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Stewart's Blog

Stewart Watkiss website to the world ...

(Children, computing, first aid and other ramblings ...)

Supporting England Raspberry Pi Matrix Display for Euro 2020 Final

July 10th, 2021

This is a YouTube #shorts video showing my animated display supporting England Football team in the Euro 2021 final. This is controlled using a Raspberry Pi, which displays the animated video on a RGB LED Matrix displayed outside my house.

More details of the display are available from my Raspberry Pi RGB LED Matrix Display Project.

The animation is created using my PGZ Animation library. Which enables you to create video animations using simple Python code using the easy to use Pygame Zero. This is one of the reasons for creating PGZ Animation and it worked really well for this video. Find out more about PGZ Animation – guide to FREE tools for creating animations using a Linux computer.

I am working on other examples of animated videos created using PGZ Animation and Pygame Zero.
Please see the PenguinTutor YouTube channel for future videos.

England Raspberry Pi Matrix display

How to Create Animations for Free and Introducing PGZAnimation

July 4th, 2021

This post has three aims based around my latest YouTube video on creating 3D animations.

The first is to shows some FREE options for creating 2D animations on Linux, Windows and other operating system. Second is to ask the viewers if they have any other alternatives that I’ve missed (preferably ones with easy to use scripting / programming APIs). Finally to introduce a new programming library that I’m working on called PGZ Animation.

The best way to understand this is to watch the video below, then come back here to see some useful links for more information about the various tools.

Don’t forget to Subscribe to PenguinTutor on YouTube and click the notification icon to get notified of future videos. I’d also love a thumbs up if you enjoy the video.

Free and Open Source 2D Animation Tools

In the video I look at three different tools.

LibreOffice Impress (and Draw) with Simple Screen Recorder

The first 2D animation tool I look at is LibreOffice Impress. This is not a full 2D animation program like the others that follow, but can be used for simple visual effects. It does not include export as an animation, but using other tools such as Simple Screen Recorder it is possible to capture animations for use in a video.

Unfortunately Impress does not include features required for more complex animations, such as a keyframes and custom animations, but it is quick and easy to use.

An example of this in use is my video series on Digital Electronics.

Synfig Studio

Synfig Studio is a real 2D animation tool with all the features you expect, such as keyframes and automatic tweens. It is however quite difficult to use. An example is that changing fonts etc. is much harder than LibreOffice.

An example of a video I’ve created using Synfig Studio is:

Blender

Blender is a very powerful 3D design and animation tool. It is a professional tool used to create some amazing models and animations. It does have a steep learning curve. There are lots of resources available for Blender, but not many feature the 2D animation aspect. I’ve created my own videos explaining the 2D animation mode.

Any Alternatives?

If anyone has any alternatives then please let me know. I’m particularly interested in ways of creating animations using code which will allow for loops and variables.

The best way to let me know about alternatives is to leave a comment on my video on creating 2D animations. Alternatively you can contact me via other social media platforms.

PGZ Animation

My own alternative is called PGZ Aninmation, which stands for Pygame Zero Animation. It’s a Python library based around Pygame Zero. It allows you to create animations using simple code. The code is in Python based around the, easy to use, Pygame Zero. It includes special animation classes which I’ve created which make it trivial to create certain types of animations and tweens.

It’s in early development at the moment but the intention is to make it easy to create animations using simple code. In future it may even include a simple mark-up language, but that depends upon whether that is something that people would find useful.

One use for this is in creating animated electrical and electronic diagrams.

Animated electrical / electronic circuit diagram

More Information

See the PGZ Animation introduction information.

Or Download PGZ Animation – coding based animation tool from GitHub

RC Remote Control for a Raspberry Pi Pico

June 19th, 2021

One of the things missing from the Raspberry Pi Pico is the lack of network connectivity. There are other models that do provide that such as the Arduino version of the Raspberry Pi Pico – The Arduino Nano RP2040, but there are alternative ways to communicate. In this case I had an RC remote control which I thought would work well.

Model airplane RC transmitter and receiver used for a Raspberry Pi Pico

The model I used is the Flysky FS-i6 which is relatively inexpensive controller for RC model planes. Although designed for model airplanes it can be used with other models and in this case to send signals to a Raspberry Pi Pico. You could also use other types of controllers such as those designed for cars or boats, as long as they provide a PWM output pulse typically used for controlling servo motors.

In the video I show how I used a logic analyzer and digital oscilloscope to check the signal and how I set about creating the code to detect the PWM duty cycle on the Raspberry Pi Pico. This can then be used to control other devices such as robots or animatronics.

The demonstration source code for detecting the RC signals on a Raspberry Pi Pico is available from the link below.

Upgrade of laptop to Ubuntu 21.04 – Including how to use DisplayLink for USB-C and Wayland vs X.org

May 24th, 2021

I was holding off on upgrading my laptop to Linux Ubuntu 21.04 due to the bug that could leave computers unbootable. Since then I’ve been had the “Do you want to upgrade” message so presumably that’s been fixed. I went through the upgrade process and upgraded my laptop to Ubuntu 21.04.

I did come across two problems during the install. The first is that I have a USB-C dock which uses displaylink, the other relates to the new Wayland compositor and some applications that are not able to work correctly with Wayland.

Ubuntu 21.04 linux desktop screenshot

The displaylink drivers needed to be re-installed, but before this I needed to switch to the open source drivers Nouveau otherwise the screen wouldn’t load. In this video I explain how to change to the open source drivers before installing the displaylink drivers and even how to switch drivers if you end up with a system that boots up without a working screen driver.

Wayland compositor vs X.org - Ubuntu 21.04 Linux

I then show an example of an application that doesn’t work with Wayland (Simple Screen Recorder) and explain how you can switch between Wayland and X.org.

Ubuntu 21.04 on Raspberry Pi

Also see Guide to installing Ubuntu 21.04 desktop 64-bit linux on a Raspberry Pi 4.

RPi Ubuntu 21.04 – 64-bit Linux for Raspberry Pi

April 29th, 2021

There is a new version of Ubuntu which is now at version 21.04. The version number consists of the year and month it was released so this is from April 2021.

For this version (and the previous version 6 months ago) the Ubuntu releases now include a version of the 64-bit desktop version for the Raspberry Pi. I haven’t upgraded my PC yet because of a bug that’s resulted in a delay to the upgrades. The bug is mainly for older hardware. It shouldn’t be a problem with my laptop as it’s fairly modern and new installs should work okay. The bug won’t affect the Raspberry Pi version.

Installing Ubuntu 21.04

Installing Ubuntu on the Raspberry Pi is just as easy as Raspberry Pi OS. There is however one caveat in that you need a SD card with more than 9GB of space, so effectively you need at least a 16GB SD Card. This shouldn’t be a problem as that should cost less than £10 these days, but it does mean if you have a 4GB or 8GB SD card (I have dozens of theses) then you can’t use it for Ubuntu.

When you first boot with the new image then you need to spend a short time going through the setup process, but it just takes a few minutes to get up and running.

Installed applications

By default the desktop includes Firefox web browser and the usual LibreOffice. So there is everything you need to get started. It doesn’t include any programming applications that are included on the Raspberry Pi, but these can be installed through apt or the software installer.

Raspberry Pi OS vs Ubuntu

In the video I explain about some of the pros and cons for both the Raspberry Pi OS and Ubuntu. A summary is shown below.

Raspberry Pi OS vs Ubuntu

Which is best?

Choosing a distribution depends upon what you want to do with it and your personal preferences. If you are wanting to use the Raspberry Pi for programming and accessing the GPIO ports then Raspberry Pi OS. You will also need to use the Raspberry Pi OS if running on an older Raspberry Pi or the Pi Zero.

If you want to run a modern looking, 64-bit Linux distribution on a Raspberry Pi 4 then you may want to use Ubuntu.

Personally I’m going to use Raspberry Pi OS for most of my needs, but I do run Ubuntu on my laptop which I used in creating this and for editing the video.

Day out at Bekonscot Model Village

April 14th, 2021

Bekonscot is in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England. It is the oldest model village in the world being first created in 1929. It has however changed a lot since then having had periods where it was modernized, but then reverting back to being primarily based around 1930s England.

Bekonscot Model Village near Beaconsfield

It features one of the largest Gauge 1 outdoor railways in the UK. The buildings are made to a larger scale of 1:12. It’s clear that these are different scales, but it does work okay.

There is so much to see, some amazing buildings, nostalgia of an England in times gone by, and also some fun animations and visual effects. It’s a place we now visit fairly often with new features each time. In the last few years they’ve added a New Town area and a funicular hillside railway. This year it looks like there has been quite a few touch-ups with some of the artificial grass being replaced and what appears to be a significant number of model figures added making it look even better.

Here’s a short video which is a photo slideshow showing some of the features of the model village.

This review is from a visit on the first day that it was open during 2021 as we reached the next stage in lockdown restrictions being lifted during April 2021. During this time tickets need to be booked in advance.

The site is almost completely outdoor. Although social distancing is encouraged, it’s pretty much impossible for young children to completely adhere to it. It didn’t feel a problem though, you would just get someone passing occasionally and then usually managed to maintain a reasonable distance.

The model village is run as a charitable organisation. A great place to visit for a couple of hours during a day out to this lovely part of England.

For more details see Bekonscot Model Village website.

Earlswood Lakes Circular Walk in Worcestershire / West Midlands

April 12th, 2021

Earlswood Lakes are man-made reservoirs in Worcestershire which were made to supply water to the Stratford-Upon-Avon Canal. The North of the lakes is bordering on West Midlands.

This is a nice gentle walk across flat terrain. Most of the paths are well maintained, but some places may get a little muddy at times.

I have walked around the reservoirs a few times. Recently the lakes have been partially trained for maintenance work, the photos below include when the reservoir is at it’s normal level as well as when under maintenance.

Distance: 2.5 miles

Earlswood Lakes Circular Walk
Click the map for a larger version

Sunset on Earlswood Lakes

Walk in Worcestershire - Earlswood Lakes

Walk in Worcestershire - Earlswood Lakes, partially drained for maintenance work

The route is also available through the Ordnance Survey Online OS Maps and as a GPX file for handheld sat nav systems.

Barnt Green to Lickey Hills Circular Walk in Worcestershire / Birmingham

April 5th, 2021

This is a way marked route by Worcestershire County Council. Starting at Barnt Green (approx. postcode B45 8NW). It takes in some of the local countryside, skirting around the reservoirs to the top of Lickey Hills and back down to Barnt Green.

Alternative starting point is Lickey Hills Visitor Centre car park (check closing time for the car park to avoid getting locked in). For public transport the Barnt Green railway station is on the route.

Distance: 4 miles

Although the Lickey Hills are physically located within Worcestershire the country park is managed by Birmingham City Council. J R R Tolkien lived in nearby Rednell and was a regular visitor. The Lickeys and surrounding area are thought to have been his inspiration for The Shire as featured in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Map Barnt Green Lickey Hills Circular Walk
Click the map for a larger version

Walk in Worcestershire - Barnt Green Lickey Hills view of Lower Bittell Reservoir

The walk goes alongside Lower Bittell Reservoir.

Walk in Worcestershire - Barnt Green Lickey Hills Circular Walk - Uphill towards Lickey Hills

There is a steep walk up to the top of the Lickey Hills.

Walk in Worcestershire - Barnt Green Lickey Hills view from Lickey Hills Visitor Centre

The visitor centre is built in an area used for artillery armament testing during the First World War.

The route is also available through the Ordnance Survey Online OS Maps and as a GPX file for handheld sat nav systems.

Details of the route : Barnt Green Lickey Hills Circular Walk (Worcestershire County Council).

Barnt Green Waterways Circular Walk

April 3rd, 2021

This is a way marked route by Worcestershire County Council. Starting at Barnt Green (approx. postcode B45 8NW). It takes in some of the local countryside, walk towards Alvechurch, along a canal and past Upper Bittell Reservoir.

For public transport the Barnt Green railway station is nearby.

Distance: 5 miles

Map Barnt Green Waterways Circular Walk
Click the map for a larger version

Walk in Worcestershire - Barnt Green Waterways Circular Walk - View of canal

Walk in Worcestershire - Barnt Green Waterways Circular Walk - view of upper Bittell Reservior

The route is also available through the Ordnance Survey Online OS Maps and as a GPX file for handheld sat nav systems.

Details of the route : Barnt Green Waterways Circular Walk (Worcestershire County Council).

Alvechurch and Rowney Green Walk

February 28th, 2021

This is route around Alvechurch and Rowney green. It uses a combination of bridleways and public footpaths.

Distance: 4 miles (a little more if you start in Alvechurch village centre)

Map Alvechurch and Rowney Green
Click the map for a larger version

View from walk - Alvechurch and Rowney Green Walk

View from walk - Alvechurch and Rowney Green Walk

View from walk - Alvechurch and Rowney Green Walk

The route is also available through the Ordnance Survey Online OS Maps and as a GPX file for handheld sat nav systems.

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