Python keeps a gecko happy: terrarium automation with Raspberry Pi

For better or worse, pets often serve as inspiration and test subjects for hardware hacks: smarten up that hamster wheel, tweet the squirrel hunting adventures from a dog’s point of view, or automate and remote control a reptile enclosure. [TheYOSH], a gecko breeder from the Netherlands, chose the latter and wrote TerrariumPi for the Raspberry Pi to control and monitor his exotic companion’s home through a convenient web interface.

The right ecosystem is crucial to the health and happiness of any animal that isn’t native to its involuntarily chosen surroundings. Simulating temperature, humidity and lighting of its natural habitat should therefore be the number one priority for any pet owner. The more that simulation process is reliably automated, the less anyone needs to worry.

TerrariumPi supports all the common temperature/humidity sensors and relay boards you will find for the Raspberry Pi out of the box, and can utilize heating and cooling, watering and spraying, as well as lighting based on fixed time intervals or sensor feedback. It even supports location based sunrise and sunset simulation — your critter might just think it never left Madagascar, New Caledonia or Brazil. All the configuration and monitoring happens in the browser, as demonstrated in [TheYOSH]’s live system with public read access (in Dutch).

It only seems natural that Python was the language of choice for a reptile-related system. On the other hand, it doesn’t have to be strictly used for reptiles or even terrariums; TerrariumPi will take care of aquariums and any other type of vivarium equally well. After all, we have seen the Raspberry Pi handling greenhouses and automating mushroom cultivation before.

Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 in a GameBoy Original

[Kite] has been making custom PCBs for GameBoys for a long time. Long enough, in fact, that other people have used his work to build even more feature-rich GameBoy platforms. Unfortunately some of their work had stagnated, so [Kite] picked it up and completed a new project: a GameBoy that uses a Raspberry Pi running on his upgraded GameBoy PCB.

At its core the build uses a Raspberry Pi 3, but one that has been shrunk down to the shape of a memory module, known as the Compute Module 3. (We featured the original build by [inches] before, but [Kite] has taken it over since then.) The upgrade frees up precious space in the GameBoy case to fit the custom PCB that was originally built by [Kite], and also eliminates the need to cut up a Raspberry Pi and solder it to the old version of his PCB. The build is very clean, and runs RetroPie like a champ. It has some additional features as well, such as having an HDMI output.

For anyone looking for that retro GameBoy feel but who wants important upgrades like a backlit color screen, or the ability to play PSP games, this might be the build for you. The video below goes into details about how it all fits together. If you’re looking for more of a challenge in your GameBoy hacks, though, there’s an ongoing challenge to build the tiniest GameBoy possible as well.

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Raspberry Pi Learns Slow Morse Code

It wasn’t long ago that you needed to know Morse code to be a ham radio operator. That requirement has gone in most places, but code is still useful and many hams use it, especially hams that like to hack. Now, hams are using the Raspberry Pi to receive highly readable Morse code using very low power. The software is QrssPiG and it can process audio or use a cheap SDR dongle.

There are a few reasons code performs better than voice and many other modes. First, building transmitters for Morse is very simple. In addition, Morse code is highly readable, even under poor conditions. This is partly because it is extremely narrow bandwidth and partly because your brain is an amazing signal processor.

Like most communication methods, the slower you go the easier it is to get a signal through. In ham radio parlance, QRS means “send slower”, so QRSS has come to mean mean “send very slowly”. So hams are using very slow code, and listening for it using computerized methods. Because the data rate is so slow, the computer has time to do extreme methods to recover the signal — essentially, it can employ an extremely narrow filter. Having a QRSS signal detected around the world from a transmitter running much less than a watt is quite common. You can see a video introduction to the mode from [K6BFA] and [KI4WKZ], below.

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Raspberry Pi Media Streamer Is Combat Ready

We are truly living in the golden age of media streaming. From the Roku to the Chromecast, there is no shortage of cheap devices to fling your audio and video anywhere you please. Some services and devices may try to get you locked in a bit more than we’d like (Amazon, we’re looking at you), but on the whole if you’ve got media files on your network that you want to enjoy throughout the whole house, there’s a product out there to get it done.

But why buy an easy to use and polished commercial product when you can hack together your own for twice the price and labor over it for hours? While you’re at it, why not build the whole thing into a surplus ammo can? This the line of logic that brought [Zwaffel] to his latest project, and it makes perfect sense to us.

It should come as no surprise that a military ammo can has quite a bit more space inside than is strictly required for the Raspberry Pi 3 [Zwaffel] based his project on. But it does make for a very comfortable wiring arrangement, and offers plenty of breathing room for the monstrous 60 watt power supply he has pumping into his HiFiBerry AMP+ and speakers.

On the software side the Pi is running Max2Play, a Linux distro designed specifically for streaming audio and video remotely. [Zwaffel] says that with this setup he is able to listen to music on his Squeezebox server as well as watch movies via Kodi.

While none are quite as battle-hardened as this, we have seen several other Raspberry Pi Squeezebox clients over the years if you’re looking for more inspiration.

Apparently Fruit Flies Like a Raspberry Pi

Groucho Marx famously said, “Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.” As insulting as it is, researchers often use fruit flies for research because they have similar behavior and genetics to humans. For example, the flies exhibit signs of anxiety, stress, and many common diseases. Researchers at Imperial College London built an inexpensive and customizable research platform for fruit flies — the ethoscope — that uses a 3D printed enclosure and a Raspberry Pi to study our winged counterparts. You can see a video about the ethoscope, below.

By using a camera, the Pi can watch the flies, something researchers used to do by hand. The software is easy to customize. For example, while studying sleep deprivation, the ethoscope could detect when a fly didn’t move for 20 seconds and rotate its tube to wake it up.

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FruitNanny: The Raspberry Pi Baby Monitor For Geeks

Having a child is perhaps the greatest “hack” a human can perform. There’s no soldering iron, no Arduino (we hope), but in the end, you’ve managed to help create the most complex piece of machinery in the known galaxy. The joys of having a child are of course not lost on the geekier of our citizens, for they wonder the same things that all new parents do: how do we make sure the baby is comfortable, how many IR LEDs do we need to see her in the dark, and of course the age old question, should we do this with a web app or go native?

If you’re the kind of person who was frustrated to see that “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” didn’t even bother to mention streaming video codecs, then you’ll love FruitNanny, the wonderfully over-engineered baby monitor created by [Dmitry Ivanov]. The product of nearly two years of development, FruitNanny started as little more than a Raspberry Pi 1n a plastic lunch box. But as [Dmitry] details in his extensive write-up, the latest iteration could easily go head-to-head with products on the commercial market.

[Dmitry] gives a full bill of materials on his page, but all the usual suspects are here. A Raspberry Pi 3 paired with the official NoIR camera make up the heart of the system, and the extremely popular DHT22 handles the environmental monitoring. A very nice 3D printed case, a lens intended for the iPhone, and a dozen IR LEDs round out the build.

The software side is where the project really kicks into high gear. Reading through the setup instructions [Dmitry] has provided is basically a crash course in platform-agnostic video streaming. Even if a little bundle of joy isn’t on your development roadmap, there’s probably a tip or two you can pick up for your next project that requires remote monitoring.

It probably won’t surprise you that geeky parents have been coming up with ways to spy on their kids for some time now, and if you can believe it, some don’t even include a Raspberry Pi.

A Raspberry Pi Rain Man in the Making

We see a lot of Raspberry Pis used to play games, but this is something entirely different from the latest RetroPie build. This Raspberry Pi is learning how to read playing cards, with the goal of becoming the ultimate card counting blackjack player.

If [Taxi-guy] hasn’t named his project Rain Man, we humbly suggest that he does so. Because a Pi that can count into a six-deck shoe would be quite a thing, even though it would never be allowed anywhere near a casino. Hurdle number one in counting cards is reading them, and [Taxi-guy] has done a solid job of leveraging the power of OpenCV on a Pi 3 for the task. His description in the video below is very detailed, but the approach is simple: find the cards in a PiCam image of the playing field using a combination of thresholding and contouring. Then, with the cards isolated, compare the rank and suit in the upper left corner of the rotated card image to prototype images to identify the card. The Pi provides enough horsepower to quickly identify an arbitrary number of non-overlapping cards; we assume [Taxi-guy] will have to address overlapping cards and decks that use different fonts at some point.

We’re keen to see this Pi playing blackjack someday. As he’s coding that up, he may want to look at algorithmic approaches to blackjack strategies, and the real odds of beating the house.

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