Pi Time – A Fabric RGB Arduino Clock

Pi Time is a psychedelic clock made out of fabric and Neopixels, controlled by an Arduino UNO. The clock started out as a quilted Pi symbol. [Chris and Jessica] wanted to make something more around the Pi and added some RGB lights. At the same time, they wanted to make something useful, that’s when they decided to make a clock using Neopixels.

Neopixels, or WS2812Bs, are addressable RGB LEDs , which can be controlled individually by a microcontroller, in this case, an Arduino. The fabric was quilted with a spiral of numbers (3.1415926535…) and the actual reading of the time is not how you are used to. To read the clock you have to recall the visible color spectrum or the rainbow colors, from red to violet. The rainbow starts at the beginning of the symbol Pi in the center, so the hours will be either red, yellow, or orange, depending on how many digits are needed to tell the time. For example, when it is 5:09, the 5 is red, and the 9 is yellow. When it’s 5:10, the 5 is orange, the first minute (1) is teal, and the second (0) is violet. The pi symbol flashes every other second.

There are simpler and more complicated ways to perform the simple task of figuring out what time it is…

We are not sure if the digits are lighted up according to their first appearance in the Pi sequence or are just random as the video only shows the trippy LEDs, but the effect is pretty nice:

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PiSound, The Audio Card For The Raspberry Pi

Kids today are being loud with their ‘drum machines’ and ‘EDM’. Throw some Raspberry Pis at them, and there’s a need for a low-latency sound card with MIDI and all the other accouterments of the modern, Skrillex-haired rocker. That’s where PiSound comes in.

Of course, the Pi already comes with audio out, but that’s not enough if you want to do some real audio processing. You need audio in as well, and while you’re messing around with that, adding some high-quality opamps, ADCs, DACs, and some MIDI would be a good idea. This is what the PiSound is all about.

[Pranciskus], the guy who has been working on the PiSound for a while now, developed this multitool for audio on a tiny Linux system. One of the killer features on the PiSound is ‘The Button’, a simple tact switch that runs a script if the button is pressed, another script if the button is held down, and two more if the button is pressed two or three times. This is actually a pretty nifty UI, and we wouldn’t mind seeing this on a few more Pi accessories.

If you’d like to see some example projects using the PiSound, there example MIDI controllers, networked audio players, and some goofing around with LV2 plugins over here.

Raspberry Pi-Based Game Boy Emulator

The most popular use for a Raspberry Pi, by far, is video game emulation. We see this in many, many forms from 3D printed Raspberry Pi cases resembling the original Nintendo Entertainment System to 3D printed Raspberry Pi cases resembling Super Nintendos. There’s a lot of variety out there for Raspberry Pi emulation, but [moosepr] is taking it to the next level. He’s building the smallest Pi emulation build we’ve ever seen.

This build is based on the Pi Zero and a 2.2″ (0.56 dm) ili9341 TFT display. This display has a resolution of 240×320 pixels, which is close enough to the resolution of the systems the Pi Zero can emulate. The Pi Zero and display are attached to a beautiful purple breakout board (shared on OSH Park) along with a few 5-way nav switches, a charger for a Lipo battery, and a few other bits and bobs.

Right now, [moosepr] is experimenting with adding sound to his board. It’s easy enough to get sound out of a Pi Zero — it’s just PWM coming from a few pins — but audio also needs an amp, a speaker, and more space on the board. To solve this problem, [moose] found a few piezo transducers from musical greeting cards. These are designed to be thin and as loud as possible, and attaching these directly to the PWM pins providing audio might just work. This is a project to keep an eye on, if only to see if cheap piezos work for low-fi audio in retro emulators.

Hackaday Links: January 29, 2017

A 3D printer and laser cutter were cited as cause in two deaths. A couple (and two cats) were found dead in their apartment this week. The cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning. Police and the gas company investigated the residence and found no other source of carbon monoxide besides a 3D printer and a laser cutter. Be sure to check out the people who know more about these deaths than the people who actually investigated these deaths in the comments below. In the mean time, get a CO detector. It’s nasty stuff.

At CES last this month, Lulzbot unleashed the MOARstruder. It’s an extruder with a massive, massive, 1.2mm nozzle. [James] from xrobots dot co dot uk just got his hands on the MOARstruder and the initial results are pretty cool. With a 1.2mm nozzle, you can print big parts fast (helpful for [James]’ massive builds), and the parts are stronger. Check out the video for a great hammer vs. printed part test.

We knew this would happen eventually. Pi Blades. Element14 is now offering ‘breakout boards but not quite’ for the full-size Raspberry Pis and Pi HATs. The idea of this product is to package clusters of Pis into an easy-to-use form factor. The Bitscope Blade Quattro, for example, provides power to four Pis. In other news, I own 20% of the world’s supply of vertical SODIMM sockets.

Arbitrary Code Execution On The Nintendo 64. A bit of background is required before going into this. Pokemon Stadium is a game for the N64. It used a Transfer Pak to read the save game data on Pokemon Game Boy cartridges to battle, trade, and organize Pokemon. Additionally, the Pokemon Tower in Pokemon Stadium allows players to play first-gen Game Boy Pokemon games from within an N64 – sort of like the SNES Super Game Boy. By using two Game Boy Pokemon games and two Transfer Paks, arbitrary code can be executed on the N64. Video demo right here. This is really cool, and the next obvious step is a ‘bootloader’ of sorts to allow arbitrary code downloading from controller button presses.

The Travelling Hacker Box is on the move! The original plan for the Travelling Hacker Box was to visit home base for the 2016 Hackaday SuperConference, then depart to foreign lands beginning with Canada, Greenland, Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceana, and the other America. After the SuperCon, the box was shipped out to its first recipient in Canada. The box came back. Something with customs. Now, the Travelling Hacker Box is on the move again. The plan is still the same, it’s just delayed a month or two. If you want to check out the future travels of the Travelling Hacker Box, here you go.

Hackaday Links: January 22, 2017

What is a 1971 Ford Torino worth? It depends, but even a 2-door in terrible condition should fetch about $7 or $8k. What is a 1971 Ford Torino covered in 3D printed crap worth? $5500. This is the first ‘3D printed car’ on an auction block. It looks terrible and saying ‘Klaatu Varada Nikto’ unlocks the doors.

Old Apple IIs had a DB19 connector for external floppy drives. Some old macs, pre-PowerPC at least, also had a DB19 connector for external floppy drives. These drives are incompatible with each other for reasons. [Dandu] has a few old macs and one old Apple II 3.5″ external floppy drive. This drive can be hacked so it works with a Mac Classic. The hack is simply disconnecting one of the boards in the drive, and it only reads 400 and 800kB disks, but it does work.

The US Army is working on a hoverbike. Actually, it’s not a hoverbike, because it doesn’t have a saddle or a seat, but it could carry 300 pounds at 60 mph. That’s 136,000 grams at 135 meters per second for the rest of the world out there. This ‘hoverbike’ will be used for very quick resupply, and hopefully a futuristic form of jousting.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen a few new microcontrollers built around the RISC-V core. The first is the HiFive1, a RISC-V on an Arduino-shaped board. The Open-V is another RISC-V based microcontroller, and now it too supports the Arduino IDE. That may not seem like much, but trust me: setting up the HiFive1 toolchain takes at least half an hour.

The NAMM show has been going on for the last few days, which means new electronic musical gear, effects pedals, and drum machines. This is cool, but somewhat outside our editorial prerogative. This isn’t. It’s a recording studio using a Rasberry Pi. Tracktion is working on a high-quality digital audio input and output add-on for the Pi 3. This is really cool, and you only need to look back at MPCs and gigantic Akai samplers from 15 years ago to see why.

Hey LA peeps. Sparklecon is next weekend. What’s Sparklecon? The 23B hackerspace pulls out the grill, someone brings a gigantic Tesla coil, we play hammer Jenga, and a bunch of dorks dork around. Go to Sparklecon! Superliminal advertising! Anyone up for a trip to the Northrop ham meetup next Saturday?

Improving Raspberry Pi Disk Performance

Usually, you think of solid state storage as faster than a rotating hard drive. However, in the case of the Raspberry Pi, the solid state “disk drive” is a memory card that uses a serial interface. So while a 7200 RPM SATA drive might get speeds in excess of 100MB/s, the Pi’s performance is significantly less.

[Rusher] uses the Gluster distributed file system and Docker on his Raspberry Pi. He measured write performance to be a sluggish 1MB/s (and the root file system was clocking in at just over 40MB/s).

There are an endless number of settings you could tweak, but [Rusher] heuristically picked a few he thought would have an impact. After some experimentation, he managed 5MB/s on Gluster and increased the normal file system to 46 MB/s.

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Orange Pi Releases Two Boards

A few years ago, someone figured out small, cheap ARM Linux boards are really, really useful, extremely popular, sell very well, blink LEDs, and are able to open the doors of engineering and computer science to everyone. There is one giant manufacturer of these cheap ARM Linux boards whose mere mention guarantees us a few thousand extra clicks on this article. There are other manufacturers of these boards, though, and there is no benevolent monopoly; the smaller manufacturers of these boards should bring new features and better specs to the ARM Linux board ecosystem. A drop of water in a tide that lifts all boats. Something like that.

This week, Orange Pi, not the largest manufacturer of these small ARM Linux boards, has released two new boards. The Orange Pi Zero is an inexpensive, quad-core ARM Cortex A7 Linux board with 256 MB or 512 MB of RAM. The Orange Pi PC 2 is the slightly pricier quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 board with 1 GB of RAM and a layout that can only be described as cattywampus. We all know where the inspiration for these boards came from. The price for these boards, less shipping, is $6.99 USD and $19.98 USD, respectively.

The Orange Pi Zero uses the Allwinner H2 SoC, and courageously does not use the standard 40-pin header of another very popular line of single board computers, although the 26-pin bank of pins is compatible with the first version of the board you’re thinking about. Also on board the Orange Pi Zero is WiFi provided by an XR819 chipset, Ethernet, a Mali400MP2 GPU, USB 2.0, a microSD card slot, and a pin header for headphones, mic, TV out, and two more USB ports.

The significantly more powerful Orange Pi PC 2 sports a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 SoC coupled to 1 GB of RAM. USB OTG, a trio of USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet, camera interface, and HDMI round out the rest of the board.

Both of Orange Pi’s recent offerings are Allwinner boards. This family of SoCs have famously terrible support in Linux, and the last Allwinner Cortex-A53, that we couldn’t really review, was terrible. Although the Orange Pi Zero and Orange Pi PC 2 are new boards and surely software is still being written, history indicates the patches written for this SoC will not be sent upstream, and these boards will be frozen in time.

If you’re looking for a cheap Linux board with a WiFi chipset that might work, The Orange Pi Zero is very interesting. The Orange Pi PC 2 does have slightly impressive specs for the price. When you buy a single board, though, you’re buying into a community dedicated to improving Linux support on the board. From what I’ve seen, that support probably won’t be coming but I will be happy to be proven wrong.