RasPiCommPlus, An Expansion Board For Expansion Boards

The easiest way to connect a GSM module to a Raspberry Pi would be to buy a breakout module, install some software, and connect to a mobile network with a Pi. Need GPS, too? That’s a whole other module, with different software. The guys behind RasPiCommPlus are working on a better solution – a breakout board for breakout boards that takes care of plugging a ton of modules into a Pi and sorts out the kernel drivers to make interfacing with these modules easy.

Right now, the team has a GPS and GSM module, digital in and out modules, an analog input module, and RS-232 and -485 modules. They’re working on some cool additions to the lineup, including a breakout for Sharp memory displays, a 9-axis IMU, a stepper motor driver, and a 1-wire breakout module.

Some of the RasPiCommPlus team showed up to the Hackaday Munich party and were kind enough to sit down for a demo video. You can check that out below.

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Adding I/O to the Rasberry Pi Models A & B

The Raspberry Pi has been the basis for many cool projects. Even so, Models A and B have been criticized for having only a handful of GPIO pins available. Sure, the new Model B+ has a 40-pin GPIO header but what if you want to use your old RaspPi with a bunch of in and outputs? [Steve] is one of those guys and has done something about it by creating a pretty neat solution he calls the PiMagic. It’s a Pi Plate that has an on board ATMEGA328 running an Arduino bootloader. The RaspPi and the Arduino communicate via UART as [Steve] felt it was a bit simpler than going the SPI or I2C route.

The RaspPi GPIO’s run on 3.3v and the ATMEGA328′s like 5v. To solve this, the PiMagic has a Level Shifter that keeps the I/O of the two boards happy. Older Pi’s had a problem burning out PCB traces when supplying too much current on the 5v supply line. [Steve] threw in a fuse that will burn out before the Pi does to ensure that no Pi’s were harmed in the making of this project.

Now that a bunch of I/O are available, how do you physically access them? Well, the PiMagic has female headers in the typical Arduino layout. This way any Arduino Shield will plug right in. [Steve] made all his source files available for those who want to make one themselves. Find an assembly video after the break.

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Controlling Music with the Wave of a Hand

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[Thomas] created a magical music player that gives the listener the ability to change songs and alter the volume levels without having to touch anything but air. Called the LighTouch, this device puts the control in the hands of the user by interpreting input from an ultrasonic sensor and plays back tracks based on waving gestures.

It is the 2nd iteration of a prototype that he completed about a year ago and functions as a streaming radio/alarm clock. The sensor is hooked up to a Raspberry Pi with a fading LED. Everything is highly customizable including the distances used for playback features. The criteria [Thomas] put in place has the pause method trigger when an object is detected between 0-10cm from the sensor. The volume control on the next level up brightens and dims the LED light just for some added flair.

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Unlocking a Door with a Phone – Easy as Pi!

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[Ian] has created a way for his office colleagues to get inside the door, even if they have forgotten their keys. This office automation, Raspberry Pi set up is appropriately named the ‘Doorman’ and provided an alternative method of unlocking the entry system.

His solution tapped into the existing security circuit, which is closed by a simple relay, which is connected to the main piece of hardware; a Raspberry Pi. On one side of the Pi is the GPIO pins that allow control access while the other side links to the internet. The company’s internal system is responsible for authenticating users, issuing keys and processing access requests. A mobile client, aka a smartphone, can request a set of keys from the Doorman.

[Ian] used the Golgi SDK to speed up the development of the in-house app. With the wires in place, the Doorman has become a great success, and now forgotten keys are a thing of the past. And even though staff members no longer need to buzz into the office interrupting their co-workers, the development team has plans to beef up their office automation system. Already other innovations are being created to be integrated in with the Doorman.

Now all that’s left is to show a video demonstration of the Doorman, which can be seen after the break:

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Adding GPIOs To The Raspberry Pi With The Camera Interface

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The Raspberry Pi Model B+ was just released, and now everyone who picks one of those up has a few more GPIO pins to play around with. For the millions of people with the two-year-old version of the Pi, we’re still stuck with the same old, same old: 17 GPIOs on the big header, and that’s about it as far as toggling pins goes.

The Broadcom SoC on the Pi has far more GPIO pins than are broken out on the large header, and a few of those go to the CSI camera interface. These GPIOs can be broken out with a few flat cables (Portuguese, Google Translatrix), giving you four more GPIOs, and this technique can also be used with the new, expanded Model B+.

The CSI camera connector has two I²C lines that go directly to the camera, controllable in Linux as GPIO0 and GPIO1. There are two more GPIO connectors on the CSI connector controllable as GPIO5 and GPIO21. By carefully slicing and soldering wires to a flat cable, these GPIO lines can be broken out onto a breadboard.

There’s a video below demonstrating these GPIO lines being used to control a few LEDs. Of course, anything that is possible with a normal Raspi GPIO is possible with the CSI connector GPIO lines.

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Controlling RC Toys With The Raspi

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An interesting trick you can do with a a fast CPU and a GPIO pin mapped directly to memory is an FM transmitter. Just toggle a pin on and off fast enough, and you have a crude and kludgy transmitter. [Brandon] saw a few builds that turned a Raspberry Pi into an FM radio transmitter and realized a lot of toy remote control cars use a frequency in the same range a Pi can transmit at. It’s not much of a leap to realize the Pi can control these remote control cars using only a length of wire attached to a GPIO pin.

The original hack that turned a Pi GPIO pin into an FM transmitter mapped a GPIO pin to memory, cycled through that memory at about 100 MHz, and added a fractional divider to slightly adjust the frequency, turning it into an FM transmitter. Cheap RC cars usually listen for radio signals at 27 and 49 MHz. It doesn’t take much to realize commanding RC cars with a Pi is possible.

The only problem with this idea is that most RC cars use pulse modulation. For an RC transmitter to send the command for ‘forward’, a synchronization pulse is sent, then a series of pulses and pauses. The frequency doesn’t change at all, something the originally FM code doesn’t do. [Brandon] realized that if he just moved the frequency up to something the RC car wasn’t listening to, that would register as a zero.

All that was left was to figure out the command codes for his RC truck. For this, [Brandon] decided brute force would be the best option. Armed with a script and a webcam, he cycled through all possible combinations until the webcam detected a moving truck. Subtlety brilliant, if you ask us. Of course more complex commands required an oscilloscope, but now [Brandon] has a git full of all the code to control a cheap RC car with a Pi.

Input And Output On A Single Pin

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[Emilio] has a Raspberry Pi with a few sensors running totally headless. It’s a great way to gather data and post it on the Internet, but for the rare occasions when the Pi needs to be turned off for maintenance, [Emilio] needs to connect a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse. Not a perfect solution when a simple pushbutton and indicator LED would suffice. There’s one problem with adding a simple button and LED combo: there’s only one GPIO pin available in the setup. That’s nothing a few resistors won’t fix.

After wiring up a very simple circuit on a piece of perfboard, [Emilio] met his design goal of being able to tell if the Pi was running and giving it a software reset button using only a single GPIO pin. The circuit requires only two resistors, and the software to make everything run – a simple Python script – toggles the pin between input and output, checking if the button is held down for five seconds. If it is, the Raspi powers off for [Emilio]‘s routine maintenance.