Custom PC, Issue 205

Custom PC Issue 205This month’s Hobby Tech column opens with a look at the Raspberry Pi High Quality (HQ) Camera Module, Seeed Studio’s impressively feature-packed Wio Terminal development board, and Read Only Memory’s follow-up to game developer interview collection Britsoft, Japansoft.

First the Raspberry Pi HQ Camera Module. The third full revision of the Camera Serial Interface (CSI)-connected low-cost camera add-on for Raspberry Pi and compatible single-board computers – after the original Raspberry Pi Camera Module was replaced with a higher-quality Sony sensor upgrade – the HQ Camera Module is built around a 12.3-megapixel Sony IMX477 sensor, offering increased resolution and improved low-light performance.

The biggest change, though, is that the lens has gone: Instead of a small plastic lens pre-fitted to the sensor, the HQ Camera Module accepts C- and CS-mount lenses – the same type of lens you’d find for security camera sensors. Two lenses make up the official offerings – a 6mm wide-angle and a 16mm telephoto – with third parties selling various alternatives including microscope-style macro lenses.

The Wio Terminal has a sensor of its own, but it’s not a camera: it’s an almost-all-in-one development board built around Microchip’s ATSAMD51 system-on-chip. Packed into a plastic housing with 2.4″ 320×240 colour LCD, the development board includes buttons, joystick, buzzer, LED, light sensor, and an infrared emitter – but, oddly, no battery, which needs to be added using an external accessory which considerably increases the device’s bulk.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Wio Terminal, though, is its general-purpose input/output (GPIO) header: a 40-pin female header, it shares the Raspberry Pi pinout and allows the Wio Terminal to act as a standalone device or to be connected to a Raspberry Pi as a Hardware Attached on Top (HAT)-style accessory – though doing so without some kind of extension cable covers the sensors on the underside.

Finally, Japansoft is a follow-up to the impressive Britsoft which follows exactly the same format: selected bite-sized extracts from interviews with notable game developers, only this time – as the name implies – looking at the Japanese games industry rather than the British. Where Britsoft culled its material from interviews carried out for the 2014 documentary From Bedrooms to Billions, Japansoft isn’t an original publication either: everything within comes from John Szczepaniak’s The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers and is simply reformatted to match the style of Britsoft.

That’s not to say Japansoft isn’t worth reading, but it does mean that anyone who has already seen Szczepaniak’s work will find nothing new. It also makes no effort to fact-check any of the claims within, instead placing a warning that its contents do not represent “a verified factual account” of the history presented.

Custom PC Issue 205 is available now from all good newsagents, supermarkets, and online with global delivery from the official website.

PC Pro, Issue 231

PC Pro Issue 231This month’s PC Pro magazine includes a feature describing 20 fun projects to keep readers occupied over the winter months, with the headline project being my write-up of a motion-sensitive wildlife camera constructed using the Raspberry Pi and its official Camera Module add-on.

Approached by editor Nicole Kobie, I was asked to work on a project involving the Pi and its camera for the feature. While, given a larger page count, there are plenty of exciting hardware-based possibilities there, I opted for a tutorial on using software packages to do motion detection and image capture – turning the Pi into a cheap wildlife camera.

The process is pretty simple: using freely published open-source software coupled with the software supplied with the Raspberry Pi Camera Module itself, the system takes low-resolution snapshots every few seconds. Each snapshot is compared to the snapshot taken just prior; if the image is different enough, a full-resolution still is captured.

It’s an easy way of doing pseudo-motion-detection, but it works remarkably well. It’s even possible to discount sections of the image – if, for example, the camera is near trees that wave in the wind, or a busy main road.

My project was, I’m proud to say, picked as the headline for the feature, as demonstrated by the cover splash. If you fancy building a wildlife camera of your own, you can pick up PC Pro Issue 213 at all good newsagents, most supermarkets, and digital distribution services including but not limited to Zinio.

Oh, and as an added bonus: the example ‘wildlife’ captured for the article was my cat, Zumi, in his magazine début.