grasshopper

I bought the new Raspberry Pi Zero W along with the official Raspberry Pi Zero case. It’s really nice not having to worry about a wireless adapter. The addition brings my Pi family up to 7, which of course means it’s time for the letter G. Not a lot of pies starting with G. I ended up going with grasshopper pie, which is based off the popular drink and happens to be the first drink I ever made with my Mom. We always used to make the ice cream variation during the holidays, which is effectively a mint milkshake.

The Joy of Computing

The thing those computers didn’t do was tell me that I couldn’t do something because a marketing department or executive or shareholder wanted to prevent me from doing it, so they could sell me something else that would do that thing. Once we bought the computer, we owned it, and as much as I enjoy my tablets and smartphones and iMacs and whatever, getting back to my Linux command line and learning Python and talking to other enthusiasts online about what they’re doing with their little Raspberry Pis is reawakening this passion and joy that has been dormant inside of me for a long, long time.

rediscovering the joy of general purpose computing by Wil Wheaton

I’m having a similar reawakening as I mess around with Pis and microcontrollers.

Review: 2016 MacBook Pro

I posted some very quick initial thoughts after about 10 minutes with the new MacBook Pro. Last week I was able to get everything installed and configured for work and spend some time with it. It’s the best computer I’ve ever used, passing the MacBook Air I had in 2011.

My two favorite things are the keyboard and Touch ID. Not only do I love the clicky sound of the keys, but the feel is completely new and makes it seem like I’m typing a lot faster. Having Touch ID in Mac OS is everything I hoped it would be. Using 1Password is a completely different experience.

I also like the trackpad and the feel of “clicking.” Admittedly, I don’t click much on the Mac since I have Tap to click enabled in System Preferences. I was worried about the increased size of the trackpad but it hasn’t been an issue; their wrist detection software is as good as people said it was.

mac-tap-to-click

The difference in size (all dimensions) and weight are considerable from the previous generation, which hadn’t changed much in years. The battery does seem to drain faster though, which isn’t great.

I’m not sold on the usefulness of the Touch Bar yet. It’s a neat concept and done well. Time will tell on this one. Not having a physical esc button has tripped me up more than I expected.

Being able to plug power in on any of the USB Type-C ports is very handy. The number of dongles I had to order so I could use all of my devices seems ridiculous though.

My only major complaint is not having a MagSafe power connector.

 

3 MacBook Pros

My new MacBook Pro came yesterday. While not much felt different in my last laptop upgrade, I could tell this one was completely different right away. The size and weight remind me of the MacBook Air I got in 2011. The new color is fresh. Trackpad “clicks” feels familiar, maybe because of the new iPhone 7 home “button.” The keyboard can be loud, but I’ve kind of missed that from the old days. The Touch Bar looks neat, but will it be useful? The screen looks crisper. Even the hinge is noticeably smoother.

Pictured from top to bottom, these are the names reported by About This Mac:

  • 13-inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports
  • Retina, 13-inch, Mid 2014
  • Retina, 13-inch, Early 2013

Pibow PiTFT+

Found this case for the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and the 3.5″ TFT LCD. Got it from Adafruit, where I tend to look first for any accessories, but you can also buy it directly from Pimoroni (they make similar cases for other Pi models or if you don’t have a connected display). The fact that it’s blue (hard to see from this photo) helped make it a quick purchase.

The case is a really neat design, using 10 different layers (there are also 2 extras depending on your display and Pi model) that fit around the board and all of the ports. The 4 plastic screws don’t even go through the Pi board itself at all, which you may think wouldn’t be secure. The way the different layers fit together around the ports means nothing moves even if you shake it. It’s snug. Here’s also a close shot of the clear bottom.

Pi Tips

I stuffed myself on Raspberry Pi this weekend, making great progress on my Pi 3 project, getting to a usable basic v1. I’ll share more details on this after Thanksgiving. I also decided to rebuild my Pi Zero Homebridge server by installing Raspbian Jessie Lite (previously installed Raspbian via NOOBS) since it’s a headless system. It’s always fun to mess around with linux, though I couldn’t handle it as a full-time operating system.

While it’s fresh in my mind, here are some things that either tripped me up in the past or I found over the weekend.

  1. If you hide your Wi-Fi network, after you install Raspbian you’ll be scratching your head wondering how to connect. There is no UI for it and you might not even be setting up your Pi to launch into a GUI. Might as well dig into the command line right away by editing a couple of files.
  2. Monitor configurations are a pain in the ass. For the longest time I thought the 7″ display was a piece of shit because it was so blurry. Can’t this stuff be plug-n-play? Then then 3″ display I bought for the Pi 3 seems upside down considering where most of the ports are located. I found a little package of scripts called LCD-show linked off a LCD info page. I’m not even sure if my LCDs are close to the ones sold by this company, but these scripts work great. You can easily reboot in different screen orientations too (the rotation didn’t seem to work properly with the mouse on my 7″, but I didn’t try to troubleshoot at the time).
  3. Use Unclutter to hide your mouse cursor when you don’t need it.
  4. Clone and restore SD cards from the command line, because you’re in the linux spirit already.
  5. Since I only access the Pi Zero via SSH, being welcomed by a bit of color with some info about the machine and reminders helps to increase the sugar content. I made a few modifications (my version is below) to a custom MOTD. The colors are set by $(tput setaf 5) and changing the number (color table). You probably want to add this to .bashrc though and not .bash_profile as instructed.

raspberry-pi-custom-motd

    let upSeconds="$(/usr/bin/cut -d. -f1 /proc/uptime)"
    let secs=$((${upSeconds}%60))
    let mins=$((${upSeconds}/60%60))
    let hours=$((${upSeconds}/3600%24))
    let days=$((${upSeconds}/86400))
    UPTIME=`printf "%d days, %02dh%02dm%02ds" "$days" "$hours" "$mins" "$secs"`

    # get the load averages
    read one five fifteen rest < /proc/loadavg

    echo "$(tput setaf 5)
    --- Raspberry Pi Zero ---
$(tput setaf 2)
       .~~.   .~~.    `date +"%A, %e %B %Y, %r"`
      '. \ ' ' / .'   `uname -srmo`$(tput setaf 1)
       .~ .~~~..~.
      : .~.'~'.~. :   Uptime.............: ${UPTIME}
     ~ (   ) (   ) ~  Memory.............: `cat /proc/meminfo | grep MemFree | awk {'print $2'}`kB (Free) / `cat /proc/meminfo | grep MemTotal | awk {'print $2'}`kB (Total)
    ( : '~'.~.'~' : ) Load Averages......: ${one}, ${five}, ${fifteen} (1, 5, 15 min)
     ~ .~ (   ) ~. ~  Running Processes..: `ps ax | wc -l | tr -d " "`
      (  : '~' :  )   IP Address.........: `/sbin/ifconfig wlan0 | /bin/grep "inet addr" | /usr/bin/cut -d ":" -f 2 | /usr/bin/cut -d " " -f 1`
       '~ .~~~. ~'    Hostname...........: `hostname --long`.local
           '~'
$(tput setaf 6)
Homebridge Commands
  sudo journalctl -u homebridge -n 300
  sudo systemctl status homebridge (also start/stop)
    $(tput sgr0)"

What are your favorite Raspberry Pi tips?

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

Almost a year ago I ordered a Raspberry Pi Zero and all kinds of shit to go with it. I messed around with it a little bit but now use it as a Homebridge server, providing HomeKit access to my non-supported devices. Nothing crazy cool.

This weekend I thought of a neat winter project idea and decided to buy the latest and greatest, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. I also ordered the 3.5″ touch screen LCD (stylus included) pictured above. Now I need to find a case to hold both. What’s my project? You’ll have to wait and see.