Saturday, 22 November 2014

I like Raspberry Jam

I don't mean the stuff you put on your toast.

Today I was at the Hull Raspberry Jam in (unsurprisingly) Hull.  Raspberry Jams, thought up by Alan O'Donohoe, a teacher of Computing working at a school in Preston, are groups where people get together, learn how to use Raspberry Pi computers, and share ideas of what to use the Raspberry Pi for.

If you're not familiar with what a Raspberry Pi is, basically it's a computer on a single chipboard,very small and inexpensive, ideal for educational applications and for electronics hobbyists.  Examples of projects that involved a Raspberry Pi include a theremin, recording and tracking unmanned balloon flights, home media hubs, a time-lapse camera, a robot... the list goes on and on and is only limited by your imagination.

I haven't coded for far too many years which is a shame because as a kid I used to program quite a lot and made quite a few games in Basic.  So it was good to get into some geekyness today.

Alan O'Donohoe kicks the event off.

There were a number of workshops and talks that we could sign up for, and I signed up for the first two workshops, which was basically learning how to connect up a Raspberry Pi, and then learning to make a game on it using Scratch, a programming language provided by MIT free of charge.

At the end of the first workshop we got a few minutes to hack Wormy, a snake-type game, by editing the Python code.

I took the opportunity to deliver my hallmark coding amendment - I added in random colours, making the apple go from a boring red colour to a constantly changing delight of colour.  In my programming class at college I endeavoured to apply this every week to whatever assignment we had, which eventually led to my tutor including in his assignment notes one week the sentence "remember Chad hates flashing colours".

It didn't stop me doing it.

This doesn't look like much, but my old programmng tutor would have hated it.

And I even got a few seconds of video of the hacked game in action.  Note the flashing square on the left - that's all my work!

For anyone interested in coding or electronics, Raspberry Jam events are great and I'd definitely recommend going to one.  Find out more at - I can't guarantee however that yours will be as exciting as mine (at lunch I ordered a toasted teacake and nearly set fire to the canteen)

Will I buy a Raspberry Pi? I don't know right at this moment - they're very impressive, and today has reawakened my enthusiasm for coding and computing - I'm going to be building myself a new PC next week, and because of today I've decided that I'm going to make it dual-boot Windows and Linux, and I definitely want to do some programming too, but I haven't ordered a Raspberry Pi for myself yet - the issue is that I don't have anything that I can really think of that I want one for, but I don't know if I ought to wait until I have an idea, or whether to get one now and then think about what it could do.  But for those wanting to experiment they're an excellent choice.

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