Are you one of the lucky people who grabbed one of the Raspberry Pi 2’s from the Office 365 Developer team at the Ignite conference? You might be wondering “this is cool, but what do I do with it?” There are a ton of resources and if you are first getting started they might not be so obvious to you.
Learning The Basics
When I first started playing around with DIY hardware I realized real quick I didn’t have an EE (electronic engineering) degree… I hadn’t played much with electronics… well ever. I thought it would be simple, but you do need to have some sort of an understanding to get stuff working beyond your first blinking LED. I found the tutorials at sparkfun to be incredibly helpful. There are tons of starter projects but there are also a ton of great docs explaining the basics… some of my favorites include:
- What is Electricity
- Voltage, Current, Resistance & Ohm’s Law
- How to Read a Schematic
- How to Use a Multimeter
- What is a Circuit?
- Integrated Circuits
- How to Solder
- How to Power a Project
Getting an OS on the Raspberry Pi 2
One of the first things you will want to do is get an operating system on the Raspberry Pi 2 because you can’t do much else without it. For this you have a few options. The most popular option is to put a distribution of Linux on the little memory card. This isn’t too hard and is well explained in this article: The Adafruit Raspberry Pi Finder.
Once I have a Linux OS on it, I like to install Node.js as that’s my preferred development platform. Again, there’s a killer article explaining how to do it here: Why Node.js?.
I’ve simplified all this though and written a single article that gets you going which you can see here: Setup Node.js on Raspberry Pi 2 - this also includes the steps to get a Linux distribution OS loaded.
The other route is to try the support Microsoft has worked on for the Raspberry Pi 2 with Windows. Checkout the Windows Dev Center’s IOT site: https://dev.windows.com/en-US/iot. There’s a good article there on how to get Windows on the device, how to setup your development environment and how to write your first IoT app for Windows on Raspberry Pi.
Now you’re ready to start a few projects! Check out the Raspberry Pi section at AdaFruit… they have a ton of articles & project walk throughs you can do. None of their projects are based on Windows so you’ll likely be doing stuff with a Linux distort and usually Python.
The links above to the Windows Dev Center for IoT has some projects and resource if you decide you want to do this with Windows. Also check out YouTube… there are a CRAZY number of videos out there of little projects people have done.
Playing around with the Pi is cool, but when it really gets interesting is when you start hooking stuff up to it. Most of the parts for the Pi are super cheap. For about $50 you can get a killer shipment of stuff! I live in an area where we don’t have much in the way of DIY hardware stores so I have to buy stuff online. My favorite sites I’ve used are:
Ideas & Projects!
Now it’s time to start having some fun. What I love about DIY hardware is it has helped me open my eyes to the possibilities of building little gadgets that work for me. Some of it is hobby stuff, but some of it is practical stuff. It’s the same feeling I had when I first got into software, realizing “hey, i can make the computer do something!"
There are two personal projects I’m working on and I’ll write more about them as I make progress. One is a irrigation controller & the other is a controller for my aquarium.
This is part practical because the controller for my home sprinkler system is tempermental. I’d like it make it a smart controller. One that not only measures the recent rainfall to see if I need to water the yard, but one that looks at the forces for the next day to see if I can try to put it off another day. Also, it would be cool if it adjusted the runtimes of the different zones based on the time of year and temperature instead of me having to do it. Oh… and let’s have a little fun - why not let me control it for my phone! This project is actually pretty simple and plenty of folks have done it with ton of videos on YouTube about it… but I want to do it myself.
I have a 120 gallon African Cichlid aquarium in my home office. There’s so much stuff I could do to automate this like have a controller measure things like temperature, ammonia, pH and nitrate levels. In addition, I’d love to control the lights in a more automated fashion, have an automated feeder and even a way to automate water changes using float switches & solenoids. There’s a lot of detail around this one and it involves likely two devices talking to each other over Bluetooth with a touch screen interface and a remote interface to control it over the phone or via a browser. This is the project I’m really excited about. After the irrigation controller is finished, I’m going to work on this one and you can be sure I’ll have more blog posts & videos about it :)
Go have some fun… or build practical stuff! This is also a really fun activity to get into with your kids. my 10 year old thinks this stuff is so very cool!