CCS Resurrection, Issue 69

CCS Resurrection, Issue 69I recently joined the Computer Conservation Society (CCS) arm of the British Computer Society (BCS), a working group dedicated to preserving the heritage of computing that we have in this country. In addition to a lecture on classic British home computers, I was asked to contribute to the official CCS journal Resurrection with a piece on the Raspberry Pi.

While, as my feature for the magazine points out, the Raspberry Pi itself needs to age a few more decades before it will be of direct interest to computer conservationists, the story of its rise from nowhere to become the dominant force in hobbyist-targeted single-board computers is a fascinating one – and, interestingly, mirrors similar growth experienced by Chris Curry and Hermann Hauser’s Acorn Computers in the 1980s in more ways than one.

Taking in the history of the project from its origins as a microcontroller-based development system built on Veroboard through to the launch of the quad-core Raspberry Pi 2, my feature builds on my early experience with the project – having met co-founder Eben Upton during an event at Bletchley Park, where he showed off an early prototype – and interviews I have performed in the intervening years.

The latest issue of Resurrection is sent out to members automatically, or can be viewed online in any web browser.

Raspberry Pi User Guide, Third Edition

Raspberry Pi User Guide Third EditionThe recent launch of the Raspberry Pi Model B+, a redesign of the popular single-board computer that addresses some issues with the original while doubling the number of USB ports and increasing the size of the GPIO header, unsurprisingly means that there’s a need for a new user guide. As a result, it should come as no surprise that J. Wiley & Sons has published the Raspberry Pi User Guide Third Edition, a revised work that adds details regarding the new Model B+.

Completed earlier this year thanks to pre-release access to a prototype Model B+ provided by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the latest edition of my book includes everything a reader needs to know about the latest model. The chapter on using GPIO has been updated to include a full pin-out of the new elongated header and details on how best to use the new USB ports have been added. It’s not all about the Model B+, however: there are entirely new chapters in this edition, including one covering basic programming with Minecraft: Pi Edition from Mojang.

The release of this third edition comes surprisingly soon after the Raspberry Pi Second Edition hit shelves, but those who have already purchased the previous edition needn’t panic: unless you have a Model B+ there’s little you desperately need to know that isn’t contained in the previous release, and if you have a burning desire to use Minecraft: Pi Edition you can find a similar tutorial in my recently-published MagBook 21 Brilliant Projects for the Raspberry Pi from Dennis Publishing – along with, as the title suggests, another 20 projects that you won’t find in the User Guide.

The Raspberry Pi User Guide Third Edition is due to arrive in stock at most outlets within the next couple of weeks, with Amazon UK taking pre-orders for a 19th of September delivery date. If you can’t wait that long, the Kindle Edition is already available for immediate download. Those buying in other countries or high-street book shops should ask their retailer for ISBN 978-1118921661. As with previous editions, numerous translations will follow in the near future.

Raspberry Pi User Guide, Second Edition

Raspberry Pi User Guide Second EditionSince I wrote the Raspberry Pi User Guide over a year ago, the project has changed dramatically. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has grown in size and stature, a new hardware revision has been released, the Model A finally hit the streets and users have been treated to dramatic improvements in the quantity, accessibility and quality of the software available.

As a result, I’m pleased to announce the release of the Raspberry Pi User Guide Second Edition. Significantly longer than the original release, the book has been thoroughly updated to cover the Model A, Model B Revision 2, and the Camera Module. Additional new features include step-by-step instructions for using the Raspberry Pi Software Configuration Tool, the New Out-Of-Box Software (NOOBS) installer, and various other tweaks to bring it bang up-to-date.

For those who haven’t taken the plunge into the world of Raspberry Pi yet, congratulations: you can now pick up a considerably better book to help you get started. For those who have already bought a copy of the First Edition, a consolation prize: I have negotiated with the publisher, Wiley & Sons, to produce an updated ‘Second Printing’ of the First Edition in eBook form. If you’ve purchased the First Edition in electronic format, delete and re-download the title to receive various free updates including Model A and Model B Revision 2 details. You’ll know if your particular store has updated the title, as there’ll be a sash at the top-right explaining the updated content.

The Raspberry Pi User Guide Second Edition is available from all good – and plenty of not-so-good – book sellers throughout the world and is also an official stock item of the Raspberry Pi Swag Store, profits from which go to help the Foundation complete its work in pushing the envelope of computing education both at home and abroad. High levels of interest in the title – the First Edition has at this point sold around 100,000 copies world-wide across its various translations – do mean that you may have a short wait for stock, though – so if you’re hoping to buy it as a Christmas present and see it available from somewhere, I’d advise against delaying your purchase.

Electronic copies of the Second Edition are at the time of writing hard to come by but, as with the First Edition, expect to see it in Kindle, Google Play Books, iBooks, PDF, ePub and various other proprietary and non-proprietary formats – as well as DRM-free via O’Reilly in the US – in the very near future.

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.

Raspberry Pi User Guide, Dutch Translation

Raspberry Pi StartersgidsA parcel from Wiley & Sons dropped through my door this morning, containing a pair of author copies of yet another translation of my book the Raspberry Pi User Guide – this time into Dutch, as the Raspberry Pi Startersgids.

Not exactly a direct translation, the Raspberry Pi Startersgids is published by Pearson in distinctly abridged form: while the first half of the book has made the transition intact, much of the second half has been removed entirely: there’s no sign of the chapters on programming in Python or Scratch, for example, nor on how to build your own hardware. There is a chapter dedicated to the GPIO port, but it makes no reference of available add-on boards.

Pearson appears to be positioning the Rasbperry Pi Startersgids as the first in a series of books – and, at present, I have absolutely no idea whether the second book will contain the material missing from the Startersgids. When I have more information from Wiley, I’ll update this post.

For now, however, the Raspberry Pi Startersgids is a great way to dive into the world of Raspberry Pi – even if you may have to look elsewhere for Dutch-language Python, Scratch and hardware-hacking materials.

Raspberry Pi User Guide, Japanese Translation

Raspberry Pi User Guide (Japanese Cover)I got wind of another translation of my book, the Raspberry Pi User Guide, today – this time, into Japanese. It’s the latest in a series of translations that will see the title published in English (obviously,) Dutch, French, Portuguese, Chinese – Traditional and Simplified – and German, and there appears to be no end to translation requests coming in to the publisher.

The Japanese translation has come as something of a surprise: my publisher emailed me late last year, saying that Wiley was in the process of negotiating translation rights for a Japanese edition of the book. Apparently, in Japan, it’s common to have the author’s photograph on the rear cover, so he asked myself and my co-author Eben for mugshots – but, once provided, that was the last I heard about the deal.

The deal, however, appears to have gone through – and it’s now possible to buy the Japanese edition, published and translated by Impress Japan, directly from Amazon.jp. It’s also available in bricks and mortar stores throughout Japan, and numerous other outlets. If your local bookshop doesn’t have a copy, you can ask them to order it in: it’s available under ISBN 978-4844333746.

So far, I haven’t received a complimentary copy as I did with the German translation, but hopefully that’s something my publisher can arrange – because, let’s face it, that’s an awesome cover.

Raspberry Pi: Einstieg und User Guide

Raspberry Pi Einstieg und User GuideI was greeted by a surprise parcel this morning: a copy of the German translation of my Raspberry Pi User Guide, Raspberry Pi Einstieg und User Guide.

A direct translation of the Raspberry Pi User Guide first edition, Raspberry Pi Einstieg und User Guide includes everything from its English counterpart in a somewhat more compact package published by Verlagsgruppe Hüthig-Jehle-Rehm GmbH under its mitp label and translated by Maren Feilen.

This is the first of a series of translations that will hopefully bring the book to a wider audience. While certainly popular – topping best-seller lists in several countries – there’s no denying that it has sold better in the UK than anywhere else.

If you’re still waiting on a translation into your native language, let me know: agreements have been made for several other languages, and still more are in the negotiation stage, so with luck I’ll have some good news for you.

Raspberry Pi Einstieg und User Guide is available now on Amazon.de and Amazon.co.uk, and in bookstores throughout Germany. If your local doesn’t have a copy, ask them to order it in: it’s ISBN 978-3-8266-9522-3.

Meet the Raspberry Pi

Meet the Raspberry Pi CoverI’m pleased to be able to announce the publication of my first book, Meet the Raspberry Pi. Co-written with Eben Upton, co-founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the book is a cut-down version of the Raspberry Pi User Guide – 114 pages to ~240 pages. It leaves out the sections on learning to program in Scratch and Python, along with some other nice-to-have specificities, but retains the most important sections for a newcomer to the Pi.

Topics covered in the book include setting up the Pi for the first time, including physical connections, network configuration and flashing the SD card, an introduction to using Linux – both at the command line and in the GUI – and a section on using the Pi’s general-purpose input/output (GPIO) port in Python.

Unlike the Raspberry Pi User Guide, Meet the Raspberry Pi is only being released as an eBook – but if you’re interested, and have a spare £3.29, it’s available to purchase in the Amazon Kindle Store now. The Raspberry Pi User Guide is expected to follow as soon as possible – the publisher is just finishing up getting that ready for publication too.

Make sure to let me know what you think of the book, either here or by posting a review on Amazon!

UPDATE:

Links for other sites and services:
iTunes UK, iTunes US, iTunes Ireland, iTunes France, iTunes Germany.
Google Play (International).
Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es.
Bokus (Sweden).
Tesco eBooks (no, really. That’s totally a thing. Apparently.)

The Raspberry Pi User Guide

Raspberry Pi User Guide, Preliminary CoverThe magazine work has been, you may have noticed, slow of late. There’s a very good reason for this: I’ve been working on a semi-secret project which can now be officially unveiled. That project is the Raspberry Pi User Guide. (That’s a rough draft cover, by the way.)

Written in collaboration with Eben Upton, co-founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and inventor of the device itself, it’s a 240-page manual which aims to gently introduce the user into the world of the Raspberry Pi. No real technical knowledge is assumed – although by the time you get to to the sections on the GPIO port, it probably helps – and it aims to allow those without Linux experience to get up and running quickly on the remarkably sub-$35 single-board computer.

Subjects covered in the book include a quick introduction to Linux including system administration and maintenance, flashing the SD card, programming the Pi in Scratch and Python, making use of the 26-pin GPIO port, using the Pi as a home theatre system or general-purpose PC, and even a beginner’s guide to soldering.

The book is being published by Wiley & Sons in the UK and US in dead-tree and eBook formats, alongside an eBook-only introductory guide called Meet the Raspberry Pi. This slimmed-down version includes the first six chapters of the full-size book – which cover getting started and practical uses for the Pi – along with an extract from the ‘Hardware Hacking’ chapter. For those who just want to get started, it’s a cut-price alternative to the dead-tree release.

The book is undergoing final review and production now, with a view to getting Meet the Raspberry Pi out in the coming weeks and the Raspberry Pi User Guide whenever the printing presses can churn copies out fast enough. The electronic versions will be available in ePub, Kindle and PDF formats.

The dead-tree release can be pre-ordered on Amazon now, if you feel so inclined. Alternatively, the ePub can be pre-ordered from Wiley.

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Bit-Tech, Raspberry Pi Review

Bit-Tech, Raspberry Pi ReviewHaving finally got my hands on a Raspberry Pi Model B, my first published work on the subject is an in-depth review for Dennis Publishing’s technology enthusiast site Bit-Tech.

Designed to cover the most commonly asked questions – computing performance, graphical performance, software compatibility and suitability as a general purpose PC – the review spans nine pages, and is based on the retail Model B which started shipping to customers at the end of last week.

The section which has proven the most popular is ‘Overclocking,’ a look at whether it’s possible to boost the Broadcom BCM2835 at the heart of the Pi to something above its default 700MHz clockspeed. In short: yes, it is, but by ‘eck it’s risky.

The review, the first to appear on a mainstream site rather than engineering publications allied to production partners Element14 and RS Components, has generated a substantial amount of traffic and comment. Following its publication, the review was re-tweeted by the official @Raspberry_Pi account (56,201 followers at the time of writing,) fellow technology journalist and Gruaniad technology editor Charles Arthur (33,614 followers) and digital trouble-stirrers @YourAnonNews  (569,649 followers.) The review was also linked from the Gruaniad, with a fairly hefty extract, and front-paged on Digg and reddit.

Given the popularity of the Pi, this is far from the last piece I’ll be writing about it. A Linux-oriented review for Imagine Publishing’s Linux User & Developer Magazine is due to appear in the next issue, while pieces in Dennis Publishing’s Custom PC, Micro Mart and on the IT Pro website are planned.

There’s also a secret project in the works – but more about that I cannot say…