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Monday, 17 March 2014

Pi trak

I'm pretty lucky to still have my old bigtrak and trailer, whilst it could still work with the command panel I wanted to make bigtrak how he should have been in the first place a fully moveable robot with lasers and cameras.

Firstly I needed to strip bigtrak of all unnecessary bits. The battery compartment was cleared and the bottom flap glued on, this making am ideal spot for the pi and big traks power supply to be stored adding weight to the back as the 4xd batteries did before.

I also took out the circuit board (from early 80's) and the counter sensor to work out how far bigtrak has done which you will commonly see these days on computer mice.

Next up was to add the pi, I started with a model a pi with a rtk motor controller but figured I couldn't do much more than control the motors (newer versions have longer gpio pins which give you access to the gpio connections) so eventually swapped the MicRoCon from 4tronixs and started up the pi which then needed scratch gpio added.

Once up and running I placed the covers back on without screwing them and hey presto a faster tougher (and noisier) bigtrak. I have a laser module to go in it at a later date and have already wired the speaker to the pi just need to come up with some sound files for it.

And lastly although not a good video I have video of bigtrak being controlled with a bluetooth keyboard, next will be a web gui interface to do this with.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Kano os for raspberry pi

I missed their kickstarter project which exceeded all other kickstarter projects and whilst Kano don't currently have a box set for me to try, I was fortunate enough to try their new os from

The complete package includes a sd writer and from what I've seen on twitter a four year old can set it up.

Once running it asked for my name and ran a couple of questions before starting the os.

On starting I was greeted with a slick and fast os. Each section having a playground so you can save each stage and learn at your own speed, it also teaches you to program with lots more being added to it in the future.

Presently it only boots up in hdmi, but on their forums they have written how to run this on a/v.

The whole thing can also run through vnc  through either your pc or an iPad which looks promising.

The instructions which will come in the box set or can now be downloaded from their site as .pdf files are very easy to learn and understand and actually make many books including a big yellow book on raspberry pi look very hard to understand. I think in the few evenings I've been using this os I have probably learnt a lot more than I have in the previous year.

I for one will be looking forward to Kano's future development along with its integration into schools and hopefully when the Kano kit is available I can review that too.

For more info visit Kano at

Pibot part one

Firstly this will be an on going project but for starters I at least now have something to work with.

Firstly I had to solder two wires to each of the two motors before adding wheels and tracks to the zumo chassis. After attaching 6v of AA batteries to the chassis I ran a pair of wires from here to the power in on the 4tronix MicRoCon board and added all the wires as seen in picture.

Next was to download the files from 4tronix github and here I found running the python motor script that one wire had detached from near side motor, so this had to be re soldered on.

Next was to try the scratch script and this was where I tumbled, I needed to download scratch gpio 5 by cymplecy at  follow the instructions, reboot and start scratch gpio then the scratch motors script and now I was able to control the pibot with just the arrow keys on the bluetooth keyboard.

But this wasn't enough for first pibot project I had to add the neo pixel ring for some bling.

Next up will be to add a smaller usb battery for pi, have a nice 2000 mah one on order, a case to fit pi in place, camera and laser and possibly line sensor and ultrasonics.

I also will need to look at being able to control the pibot over the Internet via a webpage and even at that point and possibly a bigger robot a GPS.

Nightcam part 3

After weeks of wet weather, the forecast showed it was to be a dry night.  I have in the past week got a 12v power adapter for the ir light as 8 batteries a night is an awful lot, all through they do work a second and third night the power is very much reduced.

So last night before bed I set up the nightcam in the garden, it was suprising how bright the ir light actually was when viewing it back, but at some point it had moved in the night so wasnt as effective.

Even so we caught two cats, two birds and the pet dog.  The video links below are for the cats and birds.

update, with the light better positioned i managed to get a cat:

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Adafruit neo pixels and Gemma 8mhz controller

Finally got this working today, after starting up the old rusty xp machine and sorting out the network card on it I downloaded adafruits arduino ide which they have already added the files needed to and tried to get it to upload, no.

Problem one couldn't see Gemma or trinket this involved downloading the drivers off the adafruit site.

Problem two still wouldn't see so had to add a new .conf file and id file.

Problem three it now expected 4 but got -5 error, this one really annoyed me and everything in adafruit site had been done.  Next up I had a brain wave try every usb lead I have and after the fifth lead the Gemma started to flash differently but this error still popped up but suddenly the LEDs were lighting up on the neo pixels from one of the latest sketches which was on adafruit, here's a video of part of it:

So today's moral to the story is if at first you don't succeed try a different lead.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Nokia screen display on pi

Found a nice git hub repo with the use of drogon wiring pi was able to get text to appear on the screen, but not till after solving a contrast problem with lcd.set_contrast(150) but still trying to solve missing second and third line as per pic.

The files needed can be got via:

git clone
cd pcd8544
./ clean build 
sudo ./ install

Wildlife cam part 2

I found I still had a lot to do on this project, one was false alarms from the pir.  To solve this I cut down a toilet roll and covered it in some more camo cloth and stuck it on, this was to concentrate the pir to front only so in theory the only way to trigger it would be from the front only and not the sides.

I decided to not tidy it up as being ruffled should help it blend in a bit better as it breaks the shape up just as camo is designed to do.

Next up was to add a stand so I can place the cam anywhere.  In my box of stuff I had an old joby gorilla stand for my old phone that was broken. Some gorilla glue to fix the stand to the case and gaffa tape to hold the pi case to old phone case and I have a secure stand that can go just about anywhere.

I'm not to bothered about the amount of gaffa tape as most of this is at the back which will be hidden by the camo bag, but front has minimuim amount so the camo does its job.

No doubt as time goes on I will add bits and edit bits and hopefully have something very special.