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31 January 2013

Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology has immense potential. Our future computing hardware could be radically transformed.

Virtually indestructible, solar cell covered smartphone cases. Vivid, flexible, low-energy displays. Blazingly fast memory, processors and graphics. Cheap bio-sensors and personal tricorders.

Find out more in my six page feature Micro Mart magazine article in issue 1245 - out now.

Here are a few extracts:

One of the primary reasons nanoparticles are so interesting is they exhibit quite different properties and capabilities compared to the very same material in bulk form. Just as predicted by the visionary scientist Richard Feynman in his famous 1959 lecture 'There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom'.

Carbon nanotubes are strong and resilient, with an ability to 'spring' back to their original shape after bending. And it's possible to fabricate multi-walled nanotubes for even greater strength and resilience. Adding nanotubes to composite materials will significantly increase their strength-to-weight ratio. A tactic that's frequently employed by organisations like NASA, the military and F1 racing teams.

Unlike the previous OLED components nanowires exhibit an ability to flex while continuing to operate. If the nanowires are deposited onto plastic sheets the whole display will be able to bend. Flexible displays would be a revolutionary technology for gadget designers, who could envisage all kinds of novel and innovative scenarios. Foldable e-readers, bendy iPads and screens that wrapped around your wrist are just some of the possibilities. And flexible devices will be far less likely to suffer damage after a heavy impact or drop.

Head over to the Micro Mart website or my own author page to find a collection of past articles.

24 January 2013

Raspberry Pi Potpourri: January

Are you looking to make the most of your Raspberry Pi computer?

Then take at Micro Mart magazine this week to see the first of my monthly article series covering Raspberry Pi news, community events, hardware, software, games and tips.

Here are a few extracts:

The Model A board is an even cheaper entry point to Raspberry Pi computing. The goal was to produce a $25 board, to complement the $35 Model B. To achieve this price a few components are missing. Nevertheless, there are some advantages to owning a Model A.

The Pi Store is a joint venture involving IndieCity (indiecity.com) and Velocix (velocix.com). A client app runs on the Raspberry Pi as an X application. The latest update to the official Raspbian image already contains the store app.

If you have an older image the app can be downloaded by typing the commands below into a terminal window on your Internet-connected Raspberry Pi:
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install pistore

A blog post in late 2012 from Mojang, the Stockholm-based indie games development company, confirmed it is working on a Raspberry Pi version of Minecraft (minecraft.net). Dubbed the Minecraft: Pi Edition it's a port of the existing Minecraft: Pocket Edition.

Interestingly, and totally in keeping with the Raspberry Pi theme of open software, this will be a 'hackable' version of the game.

Visit my Raspberry Pi page for news, reviews, advice and tutorials.

18 January 2013

Raspberry Pi: PyGame.org

Are you interested in writing a game using Python? Maybe you'd like to see how it's done by reading Python game program examples? Maybe you'd like to take an existing game and customise it to your own requirements?

Head over to the PyGame website to discover a treasure trove of gaming source code, libraries, tutorials, reference material, web links and gaming community news.

Their impressive games collection is divided into categories, such has puzzle, strategy, arcade, shooter, space, RPG and multiplayer.

Visit my Raspberry Pi page for news, reviews, advice and tutorials.

12 January 2013

Raspberry Pi: Online Articles

The Micro Mart magazine has posted a number of my articles on the web, including a couple about the Raspberry Pi computer.

My recent 'Accessorise Your Raspberry Pi' which looks at the hardware, component and project aspects of Raspberry Pi ownership.

While the 'Quick Guide to Scratch on the Raspberry Pi' is all about how to create animations and games - without writing code.

Further back in the archives there's an in-depth article about The Promise of Hybrid PCs, including a detailed look at Microsoft's combination of Surface technology and Windows 8 operating system.

Visit my Raspberry Pi page for news, reviews, advice and tutorials.

10 January 2013

Byte Sized Languages Series

The first in my new series of one page articles, entitled 'Byte Sized Languages', appears in this week’s Micro Mart magazine, issue 1242.

A new article will appear each week.

Languages in the pipeline so far include FORTRAN, COBOL, Pascal, BASIC, C, C++, Java, C#, Objective-C, Visual Basic, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, Python, SQL, ActionScript, Logo and R.

Here are a couple of extracts from the first article:

Dating back to the 1950's FORTRAN was one of the first computer languages to provide a practical alternative to assembly code.
...
Even at this early stage it was designed to be an optimised complier, so program performance would approach that of pure assembly code.

The scientific and engineering programming community has a particular affinity with FORTRAN. Over the decades they've written million of lines of code and numerous domain-specific libraries.

These domains invariably have a strong mathematical nature such as weather forecasting and climate modelling, oil exploration, fluid dynamics simulation, or computational chemistry and physics. FORTRAN code is employed in a wide diversity of scientific research projects, including some at the famous CERN laboratories.

Head over to the Micro Mart website or my own author page to find a collection of past articles.

8 January 2013

Raspberry Pi Python: Turtle Shapes

Exploring the interactive world of Turtle Graphics on your Raspberry Pi is easy with Python's 'turtle' module.

Here's a short Python program to create a pattern using coloured shapes.

from turtle import *

# set a shape and colour
shape("circle")
shapesize(5,1,2)
fillcolor("red")
pencolor("darkred")

penup()  # no drawing
goto(0, -100)

for i in range(72):
   forward(10)
   left(5)
   tilt(7.5)
   stamp()

exitonclick()

Create a new Geany file, enter the Python code, save it as turtle-shapes.py and execute the program. After you've seen it run modify the code to experiment with different shapes, fill colours and pen colours.

Visit my Raspberry Pi page for news, reviews, advice and tutorials.

5 January 2013

Raspberry Pi Python: Turtle Patterns

Exploring the interactive world of Turtle Graphics on your Raspberry Pi is easy with Python's 'turtle' module.

Here's a short Python program to create a pattern with coloured circles:

from turtle import *

pensize(5)

for i in range(4):
   for c in ["red","green","blue"]:
      pencolor(c)
      circle(100)
      right(30)

exitonclick()

Create a new Geany file, enter the Python code, save it as turtle-patterns.py and execute the program. After you've seen it run modify the code to experiment with different pen sizes, colour names and circle diameters.

Visit my Raspberry Pi page for news, reviews, advice and tutorials.

1 January 2013

Raspberry Pi Python: Module Exploration

One of the reasons Python is so popular is it's large collection of modules.

They support a wide range of programming activities including mathematics, graphical user interfaces (GUI), file operations, image manipulation, turtle graphics and games.

The question is how do you discover the functionality provided by a particular module?

Here's a step-by-step process to explore any Python module.

Step 1: Start an Interactive Mode Session

Boot up your Raspberry Pi and begin a Interactive Mode session in a new terminal window.

Step 2: Import a Module

To work with a module you'll need to import it first. Type åin the following statement next to the '>>>' prompt and press the 'Enter' key:

>>> import platform

Step 3: Use dir()

Now type in the following statement next to the '>>>' prompt and press the 'Enter' key:

>>> dir(platform)

What you'll see is a list of the names (which includes variables and functions) defined by the 'platform' module. Each name is enclosed in single quotes.

Step 4: Use help()

Next try this statement:

>>> help(platform)

Now you can see the all the 'platform' module manual pages. Press the 'spacebar' to see the next page or the 'q' key to return to the '>>>' prompt.

I've used the 'platform' module for these examples, but any valid module name will work.

Visit my Raspberry Pi page for news, reviews, advice and tutorials.