Saturday, December 5, 2015

Raspberry Pi Zero - Screenshots - Sunday Dec. 6th Update!

Here are the screenshots that I promised in my first post about the Pi Zero.

First off, we have a "Jessie" screenshot of the Pi 2 B,
you can see that it is running at 900mHz and that it has almost 1gb of RAM.

Secondly, we have the same SD image of "Jessie" in the Zero and
it shows it running at 1gHz with 512mbs of RAM.

Here is the next shot of the default web browser with a DuckDuckGo search page, GIMP in the lower right-hand corner and the Task Manager; showing about 1/3 of the RAM being used with very little CPU time.

Finally we have the MagPi website up, Libre Office Writer and the Task Manager shows the about the same amount of RAM being used as before, but due to the activity of the web page the CPU is maxed out, which isn't surprising.

I will add to this same page with additional screenshots Sunday afternoon.  They will include the menus off of the "Menu" button.

Please stay tuned!

Sunday Dec. 6th.  Update!
The Following screenshots, are of the the items in the MENU bar, but I was not able to take direct screenshots of it.  These are the same items just in their 'file explorer' under 'Applications' view, instead.




Office [Libre Office]




Thursday, December 3, 2015

Raspberry Pi Zero - Initial Thoughts

My Pi Zero arrived this evening and here are some of my first experiences with it.

I bought mine from Adafruit in the wee hours of the 26th and right after I checked out and confirmed my order, I went back to the page for the Pi Zero and saw that it had already sold out.  It has been re-stocked at least twice, that I know of, and has sold out again within an half an hour each time.

Here is what I got:  Pi Zero, Pi Protector, HDMI Mini to Standard HDMI adapter, USB OTG host cable, and 2 sets of headers for the GPIO; the straight ones - male to male and male to 90° angle female.  All for less than the cost of 5 *bucks coffee drinks.

The Adafruit box, in it's glory, at least to me.  
I have had many of these boxes arrive before but this one seemed to be special

What appeared inside, after I pulled the pulled the important stuff to the surface.

Now the Zero out of it's ESD bag.

Here we see the Zero hooked up and some other items for size comparison.
The standard SD card shows that this is just about the same size, in height and about 3 across in width.

This is the current USB hub that I am using with power.

As prepared as I was, I still ran into some snags.  First, before it arrived I imaged a couple of micro SD cards with the latest Raspbian, Jessie on them.  So, when I had it setup and connected I just plugged one in and booted it up.  Upon start-up I was greeted by the new interface and realized that I couldn't do any updates yet, due to, my fault really, in unable to find the WPA-GUI program.  This was my first issue that I researched, from another computer and found the answer pretty quickly.  The Network icon down near the clock had all the functionality of the old program but none of the clunky stuff , which is great!

After this, I loaded the new Add-Remove Software program, and found it really easy to use, with the caveat being, that you can only use either the Install OR the Uninstall at one time, you can't install one thing while uninstalling something else.

One thing that I did find, while using some of my Wheezy cards, I had to update them with  my Pi 2 B, first, then load them up in the Zero, so having a B+ and/or a Pi 2 B very handy if you want/need to keep Wheezy around for use in your Zero.

Next time:  Some screenshots and some stats for your enjoyment!

Friday, November 13, 2015

ICStation [Final Update–Refund Received]

I got interested in Arduino towards the beginning of this year and ICStation came up in some Google Plus groups over and over again, so I decided to check out their site. They carry a wide assortment of Arduino related boards and accessories.  So I bought an Ethernet Shield for my Arduino UNO from them.  After a short week and a half it arrived then I tried to use it, it didn't work at all!  Turns out after putting the board under a USB microscope, that there were shorts of solder beads across about 6 of the pins of the main chip, I contacted their Support and was told to try to de-solder them myself??

That is when I should have just known that they had bad Quality Control and just forgot about my $20.  But, that isn't what I did, after several more email threads, I finally got them to agree to send me another one as a replacement.  In the course of the next week, I created a wish list on their site and kept debating whether to trust that this issue was a one time thing or place another order to see if it got better...again I chose wrong.  The replacement board came and this time I looked at it under the USB microscope first and guess what I found, more shorted pins with solder beads.  Once again I contacted Support, and asked for a Refund, after sending them pictures of the shorts through my microscope.  This has been the same woman, Wanita, that I have been exchanging emails with, she asked me to try to de-solder the shorts again and I explained that I have neither the tools or the knowledge to deal with SMT chips.

Stupid but I then ordered other items to the tune of around $100 over the course of the next 3 months. Yes, I was na├»ve thinking that something would change this time, but they had cool stuff at good prices.  In May I ordered a Nano clone and it worked for about a week, then stopped being detected but either Windows 7 or 8.  We traded emails back and forth for a short time, and later I received a replacement, but it failed to work at all.  I asked if this was a Genuine FTDI and if they could instead send me a CH340 chip based Nano, I never received another response from them at all!!

Nothing for going on 5 months now and So I decided to write this Blog piece and hope to warn others against Supporting ICStation in the future.

The Moral of this story is, go with your instinct and if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

Update #1
Late last night I actually received an email response, from a support member name Sherry.
She said the Wanita resigned and she is now taken over her duties and mentioned that she saw my posts on Google Plus and the post.

So, one of my issues is now being looked into, there may be hope yet.

Update #2
I received an email from Sherry that she has contacted the Supplier and will take about 5 days to get a new board ready to be shipped to me.  So things are now moving and I hope to get resolution to the other issues soon.

Update #3
I contacted the ICS Station Google Plus account Person/People and after some back and forth and sending her/them emails detailing out that remaining issues, they stopped responding all together.

So, even though they offered to help, initially that all dried up and they still have horrible Customer Service.

You have been informed!


Final Update – Refund Received!

Just hours after posting Update #3 I was contacted by ICStation and I received a Refund in the amount for the remaining 2 items that were malfunctioning from the start.  It took a year plus, but since I am a Taurus, I am much more stubborn then any of the Chinese zodiac. 

They indicated while waiting for confirmation of the PayPal transfer, that Visuino is popular among some of their people.  So, maybe Boian can expect some sales from ICStation when they buy some more licensees…

  Winking smile 

They hope to improve their support mechanism so others don’t have to go through what I did.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Setting up Visual Studio and Visual Micro for Coding the Arduino.

In this post I will explain out how to setup, Visual Studio 2015 Community Edition and Visual Micro, the plug-in that allows users to code INO files like a Professional.

The Visual Micro plugin allows for greater control over your sketches.  

This is from the main page, 

"IDE features such as:- see/edit library sources, jump to code definition, jump to compiler error, class explorer, intellisense, remembers board and Arduino version per project, code completion and a super fast compiler make learning and programming Arduino faster and easier."

First, we need to download VS 2015 Community, you can get it here:
Be sure to choose the left most option button.

Now for Setup of VS 2015 Community, This is an Important note from the Visual Micro Site:

Visual Micro requires C++ to be installed as a Visual Studio language. If you did not activate C++ when you installed Visual Studio, click "Download" and follow the instructions on that page to add C++ to your Visual Studio installation.

 All three of the C++ options need to be checked off for the Visual Micro plugin to work correctly!  
During this is install, it will take a while, you can download the plugin, from here:
The default options for the install should be fine.

Once you have that installed you are ready to setup VS 2015.
The first thing I did was Turn Off Tutorial mode, if you leave it on, and sometimes you might want to, it creates 'Breakpoints' in your sketch.  All you need to do is 'un-check' it under the Visual Micro menu option.

Next you will want to make sure you have the 'Micro' tool-bars loaded, they look like this:

If you don't have this you'll need to 'Right-Click' some place on the existing Menu bar and make sure all 4 of the 'Micro' ones are 'Checked':

Now on to opening a new sketch, When you either select the menu option FILE>NEW>ARDUINO PROJECT or Click on the NEW button then the TEMPLATES>VISUAL C++>VISUAL MICRO, you will presented with this screen:

This allows for 2 options, one is a Blank Sketch and the other is a Blink sketch.  I choose a Blink sketch for this Demo.  On the Right hand side of VS 2015 you should see something similar to this:

If Solution Explorer isn't selected you will need to click on the tab at the bottom to select it.  Then select the Blink.ino file, it should now display in the main window.  At this point it is Important to note that you want to select "Release" just to the left of "x86" at the very top, middle, in this screenshot.

The 'Release' Option allows for actually uploading the entire sketch to your board of choice.
When you are ready to 'Upload' your version of the Blink.ino sketch, you will click on the button that looks like a PLAY button with a circle around it; far right and at the bottom of this screenshot:

That is a brief Tutorial on how to setup these tools for a coding experience that is lacking in the Arduino IDE.

If you have any questions, Please comment below and I will try my best to answer them!

Please note, these setup instructions assume that you already have either the or IDE installed.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Running a generic Neo-Pixel 4x4 panel on the Teensy - Experiment

Starting with a basic Teensy LC and a generic 4x4 Neo-Pixel panel and Visuino I was able to make a 16 RGB LED light display, just with an included Visuino Demo.

First I started with Visuino Beta 65 and the Demo file, MixedGroupsDemo.owarduino.  

Then I switched the boards section to the Teensy LC.

In the Demo file, I added a 6th pixel to the third group to account for the difference in the Demo's 15 RGB pixels and my panel 16 RGB pixels.

Please note the 3rd group here, 
the GREEN one is a 6, not a 5

Next, without any further delay, is the Video, 
that I know you all have been waiting for.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Using the pcDuino with the Joey Hurdy 3x3x3 LED Cube - Experiment

About 6 months ago I bought the Joey Hurdy LED 3x3x3 led Cube for the Arduino platform.  While soldering it together wasn't easy, once I had the basics of the LED placement down it went pretty quickly. has it on sale right now for under $10

Just recently I got a pcDuino, which is a Linux based Arduino platform with the Inputs and Outputs of an Arduino UNO.  So the thought occurred to me, why not see if they work together. 

So, I grabbed the code, which can be downloaded here:
Copied it to an USB flash drive and then loaded it in the pcDuino's Arduino IDE, which is running 1.5.3 beta for Linux.

Once I uploaded it it did run, but I noticed something odd, it ran much faster on the pcDuino than on an actual UNO.  My thought on this is because the pcDuino is running at 1GHz there must be some timing issues that aren't accounted for when running a a much faster processor.  I will need to research this some more.

This is a standard UNO with the Cube running. video

This is the Cube running faster on a pcDuino.

If you have any insights that I haven't covered please leave a comment below!

I have not been able to post blog updates as I would have liked to, this is due to some personal issues that we are having that should be taken care of in a few months time, at that point, hopefully blog posts will continue with some regularity.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Raspberry Pi Tips and Tricks and AlaMode Setup - [Part 3]

Experiment with the AlaMode and Visuino


Here you can see the Alamode hooked up to a FTDI cable that is connected to my Computer. So I wanted to find out if I could program it in Visuino, so I opened the program and for a simple test I just hooked up a Pulse Generator to PIN 12, 
since I already had an LED connected form the last blog post.  I used the default of the UNO board type, because that is what is compatible with the AlaMode.

Then I uploaded the Arduino IDE code to the AlaMode using the COM port for the FTDI cable and then unplugged the FTDI cable. Next added the Brick Shield to the AlaMode and powered it via the micro-USB connector after changing P16 to the OFF position.  This setting allows the board to use the micro-USB as it's power source without damaging the board.

When I plugged the AlaMode in the green LED starting blinking away, almost like I planned it  :)  

Following this I added a second LED to the Visuino sketch and went through the procedure again.  

Since I didn't want them to blink at the same rate I changed the Frequency of the second, red LED to 0.5, as seem above.

And now you get to see this final piece in action.


NEXT TIME: I visit the pcDuino and what it can do as a Linux board and how to hook up Arduino Shields to it.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Raspberry Pi Tips and Tricks and AlaMode Setup - [Part 2]

Setting up the Alamode for a Brick Set Shield

In this post I will show you how to setup the Alamode for use with the Seeed Studio Brick Set.  Above you can see the Brick Shield on top of my Alamode on top on my Model B.

All that is needed is to place the shield on top of the Alamode and add power to the Pi.  There's a power LED on the shield that indicates that it has power and is ready for action.

Next we load a lesson from the PDF that I have linked below:

I have even added the lessons to my GitHub account page for ease of use:

Here I have Lesson #1 loaded onto the Alamode and when I press the the button the LED stays on as long as I hold the button down.

Next up is Lesson #2, this one uses a Tilt Switch and 2 LEDs, Green for normal and Red for tilted.

You can use the Brick Set with a standard Arduino, but what's the fun in that  :)

Next Time:  I will connect to the Alamode with out the Pi and use the FTDI cable and try to recreate some of these lessons using the Visual IDE: Visuino!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Raspberry Pi Tips and Tricks and AlaMode Setup - [Part 1]

Tips for the Raspberry Pi

I have been using my various Pis for going on 2 years now and have done some projects that worked and some that didn't.  I have found some tips that I thought I should pass on.  First off is organizing your SD cards, these little beauties were found at ACE hardware during a sale for a buck each, just $1.

The regular SD cards fit fine and just enough room to slide out when you tip the case over a bit.

Above you can see the size comparison with my Pis in the Coupe cases by Pimoroni. I really like these Pi cases mainly because they allow full access to the GPIO headers and all the ports and look great!

Another Tip for you is if you have several SD cards for your Pis and there isn't room to label them with what you might be doing with each one, I create a "Projects" file on the desktop of each one so I can quickly look at it to see what is installed and what I had planned for it.  I use 'Abiword' for mine but you can use whatever you choose.

The Alamode Board

The Alamode is a board that adds an Arduino MCU to your Pi and allows you to program it with the Linux version of the Arduino IDE.  It's even on sale right now through the website.

Now to adding the Alamode to the Pi, it just plugs into the GPIO header of the Pi just like a HAT would.

I am just using my Model B but the Alamode is compatible with the B+ and 2 B.

There are steps to get Raspbian setup for the Alamode that can be found here:
It is quite lengthy so I won't re-hash the whole thing here but it should not be too difficult to figure out.

Part of those steps is to install the Arduino IDE for Raspbian, version 1.0.1 to be precise.

Even though it's an older version is still functions just fine for everything I have thrown at it.

Next time:  I will visit the Seeed Electronic Brick Starter Kit and compiling some lessons from a PDF related to the Brick set using the Alamode and the Pi.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Raspberry Pi and Bitcoin Mining - Tutorial / Experiment [Minera]

This is a basic tutorial on how to setup your Raspberry Pi for Bitcoin mining using the image for Minera

Minera is an all in one solution for Bitcoin mining on the Raspberry Pi and is relatively easy to setup.  

First you need to Download the Image file which can be found here:, there is also an option for a Manual Install  but that is for full desktops/laptops not a Pi install.

Next using one off the Image writing instructions listed on this link, you need to write it to an SD card:
I would recommend a 4 GB SD card and in this case the Class of the card doesn't really matter, I used a Class 4 Kingston micro card that I hadn't done anything with in a while.  

After writing the card all you need to do is put it into your Pi, I used a B+, and connect Network, powered USB hub with your miners plugged in and either a wired or wireless network connection, then add the power plug and wait about 3-5 minutes.

Next, you need to, most likely, after you power the Pi on, go to http://minera on your home network.  I tried this on mine, but I am running a domain and the DNS hadn't propagated yet, so I just went to my router and found out the IP address of the Pi that way and just typed in

You will be brought to a screen that requires a login, the default password is minera .  Next you should see something like this on your web browser of choice.

This screenshot was my setup after running for about 15 minutes.

 There has been an upgrade to the version of Minera, to 0.6.0, since I took this screenshot, but I have not logged into it since I am away from home right now to update this capture.  There are some updated screenshots here:

The next steps are to go to Settings on the left hand side and input your Pool and Miner settings that you can customize on the fly.  I don't have any more screenshots that I took because they have my BTC Wallet info in them and I didn't have a chance to clean them before posting.

For most help related inquiries answers can either be found on the GitHub project page, here: or the Forum page here:

Please let me know if you have any question in the comments below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Friday, June 19, 2015

ESP8266 Temperature and Humidity Web Server - Experiment [Part 2]

Not the Raspberry Pi Experiment as promised - But a Learning Experience!  [Part 2]

This is a continuation of this first part:

Here is the link to the wiring diagram the I used for this project:

Here is a link to the INO file source code for programming this board:

Here is the diagram that I used to build out this circuit:

Last night I started soldering this together and took some pictures along the way of my progress.

Here is the board as we saw it in the first part of this series, with an added USB port for power.

I added a USB port so I could power it from a little power pack that I have, using a USB A to USB A cable from a hard drive.

The solder side of the board isn't very pretty.

The button you see here is used to program the ESP8266.  You power on the board with the button depressed and then let go of it, program it through the Arduino IDE and power cycle the board again.

Almost done now, just a couple more connections to make.

Here we have the completed board, the pins you see in the lower left are for programming the ESP8266.

After completing the board I tested the output voltage at several locations and they all seemed to run at about 3.25V, within acceptable tolerances.

Added the missing components and tested it, and It WORKS!

I hope that this was informative and useful for you, Please Comment below if you have any questions regarding this project!

Thanks for reading!