Monthly Archives: August 2017

Netflix develops Morse code search option

What happens when Netflix gives its staff two days to hack the platform and create innovative (and often unnecessary) variations on the streaming service?

This. This is what happens.

Hack Day Summer 2017 Teleflix

Uploaded by NetflixOpenSource on 2017-08-28.

Netflix Hack Day

Twice a year, the wonderful team at Netflix is given two days to go nuts and create fun, random builds, taking inspiration from Netflix and its content. So far they’ve debuted a downgraded version of the streaming platform played on an original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), turned hit show Narcos into a video game, and utilised VR technology into many more builds that, while they’ll never be made public, have no doubt led to some lightbulb moments for the creative teams involved.

DarNES – Netflix Hack Day – Winter 2015

In a world… where devices proliferate… darNES digs back in time to provide Netflix access to the original Nintendo Entertainment System.

Kevin Spacey? More like ‘Kevin Spacebar’, am I right? Aha…ha…haaaa…I’ll get my coat.

Teleflix

The Teleflix build from this summer’s Hack Day is obviously the best one yet, as it uses a Raspberry Pi. By writing code that decodes the dots and dashes from an original 1920s telegraph (provided by AT&T, and lovingly restored by the team using ketchup!) into keystrokes, they’re able to search for their favourite shows via Morse code.

Netflix Morse Code

Morse code, for the unaware, is a method for transmitting letters and numbers via a standardised series of beeps, clicks, or flashes. Stuck in a sticky situation? Three dots followed by three dashes and a further three dots gives you ‘SOS’. Sorted. So long as there’s someone there to see or hear it, who also understands Morse Code.

Morse Code

Morse code was a method of transmiting textual information as a series of on-off tones that could be directly understood by a skilled listener. Mooo-Theme: http://ift.tt/1l5mfiY

So if you’d like to watch, for example, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, you simply send: – …. . / ..- -. -… .-. . .- -.- .- -… .-.. . / -.- .. — — -.– / … -.-. …. — .. -.. – and you’re set. Easy!

To reach Netflix, the team used a Playstation 4. However, if you want to skip a tech step, you could stream Netflix directly to your Raspberry Pi by following this relatively new tutorial. Nobody at Pi Towers has tried it out yet, but if you have we’d be interested to see how you got on in the comments below.

And if you’d like to play around a little more with the Raspberry Pi and Morse code, you can pick up your own Morse code key, or build one using conductive components such as buttons or bananas, and try it out for yourself.

Alex’s Netflix-themed Morse code quiz

Just for fun, here are the titles of some of my favourite shows to watch on Netflix, translated into Morse code. Using the key below, why not take a break and challenge your mind to translate them back into English. Reward yourself +10 imaginary House Points for each correct answer.

Netflix Morse Code

  1. -.. — -.-. – — .-. / .– …. —
  2. …. .- -. -. .. -… .- .-..
  3. – …. . / — .-
  4. … . -. … . —..
  5. .— . … … .. -.-. .- / .— — -. . …
  6. –. .. .-.. — — .-. . / –. .. .-. .-.. …
  7. –. .-.. — .–

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3D print your own Rubik’s Cube Solver

Why use logic and your hands to solve a Rubik’s Cube, when you could 3D print your own Rubik’s Cube Solver and thus avoid overexerting your fingers and brain cells? Here to help you with this is Otvinta‘s new robotic make:

Fully 3D-Printed Rubik’s Cube Solving Robot

This 3D-printed Raspberry PI-powered Rubik’s Cube solving robot has everything any serious robot does — arms, servos, gears, vision, artificial intelligence and a task to complete. If you want to introduce robotics to your kids or your students, this is the perfect machine for it. This robot is fully 3D-printable.

Rubik’s Cubes

As Liz has said before, we have a lot of Rubik’s cubes here at Pi Towers. In fact, let me just…hold on…I’ll be right back.

Okay, these are all the ones I found on Gordon’s desk, and I’m 99% sure there are more in his drawers.

Raspberry Pi Rubik's Cube Solver

And that’s just Gordon. Given that there’s a multitude of other Pi Towers staff members who are also obsessed with the little twisty cube of wonder, you could use what you find in our office to restock an entire toy shop for the pre-Christmas rush!

So yeah, we like Rubik’s Cubes.

The 3D-Printable Rubik’s Cube Solver

Aside from the obvious electronic elements, Otvinta’s Rubik’s Cube Solving Robot is completely 3D-printable. While it may take a whopping 70 hours of print time and a whole spool of filament to make your solving robot a reality, we’ve seen far more time-consuming prints with a lot less purpose than this.

(If you’ve clicked the link above, I’d just like to point out that, while that build might be 3D printing overkill, I want one anyway.)

Rubik's Cube Solver

After 3D printing all the necessary parts of your Rubik’s Cube Solving Robot, you’ll need to run the Windows 10 IoT Core on your Raspberry Pi. Once connected to your network, you can select the Pi from the IoT Dashboard on your main PC and install the RubiksCubeRobot app.

Raspberry Pi Rubik's Cube Solver

Then simply configure the robot via the app, and you’re good to go!

You might not necessarily need a Raspberry Pi to create this build, since you could simply run the app on your main PC. However, using a Pi will make your project more manageable and less bulky.

You can find all the details of how to make your own Rubik’s Cube Solving Robot on Otvinta’s website, so do make sure to head over there if you want to learn more.

All the robots!

This isn’t the first Raspberry Pi-powered Rubik’s Cube out there, and it surely won’t be the last. There’s this one by Francesco Georg using LEGO Mindstorms; this one was originally shared on Reddit; Liz wrote about this one; and there’s one more which I can’t seem to find but I swear exists, and it looks like the Eye of Sauron! Ten House Points to whoever shares it with me in the comments below.

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Help us translate our YouTube videos

As we work to create more content for our YouTube channel, making our videos as accessible as possible is key to serving the growing Raspberry Pi community. And as we push to create more videos linked to our collection of free resources, providing translated subtitles will help to bring our content to more people across the globe.

We need your help to make this happen.

YouTube translations Raspberry Pi

Subtitles for our ‘Getting started with soldering‘ video translated into Portuguese.

Translating YouTube

We recently enabled translation submissions for all our YouTube content, allowing viewers, subscribers, and members of the community to contribute translated subtitles, descriptions, and titles for all of our videos.

YouTube Subtitle translations Raspberry Pi

Once approved, these translated subtitles are available for all viewers of our videos via the closed captioning button on the navigation bar of every video, while translated descriptions and titles will automatically be shown, based on your location. Anyone who has contributed to the translations is automatically credited in the video’s description.

YouTube translations Raspberry Pi

Thanks Mário!

Our aim is to collect translations of our videos in as many languages as possible, including the original English. While YouTube does a great job of using speech-to-text to create automatic subtitles, these aren’t always correct – especially when the videos feature loud background noises and music – so we need to create subtitles in English too.

Submit your own YouTube translations

If you’d like to contribute subtitles for our YouTube videos, you can do so by heading to the Community Contributions page for our channel. Simply pick a video you’d like to translate and work your way through. The system is very easy to navigate and allows you to manage the timing of subtitles, which is very handy. Once complete, your translation will be sent to us to double check. When we’ve approved it, it will be published. If we find any issues with the translation, we’ll let you know via the Community Contributions page.

YouTube translations Raspberry Pi

A sneaky peak into what we see on the other side

If you find a video that’s already been translated, but you see faults in the language and/or grammar used, you can also correct and improve existing translations.

Thank you

If you contribute a translation to any of our videos, make sure you post a comment for the world to see in the video’s comments section. If you have a Twitter account, leave your username in the comment and we’ll make sure to thank you on the official Raspberry Pi account when we’ve approved your submission.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed so far, and to everyone who is now logging into YouTube to take part. It’s things like this that make our community the best out there.

Thank you.

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The Pronunciation Training Machine

Using a Raspberry Pi, an Arduino, an Adafruit NeoPixel Ring and a servomotor, Japanese makers HomeMadeGarbage produced this Pronunciation Training Machine to help their parents distinguish ‘L’s and ‘R’s when speaking English.

L R 発音矯正ギブス お母ちゃん編 Pronunciation training machine #right #light #raspberrypi #arduino #neopixel

23 Likes, 1 Comments – Home Made Garbage (@homemadegarbage) on Instagram: “L R 発音矯正ギブス お母ちゃん編 Pronunciation training machine #right #light #raspberrypi #arduino #neopixel”

How does an Pronunciation Training Machine work?

As you can see in the video above, the machine utilises the Google Cloud Speech API to recognise their parents’ pronunciation of the words ‘right’ and ‘light’. Correctly pronounce the former, and the servo-mounted arrow points to the right. Pronounce the later and the NeoPixel Ring illuminates because, well, you just said “light”.

An image showing how the project works - English Pronunciation TrainingYou can find the full code for the project on its hackster page here.

Variations on the idea

It’s a super-cute project with great potential, and the concept could easily be amended for other training purposes. How about using motion sensors to help someone learn their left from their right?

A photo of hands with left and right written on them - English Pronunciation Training

Wait…your left or my left?
image c/o tattly

Or use random.choice to switch on LEDs over certain images, and speech recognition to reward a correct answer? Light up a picture of a cat, for example, and when the player says “cat”, they receive a ‘purr’ or a treat?

A photo of a kitten - English Pronunciation Training

Obligatory kitten picture
image c/o somewhere on the internet!

Raspberry Pi-based educational aids do not have to be elaborate builds. They can use components as simple as a servo and an LED, and still have the potential to make great improvements in people’s day-to-day lives.

Your own projects

If you’ve created an educational tool using a Raspberry Pi, we’d love to see it. The Raspberry Pi itself is an educational tool, so you’re helping it to fulfil its destiny! Make sure you share your projects with us on social media, or pop a link in the comments below. We’d also love to see people using the Pronunciation Training Machine (or similar projects), so make sure you share those too!

A massive shout out to Artie at hackster.io for this heads-up, and for all the other Raspberry Pi projects he sends my way. What a star!

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Affordable Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner

With a £1000 grant from Santander, Poppy Mosbacher set out to build a full-body 3D body scanner with the intention of creating an affordable setup for makespaces and similar community groups.

First Scan from DIY Raspberry Pi Scanner

Head and Shoulders Scan with 29 Raspberry Pi Cameras

Uses for full-body 3D scanning

Poppy herself wanted to use the scanner in her work as a fashion designer. With the help of 3D scans of her models, she would be able to create custom cardboard dressmakers dummy to ensure her designs fit perfectly. This is a brilliant way of incorporating digital tech into another industry – and it’s not the only application for this sort of build. Growing numbers of businesses use 3D body scanning, for example the stores around the world where customers can 3D scan and print themselves as action-figure-sized replicas.

Print your own family right on the high street!
image c/o Tom’s Guide and Shapify

We’ve also seen the same technology used in video games for more immersive virtual reality. Moreover, there are various uses for it in healthcare and fitness, such as monitoring the effect of exercise regimes or physiotherapy on body shape or posture.

Within a makespace environment, a 3D body scanner opens the door to including new groups of people in community make projects: imagine 3D printing miniatures of a theatrical cast to allow more realistic blocking of stage productions and better set design, or annually sending grandparents a print of their grandchild so they can compare the child’s year-on-year growth in a hands-on way.

Raspberry Pi 3d Body Scan

The Germany-based clothing business Outfittery uses full body scanners to take the stress out of finding clothes that fits well.
image c/o Outfittery

As cheesy as it sounds, the only limit for the use of 3D scanning is your imagination…and maybe storage space for miniature prints.

Poppy’s Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner

For her build, Poppy acquired 27 Raspberry Pi Zeros and 27 Raspberry Pi Camera Modules. With various other components, some 3D-printed or made of cardboard, Poppy got to work. She was helped by members of Build Brighton and by her friend Arthur Guy, who also wrote the code for the scanner.

Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner

The Pi Zeros run Raspbian Lite, and are connected to a main server running a node application. Each is fitted into its own laser-cut cardboard case, and secured to a structure of cardboard tubing and 3D-printed connectors.

Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner

In the finished build, the person to be scanned stands within the centre of the structure, and the press of a button sends the signal for all Pis to take a photo. The images are sent back to the server, and processed through Autocade ReMake, a freemium software available for the PC (Poppy discovered part-way through the project that the Mac version has recently lost support).

Build your own

Obviously there’s a lot more to the process of building this full-body 3D scanner than what I’ve reported in these few paragraphs. And since it was Poppy’s goal to make a readily available and affordable scanner that anyone can recreate, she’s provided all the instructions and code for it on her Instructables page.

Projects like this, in which people use the Raspberry Pi to create affordable and interesting tech for communities, are exactly the type of thing we love to see. Always make sure to share your Pi-based projects with us on social media, so we can boost their visibility!

If you’re a member of a makespace, run a workshop in a school or club, or simply love to tinker and create, this build could be the perfect addition to your workshop. And if you recreate Poppy’s scanner, or build something similar, we’d love to see the results in the comments below.

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Sean’s DIY Bitcoin Lottery with a Raspberry Pi

After several explorations into the world of 3D printing, and fresh off the back of his $5 fidget spinner crowd funding campaign, Sean Hodgins brings us his latest project: a DIY Bitcoin Lottery!

DIY Bitcoin Lottery with a Raspberry Pi

Build your own lottery! Thingiverse Files: http://ift.tt/2wEeL3r Pi How-to: http://ift.tt/2vewE5o Instructables: http://ift.tt/2wEba5I Send me bitcoins if you want!

What is Bitcoin mining?

According to the internet, Bitcoin mining is:

[A] record-keeping service. Miners keep the blockchain consistent, complete, and unalterable by repeatedly verifying and collecting newly broadcast transactions into a new group of transactions called a block. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, using the SHA-256 hashing algorithm, which links it to the previous block, thus giving the blockchain its name.

If that makes no sense to you, welcome to the club. So here’s a handy video which explains it better.

What is Bitcoin Mining?

For more information: http://ift.tt/1LoBld3 and http://ift.tt/10mq1YA What is Bitcoin Mining? Have you ever wondered how Bitcoin is generated? This short video is an animated introduction to Bitcoin Mining. Credits: Voice – Chris Rice (www.ricevoice.com) Motion Graphics – Fabian Rühle (www.fabianruehle.de) Music/Sound Design – Christian Barth (http://ift.tt/1h81yBA) Andrew Mottl (www.andrewmottl.com)

Okay, now I get it.

I swear.

Sean’s Bitcoin Lottery

As a retired Bitcoin miner, Sean understands how the system works and what is required for mining. And since news sources report that Bitcoin is currently valued at around $4000, Sean decided to use a Raspberry Pi to bring to life an idea he’d been thinking about for a little while.

Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Bitcoin Lottery

He fitted the Raspberry Pi into a 3D-printed body, together with a small fan, a strip of NeoPixels, and a Block Eruptor ASIC which is the dedicated mining hardware. The Pi runs a Python script compatible with CGMiner, a mining software that needs far more explanation than I can offer in this short blog post.

The Neopixels take the first 6 characters of the 64-character-long number of the current block, and interpret it as a hex colour code. In this way, the block’s data is converted into colour, which, when you think about it, is kind of beautiful.

The device moves on to trying to solve a new block every 20 minutes. When it does, the NeoPixel LEDs play a flashing ‘Win’ or ‘Lose’ animation to let you know whether you were the one to solve the previous block.

Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Bitcoin Lottery

Lottery results

Sean has done the maths to calculate the power consumption of the device. He says that the annual cost of running his Bitcoin Lottery is roughly what you would pay for two lottery scratch cards. Now, the odds of solving a block are much lower than those of buying a winning scratch card. However, since the mining device moves on to a new block every 20 minutes, the odds of being a winner with Bitcoin using Sean’s build are actually better than those of winning the lottery.

Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Bitcoin Lottery

MATHS!

But even if you don’t win, Sean’s project is a fun experiment in Bitcoin mining and creating colour through code. And if you want to make your own, you can download the 3D-files here, find the code here, and view the step-by-step guide here on Instructables.

Good luck and happy mining!

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Mod your Nerf gun with a Pi

Michael Darby, who blogs at 314reactor, has created a new Raspberry Pi build, and it’s pretty darn cool. Though it’s not the first Raspberry Pi-modded Nerf gun we’ve seen, it’s definitely one of the most complex!

Nerf Gun Ammo Counter / Range Finder – Raspberry Pi

An ammo counter and range finder made from a Raspberry Pi for a Nerf Gun.

Nerf guns

Nerf guns are toy dart guns that have been on the market since the early 1990s. They are popular with kids and adults who enjoy playing paintball, laser tag, and first-person shooter video games. Michael loves Nerf guns, and he wanted to give his toy a sci-fi overhaul, making it look and function more like a gun that an avatar might use in Half-Life, Quake, or Doom.

Modding a Nerf gun

A busy and creative member of the Raspberry Pi community, Michael has previously delighted us with his Windows 98 wristwatch. Now, he has upgraded his Nerf gun with a rangefinder and an ammo counter by adding a Pi, a Pimoroni Rainbow HAT, and some sensors.

Setting up a rangefinder was straightforward. Michael fixed an ultrasonic distance sensor pointing in the direction of the gun’s barrel. Live information about how far away he is from his target is shown on the Rainbow HAT’s alphanumeric display.

View of Michael Darby's nerf gun range finder

To create an ammo counter, Michael had to follow a more circuitous route. Since he couldn’t think of a way to read out how many darts are in the Nerf gun’s magazine, he ended up counting how many darts have been shot instead. This data is collected via a proximity sensor, a device that can measure shorter distances than an ultrasonic sensor. Michael aimed the sensor towards the end of the barrel, attaching it with Blu-Tack.

View of Michael Darby's nerf gun proximity sensor

The number of shots left in the magazine is indicated by the seven LEDs above the Rainbow HAT’s alphanumeric display. The countdown works for more than seven darts, thanks to colour coding: the LEDs count down first in red, then in orange, and finally in green.

In a Python script running on the Pi, Michael has included a default number of shots per magazine. When he changes a magazine, he uses one of the HAT’s buttons as a ‘Reload’ button, resetting the counter. He has also set up the HAT so that the number of available shots can be entered manually instead.

Nerf gun modding tutorial

On Michael’s blog you will find a thorough step-by-step guide to how he created this build. He has also included his code, and links to all the components, software installation guides, and test scripts he has used. So head on over there if you’re keen to mod your own nerf gun like this, and take a look at some of his other projects while you’re there!

Michael welcomes suggestions for how to improve upon his mods, especially for how to count shots in a magazine automatically. Do you have an idea? Let usand himknow in the comments!

Toy mods

Over the years, we’ve covered quite a few fun toy upgrades, and some that may have to be approached with caution. The Pi-powered busy board for babies, the ‘weaponized’ teddy bear, and the inevitable smart Fisher Price phone are just a few from our archives.

What’s your favourite childhood toy, and how could it be improved by the addition of a Pi? Share your ideas with us in the comments below.

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Hunting for life on Mars assisted by high-altitude balloons

Will bacteria-laden high-altitude balloons help us find life on Mars? Today’s eclipse should bring us closer to an answer.

NASA Bacteria Balloons Raspberry Pi HAB Life on Mars

image c/o NASA / Ames Research Center / Tristan Caro

The Eclipse Ballooning Project

Having learned of the Eclipse Ballooning Project set to take place today across the USA, a team at NASA couldn’t miss the opportunity to harness the high-flying project for their own experiments.

NASA Bacteria Balloons Raspberry Pi HAB Life on Mars

The Eclipse Ballooning Project invited students across the USA to aid in the launch of 50+ high-altitude balloons during today’s eclipse. Each balloon is equipped with its own Raspberry Pi and camera for data collection and live video-streaming.

High-altitude ballooning, or HAB as it’s often referred to, has become a popular activity within the Raspberry Pi community. The lightweight nature of the device allows for high ascent, and its Camera Module enables instant visual content collection.

Life on Mars

image c/o Montana State University

The Eclipse Ballooning Project team, headed by Angela Des Jardins of Montana State University, was contacted by Jim Green, Director of Planetary Science at NASA, who hoped to piggyback on the project to run tests on bacteria in the Mars-like conditions the balloons would encounter near space.

Into the stratosphere

At around -35 degrees Fahrenheit, with thinner air and harsher ultraviolet radiation, the conditions in the upper part of the earth’s stratosphere are comparable to those on the surface of Mars. And during the eclipse, the moon will block some UV rays, making the environment in our stratosphere even more similar to the martian oneideal for NASA’s experiment.

So the students taking part in the Eclipse Ballooning Project could help the scientists out, NASA sent them some small metal tags.

NASA Bacteria Balloons Raspberry Pi HAB Life on Mars

These tags contain samples of a kind of bacterium known as Paenibacillus xerothermodurans. Upon their return to ground, the bacteria will be tested to see whether and how the high-altitude conditions affected them.

Life on Mars

Paenibacillus xerothermodurans is one of the most resilient bacterial species we know. The team at NASA wants to discover how the bacteria react to their flight in order to learn more about whether life on Mars could possibly exist. If the low temperature, UV rays, and air conditions cause the bacteria to mutate or indeed die, we can be pretty sure that the existence of living organisms on the surface of Mars is very unlikely.

Life on Mars

What happens to the bacteria on the spacecraft and rovers we send to space? This experiment should provide some answers.

The eclipse

If you’re in the US, you might have a chance to witness the full solar eclipse today. And if you’re planning to watch, please make sure to take all precautionary measures. In a nutshell, don’t look directly at the sun. Not today, not ever.

If you’re in the UK, you can observe a partial eclipse, if the clouds decide to vanish. And again, take note of safety measures so you don’t damage your eyes.

Life on Mars

You can also watch a live-stream of the eclipse via the NASA website.

If you’ve created an eclipse-viewing Raspberry Pi project, make sure to share it with us. And while we’re talking about eclipses and balloons, check here for our coverage of the 2015 balloon launches coinciding with the UK’s partial eclipse.

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Michael Reeves and the ridiculous Subscriber Robot

At the beginning of his new build’s video, YouTuber Michael Reeves discusses a revelation he had about why some people don’t subscribe to his channel:

The real reason some people don’t subscribe is that when you hit this button, that’s all, that’s it, it’s done. It’s not special, it’s not enjoyable. So how do we make subscribing a fun, enjoyable process? Well, we do it by slowly chipping away at the content creator’s psyche every time someone subscribes.

His fix? The ‘fun’ interactive Subscriber Robot that is the subject of the video.

Be aware that Michael uses a couple of mild swears in this video, so maybe don’t watch it with a child.

The Subscriber Robot

Just showing that subscriber dedication My Patreon Page: http://ift.tt/2vYa4Cg Personal Site: http://ift.tt/2tZV0ln Twitter: https://twitter.com/michaelreeves08 Song: Summer Salt – Sweet To Me

Who is Michael Reeves?

Software developer and student Michael Reeves started his YouTube account a mere four months ago, with the premiere of his robot that shines lasers into your eyes – now he has 110k+ subscribers. At only 19, Michael co-owns and manages a company together with friends, and is set on his career path in software and computing. So when he is not making videos, he works a nine-to-five job “to pay for college and, y’know, live”.

The Subscriber Robot

Michael shot to YouTube fame with the aforementioned laser robot built around an Arduino. But by now he has also be released videos for a few Raspberry Pi-based contraptions.

Michael Reeves Raspberry Pi Subscriber Robot

Michael, talking us through the details of one of the worst ideas ever made

His Subscriber Robot uses a series of Python scripts running on a Raspberry Pi to check for new subscribers to Michael’s channel via the YouTube API. When it identifies one, the Pi uses a relay to make the ceiling lights in Michael’s office flash ten times a second while ear-splitting noise is emitted by a 102-decibel-rated buzzer. Needless to say, this buzzer is not recommended for home use, work use, or any use whatsoever! Moreover, the Raspberry Pi also connects to a speaker that announces the name of the new subscriber, so Michael knows who to thank.

Michael Reeves Raspberry Pi Subscriber Robot

Subscriber Robot: EEH! EEH! EEH! MoistPretzels has subscribed.
Michael: Thank you, MoistPretzels…

Given that Michael has gained a whopping 30,000 followers in the ten days since the release of this video, it’s fair to assume he is currently curled up in a ball on the office floor, quietly crying to himself.

If you think Michael only makes videos about ridiculous builds, you’re mistaken. He also uses YouTube to provide educational content, because he believes that “it’s super important for people to teach themselves how to program”. For example, he has just released a new C# beginners tutorial, the third in the series.

Support Michael

If you’d like to help Michael in his mission to fill the world with both tutorials and ridiculous robot builds, make sure to subscribe to his channel. You can also follow him on Twitter and support him on Patreon.

You may also want to check out the Useless Duck Company and Simone Giertz if you’re in the mood for more impractical, yet highly amusing, robot builds.

Good luck with your channel, Michael! We are looking forward to, and slightly dreading, more videos from one of our favourite new YouTubers.

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Raspbian Stretch has arrived for Raspberry Pi

It’s now just under two years since we released the Jessie version of Raspbian. Those of you who know that Debian run their releases on a two-year cycle will therefore have been wondering when we might be releasing the next version, codenamed Stretch. Well, wonder no longer – Raspbian Stretch is available for download today!

Disney Pixar Toy Story Raspbian Stretch Raspberry Pi

Debian releases are named after characters from Disney Pixar’s Toy Story trilogy. In case, like me, you were wondering: Stretch is a purple octopus from Toy Story 3. Hi, Stretch!

The differences between Jessie and Stretch are mostly under-the-hood optimisations, and you really shouldn’t notice any differences in day-to-day use of the desktop and applications. (If you’re really interested, the technical details are in the Debian release notes here.)

However, we’ve made a few small changes to our image that are worth mentioning.

New versions of applications

Version 3.0.1 of Sonic Pi is included – this includes a lot of new functionality in terms of input/output. See the Sonic Pi release notes for more details of exactly what has changed.

Raspbian Stretch Raspberry Pi

The Chromium web browser has been updated to version 60, the most recent stable release. This offers improved memory usage and more efficient code, so you may notice it running slightly faster than before. The visual appearance has also been changed very slightly.

Raspbian Stretch Raspberry Pi

Bluetooth audio

In Jessie, we used PulseAudio to provide support for audio over Bluetooth, but integrating this with the ALSA architecture used for other audio sources was clumsy. For Stretch, we are using the bluez-alsa package to make Bluetooth audio work with ALSA itself. PulseAudio is therefore no longer installed by default, and the volume plugin on the taskbar will no longer start and stop PulseAudio. From a user point of view, everything should still work exactly as before – the only change is that if you still wish to use PulseAudio for some other reason, you will need to install it yourself.

Better handling of other usernames

The default user account in Raspbian has always been called ‘pi’, and a lot of the desktop applications assume that this is the current user. This has been changed for Stretch, so now applications like Raspberry Pi Configuration no longer assume this to be the case. This means, for example, that the option to automatically log in as the ‘pi’ user will now automatically log in with the name of the current user instead.

One other change is how sudo is handled. By default, the ‘pi’ user is set up with passwordless sudo access. We are no longer assuming this to be the case, so now desktop applications which require sudo access will prompt for the password rather than simply failing to work if a user without passwordless sudo uses them.

Scratch 2 SenseHAT extension

In the last Jessie release, we added the offline version of Scratch 2. While Scratch 2 itself hasn’t changed for this release, we have added a new extension to allow the SenseHAT to be used with Scratch 2. Look under ‘More Blocks’ and choose ‘Add an Extension’ to load the extension.

This works with either a physical SenseHAT or with the SenseHAT emulator. If a SenseHAT is connected, the extension will control that in preference to the emulator.

Raspbian Stretch Raspberry Pi

Fix for Broadpwn exploit

A couple of months ago, a vulnerability was discovered in the firmware of the BCM43xx wireless chipset which is used on Pi 3 and Pi Zero W; this potentially allows an attacker to take over the chip and execute code on it. The Stretch release includes a patch that addresses this vulnerability.

There is also the usual set of minor bug fixes and UI improvements – I’ll leave you to spot those!

How to get Raspbian Stretch

As this is a major version upgrade, we recommend using a clean image; these are available from the Downloads page on our site as usual.

Upgrading an existing Jessie image is possible, but is not guaranteed to work in every circumstance. If you wish to try upgrading a Jessie image to Stretch, we strongly recommend taking a backup first – we can accept no responsibility for loss of data from a failed update.

To upgrade, first modify the files /etc/apt/sources.list and /etc/apt/sources.list.d/raspi.list. In both files, change every occurrence of the word ‘jessie’ to ‘stretch’. (Both files will require sudo to edit.)

Then open a terminal window and execute

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get -y dist-upgrade

Answer ‘yes’ to any prompts. There may also be a point at which the install pauses while a page of information is shown on the screen – hold the ‘space’ key to scroll through all of this and then hit ‘q’ to continue.

Finally, if you are not using PulseAudio for anything other than Bluetooth audio, remove it from the image by entering

sudo apt-get -y purge pulseaudio*

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