Hacked Furby – Suggestions Please

I’m sad to say that one of my most fun projects, the hacked Furby is still sat on my shelf gathering dust. I occasionally fire him up to monitor my inbox and read out any new emails that drop in throughout the day. Sadly though as Pi boards are a valuable commodity in my house, Furby’s board tends to get used for other things which is a real shame.

Hacked Furby Reading Out Emails

I really want to progress this one further but I’m stuck for ideas at the moment and I’m hoping readers of this post will be able to offer up suggests as to how to improve him. If you have an idea, no matter how silly you may think it is I would love to hear it. It’s often the silly ideas that turn out to be best ones. Drop me a line here: jez.whitworth[at]hotmail[dot]co[dot]uk.

Here’s a little video short of him reading out my emails. I’m using an old Raspberry Pi with espeak to do this though the speech synthesiser isn’t terribly great. I have yet to find a better one that’s as easy to use.

The Signalman

I found an old rusty Signalman train badge and thought it would be perfect to fix to my ham radio receiver and Morse decoder. I always like to name my projects and Signalman is perfect.
The Signalman WebSDR Receiver
I burnt my finger whilst cutting the clasp off the back but it covers a nasty scratch on the box (the dangers of taking projects out and about I guess) and that is how the Signalman got its name.
Web SDR Amateur Radio Receiver Box
Still loving the handset despite some funny looks when I’m out with it. Today whilst out walking I was able to pick up a couple of old gentlemen talking about building their own radios. I love listening in to snapshots of people’s lives like this. It’s like I’m fishing for good conversations with the Signalman being my net.

Gaming Picture Frame Guide

My retro gaming Retropie picture frame has been really we met, which is a relief to me as I’m always nervous when posting the things I’ve made. Two people who have tried to make their own have made contact with me, which is just the best news. However, they were having a few issues with the screen so I’ve drawn up a little tutorial on how I made mine. The guide can be downloaded here.

Retro Gaming Picture Frame Guide

Here’s a quick video tour of the picture frame. It is now hanging on my wall, waiting for Player 1 to plug the USB controller into the frame and play on.


A New Code Club for Kids

I’m really pleased that an idea I had over a year ago and one that has undergone a couple of false starts is finally gaining momentum. The code club for kids will be starting this summer here in Salisbury.

I’ve deliberately chosen subjects to teach that are very close to my heart. The first session we’ll be building our own Space Invaders game which will serve as a good introduction to Scratch. The second session will involve chatbots and how we can code our own. I’ll be bringing along my BB8 droid for people to chat with, showing how you can go on to develop anything with the building blocks provided in these workshops.

Code Club with BB8


Magpi Issue 57 With Free AIY Kit

I was amazed when the Raspberry Pi magazine Magpi gave away a free Pi Zero with every copy back in 2015. This month though with issue 57 Magpi are give away a free AIY Do-It-Yourself Artificial Intelligence kit that will allow Google Assistant to work on your Raspberry Pi.

With its popularity you can guess that copies are very hard to find but after a massive hunt around Salisbury and thanks to the quick thinking of a friend I have one. I had a lot of fun making it.

The Retropie Gaming Picture Frame

It was my son who gave me the idea for this. We’re rationing his gaming time and he wished he had a secret gaming setup that nobody knew about but him – The retro gaming picture frame idea was born. What if we made a picture frame hanging on the wall that displayed a photograph and somewhere in that photograph/artwork there was a screen cleverly concealed within it. Then on connecting a controller to the frame, the screen will come to life and allow you to play games on it.

I got hold of a nice chunky picture frame from Ikea, this allowed me enough room to house the screen, Raspberry Pi and everything else. It’s running Retropie which will allow me to emulate games from a wide range of consoles, so I can see myself easily carrying on this idea with a series pictures depicting retro gaming through the ages.

The Portable Web SDR Receiver

I’ve been a big fan of radio for most of my life, especially the ham radio side of things. Luckily nowadays with the wonder that is the internet, there are many convenient ways of listening in to amateur radio transmissions without the need for expensive kit. If you fancy having a go yourself you can download a copy of my beginners guide to Web SDR and amateur radio that gets mentioned in the video below here.

So this week I started on a very exciting project, building a portable listening receiver that hooks into Web SDR setups around the globe. My favourite one of all has to be the one located on the site of an old nuclear bunker here as I find the 2m band is best for picking up voice transmissions.

The idea was to have a nice portable box that you can carry over one shoulder that will allow you to comb the airwaves whilst on the move. I also included a Morse code translator that will decode any Morse that is picked up and display the message on the small LCD. To finish it off I found a retro handset that someone had bought me for a present years ago. I had originally wanted to incorporate an internal speaker inside the box but including the old style handset just seemed an even better idea.

I love this project and I look forward to taking it out and about with me.

The Automatic Lego Drawing Machine

There are a great many prototypes that litter my workshop, so I thought it would be a good idea to talk about a few before I reuse their parts. This video is all about an old idea for a drawing machine and how I made a quick model out of Lego to see if the idea would work.

I was wanting to eventually make a larger decorative box made out of wood, whereby people could turn a handle/push a button and the box would draw them a picture on an A5 sheet of paper. I had started planning out a little gear box to change the rotation speeds that would result in more patterns being drawn. Sadly there were other priorities at the time and this project unfortunately got shelved. Still fun to get the brain working on this one though.