Pi GPIO on USB – It’s neat….

Just popped in a pre-order for RyanTech’s latest. It’s a board with a 40 pin Pi header, USB connector and software for Pixel, Linux, OSX and other operating systems which lets you drive it like a Pi’s GPIO header. There’s just so many neat things you can do with this card. It’ll let you hang that neat Pi Hat off your PC simply. It’ll let you double up your Pi’s GPIO capability.

It’s up for pre-order on Indiegogo after a successful kickstarter campaign and is looking well progressed towards getting to market. At £10 a board, it’s an easy pick – Me, I ordered five.

(And Happy New Year to all… lets see if I can keep this up 😁)

Making Catchup: 6502 home computer, Trinket Mouse, Beaglebone IO, Manga Screen and piCore Linux

makingcatchupAnd it’s another catchup as the world whizzes by…

Cool 6502 Builds: Dirk Grappendorf has built a lovely looking 6502 based microcomputer but more importantly takes you step by step through the entire build process from generating the clock to getting Basic running on it. Illustrated with schematics and downloads, this is a great article to read if you want to get a feel for what’s involved in recreating a machine which never existed in the 80s. The entire thing is battery powered too so you can use the “mix of a C64 and an Epson HX-20” on your lap.

Make a mouse: Well not quite a mouse. A new Adafruit tutorial shows how you can make a Trinket Pro act like a USB HID mouse and that in turn lets you control a PC. There’s another tutorial mentioned on making it work as a keyboard which is even more useful; I’ve built custom macro keyboards using the technique.

Beaglebone Black PWM: Beaglebone Blacks rock but they can be a bit hard to get your head round when it comes to doing stuff with that huge array of IO pins. So this worked example of configuring and driving the IO as PWM to control motors is well handy to have. Talking BeagleBone’s… we’re getting close to the time when we should be seeing more details about that next gen Beagle board…

Manga Screen: Meanwhile, my screen fetish continues with me backing Manga Screen’s Kickstarter, a delicious looking 4.3″ touch screen display which is powered from USB and takes HDMI (DVI) signals in to make a rather unique little panel.

Tiny Core for Pi: Want a different Linux for your Raspberry Pi? The redoubtable Tiny Core just landed a final release on it as piCore 6.0 so you can check that out. Keeping your OS on SD cards does have the advantage that its easy to experiment.

Making Catchup: Pi A+, Beagle X15, 68K prototyped and cheap Wifi hacking

makingcatchupRaspberry Pi Model A+ breaks cover: It seems that there’s been a leak on the Pi A+, the compacted version of the Pi less Ethernet, as its being reported. The cut-down Pi now has microSD and a 40 pin GPIO to match the B+. It still lacks the features that made the ODROID/W so interesting – LiPo battery support and real time clock on board. It does retain one thing from the Model A, the question of who’s it actually for.

BeagleBoard X15 leaks: What next for the BeagleBoard, the original board for the BeagleBoard project and predecessor of the most neat BeagleBone Black. Well, the answer appears to be the BeagleBoard X15. On the board, a dual core A15 CPU clocking at 1.5GHz, 2GB RAM, hardware video decoding, bristling with ports including SATA, two GB Ethernet ports and USB3.0. It looks splendid and we look forward to it landing in February 2015.

Going 68K in a week: We previously mentioned a project to build a 68K single board computer and Hackaday has an update in that it seems the developer put a prototype together in a week. It’s epic retro-computing work and highlghts the challenges that early system builders had in bringing early processor power to play.

Cheap Wifi: There’s a board, ESP8266, which offers a Wifi board for $5 or so. Madly cheap, terribly documented and a real challenge for hackers. Hackaday points us at a project on Instructables which shows how to use the board and an Arduino to pic up email and display details on an LCD screen. Useful.

Making Catchup: ChainDuino, HackADay bits and Pi HATs

makingcatchupChainDuino: An interesting Arduino varient now gathering funds on Kickstarter is the ChainDuino project. Simply put it allows a number of Arduino-style microcontrollers to be chained together over CAT5 cable with that cable delivering power, using a passive Power over Ethernet mechanism, and communications, using RS-485.

This could be incredibly useful in creating a large area sensor net (current max, 32 boards) as it can stretch for up to quarter of a mile and there’s no need for power sockets along the entire length apart from where you inject the power. The ChainDuinos have two RJ45 ports on them for chaining or an IDC connector for cutting into a long uncut run of cable. That does mean there’s no space for USB on these boards so they’ll need programming over an FTDI(serial) connection… there’s no programming over the wire yet but its on the todo list. There’s also a Mega version of the board for more I/O and plans for a shield. An intruiging way of getting Arduino controllers connected.

HackADay bits: HackADay always has interesting stuff. Things that caught my attention this week are:
* the 68008 bootstrapped by an Uno – check out that breadboarding. It’s not a new technique a friend noted pointing out the Amstrad PCW8256’s Z80 was also bootstrapped from a microcontroller, the keyboard controller to be exact.
* a touch screen that balances balls – the ball rolls on the resistive touchscreen and an Arduino then rebalances it according to where it senses the ball.

Hats for Pis: Arduino’s have shields, BeagleBone’s have caps and Raspberry Pi’s have those-thingys-that-plug-onto-the-IO-pins. Well, thats how it was, but it seems the Pi folks have set out to change that with HATs – Hardware Attached on Top specifically for the Pi B+ with it’s 40 pin IO. The B+, unlike its stable mates, has mounting locations for screws with these add on boards and a specification for the board. So we get stability, physical and electrical. And now Adafruit are going all out prototyping HATs. Here’s a proto-board HAT, a GPS HAT, a TFT HAT, an Arcade HAT and a servo HAT… they aren’t available yet, but there’s going to be plenty of HATs to choose from in the future.

Making Catchup: Pi Gameboys, Free routing, Easy IoT service and a robot dinosaur!

Two Gameboy-a-likes: There seems to have been a little resurgence in the idea of emulating the classic Gameboy.At the start of the month, Adafruit introduced the PiGrrl which used a 3D printed case, a hacked up SNES style controller, a Pi and an Adafruit TFT display as the screen. It’s a fine project and on my “may do” list but it was the second Pi project which really impressed me. The Super Pi Boy eschews hip niceties of 3D printing and crams the electronics in an original Gameboy case for that authentic feel. The screen is an interesting hack too, taking a vehicle reversing screen (they are cheap) and converting it from 12V to 5V to wire into the Pi’s composite. It’s a tale of roughly hewn modifications but a good read.

Routing for freedom: The EFF are campaigning for safer networking and as part of that they’ve announce the alpha developer release of Open Wireless Firmware which should eventually offer something better than the bag of holes your typical router firmware is. Currently it only runs on the Netgear WNDR3800 so you’ll want one of them if you want to hack on it, unless you want to port it to something else.

Sparkfun with data: Sparkfun, makers of many fine hackable gadgets has announced a data service at data.sparkfun.com which can hold 50MB of data (rate limited to coming in at 100 update per 15 minutes). Posting data to it is as simple as composing a URL with a string appended. It looks great for experimenting with IoT concepts without diving in to full message queues and protocols. Behind the service is Phant.io, an open source platform you can set up yourself if you want.

Roboceratops rocks: Hackaday points to a project, in early development but looking fine, Roboceratops that is creating a robotic dinosaur. I can’t wait to see how the beast looks when it’s fully autonomous and fleshed out.

Catchup: New Pi?, MeArm & JavaScript, Docker goes big, harder Dart, Breach

Hot Pi: First up, a hot rumour via Hackaday is that there’s a Raspberry B+ with 4 USB ports, no composite, a 40 pin GPIO port and other changes… is this real? We shall see, but the Pi has been aching for an update and even if this isn’t it, there’s a gap to be filled.

MeARM by JavaScript: Two of my favourite projects, the low cost MeARM robot ARM and the JavaScript running Espruino board have been brought together for a fun little remote control project for the ARM.

Big Docks: Google’s Kubernates project has drawn in a whole load of contributors. Kubernates is a cluster manager for containers. Now, [according to the announcement], IBM, Red Hat, Microsoft, Docker (and CoreOS, Mesosphere and SaltStack) have all signed up to develop various aspects of the platform. Could be interesting… it’s already interesting that Docker has at once become the centre of and just a component of bigger effort all at the same time.

Dart hardens: Dart, Google’s replacement for JavaScript and poor relative of Go in terms of adoption, is now ECMA-408. Whether getting the ECMA badge will push Dart forward or will the cross-browser-centic JavaScript community continue not bothering to look… we shall see, though Dart seems to lack the features that engender excitement and adoption so…

HTML Breached: Ever wanted an all JavaScript browser? The Breach developers did and are creating just such a thing.Node.js eventloop and wrapping the Chromium App API so that the top side of the browser is all HTML/JS. There might be some interesting code to come from it but its still early days.

OpenSUSE 13.1, Gitorious 3.0 and a Raspberry Pi UPS – Snippets


  • OpenSUSE 13.1 lands: The openSUSE folks have been busy and the result of their work is now available in the form of openSUSE 13.1. We shall have to see how the stabilisation work, including getting btrfs up to “everyday” (but not default) quality, pays off in practice. The other highlights of the release include OpenStack Havana, latest Apache, MySQL, MariaDB, Ruby 2 on Rails 4 and PHP 5.4.2. On the ARM front, there’s the start of AArch64 (64bit ARM) support and a new Raspberry Pi build. One of openSUSE’s foundations, YaST, has been ported to Ruby too, so more developers can work on it. Throw in GCC 4.8, C11, SDL2, Qt5.1 and stir in with a Linux 3.11 kernel, sprinkle some experimental goodness including Wayland with GNOME shell and KDE for the pioneers and what we have is what looks like openSUSE pushing forward. Downloads and release notes are available.

  • Gitorious glorious 3.0: If you prefer not to keep your code in Git repositories run by benevolent but commercial types, then Gitorious is probably on your radar as the open source hostable alternative. The team behind it have just announced Gitorious 3.0, with a new merge request UI, new dashboards, new public profile pages, new settings pages, new service integrations and lots of updates under the hood which get the RoR web app ready to make the jump, but not yet, to Ruby 2 and Rails 4. Future plans also include an integrated issue tracker.

  • Pi UPS: Say hi to the UPiS Advanced – It’s £45 but it may solve some people’s problems with getting power to their Raspberry Pi as it’s a battery backed, smart UPS board for the Pi which intelligently handles charging, recharging and going on line. There’s also a real time clock built in, along with various other interfacing options. If only I had a project to justify it…