Sean's Technology and Writing Blog

New website launched!

10 June 2019


screengrab of my old website You're now looking at my new and improved website design. After five years, I've retired the fixed width purple design, shown on the right. Over the years I'd become fond of it, but much of the content was hard to find, and using it on mobile devices involved a fair amount of pinching and zooming.

With the new design, I've introduced a (long overdue) responsive design that offers a much smoother experience on desktops, mobile phones and tablet devices. The vertical navigation bar enables me to provide links to all of the major sections on the site, including adding direct links to the games and free downloads again. The new navbar is easier to extend when I add new sections, too.

I've also taken the opportunity to use more and bigger images on the site, including using stock images for the first time to bring some visual relief to a page. In the past, I've tended to avoid images unless they were communicating information, because of the time they take to download. That's much less of an issue now that most people who visit this site are using faster web connections. I've still tried to make the site as fast as possible, both by being selective with images and by making other speed optimisations on the site.

While I've been working on the site, I have updated some articles and removed some pages. I have preserved archive articles that may be of interest to someone in the future, but I have removed anything that's obviously broken or obsolete. It's unlikely you'll notice what's missing but if you do and you want a copy, get in touch and I'll see if I can help. My Amstrad CPC pages are still here, and so are most of my articles.

I have lots of ideas for ways I can expand this website and make it easier to find the best content on it, so I'll continue to update it over the coming months. In the meantime, if you have any feedback, please feel free to leave a comment below or email me.


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Learn to Code with the new issue of The MagPi

07 June 2019


Photo of Simple Brian project showing four glowing coloured LEDsThe new issue of The MagPi (issue 82) includes three coding tutorials I wrote for the cover feature, Learn to Code. The article guides you through projects that get you started with Scratch, Python, and GPIO Zero for electronics on the Raspberry Pi. The projects are:

  • Catchy Catchy Feedy Monkey - a simple game to get you started with Scratch 2. You trigger the cat to throw bananas to the hungry monkey as it moves up and down the screen. I wanted to include broadcasts, to demonstrate one of the distinctive features of Scratch, so a broadcast is used to start the bananas flying and make the monkey say something when you launch them. Learn more about how Scratch broadcasts work here. There's lots you can do to extend this simple game demo, including adding a score, sound effects, and changing difficulty levels.

  • Missing vowels - this is a Python version of the missing vowels round on TV quiz show Only Connect. I wanted to give a taste of what's distinctive about Python when compared to Scratch (rather than doing another graphical game), so that led me naturally to look at data handling. The project uses a list of phrases and a loop to strip the vowels out. You can extend this game by making it ask you multiple questions (at the moment it's just one question per program run), and maybe even extra rounds.

  • Simple Brian (pictured) - this pattern repeating game might feel familiar from your childhood! There are four lights and four buttons and you have to repeat the sequence of lights, which gets longer with each correct guess. This project starts by showing you how to build a torch by connecting a light and a button to your Raspberry Pi, and controlling it from Python using GPIO Zero. You then add three more LEDs and buttons to build the game. The project introduces the idea of functions in Python, shows how a list can be used to store not just words (and numbers) but also light and button objects from GPIO Zero, and walks you through the game logic. Note that the circuit diagrams in the print edition of the magazine have errors in them and so you should instead consult the corrected images provided here, or refer to the digital edition of the magazine which has been updated. For a Scratch implementation of this game, incidentally, check out Gribbet! from my book Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps.

The projects have been written to enable you to build in small chunks and test frequently, so you're not waiting until the end to see any results. They're progressive too: ideas introduced in each tutorial are built on in the next one. The projects also include pointers to back issues of the MagPi that you can use to take your next steps in coding. You can also download free sample chapters from my books Mission Python, Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps and Raspberry Pi For Dummies.

I hope these projects provide an entry point for new coders, and inspiration for others who are looking for new projects to tinker with.

The MagPi is available to download for free, but you can support the educational mission of The Raspberry Pi Foundation by buying a copy in your local newsagent, or subscribing. Get the mag here!



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© Sean McManus. All rights reserved.

Visit www.sean.co.uk for free chapters from Sean's coding books (including Mission Python, Scratch Programming in Easy Steps and Coder Academy) and more!

Discover my latest books

Mission Python book

Mission Python

Code a space adventure game in this Python programming book published by No Starch Press.

Coder Academy book

Coder Academy

Learn to make games and other programs in Scratch, and make a web page in HTML. Highly interactive book for 7-10 year olds.

Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps book

Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps

Discover how to make 3D games, create mazes, build a drum machine, make a game with cartoon animals and more!

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