Scott Hanselman

Turn your Raspberry Pi into a portable Touchscreen Tablet with SunFounder's RasPad

March 20, '18 Comments [4] Posted in Hardware | Open Source
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RasPadI was very fortunate to get a preview version of the "RasPad" from SunFounder. Check it out at https://raspad.sunfounder.com/ and at the time of these writing they have a Kickstarter I'm backing!

I've written a lot about Raspberry Pis and the cool projects you can do with them. My now-10 and 12 year olds love making stuff with Raspberry Pis and we have at least a dozen of them around the house. A few are portable arcades (some quite tiny PiArcades), one runs PiMusicBox and is a streaming radio, and I have a few myself in a Kubernetes Cluster.

I've built Raspberry Pi Cars with SunFounder parts, so they sent me an early evaluation version of their "RasPad." I was familiar with the general idea as I'd tried (and failed) to make something like it with their 10" Touchscreen LCD for Raspberry Pi.

At its heart, the RasPad is quiet elegant and simple. It's a housing for your Raspberry Pi that includes a battery for portable use along with an integrated touchscreen LCD. However, it's the little details where it shines.

RasPad - Raspberry Pi Touchscreen

It's not meant to be an iPad. It's not trying. It's thick on one end, and beveled to an angle. You put your RaspberryPi inside the back corner and it sits nicely on the plastic posts without screws. Power and HDMI and are inside with cables, then it's one button to turn it on. There's an included power supply as well as batteries to run the Pi and screen for a few hours while portable.

RasPad ports are extensive

I've found with my 10 year old that this neat, organized little tablet mode makes the Pi more accessible and interesting to him - as opposed to the usual mess of wires and bare circuit boards we usually have on my workbench. I could see a fleet of RasPads in a classroom environment being far more engaging than just "raw" Pis on a table.

The back of the RasPad has a slot where a GPIO Ribbon cable can come out to a breakout  board:

GPIO slot is convenient

At this point you can do all the same cool hardware projects you can do with a Raspberry Pi, with all the wires, power, touchscreen, ports, and everything nice and sanitary.

The inside hatch is flexible enough for other boards as well:

Raspberry Pi or TinkerBoard

I asked my 10 year old what he wanted to make with the RasPad/Raspberry Pi and he said he wanted to make a "burglar alarm" for his bedroom. Pretty sure he just wants to keep the 12 year old out of his room.

We started with a Logitech 930e USB Webcam we had laying around. The Raspberry PI can use lots of off-the-shelf high-quality web cams without drivers, and the RasPad keeps all the USB ports exposed.

Then we installed the "Motion" Project. It's on GitHub at https://github.com/Motion-Project/motion with:

sudo apt-get install motion

Then edited /etc/motion/motion.conf with the nano editor (easier for kids then vim). You'll want to confirm the height and width. Smaller is easier on the Pi, but you can go big with 1280x720 if you like! We also set the target_dir to /tmp since motion's daemon doesn't have access to ~/.

There's a number of events you can take action on, like "on_motion_detected." We just added a little Python script to let people know WE SEE YOU"

It's also cool to set location_motion_style to "redbox" so you can see WHERE motion was detected in a frame, and be sure to set stream_localhost to "off" so you can hit http://yourraspberrypiname:8081 to see the stream remotely!

When motion is detected, the 10 year old's little Python script launches:

GET OUT OF MY ROOM

And as a bonus, here is the 10 year old trying to sneak into the room. Can you spot him? (The camera did)

IMG_3389

What would you build with a RaspberryPi Tablet?

BTW, there's a Community Build of the .NET Core SDK for Raspberry Pi!


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Building a Raspberry Pi Car Robot with WiFi and Video

January 29, '18 Comments [7] Posted in Hardware | Open Source
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The SunFounder Raspberry Pi Car kit comes wtih everything you need except the 18650 batteries. You'll need to get those elsewhere.Last year I found a company called SunFounder that makes great Raspberry Pi-related kits and stuff. I got their Raspberry Pi 10" Touchscreen LCD and enjoyed it very much. This month I picked up the SunFounder PiCar 2.0 kit and built it with the kids. The kit includes everything you need except for the Raspberry Pi itself, a mini SD Card (the Pi uses that as  hard drive), and two 18650 rechargeable lithium batteries. Those batteries are enough to power both the Pi itself (so the car isn't tethered) as well as provide enough voltage to run the 3 servos AND motors to drive and steer the car around. You can also expand the car with other attachments like light sensors, line followers, and more.

The PiCar 2.0 includes the chassis, a nice USB WiFi adapter with antenna (one less thing to think about if you're using a Raspberry Pi  like me), a USB webcam for computer vision scenarios. It includes a TB6612 Motor Driver, PCA9685 PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) Servo Driver with 16 channels for future expansion. The kit also helpfully includes all the tools, screwdriver, wrenches, and bolts.

Preparing to build the SunFounder Raspberry Pi car

All the code for the SunFounder PiCar-V is on GitHub and while there can be a few hiccups with some of the English instructions, there are a bunch of YouTube videos and folks online doing the same thing so we had no trouble making the robot in a weekend.

Building a SunFounder Raspberry Pi Car

PRO TIP - Boot your new Raspberry Pi up with ssh enabled and already joined to your wifi

You'll need to use a tool like Etcher.io to burn a copy of the Raspbian operating system on to a mini SD card. I prefer to save time and avoid having to connect a new Raspberry Pi to HDMI and a mouse and keyboard, so I get the Pi onto my wifi network and enable SSH by copying these two files to the root of the file system of the freshly burned mini SD card. This will cause the Pi to automatically join your network when it boots up for the first time. Then I used Ubuntu on Windows 10 to ssh into the Pi and follow the instructions.

  • Make a 0 byte file called "ssh" and copy it to the root of the new PI disk
  • Make a file called "wpa_supplicant.conf" with just linefeeds at the end and make it look like this. Copy it to the root of the new PI disk.
country=US
ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev
update_config=1

network={
    ssid="YOURWIFI"
    scan_ssid=1
    psk="yourwifipassword"
    key_mgmt=WPA-PSK
}

I like to use Notepad2 or Visual Studio Code to change the line endings of a file. You can see the CRLF or the LF in the status car and click it. Unix/Raspbian/Raspberry Pi likes just an LF (line feed) for the lineending, while Windows defaults to using CRLF (Carriage Return/Line Feed, or 0x13 0x10) for text files.

Changing the line endings to Unix

The default Raspberry username is pi and the default password is raspberry. You may want to change that. SunFounder has a decent "install_dependencies" script that you'll run on the Pi:

Installing the PiCar dependencies

Once you've built the PiCar you can ssh in and run their development server that gives you a little WebAPI to control the car. The SunFounder folks are pretty good at web development (less so with mobile apps) and have a nice Django app to control the PiCar.

Here's the view from the front camera of the PiCar as viewed through local website on port 8000. It's looking at my computer looking at itself. ;)

Viewing the PiCar camera through the Django website

You're able to control the PiCar from this web interface with the keyboard. You can move the car and steer with WASD, as well as move the head/camera independently. You will need to enter the settings area (upper right corner) and calibrate the back wheels direction. By default, one wheel may go the opposite direction because they can't be sure how you mounted them, so you'll need to reverse one wheel to ensure they both go in the same direction.

They also included a client application, also written in Python. On Windows you'll need to install Python, and when you run client.py you may get an error:

ImportError: No module named requests

You'll need to run "pip3 install requests" as that module isn't installed by default.

Additionally, Python apps aren't smart about High-DPI displays, so I went to C:\Users\scott\appdata\local\Programs\Python\Python36 and right click'ed the Python.exe and set the DPI setting to "System (Enhanced)" like this.

Overridding DPI settings to System (Enhanced)

The client app is best for "Zeroing out" the camera and wheels, in case they are favoring one side or the other.

image

All in all, building the SunFounder "Raspberry Pi Video Car Kit 2.0" with the kids was a great experience. The next step is to see what else we can do with it!

  • Add a speaker so it talks?
  • Add Alexa support so you can talk to it?
  • Make the car drive around and take pictures, then use Azure cognitive services to announce what it sees?
  • Or, as my little boys say, "add weapons and make another bot for it to fight!"

What do you think?

* I use Amazon affiliate links and appreciate it when you use them! It supports this blog and sometimes gives me enough money to buy gadgets like this!


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Exploring the Azure IoT Arduino Cloud DevKit

January 8, '18 Comments [0] Posted in Azure | Hardware
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Someone gave me an Azure IoT DevKit, and it was lovely timing as I'm continuing to learn about IoT. As you may know, I've done a number of Arduino and Raspberry Pi projects, and plugged them into various and sundry clouds, including AWS, Azure, as well as higher-level hobbyist systems like AdaFruit IO (which is super fun, BTW. Love them.)

The Azure IoT DevKit is brilliant for a number of reasons, but one of the coolest things is that you don't need a physical one...they have an online simulator! Which is very Inception. You can try out the simulator at https://aka.ms/iot-devkit-simulator. You can literally edit your .ino Arduino files in the browser, connect them to your Azure account, and then deploy them to a virtual DevKit (seen on the right). All the code and how-tos are on GitHub as well.

When you hit Deploy it'll create a Free Azure IoT Hub. Be aware that if you already have a free one you may want to delete it (as you can only have a certain number) or change the template as appropriate. When you're done playing, just delete the entire Resource Group and everything within it will go away.

The Azure IoT DevKit in the browser is amazing

Right off the bat you'll have the code to connect to Azure, get tweets from Twitter, and display them on the tiny screen! (Did I mention there's a tiny screen?) You can also "shake" the virtual IoT kit, and exercise the various sensors. It wouldn't be IoT if it didn't have sensors!

It's a tiny Arduino device with a screen!

This is just the simulator, but it's exactly like the real MXChip IoT DevKit. (Get one here) They are less than US$50 and include WiFi, Humidity & Temperature, Gyroscope & Accelerometer, Air Pressure, Magnetometer, Microphone, and IrDA, which is ton for a small dev board. It's also got a tiny 128x64 OLED color screen! Finally, the board also can go into AP mode which lets you easily put it online in minutes.

I love these well-designed elegant little devices. It also shows up as an attached disk and it's easy to upgrade the firmware.

Temp and Humidity on the Azure IoT DevKit

You can then dev against the real device with free VS Code if you like. You'll need:

  • Node.js and Yarn: Runtime for the setup script and automated tasks.
  • Azure CLI 2.0 MSI - Cross-platform command-line experience for managing Azure resources. The MSI contains dependent Python and pip.
  • Visual Studio Code (VS Code): Lightweight code editor for DevKit development.
  • Visual Studio Code extension for Arduino: Extension that enables Arduino development in Visual Studio Code.
  • Arduino IDE: The extension for Arduino relies on this tool.
  • DevKit Board Package: Tool chains, libraries, and projects for the DevKit
  • ST-Link Utility: Essential tools and drivers.

But this Zip file sets it all up for you on Windows, and head over here for Homebrew/Mac instructions and more details.

I was very impressed with the Arduino extension for VS Code. No disrespect to the Arduino IDE but you'll likely outgrow it quickly. This free add on to VS Code gives you intellisense and integration Arduino Debugging.

Once you have the basics done, you can graduate to the larger list of projects at https://microsoft.github.io/azure-iot-developer-kit/docs/projects/ that include lots of cool stuff to try out like a cloud based Translator, Door Monitor, and Air Traffic Control Simulator.

All in all, I was super impressed with the polish of it all. There's a LOT to learn, to be clear, but this was a very enjoyable weekend of play.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Solved: Surface Pro 3 USB Driver Issues with the Surface Diagnostic Toolkit

June 21, '17 Comments [5] Posted in Hardware
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I've got a personal Surface Pro 3 that I like very much. It's worked great for years and I haven't had any issues with it. However, yesterday while installing a 3rd party USB device something got goofed around with the drivers and I ended up in this state.

Universal Serial Bus (USB) Controller banged out in Device Manager

That "banged out" device in my Device Manager is the root Universal Serial Bus (USB) Controller for the Surface. That means everything  USB didn't work since everything USB hangs off that root device node. I know it's an Intel USB 3.0 xHCI Host Controller but I didn't want to go installing random Intel Drivers. I just wanted the Surface back the way it was, working, with the standard drivers.

I tried the usual stuff like Uninstalling the Device and rebooting, hoping Windows would heal it but it didn't work. Because the main USB device was dead that meant my Surface Type Keyboard didn't work, my mouse didn't work, nothing. I had to do everything with the touchscreen.

After a little poking around on Microsoft Support websites, a friend turned me onto the "Surface Tools for IT." These are the tools that IT Departments use when they are rolling out a bunch of Surfaces to an organization and they are regularly updated. In fact, these were updated just yesterday!

Surface Diagnostic Toolkit

There are a number of utilities you can check out but the most useful is the Surface Diagnostic Toolkit. It checks hardware and software versions and found a number of little drivers things wrong...and fixed them. It reset my USB Controller and put in the right driver and I'm back in business.

This util was useful enough to me that I wish it had been installed by default on the Surface and plugged into the built-in Windows Troubleshooting feature.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Exploring the Tessel 2 IoT and robotics development board

December 27, '16 Comments [10] Posted in Hardware
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13841-01I'm still on vacation and still on the mend from surgery. I'm continuing to play around with IoT devices on my staycation. Last week I looked at these devices:

Today I'm messing with the Tessel 2. You can buy it from SparkFun for the next few weeks for US$40. The  Tessel is pretty cool as a tiny device because it includes WiFi on the board as well as two USB ports AND on-board Ethernet. It includes a two custom "module" ports where you can pop in 10-pin modules like Accelerometers, Climate sensors, IR and more. There's also community-created Tessel modules for things like Color Sensing and Motion.

Tessel is programmable in JavaScript and runs Node. Here's the tech specs:

  • 580MHz Mediatek MT7620n
  • Linux built on OpenWRT
  • 802.11bgn WiFi
  • WEP, WPA, WPA2-PSK, WPA2-Enterprise
  • 64MB DDR2 RAM
  • 32MB Flash
  • 16 pins GPIO, 7 of which support analog in
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports with per-port power switching

Tessel isn't a company, it's a open source project! They are on Twitter at @tesselproject and on GitHub here https://github.com/tessel.

NOTE: Some users - including me - have had issues with some Windows machines not recognizing the Tessel 2 over USB. I spent some time exploring this thread on their support site and had to update its firmware but I haven't had issues since.

Once you've plugged your Tessel in, you talk to it with their node based "t2" command line:

>t2 list
INFO Searching for nearby Tessels...
USB Tessel-02A3226BCFA3
LAN Tessel-02A3226BCFA3

It's built on OpenWRT and you can even SSH into it if you want. I haven't needed to though as I just want to write JavaScript and push  projects to it. It's nice to know that you CAN get to the low-level stuff I you need to, though.

For example, here's a basic "blink an LED" bit of code:

// Import the interface to Tessel hardware
var tessel = require('tessel');

// Turn one of the LEDs on to start.
tessel.led[2].on();

// Blink!
setInterval(function () {
  tessel.led[2].toggle();
  tessel.led[3].toggle();
}, 600);

console.log("I'm blinking! (Press CTRL + C to stop)");

The programming model is very familiar, and they've abstracted away the complexities of most of the hardware. Here's a GPS example:

var tessel = require('tessel');
var gpsLib = require('gps-a2235h');

var gps = gpsLib.use(tessel.port['A']);

// Wait until the module is connected
gps.on('ready', function () {
console.log('GPS module powered and ready. Waiting for satellites...');
// Emit coordinates when we get a coordinate fix
gps.on('coordinates', function (coords) {
console.log('Lat:', coords.lat, '\tLon:', coords.lon, '\tTimestamp:', coords.timestamp);
});

// Emit altitude when we get an altitude fix
gps.on('altitude', function (alt) {
console.log('Got an altitude of', alt.alt, 'meters (timestamp: ' + alt.timestamp + ')');
});

// Emitted when we have information about a fix on satellites
gps.on('fix', function (data) {
console.log(data.numSat, 'fixed.');
});

gps.on('dropped', function(){
// we dropped the gps signal
console.log("gps signal dropped");
});
});

gps.on('error', function(err){
console.log("got this error", err);
});

Of course, since it's using node and it has great Wifi or wired, the Tessel can also be a web server! Here we return the image from a USB camera.

var av = require('tessel-av');
var os = require('os');
var http = require('http');
var port = 8000;
var camera = new av.Camera();

http.createServer((request, response) => {
response.writeHead(200, { 'Content-Type': 'image/jpg' });

camera.capture().pipe(response);

}).listen(port, () => console.log(`http://${os.hostname()}.local:${port}`));

I'll make a Hello World webserver:

var tessel = require('tessel');
var http = require('http');

var server = http.createServer(function (request, response) {
  response.writeHead(200, {"Content-Type": "text/plain"});
  response.end("Hello from Tessel!\n");
});
server.listen(8080);
console.log("Server running at http://192.168.1.101:8080/");

Then push the code to the Tessel like this:

>t2 push index.js
INFO Looking for your Tessel...
INFO Connected to Tessel-02A3226BCFA3.
INFO Building project.
INFO Writing project to Flash on Tessel-02A3226BCFA3 (3.072 kB)...
INFO Deployed.
INFO Your Tessel may now be untethered.
INFO The application will run whenever Tessel boots up.
INFO To remove this application, use "t2 erase".
INFO Running index.js...

Where is my Tessel on my network?

>t2 wifi
INFO Looking for your Tessel...
INFO Connected to Tessel-02A3226BCFA3.
INFO Connected to "HANSELMAN"
INFO IP Address: 192.168.0.147
INFO Signal Strength: (33/70)
INFO Bitrate: 29mbps

Now I'll hit the webserver and there it is!

image

There's a lot of cool community work happening around Tessel.  You can get involved with the Tessel community if you're interested:

  • Join us on Slack — Collaboration and real time discussions (Recommended! - ask your questions here).
  • Tessel Forums — General discussion and support by the Tessel community.
  • tessel.hackster.io — Community-submitted projects made with Tessel.
  • tessel.io/community — Join a Tessel meetup near you! Meetups happen around the world and are the easiest way to play with hardware in person.
  • #tessel on Freenode — IRC channel for development questions and live help.
  • Stack Overflow — Technical questions about using Tessel

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.