15 September 2014

ProtoCam - The Raspberry Pi Camera Module Prototyping Board

After months of planning, design and prototyping - I'm proud to announce my first Kickstarter campaign - The ProtoCam: A Camera Module Prototyping Board for the Raspberry Pi!

I've kept this a bit of a secret for the last couple of months, which has been difficult as I've been to a few events where it has been tempting to spill the beans, but today the final finishing touches were completed and it's now live on Kickstarter!

The ProtoCam is a new prototyping board for the Raspberry Pi that holds the Camera Module board within a large prototyping area, opening a whole new world of prototyping projects for your Pi. 

It has easy to use lanes of prototyping space around the camera lens, allowing you to get creative with LEDs, displays, sensors, buttons and so much more!

Read on to hear more about the ProtoCam!

Blogger Tricks

14 September 2014

MakersCAFE - A New 3D Printing Cafe in London

What do you get when you combine 3D printing, laser cutting, comfy seating, good coffee and cold beer? Well, you get a very curious Average Man for a start.

Let's rewind back a week. A colleague of mine shows me an article in TimeOut magazine about a new place called MakersCAFE opening just 15 minutes from our office. He tells me "you can get stuff 3D printed there" - knowing full well that this would excite me and ruin my concentration for the rest of the day. You see there's a strong link between the Raspberry Pi and 'making', especially with 3D printing as there are so many designs for cases out there.

A quick search online confirms the article - MakersCAFE was a reality and offered everything I had been looking for in recent months. A way to get 3D printing done without spending thousands on machines, software and lessons!

No less than ten minutes later I had emailed the chaps MakersCAFE asking for a bit of a tour/interview to share on my blog. Founder Soner Ozenc invited me to join them for the afternoon, and even agreed to help me create my first 3D printed item - a Raspberry Pi case!

Read on to hear more about my new favourite London hangout...

MakersCAFE London
MakersCAFE, Shoreditch, London

9 September 2014

Turn a Raspberry Pi into a CCTV Security System

A few weeks ago I received the new version of the Nwazet Camera Box Bundle, re-designed to fit the B+ Raspberry Pi.

It reminded me that I had promised my dad that I would fit a Pi camera system into his porch so he could keep an eye on his beloved motor home when he was in the garden. I'd not got round to doing this as I hadn't quite found a camera viewing solution that would be easy enough for him to use (and for me to figure out!).

Last week whilst browsing the Raspberry Pi forum I came across a camera viewing application for the Raspberry Pi called MotionPie. It almost turns your Raspberry Pi Camera Module into an IP camera, and is really (really!) easy to set up and use - perfect for old papa Average!

With my new CCTV-style case, and this seemingly simple yet brilliant camera application - a project was born! 

Read on to see how simple it is to make a CCTV system out of your Raspberry Pi...

Raspberry Pi CCTV
The Raspberry Pi CCTV Solution

7 September 2014

The September 2014 Cambridge Raspberry Pi Jam

This weekend included one of the big dates for geeky/nerdy diaries across the UK - the Cambridge Raspberry Pi Jam! As Cambridge is the birthplace of the Raspberry Pi, this particular jam is always well attended, well organised and full of great things to see and do.

I was lucky enough to grab a last minute table as I initially didn't think I could make the date, so had a chance to display some of my projects (much like my visit to the Southend Raspberry Pi Jam) and meet a lot of old and new faces. A film crew arrived at one stage (CNBC I think), holding interviews and taking shots!

Once again I unfortunately didn't get a chance to go to any talks or workshops as I was too busy chatting away about Pis, robots, sensors, projects and all manner of pi-related topics, but I did manage to nip round and get some shots of the various show and tell projects near me.

Read on to see what was on display...

Cambridge Pi Jam
Recognise these faces? Lot's of the 'pi-celebs' came to the show

31 August 2014

A Portable Router for your Raspberry Pi

If you visit my blog regularly, you‘ll know that I set up a ‘show & tell‘ table at the recent Southend-on-Sea Raspberry Pi Jam along with some of my recent Pi projects.

One thing I found particularly difficult was being able to access each of them via SSH without my usual router that I‘d have at home, let alone the lack of internet access (access was available but naturally very stretched at an event like this).

I've found a very handy pocket sized solution to my problem - the FileHub from RAVPower. In a nutshell it's a portable router that allows you to connect your devices on the move - but it also offers a load of other features that will help make PiJams a hassle-free experience.

Lets run through my new pocket-sized pal...

RAVPower FileHub
The RAVPower FileHub

19 August 2014

3.5" Touchscreen TFT Display for the Raspberry Pi

After a long battle getting my PiTFT to work how I wanted it to (see my blog post), I've been keeping an eye on other TFT products for the Raspberry Pi. 

There's a lot of interest in these little Pi-shaped screens, but there doesn't seem to be one that is truly "plug n' play" working straight out of the box.

I may have found something that makes it a little closer to that true plug n'play goal - the 3.5" TFT screen from NeoSec Solutions. They offer a similar product to the PiTFT however overall I've found it a lot easier to set up.

It's hard to look at any small touch screen for the Pi without comparing it to the ever popular PiTFT - so rather than pretend to not be comparing it - this review will face the boards off against each other and see what's the best screen in each category. I don't normally do this, but it just makes sense in this scenario.

So...let's take a look!

3.5" Raspberry Pi Screen
The NeoSec 3.5" TFT Screen

17 August 2014

The Southend-on-Sea Raspberry Pi Jam

Yesterday I attended my first ever 'Pi Jam' in my hometown - the Southend-on-Sea Raspberry Pi Jam!

I had seen a lot of reviews, blogs and pictures about other jams such as the ever popular Cambridge "CamJam", but until now had always had other commitments to attend to.

If you're not sure what a Raspberry Pi Jam is - well - it's simply an event that brings together like-minded Raspberry Pi people to show off their projects, learn something new, sell a few bits or generally just have a look around. Some Jams are well established and see attendance hitting the 100's, whilst others are more cosy affairs.

Yesterday was Southend's third Raspberry Pi Jam, hosted by the nice chaps at SoSLUG - The Southend Linux User Group. They were kind enough to invite me down and even give me a table to show people some of my projects.

Read on to hear more, and see some of the fantastic projects on show...

The Southend Raspberry Pi Jam
The main room got busy in between talks

10 August 2014

How To Design a Printed Circuit Board with DesignSpark PCB

A couple of months ago I got curious about PCB manufacuring, and ended up using Joe Walnes' open-source PiCrust PCB design to test the process. I sent the 'Gerber' files off to a little cheap board house in China, and a few weeks later my boards arrived - and they actually worked! (and some of you won a board in my competition!)

With my 100% PCB-related success rate still fresh in my mind, I decided that I wanted to try and design my own PCB from scratch. I assumed this would require some kind of qualification and expensive software, but to my surprise it needed none of these things.

I stumbled across DesignSpark PCB - free PCB design software from RS. Yes, free!

Like my grandfather meeting Microsoft Excel for the first time, I was initially intimidated by the unfamiliar buttons, layout and general PCB-territory - but I stuck with it, learnt how to design a PCB, and even got my own batch made (which you can WIN at the bottom of this blog!)

I've written this blog post to show you how easy it is to create a PCB for free using DesignSpark PCB. This guide is designed to be a simple introduction based on what I learnt - we‘ll cover more advanced stuff in later blogs.

Let‘s get started...

DesignSpark PCB Model
Want to win one of these? Read on to enter the competition...