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Category: Raspberry Pi

Links We Like: Restoring a Xerox Alto, Reconsidering Cyberpunk, & Investigating the Sony PYXIS 360

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Xerox Alto Photo by  Michael Hicks

Xerox Alto Photo by Michael Hicks

This week’s Links We Like follow Ken Shirriff restore a Xerox Alto, reconsider the future as told by cyberpunk fiction with Darran Anderson, and teardown the SONY PYXIS 360 portable GPS unit with Dave Jones.

If you’ve found any interesting links this week, make sure to share them in the comments below, or in our forum. We’re always on the hunt for new links to get lost in. Have a great weekend!

Restoring the Xerox Alto

In the 1970s, a computer never sold as a consumer product influenced everything that would come after. From Steve Jobs to the engineers at SUN, the Xerox Alto inspired an industry with its innovative design, features, and vision for how we could use a computer in daily life. Yet, only 2,000 of these machines were ever created!

Though rare, there are still a few Alto machines around, though not many that are operational. Recently, Ken Shirriff, a prolific blogger who covers everything electronic –from Arduino projects to tearing open and analyzing the innards of an Apple laptop power supply– was asked to restore one of the extant machines and document the process.

The startup incubator Ycombinator (YC) had received the Alto as a gift from one of the machines creators, Alan Kay. Though Alto’s were never sold, Kay happened to still have his and knew that YC was interested in obtaining one.

Developed by a research team at Xerox’s famous PARC laboratory, the Alto was the first computer designed from the start to have a graphical user interface. Not only that, it had a mouse, removable storage, was outfitted with networking, and had WYSIWYG word processing. There are 13 separate circuit boards that make up the Alto, 3 of which are dedicated to it’s central processing. These boards and the power supplies are housed in the cabinet below the monitor.

Here’s a quick table of contents for all of the blog posts Shirriff has published about the Alto restoration.

If you’d like to actually try using the Alto, there is a nifty simulator called SALTO that’s pretty easy to setup and run. Just follow the installation instructions here. And, if you’ve ever gotten to use the Alto, please share your story in the comments below!


What Cyberpunk was and What it Will Be

blade

When you hear the word cyberpunk, most people immediately think of the rainy streets of a dystopian city. Crime is rife, large companies have taken over every part of daily life, and uber high tech proliferates. Everyone in these worlds has advanced technology. And yet the most advanced tech, the tech that not everyone has access to askews morality in favor of tech for tech sake.

Contextualizing cyberpunk, Darran Anderson nails it, “Cyberpunk was, and remains, noir brought into the digital age; the black and white reinvented in neon and then LED.”* He sees the crime genre of the 1940s and 50s upcycled with technology. But despite the new duds, the moral ambiguity and fatalism of noir persist.

In What Cyberpunk was and What it Will Be, Anderson exhaustively looks at the cultural influences of the cyberpunk vision of the future. The article begins with Anderson’s own first brush with the genre, Hideo Kojima’s Snatcher for the SEGA CD.

As he sees it, the game borders on a complete ripoff of Blade Runner. Snatchers is a story of a trench coat wearing detective trying to stop bioroids from killing people. Basically Blade Runner on a console. But there’s something more than just sloppy acts of plagiarism going on here.

As Anderson continues to investigate the genre, he becomes increasingly aware that a key component of the cyberpunk aesthetic is reappropriating cultural artifacts. From the grit and drizzle of the noir genre to the infusion of technology and suffusion of pink. Cyberpunk recasts the old as the future. A conjuror’s sleight of hand.

Mondo 2000 Cyberpunk Checklist

Mondo 2000 Cyberpunk Checklist

Consider the image above from Mondo 2000, an edgier predicesor of WIRED magazine. Oozing with cool, the cyberpunk taxonomy is laid bare with a checklist for aspiring cyberpunks.

But look closely. Not only is there a checklist in Mondo 2000 to test your cyberpunk merits, the very magazine where the checklist is published is an item on the checklist. The inclusion is in once sense a joke, but it also blares another cyberpunk tenet and one that William Gibson, author of Neuromancer famously observed in The Economist, December 4, 2003: “The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet.”


Retro GPS Fit for the Future

Sony Pyxis via vcfed.org

Sony Pyxis via vcfed.org

This week while looking up cyberpunk images to include in the post, I stumbled on the Mondo 2000 cyberpunk checklist above. Looking closely at the page, mostly to gawk at the fun old technology, I spotted a Sony product that simply looked wild: the Sony PYXIS IPS-360.

The PYXIS IPS-300 is an early portable GPS unit sold in the 1990s primarily for use in small watercraft. What details you can still find of it are mostly in boating community forums asking for tips on obtaining replacement parts.

But there’s just something about the design of the PYXIS that seems to interest people. It’s most likely the crazy flipout circular receiver and SONY Walkman-like appearance.

In his most recent Mailbag installment, Dave Jones, who runs the EEVblog, a great website and video blog that covers all sorts of interesting electronics topics with a vibrant communit, received a PYXIS from a fan hoping he’d tear it open and explain the parts. (What a coincidence!)

In the teardown, Jones finds that the PYXIS uses the Zilog Z80, an enormously popular integrated circuit (IC). You can find these chips in everything from the Game Boy to a Texas Instrument graphing calculators. Apart from a few other specialized chips, Jones also found that some of the ICs were hand soldered!

In addition to Jones’ video, the VCFED community and Retro-GPS.info have nice teardowns too, though only still images.

While you can’t find the PYXIS at your local electronics shop, you can find a couple floating around online for a couple hundred dollars.


chipLogo64x64

Have you ever used a Xerox Alto or found a underappreciated cyberpunk novel? Do you own a SONY PYXIS? Share your story in the forums or comments below. And if you’ve got a cool Linux tip or are working on any C.H.I.P. or PocketC.H.I.P. projects, make sure to tweet about them. Have a great weekend!

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Granny checking box helps Raspberry Pi fan keep an eye on his grandmother

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Not as creepy as it sounds! James Zingel from New Zealand noticed his mother’s concern for his grandmother’s well-being. So, with a Raspberry Pi he was given, he set about constructing a monitoring device. The box, called Gran Check, has…Read more →

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Gran Check

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New Zealander James Zingel recognised his mother’s concern over his grandmother’s well-being, and decided to do something about it.

Gran Check

For the Bay of Plenty Science Fair, the 14-year-old Bethlehem College student designed and built ‘Gran Check’, a Raspberry Pi-powered monitor that uses a PIR sensor to recognise his gran’s movement as she feeds her dogs, taking a photograph every morning to email back to his mother.

Gran Check

14-year-old James was concerned by the news of the elderly passing away unnoticed

James had researched similar builds on the market, noting their price was unrealistic for those with a lower budget. With the increase in average lifespans, plus upsetting reports of the elderly passing away unnoticed, he was determined to create something affordable and readily available to all, with little to no maintenance requirements.

 

Gran Check

A knob on the lid allows for the PIR sensitivity to be adjusted

The Gran Check lives within a wooden box, installed beside his grandmother’s dogs’ food. He knew it was the best location, since the dogs would never allow her to go a day without feeding them. For added peace of mind, James built the device to be self-sufficient, ensuring she’d never have to operate it herself.

James noted his grandmother’s independent nature, understanding that constant ‘check in’ calls from the family would be unrealistic. The Gran Check removes all concern for her welfare, without constantly bugging her for updates.

Gran Check

James credits the internet for much of his digital maker education

James was given a Raspberry Pi by his father, though he soon overtook the level of expertise on offer, and turned to YouTube and websites for help. 

James built the Gran Check over four weekends, and has ambitions to improve the build for others:

“I want to make it easy [to build], but also useful in loads of situations; it could also send a text message and attach a photo to it, for example. This would make sure that, for people in different situations, it’s not just one size fits all.”

It’s no surprise that James’s hard work was acknowledged. Not only did he win the award for best junior technology and best exhibit, but the 14-year-old also took home the NIWA Best in Fair Overall Winner.

To see James talking about Gran Check, and his plans for the build, visit the Bay of Plenty Times.

We look forward to seeing what’s next for James and Gran Check.

The post Gran Check appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

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Identifying The Hallway Whistler

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Becky Stern suffers from that same condition that many of us apartment dwellers are affected by: a curiosity about who is making noise outside the door.

Living within a large New York City apartment, Becky wanted to be able to see out of her peep hole without having to leave her desk. After all, the constant comings and goings of any shared property, though expected, can often be distracting.

(And seriously, whoever keeps slamming their door in my apartment block at 4am WILL suffer my wrath!)

So she decided to use a motion detector to trigger a Pi camera at her door. The camera would then stream live video back to a monitor within her apartment: a wireless peep hole, allowing her the freedom to be productive without having her eye to the door.

Peep Hole Cam

Becky used a Pi Zero for the project and took to the internet to educate herself on how to code a live streaming camera with motion detection. Tony D’s Cloud Cam tutorial gave her everything she needed to get the project working… and a handful of magnets, plus an old makeup bag, finished off the job.

Pi Zero Peep Hole Camera

Tutorial: http://www.instructables.com/id/Pi-Zero-Peep-Hole-Camera/ Subscribe for new videos Mondays and Thursdays! http://www.youtube.com/user/bekathwia previous video: https://youtu.be/p7uUcNFfP3Q tech playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLxW5bBHPfdBzmynozxfEPv2DJgyoFiqgn this time last year: https://youtu.be/kZmyXzzXqfc Connect with Becky: http://www.instructables.com/member/bekathwia https://twitter.com/bekathwia http://instagram.com/bekathwia http://bekathwia.tumblr.com/ http://www.pinterest.com/bekathwia/ https://www.snapchat.com/add/bekathwia tip jar: https://www.patreon.com/beckystern Music is “Marxist Arrow” from the YouTube Music Library

Along with live streaming, the camera could be set up to take and upload photos and video to a cloud server; a handy tool to aid in home security. Taking the project further afield, she could allow remote access to the camera, allowing her to view the hallway while away from home. Did the delivery man leave your expected package? Which of the neighbours’ kids is the one trailing mud across the carpet?

And seriously… who keeps whistling every time they come home?!

The post Identifying The Hallway Whistler appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

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Raspberry Pi’s Picademy and Code Club Pro come to Glasgow

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This Autumn, Raspberry Pi takes Picademy and Code Club Pro North of the border into Glasgow. The events, which take place on 14-15 October, 25-26 October, 1-2 November and 28-29 November at the Mitchell Library, are part of the Foundation’s outreach programme. I’ll let them…Read more →

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4 New Community Projects to Explore with Your PocketC.H.I.P.

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3D print of marjoras_other_mask's first design

3D print of marjoras_other_mask’s first design

The NTC forum is full of Pocketeers pushing PocketC.H.I.P. to its full potential. The hacks are getting more frequent and more ambitions. If you’re looking for hacks to explore, the forum is a great place to start your adventure.

Just this week, Marjoras_other_mask shared a great case hack with a kickstand, FireflyII added a thumbstick-mouse for precision control, and debianUser and emuboy are trying out different window managers to radically change the user experience.

3D Print a Case with Kickstand & Internal Stylus Slot

Rendering of the first version of the kickstand case

Rendering of the first version of the kickstand case

Forum user marjoras_other_mask created a 3D printable replacement case for PocketC.H.I.P. that features a kickstand and internal slot for a stylus. The case should take about a few hours to print, and it’s best to print the case vertically.

After creating a forum thread to show off the design, other community members suggested to marjoras_other_mask that he should revise the design so thatthe battery would remain enclosed in the case even when the kickstand is propted out. Promptly marjoras_other_mask posted a new design with the requested closed back feature. Both styles are available on Thingiverse and licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Make sure to keep your eyes on this forum thread, since marjoras_other_mask is updating the design files and chatting with other Pocketeers about possible design improvements. And don’t forget to share in the thread any case design tips or ideas you have!


Add a Thumbstick-Mouse to PocketC.H.I.P.

FireflyII really wanted to use a mouse with PocketC.H.I.P. to get precise control over the device, but didn’t want to lug around a USB mouse. So FireflyII built two different solutions, both of which add a custom mouse directly on PocketC.H.I.P.!

trinketFireflyII first added a 5-way tactile switch and wrote a Python driver to translate the switch input to act as a mouse pointer in PocketC.H.I.P. software. You can see it in action in the video above. What’s not as easy to pick up in the video is that this method took most of the GPIO pins. FireflyII wasn’t having this and wanted to find a better solution, one that didn’t use as many GPIO pins.

His solution was to wire PocketC.H.I.P. together with an Adafruit Trinket, a small ATtiny-based microcontroller board. You can see this in the image to the right. Not only does this save GPIO pins, it also allows FireflyII to more cleanly integrate a PlayStation 2 style thumbstick with PocketC.H.I.P.. The Trinket reads the analog values from the thumbstick and sends the data to PocketC.H.I.P. as mouse data.

Either method you choose to do, you won’t go wrong. Each is a nice little hack to add a cool new feature. According to FireflyII, both of these approaches are still very much in development. If you’ve got a suggestion for FireflyII, make sure to share it in the forum thread.


Hacking the Window Manager

XFCE running on PocketC.H.I.P.

XFCE running on PocketC.H.I.P.

One of the great things about Linux is how customizable the OS is. Pocket Home, our default PocketC.H.I.P. window manager, is only one option for pocketeers. Forum users debianUser and emuboy each went looking for a different window experience, and each came back with a different, exciting results.

Window managers control the visual experience of a graphical user interface –everything from how application windows are drawn to how icons behave when you click on them. But not all window managers enable the same behavior.

The Matchbox window manager running on PocketC.H.I.P.

The Matchbox window manager running on PocketC.H.I.P.

DebianUser chronicles how to install matchbox, a window manager for embedded Nokia devices that reportedly runs quite nicely on PocketC.H.I.P.. And emuboy explains how to get XFCE running, which should be familiar to C.H.I.P. users, since it’s the default C.H.I.P. window manager.

Regardless of which one you choose to try out, always remember that you can easily flash your PocketC.H.I.P. back to it’s default software with our online flasher. And don’t forget to join in the converstation about window managers on the forum. We want to know what you’d like to see on PocketC.H.I.P.!


chipLogo64x64

Be it 3D printable, hardware hacking, or command-line coding, it’s great to see community members using their skills to customize PocketC.H.I.P. and make it exactly what they want.

A great place to share your skills or pick up new ones is in the NTC forums, where all of these projects are from, and where a larger conversation takes place about how to PocketC.H.I.P.. Make sure to browse on over and add your voice to the mix.

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Build a Hadoop cluster with Apache Spark on YARN with Raspberry Pis

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PK over at DQYDJ has written an excellent tutorial on creating a Raspberry Pi cluster and then installing Hadoop and some other software to do word analysis using the power of that cluster. It’s a really good example of big data…Read more →

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Watch the skies with this drone-free aerial Raspberry Pi camera robot

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Brook Drumm has created a robot that will crawl along a string or fishing line above a room or area and take photographs and video. It uses some 3D printed parts and a few servos and is, of course, run…Read more →

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ZeroBorg from PiBorg reviewed by the Raspberry Pi’s MagPi magazine

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The MagPi have published their review of PiBorg’s ZeroBorg, the motor controller board from the successful Kickstarter campaign from a few months ago. In the extremely positive review, they look at the features and form-factor of the board, which is…Read more →

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Building Computer Labs in Western Africa

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Back in 2014, Helen covered the story of Dominique Laloux and the first Raspberry Pi computer room in Togo, West Africa.

Having previously worked alongside friends to set up the Kuma Computer Center, Dominique and the team moved on to build another computer room in Kuma Adamé.

Both builds were successful, proving the need for such resources within an area where, prior to 2012, 75% of teachers had never used a computer.

Dominique has since been back in contact via our forum; he informed us of another successful build, again in Togo, converting an old toilet block into a Raspberry Pi computer lab.

Togo RPi Lab

The blank canvas…

The team had their work cut out, stripping the building of its inner walls, laying down a new concrete floor, and installing windows. 

Togo RPi

Some serious climbing was needed…

Electricity and LAN were installed next, followed by welded tables and, eventually, the equipment.

Togo RPi

Local teachers and students helped to set up the room

The room was finally kitted out with 21 Raspberry Pis. This would allow for one computer per student, up to a maximum of 20, as well as one for the teacher’s desk, which would power an LED projector.

The room also houses a laptop with a scanner, and a networked printer.

The project took four weeks to complete, and ended with a two-week training session for 25 teachers. 

Togo RPi

Forget the summer holidays: each teacher showed up every day

Dominique believes very strongly in the project, and in the positive influence it has had on the area. He writes:

I am now convinced that the model of Raspberry Pi computer labs is an ideal solution to bring ICT to small schools in developing countries, where resources are scarce.

Not only is he continuing to raise funds to build more labs, he’s also advising other towns who want to build their own. Speaking of the growth of awareness over the past year, he explained, “I was so happy to advise another community 500 km away on how to install their own microcomputer room, based on the same model.”

And his future plans?

My goal is now to raise enough funds to set up one computer room in a school each year for the foreseeable future, hoping that other communities will want to copy the model and build their own at the same time.

We love seeing the progress Dominique and his team have made as they continue to build these important labs for communities in developing countries. Dominique’s hard work and determination is inspiring, and we look forward to seeing the students he and his team have helped to nurture continue to learn.

Togo RPi

The post Building Computer Labs in Western Africa appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

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Cotswold Raspberry Jam – 24th September – #rjam

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Andy Baker & Andrew Oakley are running another Cotswold Raspberry Jam. This one will take place on Saturday, 24th September from 1-4pm in the Waterworth Building on the University of Gloucestershire Park Campus. There will be a mix of talks, show-and-tell and…Read more →

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