Trying out the Raspberry Pi Touch-screen

Its time to power up the Pi and its touch screen. It is necessary to apply two sources of power, one for the screen and one for the Pi. I bought a suitable cable from SmartiCase at the same time as the case itself.

USB Splitter cable for powering two devices.

Place the two micro-USB plugs carefully in to the sockets – its a bit fiddly – and trail the cable away from the back of the device.

Fitting the micro-USB power leads.
Fitting the micro-USB power leads.

Now to power up!

Oops! The wrong OS.
Oops! The wrong OS.

Oh dear. I forgot to wipe the SD card from the last time I used the Pi, helping to test a friend’s arcade machine build. Now here’s where things get fiddly. It will be necessary to undo the screws on the audio hat in order to allow its extraction before the trap-door can be opened and the Pi flipped out to allow the SD card to be extracted and replaced. Give me a moment to burn a new image on the card…

While I’m preparing a new Raspian image, let’s have a look at Hector having fun checking the case for Lego compatibility…

Hector checking Lego compatibility
Hector with the old Pi2 in its SmartiCase, down from the attic after working as a Dump1090 server.

OK, the SD card is now loaded with Raspbian. Lets see how it looks…

Raspian on the touch screen. It worked first time out of the box.

It works beautifully. I plugged in a USB souncard into the hub that is powering everything and used it to hook up to one of my radio receivers. (Note, the Pi-DAC is for high quality audio output only. There is no line in). Forty metres was quite lively so I installed FLDIGI and tuned to the PSK section of the band…

Decoding PSK31 on forty metres.
Decoding PSK31 on forty metres.

It works beautifully. There is no jerkiness or lag on the waterfall display. I had to tweak the microphone level a bit to prevent it overloading. Finally I tried a screen capture on the Pi.

DD2MON in a conversation or ‘QSO’ with F4HGE on forty metres PSK31.

Adding a Pi-DAC Audio Output Hat to the Touch-screen Pi

I mentioned in the last post that I had another treat in store for my lucky little Pi. This comes in the form of an audio ‘hat’ that the SmartiPi Touch is designed to accomodate. Let’s see what it looks like and how to fit it…

A brand new Pi-DAC board for output to an audio amplifier or headphones.


The bare hat and mounting kit.

We will not need the supplied mounting kit, but instead we will use the two small black spacers and screws supplied with the screen case. Place the spacers on the case over the screw holes and push the long black connector in the the corresponding slot and on to the pins on the Pi circuit board.

The hat is in place, plugged in to the Pi and screwed to the back of the case.

In the next post I will go in to applying power to the Pi and screen and show some of the results.

Assembling the SmartiPi Touch

Here is how a fitted I Raspberry Pi 3 with a 7-inch touch screen using a SmartiPi Touch case.

Start off by placing four sticky feet on the base.

Adding the sticky feet to the base
Adding the sticky feet to the base

Now we move on to the ‘door’ at the back of the case. Find one of the small rubber patches…

Trap door and rubber patch.
Trap door and rubber patch.

…and stick it in place.

All done.
All done.

There is another of these patches to fit to the back of the case…

Fit patch to the top right of the case rear.
Fit patch to the top right of the case rear.


Case is now prepped.
Case is now prepped.

Next up is to offer the base up to the case hinges and fit the two bolts. It is important not to tighten these bolts too much or the hinge will not operate.

Checking hinge alignment.
Checking hinge alignment.

Fit the supplied ribbon cable to the slot in the back of the display screen control board with the silver contacts facing up…

Check the silver contacts. They must face up where they slot in to the control board.

…and offer up the screen to the case, threading the ribbon cable through.

Thread the ribbon cable through carefully.
Thread the ribbon cable through carefully.

Once in place, the screen can be fixed in to the case with four black screws.

Screw the screen in to place with four black screws.
Screw the screen in to place with four black screws.

Now let’s fit the Pi. Again, look carefully at how the ribbon cable exits the case and orientates with the Pi’s connector.

Careful how you orient the ribbon cable.
Careful how you orient the ribbon cable.

Slide the pi in to place and it will mate up with two small pegs in the recess where the Pi sits. At this point you may fix the Pi in place with two screws leaving the board accessible for experiments. However, at this point I will fit the trap door I prepared earlier.

The trap door holds the Pi in place without screws allowing quick access.
The trap door holds the Pi in place without screws allowing quick access.

In the next post, another treat for a very deserving little Pi…

SmartiPi Touch from SmartiCase

I have treated one of my Raspberry Pis to a new 7-inch touchscreen which I intend to house in a SmartiPi Touch from SmartiCase. This is another project I have sponsored through Kickstarter.

A freshly prepared SmartiPi Touch.


The corresponding 7-inch touchscreen ready for mounting.


Unpacking and checking the parts.


As you can see I have ordered the camera case for later experimentation. The allen key is supplied to fit the hinge bolts as well as an option to discard the base and mount directly to a larger surface or even a VESA monitor arm.

In the next post I will describe how to assemble the screen in to the original base. In the meantime, why not go to the SmartiCase website and have a look…

Upgrades to my Pi fleet

I have recently expanded my collection of the little Raspberry Pi computers as MyGoodLadyWife has bought me a Pi2. I am hoping to be able to use the extra processing power due to the increased clock speed and quad-core CPU to good effect as a controller for a software defined radio. (More on that to come…)

But first, I needed to install an operating system. I did not want to simply transfer the existing SD card from the Pi B+ that Hector was proudly sitting atop of in my previous post. This is because the Raspbian image on that card is crafted to work on an ARMv6 CPU, whereas I can now use an image for an ARMv7 ‘HardFloat’.

I wanted to stay with Debian on my Pi2 so a quick trip to the relevant page on the Debian Wiki shows that there is a suitable image available for Debian 8, otherwise known as ‘Jessie’. So, I opened up the SpartiPi case and swapped out the old B+ for the new Pi2 (note that the case takes the Pi2 with as much ease as the original B+ it was designed for.)

So, all set to introduce the Pi2 to Debian Jessie. What steps are needed to make it all happen?

First, follow the link from the Debain Wiki to ” Debian Jessie on Raspberry Pi 2 by Sjoerd Simons of Collabora”. This will take you to a page with more background information as well as a link to where the bootable images can be found. I ended up downloading the following files:


Great! I have the image file, but what does that bmap file do? On his page, Sjoerd recommends using a tool called ‘bmap-tools’ to write the image to the SD card. I had to pause to check if it was possible to install it on the machine I use to program my SD cards and yes, it is. There is a repository for OpenSUSE 13.1 which I currently use (as MGLW is very fond of Geeko the Chameleon, the OpenSUSE mascot!). I added a repository to Yast which I named ‘Tizen’ with the following URL:

This allowed me to install bmap-tools after which I was able to bring up a root console, change to the directory where the image and bmap file were stored and use the following command to write the image to the SD card:

 bmaptool copy jessie-rpi2-20150202.img.gz /dev/sdd

While at first glance it seems a lot of effort to install and use this tool it does have an advantage over using dd in that it gives an indication of progress in terms of percentage completed and it also gives an indication at the end that the process was successful.

The Pi2 is now on the bench, powered up and running Debian Jessie for ARMv7. I have been able to use the apt-get update and apt-get upgrade commands successfully so it looks like it is working correctly.

More to follow on my task of putting this little computer to work in my radio shack…

Introducing the SmartiPi

Just before last Christmas I took part in a kickstarter campaign to help fund the SmartiPi case, a Lego compatible case for the Raspberry Pi B+. This is what one looks like after it arrives in the post.

Look what turned up in the post!

These are the parts contained in the package – The case, a Lego compatible top-plate, a camera case and a GoPro camera mount. (Oh… and some screws).

The contents of the bag, at large on the G7IVF bench.

The Raspberry Pi slots in to the case without difficulty.

The Pi fits easily in to the case.
Another view of the Pi B+ in its new home…


Four screws close the case, and it is ready for powering up!

Ready to be powered up.
Ready to be powered up.

Make sure you have plenty of extra Lego to hand!

Hi there! Grab a brick and join in!