Is it Monday? My Pi has the answer

Keeping track of the days has been harder lately, it seems.

So I was excited to see a nifty blog post by Dave Gershgorn, where he described how he built a slick dashboard by attaching a screen to a Raspberry Pi computer. In fact, the Pi actually attaches to the back of the screen, out of sight.

I happen to be the kind of nerd who has a couple of Raspberry Pis around (in my case, some older Pi 3 model B's), so I ordered the recommended screen and followed Dave's great directions along with this ETA Prime video. If you're similarly inspired, just follow those guides.

If you're new to setting up a Pi, you might not realize that it doesn't come with an operating system. You need to install one on a micro SD card, and slide it into the Pi. I like to download the latest, recommended system from the Pi site, unzip it, and use the balena Etcher to flash the SD card.

One of the build steps that was unclear from the video was exactly how to attach the power lines to the Pi. For my Pi, the pins were these three:

Another tricky step was folding the ribbon cable so it fit nicely. Here's how I did it:

Then it was just a treat to see the tiny Pi desktop appear before my eyes:

I launched the Terminal application with the little cursor icon in the upper left corner, and in order to run the installation commands I increased the Terminal text size using Ctrl-Shift-+.

Once I got everything running, I installed MagicMirror, added a monthly calendar module, and played with the configuration settings to suit my needs. (I also toyed with the Javascript and the CSS because I couldn't help myself, but you certainly don't have to.)

Works like a charm.

Alexa Baked in a Pi

You can put Alexa in a Raspberry Pi, and that is pretty cool.

Alexa is Amazon's intelligent agent, like Siri for your living room. Standing nearby, you speak to it with a question or a command, and it responds verbally.

Normally Alexa lives inside a $180 device called an Amazon Echo, or the new $50 Echo Dot. But Emily Withrow at Northwestern University's KnightLab told me it was possible to put the Alexa code inside a cheap Raspberry Pi hobby computer. And I happened to have an old Pi lying around.

So I gave it a whirl!

Make Every Week: Bluetooth Device Sniffer

This week became “Tinker Every Week” more than “Make Every Week,” as I tried to make a new device-sniffing device.

Previously, I managed to detect wifi signals around me, and I wanted to do the same for Bluetooth devices, including gadgets using new “Bluetooth Low Energy,” or BLE, signals. These include iBeacons and other tracking systems being deployed more and more around us.

I got myself a Bluefruit LE Sniffer from Adafruit ...

... and rigged it up to my Raspberry Pi.