Using Cheap Displays With The Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi B+ has a native VGA connection. Sure, it’s hidden away in binary blobs and device trees, and you need to wire up the GPIO pins just right, but it’s possible to connect a VGA monitor to a Raspi B+ natively. For the brave, smart, or foolish, this means you can also drive raw DPI displays. [Robert] had a few of these dirt cheap displays sitting around and decided to give the entire thing a go. It worked, and he’s written down how to do it.

One of the chip architects for the Raspberry Pi, [Gert van Loo], was exceedingly clever when designing the Pi. There’s a parallel interface in the chip that, when combined with a few dozen resistors, can drive a VGA display in addition to the HDMI display. Screens with a Display Parallel Interface are actually pretty similar to what the VGA spec calls for. The problem is, hardly any of this is documented for the Raspberry Pi, and finding it means trawling through forums.

[Robert]’s example circuit uses a 5″ display from Adafruit, a 40-pin breakout, and a bunch of prototyping wires. Setup requires grabbing a cut down version of the device tree used for the Raspi VGA breakout board, setting the output format, rgb order, and aspect ratio of the display, and wiring everything up.

What’s interesting here is that [Robert] reproduced this project from scratch, and found that any display with a 40-pin DPI connector will work with the Raspi, provided you have a datasheet. That’s pretty cool; these displays can be cheap, and since we don’t yet have a proper DSI display for the Pi, this will have to do for now.

Video below of [Robert]’s inspiration for this build, [Ladyada].

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The Raspberry Pi Model A+

A few months ago we were lucky to get the scoop on a new Raspberry Pi a few days before it was officially announced. This model ended up being the Raspberry Pi Model B+, with improvements that included more USB ports, not-dumb mounting holes, more GPIOs, and a decent microSD card connector. Today, we’re proud to leak another revision to the Raspberry Pi ecosystem – the Raspberry Pi Model A+

There really aren’t many details for this new revision of the Raspi, but we can make some educated guesses. The new model features the same not-dumb mounting holes as the B+, 58mm wide by 49mm wide. All the ports are moved to two sides of the board, and the analog audio and video are combined into one 3.5mm jack. Like the normal Model A, this one doesn’t have Ethernet and only one USB port, but the improvements seen from the B to the B+ are still there: a good microSD card socket is on the back, and the 40-pin GPIO header replaces the old 26-pin header. There’s no word if the A+ will feature a RAM upgrade – when the Model B was ramping up production The Foundation decided to bump the RAM up to 512MB. This could happen with the A+, but we’re not holding our breath.

There’s no word when the A+ will be announced, or when it will start shipping. The educated guess would say tomorrow morning, with an analysis of how much power this thing consumes a week after it starts shipping.

What’s Next on the Raspberry Pi Front

Raspberry Pi founder [Eben Upton] recently sat in an uncomfortable chair in London to discuss all things Pi. Having sold about four million units over the last 2.5 years, he feels the future is bright for his original vision of inspiring and helping kids to learn programming.

[Eben] is quite pleased with the Pi-Top, a B+ based laptop kit that’s pulling in backers left and right while completely unaffiliated with the Pi foundation. The kit includes a 13.3″ HD LCD screen, keyboard, trackpad, and an injection molded case, though you can print your own with the included STL files. Kits start at $249 without a Pi and $285 with a B+ included. Robot and home automation HATs are also available separately or bundled with the Pi-Top kit.

The most exciting news is that the $600,000 spent on DSI connectors for those four million Raspis is about to pay off. [Eben] hopes that an official touchscreen will be available for purchase before the end of 2014 or in early 2015. He showed off a 7″ capacitive touch panel that will attach to a display board stacked on a Pi, effectively turning it into a tablet.

[Eben] said that they will not be making a Model C and instead are working on revision A+. He hopes to make an official announcement in the near future.

Finally, [Eben] discussed the importance of community, which played a large part in the birth and evolution of the Pi. He also spoke of Pi Academy, a sort of professional workshop for teachers in the UK who’ve recently been tasked with teaching computer science as demanded by changes in the mandatory UK school curriculum. He hopes that these 2-day seminars will help educators achieve the high expectations recently laid out for students to achieve by age ten.

Make Your Own Mac Pi For Some Desktop Nostalgia

Mac Pi

Do you miss your Mac Classic? Well if you’re looking for a fun little project, why not build yourself a Mini Mac Pi that emulates Mac OS 7?

It’s a fairly simple project that makes use of the Raspberry Pi B, a 320×240 2.8″ touchscreen LCD (the PiTFT), a lithium-ion battery, a buck-boost circuit and of course, a power switch. The cute enclosure is made by 3D printing, and all the files are available on Thingiverse — they’ve been sliced up in a way that they will be printable on most consumer printer bed sizes.

Once everything is assembled, you’ll need to run Mini vMac alongside Raspbian in order to run Mac OS 7. There are a few caveats though — The original resolution is 512×342, so there’s a bit of screen clipping that occurs. There’s also minor application support, but for the purpose of nostalgia, we think the included selection is more than enough to satisfy most memories.

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Introducing Hat a Day! Not to be Confused With the Real HaD of Course…

Hat a Day

With the release of the Raspberry Pi B+ model comes a whole slew of extra GPIO connectors, a whopping 40 of them in fact — Almost double the original B model! A HAT stands for Hardware Attached on Top, and Adafruit is celebrating by trying to create a new hat, every day.

A HAT is a rectangular board measuring 65x56mm with mounting holes for the Raspberry Pi B+ and a 40 pin GPIO header. That doesn’t sound too special by itself, but two of the header pins are reserved for a special auto-configuration system that allows your Pi to have automatic GPIO and driver setup! Now we’re talking!

So far Adafruit has made a handful of prototype HATs including the Perma-proto HAT, a GPS HAT, a TFT HAT, an Arcade HAT and even a Servo HAT. But they’re looking for more! We think they’ve slipped up on the one a day record though…

We’re excited to see more integrated projects with the B+ since it’s so much more friendly for add-on hardware than the original — What kind of hardware would you like to see in HAT form? Do you like the idea of HATs?