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Things We Sell ! Raspberry Pi

A new regular Blog series.
Featuring quick overviews of the various platforms Elmwood offers.

rpi3b_plus

Product : RaspberryPi

Wikipedia

Current model: 3b+

{ speed similar to Apple A8* chip with integrated wifi }

Previous models:

rPi1B, A, B+, A+, rPi2, zero, W, WH, 3

Out of the Box :

Plug into an hdmi monitor with a USB keyboard & mouse
& cheaply do linux computing / electronics control / STEM.
Pop the NOOBS SD-card in & power on with a monitor & keyboard & off to the races.

Super easy process to install Raspbian (OS).
NOOBS SD card allows you to choose a variety of operating systems,
such as the recommended Raspbian Educational Distro (*free* Mathematica, Minecraft, Python) or other specific use options, such as home media server (OSMC, libreelec/kodi).
 
Most people will want to go with Raspbian, the default OS provided by the raspberry pi foundation.

 

Suggested Companions Out of the box:


Power Supply
 

SD Card

Our many Bundle options here!

 

Intended Use :

Learning computers without destroying Mom or Dads MacbookPro.

There are many amazing pre-installed tools such as Scratch, Python and Mathematica, that can grow with you as you learn & skills increase. 

Not really a full desktop replacement, but think of it as a versatile family learning environment.

Or a hackable smartphone circuit board (with no built in screen or calling ability).

Also if you can fit it, someone has put a Raspberry Pi in it

Or, if you have an advanced project in mind:
Full list of operating system choices.



Performance :

For LEARNING computing, rPi it is an excellent platform.
Using a web browser on anything less than a 3b is a patience building exercise.

For the detail oriented, generic 'by component' comparison

 Raspberry Pi 3B
x86 PC Equivalent 
Year
4-core ARMv8 
Intel E5300 
2007
1GB RAM 
Pentium III 
2003
480 mbit USB
PCI33 
1993
VC4 GPU 
Radeon HD4350 
2008

* chart from this forum discussion
* Processors are never really directly comparable, but for the daring...


Hackery :

If you are anti-monitor can TTL into the PI via a simple USB/TTL cable

Overclocking is possible on some models.
Heat Sinks available here.

Good generic platform for about anything you can imagine. 

If you want to prototype for mass production later, start with Arduino.

Next week :

The British Invasion, Micro:BIT !

 

Making a Puzzle on our Glowforge

We have had a lot of fun with our Glowforge Laser Cutter!  The other day thought it would be neat to make a puzzle with it.  Turns out others have had the same idea, and there are already tools to do this!

Working with the Glowforge is super easy.  You can use most image files for the graphics and you can use SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) files for cuts.  

A fellow Glowforge owner named Draradech built a super handy tool for generating SVG cut files for puzzles.  You basically just select some parameters and it spits out the SVG file...too cool!  In this case, I made a 9x9 puzzle that was 240 x 175 mm:

You can engrave graphics into wood or acrylic with the Glowforge and then cut out the pieces, but on the first time I did this it made a puzzle that was way too hard.  Instead, I took a picture from an old calendar and put it on some 3mm birch plywood with spray adhesive:

After gluing the picture to the wood, I let it cure for 1 hour.  I then uploaded the SVG file into the Glowforge user interface.  I placed the cut lines onto the image, allowing a 1/4" gap all around since the Glowforge has about a 1/4" tolerance in terms of where you place the image/cuts.  Here are some pics from the Glowforge UI as well as video of the Glowforge running:

 

And here is the final result!  After wiping off the smoke residue from the picture, it looked great!  I glued the frame to an uncut piece of wood to finish everything off.

Total time invested was about 10 minutes, not including the runtime of 5 minutes on the Glowforge.  Pretty awesome!

 

First Glance with Gemma M0

Gemma M0 .  A loonie-sized wearable computing solution.

HIGHLIGHTS :
Feels FAST, great value, onboard ; 

  • power switch
  • reset button
  • three conductive touch pads,
  • 1 full RGB LED
  • LED for blinking
  • JST connector
  • SUPER EASY to LOAD & test code with MU environment. 
gemma m0

 

OF NOTE :

  • Onboard memory more than enough for the purpose, but need to manage it carefully.  256KB Flash, 32 KB RAM


WHERE DOES IT FIT IN PRODUCT LINES ?

  • 1/3rd size of an Arduino + (some) Makey-Makey functionality + (some) RGB goodness. 
  • M0 is the third iteration of Gemma. ( Gemma v1, Gemma v2. Gemma M0) which was originally introduced as a miniaturized FLORA (wearable Adafruit platform). Gemma v2 product line still continuing in parallel. 


HOW IS IT DIFFERENT?

  • Uses CircuitPython (*new*) or can use the standard the ArduinoIDE (like Gemma v2).
  • CircuitPython + MU is a very integrated development flow once you download and install MU editor (...not ANOTHER CODE EDITOR/IDE. YES!) 
  • You may be familiar with Mu if you've tried to do Micro:BIT coding outside of a browser. 
  • Has serial debugging ( Gemma v1 & v2 don't). 
  • Supported under linux.


SO AWESOME :

  • You plug it in & can read the code.py file at any point in the future & use any text editor & see what 'sketch' is stored on the board. This is an end to the torturous process of old, needing the exact development chain environment to recover or dump micro-controller memory. 



FIRST STEPS:

We'll be following along with the Adafruit guide with some extra notes under OSX.

The Gemma m0 has two 'hard drives' on it, a firmware style boot-loader GEMMABOOT & a workspace where you can load and save code to named CIRCUITPY.

For normal use you only need to interact with CIRCUITPY.

The gemma m0 is good to go out of the tiny pink plastic bag.

1. Install MU
https://learn.adafruit.com/adafruit-gemma-m0/installing-mu-editor

1b. ( *sidequest* ) 


If you are the kind of person who wants/likes/needs to update the firmware a guide is here :
https://learn.adafruit.com/adafruit-gemma-m0/circuitpython

It's probably unnecessary for normal use.


You need to double click the onboard reset button which will mount the GEMMABOOT volume instead of CIRCUITPY
Then replace the firmware with a (possibly) newer version off the Adafruit site.

PRO TIP : OSX keyboard shortcut : COMMAND + SHIFT + PERIOD will show hidden files.

Ran into this fascinating error under 10.13.4

invisible
Didn't effect the firmware update, so Reset, & back to CIRCUITPY world.

**end Sidequest**

2. GOTCHA : When testing dragging & dropping code.py from OSX to the CIRCUITPY volume, I initially was running into OSX permission errors. It seemed like a unix read-write permission problem BUT, it was actually out of space on the flash memory. I discovered this from deleting the ReadMe.txt and was able to write the the volume. 


3.  PRO TIP : Only edit code.py from within the Mu editor. At this time running through the circuitPython m0 + MU tutorial is the best starter.

Why should you use ANOTHER new text editor ?

With MU+CircuitPython, you can simply fly through development, the iteration cycle is very fast. Type some code, save to the board, see the result. 
mu editor
If that's TOO SLOW, you can use the interactive python REPL interpreter and see results as you type (these aren't saved, more for testing output to console). 

mu repl
What's REPL anyway ? 
Read Evaluate Print Loop. A computer science term where code is essentially executed interactively ( historically LISP, SCHEME, PYTHON, etc ) VS. the more traditional ; write text file, parse, compile, execute of more static-typed languages. A fine explanation of that HERE

Stay tuned for PART TWO of this ongoing series where we take MU+CircuitPython for a spin and test out the basic board I/O features.

PURCHASE GEMMA m0 on Elmwood site. 

Further Reading:
https://blog.adafruit.com/2018/03/29/even-more-gemma-circuit-python-guides/

Over the course of the summer I'll be choosing a few of these ^ tutorials to build and document with extra notes on PROTIPS & GOTCHAS.

-Rob
May 14, 2018

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UOIT Motorsports Sponsorship

We are a proud sponsor of the UOIT Formula SAE Electric team!  Check out the unboxing video they prepared on some of the products we sent to them:

May 09, 2018

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Rainbow Light Show LED's + Clear Acrylic = Awesome

When you are in a panic for a last minute gift and you have a laser cutter, the sky is the limit!  It is a lot more fun to make a gift than to just buy one, so yesterday we had some fun doing some customization to a Rainbow Light Show kit.    

Rob designed some constellations in Inkscape and he was looking for a way to integrate them with the Rainbow Light Show.  Building on our MakerCase box building expertise from a previous blog post, we thought it would be fun to edge-light a piece of clear acrylic with the LED Strip from the Rainbow Light Show.

The results could not have been better, check it out:

 

May 08, 2018

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New Adafruit Products

Today we added 250 Adafruit products to our catalogue!  All are now available for pre-order.  

Checkout some of our favourites:

8x32 Flexible RGB Matrix

Ball top 4-way rocker switch

Super fancy 3rd hand kit

January 31, 2018

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Small and Light Shipping

We are pleased to announce a new Canadian shipping option called "Small and Light".  

For orders weighing under 100 grams, we are now offering this rate for only $3.00. 

Please note that this option will have no tracking or service guarantee.  In other words, you will get it when you get it!  Generally the time will be similar to how long regular mail takes.

Update March 23, 2018: The Small and Light program has been a great success for our customers!  We have made this option a permanent offering in our store.