Custom PC, Issue 119

Custom PC, Issue 119My four-page bumper column for Custom PC, wonderfully titled Gareth Halfacree’s Hobby Tech – and don’t I feel like the important one – continues this month, and once again is granted a cover splash thanks to the key magazine-shifting phrase ‘Raspberry Pi.’ That’s not all it contains, of course: once again the page count is split between a tutorial, retro computing, a pseudo-review and for the first time a box-out containing news from the world of the maker, hacker and tinkerer.

First, the tutorial. Thanks to my friends Eben and Liz Upton, I’m one of the lucky few to have received a Raspberry Pi Camera Module. The first official first-party hardware add-on for the Raspberry Pi, the Camera Module makes use of the Camera Serial Interface (CSI) port to provide a five-megapixel fixed-focus camera on a teeny-tiny circuit board smaller than most coins.

The software for the board is still very much in the early stages, but working well enough for the purpose of the tutorial: to use a Raspberry Pi as a timelapse photography system. Using a bit of Bash shell scripting – the Pi’s own camera software has a timelapse mode, but it doesn’t actually work just yet – the reader is walked through getting the camera connected, the software activated and the software running to capture Full HD stills every thirty seconds until cancelled or the SD card fills up.

This month’s review is of the excellent SpikenzieLabs Calculator Kit. Built around an Atmel ATmega microcontroller – the same one that powers the Arduino Duemilanove, in fact – the device is a cleverly designed kit that functions somewhat better as an exercise in neat soldering than a calculator. Nevertheless, I had fun making it – and I have a few ideas for how I can make use of the microcontroller’s other functions in later projects.

The retrocomputing fix is provided by the Amstrad Notepad Computer NC100, having picked up a mint-condition example from eBay just recently. Rather than sitting on a shelf, the NC100 is to form a part of my field kit – its moulded keyboard and 30-hour battery life make it great for taking notes at events – which provides a great example of how classic computing hardware can be used to augment more modern and powerful equipment.

Finally, there’s the news. Now to be a regular fixture – space permitting – I’ll be picking a couple of stories from the world of the maker to highlight major product launches, announcements or trends.

As always, I’d love to hear feedback about the column; response to the first has been uniformly positive, but if anyone has any ideas for improvements I’d be more than happy to hear them.

Custom PC Issue 119 is, as always, available from wherever you would normally find magazines, or digitally via Zinio and similar services.

Leave a Reply