Pi Workshop Review

by Donald Grigor

I arrived early for this one but unfortunately the speaker withdrew for the tutorial, major blow! Les Pounder sounded a really interesting and entertaining speaker, hopefully he can be persuaded to return to a future FlossUK event. The ever resourceful FlossUK staff stepped into the breach and provided a great introduction to the platform.

Pi’s are bare metal devices and without screens keyboards and mice this workshop would have been tricky. The screens worked really well. Also good was having a bag of bits to plug in and play with the GPIO. The best thing about Pi’s is that they encourage you to give stuff a go that you wouldn’t risk more expensive or dangerous kit over (no immediate exposure to anything over 5v). After plugging in your first led display, getting the software to work, you are already visualising entire screen walls driven by Pi’s! *This* is the magic of Pi’s they are so accessible and hackable that you start out by trying tiny ideas and you are already thinking big by the time you’ve got to the end of the howto!

Along the way I played with Docker for the first time (yeah I know, but I’m busy!), checking out pi code from Github, getting introduced to node.js, Node-Red and started rethinking how our instrument teaching labs might be driven by Pi’s in the future..

Pi’s let you play without commitment because none of it takes very long. It is easier to play with hardware that is better supported so maybe not the cheap as chips full colour LED display (that had funny pin outs and would only display solid white for me) you can tangent off into funny stuff but also drill down into the genuinely useful but still disposable e.g. out of band comms, environmental monitoring, home media servers, etc, etc. There are lots of things out there and of course available to you, free, libre and open source!

Say aye, tae a PI!

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