Python is an absolutely fantastic language for tossing bits of data around and gluing different software components together. But eventually you may find yourself looking to make a program with an output a bit more advanced than the print() statement. Once you’ve crossed into the land of graphical Python programming, you’ll quickly find that the PyGame library is often recommended as a great way to start pushing pixels even if you’re not strictly making a game.
Today, the project is celebrating an incredible milestone: 20 years of helping Python developers turn their ideas into reality. Started by [Pete Shinners] in 2000 as a way to interface with Simple DirectMedia Layer (SDL), the project was quickly picked up by the community and morphed into a portable 2D/3D graphics library that lets developers deploy their code on everything from Android phones to desktop computers.
Things haven’t always gone smoothly for the open source library, and for awhile development had stalled out. But the current team has been making great progress, and decided today’s anniversary was the perfect time to officially roll out PyGame 2.0. With more than 3,300 changes committed since the team started working on their 2.0 branch in July of 2018, it’s a bit tough to summarize what’s new. Suffice to say, the library is more capable than ever and is ready to tackle everything from simple 2D art up to 4K GPU-accelerated applications.
If you haven’t given PyGame a try in awhile, don’t worry. The team has put special effort into making the library as backwards compatible as possible, so if you’ve got an old project kicking around that you haven’t touched in a decade, it should still run against the latest and greatest version. If you’ve never used it before, the team says they’ll soon be releasing new tutorials that show you how to get the most out of this new release.
Choosing the perfect Linux distribution that satisfies your personal needs and likings can be an impossible task, and oftentimes requires a hint of Stockholm syndrome as compromise. In extreme cases, you might end up just rolling your own distro. But while frustration is always a great incentive for change, for [Josh Moore] it was rather curiosity and playful interest that led him to create snakeware, a Linux distribution where the entire user space not only runs on Python, but is Python.
Imagine you would boot your Linux system, and instead of the shell of your choice, you would be greeted by an interactive Python interpreter, and everything you do on the system will be within the realms of that interpreter — that’s the gist of snakeware. Now, this might sound rather limiting at first, but keep in mind we’re talking about Python here, a language known for its versatility, with an abundance of packages that get things done quick and easy, which is exactly what [Josh] is aiming for. To get an idea of that, snakeware also includes snakewm, a graphical user interface written with pygame that bundles a couple of simple applications as demonstration, including a terminal to execute Python one-liners.
Note that this is merely a proof of concept at this stage, but [Josh] is inviting everyone to contribute and extend his creation. If you want to give it a go without building the entire system, the GitHub repository has a prebuilt image to run in QEMU, and the window manager will run as regular Python application on your normal system, too. To get just a quick glimpse of it, check the demo video after the break.
Sure, die-hard Linux enthusiasts will hardly accept a distribution without their favorite shell and preferable language, but hey, at least it gets by without systemd. And while snakeware probably won’t compete with more established distributions in the near future, it’s certainly an interesting concept that embraces thinking outside the box and trying something different. It would definitely fit well on a business card.
According to [makeTVee], his latest project started out as an experiment to see how well the LED matrix techniques he’s worked with in the past would translate to a cylindrical form factor. We’re going to go ahead and say that not only was the test a success, but that the concept definitely holds promise for displays that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. This build stops a bit short of being a complete implementation, but what he has so far is very promising and we hope he continues fleshing it out.
A laser cutter was used to create the interlocking segments that make up the display’s frame, but we imagine you could pull off a similar design using 3D printed parts if you don’t have access to a laser. Strips of WS2812 LEDs are mounted along the inside of the cylinder so that each individual LED lines up with the center of a cell. To finish off the outside of the cylinder [makeTVee] used a thin wood veneer called MicroWOOD, which gives the LEDs a nice diffused glow. The wood grain in the veneer also provides an organic touch that keeps the whole thing from looking too sterile.
Of course, a display like this only works if you’ve got software to drive it. To that end, [makeTVee] has used pygame to create a simulator on his computer that shows what the display would look like if it were unrolled and flattened it out. This makes it a lot easier to create content, as you can see the whole display at once. He says the source for the new tool will be coming to GitHub soon, and we’re very interested in taking a look.
There will be no delicate solos for [24 Hour Engineer’s] Tough Pi-ano. It was built to soak punishment from aggressive youngsters in musical therapy, specifically those on the autism spectrum and those with Down’s syndrome. The Tough Pi-ano will be bolted to a wall with heavy-duty shelf brackets so it can’t fall on anyone. The keyboard is covered in plastic and it doesn’t have any exposed metal so there will be no splinters.
[24 Hour Engineer] made a short video demonstration and if you listen closely, he has a pun in all but one sentence. We love that kind of easter egg in YouTube videos. Check it out after the break.
Inside the 48-key instrument are four Raspberry Pi Zeros where each Pi controls one octave. The redundancy ensures that a hardware failure only drops out a single octave and the kids can keep playing until replacement parts arrive. Each Pi has identical programming and a thumbwheel switch tells it which octave it will be emulating.
Programming was done with Python and Pygame and all the inputs are run to a homemade “hat” where the wires are soldered. Pygame’s sole responsibility is to monitor the GPIO and then play the appropriate note when a button is pressed, slapped, punched or sat upon.
Similar in name, the Touch Piano has no moving parts or perhaps you would rather use your Raspberry Pi in an upright piano.
My heyday in programming was about five years ago, and I’ve really let my skills fade. I started finding myself making excuses for my lack of ability. I’d tackle harder ways to work around problems just so I wouldn’t have to code. Worst of all, I’d find myself shelving projects because I no longer enjoyed coding enough to do that portion. So I decided to put in the time and get back up to speed.
Normally, I’d get back into programming out of necessity. I’d go on a coding binge, read a lot of documentation, and cut and paste a lot of code. It works, but I’d end up with a really mixed understanding of what I did to get the working code. This time I wanted to structure my learning so I’d end up with a more, well, structured understanding.
However, there’s a problem. Programming books are universally boring. I own a really big pile of them, and that’s after I gave a bunch away. It’s not really the fault of the writer; it’s an awkward subject to teach. It usually starts off by torturing the reader with a chapter or two of painfully basic concepts with just enough arcana sprinkled in to massage a migraine into existence. Typically they also like to mention that the arcana will be demystified in another chapter. The next step is to make you play typist and transcribe a big block of code with new and interesting bits into an editor and run it. Presumably, the act of typing along leaves the reader with such a burning curiosity that the next seventeen pages of dry monologue about the thirteen lines of code are transformed into riveting prose within the reader’s mind. Maybe a structured understanding just isn’t worth it.
I wanted to find a new way to study programming. One where I could interact with the example code as I typed it. I wanted to end up with a full understanding before I pressed that run button for the first time, not after.
When I first read about literate programming, my very first instinct said: “nope, not doing that.” Donald Knuth, who is no small name in computing, proposes a new way of doing things in his Literate Programming. Rather than writing the code in the order the compiler likes to see it, write the code in the order you’d like to think about it along with a constant narrative about your thoughts while you’re developing it. The method by which he’d like people to achieve this feat is with the extensive use of macros. So, for example, a literate program would start with a section like this:
[Prashant Mohta] got hold of a Raspberry Pi, a 16×2 LCD display and got down to writing a simple game in Python. Pretty soon, he realized that it was cumbersome to have the Ras-Pi and LCD connected when all he wanted to do was write the code. So he wrote a simple Python module which renders the LCD on his computer display. A simple, quick, useful hack.
[Prashant]’s code relies on the use of Pygame, a set of Python modules designed for writing games. His code uses just two functions – one to define the LCD (characters and number of lines) while the other draws the characters on the screen by looking up an array. The code is just under 20 lines and available from his Github repo. It will be useful to those who are getting started on Python to help them understand some basics. Python is awesome and writing Python code is pretty simple.
This might draw some flak from the naysayers so if you’re commenting below on the merits, or not, of Python, just keep your comments civil and healthy. In the video below, unrelated to this hack, [Raymond Hettinger] talks about “What makes Python so Awesome”!
[5 Volt Junkie] has built his share of Arduino projects, but never anything with Python, and certainly never anything with a GUI. After listening to Internet radio one day, a new idea for a project was born: a Raspberry Pi with a small touchscreen display for a UI and displaying soma.fm tracks. It’s finally finished, and it’s a great introduction to Python, Pygame, and driving tiny little displays with the Pi.
Playing soma.fm streams was handled by mpd and mpc, while the task of driving a 2.8″ TFT LCD was handled by the fbtft Linux framebuffer driver. This left [5 Volt Junkie] with the task of creating a GUI, some buttons, and working out how to play a few streams. This meant drawing some buttons in Inkscape, but these were admittedly terrible, so [5 Volt Junkie] gave up and turned on the TV. Tron Legacy was playing, giving him the inspiration to complete his Tron-themed music player.
The result of [5 Volt Junkie]’s work is a few hundred lines of Python with Pygame and a few multicolor skins all wrapped up in a Tron theme. It looks great, it works great, and it’s a great introduction to Python and Pygame.