Open Source

Anyone for Pi? Mods and hacks for the Raspberry Pi

An enthusiastic modding community has been playing with the $40 Raspberry Pi Linux computer for the past couple of months and they've not been wasting time.

Hacks and mods for the credit-card sized device range from speech-controlled robots to systems for controlling your house over the internet.

TechRepublic delved into the forums on the Raspberry Pi website to find the projects that really showcase the device's capabilities - starting with this initiative to build a robot drone.

There are plenty of Pi-powered drones in the pipeline, but this Pi in the sky could save lives by helping map disaster zones.

The lightweight Pi board will be the brain of the autonomous plane, which will take aerial footage of disaster-struck areas.

The drone is being built by OpenRelief, an international project to develop better communications tools for disaster relief efforts. The project was inspired by difficulties mapping the Tohoku area of Japan following the earthquake that struck the region in March 2011.

The drone will use open-source image-recognition software that can spot features such as smoke, roads or people. The plane will also include Arduino-based sensors to take measurements relating to weather and radiation. Information collected by the drone will be processed by the Pi and shared with disaster-management systems such as Sahana Eden.

The drone will be able to navigate and land unaided. OpenRelief expects the plane to be ready for production by December 2012.

Photo: OpenRelief

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

5 comments
bart001fr
bart001fr

Hooray for that robot drone search plane. The projects are interesting, but the killer will always be a small, portable display unit. The Noritake-Itron display shown in the last image retails for about $100, ten times its actual worth, and this is a naked OEM display! I can get a new 15-inch LCD computer display for less. The only problem is that I need to plug it into the mains. On the other hand I can easily see someone building a cheap (costwise) set of blade servers. I guess the only limit really is the prospective user's imagination. Anyone else have good ideas? Let's hear them.

SiO2
SiO2

And other than having to be a little choosy about some of the hardware you plug into it, its awesome. I had a bit of trouble finding an SD card, wireless keyboard and webcam until I realised the PS3's eyethingy was an ancient V4L with no image compression and that works fine, it cost me 3 quid in a game shop secondhand. I'm building a 'terminator' using a Pi and an Arduino back-to-back, the webcam on top, a mobile battery and 10 RC servos - 2-axis ankles, 1-axis knee and hip and a final pair to move the webcam (it doesnt have arms, yet anyway...) along with a laser pointer as a targeting reticule. I'd already got the vision and targeting working on my big PC, that can tag my hands with a laser dot at 8 frames a second so I was surprised to see the Pi do it at the same speed. I've spent more than a few years learning embedded C+ trying to do what I'm doing, and the Pi makes it as simple as simulating it in a big PC, except its for real. I've been using the guts of ARM-powered smartphones for my robotics up til now, as theres a plentiful supply of cheap processors laying around for free if you dont mind hacking them out. It doesnt take much to rip out a screen and keyboard and install Python in an old Nokia, but the Pi is a whole other order above those little beasts. Looking at the photos, it seems not many really 'get' the Pi. Building a 'supercomputer' out of them defeats their object, as does running Windows - even though it IS a cheaper way of doing it. I guess they didnt grow up with Basic like I did though, and thats a big part of the concept. Teh Internets reacted like I thought too; type Raspberry into Goog and the most common hit is... A case for your Pi, designed by some wannabe who hasnt got one yet and thinks he can make money off it. The BYO tablet is hysterical in its pointlessness, but clever all the same, and certainly beats the rest of the internet. The team building the boat, however, now thats an interesting project that really does push the Pi's design envelope. I like that one...

dale.mccart
dale.mccart

Having had IBM 4381 serial # 121 (first customer install) I can say it was about double the size of a side by side refrigerator. The box was only half full as Model Groups 1 and 2 were uniprocessors, and the space was reserved for the Model Group 3 dual processor . It did replace a 1 MIPS IBM 370/158 that was eight times its size. http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/mainframe/mainframe_PP4381.html http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/mainframe/mainframe_PP3158.html

maj37
maj37

The IBM 4381 was not a room sized computer, unless you are talking about a pretty small room, even if you include the disk drives. It was of course much larger then the Pi.

DaveWade
DaveWade

The 4381 could support a huge array of peripherals. We did have rather a lot on the one I worked on. There were two strings of 3380, A row of four or six tape drives, a couple of 3720 comms controllers, a couple of 3174 screen controllers , a 7171 for ASCII devices and a Series/1 for X.25. I think that counts as a room full.