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UK freelance journalist, author
and writer Sean McManus

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Raspberry Pi Voor Dummies - Dutch edition just published!

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!

Photo of English, French, German and Dutch editions of Raspberry Pi For Dummies

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.

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New review of Scratch Programming in Easy Steps

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.

grab of review from The Magpi. See text below

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.

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Make a Raspberry Pi text scroller using the Unicorn HAT

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.

The Unicorn HAT text scroller

The Unicorn HAT text scroller

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 Unicorn HAT

The Unicorn HAT

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!


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Learn to make a multiple choice quiz in Scratch


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.

Screenshot of the Capital City Quiz

Screenshot of the Capital City Quiz

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!

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Three new photo galleries uploaded

29 May 2015


I've added three new photo galleries to my website, including photos from Tokyo, New York and South Africa. I've also updated my London photo gallery with some more recent shots.

Here are some samples from the galleries. Click them to go through to the full galleries. You can browse the full gallery here.

Photo of the face of the Statue of Liberty

Photo of the face of the Statue of Liberty

Lego sculpture called 'Computer', by Nathan Sawaya

A Lego sculpture called 'Computer', by Nathan Sawaya, shown in London


A lioness in the Kruger National Park, South Africa

A lioness in the Kruger National Park, South Africa


A giant Gundam Robot in Tokyo

A giant Gundam Robot in Tokyo



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Swedish TV show features one of my photos

30 April 2015


One of my photos of the band Whale has been featured in a Swedish TV show called "Stjärnor hos Babben". They had the former Whale guitarist Henrik Schyffert on the show, and the host, Babben Larsson, wanted to use one of my pictures of him in the programme. The picture was shown behind her on a screen, as she performed a stand-up routine, making a joke about Henrik being forced to wear a supporting collar on stage, due to earlier stage diving. In my concert photo, he's shown wearing a neck brace playing guitar. If I remember rightly, he tore it off for the final song, so I think it was purely theatrical.

It's great to know that this photo has found a new audience on Swedish TV. Thank you to Christofer Psilander for getting in touch with this opportunity.

Photo from Swedish TV show showing the host, audience and my photo in the background

You can see my library of concert photographs here, including Oasis and Radiohead and 90s indie greats Kenickie, My Life Story, and of course Whale. These photos were mostly shot on film and scanned from negatives.

You can also see my library of travel photos here, including a new gallery from Istanbul, uploaded last week. My gallery from Spain has also been updated with photos from Seville. I'm steadily expanding my travel photography library, with a few new countries and cities lined up.

As well as this TV programme, my photos have been used in books, magazines, brochures, museum exhibitions and DVD documentaries. If you'd like to use any of my photos (including reposting them on other websites), please contact me here in the first instance.

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Further adventures in modern recording

02 April 2015


I'm continuing to share my music online and write about my experiences recording it, but if you don't follow me on Twitter you might have missed these updates.

My article Adventures in Modern Recording (hat-tip to Buggles for the title) outlines how I got started with recording, and how I'm using Sony ACID and the Alesis io4 in my home studio set-up.

I've uploaded two new pieces of music. The first of these is Material World. This piece is built around sound effects from the street and inside the home, including ice in a glass used as a shaker, a bus, and a CD tray. Puzzle fiends might enjoy identifying the sounds, but don’t ask me for answers: some of them I’m not quite sure about myself. I dipped into my sample library for sound effects and loops to build this short abstract piece on. The bass part (used sparsely) is a backwards recording of the dying moments of a cassette that snapped while I was recording it to MP3 for the iPod. I like the way the end of this track leads into the next track, whatever it turns out to be (in an era of shuffle and playlisting). There is quite a lot of precedent for using sound effects in recordings, including the Art of Noise, Pink Floyd and the Shangri-Las (who all used a motorbike, as I have) and Pet Shop Boys who used street sounds to make a cinematic backdrop for West End Girls, but this track relies almost entirely on found sounds. I didn’t set out to create something specific, but this has ended up sounding heavily influenced by the Art of Noise.

The second piece I've published is Space to Think, recorded using a Korg Kaossilator and some atmospheric sound effects from NASA. I wrote a review of the Korg Kaossilator, and how it compares to the Mute Synth II, which I tested out briefly before Christmas.

Find out more about my music and home recording here. Let me know if you have any feedback on the music. One of the reasons for sharing it is to help me to refine it and see what resonates with others.

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Books by Sean McManus

Scratch Programming in Easy Steps

Scratch Programming in Easy Steps

Raspberry Pi For Dummies

Raspberry Pi For Dummies

Learn to program with the Scratch programming language, widely used in schools and colleges.

Set up your Pi, master Linux, learn Scratch and Python, and create your own electronics projects.

iPad for the Older and Wiser

iPad for the Older and Wiser

Web Design in Easy Steps

Web Design in Easy Steps

Get the most from your iPad. Written in a friendly and accessible tone, this bestselling book is packed with handy tricks and tips.

Learn the layout, design and navigation techniques that make a great website. Then build your own using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

More books

©Sean McManus. www.sean.co.uk.