Thursday, 21 November 2013

Kano, finally the education pack we need for Raspberry Pi

Make no mistake the Kano is not some terribly origianl or clever idea! People have been homebrewing great lessons on the Raspberry Pi and making kits that bring everything you need to play it.  I started doing it in July 2012 by putting together a kit to show everyone and Alan O'Donohoe has been touring the country with his Raspberry Jams to put together kits in a very Blue Peter kind of way with a few bits of sticky back plastic.

However Kano is the first company to try to bring all the bits and pieces that you need in one clean package with software and a learning scaffolding. In effect it's taken all the great ideas that people have seen in Raspberry Jams and put them into a single package.  A very effective way to create a wonderful teaching tool.   That is why I am so very glad that they are getting funding through Kickstarter and I know I will be keen to buy a few packs as soon as they become available!

Well Done to Kano for professionalising the Pi and bringing it back to its found principles of trying to encourage electronics and computer engineering in schools!

If you want to support the project, please visit their Kickstarter page:

Now all I have to do, is make my own kit for Thailand.... Oh well!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Using the Pi With Google Docs

The Raspberry Pi is a great little bit of kit and wonderful for collecting sensor data.  However you can't analyse that data from the comfort of your office or home...If only there was some sort of Internet based Spreadsheet!

Well the good news is that the Pi is great with Python and there is a library especially created for this purpose. Install the gspread library and you can now easily create Spreadsheets for Google Docs.  Great news, huh!

Even better there's a full tutorial at:   This works with a humidty sensor, but it really shows the possibilities.

There are also some great tutorials for temperature sensors:

And a printable:

Now anything the Pi can sense can be recorded into a Spreadsheet and accessed from anywhere!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Games Pit - Make your own games console!

This is a really nice little project for the Pi.  Imagine your local nursery who have a television, but nothing interactive really could really do with something cheap and fun for their children to play on.

1. Source all the parts needed for children friendly play.
2. Build a suitable case
3. Install the Pi with Games Pit (Make sure it auto boots)
4. Make some of your own games

As a term's project this would be really useful and a wonderful way to encourage people to take Raspberry Pis into the community.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

10 Good Reasons for girls to do Computer Science

Just 140 girls took A-level Computing last year. Now, I know it could be argued that they took Mathematics instead and are still planning to go into Computer Science. However I remember working at ARM and HR did everything possible to try to encourage women to apply, but even so about 90% of the applicants were men.

5 Noble Reasons 

  1. A woman invented coding, you can be part of the sisterhood. (Ada Lovelace)
  2. You can choose to focus on problem-solving or be creative
  3. Women have improved humanity, because of their coding skills. (Look to the right)
  4. It's actually a very caring profession. Great code makes people's lives easier, more fun and productive.
  5. You can give back to the world - Open Source is a movement to share applications and programs with the world.

5 Selfish Reasons

  1. It pays more than a lot of professions.
  2. You can work from home. If you have a child, you can easily take on freelance projects after the children have gone to bed. With programming you can have it all!
  3. I don't like to say this, but if you want to marry a rich man, your chances are greatly improved in the technology sector.
  4. There's no physical work in this. You don't have to do lots of horrible exercise. Unless you want to, but surely you'd prefer the air-conditioned gym included in your package? 
  5. You could work in a beautiful office with most of the chores done for you, have you seen Google or Apple's offices? 
P.S. Please get on with it, I don't want my daughter to have no friends when she grows up and becomes a Computer Scientist. I've bought her Computer Engineer Barbie and everything!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Cambridge Computer Lab - 75 Years of excellence!

Last summer we were very privileged to host our Raspberry Jam in the Cambridge Computer Lab and the lab itself has a fascinating history. 

In 1938, the staff and students of the Anatomy School at the University of Cambridge moved to a new site, vacating their building in the heart of the city. Among the incoming occupants who took their place were founding members of a brand new service, which the University had only just approved. This “Mathematical Laboratory” began life as a two-man team, confined to the Anatomy School’s North Wing, and was charged with providing a resource for solving complex problems by “numerical methods”. On reflection, it would have been a struggle to give it a less assuming start in life. These events, nevertheless, marked the beginning of Cambridge computing.

This week, the Cambridge Computer Laboratory, as the former Mathematical Laboratory is now known, will host lectures and discussions on computing science and the entrepreneurship of its graduates and members, to celebrate its 75th anniversary. The event will salute achievements far beyond those which anyone would have thought necessary, let alone possible, when it was set up arguably as the world’s first Computer Laboratory. In contrast with its humble origins, the Lab today is comprehensively recognised as a world-leader in computing research and boasts large, modern premises, dozens of staff and hundreds of students. The laboratory has given rise to almost 200 spin-out technology firms, some of which have become major success stories in their own right. As such, it sits at the heart of the region’s cluster of high-tech businesses known as the “silicon fen”.

It was where EDSAC, the first programmable computer ever brought into general service, was built, and where microprogramming was pioneered by Maurice Wilkes, the Lab’s second Director, using EDSAC 2. Towards the end of the mainframe age, major advances were made in fields such as networked computing and computer-aided design. Cambridge’s Computer Lab was the home of the world’s first webcam. It was the place where Michael Burrows, the leading computer scientist in search engine development, learned his trade, and where Bjarne Stroustrup, inventor of the hugely popular computer language C++, did his PhD. Without the Lab, early home computers like the BBC Micro, or the low-power chip technology used in iPads and mobile phones, or the Raspberry Pi, might well never have emerged.

How was this achieved? Andy Hopper, Professor of Computer Technology and the current Head of the Lab, puts such accomplishments down to a culture and spirit of innovation which, he believes, has been the running theme of that 75-year history. “Today, the establishment mentality seems to be that you can industrialise innovation, or innovate on demand,” he observes. “You can’t do that any more than you can ask an artist to paint the next brilliant masterpiece. The success of the Cambridge Computer Lab has come about because we created a culture of innovation and nurtured innovative people within it.”

Even the beginnings of the Computer Lab disrupted the norm. When John Lennard-Jones, a Theoretical Chemist who was to become its first Director, submitted proposals for a computing facility in 1936, the very idea would have struck most people as extraordinary. At the time, a “computer” was a person, very frequently a mathematically gifted woman, employed to carry out tedious numerical calculations by hand.

Lennard-Jones’ visionary proposal was for a facility that would carry out complicated calculations in support of wider University research, with the human computers using “recent developments in mechanical and electrical aids to computation”. The Lab’s early hardware consisted of these machines, and two analog computers which were designed to solve linear differential equations.

In the decades that followed, however, the Lab’s role evolved far beyond Lennard-Jones’ own imaginings, and at a pace matched only by advances in computing itself. Much of this took place under the stewardship of Maurice Wilkes, the other inaugural staff member, and the pre-eminent figure in Cambridge’s computing story. Originally, Wilkes had the post of “University Demonstrator” at the Lab. When he returned to Cambridge after service during the war, he found that Lennard-Jones had moved on, and replaced him as Director.

EDSAC The first programmable computer
Rightly remembered as a computing pioneer, Wilkes spent more than 30 years in charge of the Lab, transformed it into a centre of excellence, and oversaw many of its greatest triumphs. His era began in 1946, when the Lab still comprised a smattering of mechanical machines arranged on benches. Under his leadership, EDSAC was pieced together in a former dissecting room of the Anatomy School. In the summer, there was an overwhelming stench of formalin, a solution used by the previous occupants to preserve dead bodies for study, which had soaked into the floorboards and vaporised in the heat. It must have been an odd atmosphere in which to give birth to foundational technology.

EDSAC was the first programmable computer to come into general use by scientists. On May 6, 1949, after a sometimes infuriating three-year construction period, it successfully completed its first programmed task by accurately calculating the squares of numbers from 0 to 99.

In the context of modern computing, the technology involved sounds almost laughable. Users prepared programs by punching them on to paper. Finished programs then hung on a line, waiting for machine operators to load them in (the original “job queue”). As academics themselves queued up to use EDSAC, they were thwarted by frequent breakdowns, often having worked into the night. The almost hopelessly complex task of designing the computer’s memory was solved by creating a mercury delay-line system, based on the principle of ultrasonic waves being pulsed through a tube filled with the element. Unfortunately, this sometimes leaked during the filling of the tubes, compelling users and technicians to negotiate hazardous globules of mercury on the floor.

The advances that followed during the 1980s included “UNIVERSE”, which interconnected several Cambridge Digital Rings using the European Space Agency’s Orbital Test Satellite, and demonstrated the feasibility of linking several local area networks on this basis. The follow-up, UNISON, improved the approach with a focus on Email, document transfer, and the exchange of multimedia information in real time.

One famous by-product of this type of research occurred in 1993. A team of researchers working in multimedia systems who shared the same coffee pot had decided to keep tabs on whether it was full or not by using a lashed-up camera to relay a live display to their desktops. An even better system, which emerged that year, was to display the image online through a web browser. The coffee pot thus became the object of the world’s first webcam, and gained a global cult following so large that, when it was switched off in 2001, the world’s media actively mourned its passing.

Many case studies of this phenomenon are discussed in depth by Haroon Ahmed in the pages of Cambridge Computing. The better-known number the likes of Acorn, which became a household name after developing the BBC Micro, part of the Corporation’s nationwide computer literacy campaign in the 1980s. Famously, the contract to do so was won after co-founder Hermann Hauser promised to deliver a prototype within a week, well aware that no such demonstration computer existed. He then assembled a team which successfully built the prototype, completing it five hours before the BBC arrived to sample it.

Acorn was mortally wounded in the home computing market crash of 1984, but groundwork undertaken there on chip design ultimately led to the foundation of Cambridge’s most famous existing spin-out firm. Advanced RISC Machines Ltd (ARM) was set up in 1990 and its technology was picked up by Apple, initially for its hand-held Newton computer system. Today billions of chips are produced by ARM and sold to major clients around the world, featuring in the likes of the iPad and iPhone.

Raspberry Pi
More recent examples of companies founded by Lab members include Real VNC, which commercialised software - the Virtual Network Computer – enabling one computer to take over the screen, keyboard and mouse of another. It became key to remote support for customers in the IT sector and was ultimately licensed for use in Google products, consumer appliances and the automotive industry. In 2008, meanwhile, the charity Raspberry Pi was set up by a team of current and former Lab members to create an ultra-small, cheap computer with the express aim of encouraging children to learn computer science. Founded amid concerns that the number of University applicants for the subject across Britain was falling, it to some extent echoes the achievements of the BBC Micro team at Acorn almost a quarter of a century earlier.

Adapted from:

Saturday, 6 April 2013

When is it Time For Pi?

I often get asked why the Pi can't do this or why don't I just use a PC. In some cases people are looking for a reason to use the PI, but just don't know what it is really good at. In short electronics projects are where the Pi performs best or somewhere you would not wish to leave a PC such as a weather station or a kiosk. Anyway here is a little flowchart to show you when it's time for Pi.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Web Services I use - The laundry list

This is going to be a bit of a laundry list, but I just got asked what Web Services I use and have realised it's quite a list. So this is directly from my current bookmark list.  Consider it a treasure hunt to find the gold.

IT Teaching

Games Development

Download - Compil Games
AGS - Adventure Game Studio
Wintermute Engine - Home of Construct, the free open-source game creator
App Hub - home
Building Windows Phone Games with Microsoft XNA Game Studio | Tech·Ed North America 2010 | Channel 9
Make iOS and Flash Games with StencylWorks
MIT App Inventor
Android Cookbook: Home
Kongregate Labs
Scratch - Imagine, Program, Share
GameMaker: Studio™ | YoYo Games
Create Games -
Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python
Games at Sploder - Make your own Online Games Arcade, War Space & Platformer Games
How to draw funny cartoons. Simple guide to improve your drawing skills.
O2 learn - Lessons
Free Excel: Templates | Free Excel: Add-ins
MIT Center for Mobile Learning @ The Media Lab
News | Association for Learning Technology
index to music education viewlets E-learning Experiences
Games in Education - Science
Code Year
Computing at School :: Computing For the Next Generation ...
ACMI Generator
TeachMeet / FrontPage
Free Online Course Materials | MIT OpenCourseWare
For Teachers – Google in Education
Hello World! Create interactive flash tools / games for education
ictstarters - home
MoooJvM's Channel - YouTube
Prezi - The Zooming Presentation Editor
A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods
Learn to Type | Free Typing Tutor | Typing Course – Be a publisher
Wordle - Beautiful Word Clouds
Waterbear: Welcome
Under Ten Minutes | How to use Education Technology quickly. - Download Free Sound Effects
Free Computer, Programming, Mathematics, Technical Books, Lecture Notes and Tutorials
YouTube to MP3 Converter - SnipMP3
Stock Photography: Search Royalty Free Images & Photos
SearchHash: make your own spreadsheet of hashtagged tweets to savour
Topsy - Real-time search for the social web
Free Sound Clips |
Popplet | Collect, curate and share your ideas, inspirations, and projects! | Make Your own customized Barbra Streisand song!
ICT Tools to support learning
ACMI Generator | create and share visual ideas online
Vegas Product Family Overview
5 Tips for Creating the Perfect Profile Pic
All you need to create your own outside broadcast unit and stream video from almost anywhere | Learn 4 Life
Naace: The Video Production in Schools (Advanced) Course
The Differentiator
Instructables - Make, How To, and DIY
Search Stories
Scratch for Budding Computer Scientists: Introduction
Valve launches ‘Steam for Schools’ Program » Digital Leader Network
Computing History - The UK Computer Museum
digitalstudieswiki [licensed for non-commercial use only] / Welcome
Build with Chrome
Stykz • Downloads
Photo Pin : Free Photos for Bloggers via Creative Commons
The Teachers - Kodudes - The Write Buzz
Wolfram|Alpha: Computational Knowledge Engine
3mhothouse - lino
Training for Schools and Colleges

3d modelling

25 (Free) 3D Modeling Applications You Should Not Miss
Moviesandbox » an open-source machinima toolset
Inkscape. Draw Freely.
Best Freeware 3D Designing Programs
Storytelling Alice
Gamestudio game development system
3D Rad Development History
Wings 3D
insight3d - opensource image based 3d modeling software
Free 3D CAD with Motion Simulation : AR-CAD freeCAD
FreeOCR Downloads - Free Optical Character Recognition Software for Windows
Create timelines, share them on the web | Timetoast timelines
Power Searching with Google
TES webchats - how you can get involved - Article - TES
#TESchat - Julia Donaldson - Thursday 4 October 6.30pm - Resources - TES - An Open Marketplace for Original Lesson Plans and Other Teaching Resources
Runestone Interactive
ClassBadges Is A Free Way To Gamify Your Classroom | Edudemic
Educational Touch Typing Course for Schools - Englishtype
iBooks Author: Publishing and distribution FAQ
Platformer Game Maker - Flash Game Maker on Sploder!
Udacity | Free Online Courses. Advance your College Education & Career


List of Free Tools to Create Infographics for your Learners
K9 Web Protection Browser for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store
10 Awesome Free Tools To Make Infographics
Build Your Own Adobe Creative Suite with Free and Cheap Software
ICT and Computing - Raspberry Pi - OCR
AppShed - Build HTML5, iPhone and Android apps online for schools, education and business
zondle - games to support learning
The 22 Digital Skills Every 21st Century Teacher Must Have ~ Educational Technology and Mobile Learning
Chris McWilliam's ICT Subject Leader blog: Blog 17: Ideas for introducing game making
6 Chrome Extensions for Students « Kyle B. Pace
Popcorn Maker
Minecraft: Pi Edition | Minecraft: Pi Edition updates and downloads

Network Management

Meraki Systems Manager
Mac App Store - Apple Configurator


iPads in Primary Education: Apps for Creativity in Primary Education
StoryKeepers - iPad StoryTelling APPS
Top Five iPad Apps for Teaching Across All Content Areas | Edutopia
NimbleKit - Develop native iOS apps with Html & Javascript. - AirPlay mirroring to your Mac or PC, wirelessly.
Animoto - Create Video Slideshows - Style Selector


Tutorial: Getting Minecraft Pi Edition running with MCPIPY Scripts | Python & Minecraft on Raspberry Pi!
Online Degree: 100 Essential Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers


75 Open Source Replacements for Popular Education Apps - Datamation
FRAPS show fps, record video game movies, screen capture software
Knowmia - Technology for Teaching. Made Simple.
Build with Chrome
Get Revising
Computer Science Unplugged |