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Yesterday I attended a Meetup organised by "Internet of Things Innovators UK" we had two talks, one on the micro:bit from the BBC and the other on Ubuntu Core from hosts Canonical.



Howard Baker works for the BBC Learning team and he explained how a couple of reports on why the UK needs kids who can code triggered a series of events that led to the micro:bit. It sounded like his team had had a fantastic time experimenting with different projects that might inspire young minds, from Haptic Gloves to Raspberry Pi projects, they also reminisced about the days of the BBC Micro and how kids were coding back into the 1980s. He really liked how the BBC Micro threw you straight into a coding environment on boot up. They knew that a fully fledged computer was not the right solution but also were hearing from teachers that the Raspberry Pi were proving too difficult to get started with.

So they played with some prototypes involving a micro-controller and array of LEDs. A colleague from the R&D department made a prototype for them on a PCB. When showing their prototypes to people there was lots of enthusiasm and the kids were happy to share the message, "I coded that" when asked about the scrolling messages on their badges. They had plans to make a few thousand and give them out at the various BBC events around the country. However after talking the current Director General they incorporate the project into the "Make It Digital" programme and decided provide 1 million devices to each of the children in year 7 at schools. BBC Learning realised that they could not do that alone so involved lots of partners such as Element14 and Arm. Arm asked they why the had not used an Arm M0 in their design and the response was that they had just used what they had. Arm said that they could get other partners involved if they used their chip and that was how Nordic Semiconductors got involved and why they now have a Bluetooth LE, accelerometer and a compass. Other partners such as Microsoft, Python and CodeKingdoms worked on the software aspect and made it easy to write and compile code for the device in Blockly, Touch Develop and Javascript, at the time of the talk Python was not yet available.

The additional sensors allow different ways of interacting and even networking with the device and blue tooth means that you could code directly from a tablet or phone without the need of a computer. I gave that a try and found it a little limiting from a phone but it should work well on a larger screen device.


In the Q&A Howard was quizzed about general release dates (Spring 2016), relationship with CodeBug (a spin off via Manchester University based on earlier prototypes) and I asked about the edge connector (Howard told me this was a standard size) I later found the details of that via the BBC site and another partner Kitronik.

BBC - The BBC micro:bit - Media Centre


Thibaut Rouffineau gave a rapid talk about Ubuntu core and I think he convinced us that C3PO was more evil than Hal9000 as he never gets his firmware updated. I'll be writing separately about Ubunto Core once I've had a chance to play with it. Unfortunately it does not work on my old RPi1.


Every Sunrise in October

Posted by mikedavis Nov 12, 2015

I have been working on a sunrise project that is heavily inspired by Ken Murphy's amazing History of the Sky project.  I loved what he did, and I decided to use a Raspberry Pi to do something similar using the Chicago Skyline and our daily sunrise.  I was completely sure how to make this project work, and I still have some unanswered questions.  Things are coming along nicely, though.  I thought that I would post my first 30 days of sunrises here for you to see.  You can also link to it here (





My colleagues at DePaul let me set up a camera.  My 'weatherproof' box is really a plastic sandwich box from Target.  I use a Dropbox uploader to send all of my movies to my Dropbox account every day, and I use another Raspberry Pi to download them, break them in to stills, and batch resize them.  I then used Imagemagick to make a tiled 'montage' and that gets compressed into another movie.


I hope you enjoy it!  I have instructions on this process that will follow soon!