Liz: If you’re a regular reader, you’ll have noticed more and more frequent mentions over the last year of a piece of kit called RACHEL-Pi. RACHEL is an offline server, run on a Raspberry Pi, full of educational content from teaching curriculums, Khan Academy materials, Wikipedia, classic literature, reference material and textbooks; alongside vital community materials like medical and first aid textbooks.
We’re very proud to be able to support World Possible’s RACHEL-Pi project through our education fund. It’s being used all over the world in remote places where the internet is unavailable – and this year it’s gone from strength to strength. Here’s Jeremy Schwartz, the Executive Director of World Possible, to show you what they’ve been doing with the project in the last year.
What an incredible 12 months it has been. World Possible has seen RACHEL-Pi (our Raspberry Pi-based educational server) deployed in scores of countries – often in the most remote of locations – delivering a world of educational content to tens of thousands of students previously far removed from the great online learning tools those of us reading this blog take for granted almost every day.
How’d we get here?
It’s worth taking a few seconds to get some history on World Possible’s RACHEL server. In 2009, World Possible (an all-volunteer team, mostly from Cisco) curated a package of creative commons resources (Wikipedia, Khan Academy, CK12 textbooks, and much more) for offline distribution. Coupling the content with open-source web server software, we could create “Remote Area Community Hotspots for Education and Learning,” (“R.A.C.H.E.L.”) – a locally cached web server accessed through any connected web browser (with no need for internet connectivity).
RACHEL is accessed via a web browser
Probably more naïve than anything, an attempted round of pilot projects of RACHEL (which at the time was a power-hungry NAS device) in 2009, in Sierra Leone, failed in pretty dramatic fashion.
The failure took a real toll on World Possible and forced us to rethink RACHEL distribution, ultimately building a distribution network of partnerships with on-the-ground teams that could do the hard part for us, and many of which still lead the RACHEL distribution charge today:
Despite the early successes of those groups, we still didn’t have the final piece of the puzzle that has exploded RACHEL deployment today (development of open-source educational resources + uniform standards of web browsers + proliferation of low cost computing hardware and storage). In comes the Raspberry Pi, giving us the ability to create a plug-and-play webserver and hotspot at a price point that we can distribute to masses of people without any required computer literacy background.
Is it working? – “Content is king; distribution is King Kong”
Almost exactly a year ago, a partnership with the Gates-Backed Riecken Libraries in Guatemala and Honduras, as well as a funding leap of faith by a few loved donors and the Rotary Club of Portola/Woodside Valley (CA), allowed us to launch a new phase of World Possible and RACHEL-Pi focused on creating, curating, and distributing relevant content from and within disconnected communities. A good old fashioned sneaker-net, delivering locally relevant (and often locally created) digital educational content to disconnected schools, libraries, orphanages and community centers.
The World Possible team in Guatemala is now led by Israel Quic, a native Mayan, initially attracted to RACHEL-Pi as a means of preserving and teaching his Mayan heritage and language to local communities.
Israel Quic presents RACHEL at Campus Tec, the technology department of University de la Valle
Israel quickly saw an opportunity to collect more locally relevant agricultural and political resources than we currently distribute as part of our Spanish-language RACHEL-Pi. In April, the fruits of his labor truly began to sprout, when word came from one agricultural community, an early RACHEL-Pi recipient, which built a drip irrigation system out of old plastic bottles after discovering how to do it from a single teacher’s smartphone while researching our Guatemalan content on their RACHEL-Pi.
A drip irrigation system made from old plastic bottles, using how-to content from RACHEL-Pi
The successes only caused us to redouble our efforts. Aided by our local Facebook page, World Possible Guatemala solicits offers of help and requests for RACHEL from across the country.
Current RACHEL-Pi installations in Guatemala
Installations of RACHEL-Pi in community centers and libraries are often made available 24/7, enabling anyone with a smart phone to come learn, research, and explore.
San Lucas Toliman RACHEL-Pi wifi access point
Facebook post of Biblioteca Comunitaria Rija’tzuul Na’ooj
San Juan del Obispo in Sacatapequéz is an agricultural community where middle school kids are using RACHEL to learn not only how to grow and irrigate, but also how to cultivate mushrooms and make fresh peach jam. Along the way they get business skills as well.
The mission in Guatemala is still just beginning, but the lessons learned and successes are providing a key roadmap for World Possible. Make available valuable educational resources, supplement them with locally relevant vocational and cultural content, get buy-in from local community volunteers, and distribute… distribute… distribute. The results are truly inspirational.
What’s next? – “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
Globally, the RACHEL effort is still driven by the hundreds of groups that download RACHEL and distribute independently in their own communities. Everything we do is free to download through our website, FTP site, BitTorrent sync, or even shared Dropbox. The Raspberry Pi has also made it so anyone can do this on their own, a powerful democratization of access to a world-class education.
World Possible will continue to support these groups through our own volunteer network, through independent advice, and by creating the best package of content available. Even more today, a biweekly newsletter is connecting thousands of RACHEL advocates in nearly 40 countries who have been through the process and can provide best practices to new users locally.
What excites us most is our ability to replicate the successes that have been achieved in Guatemala. In Micronesia, Professor Hosman and her students curated a RACHEL for the state of Chuuk. She’s now working with Inveneo to deploy RACHEL to the entire region’s network of schools.
Grace, a teacher at Akoyikoyi School in Chuuk, receives a RACHEL-Pi
In Kenya and East Africa, thanks to a generous grant from this very Raspberry Pi Foundation, we’ve just completed a hire (Bonface Masaviru) to follow the roadmap that Israel Quic laid out in Guatemala. Bonface is spreading RACHEL throughout Kenyan schools…
… and working with local volunteers such as Zack Matere to help us curate RACHEL Shamba (an offline package of farming resources):
Where we can, we’ll look to our long-time distribution partners to help create full labs to access RACHEL-Pi. Here in Uganda, Romeo Rodriguez gives his “children” their first ever look at technology in a new library thanks to a full “digital library-in-a-box” from World Possible.
We’ll continue to find ways to hire additional country managers, local to their communities, who have proven their dedication to RACHEL, to involve indigenous people in creating and distributing the content they currently lack.
If you’d like to be part of the mission, we’d love to have you. A great group of development volunteers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have networking expertise, we can pair you with a group that might need your help deploying RACHEL – email@example.com.
If you want to join the Raspberry Pi Foundation in supporting our efforts financially, we’d love it – donate here.
If you want us to come talk to your group, or help deploy RACHEL, we’d love that also – please don’t hesitate to get involved! Thank you to all of the individuals and groups who already have; there is so much more we can do together.
Today we’re launching a new section of our website for information about Raspberry Jams – events and meetups for Raspberry Pi users. We want to promote community events and make it easier for people to set up their own; and to spread the great sense of community that we see around the Pi even further.
Jams come in a variety of flavours: some have talks, demos and workshops; some just provide space for people to work on projects together. Some are small, just a few people sitting around a table; some are held in universities with hundreds in attendance.
Over the past few years Australia has been labeled one of the world’s hotspots when it comes to online piracy, with movie and TV show companies criticizing the public for obtaining content without paying for it.
Countering, Australians have complained fiercely about being treated as second-class consumers, with products often appearing months after their debut in other territories. There are signs that entertainment companies are beginning to listen, but piracy will probably be a difficult habit to break in the short term.
A new study published today claims that not only are the numbers of pirates increasing, but they’re also pirating more frequently.
Commissioned by the IP Awareness Foundation which counts the MPA, Foxtel and other key industry players among its members, the study found that 29% of Aussie adults aged between 18-64 are regular or occasional pirates, up from 25% last year.
The anonymous study also reveals some interesting trends as teens progress towards adulthood. In the 12 to 13 year-old group active pirates made up 14% of respondents but just a year later this doubles. Among 14 to 15 year-olds, active pirates increased to 29%.
By the ages of 16 and 17 this figure had grown even further to 36%.
It’s clear that the industry would like to have the older generation influence its children to download less or not at all and the study suggests that parental influence carries the most weight with teens.
Overall, 67% of respondents said it is their parents who provide the most guidance on how to behave online, with 19% citing schools and teachers. Interestingly, just 7% mentioned peers as an influence with 1% or less mentioning the government.
However, while parents appear to carry the most influence, the perils of illegal downloading aren’t at the top of their concerns. Not releasing personal details online was the most discussed topic, followed by virus and malware, unsuitable (18+) websites and care over financial details.
Although the topic of illegal downloading was last on the list overall, those who don’t pirate said their parents discussed the subject more than those who pirate regularly.
Whether the parental discussions over malware paid off isn’t clear, but 63% of teen pirates said they were aware that ads on pirate sites could contain malicious software. But while aware of the risks, most had experienced no problems, with just 13% claiming an infection when downloading movies or TV shows or clicking ads on a pirate site.
Perhaps of most interest is the finding that teen pirates engage in legal media consumption habits at similar or improved levels to their illegal ones. Furthermore, teens who don’t pirate appear to consume less content legally than their pirating counterparts.
For instance, while around 35% of active downloaders obtain a movie from the Internet at least once each month without paying, 38% also rent a movie or TV show legally. Among non-pirates, this figure is just 27%.
Equally, while 37% of pirates admit to illegally streaming content at least once a month, 69% pay to see movies at the cinema. Among the non-pirates, the figure is just 49%.
The findings also show that pirates are more engaged when it comes to consuming legal media online digitally. Some 46% of teen pirates said they download movies and TV shows from services such as iTunes each month while among non-pirates the figure is just 29%.
In respect of finding illegal content, just two main methods are cited by the teen respondents. A total of 59% said they go directly to their favorite sites to find movies and TV shows, while 22% said they used a search engine such as Google or Bing.
The study concludes by suggesting that anti-piracy education should be focused on the younger generation, to educate children before they reach 13 years-old when peer pressure kicks in and parents have less involvement.
A good balance might also be to work out how to get non-pirating teens as involved in buying legal content as their pirating counterparts.
At Picademy, our awesome free training course for teachers, I run a workshop to introduce teachers to using the camera module with Python, and show them how to wire up a GPIO button they can use to trigger the camera. I always make a point of saying “now you know this, what can you make it do?” and suggest some uses for the setup – stop-motion animation, motion sensing or sending pictures to Twitter.
On the second day of Picademy, we give teachers the chance to work in teams on a project of their choice, and there’s always at least one group that extends upon the camera workshop. At Picademy #3 in July, one group decided to take a Babbage Bear apart, shove a Pi inside and have it take pictures and tweet them – it was great fun to help them build the project and we got some funny pictures out of it…
Then at Picademy #4 last month, another group took the idea further and made Abuse Bear – a Babbage that tweeted a picture when punched! Perhaps this one’s not quite such a good idea for the classroom. Again, some brilliant pictures…
The idea has been so popular at Picademy that I decided to write the Tweeting Babbage project up as an educational resource! There’s a full set of instructions for building up the code to send simple text tweets from Python, taking pictures with the camera, wiring up the GPIO button, uploading pictures to Twitter, putting it all together and performing surgery on the bear to insert the hardware.
Making the incision
Removing the eye
Inserting the camera
I was at PyCon Ireland in Dublin this weekend, where I gave a talk about Raspberry Pi in education. I brought the modified Babbage along (yes, I got it through airport security) and showed the pictures above during my talk. There was a very audible aww of sentimental attachment to the cute bear I just introduced them to.
As an educational charity, education is at the heart of what we do here at Raspberry Pi. This year has seen the education team grow in number, resulting in the development of our new learning and teaching materials (a set of resources we’re adding to all the time), a free teacher training programme (Picademy), the introduction of competitions like the Poster Competition and the current Sonic Pi competition, all at the same time as running and participating in outreach events across the globe.
Spot Raspberry Pi Edu team members from Picademy cohort 4!
We often contribute posts to this blog to inform you, our wonderful community, about what we have been up to, and about future developments; and you often respond and interact with us to help us improve.
To help us inform teachers, school IT administrators, governors, head teachers, home educators and parents about what’s up in the world of Raspberry Pi in education, we have created a new email newsletter to keep educators and other interested folk up to date on all of our projects.
Our inaugural issue of the newsletter
You can sign up for our newsletter here, and enjoy a monthly email penned by one of the Raspberry Pi Education Team. It is super easy to both subscribe and unsubscribe to the newsletter, and we shall be keeping an archive of all issues on the education page of the website. We promise never to use your email address for spam, and we promise never to sell it, fold, bend, spindle or mutilate it. Go and sign up – we think you’ll find it really useful!
Ideally, however, UK citizens shouldn’t be sharing or downloading content without permission to begin with. This is an issue the IP-advisor hopes to resolve with his latest set of recommendations, which center around copyright education and awareness.
In a 51-page report (pdf) that was just released Weatherley stresses the importance of copyright awareness and education, especially for the younger generation. This is needed as respect for copyright has declined in recent years and some even believe that sharing copyrighted material without permission is not a big deal.
“There is … a certain level of tolerance for the idea that IP infringements could be considered legitimate. Some believe that illegal activity online is a social norm, with no moral implications,” Weatherley writes.
“We are at risk of an entire generation growing up with different levels of respect for IP and copyright in particular. Should this social contract disappear, there could be longer-term consequences beyond the immediate, short-term negative impacts experienced by the creative sector,” he adds.
In his report the IP-advisor makes several recommendations for how this trend can be countered. Through a broad set of education measures he hopes that copyright will regain respect from the public.
“Education and consumer awareness programmes that seek to change current behaviour or influence future actions are essential for nurturing a greater culture of respect and value for the UK’s creative economy, and to negate the impact of infringement.”
One of the future goals is to bring copyright into the classroom. To achieve this Weatherley recommends to add copyright education to the school curriculum, starting with the youngest kids in primary school.
“The school curriculum needs to prepare pupils – from early years through to the end of secondary school and higher education – for the 21st century knowledge economy. Interaction with IP is a daily occurrence for many young people, and yet it is widely ignored within the education system,” the report reads.
As a secondary form of public education, the BBC should also start broadcasting programming that stresses the value of copyright through various channels. This to ensure that the message reaches a wide audience.
“Given its reach and public service broadcasting remit, the BBC should create a copyright education programme using online, on-air and face-to-face channels,” Weatherley recommends.
With these initiatives and other changes, the IP advisor hopes to change people’s attitudes towards copyright. This should then lead to less online piracy in the long run which may reflect positively on the economy.
Unfortunately, the report doesn’t mention who should be involved in creating the educational messages, should they be implemented. The only stakeholders that have been consulted recently are the major copyright holder groups, which may lead to a biased perspective.
To avoid an unbalanced curriculum as we’ve seen in the United States, it may be wise to also involve representatives from the consumer side, library organisations, or alternatives to strict copyright licensing such as Creative Commons.
In 2012, Finland introduced a modification to its national constitution which allowed the public to provide input into the kind of laws being put in place.
The changes, which allow citizens to put forward legislative proposals for Parliament to vote on, came at a time when restrictive copyright was already under the spotlight.
As a result the citizen-drafted ‘Common Sense for Copyright’ initiative quickly gathered momentum. It was hoped that the proposals would influence updates to copyright law being prepared by Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture.
The draft, the brainchild of the Open Ministry nonprofit, calls for reduced penalties for copyright infringement and current penalties to be applied only in cases of a commercial scale. Fair Use provisions would also be expanded, alongside exemptions for those wishing to backup purchased media and time-shift commercial content.
In July 2013 the initiative made history after reaching the required 50,000 signatures. It was submitted to Parliament in November 2013 but now the future of the proposal is in serious doubt.
Much to the disappointment of its backers, the Finnish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee is recommending that Common Sense For Copyright should be rejected.
European Digital Rights (EDRi), a group which defends civil rights in the information society, reports that the Committee concluded its handling of the initiative yesterday as expected.
“In its report, the Committee notes that the initiative suggests several ambitious amendments, but that it considers it impossible to propose, based on the initiative, even partial changes to the existing copyright law,” EDRi notes.
“The report states that the initiative includes internal contradictions and that many of the amendments it suggests are too significantly incompatible with the current legislation.”
As late as last week, Electronic Frontier Finland (Effi), the Finnish Pirate Party and the Open Ministry submitted complaints to the Chancellor of Justice over the way the Education and Culture Committee has been handling changes to copyright law.
The complaints allege that drafting has been carried out in secret, contrary to the Committee’s obligations under the Finnish Freedom of Information Act. Furthermore, the criteria to be applied in web-blocking cases had not been made available.
Parliament is expected to vote on the citizens’ initiative next week but after the Education and Culture Committee’s recommendations the odds are stacked against it.
Any rejection of the key points will come as a big disappointment to the 50,000+ citizens who supported the initiative. Many had signed following widespread outrage provoked by a police raid on the home of a then 9-year-old girl whose Winnie the Pooh laptop was confiscated after an allegation of file-sharing. The case was later settled for 300 euros.
These are the two words that Clive, our Director of Education says to me on a regular basis. In fact, he has promised me a road trip to Pencoed in Wales to visit the factory where our Raspberry Pis are manufactured in the UK for some time now. Not just any road trip, but one that involves an ice cream van serving raspberry ripple ice creams (avec flake) whilst motoring across the country to Sonic Pi melodies, containing the entire Foundation crew. You would be forgiven for thinking that this is all just mere ravings of a crazy ex-teacher. But you’d be wrong.
The dream machine
I’m pleased to be able to announce that this dream is to become a reality! Albeit, minus the ice cream van. For one time only, we are taking Picademy, our free CPD training programme for teachers, on the road to Wales this coming November, hosted at the Sony UK Technology Centre in Pencoed, South Wales. We have 24 places on Picademy Cymru, taking place on 19th & 20th November, for practicing classroom teachers in Wales. If you fit this description then please fill out our application form here or via our Picademy page. We are looking for fun, experimental, not afraid to have a go, Welsh teachers willing to share their experiences and practices with others. Primary and secondary teachers from any subject specialism are welcome – you don’t need any computing experience, just enthusiasm and a desire to learn.
This is perfect timing for the first Picademy Cymru and a great opportunity for teachers, even though we still have significant uncertainty around reform of the ICT curriculum in Wales. Nevertheless, there are hundreds of teachers across Wales who have been working hard, particularly at a grassroots level with Computing At School and Technocamps, to embed more computing, programming and computational thinking skills into the existing ICT curriculum, as well as preparing for the new computer science qualifications. This will be a fantastic event and I look forward to helping out!
Join us for a tour of the factory, hands-on Raspberry Pi workshops, cross-curricular resource generation, and Welsh cakes. (If Eben and Liz don’t eat all the Welsh cakes before we get our hands on them. It’s been known to happen before.)
Start-up Naturebytes hopes their 3D printed Raspberry Pi camera trap (a camera triggered by the presence of animals) will be the beginning of a very special community of makers.
Supported by the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Education Fund and Nesta, Naturebytes aims to establish a digital making community for wildlife with a very important purpose. Their gadgets, creations and maker kits (and, hopefully, those of others who get involved) will be put to use collecting real data for conservation and wildlife research projects – and to kick it all off, they took their prototype 3D printed birdbox-style camera trap kit to family festival Camp Bestival to see what everyone thought.
If you were one of the lucky bunch to enjoy this year’s Camp Bestival, you’d have seen them over in the Science Tent with a colourful collection of their camera trap enclosures. The enclosure provides a snug home for a Raspberry Pi, Pi camera module, passive infrared sensor (PIR sensor), UBEC (a device used to regulate the power) and battery bank (they have plans to add external power capabilities, including solar, but for now they’re using eight trusty AA batteries to power the trap).
A colourful collection of camera trap enclosures
The PIR sensor does the job of detecting any wildlife passing by, and they’re using Python to control the camera module, which in turn snaps photos to the SD card. If you’re looking for nocturnal animals then the Pi NoIR could be used instead, with a bank of infrared LEDs to provide illumination.
When you’re aiming to create maker kits for all manner of ages, it’s useful to try out your masterpiece with actual users to see how they found the challenge.
Explaining how the camera trap enclosures are printed
Camp Bestival festival-goers assembling camera traps
With screwdrivers at the ready, teams of festival-goers first took a look at one of our camera enclosures being printed on an Ultimaker before everyone sat down to assemble their own trap ready for a Blue Peter-style “Here’s one I made earlier” photo opportunity (we duct-taped a working camera trap to the back of a large TV so everyone could be captured in an image).
In fact, using the cam.start_preview() Python function we could output a few seconds of video when the PIR sensor was triggered, so everyone could watch.
Naturebytes duct-taped a working camera trap to the back of a large TV so everyone could see a camera trap in action
Our grand plan is to support the upcoming Naturebytes community of digital makers by accepting images from thousands of Naturebytes camera traps out in gardens, schools or wildlife reserves to the Naturebytes website, so we can share them with active conservation projects. We could, for example, be looking for hedgehogs to monitor their decline, and push the images you’ve taken of hedgehogs visiting your garden directly to wildlife groups on the ground who want the cold hard facts as to how many can be found in certain areas.
Job done, Camp Bestival!
Keep your eyes peeled – Naturebytes is powering up for launch very soon!
No … we’re not adding a Start Menu or a paperclip assistant. This update has nothing to do with Microsoft’s acquisition of Mojang. See the note below for information about this.
You may remember when Mojang released Minecraft: Pi edition for free on Raspberry Pi back in early 2013. If you’re unfamiliar, Minecraft is a popular sandbox open world-building game (like on-screen lego) available for a number of different platforms like PCs, consoles and phones. The Pi edition has a Python programming interface allowing users to use code to build things and manipulate the virtual world around them. It’s a great way to learn coding, and there are plenty of great projects out there people have done and shared with the world.
The accompanying Python module will be installed globally along with the game itself you don’t need to save your Python scripts in a particular folder like you did before. If you’re following books, guides, tutorials or worksheets that were written before, the code will still work the same and if you install Minecraft the new way you’ll be able to save your scripts anywhere.
Once it’s installed, here’s the basic setup to get a “Hello world” in Minecraft:
from mcpi import minecraft
mc = minecraft.Minecraft.create()
When we launched the new Raspberry Pi website in April it came with a documentation section, which we’ve been expanding ever since. In May we announced the usage guides within this documentation were complete, which features basic how to guides for getting started with each of the main applications on Raspberry Pi.
We’ve just revamped the Minecraft section to explore more of the fundamental components of the Pi edition and its programming interface, including installation, running the game and Python side-by-side, exploring the programming interface and getting a good all-round introduction to what can be done.
The edition we have at the moment was built for Python 2, and that’s still the case. However, the education team brought this up at PyConUK at the weekend and a team of developers offered to work on porting it to Python 3 – with some success!
The project is on GitHub and you can download the repository and use it the way you would use the old version of Minecraft (when you downloaded a zip) if you want to test it – just use IDLE 3 instead! We’re also planning to make some improvements to the API to make it more Pythonic and more intuitive. I’m not sure what the timescale will be for the port, but watch this space for news.
Python 3 is really important to us and we’re keen to make sure all libraries people use on the Pi are available in Python 3. Python 2 should not be the default, we should be pushing forward and adapting Python 3. As it says on the Python 2 or Python 3 page on python.org:
Short version: Python 2.x is legacy, Python 3.x is the present and future of the language python.org
So if you’re the maintainer of a Python library, please help by making sure it’s available for Python 3. If you’re using a Python library that’s not available in Python 3 – please let us know so we can add it to the list and we’ll do what we can do get them ported.
One last note about the Microsoft acquisition of the Minecraft development company Mojang: many people have asked us what this means for the future of Minecraft on Raspberry Pi. In statements on their website, Microsoft claim they intend to continue to support Minecraft on all existing platforms. We don’t know for sure what the future will bring but Minecraft is important to us, particularly its use in education, and we’re confident that it won’t be taken from us.
A few weeks ago the UK Government announced its support for a new anti-piracy plan, the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP).
The Government teamed up with copyright holders and ISPs, who will start sending warning emails to pirating Internet users next year. In addition there will be a broader educational campaign to steer people towards using legal options.
While the campaign is a private initiative the Government has decided to back it financially with several million pounds. However, TorrentFreak has learned that the Government funding wasn’t straightforward and was made outside of the available marketing budget.
Through a Freedom of Information request we obtained an email conversation between the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and music industry group BPI. In the email from May this year IPO’s Ros Lynch explains that there are no regular marketing funds available to support VCAP.
“As part of the process of agreeing Government financial support for the educational element of VCAP we will need to seek a marketing exemption as we are currently not permitted to spend on marketing,” Lynch writes to BPI’s Ian Moss.
To be able to get the exception the Government needs additional information from the entertaining industries, showing that the investment makes sense financially. Or put differently, that the Government will see a good return for their invested taxpayer money.
“Essentially this will require a proper business case which includes hard figures,” Lynch writes.
“For example, what research are you basing your target audiences on? How have you calculated your 5% reduction in infringement? What £ saving does a 5% reduction bring? What overall estimate can you make of the ROI of this campaign e.g. what financial benefit would a £2.2m Government investment bring?”
The above suggests that the BPI is predicting a 5% drop in piracy from the anti-piracy measures. However, in a response to the IPO’s request the industry group writes that even with a lower success rate the Government’s spending will pay off.
In a “Summary Business Case” (pdf) BPI uses the expected VAT increase to convince the Government of the “profitability” of the campaign. It estimates that if 15% of all illegal downloads are lost sales, piracy only has to decline 1% over three years for the Government to recoup their investment.
“The underlying assumptions are based on very good data that has been produced by Ofcom and by a number of academic studies looking at the replacement ratios. It shows that only very small changes in piracy lead to significant returns to Government,” BPI notes.
The music industry group stresses that the calculation only looks at VAT income and that the effects on the wider economy may be even greater. However, the static model they presented should already be good enough to warrant the funding.
“So even from a very simple, static assumption, a small reduction in piracy of between .49% and 1% over the three years would return Government investment of £4m in an education scheme,” BPI writes.
This prediction was apparently good enough for the Government to invest in the new anti-piracy plans beyond the available marketing budget. Even more so, the authorities committed £3.5 million to the campaign, instead of the £2.2 that was discussed in May.
Whether the Government will indeed be able to recoup the taxpayer money through the anti-piracy campaign will be hard to measure, but the plan is going full steam ahead.
Sheffield has been a maker city for many years – the thriving steel industry dates back to the 14th century. Today it has the likes of Pimoroni, who recently moved in to a huge new factory, making cases, HATs, media centres and more.
The good ship Pimoroni
The University of Sheffield has been undertaking a number of Raspberry Pi projects in the last couple of years. The computer science department has a research group called Sheffield Pi-Tronics led by Hamish Cunningham. One project of note is their new Pi-powered telescope – PiKon. Not to be confused with PyCon…
The £100 3D printed Pi-powered telescope
The University has released incredible images of the moon taken with the Raspberry Pi’s camera module connected to a 3D printed telescope which costs just £100 to make from readily available parts.
The Pikon astro-cam is a collaborative project by the Department of Physics at the University of Sheffield and Mark Wrigley of Alternative Photonics, a small company based in north Sheffield. The project was set up to deliver a working telescope for the Festival of the Mind event.
They have a working model and they’re aiming to make all the 3D printing resources and instructions available soon. They’re also looking for help producing a simple interface to make it more accessible to all:
So far, we have a working telescope which is operated by entering command lines into the Raspberry Pi. We are looking for enthusiasts and educators to help us take things further. We want to encourage people to create, innovate, educate and share their efforts on an open source basis.
How it works (from pikonic.com):
The PiKon Telescope is based on the Newtonian Reflecting Telescope. This design uses a concave mirror (objective) to form an image which is examined using an eyepiece. The mirror is mounted in a tube and a 45 degree mirror is placed in the optical path to allow the image to be viewed from the side of the tube.
The PiKon Telescope is based on a very similar design, but the image formed by the Objective is focused onto the photo sensor of a Raspberry Pi Camera. The camera sensor is exposed by simply removing (unscrewing) the lens on the Pi Camera. Because of the small size of the Raspberry Pi Camera board, it is possible to mount the assembly in the optical path. The amount of light lost by doing this is similar to the losses caused by mounting the 45 degree mirror in a conventional Newtonian design.
Former physicist and member of the Institute of Physics, Mark Wrigley, said:
We’ve called this project Disruptive Technology Astronomy because we hope it will be a game changer, just like all Disruptive Technologies.
We hope that one day this will be seen on a par with the famous Dobsonian ‘pavement’ telescopes, which allowed hobbyists to see into the night skies for the first time.
This is all about democratising technology, making it cheap and readily available to the general public.
And the PiKon is just the start. It is our aim to not only use the public’s feedback and participation to improve it, but also to launch new products which will be of value to people.
Also this week the group launched Pi Bank – a set of 20 kits containing Pi rigs that are available for short-term loan. This means local schools and other groups can make use of the kits for projects without having to invest in the technology themselves, with all the essentials, plenty of extra bits to play with – and experts on hand to help out.
Any positive comments about Sheffield are completely biased as that’s where I’m from. If you’re interested in the history of Sheffield there’s a great documentary you should watch called The Full Monty.
The blocking of sites such as The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents and Torrentz in the UK led to users discovering new ways to circumvent ISP-imposed censorship. There are plenty of solutions, from TOR and VPNs, to services with a stated aim of unblocking ‘pirate’ sites deemed illegal by UK courts.
Last month, however, dozens of these went offline when the operator of Immunicity and other related proxy services was arrested by City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit. He now faces several charges including breaches of the Serious Crime Act 2007, Possession of Articles for Use in Fraud, Making or Supplying Articles for use in Frauds and money laundering.
While it’s generally accepted that running a site like The Pirate Bay is likely to attract police attention, merely unblocking a domain was not thought to carry any such risk. After all, visitors to torrent sites are just that, it’s only later on that they make a decision to infringe or not.
In our earlier article we discussed some of the possible reasons why the police might view “pirate” proxies to be illegal. However, there are very good arguments that general purpose proxies, even ones that are expressly setup to bypass filtering (and are able to unblock sites such as Pirate Bay), remain on a decent legal footing.
One such site is being operated by Gareth, a developer and networking guru who grew so tired of creeping Internet censorship he began lobbying UK MPs on the topic, later moving on to assist with the creation of the Open Rights Group’s Blocked.org.uk.
After campaigning and documenting Internet censorship issues for some time, Gareth first heard of last month’s proxy arrest during a visit to the United States.
“I was at DefCon in Las Vegas when the news of the Immunicity arrest reached me and I realized that for all my volunteer work, my open source applications, operation of Tor relays, donations and letters to MPs to highlight/combat the issues with Internet censorship, it was not enough,” the developer told TorrentFreak.
“I felt that this issue has moved from a political / technical issue to one about personal liberty and Internet freedom. e.g. first they came for the ‘pirate proxies’, then the Tor operators, then the ISPs that don’t censor their customers. The slippery slope is becoming a scary precipice.”
Since his return to the UK, Gareth has been busy creating his own independent anti-censorship tool. He’s researched in detail what happened to Immunicity, taken legal advice, and is now offering what he hopes is an entirely legal solution to website filtering and subsequent over-blocking (1)(2).
“Unlike Immunicity et al I’m not specifically building a ‘Pirate Proxy’. Granted people might use this proxy to navigate to torrent websites but were I to sell a laptop on eBay that same person may use it for the same reasons so I see no difference,” he explains.
“In fact Section 44, subsection 2 of the Serious Crimes Act 2007 even states [that an individual] is not to be taken to have intended to encourage or assist the commission of an offense merely because such encouragement or assistance was a foreseeable consequence of his act.”
The result of Gareth’s labor is the anti-censorship service Routing Packets is Not a Crime (RPINAC). People who used Immunicity in the past should feel at home, since RPINAC also utilizes the ability of popular browsers to use Proxy Auto-Config (PAC) files.
In the space of a couple of minutes and with no specialist knowledge, users can easily create their own PAC files covering any blocked site they like. Once configured, their browser will silently unblock them.
Furthermore, each PAC file has its own dedicated URL on RPINAC’s servers which users can revisit in order to add additional URLs for unblocking. PAC ‘unblock’ files can also be shared among like-minded people.
“When someone creates a PAC file they are redirected to a /view/ endpoint e.g. https://routingpacketsisnotacrime.uk/view/b718ce9b276bc2f10af90fe1d5b33c0d. This URL is not ephemeral, you can email it, tweet it (there is a tweet button on the left hand side of the site) etc and it will provide the recipient with the exact same view.
“It’ll show which URLs are specified to be proxied, which have been detected as blocked (using the https://blocked.org.uk database) and if the author passed along the password (assuming the PAC was password protected) they can add or remove URLs too,” Gareth explains.
“Each view page also has a comments section, this could allow for a small collection of individuals to co-ordinate with a smaller subset of password possessing moderators to create a crowd sourced PAC file in an autonomous fashion. There is also a ‘Clone’ button allowing anybody to create their own copy of the PAC file with their own name, description and password if the PAC file they’ve received isn’t quite what they need.”
This user-generated element of the process is important. While dedicated ‘pirate’ proxy sites specifically unblock sites already deemed illegal by the UK courts (and can be deemed to be facilitating their ‘crimes’), RPINAC leaves the decision of which sites to unblock completely down to the user. And since no High Court injunction forbids any user from accessing a blocked domain, both service and user remain on the right side of the law.
“To avoid any accusations of fraud and to avoid any tax implications RPINAC will never ask for donations,” the dev explains. “The current platform is pre-paid for at least a year, the domain for 10. At a bare minimum PAC file serving and education for creating local proxies will continue indefinitely.”
Finally, Gareth notes that without free and open source software his anti-censorship platform wouldn’t have been possible. So, in return, he has plans to release the source code for the project under the GPL 3.0 license.
RoutingPacketsIsNotACrime can be found here and is compatible with Firefox, Chrome, Safari and IE. Additional information can be sourced here.
Les Pounder is a big player in the Linux & free software community in the North West. I first met him a few years ago when he was running Barcamp Blackpool, Blackpool GeekUp, Oggcamp in Liverpool, UCubed (Ubuntu & Upstream Unconference) in Manchester plus Linux user groups and other events. When I set up the Manchester Raspberry Jam in 2012, it was modelled on the style of a UCubed event – and Les came along to help out.
Les was working as a systems administrator around the time the Pi came out. Within a year or so of the community blossoming and his involvement growing, he decided to embark on a new career with the Pi at its heart. He got some work running CPD for teachers, introducing them to the Pi and to coding, he started writing articles for Linux Format, he started putting Raspberry Pi projects together for Element14, and since Linux Voice began he’s been contributing articles and Pi tutorials for them. He’s also currently working on a book with Wiley on Raspberry Pi & Arduino projects.
Les recently set up the Blackpool Raspberry Jam – and at their inaugural event he demonstrated a new project he made which brings the traditional board game Snakes and Ladders in to the digital world of IO with the Model B+. It’s called Pythons and Resistors. Over to Les:
For this project we will look back to our childhood and bring a much loved game from our past into the future. The humble board game.
Board games have been a traditional family pastime for many generations but with the rise of computer games their novelty has started to dwindle. These card and paper based games have little to offer the children of today who have been brought up on a diet of downloadable content packs and gamer scores.
But what if we could take a game from yesteryear and adapt it using the Raspberry Pi?
Meet the latest interactive board game: Pythons and Resistors.
The board game is based on a simple snakes and ladders setup, with 100 squares in total via a grid of 10 x 10 squares. The object of the game is for 2 or more players to roll a dice and move their game piece to match the number given on the dice. If the player lands on a python’s head, then they will slither down the game board to the tail of the Python. If the player lands on the bottom of a resistor then they will climb up the game board. The winner is the first player to reach square 100, which is at the top left of the board.
It’s been quiet around Pi Towers lately. Quiet and disquieting, rather like standing in your nan’s best front room when you were a kid and really needing a wee but were too afraid to break the silence. But we have good and exciting reasons for our quietude: we’ve all been busy preparing for two of our biggest events of the year. This weekend the education team is spreading it’s feelers of learning goodness around the world, from the Midlands to East Coast America.
Carrie Anne, Dave and Ben are at PyConUK while Rachel and I, along with James (our Director of Hardware), were beaten with a sock full of oranges until we sobbingly agreed to go to World Maker Faire New York.
The Maker Faire contingent will be joining our friends on the Pimoroni stand, demoing all sorts of goodies both new and old; selling shiny swag; giving out freebies; and talking and talking until we cough our larynxes into our fifteenth cup of Joe (as my American-English dictionary tells me I should call coffee if I want to be street).
Our director of hardware engineering James Adams will be there – he’s giving a talk on What’s next at Raspberry Pi? on [Saturday at 2.30pm according to this / Sunday 2pm according to this] in the NYSCI Auditorium – and Rachel and I will be speaking about digital creativity (details TBA). If you are at Maker Faire do come and visit us. At Maker Faire Bay Area earlier this year it was great to see so many educators and I hope to speak to at least as many in New York. But whatever your interests in Raspberry Pi – from digital creativity to hardware to making stuff (of course!) – we would love to see you.
New swag bags! Grab ‘em while they’re hot
Meanwhile Carrie Anne, Dave, Alex and Ben are in Coventry for PyConUK – the UK’s annual Python conference. They’re running Python workshops on Pis, giving talks about Raspberry Pi in education and chatting to teachers, educators and developers in the Python community.
Itâ€™s been reported that around five million Gmail email addresses were released on to a forum early on in the week. In the file, next to each email address, was a password. These email addresses and passwords appear to have been collected over a few years from multiple web site sources, not from a compromise of Gmail/Google.Â The Google security team have done their analysis on the credential dump and alerted the two percent of those in that list they determine were at risk .Â
A fair number of researchers, academics and the curious will analyze, collate and build a number of models showing the most common and most amusing passwords and itâ€™s probably something most of us have seen before. So what else can we gain from these types of credential dumps and can we make it worth out time reviewing them?
Here are a few suggestions to make use of these types of dumps in a more positive manner.
1) Showing non-security staff (i.e. the rest of the world) the top fifty most common passwords, with the number of people that use that same password, to provide a bit of user education on why not to use common passwords on their accounts, personal or work, or how reusingÂ the same passwords across multiple sites can cause problems .
2) Providing you can get access to the full list, checking your email address isnâ€™t there, and it would be nice to also check that people you know arenâ€™t in the dump either.
3) A more business-focused approach, as long as you have permission, would be to compare all those email addresses against any Gmail registered user accounts, as an example any customers registered for your newsletters, logins to web sites or applications using Gmail accounts. If you do find any accounts that are linked to a listed Gmail email address from the dump, some possible options are:
Notify said users that their email address and a passwords has appeared on a credential dump
Force a password reset on that account
Audit and Monitor the accounts to see if unusual has occurredÂ
4) Another step after that would be to check your logs to see if there is any automated login attempts using the Gmail accounts against any of your systems, as this is well documented behaviour by various adversaries that fellow Handlers have reported upon previously .Â
If the information is out there, our adversaries are going to be using, so we should strive to ensure we have our incident response plans have how to deal with these external events quickly and with the minimum effort.Â
With the success of the first two productions from Saladhouse, our animator friends in Manchester (What is a Raspberry Pi? and Setting up your Raspberry Pi), we proceeded to make plans for a third in the series. The topic we chose to cover this time is one which demonstrates the additional power of the Pi in learning – an introduction to the realm of physical computing.
Look through the amazing projects in our blog, the MagPi or Pi Weekly and you’ll see many of them use the portability of the small form factor and low powered nature of the Pi along with the extensibility the GPIO pins give you – not to mention the wealth of community produced add-on boards available making it all much easier.
Those pins sticking out there. General Purpose Input/Output. Did we mention there are 40 on the B+?
Here at Pi Towers we all love physical projects – from robotics and home automation to flatulence alarms and scaring the elderly – and we believe they’re a great way to introduce young people to coding, computational thinking, product development and understanding systems.
The video refers to some resources for projects you can make yourself. We featured the hamster disco on our blog in July, and you may have heard talk of some of the others on twitter – which are all brand new, constructed and tested by our education team. They are:
The group, which has the MPAA and RIAA as key members, had just started piloting a kindergarten through sixth grade curriculum on copyright in California schools.
The curriculum was drafted in collaboration with the California School Libraries Association and iKeepSafe, who aim to teach kids the basics of copyright. The lesson materials were rather one-sided, however, often ignoring fair use and the free-to-share copyright licences Creative Commons provides.
These concerns were later picked up by the mainstream press, creating a massive backlash. Responding to the critique the CCI and other partners were quick to state that it was just a pilot and that the final materials would probably be more balanced.
Glen Warren, vice president of the California School Library Association, acknowledged the problems and suggested that the early drafts were coming straight from the content industry.
“We’re moving along trying to get things a little closer to sanity. That tone and language, that came from that side of the fence, so to speak,” Warren commented.
This week, TorrentFreak spotted the final version of the curriculum and it’s clear that the public outcry for more nuance has paid off.
Instead of focusing on enforcement and the things people can’t do with copyrighted content, it now emphasizes that sharing can be a good thing. Creative Commons licenses are discussed in detail and every lesson plan also informs students about fair use.
“You’re not old enough yet to be selling your pictures online, but pretty soon you will be. And you’ll appreciate if the rest of us respect your work by not copying it and doing whatever we want with it.”
While the above paragraph ignores the fact that some people are happy to share their photos with flexible Creative Commons licenses, it has been completely removed from the final version.
The sentence “we recognize that it’s hard work to produce something, and we want to get paid for our work” has been completely stripped from the lesson plan too. Instead students are reminded that “the projects they created are fun / informative / respectful, and so they may want to share them online.”
The sixth grade lesson material has also been thoroughly updated, as well as the accompanying video which doubled in length to explain fair use.
The changes become clear by comparing the old “purpose” and “key concepts” with the new one. Below is a copy of the old text, with no reference to fair use and Creative Commons licenses.
And here’s the new and improved version, with these two concepts included, and without the strong focus on consequences for “illegal use.”
Another positive change is that instead of warning students against using copyrighted images and music from the Internet in Powerpoint presentations, they are now told that this is totally fine, as long as the material is only shown in class.
Similar changes have been made throughout the entire curriculum, which is now much more balanced than the rather strict and biased view that was presented before.
There’s still one question that lingers in the back of our mind though. Would the curriculum have been as balanced as it is right now if we hadn’t pointed out the problems in the first place?
You can read all about the build – which involved hacking the power supply to the bus stop so it provided 230V of AC for the monitor – over at Norwegian Creations.
We love Maker Faires, and we love the way that this sort of bus stop hacking project has become – well, if not exactly mainstream, something culturally recognisable. If you want to meet the team at a Maker Faire this month, Rachel Clive and James will be with the folks from Pimoroni, demonstrating what happens when art, education and science come together in the form of a tiny computer at the gargantuan World Maker Faire in New York on Sept 20-21.
(It’s the first World Maker Faire Eben and I have ever missed, but we have a great excuse; it clashes with the vacation we’ve been planning all year for our tenth wedding anniversary.) Say hi to the giant motorised cupcakes for us!
Are you a teacher? Have you got back-to-school blues after yesterday’s return to the staffroom? Are your classroom displays distinctly lacking in interaction or automation? Are you bored of taking the register the old fashioned way? Well we think that we have the perfect remedy for you!
Have you packed your Raspberry Pi yet?
We’re offering another two days of FREE training from the Education Team in our HQ home town of Cambridge, UK. You don’t need any experience with Raspberry Pi. We will teach you, inspire you, feed you, and give you free resources. All you need to do is get here! We are confident that you will have such a good time that you’ll shake those back-to school-blues and be excited about getting hands on with technology in your classroom, like Raspberry Certified Educators Dan Aldred and Sue Gray, who created a dancing and singing glove over the two days of training:
Apply nowfor September Picademy (29th & 30th September 2014). The deadline for applications for this event is on Friday 5th September, so you’ve only got a few more days. We will email all successful candidates on Monday 8th September.
Applications for October Picademy (27th & 28th October 2014) will remain open until Friday 3rd October.
We accept applications from practicing teachers from all over the world who teach any subject area. We’ve had art teachers, history teachers, science teachers and Primary non-subject specialists as well as ICT and Computing teachers visit Picademy; the course is appropriate for any teacher, no matter what their subject.
Here is what some of our Raspberry Pi Certified Educators have to say about their experience at a Picademy:
Picademy was a hard two days of CPD but was definitely the best I have been on. It is difficult to mention the best thing about it because there were so many! Unlike most CPD I have been on we were not just talked at – we were hands on developing and creating nearly all the time. We had so many opportunities to networking and share ideas – I have not used Twitter so much and am seeing more value in it now. The time simply flew by especially when we were working on our projects during which we were writing code, debugging, bouncing ideas around, sharing, creating, swearing, laughing, tweeting, eating sweets, learning, googling, performing bear surgery and collaborating. Although the two days finished last week for Picademy#3 it hasn’t stopped – ideas are still flowing and the tweets and emails are pinging about the internet. – Matthew Parry – CAS Master Teacher
It was an epic journey. For some present, they had never plugged in a Pi before Monday, by the end they were exploring different programming concepts not for necessity but for curiosity and intrigue. For others, we now had a colossal array of activity ideas and cross-curricular links not to mention a brilliant network of fellow interested educators. What more can you ask for from 2 free days of CPD? – Sway Grantham - Primary Teacher, UK.
Following last week’s leaked draft from Hollywood, Aussie ISPs including Telstra, iiNet and Optus have published their submission in response to a request by Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
While the movie industry’s anti-piracy proposal demonstrates a desire to put ISPs under pressure in respect of their pirating customers, it comes as no surprise that their trade group, the Communications Alliance, has other things in mind.
The studios would like to see a change in copyright law to remove service providers’ safe harbor if they even suspect infringement is taking place on their networks but fail to take action, but the ISPs reject that.
“We urge careful consideration of the proposal to extend the authorization liability within the Copyright Act, because such an amendment has the potential to capture many other entities, including schools, universities, internet cafes, retailers, libraries and cloud-based services in ways that may hamper their legitimate activities and disadvantage consumers,” they write.
But while the ISPs are clear they don’t want to be held legally liable for customer piracy, they have given the clearest indication yet that they are in support of a piracy crackdown involving subscribers. Whether one would work is up for debate, however.
“[T]here is little or no evidence to date that [graduated response] schemes are successful, but no shortage of examples where such schemes have been
distinctly unsuccessful. Nonetheless, Communications Alliance remains willing to engage in good faith discussions with rights holders, with a view to agreeing on a scheme to address online copyright infringement, if the Government maintains that such a scheme is desirable,” they write.
If such as scheme could be agreed on, the ISPs say it would be a notice-and-notice system that didn’t carry the threat of ISP-imposed customer sanctions.
“Communications Alliance notes and supports the Government’s expectation, expressed in the paper that an industry scheme, if agreed, should not provide for the interruption of a subscriber’s internet access,” they note.
However, the appointment of a “judicial/regulatory /arbitration body” with the power to apply “meaningful sanctions” to repeat infringers is supported by the ISPs, but what those sanctions might be remains a mystery.
On the thorny issue of costs the ISPs say that the rightsholders must pay for everything. Interestingly, they turn the copyright holders’ claims of huge piracy losses against them, by stating that if just two-thirds of casual infringers change their ways, the video industry alone stands to generate AUS$420m (US$392) per year. On this basis they can easily afford to pay, the ISPs say.
While warning of potential pitfalls and inadvertent censorship, the Communications Alliance accepts that done properly, the blocking of ‘pirate’ sites could help to address online piracy.
“Although site blocking is a relatively blunt instrument and has its share of weaknesses and limitations, we believe that an appropriately structured and safeguarded injunctive relief scheme could play an important role in addressing online copyright infringement in Australia,” the Alliance writes.
One area in which the ISPs agree with the movie studios is in respect of ISP “knowledge” of infringement taking place in order for courts to order a block. The system currently employed in Ireland, where knowledge is not required, is favored by both parties, but the ISPs insist that the copyright holders should pick up the bill, from court procedures to putting the blocks in place.
The Alliance also has some additional conditions. The ISPs say they are only prepared to block “clearly, flagrantly and totally infringing websites” that exist outside Australia, and only those which use piracy as their main source of revenue.
Follow the Money
Pointing to the project currently underway in the UK coordinated by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, the Communications Alliance says that regardless of the outcome on blocking, a “follow the money” approach should be employed against ‘pirate’ sites. This is something they already have an eye on.
“Some ISP members of Communications Alliance already have policies in place which prevent any of their advertising spend being directed to sites that promote or facilitate improper file sharing. Discussions are underway as to whether a united approach could be adopted by ISPs whereby the industry generally agrees on measures or policies to ensure the relevant websites do not benefit from any of the industry’s advertising revenues,” the ISPs note.
Better access to legal content
The Communications Alliance adds that rightsholders need to do more to serve their customers, noting that improved access to affordable content combined with public education on where to find it is required.
“We believe that for any scheme designed to address online copyright infringement to be sustainable it must also stimulate innovation by growing the digital content market, so Australians can continue to access and enjoy new and emerging content, devices and technologies.
“The ISP members of Communications Alliance remain willing to work toward an approach that balances the interests of all stakeholders, including consumers,” they conclude.
While some harmonies exist, the submissions from the movie studios and ISPs carry significant points of contention, with each having the power to completely stall negotiations. With legislative change hanging in the air, both sides will be keen to safeguard their interests on the key issues, ISP liability especially.
Carrie Anne Philbin, our Education Pioneer and author of the most excellent Adventures in Raspberry Pi, had a dark secret up until last week. She was a Raspberry Pi enthusiast who didn’t know how to solder.
Everyone tells me that soldering is easy. For a long time I’ve seen it as a barrier to be able to do a lot of electronics or maker style crafts. I usually try and buy components that are pre-soldered or ask someone else to solder them for me. Since joining Raspberry Pi, this has been a bit of a joke for the engineers. They think I’m a bit silly. I’m certain I’m not alone in this.
Recently Wednesdays at Pi Towers have become ‘Gert Wednesdays’ when Gert comes into the office to visit us and teach some of us new skills. Gert Van Loo is an engineer, and one of the first volunteers working on Raspberry Pi. He has also created lots of add on boards for Raspberry Pi like the well titled ‘Gertboard’. He has also created the ‘Gertduino’. You can see where Gert Wednesdays come from cant you. Gert promised me he’d teach me how to solder and he didn’t disappoint. In one morning of simple tuition I was taught how to solder. THANKS GERT!
I decided that after I solder ALL THE THINGS in my office drawer that I’ve been dying to use with my Raspberry Pi, I would put my new found knowledge to good use by creating a tutorial video for GGD. It’s a short video but I hope it will help give other people the confidence to start or at least to attend a Maker Faire event where they can learn.
Last month we put out a blog post advertising that I would be doing a tour of America, with a rough initial route, and we welcomed requests for visits.
Over the next couple of weeks I was overwhelmed with visit requests – I plotted all the locations on a map and created a route aiming to reach as many as possible. This meant covering some distance in the South East before heading back up to follow the route west towards Utah. I prepared a set of slides based on my EuroPython talk, and evolved the deck each day according to the reception, as well as making alterations for the type of audience.
With launching the Education Fund, being in Berlin for a week for EuroPython followed by YRS week and a weekend in Plymouth, I’d barely had time to plan the logistics of the trip – much to the annoyance of our office manager Emma, who had to book me a one-way hire car with very specific pick-up and drop-off locations (trickier than you’d think), and an internal flight back from Salt Lake City. I packed a suitcase of t-shirts for me to wear (wardrobe by Pimoroni) and another suitcase full of 40 brand new Raspberry Pis (B+, naturally) to give away. As I departed for the airport, Emma and Dave stuck a huge Raspberry Pi sticker on my suitcase.
When checking in my suitcase the woman on the desk asked what the Raspberry was, and her colleague explained it to her! In the airport I signed in to the free wifi with one of my aliases, Edward Snowden. I started to think Phil McKracken or Mr. Spock might have been a better choice once I spotted a few security guards seemingly crowding around in my proximity…
Mon 4 – NYC, New York
I managed to board the flight without a federal investigation (although I may now be on the list, if I wasn’t already), and got chatting to the 60 year old Texan lady I was seated with, who hadn’t heard about Raspberry Pi until she managed to land a seat next to me for 8 hours. I had her convinced before we left the ground. I don’t know how he does it, but Richard Branson makes 8 hours on a tin can in the sky feel like heaven. Virgin Atlantic is great!
Upon landing at JFK I was subjected to two hours’ queuing (it was nice of them to welcome us with traditional British pastimes), followed by a half-hour wait to get through customs. I felt I ought to declare that I was bringing forty computers in to the country (also stating they were to be given away), and was asked to explain what they were, show one to the officer who took hold of one of the copies of Carrie Anne‘s book, Adventures in Raspberry Pi, to validate my explanation. Fortunately I was not required to participate in a pop quiz on Python indentation, GPIO, Turtle graphics and Minecraft, as he took my word for it and let me through. I was then given the chance to queue yet again – this time about 45 minutes for a taxi to Manhattan. I arrived at Sam‘s house much later than I’d anticipated much she was there to greet me by hanging her head out the window and shouting “MORNING BEN”. An in-joke from a time we both lived in Manchester.
We ate and met my friend-from-the-internet Aidan, we went to a bar until what was 5am on my body clock. A sensible approach, I thought, was to just stay up and then get up at a normal time the next day. I awoke and saw the time was 6.00 – my jetlagged and exhausted mind decided it was more likely to be 6pm than 6am, but it was wrong. I arose and confirmed a meeting time and place for my first visit – just a few blocks away from Sam’s apartment in Manhattan.
Tue 5 – NYC, New York
I met Cameron and Jason who had set up a summer class teaching a computing course for locals aged 18-and-under for 2 weeks, delivered purely on Raspberry Pis! I chatted with them before the students arrived, and they told me about how they set up the non-profit organisation STEMLadder, and that they were letting the students take the Pis home at the end of the course. Today’s class was on using Python with Minecraft – using some material they found online, including a resource I helped put together with Carrie Anne for our resources section.
I gave an introduction about the Raspberry Pi Foundation and showed some example projects and then the kids did the Python exercises while working on their own “side projects” (building cool stuff while the course leaders weren’t looking)!
Thanks to Cameron and Jason for taking the opportunity to provide a free course for young people. A perfect example use for Raspberry Pi!
Wed 6 – Washington, DC
On Wednesday morning I collected my hire car (a mighty Nissan Altima) and set off for Washington, DC! I’ve only been driving for less than a year so getting in a big American car and the prospect of using the streets of Manhattan to warm up seemed rather daunting to me! I had a GPS device which alleviated some of my concern – and I headed South (yes, on the wrong side of the road).
I’d arranged to meet Jackie at 18F – a digital services agency project in the US government General Services Administration. This came about when I met Matt from Twilio at EuroPython, who’d done a similar tour (over 5 months). After a 6 hour drive including horrendous traffic around Washington (during which I spotted a sign saying “NSA – next right – exployees only“, making me chuckle), I arrived and entered 18F’s HQ (at 1800 F Street) where I had to go through security as it was an official government building. I was warned by Jackie by email that the people I’d be meeting would be wearing suits but I need not worry and wear what I pleased – so I proudly wore shorts and a green Raspberry Pi t-shirt. I met with some of the team and discussed some of their work. 18F was set up to replicate some of the recent initiatives of the UK government, such as open data, open source projects and use of GitHub for transparency. They also work on projects dealing with emergency situations, such as use of smartphones to direct people to sources of aid during a disaster, and using Raspberry Pis to provide an emergency communication system.
We then left 18F for the DC Python / Django District user group, where I gave a talk on interesting Python projects on Raspberry Pi. The talk was well received and I took some great questions from the audience. I stayed the night in Washington and decided to use the morning to walk round the monuments before leaving for North Carolina. I walked by the White House, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial and took some awkward selfies:
Thu 7 – Raleigh, North Carolina
I left DC and it took me 6 hours to get to North Carolina. I arrived at the University (NCSU) in Raleigh just in time for the event – Code in the Classroom - hosted at the Hunt library and organised by Elliot from Trinket. I set my laptop up while Eliot introduced the event and began my talk. There was a good crowd of about 60 people – from around age 7 to 70!
The talk went down well, and I received many questions about teaching styles, classroom management and the future of the hardware. One older chap, who has been running a summer coding club on the Pi shouted out: “Where were you two weeks ago when I needed you!?” when I answered one of his questions, which generated laughter from the audience. I also had a teacher approach me after the talk asking if she could take a selfie with me to show her students she’d met someone from Raspberry Pi – I happily obliged and showed her some of my awkward selfies from Washington, DC. She asked if we could take an awkward one too – needless to say, I happily obliged!
Elliot had arranged a room next door to the lecture theatre with some Pis set up for kids to play on. I gave out some Pis to the kids and it was well over an hour before the last of them were dragged home by their parents. I chatted with Elliot and the others about them setting up a regular event in Raleigh – as there was obviously huge demand for Pi amongst kids and adults in the area and beyond (I’d heard someone had driven up from Florida to attend the talk!) – and so I look forward to hearing about the Raleigh Raspberry Jam soon! A few of us went out to get pizza, and we were accompanied by one of the smartest kids I’ve ever met – and among interesting and inspiring conversation, he kept asking me seemingly innocent questions like “what do you call that thing at the back of your car?” to which I’d reply with the British word he wanted me to speak! (It’s a boot.)
Here’s a video of the talk:
I thanked Elliot and departed for Greensboro, where I’d arranged to stay with my friend Rob from my university canoe club, and his wife Kendra.
Fri 8 – Charlotte, North Carolina
In the morning I left for UNC Charlotte where I spoke to embeddable systems engineering students at EPIC (Energy Production Infrastructure Centre). There was a good crowd of about 60 students and a few members of staff. When I entered the room they were playing Matt Timmons-Brown’sYouTube videos – what a warm-up act!
Following the talk I chatted with students about their projects, answered some questions, deferred some technical questions to Gordon and Alex, and was taken out to a brilliant craft beer bar for a beer and burger with some of the staff.
In the evening Rob, Kendra and I went out to eat – we had a beer in a book shop and ate bacon (out of a jam jar) dipped in chocolate. True story. We also took some group awkward selfies:
Sat 9 – Pigeon River, Tennessee
The Saturday I’d assigned to be a day off – I hoped to go kayaking with Rob but he had to work and Kendra was busy so Rob put me in touch with some paddling friends who welcomed me to join them on a trip to the Pigeon River in Tennessee! An early start of 6am left me snoozing in the back of the car, which Matt took the chance to snap a picture of and post it to Facebook (I only found out when Rob mentioned it later that evening). We had a nice couple of runs of the river by kayak, accompanied by a rafting party. And another awkward selfie.
Sun 10 – Lawrenceville, Georgia
On Sunday morning I left Rob and Kendra’s for Georgia. One of the requests I’d had was from a man called Jerry who just wanted to meet me if I was passing by. I said it’d be great if he could set up a public meeting to be more inclusive – and he got back in touch with a meetup link for an event at Geekspace Gwinnett – a community centre and hackspace in Lawrenceville. I pulled up, shook hands with Jerry and was shown to the front of the room to connect up my laptop. There was a larger crowd than I’d imagined, seeing as Jerry had set the event up just a few days prior to this – but there were about 40 people there, who were all very interested in Raspberry Pi and after my talk we had a great discussion of everyone’s personal projects.
Liz, who runs marketing for the space, gave me a tour, and Joe, the guy setting up the AV for my presentation spotted the Adventure Time stickers on my laptop and told me he worked for Turner in Atlanta who broadcast Cartoon Network, and offered to give me a tour of the network when he went on his night shift that evening. I went to Jerry’s house where he and his wife cooked for me and he showed me Pi Plates, the extension board he’s been working on.
I then left to meet Liz and her husband, Steve, who has been working on a huge robotics project – a whole wearable suit (like armour) that’s powered by a Pi and will make sounds and be scary! I look forward to the finished product. They also have an arcade machine Steve built years ago (pre-Pi) which houses a PC and which, he claims, had basicallyevery arcade game ever on it.
Did you know there was a Michael Jackson game for the Sega Mega Drive, where you have to perform dance moves to save the children? Neither did I
We set off for Atlanta at about 11.30pm and I witnessed its beautiful skyline, which is well lit up at night. We arrived at Turner and met Joe, who gave us the tour – I’ve never seen so many screens in my life. They show all the broadcast material for TV and web on screens and have people sit and watch them to ensure the integrity of the material and ensure the advertising rules are adhered to. We also saw the Cartoon Network floor of the office side of the building where staff there work on the merchandise for shows like Adventure Time!
Joe also showed us the Turner Makers room – a mini hackspace for the Turner staff to work on side projects – he told me of one which used a Raspberry Pi to control steps that would light up and play a musical note as you walked across them. They’re currently working on a large games arcade BMO with a normal PC size screen as a display – I look forward to seeing it in action when it’s finished.
I then left Georgia to return to Tennessee, where I’d arranged to visit Red Bank Middle School in Chattanooga. I arrived at the school, signed in to get my visitor’s badge and met Kimberly Elbakidze - better known to her students as Dr. E – who greeted me with a large Subway sandwich. I ate in the canteen and while chatting with some of the staff I noticed the uniformed security guard patrolling the room had a gun on his belt. Apparently this is normal in American schools.
It was the first day back at the school, so the children were being oriented in their new classes. I gave two short talks, introducing the Raspberry Pi and what you can do with it – to sixth and eighth graders, and opened for some questions:
“Do you like Dr. Who?”
“Is that your real accent?”
“Are you really from England?”
“Can I get a picture with you?”
“Can I keep Babbage?”
I wrapped up, left them a copy of Carrie Anne’s book and some Pis, and went on my way. I’d intended to get online and confirm the details of my next school visit (I’d arranged the date with the teacher, but we hadn’t settled on the time or what we were doing), but access to the internet from the school was restricted to staff so I couldn’t get on. I had to set off for Alabama, and only had the school name and the town. I put the town name in to my car’s GPS and set off.
Tue 12 – Talladega, Alabama
I arrived in Talladega town centre unsure how close I was to the school. I parked up and wandered down the main street in magnificent sunshine and intense heat looking for a McDonald’s or Starbucks, hoping to get on some WiFi to check where it was. With no luck, I headed back to the car and decided to just find a hotel and hope that I was at least nearby. I asked someone sitting outside a shop if they knew of the school – RL Young Elementary School – and they said it was just 15 minutes or so away, so I asked for a nearby hotel and she pointed me in the right direction. As I neared the car, the intense heat turned in to a terrific storm – the 5 minute drive to the hotel was in the worst rain I’ve ever seen.
I checked in to the hotel and got on with my emails – I sent one to the teacher who’d requested me at the school to say I’d arrived in Talladega, that I was staying in the Holiday Inn, and asked what time I should come in. My hotel phone rang 5 minutes later – it was the husband of the teacher. Trey said the principal hadn’t been told about the visit yet, and the details needed to be confirmed with her before we set a time – but they would sort it out as soon as possible and let me know. He offered to take me out for a meal that night so I arranged to meet him within an hour. Just as I was leaving I got an email from someone called Andrew who said he’d just spotted I was in Talladega, and asked if I could meet him if I had time – I said if he could get to the restaurant, I’d be there for the next couple of hours.
As I arrived I met them both, and introduced them to each other. Driving through that afternoon I’d noticed the town has about 50 churches. Trey said he recognised Andrew’s surname, and Andrew said his father was the priest of one of the churches, and Trey said he knew him. Andrew was also training to become a priest like his Dad, and Trey said he’d skipped Bible school that night to come and meet me. We had a nice meal and a chat and Trey said he’d let me know in the morning what the plans for the school visit were. Andrew offered to take me out for breakfast and show me around the town. I said I’d contact him in the morning once I’d heard the timings from Trey.
Once I woke up the next morning my email told me I needed to be at the school for about 1pm, so I had time to go to breakfast with Andrew, and he showed me around the place. I also visited his home and his church and met his family. He showed me some Raspberry Pi projects he’s been working on too.
He also offered to help out at the school – RL Young Elementary, so we got my kit and he drove us over. We signed in at reception where we entered our names in to a computer which printed visitor labels (seriously – a whole PC for that – and another just showing pictures of dogs! The Raspberry Pi was definitely needed in this place).
I was to follow a woman from the Red Cross, who gave a talk to the children about the importance of changing their socks every day. I thought an introduction to programming with Minecraft might blow their smelly socks right off!
The principal attempted to introduce me but had no idea who I was or why I was there, so just let me get on with it. I spoke to the young children and introduced the Raspberry Pi, focusing on a Minecraft demo at the end where I let them have a go themselves. The principal thanked me, said it was interesting and wished me a safe trip back to Australia! I left them some Pis and a copy of Adventures in Raspberry Pi.
Wed 13 – Somerville, Tennessee
I’d arranged my next visit with a very enthusiastic teacher called Terri Reeves from the Fayette Academy (a high school) in Somerville, Tennessee. In her original request she’d said she wasn’t really on my route, but would be willing to travel to meet me for some training – but I explained I’d changed my route to try to hit as many requests as I could, so I’d be happy to visit the school. She offered to let me stay at her house, and told me her husband would cook up some Southern Barbecue for me on arrival. It was quite a long drive and I arrived just after sunset – the whole family was sitting around the table ready to eat and I was welcomed to join them. I enjoyed the Southern Barbecue and was treated to some Razzleberry Pie for dessert. I played a few rounds of severely energetic ping pong with each of Terri’s incredibly athletic sons and daughters before getting to bed.
I spent most of the day at the school, where I gave my Raspberry Pi talk and demo to each of Terri’s classes. Again, it was the first week back for the school so it was just orientation for students settling in to their classes and new routines. The information went down well across the board and Terri said lots of students wanted to do Raspberry Pi in the after-school classes too.
This is what the Raspberry Pi website looks like in the school, as Vimeo is blocked
I joined some students for lunch, who quizzed me on my English vocabulary and understanding of American ways – they thought it was hilarious when I pointed out they said “Y’all” too much. I suggested they replace it with “dawg”. I do hope this lives on.
I also took a look at a project Terri had been trying to make in her free period – she’d been following some (really bad) instructions for setting up a webcam stream from a Pi. I diagnosed the problem fairly quickly – the apt-get install motion command she’d typed had failed as the site containing the .deb (hexxeh.net) was blocked on the school network (for no good reason!) – I asked if we could get it unblocked and the network administrator came over and unblocked it. She originally only wanted to unlock it for the Pi’s IP address but I explained it would mean no-one could install things or update their Pis without access to that website, so she unlocked it from the system. I tried again and there were no further problems so we proceeded to the next steps.
When I returned to Terri’s house she asked me to help her with webcam project again – I checked she’d done all the steps and tried opening the stream from VLC Player on my laptop. I’ve never heard anyone shriek with joy so loud when she saw the webcam picture of us on that screen! Terri was overjoyed I’d managed to help her get that far.
Thu 14 – Louisville, Kentucky
I left the next morning for Louisville (pronounced Lou-er-vul), and en route I realised I’d started to lose my voice. I arrived in the afternoon for an event at FirstBuild, a community hackspace run by General Electric. The event opened with an introduction and a few words from me, and then people just came to ask me questions and show me their projects while others were shown around the space and introduced to the equipment.
We then proceeded to the LVL1 hackerspace where I was given a tour before people arrived for my talk. By this point my voice had got quite bad, and unfortunately there was no microphone available and the room was a large echoey space. However I asked people to save questions to the end and did my best to project my voice. I answered a number of great questions and got to see some interesting projects afterwards.
Fri 15 – St. Louis, Missouri
Next – St. Louis (pronounced Saint Lewis), Missouri – the home of Chuck Berry. I had a full day planned by teacher and tinkerer Drew McAllister from St. John Vianney High School. He’d arranged for me to meet people at the Grand Center Arts Academy at noon, then go to his school to speak to a class and the after school tech club followed by a talk at a hackspace in the evening.
I was stuck in traffic, and didn’t make it to the GCAA meetup in time to meet with them, so we headed straight to the school where I gave a talk to some very smartly dressed high school students, which was broadcast to the web via Google Hangouts. Several people told me afterwards how bad my voice sounded on the Hangout. Here it is:
I had a few minutes’ rest before moving next door to the server room, where they host the after school tech club – Drew kindly filled in the introduction of the Pi to begin (to save my voice) and asked students if they knew what each of the parts of the Pi were for. I continued from there and showed examples of cool projects I thought they’d like. I gave Drew some Pis for the club and donated some Adafruit vouchers gifted by James Mitchell – as I thought they’d use them well.
Drew showed me around St. Louis and took me out for a meal (I consumed lots of hot tea for my throat) before we went to the Arch Reactor hackerspace. I gave my talk and answered a lot of questions before being given a tour of the space.
Throat sweet selfie
Sat 16 – Colombia, Missouri
In the morning I left in the direction of Denver, which was a journey long enough to have to break up over two days. With no visit requests in Kansas City, but one in Colombia, which was on my way but not very far away, I stopped there to meet with a group called MOREnet, who provide internet connection and technical support to schools and universities. Rather than have me give a talk, they just organised a sit-down chat and asked me questions about education, teacher training and interesting ways of learning with Raspberry Pi. Some of the chat was video recorded which you can watch at more.net (please excuse my voice).
I even got to try Google Cardboard – a simple virtual reality headset made with cardboard and an Android phone. A very nice piece of kit! I stayed a couple of hours and made my way West. I’d asked around for a good place to stay that night on my way to Denver. Some people had suggested Hays in Kansas so I set that as my destination. It had taken me 2 hours to get to Columbia and would be another 6+ hours to Hays, so it was always going to be a long day, but at least I was in no rush to arrive anywhere for a talk or event.
Kansas City Selfie
I stopped briefly in Kansas City (actually in the state of Missouri, not Kansas) to find almost nobody out and almost everything closed. I think it’s more of a nightlife town. I finally arrived in Hays at 8.30pm after the boring drive through Kansas and checked in to a hotel just in time for a quick dip in the swimming pool.
Sun 17 – Denver, Colorado
I left Hays for Denver, which meant I had a good 5+ hour drive ahead – all along that same freeway – the I-70, to arrive at denhac, the Denver Hackspace for 4pm. I’d also arranged late the night before to visit another Denver hackspace afterwards, so I said I’d be there at 7pm. On my way in to Denver I noticed a great change in weather – and saw lots of dark grey and black clouds ahead – and as I got closer I entered some rough winds and even witnessed a dust storm, where dust from the soil and crops of the fields was swept in to the air. It was surreal to drive through!
I arrived just on time and was greeted by Sean, who had invited me. He introduced me to the members, all sitting around their laptop screens, and was given a tour of the space. He was telling me how the price of the space had been rising recently due to the new demand for warehouse space such as theirs for growing cannabis, now that it is legal in Colorado. I took some pictures of cool stuff around the space, including a Pibow-encased Pi powering a 3D printer. I even got to try on Sean’s Google Glass (I think Cardboard is much better).
To Grace Hopper, you will always be grasshopper
One of the neatest Pi cases I’ve ever seen
I met a young girl, about 12 years old, who told me she recently went in to an electronics shop saying she wanted to buy a Raspberry Pi for a new project, and the member of staff she spoke to had never heard of a Raspberry Pi and assumed she wanted to cook one. Anyway, I gave her one of mine – she was delighted and immediately announced it in the networked Minecraft game she was hosting. I gave my talk in their classroom (great to see a classroom in a hackspace) before heading to my next stop – TinkerMill.
TinkerMill is a large hackspace, coworking space and startup accelerator in Denver. On arrival a group of people were sitting ready for my talk, so I got set up and was introduced by Dan, who runs the space and works out of it. The hackspace version of my talk includes more technical detail and updates on our engineering efforts. This went down well with the group and after answering a few questions we broke out in to chat when we discussed the Pi’s possibilities and what great things have come out of the educational mission.
I found a Mini Me
I also met a woman called Megg who was standing at the back of the room, I got chatting to her and she asked me a few questions. She hadn’t attended the event but just came to use the laser cutter for the evening, and caught the end of the talk. She kept asking me questions about the Pi, and in answering them I basically gave the talk again. She said the reason she’d not come to the talk was that she was looking to use the Arduino in some future projects because she assumed it would be easier than using a Pi, based on the fact she’d heard you could do more with a Pi, so it must be more complex. I explained the difference to her hoping this would shed light on how the Pi might be useful to her after all, and that she would be able to choose a suitable and appropriate tool or language on the Pi, which is not an option with Arduino. She also discussed ideas for creative projects and wearables which were really interesting and I told her all about Rachel’s project Zoe Star and put her in touch with Rachel, Charlotte and Amy. Dan took Meg and me out to dinner and we had a great time.
Mon 18 – Boulder, Colorado
Dan offered to put me up and show me around Denver the following day – I’d originally planned to get straight off to Utah the next day but it made sense to have an extra day in Denver – I’m glad I did as I really enjoyed the town and got to have a great chilled out day before driving again. We drove up one of the nearby mountains to a height of almost 10,000 feet.
I wandered around Boulder, a wonderful town full of cafes, restaurants and interesting shops. I ended up buying most of my awful souvenirs there – including a three-tiered monkey statue for Liz:
We ate at a restaurant called Fork so it seemed appropriate to get a picture for my Git/GitHub advocacy!
Colorado seemed to be the most recognisable state in all the places I visited, by which I mean it was culturally closest to Britain. My accent didn’t seem too far from theirs, either. A really nice place with great food and culture, with mountains and rivers right on hand. I could live in a place like that!
Tue 19 – Provo, Utah
I left Dan’s in the morning and headed West along the I-70 again. After a couple of bathroom breaks I got on some McDonald’s WiFi and checked my email and twitter – I’d had a tweet asking if I would be up for speaking in Provo that night. I thought “why not?” and said yes – expecting to arrive by 7pm, I suggested they make it 8pm just in case. I was actually heading to Provo already, in hope of meeting up with some family friends, Ken and Gary, who I stayed with last time I visited Utah. I hadn’t managed to get hold of them yet, but I kept ringing every now and then to see if they were around. When I finally got hold of them, they asked if they could come to see my presentation – so I told them where it was and said I’d see them there.
As I entered Utah the scenery got more and more beautiful – I pulled up a few times to get pictures. The moment I passed the ‘Welcome to Utah’ sign I realised what a huge feat I’d accomplished, and as I started to see signs to Salt Lake City – my end point – I was overjoyed. I hadn’t covered much distance across the country in my first week, as I’d gone South, along a bit, North and East a bit before finally setting off from St. Louis in the direction of the West Coast, so finally starting to see the blue dot on my map look a lot closer to California meant a lot.
I arrived in Provo about 7.30, located the venue, the Provo Web Academy, and by the time I found the right place and parked up it was 8pm. I was greeted by the event organiser, Derek, and my friends Ken and Gary! I hadn’t seen them for 13 years so it was a pleasure to meet again. I set up my presentation and gave my talk, had some great questions and inspired the group of about 20 (not bad, to say it had been organised just a few hours earlier) to make cool things with Pi and teach others to do the same. I went out to eat with Ken and Gary and caught up with them.
Wed 20 – Logan, Utah
The next day I had my talk planned for 4pm in Logan (North of Salt Lake City) so I had all morning free to spend with Ken (retired) while Gary was at work. Back story: my Mum (a primary school teacher) spent a year at a school in Utah in 1983-84 on an exchange programme. Ken was a fellow teacher at the school, and like many others, including families of the kids she taught, she kept in touch with him. As I said, we visited in 2001 while on a family holiday, and stayed with them on their farm. So Ken and I went to the school – obviously many of the staff there knew Ken as he only recently retired, and he told them all about my Mum and that I was touring America and wanted to visit the school. None of the teachers there were around in 1984, but some of the older ones remembered hearing about the English teachers who came that year. I took photos of the school and my Mum’s old classroom and sent them to her. We visited another teacher from that time who knew all about me from my Mum’s Christmas letter (yikes!) and even went to see the trailer my Mum lived in for the year!
I then left Provo for Logan, where the talk was to take place at Utah State University. I’d prepared a talk for university students, really, but discovered there was a large proportion of children there from a makers group for getting kids in to tech hardware projects – but they seemed to follow along and get some inspiration from the project ideas. Down to my last two Pis, I did what I did at most events and called out for the youngest people in the room – these went to 5 and 7 year olds, and my demo Babbage (I mention Dave Akerman’s Space Babbage in all my talks) was given out to a family too.
My final talk was recorded, but they told me they were recording the other screen so I’m out of the frame in most of the video.
Happy to have completed the tour, sad for my journey to be coming to and end, but glad to be able to sit down and take a breather, I chilled out for a while before heading back to Provo for my final night in America. I thought at one point I wouldn’t make it back as I hit a storm on my way home, and could barely see the road in front of me due to the incredible rain. The entire 4-lane freeway slowing to 40mph with high beams glaring, catching a glimpse of the white lines now and then and correcting the wheel accordingly, I made it home safely to join Ken and Gary for dinner.
Ken, me, Gary
Thu 21 – Salt Lake City, Utah
I bid farewell and left for the airport, returned my hire car with 4272 miles on it – which was 10% of the car’s overall mileage!
I flew from Salt Lake City to New York and stupidly forgot to tell them that wasn’t my final destination so I had to retrieve my suitcases at JFK baggage claim and check them back in for my next flight – because, you know, I like stress. Luckily I had no problems despite the internal flight running late and me not having a boarding card for my second flight (I had no access to a printer or WiFi in the 24 hours before the flight!), my luggage and all was successfully transported back to London with me. I was driven back to Cambridge, then up to Sheffield where I bought a suit, had my hair cut and attended the wedding of two great friends – Congratulations, Lauren and Dave.
Lauren and Dave
What did I learn?
Despite sales of Pis in America being the biggest in the world, the community is far less developed than it is in the UK and in other parts of Europe. There are hardly any Jams or user groups, but there is plenty of interest!
American teachers want (and need) Picademy – or some equivalent training for using Pis in the classroom.
There is a perception that Raspberry Pi is not big in America (due to lack of community), and assumption Pis are hard to buy in America. While this is still true in many hardware stores (though people should bug stores not selling Pi and accessories to start stocking stuff!), I refer people to Amazon, Adafruit and our main distributors Element14 and RS Components. You can also buy them off the shelf at Radioshack.
If you build it, they will come. Announcing that I would turn up to a hackspace on a particular day brought people from all walks of life together to talk about Raspberry Pi, in much the same way a Raspberry Jam does in the UK. I could stand in front of these people and make them realise there is a community – they’re sitting in the middle of it. All they need is a reason to meet up – a Jam, a talks night, an event, a hack day, a tech club. It’s so easy to get something started, and you don’t need to start big – just get a venue and some space, tell people to turn up with Pis and take it from there.
Huge thanks to all the event organisers, the people who put me up for the night or took me out for a meal, and everyone involved in this trip. Sorry if I didn’t make it to you this time around – but I have a map and list of places we’re required – so we hope to cover more ground in future.
You can view the last iteration of my talk slides at slideshare.
As the discussions over the future of anti-piracy legislation in Australia continue, a draft submission has revealed the wish-list of local movie groups and their Hollywood paymasters.
The draft, a response to a request by Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull for submissions on current anti-piracy proposals, shows a desire to apply extreme pressure to local ISPs.
The authors of the draft (obtained by Crikey, subscription, ) are headed up by the Australia Screen Association, the anti-piracy group previously known as AFACT. While local company Village Roadshow is placed front and center, members including the Motion Picture Association, Disney, Paramount, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal and Warner make for a more familiar read.
Australian citizens – the world’s worst pirates
The companies begin with scathing criticism of the Australian public, branding them the world’s worst pirates, despite the ‘fact’ that content providers “have ensured the ready availability of online digital platforms and education of consumers on where they can acquire legitimate digital content.” It’s a bold claim that will anger many Australians, who even today feel like second-class consumers who have to wait longer and pay more for their content.
So what can be done about the piracy problem?
The draft makes it clear – litigation against individuals isn’t going to work and neither is legal action against “predominantly overseas” sites. The answer, Hollywood says, can be found in tighter control of what happens on the Internet.
Increased ISP liability
In a nutshell, the studios are still stinging over their loss to ISP iiNet in 2012. So now, with the help of the government, they hope to introduce amendments to copyright law in order to remove service providers’ safe harbor if they even suspect infringement is taking place on their networks but fail to take action.
“A new provision would deem authorization [of infringement] to occur where an ISP fails to take reasonable steps – which are also defined inclusively to include compliance with a Code or Regulations – in response to infringements of copyright it knows or reasonably suspects are taking place on its network,” the draft reads.
“A provision in this form would provide great clarity around the steps that an ISP would be required to take to avoid a finding of authorization and provide the very kind of incentive for the ISP to cooperate in the development of a Code.”
With “incentives” in place for them to take “reasonable steps”, ISPs would be expected to agree to various measures (outlined by a ‘Code’ or legislation) to “discourage or reduce” online copyright infringement in order to maintain their safe harbor. It will come as no surprise that subscriber warnings are on the table.
‘Voluntary’ Graduated Response
“These schemes, known as ‘graduated response schemes’, are based on a clear allocation of liability to ISPs that do not (by complying with the scheme) take steps to address copyright infringement by their users,” the studios explain.
“While this allocation of liability does not receive significant attention in most discussions of graduated response schemes, common sense dictates that the schemes would be unlikely to exist (much less be complied with by ISPs) in the absence of this basic incentive structure.”
While pointing out that such schemes are in place in eight countries worldwide, the movie and TV companies say that a number of them contain weaknesses, a trap that Australia must avoid.
“There are flaws in a number of these models, predominantly around the allocation of costs and lack of effective mitigation measures which, if mirrored in Australia, would make such a scheme ineffective and unlikely to be used,” the paper reads.
It appears that the studios believe that the US model, the Copyright Alerts System (CAS), is what Australia should aim for since it has “effective mitigation measures” and they don’t have to foot the entire bill.
“Copyright owners would pay their own costs of identifying the infringements and notifying these to the ISP, while ISPs would bear the costs of matching the IP addresses in the infringement notices to subscribers, issuing the notices and taking any necessary technical mitigation measures,” they explain.
In common with the CAS in the United States, providers would be allowed discretion on mitigation measures for persistent infringers. However, the studios also imply that ISPs’ ‘power to prevent’ piracy should extend to the use of customer contracts.
“[Power] to prevent piracy would include both direct and indirect power and definitions around the nature of the relationship which would recognize the significance of contractual relationships and the power that they provide to prevent or avoid online piracy,” they write.
Voluntary agreements, required by law, one way or another
The key is to make ISPs liable first, the studios argue, then negotiations on a “voluntary” scheme should fall into place.
“Once the authorization liability scheme is amended to make clear that ISPs will be liable for infringements of copyright by their subscribers which they know about but do not take reasonable steps to prevent or avoid, an industry code prescribing the content of those ‘reasonable steps’ is likely to be agreed between rightsholders and ISPs without excessively protracted negotiations.”
However, any failure by the ISPs to come to the table voluntarily should be met by legislative change.
“In the absence of any current intention of and incentive for ISPs in Australia to support such a scheme (and the strong opposition from some ISPs) legislative recognition of the reasonable steps involved in such a scheme is necessary,” they write.
Due to “weakness” in current Australian law in respect of ISP liability, site blocking has proved problematic. What the studios want is a “no-fault” injunction (similar to the model in Ireland) which requires ISPs to block sites like The Pirate Bay without having to target the ISPs themselves.
“Not being the target of a finding against it, an ISP is unlikely to oppose the injunction – as long as the procedural requirements for the injunction are met. Once made, a blocking injunction would immediately prevent Australian internet users from being tempted to or accessing the blocked sites,” the studios explain.
Despite The Pirate Bay doubling its traffic in the face of extensive blocking across Europe, the movie companies believe that not blocking in Australia is part of the problem.
“The absence of a no-fault procedure may explain the very high rates of film and TV piracy in Australia when compared with European countries
that have such a procedure,” they write.
Unsurprisingly, the studios want to keep the bar low when it comes to such injunctions.
“The extended injunctive relief provision should not require the Court to be satisfied that the dominant purpose of the website is to infringe copyright,” they urge.
“Raising the level of proof in this way would severely compromise the effectiveness of the new provision in that it would become significantly more difficult for rightsholders to obtain an injunction under the scheme: allegedly non-infringing content would be pointed to in each case, not for reasons of freedom of access to information on the internet, but purely as a basis to defeat the order.”
The studios also want the ISPs to pick up the bill on site-blocking.
“[Courts in Europe] have ordered the costs of site blocking injunctions be borne by the ISP. The Australian Film/TV Bodies submit that the same position should be adopted in Australia, especially as it is not likely that the evidence would be any different on a similar application here,” they add.
If the studios get everything they’ve asked for in Australia, the ensuing framework could become the benchmark for models of the future. There’s a still a long way to go, however, and some ISPs – iiNet in particular – won’t be an easy nut to crack.