What Next For The SBC That Has Everything?

In the decade-and-a-bit since the first Raspberry Pi was launched we’ve seen an explosion of affordable single-board computers (SBCs), but as the prices creep up alongside user expectation and bloat, [Christopher Barnatt] asks where the industry will go next.

The Pi started with an unbeatable offer, $35 got you something similar to the desktop PC you’d had a decade earlier — able to run a Linux desktop on your TV from an SD card. Over the years the boards have become faster and more numerous, but the prices for ARM boards are now only nominally as affordable as they were in 2012, and meanwhile the lower end of x86 computing is now firmly in the same space. He demonstrates how much slower the 2023 Raspberry Pi OS distribution is on an original Pi compared to one of the early pre-Raspbian distros, and identifies in that a gap forming between users. From that he sees those people wanting a desktop heading towards the x86 machines, and the bare-metal makers at the lower end heading for the more powerful microcontrollers which simply weren’t so available a decade ago.

We have to admit that we agree with him, as the days when a new Raspberry Pi board was a special step forward rather than just another fast SBC are now probably behind us. In that we think the Pi people are probably also looking beyond their flagship product, as the hugely successful lunches of the RP2040 and the industrial-focused Compute Module 4 have shown.

What do you think about the SBC market? Tell us in the comments.

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Mangle Videos With RecurBOY And A Raspberry Pi Zero

You used to need a lot of equipment to be a video DJ. Now you can do it all with a Raspberry Pi Zero and [cyberboy666]’s recurBOY. And if you missed out on the 1970’s video-editing psychedelia, now’s your chance to catch up – recurBOY is a modern video synth with all of the bells and whistles, and it’ll fit in your pocket. Check out [cyberboy666]’s demo video if you don’t yet know what you’re getting into. (Embedded below.)

RecurBOY has four modes: video, shader, effects, and external input, and each of these is significantly cooler than the previous. Video mode plays videos straight off of the SD card through the recurBOY’s composite video out. Shader mode lets you program your own shaders using the GLES shader dialect for resource-constrained devices. And this is where the various knobs and buttons come in. You can program the various shader routines to read any of the pots as input, allowing you to tweak the graphics demos on the fly.

Effects mode overlays your shaders on the video that’s playing, and external mode allows you to plug in a USB video capture card or a webcam so you can do all that same mangling with a live camera feed. And these two modes are where it gets awesome. The shader effects in the demo video cover all of the analog classics – including bloom and RGB separation – but also some distinctly digital effects. And again, you can tweak them all live with the knobs. Or plug in a MIDI controller and control it all externally. What hasn’t he thought of?

Old school analog video effects are really fun, and recurBOY brings them to you with the flexibility of modern shader coding. What’s not to love? If you want to see the pinnacle of the pre-digital era, that would be the Scanimate. For a video synth that integrates with your audio synth, check out Hypno. And if glitching the video is more your style, you can hijack the RAM of a VGA/composite converter.

Trippy, man!

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A BlackBerry Classic-sized device with a BlackBerry keyboard and an e-ink screen. It sits next to an e-ink smartwatch with a grey bezel that matches the 3d printed enclosure of the messaging device.

Beepberry Brings Memory LCD And A Physical Keyboard To Your Pi

As the 2020s are seeing the return of the flip phone, could we see a rebirth of other device form factors from before the slab era? [Eric Migicovsky] and [SQFMI] are working on a new physical keyboard device with the Beepberry.

Featuring a high contrast Sharp Memory LCD and the tried-and-true reliability of a BlackBerry keyboard, the device is designed for messaging all your contacts over WiFi without the distractions of a smartphone. As this is a collaboration with the Matrix-based chat service Beeper, the device is designed around the CLI version of their client.

If you want to eschew the distraction-free nature of the device, since it’s Pi-powered it can run any ARM Linux programs you might want as well being a playground for hardware mods. Add a DSP and headphone jack and this could be a neat little pianobar player. [Migicovsky] stresses this is currently a dev board and by no means should be assumed to be an off-the-shelf piece of kit.

If this looks like a familiar reuse of a BlackBerry keyboard, you might be remembering [arturo182]’s Keyboard Featherwing or this LoRa Messenger.

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UAV Flight Controller Saves Weight

When building autonomous airborne vehicles like drones or UAVs, saving a little bit of weight goes a long way, literally. Every gram saved means less energy needed to keep the aircraft aloft and ultimately more time in the air, but unmanned vehicles often need to compromise some on weight in order to carry increased computing abilities. Thankfully this one carries a dizzying quantity of computer power for an absolute minimum of weight, and has some clever design considerations to improve its performance as well.

The advantage of this board compared to other similar offerings is that it is built to host a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4, while the rest of the flight controllers are separated out onto a single circuit board. This means that the Pi is completely sandboxed from the flight control code, freeing up computing power on the Pi and allowing it to run a UAV-specific OS like OpenHD or RubyFPV. These have a number of valuable tools available for unmanned flight, such as setting up a long range telemetry and camera links. The system itself supports dual HD camera input as well as additional support for other USB devices, and also includes an electronic speed controller mezzanine which has support for quadcopters and fixed wing crafts.

Separating non-critical tasks like cameras and telemetry from the more important flight controls has a number of benefits as well, including improved reliability and simpler software and program design. And with a weight of only 30 grams, it won’t take too much cargo space on most UAVs. While the flight computer is fairly capable of controlling various autonomous aircraft, whether it’s a multi-rotor like a quadcopter or a fixed wing device, you might need a little more computing power if you want to build something more complicated.

Hackaday Prize 2023: A DIY Voice-Control Module

If science fiction taught us anything, it’s that voice control was going to be the human-machine interface of the future. [Dennis] has now whipped up a tutorial that lets you add a voice control module to any of your own projects.

The voice control module uses a Raspberry Pi 4 as the brains of the operation, paired with a Seeed Studio ReSpeaker 4-microphone array. The Pi provides a good amount of processing power to crunch through the audio, while the mic array captures high-quality audio from any direction, which is key to reliable performance. Rhasspy is used as the software element, which is responsible for processing audio in a variety of languages to determine what the user is asking for. Based on the voice commands received, Rhasspy can then run just about anything you could possibly require, from sending MQTT smart home commands to running external programs.

If you’ve always dreamed of whipping up your own version of Jarvis from Iron Man, or you just want a non-cloud solution to turn your lights on and off, [Dennis’s] tutorial is a great place to start. Video after the break.

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Hackaday Prize 2023: The NEOKlacker Pocket Computer

Science fiction always promised us pocket computers. These days, we’re spoiled for choice. [Spider Jerusalem] eschewed a simple smartphone or tablet, though, instead building a custom pocket computer of their own design. 

Like so many other DIY cyberdecks and handheld computers, this one relies on a Raspberry Pi. In this case, it’s built using a Pi 4 with 8GB of RAM, which offers a snappy experience that wasn’t available on the earliest boards. [Spider] paired it with a nifty 720×720 LCD screen and a full QWERTY button pad, wrapped up in a tidy 3D-printed case. Like any good pocket computer, it’s well-connected, thanks to a 4G LTE cellular data connection.

It might seem to be a build without a purpose in this era, but that’s not necessarily the case. When it comes to running barebones Linux utilities at a real command line, a Raspberry Pi offers some utility that the average smartphone doesn’t have out of the box. It’s a useful tool if you need to interface with a server on the go or do some low-level network diagnostics without carrying a whole laptop around. Video after the break.

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Tiny Bitcoin Miner Plays The Lottery

Usually when we think of Bitcoin miners, we imagine huge facilities of server racks doing nothing but essentially wasting energy, all for the chance that one of those computers amongst the rows will stumble upon the correct set of numbers to get rewarded with imaginary money. The idea being that the more computers, the more chances to win. But just buying one lottery ticket is the only thing technically required to win, at least in theory. And [Data Slayer] is putting this theory to the test with this Bitcoin miner built around a single Raspberry Pi.

This tiny Raspberry Pi Zero does get a little bit of support from an Ant Miner, a USB peripheral which is optimized to run the SHA256 hashing algorithm and solve the complex mathematical operations needed to “win” the round of Bitcoin mining. Typically a large number of these would be arrayed together to provide more chances at winning (or “earning”, to use the term generously) Bitcoin but there’s no reason other than extreme statistical improbability that a single one can’t work on its own. The only other thing needed to get this setup working is to give the Pi all of the configuration information it needs such as wallet information and pool information.

This type of miner isn’t novel by any means, and in fact it’s a style of mining cryptocurrency called “lottery mining” where contributing to a pool is omitted in favor of attempting to solve the entire block by pure random chance alone in the hopes that if it’s solved, the entire reward will be claimed by that device alone. In the case of this device, the current hash rate calculated when it was contributing to a pool means that when lottery mining, it has about a one-in-two-billion chance of winning. That’s essentially zero, which is basically the same chance of winning a lottery that pays out actual usable currency.

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