Tempus Fugit WordClock Section Goes Live

IMG_2096With the first TF WordClock kits shipping yesterday the TF area on the blog is now  fully live. In addition to information about the TF there is a new instruction page where you can find links to the instruction / operation manual and github for software downloads. I am happy that the cloIMG_2102ning process for SD cards is good so will be working on these from tomorrow. Just under half the early bird kits have now been shipped covering destinations from Australia to Swindon the rest should all go out over the next few days.

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Happy Arduino Day 2016

ard_day2016Happy Ardunio Day 2016 from the Meandering IMG_1868Pi.
We will be at the Peterborough Raspberry Jam on the 9th of April  showing off the latest work on the Tempus Fugit WordClock in both Pi Zero and Arduino Nano Versions, together with other Pi projects old and new.



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WordClock Prototype PCB Tested

IMG_1814The prototype Tempus Fugit PCB arrived as promised last week from Ragworm, leaving me just enough time to get it built up our Show & Tell at the Pi Party on Sunday. We had lots of positive feedback particularly with demonstrating the ability to swop from a PiZero to a Arduino Nano without having to make any changes to board. With 13 days to go on the Kickstarter we are just £250 short of the stretch target – adding automatic brightness control to the design.bigb

I really enjoyed the Pi Party meeting people new and old. A particular shout out to the Marshal who helped get omxplayer to loop for me and putting my wife in-touch with with someone to talk about Bluetooth.

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Tempus Fugit WordClock Kickstarter for your Pi or Arduino

IMG_1764aAs trailed in an earlier blog posting I have spent a bit of time over the last couple of weeks working up my Word Clock to run as a Kickstarter. The result is the Tempus Fugit WordClock. you can see in the picture  what the PCB will look like, I will update this with an actual photo in  a couple of weeks when I have got a prototype PCB build. pcb rev4The big development as you might have guessed from the blog title is that the Tempus Fugit will work with an Arduino Nano as an alternative to a Pi Zero so hopefully will still be attractive to people struggling to get hold of the Zero.

Check out the Kickstarter by clicking here.


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BBC Micro:Bit Hands-On

microbitWe Attended a great STEM BBC Micro:bit networking event earlier this week at Reading University, I had seen the Micro:bit at BETT but had not been able to get ‘hands-on’. The first thing to be clear is that while there is some level of overlap between the Raspberry Pi and Micro:bit they are different, both have good and bad points when you consider their target markets. Having not looked too closely at the Micro:bit before I was pleasantly surprised with the in built hardware which includes accelerometer, compass, I2C and Bluetooth, see the following link to the dedicated BBC media site to see a more complete spec. On the down side the only direct ‘display’ capability is a 5 x 5 matrix of LED.FullSizeRender1

Programming is via a browser web interface (Explorer and Chrome both seemed to work), connected via a micro USB ( I am assuming you will also be able to connect via Bluetooth in the future but this was not demo’ed at our session ). One of the key design elements is that nothing ‘special’ should need to be installed on the PC / Tablet / Smartphone to control / program the Micro:bit. A number of programming options will be available, we used the Microsoft “Block Editor” which is very Scratch like in terms of operation. Having tested your program (which you do within the programming environment), hit the compile icon and the an executable is created on a remote server application and automatically downloaded to via the your browser. You then drag this file onto the Micro:bit (which appears as a mass storage device / drive on your PC) and it is again automatically downloaded to the Micro:bit and the application runs. An option to program in Python is also shown on the website, this is not available yet but my wife did a bit of digging and found this  article  which gives a lot more info. As I understand it the only potential option for local programming on the Micro:bit will be Python, other options all seem to need good web access.

In terms of interfacing to the outside world it has 3 digital / analogue  input / outputs which come out as ‘rings’ you can connect to with small crocodile clips, there are additional functions including I2C available via the edge connector, but it is worth noting that other than the 3 ‘ring’ connections you will need a suitable socket connector to connect with.

Technical detail is currently quite limited but we were told that the stated BBC plan is that everything associated with the Micro:bit hardware will be open sourced following the launch, which I certainly support.

The question everyone who sees the Micro:bit asks is ‘where can FullSizeRender2I get one’ ? The project has been delayed but there seems to be a level of confidence that the Micro:bit card will start being sent out to schools this spring, which I take to mean April.

So my thoughts, generally positive it is certainly great fun and has enough built in capability to allow some really creative applications – there were some interesting Hacks on show at BETT.  In that it does not need a dedicated screen or keyboard / leads it does address some of the concerns leveled at Raspberry Pi in the classroom. Against this you will need Internet access to use the programming tools including the emulator. I know from running STEM sessions in schools this can still be a challenge.

I do also see some problems with the ‘ownership model’ – one is being given to every UK year 7 pupil in this school year. The hope being that school’s and / or parents will buy them in the future. The problem I can see is that on one hand schools with tight budgets will try to hang on to them to use for the future years – depriving children say of the opportunity to code at home over the holidays. While on the other side given that there will no doubt be an initial supply and demand issue some children / parents are going to want to get their hands on them simply to sell on eBay -the initial production run is for 1 million parts so hopefully stop this in time.

To finish the Micro:bit should certainly make a positive contribution to getting more young people ‘into’ programming and computers, particularly given the work that has gone to reduce any barriers to access the programming tools. Compared to the Raspberry Pi it is less suited to building more complex and / or to ‘permanent’ projects. The big unknown is if the Micro:bit will build up the sort of the user community the Raspberry Pi has.

If you want to have a play, the website including an emulator is available now.


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Meandering Pi @ BETT2016 RaspberryPi JAM

We will be at thlogo_bette RaspberryPi Jam @ BETT 2016 in London this Saturday,
running a show & tell table. In addition to showing how you can use the PiMuxClock and Pi_LCD boards to support Key Stage 3 & 4 computing activities we will also have the WordClock prototype board, some sense hat stuff and anything else I can fit into a suitcase !

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PiZero Christmas Project Complete


Update If you don’t want to go down the full DIY route you can purchase a PCB and kit of parts to make your own wordclock kit but clicking on the following link Order your Tempus Fugit Wordclock kits here


Back to work tomorrow, but happy as I have managed to finish my Christmas Pi IMG_1639project – a ‘word clock’ using a single a 8×8 matrix display and a PiZero.

I used a MAX7219 to simplify driving the LED matrix, this connects to the PiZero via the SPI port and uses a library developed by  Richard Hull to program it in Python. The character layout came from an article in the Guardian.

I used a smaller matrix kit from the internet to test the concept IMG_1632with a blog post from RasPi.TV providing some additional help !

The biggest pain was trying to get my head around the concept of a ‘common anode’ and ‘common cathode’ matrix display. The MAX7219 is nominally designed to drive common cathode 7 segment displays, which is fine but with an LED matrix life is a bit more confusing as by swapping the columns and rows around you can drive either sort of IMG_1642display with the 7219. To make matters worse matrix displays often do not have a clear marker for pin 1. Having wired everything back to front on the first attempt I found the following article on an Arduino website which was a great help  – Identifying pin 1 on 8×8 displays .

The final hardware elements are an RTC and some push buttons so the time can be set without the need for an internet connection. This proved harder IMG_1641than expected as there seems to be a problem with the latest Kernel overwriting the RTC during the boot process, I think I have found a workaround but this does need a bit more work.

The character overlay is simply printed from a table in MS Word with the letter colour set to white with a black fill.  I experimented with a  number of different fonts, the ones which work best are non-proportional ones like Courier and Monaco.IMG_1644

All in all great fun

[If you just want some more detail together with the Python code and Templates have a look at my WordClock GitHub]

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Pi Zero and the Pi-LCD

IMG_1563Got a Pi Zero working with a Pi-LCD board this evening for a bit of fun, worked fine but not well balanced !IMG_1566


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Pi-LCD software uploaded to GitHub so it is time to have a playIMG_1542 with my PiZero’s – I managed to get the last Magpi in Sunbury Tesco’s, and my wife got me one on-line [ that is love for you ], importantly the one Cara got came with leads so I can have a play with it !




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Ryanteck Pi Debug clip – my new travel companion

debugclipI’m away with work this week and want to be able to do some s/w development in the evenings for the Pi-LCD Kickstarter. In the past I have ended up taking an old wifi router with me, but thought time it would be a good opportunity to give the Ryanteck Debug clip an outing. Setting it up was a bit of a pain on the first PC I tried, but I suspect that was more down to the PC than the Debug clip. That said even with a more compliant windows 7 PC  I had to download the drivers from the Microchip site (a link to these in the instructions would have saved a bit of time).

With the correct driver installed attaching as per the instructions with Putty was simple and the serial link worked reliably over a number of hours allowing me to edit and run programs without any problem. One point to note is that COM serial port drivers do have a habit of ‘hanging’ if unplugged so –  be prepared to reboot the PC if you need to disconnect the USB lead for any reason. Pi-LCD with Debug clip

So in conclusion the Debug clip ‘does what it says on the lid’, setting up can be a bit hit and miss depending on the PC hardware but that is serial ports for you….

On the positive it has cut down my travelling Pi set-up somewhat which was the goal

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