Monday, 27 February 2017

Quick2Wire status update - a new lease of life?

Quick2Wire Logo
I've fielded several questions about Quick2Wire in the last few days, so it's probably time to explain what happened, where things are now, and what the future holds.

Some of you won't have heard of Quick2Wire. It was a start-up that designed, manufactured and sold add-on boards for the Raspberry Pi.

I founded it in 2012, along with a group of other designers and developers, and it did reasonably well for a while.

What went wrong?

Most team members had full time jobs, so they could only work on the project in their spare time. I ended up doing all the marketing, kitting, packing, posting and accounts.

One consequence was that I didn't do enough marketing after we launched, and things became worse when our PCB designer became seriously ill.

We needed office space for the stock and kitting area, and when sales fell off we could no longer cover our costs.

Quick2Wire stopped trading in the summer of 2013, and was finally dissolved in March 2014.

Sukkin Pang of S.K.Pang Limited kindly agreed to purchase the company's remaining stock when we stopped trading, and he took over the Quick2Wire website.

The team of developers who created the software for our boards moved on to other projects, and the software has remained frozen in time.

Frozen software

Meanwhile the Pi has moved on.

The introduction of new Python access to GPIO and I2C, and other changes, meant that most of our software was unnecessary or unusable.

The fundamental concept is still valid, though, and I have been looking at ways of breathing new life into the platform.

What happens next? 


I'm currently considering four ideas:
  1. An update to the documentation showing how currently available software can be used to drive the boards.
  2. A new and much simpler open source interface board that people could order from OSHPark or Ragworm supporting the 40-pin GPIO header.
  3. Extra connectors on the new board to make it easy to use the Grove add-ons as well as the Quick2Wire boards.
  4. An open source interface board  that would allow the BBC micro:bit to access the Quick2Wire  hardware and Grove add-ons, with MicroPython libraries to support them.
Warning: I may not do any of these, and I certainly won't be able to do much in the near future. But if any of these might be of interest, please let me know by commenting below.

Friday, 17 February 2017

micro:bit, MicroPython and Vex Robotics - hope for the future

micro:bit and MicroPython workshop at Pi Towers

Pi Towers Workshop (c) David Booth
Last Saturday I joined Ben Nuttall and other friends at the Raspberry Jam held at Pi Towers in Cambridge.

I ran a brand new workshop using a Raspberry Pi to program BBC micro:bits in MicroPython.

It went really well. The young had a lot of fun, as did their mums and dads.

I've turned the workshop workbook into a free eBook. You can get it here. I'll also be running the workshop again in London. Follow me here or on twitter for more information.


Vex Robotics 

A team from Henrietta Barnet present their work
On Tuesday I headed to Highgate Junior School where they were hosting a Vex Robotics competition.

I'd been invited by Andy Thompson who is Director of DTE at Highgate.

Last year Highgate team System32 won the UK National Championships qualified for the World Championships in Kentucky USA in VEX Robotics, so I expected a stiff competition.

I helped to judge a very remarkable set of entries created by some very capable, skilled and enthusiastic students from a number of London schools. It was encouraging to see plenty of girls participating - and winning!

I used to be a little ambivalent about Vex. My own preference has been to build my own robots from scratch, or as close as I could get.

I'm now converted.

Few students or teachers have the time or inclination to start robot-building from the ground up, but the competition showed how many can be really creative when provided with a well-designed kit of component parts.

The energy and excitement were palpable.

The day was fun for me, and clearly great fun for the students. I wish I could have joined them again for the second day of the competition.

Next week

On Tuesday I head over to the Science Museum to help out with #smHack.

Teams from all over the UK will be looking at ways to add value to the Science Museum's open API.

I'll be taking along some physical computing hardware to act as a catalyst.

As part of my research into the new architecture for C2Pi, I'll also be working on some more micro:bit hardware and software.

I'll be prototyping a numeric keypad for the BBC micro:bit.

Keep watching for more details!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

And the winner is...

Andy of workshopshed fame came up with the winning title for Saturday's micro:bit introductory workshop: 'Microbit MicroPython in 60 minutes'.

Thanks to everyone who entered. You had some great ideas, but I'm going with Andy's entry. His title is short and to the point. It tells you exactly what to expect.

Andy's Kitronik inventor's kit is on its way to him, and he is kindly sending me a really useful bit of hardware in return. It's a BitScope blade duo Pi.

Since Dyalog APL can seamlessly use multiple cores on multiple CPUs that gives me an 8-core 2Gb super-Pi for my Neural Network research!

I didn't expect to get anthing in return for the inventor's kit, but that sort of response is what makes it so great to be part of the maker community. Thanks, Andy.

If you want to get started with MicroPython on the micro:bit, and you're in the Cambridge area, why not come along on Saturday? You can book here.

Friday, 3 February 2017

An array of micro:bits for the Raspberry Towers Jam

Yesterday I mentioned that I'm running a BBC micro:bit workshop for the Jam at Raspberry Pi Towers on February 11th.

The micro:bit kits from Kitronik have just arrived, and I'm expecting to finish the workshop materials early next week.

The workshop uses MicroPython and the mu IDE running on a Raspberry Pi. It's suitable for beginners, and I think it will be a lot of fun.

There's a bit more background in yesterday's post.

I sill need a title, though.

If you have a good idea for a title you can submit it here.

If I use your title and you are the first to suggest it, I'll send you a free Kitronik Inventors kit, including a BBC micro:bit.

Make sure you submit your idea by 10 PM UK today as I'll be closing the survey then!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Please help me with a title!

I'm running a workshop on Saturday 11 Feb at Raspberry Pi Towers in Cambridge. I'm really looking forward to it and it should be great fun.

I've got just one problem: I need a good title.

Let me tell you a bit more about the workshop and explain how you can help.

The workshop

In 60 minutes beginners will learn how to program the BBC micro:bit using MicroPython. They will be using Raspberry Pi computers linked to micro:bits and will use the mu application on the Pi to write and upload their programs.

I'm not sure of the age range. There may be young programmers with their parents, some grand-parents, silver solderers like me, and every age in between.

We'll be providing the hardware but they will have to give it back at the end of the workshop.

Please help me find a title!

I 've set up an online survey. It asks for your idea for a title and your email address. (That cuts down on spam and ensures one entry per person.) You can also subscribe to my newsletter if you want to, but there's no obligation to do so.

Although you can only submit one title you can change your entry at any time.


A little thank-you

If I decide to use your title and you're the first person to submit it, I'll send you a free microbit Inventor's Kit from Kitronik.

That's the other reason I'm asking for your email address!

Please do it today!

I need to decide the title over the weekend, so please submit your entry today if you can. I'll be taking down the survey tomorrow.

You can submit your title here.