Using a Raspberry Pi as a synthesiser

Synthesiser? Synthesizer? Whichever it is*, check out this video of Floyd Steinberg showing how he set up his Raspberry Pi as one of them.

How to use a Raspberry PI as a synthesizer

How to use a Raspberry PI as a synthesizer. Table of contents below! The Raspberry PI is a popular card-sized computer. In this video, I show how to set up a Raspberry PI V3 as a virtual analog synthesizer with keyboard and knobs for realtime sound tweaking, using standard MIDI controllers and some very minor shell script editing.

“In this video,” Floyd explains on YouTube, “I show how to set up a Raspberry Pi 3 as a virtual analogue synthesiser with keyboard and knobs for real-time sound tweaking, using standard MIDI controllers and some very minor shell script editing. The result is a battery-powered mini synth creating quite impressive sounds!”

The components of a virtual analogue Raspberry Pu synthesiser

We know a fair few of you (Raspberry Pi staff included) love dabbling in the world of Raspberry Pi synth sound, so be sure to watch the video to see what Floyd gets up to while turning a Raspberry Pi 3 into a virtual analogue synthesiser.

Be sure to check out Floyd’s other videos for more synthy goodness, and comment on his video if you’d like him to experiment further with Raspberry Pi. (The answer is yes, yes we would ??)

 

*[Editor’s note: it’s spelled with a z in US English, and with an s in UK English. You’re welcome, Alex.]

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Gaming With Muscular Dystrophy Thanks To Ben Heck And Sugru

Ben Heckendorn’s custom controllers for people with physical disabilities are always a great point of inspiration. Each video supplies new things for you to learn, should you want to tackle one of these yourself. In this video Ben teamed up with Sugru and pulled off several unique modifications to assist […]

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Nano controlled step attenuator

VE3POA writes:

DuWayne KV4QB, has done a Step Attenuator project and was kind enough to give me a board he designed for it at FDIM this year. So, I will not reinvent the wheel here and follow his design. Thank you DuWayne. Here’s a link to his blog where you can read not only about his attenuator project but other great things he has done. kv4qb.blogspot.com
As is with DuWayne’s project, I’ll use 2 pe4302 boards connected in series with the control lines in parallel. This will mean that the attenuator steps will be in 1dB increments which is fine for anything I’ll require. Max power input is +24dbm which is again fine for my purposes.

More details on this blog At the Electronic’s Workbench of VE3POA.

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Printing Custom Shirts With The Roland BT-12

I got a chance to play with the Roland VersaStudio BT-12, which is a compact DTG printer. If you’ve never heard of DTG(Direct To Garment) before, is when you print directly onto fabric, as opposed to something like screenprinting or iron-on transfers. Typically DTG printers are quite large and cumbersome, […]

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The Nest Box: DIY Springwatch with Raspberry Pi

Last week, lots and lots of you shared your Raspberry Pi builds with us on social media using the hashtag #IUseMyRaspberryPiFor. Jay Wainwright from Liverpool noticed the conversation and got in touch to tell us about The Nest Box, which uses Raspberry Pi to bring impressively high-quality images and video from British bird boxes to your Facebook feed.

Jay runs a small network of livestreaming nest box cameras, with three currently sited and another three in the pipeline; excitingly, the new ones will include a kestrel box and a barn owl box! During the spring, all the cameras stream live to The Nest Box’s Facebook page, which has steadily built a solid following of several thousand wildlife fans.

A pair of blue tits feeds their chicks in a woolly nest

The Nest Box’s setup uses a Raspberry Pi and Camera Module, along with a Raspberry Pi PoE HAT to provide both power and internet connectivity, so there’s only one cable connection to weatherproof. There’s also a custom HAT that Jay has designed to control LED lights and to govern the Raspberry Pi Camera Module’s IR filter, ensuring high-quality images both during the day and at night. To top it all off, he has written some Python code to record visitors to the nest boxes and go into live streaming mode whenever the action is happening.

As we can see from this nest box design for swifts, shown on the project’s crowdfunding profile, plenty of thought has evidently been put into the design of the boxes so that they provide tempting quarters for their feathered occupants while also accommodating all the electronic components.

Follow The Nest Box on Facebook to add British birds into your social media mix — whatever you’ve got now, I’ll bet all tomorrow’s coffees that it’ll be an improvement. And if you’re using Raspberry Pi for a wildlife project, or you’ve got plans along those lines, let us know in the comments.

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Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping Guide 2019

Stuck for what to buy your friends and family this Christmas? Whether you’re looking to introduce someone to Raspberry Pi and coding, or trying to find the perfect gift for the tech-mad hobbyist in your life, our Christmas Shopping Guide 2019 will help you complete your shopping list. So, let’s get started…

The good ol’ Raspberry Pi

They’ve asked for a Raspberry Pi but not told you which one they want? You know they like coding but don’t know where to start? They’re an avid baker and you think they may have spelt ‘pie’ wrong on their Christmas list? No problem, we’ve got you sorted.

Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Kit

With everything you need to get started using Raspberry Pi 4, the Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Kit contains our official mouse, keyboard with an integrated USB hub, USB-C power adapter, case, two micro HDMI leads, our Beginner’s Guide and, of course, the 4GB Raspberry Pi 4. Available from our Approved Resellers and the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, the Desktop Kit is the perfect gift for anyone who’s wanting to get started with coding and digital making, or who’s simply looking to upgrade their current home computer to a smaller, less power-hungry setup.

Visit the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, or find your nearest Approved Reseller online.

Raspberry Pi Zero W

Raspberry Pi Zero WH

The smallest Raspberry Pi still packs a punch despite its size and price. For $10, Raspberry Pi Zero W is perfect for embedding into projects and, with onboard Bluetooth and wireless LAN, there are fewer cables to worry about. Buy a Raspberry Pi Zero W with or without pre-soldered header pins, and pop it in someone’s stocking this Christmas as a great maker surprise.

Visit the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, or find your nearest Approved Reseller online.

Get Started with Raspberry Pi 3A+

 

This isn’t just a book: it’s a book with a computer on the front. Getting Started with Raspberry Pi is a great gift for anyone curious about coding and, at £35, it’s a pretty affordable gift to give this festive season. Alongside the 116-page getting-started guide, the package also contains a Raspberry Pi 3A+, official case, and 16GB micro SD card pre-loaded with NOOBs. Raspberry Pi 3A+ can be powered with a good-quality micro USB phone charger, and it can be connected to any TV or computer display via standard HDMI. Grab a keyboard and mouse — you’ll be surprised how many people have a keyboard and mouse lying around — and you’re good to go!

Order your gift today from the Raspberry Pi Press online store, with international shipping available.

A full range of all Raspberry Pi variants, official accessories, and add-ons can be found on our products page.

A Raspberry Pie

Don’t be lazy, make your own!

Books

Raspberry Pi Press has released a small library’s worth of publications these last few months — have you ordered all your copies yet?

Pre-orders are now open for our glorious Code the Classics, so secure your copy now for the 13 December release date, with free UK shipping. And, while you’re on our Raspberry Pi Press page, check out our latest range of publications to suit all techy interests: Retro Gaming with Raspberry Pi will show the budding gamer in your life how to build their own Raspberry Pi retro arcade to play their Code the Classics favourites on, while Book of Making 2 and Raspberry Pi Projects Book 5 will inspire them to make all manner of amazing projects, from electronics and woodworking to crafts and rockets.

An Introduction to C and GUI programming by Simon Long

If they’re already full to the brim with Raspberry Pi, why not treat them to our Get Started with Arduino guide so they can expand upon their electronics skills. We also offer a host of established publications at discounted prices, including Sophy Wong’s Wearable Tech Projects, An Introduction to C & GUI Programming, and previous volumes of the Book of Making and the Raspberry Pi Projects Book.

Visit the Raspberry Pi Press online store, or head to the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge to find all our publications. You may also find a selection in your local WHSmith, Sainsbury’s, or Barnes & Noble.

Magazine subscriptions

Subscriptions are available for all of our magazines. 12-month subscribers to The MagPi magazine will receive a free Raspberry Pi, while a 12-month subscription to HackSpace magazine will net you a free Adafruit Circuit Playground Express.

Subscribers to Wireframe magazine, Custom PC magazine, and Digital SLR Photography will save up to 49% compared to newsstand prices, with many subscription options to choose from.

Babbage Bear

Everyone needs a Babbage Bear. Your new Babs will come complete with their own Raspberry Pi-branded shirt. And, with some felt, stuffing, and a stapler, you can make them as festive as ours in no time!

Order yours online, or buy Babbage at the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge.

Great third-party add-ons and essential kit

The Pi Hut’s 3D Xmas Tree

This newest iteration of The Pi Hut 3D Xmas Tree includes programmable RGB LEDs! Simply detach the two halves of the tree from their frame, slot them together, and place them onto the GPIO pins of your Raspberry Pi. With the provided libraries of code, the tree will be lit up and merry before you know it.

How about programming it to flash to your favourite Christmas song? Get yours today from The Pi Hut and the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge.

Pimoroni Pirate Radio

“Pirate Audio Speaker,” Pimoroni explain “is perfect for making a Lilliputian radio, sound effect player, or even as a teeny-weeny games console!”

Attach this HAT to any 40-pin Raspberry Pi and start creating a whole host of wonderful audio-visual projects — such as a Christmas #1 jukebox — to get you in the mood for your office party.

Available from the Pimoroni website and the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge.

PocketMoneyTronics GPIO Christmas Tree

This super-cute GPIO add-on allows users to write their own light shows via GPIO. Available for £4 from the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, and the PocketMoneyTronics website, it’s a nice festive addition to any coders stocking.

Full instructions are provided with the kit, and are also available online. Buy the kit pre-soldered or loose, depending on your giftee’s soldering skills.

Visit the websites of all our Approved Resellers for more great Raspberry Pi gifts. Find your local Approved Reseller by selecting your country from the dropdown menu on any Raspberry Pi Products page.

Essential kit

Fill their maker kit this festive season, with a whole host of great components and tools. A soldering iron is a great way for coders to start bringing their projects out into the real world, allowing them to permanently add sensors, lights, buttons, etc. to their Raspberry Pi. They’ll also need one if they want to add header pins to the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero and $10 Raspberry Pi Zero W.

You can never have enough LEDs. Available in a variety of sizes and colours, you can find packs of LEDs online or in your local electronics store.

Never underestimate the importance of a cutting mat. Not only will it save your tabletop from craft knife cuts and soldering iron burns, but they also look great in photos for when its time to show of their latest project!

Amazon Smile

If you plan on making online purchases via Amazon, please consider selecting the Raspberry Pi Foundation via Amazon Smile! Your items will still be the same cost to you, but Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to help us continue to make free computer science education available to adults  and young people everywhere.

  • Amazon Smile for the UK
  • Amazon Smile for the US
  • For those of you based elsewhere, we’re pretty sure that you just need to add smile. before amazon in the Amazon web address you use in your country, so give that a try. If that doesn’t work, try searching for Amazon Smile via your prefered search engine.

Our gift to you

We wanted to give you a gift this festive season, so we asked the incredibly talented Sam Alder to design an illustration for you to print or use as your desktop wallpaper.

The poster is completely free for you to use and can be opened by clicking on the image above. We just ask that you don’t sell it, print it onto a t-shirt or mug, tattoo it onto your body, or manipulate it. But do feel free to print it as a poster for your home, classroom, or office, or to upload it as your computer wallpaper. And, when you do, be sure to take a photo and share it with us on social media.

You can also download a wider version of the image.

Happy gift-giving this 2019!

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Maker Faire Shenzhen 2019: Flames, Bots, and LEDs

shenzhen maker faire 2019Maker Faire Shenzhen 2019 has finally concluded on November 10 at the Vanke Design Commune. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to all sponsors, partners, makers, volunteers, performers and visitors for making Maker Faire Shenzhen 2019 a huge success this year! This year, we had 108 maker booths […]

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Make your own NFC data cufflinks

In this project, we’ll make a pair of NFC data cufflinks, ideal for storing a website URL, a password, or a secret message. This project is perfect for a sartorial spy who loves dry Martinis, and anyone who can’t remember their WiFi password.

NFC technology

NFC stands for near-field communication, and is a protocol that allows two devices to communicate wirelessly when they are physically near each other. An evolution of RFID, NFC is becoming increasingly popular in consumer technology, and is already commonly used in contactless payment systems and identification badges. NFC wristbands are also being used to create enhanced experiences for visitors at theme parks and other venues.

The rise of NFC hasn’t bypassed hobbyists and tinkerers, and companies like Pimoroni and Adafruit sell components that make it relatively easy to add NFC functionality to your projects. Here, we’ll make use of tiny NFC tags that can be read and written to by a smartphone or external NFC reader. The tags can be read through a non-metal barrier, like plastic, so we’ll embed the tag in resin to make an elegant cabochon for our cufflink. When complete, holding the cufflink to your smartphone or NFC reader will let you read or write data to the chip inside.

Micro NFC/RFID transponders

For this project we used the smallest NFC tags we could find, micro NFC/RFID transponders from Adafruit (product number 2800). These 15.6mm x 6mm flexible tags are formatted with the now standard NDEF format, and will work as-is with newer phones and most NFC readers. If you happen to pick up older Mifare Classic formatted tags, they may need to be reformatted as NDEF to work with your reader/writer. Reformatting isn’t a function of most NFC read/write apps, but it can be done with Adafruit’s PN532 NFC/RFID controller breakout board or shield.

If this is your first time working with resin epoxy, get ready for a new, fun kind of mess! Resin epoxy comes in two parts that must be mixed together in equal proportions before use. Once mixed, the resin will be workable for a short period of time before entering the curing phase and hardening completely. Figuring out exactly how much resin to mix up is definitely an art. There are even some online tools available to help calculate this. For a small project like this, just make sure you mix up a bit more than you think you’ll need.

You don’t want to run out during the pour and have to quickly mix up more at the last minute. If you’re tinting your resin, you definitely want to pour all of your pieces from the same mix, as it’s almost impossible to match the colour of one batch of resin to another.

All of this means you’ll undoubtedly end up with more than just two cabochons for one pair of cufflinks, and if you’re going to make a mess anyway, why not go big? Pick up a few extra NFC tags and plan to pour some other pieces, like pendants or key chain fobs. These make great holiday or birthday gifts that are both technologically advanced and crafty at the same time!

Resin-cast jewellery has been made for decades and there are loads of options for resin moulds available at craft stores and online. The best moulds for resin are made of silicone. Flexible silicone moulds make it easy to remove the hardened pieces, and produce ultra-shiny surfaces. Cufflink blanks, ring blanks, and pendant bails can also be purchased at jewellery supply stores. Refer to your moulds when choosing cufflink and ring blanks, to make sure that the blanks will work with the size of cabochon you’ve chosen to cast, and vice versa.

Licence to spill

Start by gathering your materials and setting up your workspace for working with resin. There will be a lot of stirring, pouring, and drips, and things are likely to get messy! Cover your work surface with paper and keep some paper towels nearby. Read and heed the safety warnings on your resin and hardener. Although some resins are considered non-toxic when used as directed, it’s always a good idea to work in a well-ventilated area and wear nitrile gloves to keep the resin off of your skin while working.

Once the two-part resin is mixed together, you will have a limited amount of time to pour the resin before it hardens, so planning and timing is key. Check the ‘pot life’ indicated on your resin; this is the amount of working time you’ll have after mixing before the resin begins to harden. Our resin had a pot life of 30 minutes. It can be helpful to set up a timer so you can keep track of time while you work.

If you have multiple moulds, decide which ones you will use before mixing, and make sure your NFC tags will fit into the shapes you plan to use. If you are making matching cufflinks, remember that you’ll need two identical shapes. Our tiny 15.6mm tags fit perfectly into 16mm cabochons. Remember that you will mix more resin than you need for just two cufflink cabochons, so it’s good to have extra moulds in front of you to pour into.

Prepare the NFC tags

Unwrap the NFC tags and make sure they are clean and ready to be embedded in the resin. For a light-up effect, you may want to combine a data tag with an LED tag, like we did in one of our extra pieces. The back of the NFC LED nail sticker is adhesive, so it was easy to stick it directly to the larger data tag.

Measure, mix, and pour

We mixed up about 6oz (170g) of resin, then tinted it green for a tech-emerald look. This was plenty for two cabochons and three to four extra shapes. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to mix up your resin. Generally, it’s a 1:1 ratio by volume. A good method for this is to pour each part into matching containers, up to the same measuring mark. Then, pour both into a third cup and stir. Stir slowly, but thoroughly, for at least two or three minutes, making sure to scrape the sides of your mixing cup often. If the resin is not completely and evenly mixed, it will not cure properly. If tinting your resin, add the tint to your mixed resin one drop at a time, slowly deepening the colour to your preference.

Once your resin is mixed and tinted, you’ll notice lots of tiny bubbles that have been incorporated while you were stirring. Let the mixture rest for a few minutes so the bubbles can float to the top, then use a stick to move the bubbles to the side of your container and pop them.

When you’ve removed as many bubbles as possible, it’s time to pour! Place your moulds on a level surface where they’ll be able to sit undisturbed for the amount of time required to cure (check the manufacturer’s instructions; ours specified 24 hours curing time). Pour the resin in a thin stream into the deepest point of your mould, and let it slowly rise to just below the top lip of your mould. Don’t overfill the mould, or the resin will bow and have a convex bottom when you remove it from the mould. Pouring the resin in a thin stream can help pop larger bubbles that are still in the mix.

Embed the NFC tag

With the resin in your mould, you can slide the NFC tag into place. Using tweezers, dip the tag into your unpoured resin to coat it first – this will help the resin in your mould accept the tag without adding too many bubbles. Then, gently slide the tag into the mould and centre it in the resin. It will want to slowly sink to the bottom of the mould, and ideally it stays centred on the way down. You may need to wiggle it back into place with your tweezers or a thin stick, but try not to introduce any new bubbles.

After your resin is poured and the NFC tags are in place, let the resin sit in the moulds for about ten minutes. This is enough time for most of the bubbles to rise to the top surface. Then, spray a fine mist of isopropyl alcohol over the resin to pop the bubbles. This step is optional, but we noticed that it really helped achieve clearer results.

Repeat this process for all the moulds you want to pour and add NFC tags to. Check them after a few minutes to make sure your tag hasn’t slid out of place, and remember to keep an eye on your pot life timer. Finish all your fiddling and bubble popping before the resin starts to harden. Then, leave your resin to cure for the amount of time specified in your resin’s instructions.

Demould your resin pieces

When the resin has completely hardened, it’s time for the exciting part: removing the cured resin from the moulds. If using silicone moulds, your piece should release from the mould without much fuss. Gently flex the silicone to let air seep between the hardened resin and the wall of the mould. Then you should be able to carefully pull the resin piece out of the mould.

Take a moment to admire your shiny cabochons! If you discover that you’ve over-poured your moulds, or the resin has crept up the sides of the mould, making a curved back, don’t worry. Resin can be wet-sanded; just be sure to keep both the sandpaper and the piece underwater while sanding, and wear a mask to keep from inhaling resin particles.

Make the cufflinks

Use glue to affix the flat-backed cabochons to the cufflink blanks. We used E6000, which is an industrial-strength adhesive that works great on plastics. Again, be sure to work in a well-ventilated area, and wear a respirator while working with E6000.

Apply the glue to the cufflink blank and hold the cabochon in place while the glue sets. Make two, and you’re done! You could also glue the cabochons to ring blanks to make NFC data rings. For pendants, you can use jewellery findings like bails and jump rings to make necklaces or key-chain fobs.

Program the NFC tag

Now that you’ve made your NFC cufflinks, you can load them with data like a website, a password, or a secret message. There are a few methods for doing this. If you have an NFC-capable smartphone, such as an Android phone, you won’t need any additional hardware. You can download a free app like NFC Tools to write and read data on your cufflink. NFC Tasks, another free app, lets you create automatic actions for your phone to perform when the NFC tag is read.

If you have an iPhone, (at the time of publishing of this article) you cannot write directly to NFC tags from your phone. But don’t worry! You can still join the NFC fun by purchasing a USB NFC reader/writer. You’ll be able to read and write to NFC tags with your computer using the NFC Tools desktop app. Your author purchased the NFC reader/writer shown here for about $35 on Amazon.com. You can still use NFC Tools on your iPhone to read tags, and the latest version of iOS, 12.1, supports background NFC tag reading. Some basic actions, like opening a URL in a browser, can now be performed right from the home screen or lock screen – pretty cool!

For a more custom hardware/software approach, try Adafruit’s PN532 NFC/RFID controller breakout board, which lets you add NFC functionality to Raspberry Pi or Arduino projects. It takes some soldering and programming to set up, but this breakout gives you lower-level control of the NFC tag, and is supported by an Adafruit NFC Arduino library. The library includes handy example code for reading and writing to tags, and reformatting Mifare Classic tags with the NDEF format.

Sport your new cufflinks at your next dressy event, and you’ll be both covert and classy! Or, gift these to your favourite snappy dresser, loaded with a secret message for their eyes only. Heading to a conference? Instead of handing out a business card to connect with someone, hold your wrist over their smartphone to bring up your webpage. It’s not magic, it’s technology!

More wearable tech projects

You can find more tutorials like this in Wearable Tech Projects by Sophy Wong, a HackSpace magazine publication. Wearable Tech Projects is on sale now from the Raspberry Pi Press online store, and it’s available as part of the Raspberry Pi Store Black Friday sale this weekend.

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