Wednesday grab bag

Eben and I are travelling to Edinburgh today for the Turing Festival, a technology festival that runs at the same time as the Edinburgh Festival. Eben’s giving a talk on education and technology on Saturday; we’re very excited to be at the same event as Steve Wozniak, and hope to be eating many square sausages and black puddings.

So we’ll be rather absent from the internet today, because Edinburgh’s a long way away from Cambridge. Here are some bits and pieces to keep you occupied.

Maplin bundle

Maplin Raspberry Pi bundle

Maplin Raspberry Pi bundle. Click image to pre-order.

Maplin, the UK electronics company, are selling a Raspberry Pi bundle, which includes a Raspberry Pi and all the peripherals you might need to get started, from September. You can pre-order now if you want to get ahead of the crowd (orders are first-come, first-served), and they’ll arrive in stores next month. We think the kit will make a great Christmas present, especially if you know any young people who might have trouble rustling up things like wi-fi dongles and USB hubs on their own. For £69 you’ll get a Raspberry Pi, keyboard and mouse, an SD card pre-loaded with Raspbian, a powered USB hub, HDMI and USB cables, a power supply and a wi-fi dongle.

Super Turkey

Seven-year-old Philip, whom you may remember from last week, has spent another week programming in Scratch with his Raspberry Pi and has another game to show us. Dad tells me that Philip’s plush parrot, who features heavily in this video, doesn’t have a name yet: please leave suggestions in the comments!

We can’t get enough of videos and pictures like this at the Foundation. If you’re a proud parent with a Raspberry Pi-wielding kid, or if you’re a kid yourself, and you’ve got video or pictures you’d like us to share on this website, please mail me at [email protected] – we really like to remind ourselves and everybody else that this sort of thing is what the Raspberry Pi project is all about.

And some grown-ups have been working on stuff too…

You may have already read about Dave Hunt’s DSLR hack – it went viral last week. He’s embedded a Raspberry Pi in a camera battery grip, which allows him to wirelessly tether his camera to…well, whatever he’s got on his network. He’s been automatically pushing pictures to other devices, controlling the camera with networked objects (a smartphone, a PC), making it respond to a remote trigger, auto-saving pictures to a USB drive – the Raspberry Pi also works as an intervalometer, and he can use it to program aperture and exposure settings. He’s got big ideas for further development, too, with plans for an additional screen and an internal power supply. Here’s a video of the camera sending images to an iPad, with some example Perl script.

Off-the-shelf DSLR cameras with these kinds of functions typically run into the many thousands of pounds. Dave’s done it all with a $35 Raspberry Pi. More power to your thrifty, imaginative elbow, Dave.

And have you come across Nixie clocks? These cold-cathode tube clocks have been a bit of a web fetish for a little while now, but this one, from Martin Oldfield, is the first one I’ve seen being driven by a Raspberry Pi. I’m going to hack one of these together myself when I get some time; it’s a lovely looking thing, and putting one together at home is simpler than you’d think.

Nixie clock

Meanwhile, in Germany, a Cherry G80-3000 keyboard (one of those fabulous mechanical keyboards with a lovely clicky action, like my now-deceased IBM Model M but from this decade) has been hacked to contain a Raspberry Pi, hidden in some space under the function keys – a whole computer in a keyboard. I feel like we’ve seen this kind of thing before.

Raspcherry Pi

Please spread this Jam

The Raspberry Jams continue around the world – Milton Keynes, Bristol and Melbourne, Australia (which happened very shortly before I wrote this post on Tuesday night, so I don’t have any bloggy links about it yet), have seen Jams in the last few days. These events are a great way to meet other Raspberry Pi users, get a start if you’re a kid or just a grown-up who wants to learn about programming and electronics, and to show off your projects.

Raspberry Pi and something much bigger

Raspberry Pi and something much bigger. (It's an evaluation board from Heber, who sponsored the Bristol Raspberry Jam.)

Our good friend Alan “Teknoteacher” Donohoe, who does a phenomenal amount of work organising and promoting the Jams, maintains a page describing where and when all the Jams across the world are being held. We’re seeing venues as small as local cafes and venues as large as university auditoriums being used for groups of all sizes, and people aged from 14 to 70 setting the events up. The list is growing all the time; if there isn’t one near you yet, why not set one up yourself?



Sam avatar

What a great looking demo box, can you buy them? and what is in it?

liz avatar

Afraid I’ve got no idea! (When I saw that picture the first time I had to ask Twitter what the hell it was.) Hopefully someone who was at that Jam – there were over 100 people – will be able to step in here and help us out.

Matt Hawkins avatar

Its a Heber X10i interface card, with a lot of breakout connectors, controlled with a Raspberry Pi. The X10i is usually controlled via a USB interface and is used in fruit machines and vending machines. It allows companies to manufacture machines without worrying too much about the low level interfacing. Similar to the Gert board concept.

Nigel Brown avatar

More details here: http:// designed and manufactured in the UK.

Sam avatar

Cool, thanks, it looks a really Awesome, it’s got loads of stuff on it and some free software too.

Ryan Gallagher avatar

I’ve got a Model-M that was slated for that project, alas I knew someone would beat me to it! Nice!

liz avatar

Mine is the ONLY MODEL M IN THE WORLD to have failed terminally after having a cup of coffee poured into it. They’re usually bomb (and coffee) proof. I really should take it apart to have a poke around some time; it’s been in a drawer for about two years now.

MuddyDogs avatar

Thus are revolutions started :-)

Seriously – you guys must be sooooo pumped when you see the incredible directions people are going with this and the creativity you are unleashing. I’ll bet it never even crossed your wildest dreams that someone would be making a computer controlled DSLR when you started :-) But all of these things, the films, the games, the clocks, the cameras have one thing in common – imagination. You’ve given people a tool to make their dreams reality and they’ve started to play.

Long live the revolution !!

Trevor Johnson avatar

Thanks for mentioning the Bristol Jam – so great that Alan was there. But have you checked the rights on that photo of Heber’s suitcase? It’s credited to John (sic) Hurst, who was the Evening Post photographer. Jon Hurst mentioned he was off to shoot Dr Who after our Jam:

Ben avatar

Really loving the “grab bag” (for all sorts of reasons! thank you for answering my question on the right language with a superb example!); nice to see the connection between “Turing”, education and (hopefully…) TV made via Micro LIVE:

BBC News24 is not often frequented by children; albeit the “Click” (something not entirely aimed at children…) might be accessible of a weekend to those “in the know”!

I wonder if Eben and Steve watched this show back in 1984 (or were too busy doing it for real!): ? ;-)

Mark avatar

Seven-year-old Philip – wow what a great future you have in front of you as a game developer! Keep up your great work!

Nick avatar

Maplin bundle… wot no case?

Darren avatar

That would requires some effort on their part.

Tim Nicholls avatar

Maplin will likely be stocking 2 or 3 cases going forward so you can choose the one you want. We already have the Pibow up for pre-order, but since all of these have so far been ordered with the Raspberry Pi kit, we will likely hold off shipping them until the kits come in to stock. Nothing worse than having a house with no furniture ;-)

Rick avatar

I assume you wont actually be shipping the exact USB hub pictured? It’s known as being one of the worst, and has extremely erratic power to each port. Completely unsuitable given that you wont get any form of power over USB from the pi without the poly fuse going. Seriously. You’ve got 140mA to play with, so if you’re shipping USB hubs out, make sure it can get data AND power to at least 2 external hard drivers, or you’ll have (even more) customers displeased with your offering.

nelson avatar

I can confirm that, have one like that but with an extra port on the left of the led, that thing makes my keyboard go mad even on a “normal pc” and the blue led is so bright that even with black tape on top it bothers me at night (you can still see bright light coming from the usb sockets)

Tim Nicholls avatar

Rest assured, all component parts will have been fully tested for compatibility prior to shipment. Maplin are working closely with the Raspberry Pi foundation to ensure this is the case.

Daniel Barron avatar

Interesting, the N150. I have one of those and it won’t work on Raspbian for me.

Tim Nicholls avatar

Rest assured, all parts will have been fully tested for compatibility prior to shipment. Maplin are working closely with the Raspberry Pi foundation to ensure this is the case.

Daniel Barron avatar

Actually it was a different device to the one included in the bundle that I had problems with and it works great. Appologies for my incorrect statement.

Joe avatar

If you’re talking about Steve Wozniak, his last name doesn’t have a c in it.

liz avatar

Good spot – thanks. (I have been too busy listening to a cat singing the Game of Thrones music and trying to find my passport today to remember to spell. I recommend the cat. It’s got nothing to do with Raspberry Pi, but it’s a good reminder of what the internet is for.)

7F20 avatar

The Nixi Clock is awesome! Only problem is the case kit plus the PCB kit comes in at over $700 USD. :(
Not an impulse buy. sigh.

liz avatar


This saddens me. :(

scep avatar

I’ve been looking at making a nixie clock for some time. That one is expensive, yes – because it uses the HUGE IN-18 tubes (think the *numerals* themselves are c. 40mm high) which are say 30 quid each x 6 = £180. The boards and cases are cheap by comparison.

There’s lots of other relatively cheap options to build a nixie clock, e.g using inexspensive IN-12s — still retro, still gorgeous, still a talking point, still cool as….

Mark Pearson avatar

I’ve built a few Nixie clocks, and I can confirm that they are:
1) Very Cool
2) Very Expensive
3) Very Addictive

having said that there are some kits around that are not too expensive, and if you stick to the smaller russian tubes they can be reasonable cost. If anyone is interested I can point them at some suppliers (I have no commercial interest, just experience as a buyer) PM me.

It struck me that the published solution was a bit of overkill, just adding a GPS receiver would have done the same job for say £25 – but that’s hardly the point is it. we do things because they are cool, not because it is the simplest solution.

I’m working on an Arduino controlled Nixie clock at the moment, maybe I should reconsider…

lemiel avatar

Mark, could you say how much electricity power is taken by Nixie Clock?
Can you send more info about these russian tubes? I do not know how to PM you.

Mark Pearson avatar


Sorry – of course you can’t PM me – my fault I was thinking I was on the Forum.

There are lots of sellers of Nixie clock kits (Google and/or look on eBay to find them)
But these are established reputable suppliers – Reviews and write-up THE place to get obscure and rare tubes Wide range of Nixie tubes

Most clocks run of something like a 9v 250mA
supply – nothing too special – the kits will specify.

reiuyi avatar

There’s starter kits going as low as 100$ tubes included

You’ll get very small tubes of course

Ian Smith avatar

Re Maplin: for anyone kitting out a Raspberry Pi, I would urge them to use as much wireless as possible, ie, keyboard, mouse and network. The small size of the Pi puts it at the mercy of cables plugged into it.

Davespice avatar

Not too impressed with Maplin selling it in a bundle costing £70. Those peripherals are not really necessary and are probable marked up a bit. They’ve missed the point I think.

Stephen avatar

Not sure you can blame Maplins for marking up in a bundle, the guys have to make a profit and at the moment there is no reseller channel as I understand it. If it gets kit into the hands of people on the street who are daunted by buying something and then having to find all the parts to make it work then that must be a good thing ! And if they make some money and provide some jobs whilst doing it I fail to see the harm.

liz avatar

Hearty agree.

Davespice avatar

Well you’re welcome to that point of view Stephen. However my view is that most kids will probably have access to those peripherals already and therefore only need the Pi itself. I’m only moaning because it looks like they’re only selling it with the bundle. Maplin used to be really knowledgeable electronics retailer but over the years I have found them to have changed into a very middle of the road version of Dixons (imho). I do agree though that having the Pi on shelves in stores is clearly a good thing. I just disagree with them making you to buy it with the peripherals. I take the point about people who really are starting from scratch though, a bundle like this does remove a lot of worry for those people. Maplin might as well include a screen with the bundle in that case? If they offered a couple of bundle combinations as well as just the Pi on its own… I would not have spoken out, believe me. Both RS Components and Farnell are doing this, so I think my point is a fair one.

Darren avatar

I’m surprised Maplin are not including a ride on toy car and a set of disco lights in the bundle as that is about all they sell these days.

Stephen avatar

I understand what your saying David and I think they along with many retailers would happily sell the Pi on its own but at the moment in order to do so they’d need to sell it above the distribution price available from Element/RS in order to make it viable.

I predict the first retailer to do so will be accused of ripping people off. What is needed IMHO is a proper reseller channel for those willing to go out and sell the device actively and encourage adoption.

Just my 2p worth.

Davespice avatar

Fair comment mate =)

oxgoth avatar

Maplins selling a bundle. Perfect for someone like me: In their 30’s, relatively tech savy but time poor. I get to play with fun tech easily and with little hassle. Perfect. :D

TheTap avatar

I can recommend La Garrigue in Eyre Place , beside the station if you fancy a nice meal in Edinburgh, I had lunch there last week, it was very nice.

liz avatar

Thank you! Noted. :)

TheTap avatar

Apologies its actually in Jeffrey Street, beside the station, Eyre Place is their other in the new town.

Alan Jardine avatar

Re the Maplin bundle:

I was curious to find out if the WiFi dongle included in the bundle had actually bee tested with an RPi.

Here is my query and their reply:

Your FAQ Question: You are including this device in your package for the Raspberry Pi (RPi).Has Maplin actually validated it for use with the RPi? I already have an RPi, but need a WiFi dongle to enable it to connect to the Internet. Regards,Alan.


Thank you for contacting Maplin Technical Support,

The one in the Pi bundle is different, and one which we’re not stocking at the moment (hopefully will be soon!).

We have tested it, and it works absolutely fine.

I hope this helps and please do not hesitate to contact us with any additional queries you may have.


Andrew avatar

Liz you can buy new model Ms under the Unicomp name form

you can even get one that is of a smaller form factor, if you like mechanical keyboards i can also send you a dell AT102w i don’t use with tactile none clicky alps.

liz avatar

Thanks! I think I’ll just suck it down and buy another elderly (refurbed) Model M. :(

Andrew avatar
Miriam avatar

Hi. Was trying to order the bundle from Maplin and was registering with their store…got this message, “Please note we do not despatch to countries outside the UK, Channel Islands and Ireland.” I live in California. Be aware.

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