Raspberry Pi Hardware Discussion: Compute Module, HATs, and Model B+

At MakerCon, I had the pleasure of sitting down with James Adams, the Director of Hardware Engineering for Raspberry Pi. We talked about his role in the design of the Linux single-board computer and the newest hardware. Their new Model B+, the HAT specification, and the Compute Module.

James is also on the team behind Slice, the Compute Module-based media player. In our interview, we covered how the process of developing Slice lead to software and hardware improvements in the Compute Module. Come to World Maker Faire New York this weekend to see a prototype of Slice and check out all the Raspberry Pi projects and programming.


Wyliodrin Cloud Programming Supports Pi and Galileo

Wyliodrin is an online service that allows you to visually create applications for Linux development boards and control them from your browser. You can use their service to program a Raspberry Pi and they’ve recently partnered with Intel to allow you to program second generation Galileo boards. Users can start with Visual Programming, a language that’s similar to Scratch. Visual Programming translates into Python or JavaScript, so users can see the code that’s generated.

“The special feature of Wyliodrin is debugging,” said Alexandru Radovici, CEO. “Instead of using consoles or watches windows, Wyliodrin allows users to plot their variables in graphs. This allows a better understanding of what is going on in the program. Instead of listing a lot of numbers, people see graphs.”

As part of their partnership with Intel, if you own a Galileo can get a one year subscription that allows you to use 3 boards and create 15 applications. After that, a free account allows you to use one board and create 3 applications. There are paid tiers beyond that if you need more capacity.

“Wyliodrin does for electronics what LEGO did for mechanics,” said Alexandru. “By using Wyliodrin, anyone can start tinkering with devices, not matter what background they have.”


Pi Top: 3D printed, Full Sized, Raspberry Pi Laptop

cAfd9DBThe Pi Top is an educational kit. It appears as though it is in the early stages of planning an upcoming crowdfunding campaign. the basic idea is that you assemble the entire laptop yourself and learn a few things along the way. There are a series of lessons packaged in software that come along with the raspberry pi powered laptop as well. To find out more about the entire Pi Top project, you can check out their website and sign up for updates as they get closer to opening their campaign.

What caught my eye on this project was the log they shared of trying to prototype their fully 3D printed laptop case.

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They shared those pics on reddit with the following tech specs on the print

Printer used: Rostock Max V2 kit – with E3D full metal hotend

Filament: PLA 1.75mm nozzle: 205 Bed temp: 55 Speed: 70mm/sec

Print time: 3 prints total (two pieces together and the two larger pieces seprately) roughly 160 hours of printing

Support settings: KISSlicer with medium support, at 45 Degrees with a horizontal gap (from object) of 1mm.

De-string Settings: Prime 5.5mm Suck: 5.4mm Wipe:5mm Z-lift: 1mm


Raspberry Pi and MaKey MaKey Power Bus Stop Pac-Man

Make: Contributing Editor Alasdair Allan visited Maker Faire Trondheim last weekend and caught up with Frode Halvorsen, the general manager of Trondheim Makers. As one of the organizers of the faire, he showed off their advertising campaign, a Raspberry Pi and MaKey MaKey-equipped bus stop ad that lets pedestrians play Pac-Man. The video above gives you a glimpse into the production of the interactive advert, which is part of a series of two; the other one being a photo booth.

Keep an eye out for more details on Raspberry Pi’s official presence at World Maker Faire New York on September 20th and 21st at the New York Hall of Science in Queens. [via The Official Raspberry Pi Blog]


A Raspberry Pi powered underwater ROV at Maker Faire Trondheim

Maker Faire Trondheim This post is coming to you live from Maker Faire Trondheim being held in the town square here in Trondheim, Norway, all weekend.

The Raspberry Pi powered ROV

The Raspberry Pi powered ROV

The ROV brought by Elektra which we covered yesterday wasn’t the only underwater vehicle at the Maker Faire in Trondheim today. As well as their Arduino-powered vehicle, Tim Jagenberg and his son brought along their Raspberry Pi powered ROV.

…based on a plumbing tube used for the housing and submersible electric pumps as motors. A Raspberry Pi with Camera Module will deliver the live video feed via ethernet cable. The remote control is managed via a serial link to a Teensy 3.1 with sensors and motor controllers. The communication will be implemented using MAVLink, which enables the use of the QGroundControl station. — Tim Jagenberg

Tim Jagenberg talking about his Raspberry Pi powered ROV

The Trondheim Maker Faire is a two day faire being held in the Trondheim town square. It opened yesterday, and is open again today between 10am and 4pm. It is free to attend.


Pivena: A Raspberry Pi Laptop Inspired By Novena

WildCircuit’s Pivena laser-cut case with 7-inch LCD lid and plenty of storage for extra hardware.

WildCircuit’s Pivena laser-cut case with 7-inch LCD lid and plenty of storage for extra hardware.

Sutajio Kosagi’s Novena open-hardware computing platform (AKA laptop) provided the inspiration for Timothy Giles (WildCircuits) to design his Pivena Raspberry Pi case, which looks similar but doesn’t feature the same hardware. Timothy designed the Pivena using a laser-cut wooden case that features a 7-inch HDMI LCD mounted onto the case’s lid. The Raspberry Pi (model B and B+) is mounted inside of the box, with cutouts for the GPIO pins, audio/video jacks and USB and Ethernet ports. A slide mechanism allows the LED lid to remain open locked in place at an optimized viewing angle, which also allows users to easily access their hardware components.

There’s also pre-cut holes in the case’s interior, providing extra mounting options for additional hardware. The case also sports some 3D printed case corners and stand-offs for the hardware, giving it a sleek modern look while retaining the natural element of wood. In other words, makes the Pivena cheaper to build than using straight metal or plastic. The open-source case instructions and files are available for download here- http://www.instructables.com/id/PIvena-Assembly-Instructions/. WildCircuits also provides a ready-made enclosure for $40.00 sans the electronics.

Time to update for the Raspberry Pi B+!

Pivena’s right side features the lid slide that holds the LCD upright. The hard twist on the HMDI cable could stand a little work. Right angle adapter?

Pivena’s right side features the lid slide that holds the LCD upright. The hard twist on the HMDI cable could stand a little work. Right angle adapter?

The Pivena laser-cut enclosure unassembled.

The Pivena laser-cut enclosure unassembled.


DIY Audio Book Reader for Grandfather Losing Sight

Willem’s Audio Book Reader features a Raspberry Pi and RFID card to read audio books

Willem’s Audio Book Reader features a Raspberry Pi and RFID card to read audio books

We all have elderly family members or friends that were subjected to disabilities as they grew older. More often than not, there’s nothing we can do except offer comfort and support instead of a medical miracle. As we grow older, some of us lose our sight, which can seem like the world is coming to a close. We depend on it to do our daily tasks and take it for granted when we have it and feel hopeless when it is gone. The simple task of reading becomes impossible and even though there are audio book readers (Kindle, Nook, Kobo) they often need to be navigated using a touchscreen, which still needs a measure of sight to use.

Willem van der Jagt’s 93-year old grandfather is one of those who have lost his sight and while thinking of things to do, Willem suggested listening to audio books. After realizing the issue of navigation mentioned above, Willem decided to build his own that didn’t require vision to operate. He designed his Audio Book Reader using a Raspberry Pi as the eBook, complete with a host of books stored on the SBC’s RAM. Each book stored also has a corresponding DVD box with an embedded RFID card, which is then scanned by an RFID scanner housed inside the eBook enclosure. The book begins playing when the DVD is placed on top of the box and is navigated using four large buttons on the unit’s face, which includes pause, rewind and two for volume controls. A year has gone by since Willem designed his Audio Book Reader and his grandfather continues to use it daily, in fact, he has since requested music files to be incorporated into the device as well! It may not be a miracle but Willem’s device has opened new doors for his grandfather where physical sight is no longer considered a handicap.

Checkout Willem’s complete project at: https://gist.github.com/wkjagt/814b3f62ea03c7b1a765

Willem’s Audio Book Reader with finished enclosure complete with power button and headphone jack

Willem’s Audio Book Reader with finished enclosure complete with power button and headphone jack


Raspberry Pi HAT Specification Released

HAT-longpins

Arduino has shields. BeagleBone has capes. And now Raspberry Pi has HATs. The Raspberry Pi Foundation officially announced their specification for add-on boards for their new Model B+ single board computer, which just started shipping. HAT stands for “Hardware Attached on Top” and is meant to make it easier for the end user to add hardware to their Pi.

As with BeagleBone capes, the spec includes the physical layout of the boards and on-board I2C EEPROM memory to hold information about the manufacturer, GPIO setup, and device tree fragment, which is a way for Linux to properly configure the pins to use the hardware on the HAT. According to a post by James Adams, Director of Hardware at Raspberry Pi, manufacturers aren’t required to follow the spec, but warns that manufacturers cannot call their add-on board a HAT if it doesn’t follow the spec.

“We want to ensure consistency and compatibility with future add-on boards, and to allow a much better end-user experience, especially for less technically aware users,” said James.

The full specification is available on Github and includes diagrams, a design guide, ciruits for backpowering the Pi, and the structure for the data stored on the EEPROM.


First look at the new Raspberry Pi B+

The new Raspberry Pi B+

The new Raspberry Pi B+

Earlier today the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced a new board. Perhaps somewhat unexpectedly however, it’s not a board to replace the current model B, but a B+ board, and it’s what the model B should have been all along.

In the two years since the launch of the original Pi there have been a lot of complaints about how the board was put together, although none of these problems have ever seemed to have any impact on the massive success of the board itself. However the new model is aimed at putting all of these problems to rest, once and for all.

James Adams and Eben Upton talking about the Raspberry Pi model B+

The new model B+ uses the same Broadcom BCM2835 processor as the Model B, and still has 512MB RAM—while 1GB package-on-package (PoP) memory is feasible it’s not yet commercially available—making the most obvious difference between the two boards the addition of two extra USB ports. 

More USB ports

There are a lot of other changes behind the scenes to support this new addition. The routing on the board has been much improved making more power available to the USB sockets—at least providing your power supply is capable, and because the board now comes with a low voltage indicator which will turn the power LED off if the supply voltage dips below the required 4.7V this is now something you’ll be able to tell immediately.

The USB sockets have been blocked from “back-powering” the rest of the Pi—which will  prevent some of the issues with powered external hubs we’ve been seeing—and should have a lot better hotplug behaviour. The ports should also now have enough current available to run some of the more power-hungry USB devices like portable hard drives.

However that isn’t the only power optimisation made to the new board, the linear regulators of the original model B have been swapped out for switching ones—reducing the power consumption of the board by somewhere between 0.5W and 1W.

More GPIO pins

The other obvious difference to the board, beyond the two additional USB ports, is the GPIO headers. The new board now comes with 40 GPIO pins, although it maintains backwards compatibility with the original model B as the first 26 pins have the same pin out as the original board—most existing GPIO boards will fit right on top of the new board, abet with some wiggling. What this does mean is that you can (probably) use an IDE cable to connect to new boards GPIO headers without any modification, which is pretty nice.

The B+ GPIO Bus

The B+ GPIO header now has 40 pins.

Overall the board has just been tidied up and looks a lot more professional than the original model B. The original friction-fit SD card socket has been replaced with a push-push micro SD version—much like the one found on the Beaglebone Black—while the audio circuit now incorporates a dedicated low-noise power supply. The USB connectors have been aligned with the edge of the board and the composite video has been moved onto the 3.5mm jack. The board itself now has rounded corners and proper mounting holes.

Summary

Overall the new board is a big improvement on the original model B, addressing many of the concerns of the community while maintaining both hardware and software backwards compatibility with the original board. Along with the recently released Compute Module the new board certainly strengthens the Foundation’s line up against growing competition in an increasingly crowded single-board computer market.

David Finch from Element14 talking about the Raspberry Pi Model B+

Despite that, there are still some issues with the new board. For instance—since the new board uses the same Broadcom SoC as the model B—Ethernet traffic is still carried over the USB bus just like the original board. This has been a significant problem for some people with the Pi, and does make me wonder whether the Pi 2.0 board might make use of then Broadcom BCM11130—the same processor used in the Roku 3—which has both Ethernet and USB on-board. This would allow them to drop the LAN 9152 LAN9154—which actually acts both as a USB hub and as the Ethernet Controller for the Pi—and move from an ARMv6 to v7 architecture

For those that need it—and to support industrial customers—the Foundation has said that the original board will stay in production “as long as there’s demand for it.” Considering the improvements I think most people in the community will move to the new board as soon as they can, and that demand will drop off fairly quickly.

However despite the Foundation’s reassurances, it seems that Farnell at least has already removed the original model B from their website and have stated that “they are not going to stock them any more.” So if you want an old-style model B, you should probably pick one up while you still can.

The new model B+ is available immediately, and is the same cost at the original board.

Update: The original model B is now marked as “out of stock” by RS. This, combined with Farnell’s statement that they will no longer stock the model B, unfortunately does throw some doubt onto the Foundation’s reassurances of continued supply of the original model, and you have to wonder whether there is any product still in the production pipeline at this point?

Update: A tweet from Rachel Rayns—Creative Producer at the Raspberry Pi Foundation—was reassuring about the continued supply of the original model B. Stating that,

https://twitter.com/RachelRayns/status/488643407083216896

and that “they will be back.” So it looks like while long-term supply is assured, there might be some short-term availability issues with the original board as there will be no production of the model B for at least a month.