Denver Maker Faire

It’s been quite some time since I posted an update on PiBox.  Many things have happened since then: we moved from Colorado Springs to Broomfield (just outside of Boulder) and bought a new house, I changed jobs and, sadly, Bailey passed away (our 2nd oldest golden retriever).  It’s been a tough year.  But we’re settled in and things we’re getting back into a new set of routines.  And with Cody, our last golden, by our side we’re making progress on many fronts.

Some of the progress went into PiBox.  The core platform has become very stable and so has the media center.  The console webcam, which had never worked as well as the browser based webcam, now works with no lag at all thanks to improvements in the upstream omxplayer from the Raspberry Pi Foundation.  And more important, work has begun and made big strides in the home automation features being developed for the Ironman project.

I demo’d all the new and updated features at the Denver Maker Faire, which ran over the October 13-14, 2018 weekend at the National Western Complex in Denver, Colorado.  The crowd was big and the response was very good though it’s clear I need to update the web site to get better information out on what exactly PiBox is and how it is evolving.

This was my first chance in a while to work on a dialog describing the project.  I was able to work out a description of why I’m doing this and what it’s all about.  But I found it interesting that most people had the same three basic comments.

  1. I have RPis but I don’t know what to do with them
  2. I have a similar project
  3. That’s impressive – it’s like a lot of work

The first was by far the most common.  Lots of people are buying Raspberry Pi’s but don’t really know what to do with them.  A Pi isn’t really a desktop computer but it isn’t really a phone and so they aren’t quite sure what they can do with them.  I see this as an opportunity to show them how PiBox can be used to expand their horizons by showing how a custom software stack can make a Pi into just about anything.

The second comment was far less common but did come up a number of times.  Most of those who are working on a similar project are using Raspbian and Kodi.  It was easy to explain to those visitors to the PiBox booth how heavy weight that solution is and how a custom PiBox solution could do similar things, even without Internet access.

The last comment was usually what I heard from people who stayed long enough to hear the whole PiBox story, especially when I showed them the software stack and explained how so much of it is custom code I’d written.  Those visitors tended to be have more technical backgrounds and a few were interested in working on joint projects or at least a sharing of ideas.

Another fun item from the show:  lots of kids – say 10-18, plus a number of college students – stopped by and were really interested in what PiBox is all about.  Some were quite impressive in their knowledge of Pis and Arduinos.  I was very excited to see this, especially from several young ladies.  We need more young people diving into the guts of the full software stack and not just floating around in the LAMP and web arena.

Finally, I had this one question pop up frequently:  why did you do this?  It was interesting to see the looks on their faces when I said I just wanted to know how to do it?  These were all people interested in Making, creating things because you can.  And I think I helped show that deep dives don’t have to be just because you get paid for it.  It can also be just for the fun of learning.

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