Raspberry Pi Roundup - an auto-plant-watering system, an award for RPi, a new Python editor and BEER!

Plant Watering

Michael Lynch decided he wanted a house plant. Being a software engineer, however, and not a gardener, gave him a distinct problem: when should the plant be watered? How much moisture is too much? So, he collaborated with Jeet Shetty on an automatic plant watering system called GreenPiThumb.

He used Python on the back-end for managing soil moisture and temperature sensors and for turning the water pump on and off, as can be seen below.

He also recorded events and sensor readings to a database. The front end (see a static example here) was written in AngularJS and Ansible was used to deploy the software to the Pi.

It took over a year to complete, despite the two developers wanting it to be a few weeks’ worth, and they encountered many challenges along the way. The two also captured the growth of the plant using a Pi camera and generated a time-lapse:

You can read a very humorous account of their journey, and see wiring diagrams and more photos, here and see the code here.

MacRobert

At a ceremony in London in late June, the team behind the Raspberry Pi won a prestigious award: The MacRobert Award.

The MacRobert Award is the UK’s longest-running and most prestigious national prize for engineering innovation. The award “recognises outstanding innovation, tangible societal benefit and proven commercial success.”

Beating the two other finalists, Darktrace (a cyber-security company) and Vision RT (radiotherapy pioneers) to the prize is a major achievement for the tech company which started so small with just 10,000 units and has now sold over 14 million units.

New Python editor - Thonny

There’s a new IDE (Integrated Development Environment) on the block. Called Thonny, it has just been added into the Raspbian image. The MagPi has done a great tutorial and walkthrough of the features of the editor here.

Opinion

I recently attended a Raspberry Jam at Pi Towers and was lucky enough to take part in a workshop run by Ben Nuttall. The workshop, which taught us how to use GPIO Zero’s remote control features, along with other examples using the library, was excellent. Ben made a risky move and got us to use Thonny rather than IDLE, the de-facto editor for Python. I have to say, I was very impressed. Instead of the pop-up execution window you get with IDLE, Thonny runs the code in a Shell tab below the coding window. This makes it feel much more integrated than IDLE, and much tidier as a result. There are a lot of features (for which take a look at the MagPi article linked above) including step-through and variable debugging in Thonny that we didn’t touch the surface of, so I can only give you a surface-level opinion. Personally, I think everyone who writes in Python should take a look at Thonny. It’s not perfect, I’m sure, but it is an excellent piece of software and well worth a go.

Brewing

Christopher Aedo has written an article over on opensource.com in which he explains how he has set-up a Raspberry Pi to monitor his home-brewing equipment. It’s a pretty sophisticated set-up that uses CraftBeerPi to provide an interface to several sensor readings. You can read more here.