In the Aftermath of the Mini Maker Faire

The dust is settling now after the hordes of people who wandered through the halls of the Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire.

Within the halls of the London College of Communication, makers were separated by categories into different studios. We had lots to look at and admire, however Raspberry Pi’s and 3D printers, not surprisingly took centre stage.

I don’t intend to talk about everything that happened, just a few things that really made an impression on me.

One 3D printer that caused me to take a second glance, and a third, and a fourth, and a chat with the creator, was the 3DR.
The 3DR is an inverted delta-bot style 3D printer that is constructed mainly out of 3D printed parts. Because of the simple design it seems to me that it must be must easier to set-up initially as the only areas you need to focus on are how tight the strings/cam belt are, and the position of the 3 arms, of course that is only the case if the rod guides are all the same height and parallel to each other.

A 3D printing company caught my eye as we wandered around because of their impressive printed objects and nicely build RepRap printers. Active 3D is based in Tunbridge Wells and aim to help introduce schools in the area to the opportunities that are available in 3D Printing. They offer workshops and monthly meetups which aim:

  • To train people in how to use 3D printers.
  • To train people how to maintain a 3D printer.
  • To provide an easy to use instruction manual.

And finally, catering to the more artistic of us, and the thirsty, the Tropism Well could be found in one of the main halls.
The Tropism Well is a drinking fountain with a difference. With a base made up of a 14 litre tank, which can be filled with any beverage, the Well automatically detects the presence  of a person and elegantly bow’s its neck, presenting to the honoured person a gift of a perfectly poured serving or a drink, before bringing its neck back up straight as if to observe you enjoying its gift.

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Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire

 

Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire

So the three of us are off to The Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire on Saturday.
Maker Faire’s were created by Make Magazine in the USA, they are now events that happen all over the world.

Currently in the UK we have 6 Mini Maker Faire’s in; Brighton, London, Nottingham, Manchester, Dublin and Edinburgh. There is also a “featured” Maker Faire in Newcastle. Find your nearest Maker Faire here.

On the agenda for the Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire in London are loads of workshops including learning to solder (Through Hole and Surface mount),  creating a mini synth and 3D modelling in Blender. See the full list here.

We are really looking forward to the day and will update everyone with what we see and do! =]

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Raspbery Jam & SDR

Inspired by a talk on Software Defined Radio (SDR) during a TinkerSoc night, and motivated by the rocketing number of hits the society’s website after their blog post about SDR was featured on Hack-A-Day. I decided to try it out for myself!

SDR works due to the RTL2832 chipset which has a very wide frequency receiver range. This chipset is used in a lot of the USB TV tuners out there, however not all of them. A list has been compiled on the Osmocom.org website where they also have a huge amount of information about SDR.

Having brought myself a USB TV Tuner off Amazon for £14 and free shipping it is clear that this is a really inexpensive way to get into amateur radio.

P1000558

The USB Tuner arrived at my house at university on the day of the fifth Raspberry Pi Jam, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to combine the two interests.

Having learnt a little bit about the different programs available during the talk at TinkerSoc, I decided to use rt-_tcp a lightweight piece of software that has the RTL (Realtek) drivers.

RTL-tcp is a sub program of RTL-sdr which is a command line interface program for controlling the TV tuner. By using RTL-tcp you are setting up a server which you can then connect to and stream the data from the Raspberry Pi to your computer. The benefit of this is that your antenna can be high up outside in the cold, meanwhile you are inside, nice and cosy.

Arriving at the Raspberry Jam I immediately set myself up with a my RPi connected to all the peripherals like the monitor and keyboard, as well as connecting it to my laptop over an Ethernet cable and I bridged the LAN to my wireless connection in order to install the software.

I was fortunate that two gents were very kind as to start helping me, teaching me my way around the command line and explaining the function of programs like aptitude and git.

Referencing a guide on hamradioscience.com I started to set up my RPi with all the software I needed.

To start with I checked that all dependencies were installed. There are programs that RTL-SDR and -TCP will need in order to work correctly. To check and/or install these dependencies I had to use the sudo apt-get install function and then install git, cmake, libusb-1.0-0.dev and build-essential.

sudo apt-get install git 
sudo apt-get install cmake
sudo apt-get install libusb-1.0-0.dev
sudo apt-get install build-essential

The next step was to download RTL-sdr and install the drivers.

git clone git://git.osmocom.org/rtl-sdr.git
cd rtl-sdr/
mkdir build
cd build
cmake ../
make
sudo make install
sudo ldconfig

The final step is to copy the rules file (rtl-sdr.rules) which can be found at /home/pi/rtl-sdr and this file should be copied into etc/udev/rules.d .

P1000557

Once the rules are in place you need to plug in the TV tuner and then you are ready to test that everything is working correctly by using the command rtl_test -t.

rtl_test

If everything is working all right, as it is in the picture above, then it is time to start the server and then set up your listening station.

To start the server type rtl_tcp -a followed by the ip address of your Pi. The ip address can be found by typing ifconfig into the command line, the ip address is the set of 4 numbers in the eth0 section. next to the lable “inet addr”.

SDR Sharp is a program written in C# that claims to be high performance with design in mind. It is also the program I decided to use with rtl-tcp.

To set SDR Sharp up with the raspberry pi, RTL-SDR / TCP must be selected from the drop down list, and then click configure.

sdrsharp1

The Raspberry Pi’s ip address should be entered into the host cell, and in the Port cell is the default value that doesn’t need to be changed. Volume can be adjusted using the RF Gain slider if you want a more permanent higher volume.

sdrsharp2When you have finished configuring, just press play. If all has gone well, then you will see the waterfall of data start to fall down the screen and hopefully hear something.  In all likely hood you won’t hear anything straight away, so you will want to change the frequency, you can do this by clicking on the top or bottom of the numbers representing the frequency at the top pf the screen, or by clicking along the activity bar.

Happy listening.

————– UPDATE ————–

April 2014

So after not using SDR for over a year I have set up my Pi to listen to the airwaves again. This was sparked by a comment below asking for help.
I followed my own walk-through and encountered the same issues as Ryan had encountered.

I managed to resolve these by adding “blacklist dvb_usb_rtl28xxu” to the file
/etc/modprobe.d/raspi-blacklist.conf by entering

sudo nano /etc/modprobe.d/raspi-blacklist.conf 

and entering the extra line at the bottom.

After rebooting everything worked well.

The PiBow Case

After all the festive activities, I have a new case for my Raspberry Pi, the PiBow. Found at pibow.com, it is a durable acrylic layered case for the raspberry Pi. The case offers access to all the ports and the GPIO pins via a ribbon cable.

The PiBow finished and ready to use.

The PiBow finished and ready to use.

When completed it protects the main board and has engraving on the top and base to mark the function of each port.
Held together by 4 nylon bolts, it is very easy to modify, especially as there are expansion layers available for things like a camera module, VESA mount, and electronic prototyping.

The PiBow Case for my Raspberry Pi is finished

The PiBow Case for my Raspberry Pi is finished

PiBow - Step 7

PiBow – Step 7

PiBow - Step 6

PiBow – Step 6

PiBow - Step 5

PiBow – Step 5

PiBow - Step 4

PiBow – Step 4

PiBow - Step 2

PiBow – Step 2

the RPi placed on the PiBow

the RPi placed on the PiBow

The first part of the PiBow

The first part of the PiBow

the Base of the PiBow case

the Base of the PiBow case

the Raspberry Pi as taken with the new camera

the Raspberry Pi as taken with the new camera

My first Rapsberry Jam

Well last night, in preparation for getting myself a Raspberry Pi I attended the London Raspberry Pi Jam Night at the Mozilla space in London.
I won’t bore everyone with a full write up of the night and instead if you are interested, point you to my good friend The Scientific Moustache’s blog post on the night.

Instead I will be giving you my impression as a newbie at these events.

I arrived early with my friend as he is a co-organiser, and it seemed to be quite a quiet affair.
As people started turning up and getting to work with their projects and lending a hand to others with their own projects. I started to get into the spirit of the evening, lending my own advice and opinions, although very often I was proved wrong. Alas I was surrounded by new technology, and a new programming language, so I’m not surprised that I was no help.
So despite not being any help myself, I really was intrigued by some of the projects others were doing, from controlling a Lego NXT robot, to taking pictures using a webcam and controlling an Arduino Uno, to just trying to connect it to the internet.

I really can’t wait for my Model B RPi to arrive so I can start playing with it, and of course I’ll update on here with my progress.

The Raspberry Jam is in no way affliated with the Mozilla Space or the Rapsberry Pi Foundation. Raspberry Pi is a trademark of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.