A Colorful Clock for Toddlers

[Don] and his wife were looking for a way to teach their two-year old daughter how to tell time. She understood the difference between day and night, but she wasn’t old enough to really comprehend telling the actual time. [Don’s] solution was to simplify the problem by breaking time down into colored chunks representing different tasks or activities. For example, if the clock is yellow that might indicate that it’s time to play. If it’s purple, then it’s time to clean up your room.

[Don] started with a small, battery operated $10 clock from a local retailer. The simple clock had a digital readout with some spare room inside the case for extra components. It was also heavy enough to stay put on the counter or on a shelf. Don opened up the clock and got to work with his Dremel to free up some extra space. He then added a ShiftBrite module as a back light. The ShiftBrite is a high-brightness LED module that is controllable via Serial. This allows [Don] to set the back light to any color he wants.

[Don] already had a Raspberry Pi running his DIY baby monitor, so he opted to just hijack the same device to control the ShiftBrite. [Don] started out using a Hive13 GitHub repo to control the LED, but he found that it wasn’t suitable for this project. He ended up forking the project and altering it. His alterations allow him to set specific colors and then exit the program by typing a single command into the command line.

The color of the ShiftBrite is changed according to a schedule defined in the system’s crontab. [Don] installed Minicron, which provides a nice web interface to make it more pleasant to alter the cron job’s on the system. Now [Don] can easily adjust his daughter’s schedule via web page as needed.

 

Raspberry Pi Doorbell is Fully Featured

When you think of a doorbell, you typically don’t think of anything very complicated. It’s a button that rings a bell inside your home. That’s about it. [Ahmad] decided he wanted to turn his doorbell up to eleven (Google Doc) with this build. Using a Raspberry Pi, he was able to cram in loads of features.

When the doorbell button is pressed, many different events can be triggered. In the demo video, [Ahmad] shows how his phone receives a text message, and email, and a tweet. The system can even be configured to place a voice call via Google Hangouts using a USB microphone. [Ahmad] demonstrates this and shows how the voice call is placed almost instantly when the button is pressed. This may be a bit overkill, but it does demonstrate many different options depending on your own needs.

For the hardware side of things, [Ahmad] purchased a wireless doorbell. He opened up the ringer unit and hooked up the speaker wires to a couple of pins on the Raspberry Pi through a resistor. The doorbell unit itself is powered off of the 3.3V supply from the Pi. The Pi also has a small LCD screen which shows helpful information such as if the Internet connection is working. The screen will also display the last time and date the doorbell was pressed, in case you weren’t home to answer the door.

On top of all of that, the system also includes a Raspberry Pi camera module. This allows [Ahmad] to take a photo of the person ringing the doorbell as a security measure. He can even view a live video feed from the front door by streaming directly to YouTube live. [Ahmad] has provided a link to his Pi image in the Google Doc so others can use it and modify it as they see fit. Continue reading “Raspberry Pi Doorbell is Fully Featured”

Dedicated Automobile Traffic Monitor with Raspberry Pi

[j3tstream] wanted an easier way to monitor traffic on the roads in his area. Specifically, he wanted to monitor the roads from his car while driving. That meant it needed to be easy to use, and not too distracting.

[j3tstream] figured he could use a Raspberry Pi to run the system. This would make things easy since he’d have a full Linux system at his disposal. The Pi is relatively low power, so it’s run from a car cigarette lighter adapter. [j3tstream] did have to add a custom power button to the Pi. This allows the system to boot up and shut down gracefully, preventing system files from being corrupted.

After searching eBay, [j3tstream] found an inexpensive 3.2″ TFT LCD touchscreen display that would work nicely for displaying the traffic data. The display was easy to get working with the Pi. [j3tstream] used the Raspbian linux distribution. His project page includes a link to download a Raspbian image that already includes the necessary modules to work with the LCD screen. Once the image is loaded, all that needs to be done is to calibrate the screen using built-in operating system functions.

The system still needed a data connection. To make things simple and inexpensive, [j3tstream] used a USB WiFi dongle. The Pi then connects to a WiFi hot spot built into his 4G mobile phone. To view the traffic map, [j3tstream] just connects to a website that displays traffic for his area.

The last steps were to automate as much as possible. After all, you don’t want to be fumbling with a little touch screen while driving. [j3tstream] made some edits to the LXDE autostart file. These changes automatically load a browser in full screen mode to the traffic website. Now when [j3tstream] boots up his Pi, it automatically connects to his WiFi hotspot and loads up local traffic maps.

Throwing Pis into the Stratosphere

It’s always exciting to see the photos from High Altitude Ballooning (HAB) outings. While it’s no surprise that the Raspi is a popular choice—low cost, convenient USB jacks, etc.—this is the first build we’ve seen that uses an OLED during the trip to show real-time data on-screen to be picked up by the on-board webcam. (Though you may have to squint to see it at the bottom middle of the above image).

[Fabrice’s] payload made it to 26,000m, and the screen he chose, an ILSOFT OLED, performed admirably despite the extreme conditions suffered (temperatures can reach -50C). The last time we saw a near-space Raspi payload was a couple of years ago, when [Dave Akerman] was closing in on UK balloon altitude records. [Dave] hasn’t stopped launching balloons, either, testing new trackers and radio modules, as well as his most recent build that sent a Superman action figure to the skies—all recorded in glorious HD.

Check out both [Dave] and [Fabrice’s] blogs for loads of pictures documenting the latest in High Altitude Ballooning, and stay with us after the jump for a quick video of [Fabrice’s] OLED in action.

Continue reading “Throwing Pis into the Stratosphere”

Raspberry Pi Backup Scripts

Raspberry Pi

[Matthew’s] recent blog post does a good job explaining the basics of the Raspberry Pi’s file system. The Linux operating system installed on a Pi is generally installed on two different partitions on an SD card. The first partition is a small FAT partition. All of the files on this partition are used for the initial booting of the Pi. This partition also includes the kernel images. The second partition is the root file system and is generally formatted as ext4. This partition contains the rest of the operating system, user files, installed programs, etc.

With that in mind you can deduce that in order to backup your Pi, all you really need to do is backup all of these files. [Matt] has written some scripts to make this a piece of cake (or pie). The first script will simply copy all of the files into a gzipped archive. You can save this to an external SD card, USB drive, or network share.

The second script is perhaps more interesting. This script requires that you have one free USB port and a USB SD card reader. The script will automatically format the extra SD card to contain the two critical partitions. It will then copy the “boot” files to the new boot partition and the root file system files to the new SD card’s root partition. When all is said and done, you will end up with an SD card that is an exact copy of your current running file system.

This can be very handy if you have multiple Pi’s that you want to run the same software, such as in a Pi cluster. Another good example is if you have spent a lot of time tweaking your Pi installation and you want to make a copy for a friend. Of course there are many ways to skin this cat, but it’s always fun to see something custom-built by a creative hacker.

Building The Slimmest Raspi

slim_pi

[Colin], AKA [Domipheus], was working on a project to monitor a thermostat with a wall mounted Raspberry Pi and a touchscreen. Simple enough, but the Pi has a problem: The plugs are all around the perimeter of the board, and with a TFT touch screen shield, it’s a bit too thick to be wall mounted. What followed is a hack in the purest sense: [Domipheus] removed and relocated components on the Pi until the entire Pi/display stack was just a hair over 10mm tall.

A Raspberry Pi Model A was used for this build, meaning the Ethernet jack was gone, and there was only a single USB port to deal with. Still, the highest components – the RCA and audio jacks – were too tall and needed to be removed; they weren’t going to be used anyway.

After these components were gone, [Domipheus] turned his attention to the next tallest parts on the board: fuses, caps, and the HDMI port. For fear of damaging the surrounding components when removing the HDMI connector the right way, this part was simply hacked off. The large tantalum cap near the USB power connector was removed (it’s just a filter cap) and the large protection diode was moved elsewhere.

Slimming down a Pi is no good without a display, and for that [Domipheus] used this touchscreen thing from Adafruit. Things got a little complicated when the project required the ability to remove the LCD, but you can do amazing things with a DIP socket and a file.

The end result is a Raspberry Pi with touchscreen display that’s just a smidgen thicker than a CD case. It’ll fit right up against a wall in its repurposed enclosure, and the end result looks very professional.

[Thanks Luke via reddit]

Calculating Pi to 10 Trillion Digits; the last number is 5

In August, 2010, [Alexander Yee] and [Shigeru Kondo] won a respectable amount of praise for calculating pi to more digits than anyone else. They’re back again, this time doubling the number of digits to 10 Trillion.

The previous calculation of 5 Trillion digits of Pi took 90 days to calculate on a beast of a workstation. The calculations were performed on 2x Xeon processors running at 3.33 GHz, 96 Gigabytes of RAM, and 32 Terabytes worth of hard drives. The 10 Trillion digit attempt used the same hardware, but needed 48 Terabytes of disk to store everything.

Unfortunately, the time needed to calculate 10 Trillion digits didn’t scale linearly. [Alex] and [Shigeru] waited three hundred and seventy-one days for the computer to finish the calculations. The guys used y-cruncher, a multithreaded pi benchmarking tool written by [Alex]. y-cruncher calculates hexadecimal digits of pi; conveniently, it’s fairly easy to find the nth hex digit of pi for verification.

If  you’re wondering if it would be faster to calculate pi on a top 500 supercomputer, you’d be right. Those boxes are a little busy predicting climate change, nuclear weapons yields, and curing cancer, though. Doing something nobody else has ever done is still an admirable goal, especially if it means building an awesome computer.