Thursday grab bag


Example GUI

Want to control the temperature of your barbecue, smoker, firepit or clambake over a web interface? Here’s the Raspberry Pi-powered HeaterMeter. Bryan Mayland says:

HeaterMeter for RaspberryPi joins an Arduino / AVR ATmega328 microcontroller with OpenWrt running on a RaspberryPi $35 wonder-computer for the purpose of providing oven-like control of a charcoal BBQ grill via web interface. The microcontroller controls a fan which limits airflow to the pit, displays the current status on a character LCD, and passes the data on to the RaspberyPi which streams real-time updates to connected web browsers. The website also works on mobile browsers running Android or iOS, allowing users to unchain themselves from their grills and partake in many life-enriching activities such as

  • Going to the grocery store to buy more beer
  • Going to a bar to drink more beer
  • Not get off the couch, where your beer is
  • Possibly other non-beer related hobbies


Dean Ellis has got Monogame running on his Pi. There are details of exactly what hacks he’s used to get it running so well on the YouTube page that this video comes from.

Monogame is an open source implementation of the Microsoft XNA 4 Framework – and it gives us all kinds of ideas about game development on the Pi. You can read some more about Dean and his Pi here.

Make Yourself at Home

We’ve been seeing a lot of visual artists using the Raspberry Pi in their installations. Whether you’re driving video or if you want to drive something with wheels, the Pi offers artists a much cheaper way of getting to their goals than the old “borrow someone’s old laptop” model. We’ve seen Pis being used in the Tate Gallery’s new Tanks in London; we’ve seen them being used in installations at Milton Keynes shopping centre. Most recently, I’ve heard from Martin Beha, who was working on the electronics side of an installation by Austrian artist Robert F Hammerstiel in Hannover. He used Raspberry Pis to  make three lawnmower robots talk to each other. (You can see them from about two minutes into this video.) The result is curiously charming.

Make Yourself at Home

Click for more on the installation

Martin says:

The communication is established through Wireless LAN. One of the Robots is configured as a server and delivers a (completely wrong but usable) time via NTP for synchronisation. It also calculates the start time for the audio files and delivers it to the other robots via SSH and “at”. The audio is taken directly from the analog output and is amplified by an 18W amplifier module. The sound quality is quite satisfactory for speech.

The devices are powered by a second battery because the manufacturer of the lawn mower robot has built in a function that monitors if additional current is taken from the main battery and stops the robot. The 5V is generated by DC/DC-Converters for car use. Other included circuits are for example a differential amplifier against an audio ground loop and a deep discharge protector.

I chose the Raspberry Pi for reasons of flexibility, size and because there was a very limited budget. The original plan was to communicate via Bluetooth Class 1 dongles and rfcomm to get a virtual serial connection. Because of several bugs in Bluetooth I could not connect the devices and decided to choose Wi-Fi as an alternative. Depending on different (resistor) jumper settings on the GPIO-Port, the RPIs recognize their conversation role after startup and play the right file. The jumper also defines the role as server or client. So I was able to use the same SD-Card image for all robots.

The actual audio files are mp3s of a dialogue about the sense of a robot’s life, spoken by three TV announcers of Austrian national television (Austrians will surely recognize their voices).

 STEM – training the teachers

There was a big Raspberry Pi event in Manchester last week, where a large group (including our very own Pete Lomas, accurately described by as “charismatic“) came together for a CPD/networking event for teachers at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Pete Lomas

Krisma? Bags of it.

We’re not alone in recognising that there’s a lot to be done before a new Computing syllabus arrives at schools next year in helping teachers out of the old ICT mindset and showing them how easy starting with the Pi can be. We’re really pleased to see how seriously teachers are taking the Raspberry Pi, and, as always, incredibly grateful to STEMNET for their tireless volunteering. This was the first of a series of events, where teachers were learning how to use the Pi with Manchester University’s Pi Face, getting to grips with Scratch and Python, and working on cross-curricular activities with the Raspberry Pi. A number of STEM ambassadors from industry also attended, doing that support and mentorship thing that STEMNET does so well. (I don’t think I’ve been to a single Raspberry Pi event that hasn’t been attended by at least one STEM ambassador.) We’d like to thank every one of them, and all of the teachers who are working so hard on getting to grips with a new piece of kit – we’re very grateful.

Jude’s cardboard case

Pete Wood from DesignSpark put me onto this most excellent little series of tutorial videos from Jude Pullen. Jude is a fan of cardboard. Having watched this, so am I!


Stephen Scott avatar

Wow – a BBQ Micro then!

Some very nice examples here.

liz avatar

Badoom tish!

Stephen Scott avatar

Don’t fear – I won’t give up the day job – that’s my one joke for this decade… probably :-)

Sander avatar

What device is stacked on the Pi that Pete is holding? What does it do and where can I get one?

Martin avatar

Thanks for mentioning the project!
In case you are near Hannover at the moment, the installation “Make Yourself At Home” can be visited only until Sunday, 28th of October at Kunsthalle Faust. Visitors are very welcome!

Martyn Jones avatar

It’s PiFace board developed by Dr. Andrew Robinson at Manchester University. It gives safe ‘buffered’ access to the Pi’s input and output facilities and even provides two relays. The latest version has a row of surface mount LEDs to indicated the status of each pin on the output port as well as jumpers to disable the relays when not in use.

It works via SPI rather than GPIO and so is not affected by the recent board revisions to GPIO. At £30 it’s not exactly cheap, but it’s very quick to set up and simple to use via Python and Scratch provided you download your Debian image with PiFace libraries already installed using their website:

I bet this photo with Pete Lomas holding a RPi with a PiFace installed does sales a world of good! Nice to meet Pete and Andrew at the IET meeting at MMU last Thursday.

Rad avatar

Most game engines are either 2D or 3D – XNA (monogame) does both.

Resources –
Tutorials –

Also monogame can use most existing xna libraries, tools, tutorials and books.

The mono runtime allows the same compiled program to run on multiple systems (e.g. windows, linux, mac and Raspberry Pi). No need to repeatedly recompile for different platforms. So a mono program developed on windows will run on the raspberry pi (as long as it has the mono runtime installed).

juanRIOT avatar

Going to the grocery store to buy more beer
Going to a bar to drink more beer
Not get off the couch, where your beer is
Possibly other non-beer related hobbies

Made me smile, Liz

Chewy avatar

Surely the STEM article is worthy of more than a bottom slot in a grab bag ? After all education is your raison d’être.

I find this most frustrating, whatever other criticisim I might level at you is merely incidental observation next to getting the emphasis on education first. Come on guys, pick it up.

psergiu avatar

I always tought that for light pipes you need some special (polarized or something) plastic. Nice to know that i can use any-ol’ transparent piece.

Viljo Viitanen avatar

Well, not “any”, you need to have light inside the pipe reflect (that’s what makes it a light pipe…) The polishing does that.

Jude avatar

Yup – it’s all about the sanding/polishing.
You might like to take a look at this too:
Although this is a really clever application for developing countries (and perhaps developed too) using water and chlorine in a coke bottle:

AndrewS avatar

“Going to the grocery store to buy more beer”
Huh? Surely a RaspberryPi-powered BBQ tastes best with RaspberryPi-powered beer? :)

All while your RaspberryPi-powered lawnmower keeps your garden looking tidy, of course!

I wonder if we’ll start seeing more “RaspberryPi Inside” stickers on things than “Intel Inside” stickers… ;-)

pd avatar

The board Pete Lomas is pictured with looks like 50% Raspi, 50% something else. FrankenRaspi? What is it? The USB, Ethernet, HDMI and SD card, baby blue 3.5 jack and RCA sections look the same, but what about the rest? Where’s the GPIO pins gone? What are all those white headers and the extra LEDs and … do I spy with my little eye, something beginning with Raspberry C?

pd avatar

Whoops, I should have read the rest of the comments first!


Martyn Jones avatar


Jude avatar

Hi Liz,
Thanks for posting about Design Modelling. Glad you enjoyed it.
It’ll be interesting to think up what to do next – any suggestions??
I’ll be at GEEKlates with loads of other hackers and what not – in London on 2nd Feb, if you are interested in having a go with card and other stuff.

jude avatar

Sorry – 1st November, for Geeklates.
2nd Nov. is Design-Athon, which should also be great =)

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