A Custom, Workshop Squeezebox

Launched over 10 years ago, the Squeezebox was one of the most popular network streaming devices sold. The idea was simple: put some MP3s on a computer, connect the Squeezebox to a LAN, and stream those tunes. Someone at Logitech had the brilliant idea that MP3s and other audio files should be stored in an online service a while back, something that didn’t sit well with [Richard]. He went out and built his own Squeezebox with a Raspberry Pi, out of an ammo box, no less.

Most of the project is based on another Squeezebox Raspi mashup over at Instructables. This was a wall-mounted project, and not encased that keeps 7.62 ammunition secure during transport. It did, however, provide enough information for [Richard] to use in his project.

To make his Squeezebox look a little more industrial and sturdy, he cut a few holes in a NATO ammo can for speakers, a TFT touchscreen display, and a USB charger port. Inside, a pair of powered speakers, a USB hub, and a powerbank were added, making this a portable streaming solution that can take a beating.

Raspberry Pi and Kindle Together Again

We’ve seen a lot of projects recently that take advantage of the Raspberry Pi 2’s augmented abilities. With the increased processor power and double the memory, it puts a lot more utility in the user’s hands. The latest project that takes advantage of this is the Pi-nk, which combines a Pi with a Kindle for some text-based awesomeness.

[Guillaume] has put together this detailed how-to which, unlike other builds we’ve seen in the past, uses wireless instead of USB for almost all of the connections, including the keyboard. Granted, this isn’t a new idea, but he’s presenting the way that he did it. To that end, all of the commands you’ll need to use are extremely well documented on the project page if you want to build your own. When everything is said and done, you’ll be SSHing into the Pi from the Kindle and using the popular “screen” program to get the Pi to use the Kindle as its display.

Additionally, [Guillaume] has posted some schematics for custom enclosures for the Pi-Kindle pair if you’re more ambitious. He points out that the e-ink display is great if the Pi is being run in text or command-line mode, and we’d have to agree. This is a very clean pairing of these devices and puts the strengths of both to great use!

Massive Microsoft Machinations For Makers

If you’re not stuck in the tech news filter bubble, you may not have heard the Microsoft Build Developers Conference is going on right now. Among the topics covered in the keynotes are a new Office API and a goal to have Windows 10 running on a Billion devices in a few years.

There are, however, some interesting things coming out of the Build conference. Windows 10 is designed for hackers, with everything from virtual Arduino shields running on phones, Windows 10 running on Raspberry Pis, and Visual Code Studio running on OS X and Linux.

This is not the first time in recent memory Microsoft has courted the maker market. Microsoft begrudgingly supported the hardware dev scene with the PC version of the Microsoft Kinect, and a year or two ago, Microsoft rolled out drivers for 3D printers that were much more capable than the usual serial interface (read: the ability for printer manufacturers to add DRM). To the true, tie-die wearing, rollerblade-skating, acoustic coupler-sporting, Superman III-watching hackers out there, these efforts appear laughable – the product of managers completely out of touch with their audience.

Depending on your perspective, the new releases for the Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and other ‘maker-themed’ hardware could go one way or the other.

As far as educational efforts go, the Windows Remote Arduino and Windows Virtual Shields for Arduino are especially interesting. Instead of filling a computer lab up with dozens of Arduinos and the related shields, the WVSA uses the sensors on a Windows 10 smartphone with an Arduino. Windows Remote Arduino allows makers to control an Arduino not through the standard USB port, but a Bluetooth module.

If Arduinos aren’t your thing, the Windows 10 IoT preview for the Raspberry Pi 2 and Minnowboard Max is out now. The Win10 IoT distribution does not yet have working WiFi or Bluetooth, making it the single most useless operating system for Internet of Things devices. It was, however, released at the Build conference.

Also announced was a partnership with a fabulous hardware project hosting site, Hackster.io. Microsoft and Hackster.io will be collaborating with hackathons and other events focused on Windows technology. I get why they wouldn’t want another, vastly more popular project hosting site doing this, but I’m a little confused at why Instructables wasn’t the top Microsoft pick.

As always, you may express your infinite derision in the comments below. Spelling Microsoft with a dollar sign will result in a ban.

DOTS Uses Paint to Control Raspberry Pi 2

Two tables down from us at SXSW Create the Raspberry Pi foundation had a steady stream of kids playing Minecraft on Raspberry Pi, and picking up paint brushes. The painting activity was driven by a board they spun for the event that used conductive paint to control the Raspberry Pi 2.

rear-of-the-raspberry-pi-2The board uses the HAT form factor which it a fancy name for a shield (also a clever one as it stands for “Hardware Attached on Top”). You can see the back side of the board in this image. It utilizes an extremely low-profile surface mount pin socket.

The front side exposes several circular pads of copper which build up a “connect-the-dots” game that is played by painting conductive ink on the surface. This results in an airplane being pained on the board, as well as displayed on the computer. There is a set of pads that allow the user to select what color is painted on the monitor.

We like this as a different approach to education. Kids are more than used to tapping on a touchscreen, clicking a mouse, or pounding a keyboard. But conductive ink provides several learning opportunities; the paint simply connects the inner circle with the outer circle; one of these circles is the same on every single dot (ground); anything that connects these two parts of the dot together will result in input for the computer. Great stuff!

The foundation is taking the boards to Maker Faire Bay Area next month so stop by to see these in action. You can read about the production process for the DOTS board on the Raspberry Pi website. They’re giving away a few boards to software developers who want contribute to the project. And our video interview with [Matt Richardson] is found after the break.

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The Raspberry Pi Action Camera

Action cameras like the GoPro, and the Sony Action Cam are invaluable tools for cyclists and anyone else venturing into the great outdoors. These cameras are not really modifiable or usable in any way except for what they were designed for. [Connor] wanted a cheaper, open-source action camera and decided to build one with the Raspberry Pi.

[Connor]’s Pi action cam is built around the Raspberry Pi Model A+ and the Pi camera. This isn’t a complete solution, so [Connor] added a bluetooth module, a 2000 mAh battery, and a LiPo charger.

To keep the Pi Action Cam out of the elements, [Connor] printed an enclosure. It took a few tries, but eventually he was able to mount everything inside a small plastic box with buttons to start and stop recording, a power switch, and a USB micro jack for charging the battery. The software is a script by [Alex Eames], and the few changes necessary to make this script work with the hardware are also documented.

This was the most intensive 3D printing project [Connor] has ever come up with, and judging by the number of prints that don’t work quite right, he put a lot of work into it. Right now, the Pi action cam works, but there’s still a lot of work to turn this little plastic box into a completed project.

Mapillary For The Raspberry Pi

If you live out in the boondocks, out of reach from the Google Maps car, you might have noticed there aren’t too many pictures of your area on the Internet. Mapillary is hoping to change that with crowdsourced photos of the entire planet, with mobile apps that snap a pic and upload it to the web. [sabas1080] is bringing this capability to the most popular ARM dev board out there, the Raspberry Pi.

The Raspberry Pi is not a phone, the usual way to upload pics to Mapillary. There’s no GPS, so geotagging is out of the question. The Pi doesn’t have a camera or a screen, and if you’re taking pictures of remote locations, a battery would be a good idea.

All these pieces are available for the Pi, though; [sabas1080] sourced a display from Adafruit, the camera is a standard Raspi affair, and the GPS is a GY-NEO6MV2 module from the one of the numerous Chinese retailers. Add a big power bank battery, and all the hardware is there.

The software is where this build gets tricky. Mapillary has a nice set of free tools written in Python, no less, but this is only part of the build. [sabas1080] needed to connect the camera, set up the display, and figure out how to make everything work with the Mapillary tools. In the end, [sabas] was able to get the entire setup working as a programmable, mobile photo booth.

Moore’s Law of Raspberry Pi Clusters

[James J. Guthrie] just published a rather formal announcement that his 4-node Raspberry Pi cluster greatly outperforms a 64-node version. Of course the differentiating factor is the version of the hardware. [James] is using the Raspberry Pi 2 while the larger version used the Model B.

We covered that original build almost three years ago. It’s a cluster called the Iridris Pi supercomputer. The difference is a 700 MHz single core versus the 900 Mhz quad-core with double-the ram. This let [James] benchmark his four-node-wonder at 3.048 gigaflops. You’re a bit fuzzy about what a gigaflops is exactly? So were we… it’s a billion floating point operations per second… which doesn’t matter to your human brain. It’s a ruler with which you can take one type of measurement. This is triple the performance at 1/16th the number of nodes. The cost difference is staggering with the Iridris ringing in at around £2500 and the light-weight 4-node built at just £120. That’s more than an order of magnitude.

Look, there’s nothing fancy to see in [James’] project announcement. Yet. But it seems somewhat monumental to stand back and think that a $35 computer aimed at education is being used to build clusters for crunching Ph.D. level research projects.