Reddit: what do people use their Pis for?

A thread about Raspberry Pi ended up on the front page of Reddit today, and it’s a doozy. There are thousands of people taking part, and some Pi projects mentioned that we’d never even imagined people taking on. Some of them made our little hearts swell with pride. Teaching machines for schools in Ecuador, prosthetic knees in the USA, musical instruments controlled by eye movements for disabled people, solar flare detection, wood engraving, pocket-money analyser – there’s something here for everyone.

You guys are brilliant. With your ideas and our tiny computer, we could get together to rule the universe. Bags I get to wear the hat with the diamonds.

(Update to add: Incidentally, the guy who says his friend disassembled a Pi and built a better one, so we gave him a job? Big fat liar.)


andybp avatar

My 16 year old son wanted to go to a party. I told him that if he could get the raspberry pi to email his request to me, using python, that he could go.

He went to the party.

liz avatar

You, sir, display some of the most exceptional parenting skills I’ve ever seen.

Matthew Smith avatar

Parenting Level 100!

andybp avatar

He’s now put the damn thing in a Cron job! Every friday night i get the same email, 7pm on the dot, whether there is a party or not.

Jason P avatar


CleoQc avatar

Sorry, but that was ROTFL-worthy.
Hey, he figured out cron, that gets a bonus!

Dave Akerman avatar

Ah excellent :-). That kid will go far!

dennis Meulensteen avatar

Serves you right for not defining the project scope properly ;-)

Jim Manley avatar

Necessity can be such a mother, can’t it? ;)

This is definitely motivation! I will be teaching a computing STEM course this afternoon and will challenge my students to see if they can figure out how to do this. Of course, then I’ll be on the hook for throwing them a party, but they’ve already got so many scheduled through the end of the school year during the next two weeks that they might not even notice if we never got around to it (yeah, right, never underestimate a teenager’s ability to remember stuff like a party being promised).

andybp avatar

Im now toying with the idea of a locked old fridge, with a couple of beers in it, a raspberry pi, a servo connected to the lock, and access to google.

If he figures it out how to control the GPIO/ servo, to open the fridge lock- he gets a beer. if he doesnt, i do :-)

Pete avatar

There’s quite an active Raspberry Pi subreddit (handy if you want to avoid all the cat memes*)

*only because it’s very easy to get distracted by the many pictures of cats

Gert van Loo avatar

This may sound strange but I like this remark: “I have plenty of ideas but I don’t seem to get around to doing anything with it, Thank God it is so cheap I can throw it away in a few years when I still have not done anything with it.” To me that shows exactly what a good product it is.

liz avatar

We can never, never blog that. :P

Matthew Smith avatar

A real life howard wolowitz!

The Other Peter Green avatar

What popped into my head was Milo O’Shea and his “Excessive Machine” from Barbarella

Ashley Basil avatar

I was going to say something about beta testing but Liz would kill me.

tzj avatar

I must say that, that dude deserves a medal.

Sure hope it has a logging system.

Evensteven avatar

If the wife ever moans about the amount of time or money you spend on your projects just make her one of these and she’ll probably never complain again, win win :)

Patrick avatar

I would say vid or it didn’t happen! :P

John avatar

I won’t mention any of the details, but in general terms what did the RPi team think of the reddit post on that thread that could NEVER be posted on this blog, even though it was quite ingenious? :)

Matthew Smith avatar

It disturbed me greatly, but i admire the guys skills. And they say love and computers don`t mix!

BaSH PR0MPT avatar

If anyone here would like to send their Raspbrery Pi to space, email me and tell me some kind of awesome research your Pi will conduct at the edge of the atmosphere and I will include it in my prototype hobbyist (although I’ve sold quite a few to research companies at cost, and given free rides to researchers everywhere saving them millions in hyperinflated fees making ‘space’ far more accessible (my academic objective)) suborbital spacecraft.

Also, add me on Twitter, @bashpr0mpt, you can tell me about your cool science experiment there too. The limit will be 3 Pi’s in cargo, and should we get enough interest to warrant terms these will be negotiated ad hoc to try and let as many people cash in on this opportunity as I humanly and financially can.

JamesH avatar

Would it possible to have a look at this suborbital craft? I follow these things and would be interested see how you have approached the problem.

BaSH PR0MPT avatar

You make it sound like we’ve solved a problem! I think playing with anything edge-of-space is ongoing problems alone! We have three vehicles at present, but we’re working on building a modular system that should allow hobbyists as well as researchers to access extremely cheap (including DIY instructions, touch wood) multi-rack systems.

At present we’re struggling with getting altimeter control given Australia’s crazy legislation post-9/11, where GPS units capable of measuring above a certain altitude or speed are confiscated by customs. If this weren’t a hobby, the solution would be to move overseas like many of Australia’s most recent inventors (Bullet Storm springs to mind!) where the laws are less … pathological, perhaps?

Shoot me off an email. We’re working on getting a site up covering our mad scientist endeavors too if you’d rather wait and get the same level of detail with pretty photographs! Whichever best suits you. :)

BaSH PR0MPT avatar

Just an update; we’re actually considering using raspberry pi’s as controllers for the whole kit and kaboodle. As well as including a modular pi rack mount system on our final retail craft. So if you’re a pi developer who is down for some no-pay no-glory but sending fellow nerds random stuff into space type endeavor like the rest of us, email me.

At present remuneration packages include offers of kidneys, and / or first borns. Who knows, perhaps Raspberry Pi themselves might take an interest in helping us? Or at least saving us paying heavy price increases on hardware due to our geographic location. Here’s hoping! :)

Dave Akerman avatar

Well, I’m guessing a pic of the sub-orbital vehicle that you’ve “sold quite a few to research companies at cost” will satisfy his request.

PJC avatar

Just added my project to the list.

mahjongg avatar

Its getting ridiculous, far too many posts to read! Even when you don’t read any of the comments!

Ashley Basil avatar

off topic, now Liz Will KILL me.

liz avatar

It’s Necomimi, a brainwave-operated set of cat ears, which droop when you’re sad. The guy who invented them is working on the cutest Pi-operated robot in the world, which will also be a commercial product.

(If that was the most embarrassing picture of me in Japan you could find, you’re not trying hard enough!)

RMW5 avatar

I think you will find that should be “nekomimi”. I learnt Japanese in night school 25 years ago. Sadly one of the few words I still remember is the Japanese for cat.

AndyLion avatar

Actually I believe the product is indeed called NecoMimi, with the co being short for communication or somesuch. :)

liz avatar

The inventor calls it NecoMimi – it’s a pun, don’t you know. (I’m guessing his Japanese is better than yours or mine, what with his being Japanese and all that.)

F avatar

Since it can be left on all the time it is the perfect administrative console, with instant access anytime.

Cydermaster avatar

Love the comment about turning the Pi into a time travel machine by applying 1.21GW to GPIO pin 27 – wonder how long it’ll be before Adafruit bring out a flux capacitor add-on board :)

Chris avatar

I’ve been working on building my own retro game console around it, I have it booting AdvanceMAME and I have two USB Classic joysticks hooked up to it from this place:

Would like to try putting everything into a home built arcade cabinet next.

Patrick avatar

I can’t believe how far the Raspberry Pi has come. I remember just over a year when my computer teacher showed my your website. I was amazed and had to get one when it came out.
Oh, and I laughed at the last part of this post. Somebody claimed to have disassembled the pi and built a better one? That doesn’t even make sense. First, the Pi is just a PCB with parts soldered on and some BGA mounted chips. There’s nothing to disassemble! Also, sure you could make it better with a faster processor and more RAM, but that’s not the point of the Pi. The Pi is perfect just as it stands.

RM avatar

I have it running Samba and serving up 2 TB of video files to a hacked AppleTV running XBMC.
A pair of 2TB USB hard drives, one serving up files, and a cron job to rsync to the other USB drive once a day.

Works even better than I hoped.

Werewolf avatar

Have you thought about using btrfs with the two usb drives? Making a vol that’s data is mirrored?
I use a usb 3terabyte with my samba/raspberrypi setup but just as a straight data storage, no reduncacy.


balaji avatar

My pi is running ubuntu connected to a 1TB hdd. Basically I use it as a media server and for downloading stuffs as I can put a script or download stuffs from torrents.

It primarily serves as cheap network storage device in my case. The only thing I am bit concerned about is the wireless network, as all my data can be accessed if my wireless is compromised.

Edwinj85 avatar

I’ve been doing a fair few things with mine, but mostly the usual stuff:

pfarq avatar

I’m sorry I missed this post. I think I can get close to that guy.

I ended up using one to build a custom replacement for our hot tub controller. The tub is a typical six seater portable model with a 2.2 kW massage pump, 2 kW heater and an air blower. It’s about 10 years old, and had a pretty bare bones controller which ran an hourly filtration and heat cycle. It had no clock, no scheduling, and basically just sucked electricity down at a fixed and increasingly alarming rate pretty much all day and night.

The controller eventually died, and rather than pay a whole stack of cash to get one that was going to cost a whole stack more in energy bills, I built an energy efficient two tiered control system.

The low level controller is an arduino clone using one of the excellent state machine libraries, and is piggy-backed onto the old controller’s sensors (dallas 1-wire temperature sensor, opto-coupled current sensing etc), as well as driving the relays. I re-implemented the original controllers safety features verbatim – although it was a power hog, it was designed extremely well.

The arduino also handles all the scheduling, and I optimised the filtration duty cycles etc. to make the best use of off peak rates, and keep the pump and heater running times to an absolute minimum.

The arduino is connected to a Pi running Arch Linux, which acts as a high level supervisor to the arduino. It is running a reactor style server written in ruby, which enables direct communication between the arduino and an iPhone. The tub is in a gazebo in the middle of the back yard, so is connected via Wi-Fi, although this can be a bit dicey as the pump causes massive current inrush which can ‘disorient’ the Pi pretty easily. The two tiered system ensures that if the Pi freaks out for any reason, the arduino will continue on, blissfully unaware.

The iPhone App has a simple interface which displays the current temperature, relay states, error codes, and enables you to change the various operation states, and set the desired temperature. It’s not ideal, because the iPhone’s not exactly designed to be used under water, but I haven’t gotten around to building a water friendly interface. We’re a Mac household, so it broadcasts its ssh service using avahi, using the hostname, “bubbles.local” ;)

The Pi also provides an RTC service to the arduino, because I haven’t gotten around to adding one of those either. The arduino will not start running the pump etc., until it has received a valid time sync command from the Pi. The Pi doesn’t have an RTC either, so it needs to have a valid time from an NTP server before it issues the command. This thing is expensive to run, and so a 12 hr offset thanks to a spontaneous reboot (a Pi specialty) would make it very, very expensive to run.

Now, I don’t think I can best that guy with all the feedback stuff (might be difficult to get a reading in the water), but I have actually achieved very similar results ;)… mine’s got venturi action you see. I also have the whole “come to clean the pool” thing going on, but no moustache.

So where’s the sauce?? I was originally going to post the code, as these sorts of things are notoriously closed and black-boxy, but I think that would be extremely unwise. I really can’t emphasise this enough… DO NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES try this sort of thing at home. This is not a 5V, 100mA sort of project, which you can usually lick without feeling even a tingle. This is bunch of high current devices pushing large amounts of water around, and – if you’re not extremely careful – potentially directly into said high current devices.

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