Raspberry Pi Projects: Return of the Pi

By Deepak Karambelkar
From Buzz@Bangalore, Bangalore
Posted Jun 18th 2013 6:30AM

A month in the tech space equals years elsewhere. Which means, it has been a long, long time since we last wrote about the Raspberry Pi. In the meantime a lot has changed in the world around us - Man has gone to Mars, Lindsay Lohan has become a nun, while you have graduated from college and have a job and two kids. Or, given the cost of living these days, two jobs and one kid.

Anyway, we digress. We had done a scientific study on the previous edition of the Pi story. This basically meant spamming everyone we know with the link to the article, and then ducking under a table waiting for the backlash. We also deployed advanced algorithms to filter out curses-laden missives from our victims.

Anyway, let's censor out the middle of this Pi ki Kahani, and come straight to the conclusion. The feedback mainly was that, yes, the Pi is cool, but before I plonk down Rs 3,000 for it, I need to see more projects that are – a) Useful b) Awesome c) Psycho.

So here we go with Pi Projects – the UAP Edition. And oh, after this one, we will be staying off the Pi for another three 'tech months' at least. Enough time for you to find a few more jobs.

Personal Cloud Server

Wary of putting your precious data onto those cloud backup solutions? Afraid the NSA might snoop on it? Or perhaps a competitor? Well, how about running your very own cloud server from a highly secure location – your home? Apart from the Pi, all you need is a hard disk for your data, a router to connect out (most probably you already have both), a server software such as OwnCloud or the easier-to-use, plus free, BarracudaDrive. All instruction are 'click and be done' – no messy coding involved.

To the edge of space

If you can get hold of a balloon, you could attach a Pi, a camera, a data transmitter, a battery and send this rig into space! With the right components, you can keep your payload to under a kilo, so the balloon does not need to be massive. And as it floats upwards, what comes down would be some amazing video footage and still images. Incidentally, you could also try this out with a large kite. Or perhaps train an eagle – at least you will get the Pi back when the bird comes home to roost!


Want to organise your own Occupy Wall Street style protests? Well, get a bunch of Pis and turn them into protestor bots. As the creators of OCCU (Pi) Bot note, robots have certain advantages over humans in the fine art of protesting – they don't tire (just make sure you use a jumbo battery pack!), they don't feel cold, or need sleep or food, nor tents nor loos. And yes, in case the cops smash them, it won't cost you an arm and a leg.

The car computer

Why bother with expensive in-dash systems, when a Pi, a cheap display and a bit of wiring can deliver an excellent media centre?

And, since you can run different OSes on it by simply swapping SD cards, it could be your 'carputer' on the go – imagine tweaking that PPT while stuck in a traffic jam, without having to pull out your office laptop!And yes, it will play music, too.

Light painting with Pi

This one looks gorgeous. Light painting, as the link below explains, is an "artistic photographic technique combining long exposure times with lights in motion." Previously, such images were hand-painted, but now with cheap computers like the Pi, you can go berserk on the creativity front. Even if you are not a photographer, we are sure you will be mesmerized by many of the results of light painting.

Pi Laptop

Sure, it will not win any speed contests with your existing laptop, but does your existing laptop cost under 10k? For the Pi Laptop, you can buy a - now defunct and therefore selling for cheap – Motorola Atrix Lapdock display cum keyboard. This was originally meant for Moto phones, but can be coaxed into playing nice with a Pi. Grab the Lapdock off eBay.com or Amazon for a few thousand rupees, connect up a few cables, you end up with a functional – and ultra geeky - notebook.

Kindleberry Pi

You have been there. Outdoors in bright sunlight, forced to pull out your laptop or tablet, only to realise that you could hardly see the screen! Well, the Kindleberry Pi solves that issue by letting you use the Kindle ebook reader as a display. Its special e-Ink screen is perfectly readable even in direct sunlight.

Another major advantage – both devices are designed to sip battery, not guzzle it. So you could, in theory, write a thesis before you run out of juice – cerebral and chemical. Too bad, the display is not in colour!

Pi Station

Have something to say? Then say it over the airwaves, for real cheap, using your very own radio station. The best part about this rig – no additional hardware is required. All you need is a 20 cm wire inserted in the right slots. Of course, make sure you are in an area where radio broadcasts are allowed. On the other hand, there isn't any heavy equipment to scoot off with! Note that in the current implementation, the sound quality and range are nothing to brag about, but a bunch of hackers are toiling away, improving this setup. Just so that you could soon have your very own Pirate Radio.

Shooting flames and exploding stars!

Okay, this one is rather extreme and strictly for the crazy ones. You most probably have been amazed by the live pyrotechnics show at rock concerts. And perhaps wondered, "Gee, wish I could become a rockstar, just to have that going off around me." Well, now you can without becoming a rockstar. Or even a star. Called FireHero 3, this contraption uses a Pi to control a set of valves that shoots flames 100 feet up in the air -all synced perfectly to your beats! But be warned, it looks rather complicated and uses some expensive parts. But then again, do it for the music!


And last, but perhaps the first you might want to reach out for every morn, is the MoccaPi – a coffee machine controlled by the Pi. Throw in a few lines of code, a microcontroller, SDcard and cables, and in return the setup promises to whip up the "perfect" coffee to you, morning after morning. And we are sure, with a bit of messing around, you could get this idea to work with teapots, juice machines, toasters. Just don't forget to add in some background music and emotive dialogues such as, "Your toast is ready, Master."

If you have questions, you can write to Deepak, our Technology Expert, at askcoolage@teamaol.com. And do add your views in the comments section below.

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