December 15, 2016

DIY Smart Mirror ft. Alexa


  1. Computer Monitor. Buy used and look for cable inputs that point down or sideways instead of straight out. 22" recommended (I used Acer AL2216)
  2. Video cable. Whatever fits your monitor (I used HDMI to DVI adapter)
  3. Raspberry Pi 3, 16GB Micro SD Card, 5V Micro USB power supply, any RPi case
  4. Wood. I bought four 3ft lengths of 3"x1"
  5. 8 Angle brackets
  6. Short wood screws.
  7. Gorilla glue.
  8. Electrical tape.
  9. Extension Cord with multiple plugs.
  10. 50cm x 70cm Ikea STROMBY frame.
  11. Gila Mirrored Window Film 
  12. USB Sound CardLapel Micany USB powered speaker *
*Bonus Alexa Materials

Additional required tools/supplies are: scotch tape, a squirt bottle, dish soap, a drill or screwdriver, exacto knife, scissors, and a saw.

Creating the Two Way Mirror

The two way mirror is the most essential part of this build. To create this component, you just apply Gila Mirrored Window Film to any piece of glass or acrylic. This works equally well for glass and acrylic, and only takes about 15 minutes.

December 09, 2016

Raspberry Pi Bot Server

My trusty RPi3 twitter bot server "starkiller".

So let's say you've got a twitter bot that you want running 24/7, but you don't want it running on your personal system. What you need here is a server, which is really just a dedicated system. Note, if you're looking for a web server, you'd be better off with Amazon's AWS .

If you're running automated tasks and answering tweets however, a Raspberry Pi is an excellent choice. 

The steps are pretty straightforward:

1. Setup a computer (raspberry pi) to run your program.
2. Write a script to launch your program.

3. Run the script automatically at startup.

Setup your computer

The starting point here is simply to buy a Raspberry Pi. RPi3 is great because it has build in wifi, and it's very affordable, any generation will work though. Once you've got the hardware, you need to install an OS. I strongly recommend Raspbian Jessie with Pixel (download and install guide can be found here).

December 08, 2016

From the Vault: PICHEC Raspberry Pi Cluster

I want to document this project, as it is one of my favourite projects to date. This took place about 4 years ago while I was working at the Irish Centre for High End Computing (ICHEC).

One of ICHEC's projects at the time was creating demonstration for the BT Young Scientist Exhibition to explain the use of parallel computing. I volunteered to build a Raspberry Pi cluster for this, along with a parallel demo application called Conway's Game of Life. The (very old) code can be found here, and more details about the simulation can be found in the official handout.

The best part of the project was building the cluster. My design placed the 8 Raspberry Pi's into the legs of a plexiglass enclosure shaped like the pi symbol. I also wrapped ethernet cables in colour electrical tape to give them distinct colours, and added several strands of EL Wire to make it glow.

Here are a couple of photos of the cluster and build process.

Glorious PICHEC