Category Archives: Electronics

Raspberry Pi out of the box

Raspberry Pi out of the box

I finally bought a Raspberry Pi (2) – this is how I set it up from out of the box.

First of all I guess I should explain what a Raspberry Pi is. In short, its basically a computer that is the size of a credit card. It was primarily invented to help people learn about computers and electronics. And the price? About $60. Not bad for a computer, right?

The reason I bought one was primarily to use as a media centre for my TV and also to see what else I could do with it. It was really easy to set up out of the box and really cheap. Here’s how I did it.

I purchased the Raspberry Pi 2 (model B) from Little Bird Electronics –¬† – it sells for $62 (at time of writing) with a little bit on top for freight (about $7 from memory). You can order them from different places, but I went with Little Bird because I know first hand that they do a lot to help out local maker communities and I believe you should support small businesses like that.

One of the reasons that the Raspberry Pi is so cheap is because it doesn’t come with anything. You have to supply your own monitor or TV (but it has a HDMI slot), keyboard and mouse (but it has USB slot for a wireless connection to a keyboard and mouse), power cord (but you can use a micro USB phone charger cable), operating system/software (but it has a slot for a micro SD card that you can load it on) and hard drive (but you can use an externally powered USB hard drive).

For me this wasn’t a problem because I already had all these things. You can but a kit with the extras included if you wish.

Before I start with the pictures, it’s important to point out that if you’re going to take photos of your Raspberry Pi, don’t use the flash – it can actually damage the board!

Okay, I received the package and took it out of the wrapping.


Just seeing this box got me excited, but what was in it was even better!


The box that the Raspberry Pi comes in is about the size of a deck of cards. Little Bird even included a little sticker!


Opening the box, you find the instruction manual and a bag with the board itself inside. That’s it. So much power for such a little thing.


Above is a close of the Raspberry Pi itself. You can see it has four USB slots on the right hand side, next to an Ethernet cable slot. From the front left hand side there is a slot for the micro USB power cord and then the HDMI slot. Underneath is the slot for the micro SD card.


Speaking of the SD card, you need to load it up with the NOOBS software. NOOBS stands for New Out Of the Box Software (or something like that). You can download it for free from the Raspberry Pi website. There are also instructions on how to load it onto the card. It’s pretty straight forward and the URL and screen shot is below. I needed to use the adapter as my Mac has an SD card slot so it plugs straight into the computer to write the software.


Once you’ve loaded the software on the card, insert the card into the slot.

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Once the card is in, you’ll next need to connect the keyboard and mouse. I had one lying around so I just put the USB dongle into the USB slot.

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You’ll need to be able to see what you’re doing, so the next step is to plug in a HDMI cord into the HDMI slot and the other end into your TV.


One of the cool things about the Raspberry Pi is that it doesn’t use a lot of power. You can plug in the micro USB power cord into the Pi and the other end into the TV. This means that when you turn the TV on, the Raspberry Pi powers up!


The final step is to plug the Ethernet cable in to give it access to the internet. You can use wireless, but my router is next to my TV so it’s easier just to connect it straight to the router.


Here’s a shot of everything connected up ready to go.


Once everything is connected up, you can turn the TV on and follow the instructions from the Raspberry Pi web site to get it working.



So much fun. So much potential. But this is just the beginning…..


Posted by on June 1, 2015 in Raspberry Pi


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Fixing a broken USB stick

Fixing a broken USB stick

Okay, this post is really exciting! Maybe not for you, dear reader, by I got excited anyway. Those of you that follow my blog know that not everything I do actually works out, so it was great that this one did – even though I didn’t expect it to.

The problem was that a USB stick had be pulled out of the computer, leaving the USB part behind! It meant that it was impossible to use the stick, with a whole bunch of files and information that wasn’t able to be accessed.


As you can see below, there are four pins that should be soldered to the memory stick board, but they have come undone, resulting in the separation of the stick.


The first thing that I needed to do to fix the problem was to pull the whole stick apart. This particular type has a sliding part in the middle of a cover that hides the USB section. I pried it apart, the folded metal thing is the outside cover. The part with the electronics was the part that slid. I threw out the rest of the stick and just kept the USB part and the internal electronics.


As I said above, the problem is that the solder holding the USB part in came undone. The obvious answer would be to solder the pins back in place. Unfortunately, I don’t have a soldering iron that is accurate enough to be able to do that… nor the skills/experience.


Instead, what I decided to do was to connect the two pieces with wire. Again, I didn’t actually have any wire handy, so I kind of made some. I got some copper wire from another piece of wire and twisted them together, covering them with heat shrink (so they wouldn’t touch each other). This seemed to work okay.

Once I had four wires – one for each pin and where they should have been soldered onto – I set about soldering each wire to the connection spot. This was really had and you have to be careful not to have any of the wires or solder touching. The result isn’t pretty, but it seemed to work okay.


Once they were solid, I then attached the other end of the wires to the corresponding pins. It was essential to ensure that the right wires went to the right places. This was challenging, but a little easier than the other side. Once I got all the wires attached, I accidentally pulled too hard on one of the wires and had to resolder it’s end to the connection. But eventually they were all connected.


To see if I was successful, I plugged the USB part into a USB extension cord, the other end of which went into a computer. I used the extension cord because there was less chance of the USB stick moving and less chance of the USB part getting stuck in my computer!


So much to my extreme excitement, after a couple of seconds the computer recognised the USB stick and it’s contents! I was able to copy all the files across to another USB stick (that wasn’t broken) and then could throw out the old one.

This turned out to be a fairly easy way to be able to recover files that you would think are lost forever. I’m really not very good at electronics and definitely pretty dodgy at soldering, but it worked!


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Posted by on February 14, 2015 in Electronics


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My first electronics project – Deck Lighting

Wow. This is actually really cool. I need lights to put inside the deck I’m building and thought it would be cooler and cheaper if I did it myself.

Firstly, it must be said that there is a thing called a “hack-space”. It’s a shelter for nerds, geeks, artists and any combination of the three, to gather and support each other. Not in a Nerds Anonymous way, but to help each with projects, all chip in for new equipment, have a place to leave junk that you can raid, etc.

So I’m affiliated with a Sydney based hack-space called Robots And Dinosaurs, which is rad. There’s a lot of knowledgable people there and they helped me a couple of days ago to put together my first circuit containing electronic components. I learned how to solder onto a board, use a prototyping board, how to wire up components and how to do formulas that apparently mean stuff.

The very next night, I took the components home and wired them all up and the circuit didn’t work. I gotta say, I’m a little disappointed. I expected to be an electronics genius after one lesson. Anyway, I have had offers of help to work out why it’s not going and this is the reason for this post.

First things first, planning. The following photo is a page from my moleskine where we worked out all the numbers and did diagrams and so on. Any one reading this, I’m happy for you to point out errors, but it must be said that we got this all working on the prototyping board, so I’m thinking the maths is good.

So, as I said we got it working on the prototyping board and it was all good. All three LEDs lit up enough to walk around the back yard in darkness. I did not buy any extra stuff and I didn’t have any other gear at home.

When I got home, I thought about it and realised that I wanted the lights spaced out. I decided then that I should connect up the circuit using wires instead of using a board. So I grabbed some left over good quality speaker wire and used that to wire the circuit up.

I also decided to use connectors to make sure they were solidly in place, but so I could remove them once I’d tested it and seen how bright they were in situ. The above picture shows how I have connected them. What it doesn’t clearly show is that the cable has two wires initially joined together (I split them and taped them up to prevent pulling on the connection). The positive wire is square in shape and the negative is round. This makes them easy to tell apart, but also easy to hide away. I connected the positive to the positive leg and negative to the negative leg. I also then put each end of the wires on to two batteries held together so I could test everything was fine.

The final circuit looks like this on the ground.

There’s not much detail, but you can see it’s all connected. Also, don’t be put off by the LEDs glowing, that’s just the reflection of the camera flash.

To give more detail, here is a close up of where the power source and resistor are all connected.

Now keeping in mind that this worked perfectly on the prototyping board, I was a bit sad it didn’t light up. I have placed it on my dining table (on top of a towel) and pulled the multimeter out… I discovered that if you try to check how much resistance there is through the LEDs they actually glow a little. This at least meant that they were connected fine and that they work. Below are the three LEDs being tested.

Then I checked the resistor is working. It is a 120 ohm resistor and therefore should have a resistance of around 120 ohms.

Then I worried about the way these banked connectors would work. Therefore I put one of the tips of the multimeter on one end and the other on the alternative end. It was still all good.

And then since everything else is working, it is probably the battery pack, right? Wrong. Here’s the proof.

The only thing that seems a little out of place is the slightly higher than 12 v reading. I’m not sure if it’s enough to throw out the resistor, but a) I don’t know why it worked before then, and b) I can get a new resistor if needed.

So I’m asking for thoughts, comments and suggestions. I need to get this up and running pretty damn quick.

I will also post the solution and how I went about fixing it.

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Posted by on January 12, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE], Electronics


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