How To Get Even More Out Of A Raspberry Pi

How to Get Even More Out of a Raspberry Pi

No doubt about it, the Raspberry Pi is nothing short of a homebrew phenomenon. Since its release in February 2012, the British micro-mini-computer has enabled legions of amateur inventors to develop projects both weird and wonderful. Here's a run-down of the most impressive applications, ranging from weather stations to retro arcades to a supercomputer array on a Lego rack. See if any of them inspire you to do the same.

1. Build a Nixie Clock

How to Get Even More Out of a Raspberry Pi

With their gaudy neon digits and retro styling, a Nixie tube clock would look great in the home or office. Martin Oldfield built a clock that receives Network Time Protocol data from the internet via the Raspberry Pi, and is accurate to 10-thousandths of a second. All you need is a RPi and an SD card, a self-assembly Nixie Clock kit, and a Wi-Fi dongle or ethernet cable. Step-by-step instructions.

2. Build a Weather Station

How to Get Even More Out of a Raspberry Pi

Interested in meteorology? Use the RPi to build an inexpensive weather station that can process data in situ. The shopping list for this project would be an RPi, a USB Wireless Touch Weather Station from Maplin, and an ethernet cable. Visit Dragontail Mapping for a tutorial.

3. Build a Retro Arcade Cabinet

How to Get Even More Out of a Raspberry Pi

The MAME emulation software is an important preservation project for vintage gaming software. Over at the Raspberry Pi blog, a chap known only as "Darren J" explains how he installed an RPi running MAME into a replica gaming cabinet, complete with working coin slot. Recreate your misbegotten youth by placing it in a darkened garage; cigarette butts and cans of fizzy pop optional.

4. Build a Better BigTrak

How to Get Even More Out of a Raspberry Pi

Remember BigTrak? The six-wheeled "tank" was launched by MB toys in 1979, and could be programmed with basic (very basic) instructions to execute in sequence. RPi enthusiasts have embraced the toy as an affordable robot development platform, and Leo White is leading the field with his projects -- remote controlled, a rocket launcher with camera-assisted targeting, a robot arm AND a mobile Wi-Fi station. Details: My Big Ideas

5. Build a Supercomputer

How to Get Even More Out of a Raspberry Pi

Engineers at the University of Southampton built a supercomputer using 64 networked Raspberry Pi computers… nested in a rack of Lego. The goal was to show that a cluster of RPis would make a inexpensive, compact foundation for high-performance computing, and the Lego was an effective way to keep them physically manageable. The University has published a complete guide for anyone can do the same at home, and the investment is as little as £2,000.

6. Build a Brewery

How to Get Even More Out of a Raspberry Pi

BrewPi is an open source temperature controller for brewing beer or wine, which controls the temperature of the fridge that holds your precious cargo. With a dual setup for both the beer temperature and the fridge temperature, it can hold your beer temperature far more steady than usual thermostat-controlled devices. And if that's not enough beer-related chicanery, there's also the RPi-controlled beercan keyboard.

7. Build a KindleBerry Pi

How to Get Even More Out of a Raspberry Pi

This is something of a horror-show; an Amazon Kindle that's been hacked to run as a computer terminal for an RPi. Because of the low-refresh rate for the e-ink screen, the device has limited use except for coding, but it remains an ingenious proof of concept for low-powered, compact computing. Full details of the project (and the rationale behind it) can be found on Studio Ponnuki.

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    A Pi cluster powered supercomputer? Ingenius! I wonder how much heat this whole setup produce considering each Pi doesn't produce that much heat.

      The paper suggests relatively none. There's no added cooling what-so-ever, and apparently the lego blocks show no sign of heat issues either, with only a mild discolouration on some white blocks, but most likely unrelated/insignificant.

        64 Pi cards, each with their own power supply and network cable. Assuming 700mA Model B, that's a toasty 44.8 amps at 5V, or 224 Watts. A decent PC power supply will be rated at over 500 watts, so the first improvement would be to ditch all those power adapters.

        After that, I have to wonder what sort of hub / switch / router is connecting all these together, and why it fails to even get in the photographs.

        Last edited 28/10/13 11:23 pm

      I don't really get the appeal. You'll just end up with a bunch of very low power devices that are relatively slow to do anything.
      Even if you could put up with the 700Mhz processing power, you're stuck with 100Mbit ethernet, so you won't have much throughput. You've also got low amounts of ram and a very slow storage medium. If you use a network storage device, you're then cutting into your 100Mbit bandwidth.

      I suppose it would let you experiment with writing largely distributed and parallel software, but for the price of £2,000 you could put together a more powerful and capable system.

    we made our electric gate remote clickers ($70 each) useless, we can now open it with our smartphone thanks to the RPi!

    This is a nooby question, I should probably google the answer but maybe Giz readers might have some pro tips for me. How do you make custom cases? I know you can get acrylic RPi cases on ebay for less than $5, but if I had a custom project like the Brew Pi (#6 in the list) is there some retailer out there that can cut up acrylic panels to your specs (e.g. from a CAD file)? Can they do just 1 small box, or does it need to be a bulk order?

    Last edited 28/10/13 4:10 pm

      you need to get out more

      Yeah, a quick google will reveal quite a few custom acrylic suppliers. Another option would be to get it 3D printed. There's quite a few shops around that will do it off your CAD files. Alternatively, check out your nearest university. I go to QUT, and 3D printing is part of the print service there.

    For a jiffy box that the Pi will fit into just go to Jaycar and you will find a cheap box that you can cut with a small hacksaw and knife to suit or just spend $11 more when you order Pi from RS or whoever.

    Yes the Pi is slow but it is all about learning and using your brain.
    sudo halt

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