but honestly I don’t care about how many Twitter followers you have.

SOAP: Twitter was our marketing company. We thought people actually were following us but we have  since found out that half of them are not real. Check this out though.

All in all we understand how ambitious this project looks and we also know that it technology development can run into roadblocks and things but we want to be clear we are not a scam and we are quite aware where these attacks have originated. We will continue to work hard on this project, we will not be running off to Costa Rica and we plan on seeing everyone at CES next year.

The TL;DR for everyone without an attention span:

Yes, the $100/$170 price is too good to be true. It’s called a loss leader to generate interest. This part was a success. The SOAP guys are partnering with the DroidFi guys for the operating system. The Gigabit Ethernet will probably work, and the WiFi is limited by *nix chipset support. No complete functional prototypes yet.

So there you go. It’s not the ideal update with the SOAP crew showing off a shipping container of units ready to be shipped, but the project isn’t in as bad a shape as I originally thought.