Category Archives: Reviews

The Serpente R2: a compact CircuitPython controller

Updated The Serpente R2 from Solder Party is yet another addition to the now long roster of compact Atmel microcontroller-based breakout boards aimed at the maker community.

A compact breakout board for compact projects
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Review: WD PiDrive, a 314GB hard drive for the Raspberry Pi

I like solid-state storage, but there’s a time when you want the storage capacity that only a hard drive can bring — at least until SSDs become much, much cheaper. Of course, SD cards are pretty cheap to buy and to support in hardware which is why the format was chosen for the Raspberry Pi in the first place. At high capacities, the price:gigabyte ratio isn’t as attractive as that of a hard drive, but you get a single point of access for all your computer storage just as you do with any modern laptop or desktop.

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Review: Circuitbeard PiZero Hub Case

The Raspberry Pi Zero may have been out for a while, but it’s proving perishingly hard to get hold off. Unless, of course, you’re right at the head of the virtual queue when the online retailers put their latest batches on sale. Still, the little micro’s scarcity isn’t stopping hackers from coming up with ingenious solutions to its other limitations — too few USB ports, primarily — and accessory suppliers from issuing add-ons.

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Review: Google Chromecast 2

OK, so we all know what Google’s Chromecast is, yes? Someone at the back — why are they always at the back? — seems unsure. In a sentence, then, Chromecast is a small WiFi-connected slug that you slip into a spare HDMI port on your TV, and which plays video and audio under the direction of a remote control app.

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Review: Slice, the Pi Compute Module-based media player

Updated My original idea was to review the Raspberry Pi Compute Module. But the thing about the Compute Module is that it’s not an end-user product: it was designed for manufacturers looking for an ARM-based platform on which they can build devices they can sell. Unlike the Raspberry Pi itself, the Compute Module is not intended for makers or for computing hobbyists. To evaluate the Compute Module what I really needed to look at was a product based upon it.

So I waited for one…

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Review: Imagination Technologies’ MIPS Creator CI20

Time was when chip makers’ processor evaluation boards were well beyond the reach of ordinary mortals. That didn’t matter, of course: ordinary mortals weren’t interested in small, nude motherboards designed to help designers of embedded systems judge a microprocessor’s suitability for the application they were working on.

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Review: the PiFace Real-Time Clock

Unhook a Raspberry Pi from the mains and it forgets the time and date. It’ll only get them back again if you re-connect it to the Internet or enter the data manually. As a Pi user who doesn’t keep his kit connected – I usually wire and power it up when I need it – and doesn’t always bother with the Ethernet cable when he does, I’ve been after a decent real-time clock (RTC) add-on for quite a while. An RTC allows your Pi to keep time, even when the Pi’s power is cut.

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Review: the GrovePi+ Starter Kit

When it comes to hacking hardware there’s an easy way and there’s a hard way.

The hard way involves connecting peripherals direct to one of the standard buses supported by your Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Beaglebone or whatever. Buses like I²C, SPI, UART and 1-Wire. You’ll need to take care with your wiring: have you got the right pull-up or pull-down resistor? Is there too much capacitance in the line?

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Review: Withings Activité Pop

One problem with wearable fitness trackers: you may not want to wear one when you’ve also got a watch on. This may be especially the case if, like me, you have a tracker not to monitor an aggressive fitness regime, but simply to ensure you don’t spend the entire working day parked on your rear-end. And you’d like it to be discrete.

I wear a watch; I wear a Fitbit Flex. I’d rather like to combine the two. Withings – the well-known purveyor of Wi-Fi bathroom scales – launched just such a gadget last Autumn, the Activité. It drew some interest, but presumably didn’t sell so well, on account of its high price. So here comes the Consumer Electronics Show-announced Activité Pop, a much cheaper version that lacks the original’s Swiss mechanism and posher materials, but is in all other respects the same device.

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(Retro) Review: Raspberry Pi B+

Better late than never. An edited version of this review appeared in The Register in August 2014. I intended to reproduce the original here, but never got round to it. At long last – and a tad late now the Pi 2 is out, of course – here for the record…

You might think that were you a purveyor of a nifty compact computer selling by the millions, you’d consider two years after the debut of your first offering that it was high time you tempted back buyers with a go-faster, more capacious and shinier model. Heck, Apple and others don’t even wait that long: they upgrade products year in, year out.

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