10 more killer Raspberry Pi projects (Collection 2)

More amazing stuff done with Raspberry Pis

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Killer Raspberry Pi Projects

In the last installment of Killer Raspberry Pi Projects, the focus was on projects that produced a final device or system. In this installment, I’m going to cover a few cool projects along with some tools used to build other projects. I've also included some Raspberry Pi Zero projects that are becoming more numerous as the board and its successor, the Raspberry Pi Zero W, become more available (the latter is still much like hens' teeth).

If you know of a project that should be included in my next round up, drop me a line, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for my new newsletter!

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Your very own Zero micro-cluster

Come on, you know you’ve dreamed of running your very own compute cluster. You envision a great room full of processors and disk drives whirring away doing … well, whatever it is you dream of doing. But unless you have really deep pockets, that ain’t going to happen. That said, what can happen is a micro-cluster of Raspberry Pi Zeros for less than $100 using the Cluster Hat produced by 8086 Consultancy. To find out more about this amazingly cool project, see my review, Cluster HAT, the easiest way to build a Raspberry Pi Zero cluster. Awesome compute power on a budget is in your future.

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Where’s my Pi?

An annoyance that we all deal with when working with multiple Raspberry Pis and we don’t have a spare monitor and keyboard is figuring what the IP address of a board is when we fire it up. The Adafruit Pi Finder solves this problem: “Run this cross-platform application to locate your Raspberry Pi's IP address … But it doesn't end there... Order now and you'll also get the bootstrapping functionality! That's right, the Pi Finder will ssh into the fresh new Pi, update it, set up the wifi SSID and password, set a custom hostname of your choice, and install Occidentalis, a collection of really handy software for you.” Brilliant!

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Wide Area Pi

If you’re building a constellation of Raspberry Pis for, say, a sensor system for environmental monitoring, it’s going to be geographically distributed, potentially covering distances that preclude reliable high-speed communications. This means that establishing just how robust your constellation is when poor connectivity is involved will be crucial to making sure your investment delivers its maximum value. The Raspberry Pi – WAN Emulation takes an RPi and turns it into Web-interfaced traffic shaper. Using a Raspberry Pi for this kind of setup is a much easier way to test performance and reliability than using a laptop or desktop.

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Not blinded by the light

James Wahawisan’s Automated Blinds is simple in concept: Be able to tell Alexa to instruct a Raspberry Pi to open and close the blinds in his apartment. In practice, the devil is always in the details. James did get it working but not as fast as he’d like (the limiting factor was how noisy the stepper motors are when run faster than 1/4 microsteps) and he has a list of improvements he’s planning which include saving state across power cycling and position sensing. While this project is not completely baked, it’s a useful starting point for anyone looking to motorize something with a Raspberry Pi.

 

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RPi-driven Rubik’s Cube solver made from Lego!

Alas, Francesco Georg, the creator of this amazing project, hasn’t published any of the code or build instructions, but as an example of what can be achieved with “4+ weekends of obsessive work!” and Lego Mindstorms, a Raspberry Pi, and BrickPi. Georg notes on Facebook that it uses the Kociemba two-phase algorithm and can complete a solution in about 1.5 minutes. Watch the video and be amazed.

 

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Pi flies!

Drones that can be programmed tend to be tiny and pricey, but the Pi0drone, which runs Debian on a Raspberry Pi Zero interfaced with an Erle Robotics PXFmini autopilot controlling a HobbyKing Spec FPV250 Quad Copter ARF Combo Kit, is about 10 inches across and the entire setup costs about $200! The drone can be flown using a traditional RC controller, over Wi-Fi via a gamepad, or over Wi-Fi using ROS (Robot Operating System); there’s a how-to video on YouTube showing the basics of ROS-controlled flying.

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Pi Zero USB dongle

This is a really cool idea: Add a hardware mod, tweak a little code, and turn an Raspberry Pi Zero into a USB dongle that connects to the host’s network connection. The impetus for this project was the RPi Zero’s lack of connectivity but with the recent release of the Raspberry Pi Zero W, that problem has disappeared. Even so, there’s still a lot of opportunity to do interesting things with this device including creating local hotspots and pen testing.

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Mr. Gibbs goes sailing

Named after Captain Sparrow’s right hand man in The Pirates of the Caribbean, Mr. Gibbs (I really like the name), “the goal of this project is to build a system which will meet or exceed the functionality of commercially available tactical sailing compass/gps units, with inexpensive, easy to acquire commodity hardware. A minimum configuration of the Mr. Gibbs unit and a Pebble watch will cost less than $150 to build. The software is developed primarily in .Net and uses a simple plugin framework to allow easy extensibility and modification.”

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World (or at least, home) RPi domination

There are lots of home automation solutions but few run on the Raspberry Pi. openHAB is one of the exceptions and arguably the most developed and polished. The system has attracted a huge following and supports just about every protocol and popular home control device. It also provides mobile-first access via the Web. For the Raspberry Pi, openHAB provides openHABian for “Hassle-free openHAB Setup.” This is a fantastic premises automation solution that can also act as a control center and data logger for IoT devices (it provides a REST API, MQTT, XMPP, and CoAP).

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David Hrbaty

I sing the home and garden electric!

Using OpenHAB running on a Raspberry Pi and Opensprinkler Pi with custom firmware to control relays and Arduino boards via MQTT, David Hrbaty’s home control system is impressive. You can see an overview of the setup in Hrbaty’s YouTube video (you’ll probably want to turn the volume down … it’s just got an annoying music track) where you’ll get a good idea of the scope of the system. It even controls his greenhouse.