If you haven’t heard of the Raspberry Pi: it’s a credit-card sized single-board computer. But its simplicity and price-tag are what’s made the tech world fall in love with it: at $35 it is the go-to solution for hardware hacking, opening up countless possibilities for innovation. Plug it into your TV and you’ve got a designated media center. Connect it to your network and you can serve up web-enabled applications. Or just use it as a no frills desktop computer.
We met up with Raspberry Pi enthusiasts on Saturday for a five hour, hardware-hacking software-sharing meetup dubbed the “Raspberry Jam.” Events like it are happening around the world as news of this new technology spreads. Read on for more project ideas and to see the video from our event!
What’s a Raspberry Pi?
Hear about the Raspberry Pi and the Columbus Idea Foundry in this video from our event!
Raspberry Jam Recap
After the success of our 3D printing event on Thursday, we were excited to gather again on Saturday morning to talk shop, swap software, and hack together! Around 40 people stopped by for the event, many hoping to configure their Raspberry Pis for the first time. Others came to demo the wide range of applications the Raspberry Pi is capable of — from general purpose computing, to home media center, to robotics controller. But for the most part people came, as one participant described it, “to feed off the whole Pi vibe.”
Eight different Raspberry Pis were up and running during the event, and we estimate there were 15 in the room. At $35 its not surprising that many of the participants own 2 or 3 — one for each of their projects!
We only fried one piece of hardware — a Cytron MD10C motor controller, which we fed a few too many amps. But we exchanged a lot of tips, and we shared a lot of software (the most popular being the XBMC media center application). Thanks to everyone who came out to the Raspberry Jam! We’ve definitely got a good vibe going on in Columbus!
Looking for Raspberry Pi project ideas?
Here are some of the people and projects we heard about today:
One of the most interesting projects was done by Nathan Alden a member of the Underwater Robotics Team at Gahanna, Lincoln High School. He demonstrated how a game controller can be used to interact with a sump-pump motor. His setup required two Raspberry Pis networked together in a kind of master-slave configuration, with inputs passing from the controller to the first Pi, down to the second Pi, to the Cytron MD10C motor controller, and finally to the motor itself. This system effectively keeps the brain of the robot above water, and the brawn below the waves. Why not use wireless? Apparently water does weird things to wifi, making it impractical. Eventually the robot will include 5 motors and will be used in competition.
Ethan Dicks, who organized the Columbus Raspberry Jam, discussed digital signage applications for the Pi. Among other things, he encouraged the use of old Dell monitors with sound-bar attachments because they can directly power your Pi. He also demoed how to directly connect a Raspberry Pi to an external LCD module through GPIO pins. Ethan teaches Raspberry Pi and 3D printing classes at the Columbus Idea Foundry.
Bill Payne co-founder of Visodence, a video surveillance company, is using the Raspberry Pi as the basis for his company’s surveillance equipment. Thanks for donating pizza for the event!
Daniel Houser of isc2.org will be using the Pi to teach network assessment. He discussed clever uses of the Pi as a “pwn plug” for hacking into corporate networks and talked about ethical computing. “Think evil, do good” he says, is the motto of the info-security sector.
Carl Faulstich is working on three different projects using the Raspberry Pi — one he plans to use for basic email and internet, running Raspian; another will become a “DOS Box” for playing old DOS based games; the last is intended for a CD Burning Kiosk.
Bill Schwanltz was interested in learning more about wiring the Pi to a breadboard. Schwanltz plans to use his Pi with a GPS unit from Adafruit. His goal is to setup a GPS NTP time server (pool.ntp.org). In mass these servers improve the accuracy of time keeping, and they help sync time between computers.
Nick von Ahsen said he’d like to use his Pi for a media server project. He plans to plug the Pi into a TV and network videos and music.
Petar Puskarich, an active contributor to the Pi firmware board uses his Pi to run a Pandora client music server called Piano Bar which allows him to stream music at home. For kicks he’s hooked the system up to a phone switch, allowing him to play Pandora as “on hold” music on his home phone.
Best of luck to everyone on their projects!
Contributor: Nathan Allen