Wednesday grab bag

Another post in an occasional series on the cool stuff people have been doing with their Pis. Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday – total disorganisation on our part. The event we were at yesterday (at which we won a paperweight proclaiming that Eben is Cambridge’s most influential business person, a rather phallic award, and a box of chocolates – hurray chocolates) went on for longer than we’d expected, we didn’t get to do half the things we were meaning to before the end of the day, and we are reminded that it’s probably getting close to time to hire some admin staff, because this diary is becoming a MONSTER.

First up, some competition news. PA Consulting is sponsoring a series of prizes for UK teams. The task is to make something that will make the world a better place, using a Raspberry Pi – you can enter hardware projects or software projects. There are categories for several different age groups from primary school through to university and beyond; this is a competition that adults can enter too. The schools prizes are a generous £1000; for other categories, prizes range from internships to cash prizes. And the first 200 teams to enter will get a free Raspberry Pi – what could be nicer? Read the rules and enter here.

PA Consulting banner

In other competition news, if you submitted an entry to our own Summer Coding Contest (which we’re judging at the moment – we had a lot of really excellent and complicated entries, so it’ll take us another couple of weeks to get through them all), you should have received an acknowledgement email from us. If you haven’t, please email [email protected].

Yesterday, we learned about the first ever Raspberry Pi supercomputer. A group at Southampton University led by Professor Simon Cox has, with the help of six-year-old son James Cox (the team’s LEGO specialist), built a supercomputer out of Raspberry Pis, a bajillion cables and an awful lot of LEGO. You can read all about it here, and learn how to make your own. Obviously, this is probably not the most economical way to get bang for your MIPS, but it’s a really lucid way to explain how a supercomputer works, and we love it.

Cox pere et fils, and a supercomputer

Prof Cox and James, and the biggest Bramble we’ve seen yet

The Raspberry Pi isn’t just getting a foothold in UK universities. This morning, I was sent this video from the IIIT in Bangalore, an Indian university specialising in information technology. Students there have been making an informational video about setting up the Raspberry Pi. Over to them:

Meanwhile, back in Europe, Ponnuki has a clever little hack to turn a Kindle into a Raspberry Pi e-ink display. E-ink’s something we’ve been very interested in at the Foundation. This kind of very readable low-power display is a really good option for environments where power hard to come by: battery-powered portable systems, solar-powered systems which need a display in out-of-the-way places, and set-ups in developing countries, can really benefit from this sort of technology. You won’t be able to watch video with these refresh rates, but most desktop-type applications are very usable. Right now, it’s very hard to buy such a display as a consumer – they’re usually part of an e-reader device, and even if you’re lucky enough to be able to source one independently, they’re very expensive. We’re watching the sector with interest, and we’re hoping to see prices come down and availability increase – we’re aware of a few companies who are doing really interesting work in this area. But until then, we rather like Ponnuki’s solution.

Raspberry Pi with Kindle as display

Kindleberry Pi. Click the image for instructions on setting up your own.



S2333 avatar

That e-Ink display is awesome. I would love a laptop that could last 3 weeks on battery.

Heater avatar

The link to the kindle eink for Rasperry Pi does not work.

Gabriel avatar

That would be a billion time more usefull than a raspberry pi with 4-core 2Ghz + 2Go ram.
And ecologic.
Great project :)

Angel Padilla avatar


Is anyone contacting the NutJob Steve, the “student”, “Journalist” “Jew” about the competition? Maybe he can submit for the first 200 and finally get his RPi! LOL

liz avatar

Oddly, we’ve heard nothing from Steve recently. Can’t think why.

Holmes avatar

From the terms and conditions…
“By entering, all entrants grant an irrevocable, perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide non-exclusive licence to reproduce, distribute, and display their entry to PA Consulting Group and the Raspberry Pi Foundation.”

Seems a very broad rights grab there, if it had just been for promotional purposes then fine (it would/should state that if its the case) but if you do end up making a commercially viable product (which is judged) then PA could sell it and you’ve just been paid by a /chance/ to win £1000?

Ben avatar

Agree, could you expand / clarify if this is actually the case of if a lawyer just went a little OTT on the T&C’s

Tom avatar

isn’t that how all those competitions work? Come up with a great idea and win 1,000$…
Hey, they just crowd-sourced their R&D ;-)

Peter avatar

Love the supercomputer. 3 Weeks battery life could be very cool for a laptop, even if you couldn’t watch videos.

Allen H avatar

Hello Liz,
The 8×8 RPi “SuperComputer” that Prof. Cox and team put together is really an interesting project. I can’t wait to start my own “SuperComputer” project. Yes, I know from a performance perspective, it’s ridiculous. But so what, it looks like fun. I also like the Lego frame he and his son built to hold all the RPis. Is it just co-incidental that the RPi is just the right size to work with the block sizes available in a Lego kit or was it a case of “intelligent” design? Either way, it’s cool to see how RPi and Lego get along.
Best regards,
Allen H. in sunny San Diego, CA

Gert van Loo avatar

Yes, when we decided on the size of the board and the placement of all the connectors we made sure we had a number of Lego bricks to hand and moved all the parts around till it fitted! :-)

Tom avatar

Well it’s for educational purposes. Setting up a cluster, installing the software, setting different master/slave/fall-back configurations, programming it. Looks like it exactly serves the purpose it was meant for.

Tony "pyTony" Veijalainen avatar

Hope you have good tools to suspend the graphics on the SoC as it looks there is awfull lot of GPU and video/sound system including the connectors that are unused in the supercomputer teaching system. If you could have a tool to use GPU for other processing like the PC graphics cards these days, the system would become totally another kind of beast.

Tom avatar

was thinking the same thing.
If you could harness the GPU, might be a (couple of) factor(s) faster.

Jaseman avatar
Ingramator avatar

We’ve exhausted the bandwidth!!

Fergus Byrne avatar

Ohh No!

W. H. Heydt avatar

The Register and Ars Technica have both picked up the article on the Pi “supercomputer”, and Groklaw (!) made a newspick out of the Ars Technica article.

One wag in the Ars Technica comments quipped that now we know why Pis are so hard to hold of….

nelson avatar

Well yeah some people are buying a lot of PIs, and for what? A crappy “supercomputer” with a lot of restraints for the students to try figure out a way to work around and we just can’t seem to be able to buy one for our living room.

Warning: The sarcasm is strong in this one, I mean it’s not like the foundation is here to teach kids or something.

Wombat avatar

nelson… not sure where you from but here in the UK I ordered a 3rd PI on monday this week, and it arrived in this mornings post!

I might enen enter its use in the computition to see if i get an envirmoental prize as it will be controlling my pools solar panels and filter pump to max the solar heat and reduce the time the pump is running to the absolute minimum. Replacing the current PIC controller that was due a software update.

nelson avatar

I warned it was a sarcastic post, got mine in less than 2 weeks, even with a full week mail time

Banibrata Dutta (@edgeliving) avatar

Aren’t you guys lucky ? My check with Element14 told me that it’d be a 2-3 month lead-time, and RS Comp informed me of a nearly 4 month lead-time (delivery in December). India is not that from UK. Mouser and TI send me stuff from US, which reaches me on 2nd or 3rd day.

meltwater avatar

Unfortunately “Jail break” and my wife’s kindle isn’t going to cut it!
I have been forbidden to hack it in anyway (and I would advice anyone to only hack their own unless you like sleeping on the sofa…). VNC via android tablet and phone will do me instead. Still, excellent work!
Fingers crossed about the eink availability, just hope the big players don’t have them all tied up in tape to avoid too many low cost versions being made. You’d think with some eink devices as low a £50 the screens would be do able.

The super pi looks great, that is a lot of GPU power there!

Banibrata Dutta (@edgeliving) avatar

e-Ink displays (EPDs) are something that can be done at RasPi scale (or Kindle scale). They can’t be done at even Gertboard scale, forget individual buyers. It is a heavily monopolised market, and the e-Ink technology IPRs are making sure that there is little (or no) competition. If the foundation can actually actively engage with e-Ink Holdings, and discuss matters at an interesting scale, things could potentially happen.

As such, EPDs are very interesting, but the lack of acceptable video quality refresh-rates, would limit the market appeal. Having said that, I can think of a very large number of usecases for EPD, predominantly thanks to the battery life.

Swartzkip avatar

Don’t forget about sun/outdoor readability. I saw a kindle hack for navigation instrument display in sailboat. Thats a very nice application!

Banibrata Dutta (@edgeliving) avatar

Absolutely. Lot of other “field applications”, right from smart-meter readers, information kiosks to a bunch of applications for the rural hamlets in many developing countries, which are always struggling to get just enough electricity. Also, last I checked video on EPD was not terribly unusable, for instance at low frame-rates, with limited motion.

Adrian Moisey avatar

Now I know why it takes to long to order R Pis. Someone else ordered way too many!

John Macdonald avatar

Not the first supercomputer to cost an arm and a lego

Paul avatar

Put the automatic translation on from the indian lady. It’s hilarious.

killor avatar

Supercomputer! … :-)
next step ….
Connecting them in “the cloud” …
the power of “the hive of Raspberries” ….
I think raspberries Pi will give much to talk about now …
Do not know if you know but I think
“You are revolutionizing the world” …
THANK’S In all, the foundation for this “great little push”. ;-))

Marc avatar

Wow, 64 processors. Sounds like a BEATLES song lyric.

beta-tester avatar

your big SuperComputer RaspberryPi is awesome…
and i thought i was going mad with my 4 RPi “MicroTower” … after yours, i had to rename my from “BigTower” to “MicroTower” … ;)

Mark avatar

Looking at the “Bramble” it highlights a need for “Power over Ethernet”.

Actually, a little hardware device that pulls power of the ethernet, regulates it and shoves it down a rat’s tail into the USB power “in” on the “Pi” while letting through the ethernet connections “sans power” into the “Pi” ethernet port might be a way forward… We could call it a “Rat’s Arse”…

I’m sure someone’s already thought of that though… Anyone?


Alan Jardine avatar

Nice tower.

I’ve just ordered my second Raspberry Pi to start parallel computing. I may end up buyimg a machine a month…

I notice that Professor Cox uses Fortran – a language I haven’t used in years. Got me installing the compiler on my Pi and practising my DO loops!


Pawel avatar

regarding to information about :Prof Cox and James.
What about information from sales companies to restrict sales only one RasberryPi to one person. I’m waiting for my ordered and payed RarberryPi from a long time . My delivery was moved two times. This is not fair !!!

liz avatar

If you’ve been reading this blog, our forums, the distributors’ websites, the news (it was in several newspapers, let alone the tech press) or our Twitter feed, you’ll know that the one per person limit was relaxed back in July.

Pawel avatar

I have order RasberryPi in may ….. and i have not recive it yet.

juanRIOT avatar

Kindleberry, the word sounds very nice to the ears.

Tony "pyTony" Veijalainen avatar

Raspberry inspired single board parallel processing board project was launched in kickstarter:

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