Sean's Tech and Writing Blog
21 November 2014
In the run-up to the publication of the second edition of Raspberry Pi For Dummies, I've created an infographic to help you with making music on your Raspberry Pi. It shows the note numbers you need to use in Scratch and Sonic Pi. Both are covered in Raspberry Pi For Dummies, with Sonic Pi being a new addition to the second edition, with a chapter of its own. You can find out more about Sonic Pi here (and hear the music I wrote using it), and read more about this Raspberry Pi note numbers infographic here. There's more information on what's new in the second edition of Raspberry Pi For Dummies here.
06 November 2014
Later this month, there is a second edition of Raspberry Pi For Dummies coming out. A lot has changed since the previous edition was published in March 2013, including the launch of the Model B+ earlier this year and the introduction of NOOBS, which makes it easier to install the operating system. For this second edition, Mike and I have checked and updated the whole book to account for the new hardware and the latest software. We've also refreshed the list of inspiring projects and useful software at the back of the book with some new suggestions.
The book has three new chapters:
- Making a Minecraft Maze with Python: This project shows you how to make a program in Python that will generate random mazes that you can walk around in Minecraft. It's a lot of fun exploring the mazes, and they don't have to be very big before they become quite challenging to solve. You can easily configure the size and position of the maze if you want to drop it into an existing world, but be careful because the program will wipe out anything in its way as it builds the maze. This chapter previously appeared in the book Raspberry Pi Projects, but since that book is for a different audience, and I got really great feedback from people who saw the program in action, we thought it would be good to include this chapter in Raspberry Pi For Dummies too. You can watch a video of this program building a maze here.
- Making music with Sonic Pi: Sonic Pi is a programming language you can use to write music. In this new chapter, you'll learn how to use it to write tunes you know, random music, and sample-based pieces. The chapter finishes with an industrial piece that combines samples for drums and several synth parts that are synchronised together. I'll post the music on this website soon, both as code and audio.
- RISC OS: This is an alternative operating system for the Raspberry Pi, and it now has an appendix of its own that provides a short introduction to get you started.
We've extended the page count (at the same RRP, so you get better value!), but something had to give, so the chapter on making a website using the Raspberry Pi has been removed. If you'd really like that chapter, the first edition of the book remains on sale with immediate shipping in many places, including Amazon.
The second edition of Raspberry Pi For Dummies is available now for pre-order at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com, with Amazon's pre-order guarantee ensuring you'll pay the lowest price Amazon lists it at between now and publication day. Visit my shop for links to other places you can buy Raspberry Pi For Dummies.
The second edition is only viable because the first edition was well received, so I'd like to thank everyone who read the first edition, bought it, reviewed it, and/or helped to spread the word. All your support is very much appreciated!
23 October 2014
The first half term of the new school year has now finished, and with it the first few weeks of a whole new set of Code Clubs. I've written two new articles to cover two of the key challenges that Scratch presents to new programmers:
- Finding and debugging the top 5 errors in Scratch programs: There are several errors that new Scratchers tend to make. If you're on the look-out for them, it'll make it easier to fix your programs, and to guide students in fixing their own.
- What's the difference between a variable made for one sprite and a variable made for all sprites in Scratch?: This issue is particularly important because it's so hard to untangle if a mistake is made. I've created a short demo that should help to make the difference clearer. Feel free to use it in your clubs and classrooms!
17 October 2014
I'm pleased to say that you can now download the examples from Scratch Programming in Easy Steps for free in the Pi Store on the Raspberry Pi. You can find them filed under Tutorials there. I've also included the PDF sampler from the book and some of my 10-block Scratch demo cards.
I hope that this will make it easier for readers to download and experiment with the example files, and will also introduce some new readers to the book.
The process of submitting to the store was fairly easy, although it took me a while to work out the installation process. To submit to the store, you upload a zip file containing your files, and you have to specify which file will open when somebody clicks the Pi Store's launch button. For projects like mine, this is tricky because it's really a collection of Scratch programs, not a single game to run. I had planned to use 'readme.txt' for the start file, but that didn't work because there's currently a bug in the store where it sets text files to be executable. While there are workarounds (such as writing a bash script that removes the executable status on your text file), the simplest solution is to open a PDF at launch instead. That also gave me an opportunity to design something that looks a bit friendlier when somebody opens it.
I'll be interested to see how many people these files reach through the store. The Pi Store could be a great way to get new software and ideas to other Raspberry Pi fans.
09 October 2014
Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red is an installation at the Tower of London to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War. It fills the moat of the Tower with 888,246 ceramic poppies, each of which represents a British military death in the war.
Last week, I was pleased to be able to spend the morning as one of the volunteers assembling and planting the poppies in the moat. The installation is a beautiful tribute to the lives lost during the war, and a powerful act of remembrance. It was touching to see mementoes left by members of the public in memory of relatives they had lost in the war, but probably never known. As I walked around the Tower after my shift, I spoke to a few members of the public who asked me questions about it, and I had a sense that many people were moved by the installation.
The last poppy will be planted on 11 November, and the installation will then be gradually disassembled. You can buy one of the poppies, with proceeds being divided among six service charities.
Here are some photos I took on the day. By showing the poppies up close, I hope it helps to give a sense of scale to the installation. It looks spectacular from the walkway around the tower, but getting up close really brings home just how many poppies there are, and how many people it represents.
It was a wonderful experience to contribute to this unique installation, which draws upon poppies designed by Paul Cummins, a setting by stage designer Tom Piper, and contributions from thousands of staff and volunteers. Thank you to the Tower of London and the team behind this project for giving me the opportunity to be part of it, and for looking after us all on the day.
25 September 2014
One of the biggest challenges that organisations face is finding and identifying the right talent, so I'm pleased to announce the publication of a book that helps to address that problem. The Interviewer's Pocketbook is a compact guide for hiring managers, showing how they can plan for and conduct successful recruitment interviews. A successful interview is one in which you can identify the right person for the job, and point to evidence that shows the candidate is best suited to the role. Too many interviews rely on gut instinct because there is little formal training for many interviewers, especially in small businesses, so this quick guide provides some tips to enable you to better differentiate candidates and hire with confidence.
The book was originally written by John Townsend in 1987 and updated by him in 1999. I updated this edition to reflect changes in equality legislation and business culture, and to focus exclusively on recruitment interviews. (The previous editions also covered other internal communications situations that required one to one meetings.)
For more information, including the table of contents, see my page for the Interviewer's Pocketbook here. I'll update it with a free sample in due course, and will let you know on the blog here when it' live.
The book is published by Management Pocketbooks and is part of their popular series that is often used in large companies for internal training. The book is also available through book stores and I've posted some links to where you can buy the book here.
I have a limited number of copies available for review in the UK, so please contact me if you're interested. If you know someone who might be interested in this book, please do share this blog post or the book page with them. Every share, tweet, comment and review is very much appreciated!
23 September 2014
The Raspberry Pi Foundation updated the Raspbian software the week before last. The good news is that Minecraft is now preinstalled in Raspbian, so you can start playing it, and more importantly programming it in Python, straight away.
However, it installs into a new location, so you might need to update any programs you've written so they can find the Minecraft Raspberry Pi API. Here's the code you need to get Minecraft working again:
mc = minecraft.Minecraft.create()
mc.postToChat("Welcome to Minecraft!")
The important line is the second one - the API is now found at this location. The rest of this code posts a message to Minecraft to show it's working.
If you're a Minecraft fan, try out my Minecraft Maze Maker program!