09 October 2015
In August, I took part in David Byrne's Meltdown festival as a member of the choir in Atomic Bomb, a celebration of William Onyeabor's music. Onyeabor is something of an enigma: little is known about him, but the string of synth-based albums he released in the 70s and 80s have been reissued recently and are finding a whole new audience.
It was a fantastic experience to sing in the encore as part of the 150 strong choir. I was in the choir stall behind the stage, and had a great view of the band and the audience, who were on their feet and loving it. Our entrance to the auditorium took longer than expected because the audience members were dancing in the aisles.
I feature in this short documentary that was filmed at the event (I'm in a light blue t-shirt):
You can also see the full concert here:
Thank you to everyone at the Meltdown Festival who made this such a great experience, especially our choir leader Laura; Holly Hunter, the leader of VoiceLab; David Byrne and the band; and the audience who brought such fantastic energy.
29 September 2015
I've been thinking recently about how you can make your Scratch games more professional and complete, and two ideas occurred to me: including a title screen and a high score table. I wrote tutorials on how to do both for The MagPi magazine, the official magazine of the Raspberry Pi. A lot of people who are interested in Scratch aren't online much over the summer (teachers and their students) so I thought I'd wait until the new school term before telling you about them both here. You can download the back issues that include these tutorials for free.
Issue 37 includes my tutorial on adding a high score table to a Scratch game. It uses a list to store the top ten scores and then compares the new score and tells you how you ranked. It should work with most simple games.
Issue 36 included my tutorial on adding a start screen to your Scratch game. I included a simple game for this so that the article could demonstrate the transition between the game and its title screen. The same concept should apply to most simple games. The article includes tips on patching the title screen in, in place of your 'when green flag clicked' scripts.
The MagPi is published each month, and you can support it by buying it in WH Smiths as a printed magazine or subscribing to receive it by post.
04 September 2015
One of the games in Scratch Programming in Easy Steps appears to have a bug on the Raspberry Pi, presumably caused by changes to Scratch in the latest version of the operating system. The game concerned is Quiz Break (chapter 6) and the bug is that the clock doesn't draw or work correctly. You can fix it by adjusting the centre of the costume like this:
- Click the arrow sprite to go to it
- Click the Costumes tab
- Click to edit the costume
- Click the button to set the costume centre
- Click and drag the costume centre to the middle of the arrow stalk, roughly in line with the back-pointing tips of the arrow's head (see picture)
- Click OK
I was so surprised to find this error, knowing how many times everything was tested and double-tested during production, that I found an old copy of the Raspberry Pi software and tried my book version on it to double check it worked there. I'm not quite sure why that same file doesn't work on the latest version of the Pi software: I had assumed that sprite data (including the costume centre and size) was stored in the Scratch file, and that has always appeared to be my experience, but perhaps there's an issue with loading it.
Many thanks to Don Sturtz, who discovered this issue and wrote to tell me about it. Thanks to all the children, adults and teachers who have told me they're learning Scratch with the book too. One of the nice things about Scratch is that it has a vibrant online community, so I often get to see what readers have made using the book and get their feedback. The book covers Scratch 2.0 (the latest version) and Scratch 1.4 (on the Raspberry Pi) and shows readers how to make a range of games and projects that explore Scratch's capabilities. If you're starting Scratch this term, want some new games to build, or want to sharpen your skills, you can download a sample of the book here to find out more about the book.
25 June 2015
I was pleased to receive a surprise package this week that contained a copy of the new Dutch translation of Raspberry Pi For Dummies, 2nd Edition. As you might know, the updated book added new chapters on Sonic Pi, RISC OS and Minecraft (more details here). The Dutch edition (Raspberry Pi Voor Dummies) joins the French and German translations of the first edition (Raspberry Pi Pour Les Nuls and Raspberry Pi Fuer Dummies). It's great to know that the book is reaching readers in many different languages!
You can find out more about Raspberry Pi For Dummies here, including bonus content. If you'd like to order a copy, I've added some useful ordering links in my shop, and a form you can print off if you prefer to support your local bookshop.
19 June 2015
The MagPi, the official magazine of the Raspberry Pi, included a short review of Scratch Programming in Easy Steps in its latest issue, which was a lovely surprise.
Thank you to the MagPi for its support! You can find out more about the book and its projects here. If you'd like to order a copy for some coding fun over the summer, visit my shop here.
31 May 2015
I blogged previously about my Scratch project in this month's Magpi. I also have a Python project in this issue, which creates a text scroller for the Raspberry Pi's Unicorn HAT. You can use it to display any message, and I imagine it could be a useful building block for anyone needing to display output from a robot, Twitter or any other data-based project.
To get started with this project, download the June 2015 issue of The Magpi and read the tutorial there. This project requires two programs, one to make the font (which runs once only) and another to scroll messages (which you use each time you display a message). If you're having trouble getting them working, or just want to spare your fingers, you can download the font maker and download the scroller program. These are both text files - you can copy and paste from them, or you can download them and rename them from .txt to .py before loading into Python.
For this project, you'll need a Unicorn HAT and a diffuser layer from Pimoroni. The Unicorn HAT (pictured below) provides an 8x8 matrix of RGB LEDs that you can control the colour and brightness of. In my project, I've used some simple code to apply different red/purple shades across the message. I got my Unicorn HAT at the Raspberry Pi Third Birthday Party and my starting point for the project was to see how I could use the Unicorn HAT to output information from the Raspberry Pi, rather than purely as a colourful special effect.
The Magpi is published monthly and is the official magazine of the Raspberry Pi. It's available to download for free as a PDF, so get your copy now!
The June 2015 issue of The Magpi, just published, includes a tutorial I've written, showing how to make a multiple choice quiz using Scratch. It also shows you how to import list data into Scratch. That means you can make games with a huge number of questions, without having to set each one up with a Scratch block. You don't even have to type them all in. My game is a capital cities geography quiz, using data from Wikipedia.
If you're struggling to get it working, you can download the Raspberry Pi file Scratch file. You can also play the game and tinker with its code on the Scratch website.
The Magpi is the official magazine of the Raspberry Pi, and can be downloaded as a free PDF each month. Get your copy now!