Make something with code
Build a proper desktop PC
While the Raspberry Pi technically has all the essential features of a desktop PC, there a couple of issues that hold it back from being a truly credible option for those that want a general-purpose computer.
Thankfully, official Raspberry Pi distributor Element 14 has come to the rescue, announcing a kit that will transform your Raspberry Pi 3 into a proper, fully-capable desktop unit. The kit includes a snazzy-looking case, a heat sink and support for an mSATA SSD up to 1TB in size. It’s available from Element 14 for just £40. You’ll have to supply your own drive, though.
Make your own NAS drive
Making your own DIY network storage device is one of the original use-cases for the Raspberry Pi, it’s but still one of the best. Get yourself a couple of ‘dumb’ external hard drives, and with a bit of IT wizardry, presto: you’ve saved yourself a couple of hundred quid on an expensive NAS appliance.
This is a similar process to setting up the Raspberry Pi as a media server using software like Plex, but without limiting it to things like movies and TV shows. This setup allows you to take backups of your machine, and you can even use the Raspberry Pi as a makeshift Time Machine capsule if you’re a Mac user.
Build a Zero-powered smartphone
One of the first applications of the original Raspberry Pi was building a homebrew smartphone, but the launch of the smaller Raspberry Pi Zero, followed by the Raspberry Pi Zero W, has allowed makers to build even smaller versions.
Resembling nothing more than one of the old Nokia 3410s turned inside-out, the ZeroPhone is designed to be cheap, open source, and easy to assemble and repair. According to the inventors, “ZeroPhone is a platform for hackers, people not happy with their smartphones, people that want privacy, people that want the power of Linux in their pockets and many more.” Check out the full guide on Hackaday for instructions on how to make it.
Start your Sonos playlists at the push of a button
Connected speaker systems like Sonos are great, but they still require you to pull out your phone, open your music app of choice, and select a playlist. This project lets you start the playlist of your choice at the push of a button, by linking an Amazon Dash button to your Sonos system.
You can even program multiple buttons with different playlists, giving you the option of choosing your favourite, or having specific playlists for each room. Party music in the living room, for example, or easy listening in the kitchen for Sunday breakfasts. You can find the full guide on Hackster.io.
Build your own AI assistant
Google has partnered with official Raspberry Pi magazine The MagPi to release a brand new add-on board, enabling makers to add voice control and artificial intelligence to their Raspberry Pi projects.
The board allows hobbyists to make easy use of Google’s Cloud Speech API for voice recognition, as well as the Google Assistant SDK that provides the AI brain for the company’s smartest devices.
Issue 57 of the MagPi comes complete with a free AI kit, including the new Voice HAT add-on module, a speaker, microphone, cables, button and even an enclosure to put it in – everything you’ll need to make a homebrew version of Google Home.
Steam Link for Raspberry Pi
Steam Link is a service, usually only accessible via Steam’s own hardware, which allows PC gamers to stream games from their Steam game library to a display of their choosing. It’s now been made available in beta for Raspberry Pi and it works phenomenally well.
Ever wanted to play your PC games in the comfort of your own living room? Well, all that’s required is to put one line of code into the device’s command line and it will download, install and create a desktop icon. From there, it takes minutes to connect to a TV or other display and start streaming games. Learn more about it here.
The best-looking retro arcade machine ever?
Pi-powered retro gaming machines are hardly anything new, but this one has to take the cake as one of the most impressive examples we’ve seen. Complete with a smooth wooden housing and sleek acrylic inlays, this is decidedly more attractive than the 3D-printed examples one usually sees online.
This is definitely not one that most people can do at home, however. Engineer and maker David Johnson crafted this elegant little number using advanced tools like a CNC mill, with circuit boards he made himself.
Virtual Desktop for Raspberry Pi
You can thank RealVNC’s partnership with the Raspberry Pi foundation since it means the latest versions of the Raspbian distro all come with pre-installed versions of VNC Server and VNC Viewer.
You can use this to create a virtual desktop, which is great for providing a graphical desktop interface to Pis that wouldn’t have had one otherwise, like headless devices running IoT or robotics projects.
In order to activate this, make sure the VNC Server is set up and enabled on the target Raspberry Pi- find out how to do that by clicking here. You can then use either your Raspberry Pi’s terminal or an SSH connection to run the ‘vncserver’ command.
Make sure you note down the IP address and display number that the VNC Server displays and then insert that information into VNC Viewer. Now you should be able to remotely operate the Pi as if it had a full graphical desktop.
Raspberry Pi is the centre of hundreds of useful projects, but as this useful gadget shows, it can also help you to learn and satisfy your idle curiosity.
Stratux is a project which was made to tell you information about the various aircraft in the sky around you, and the good news is that it’s wonderfully simple to build.
By receiving and translating the ADS-B broadcasts from airplanes in the sky nearby, Stratux gives you information such as the planes’ altitudes, speeds, locations and callsigns.
It runs on the Raspberry Pi 3 Motherboard, and the decoding software can be downloaded onto a Micro SD card that you simply slot into the chip.
This page has a few alternative lists of parts, ranging in cost from a budget $95, to a common $145 package, up to a $260 list that’s quick to build.
Build a Raspberry Pi weather station
As with any Raspberry Pi project, the number of approaches you can take to building a weather station are countless, but the route you take depends largely on the aspects of weather you’d like to measure – centring on indoors versus outdoors.
While outdoor weather stations can measure environmental factors such as wind speed and rainfall, indoor stations are better for metrics such as pressure change, air quality and temperature.
Ready-to-assemble kits are available, like this one from the Pi Hut, but you’ll often need to source other materials such as a waterproof case. You can learn more about building your own Raspberry Pi weather station in our comprehensive guide, together with detailed instructions.
The Raspberry Pi Zero is so small that it could fit into just about anything, as this hack demonstrates. Programmer and maker Terence Eden was lucky enough to get his hands on one of the devices, and with a bit of tinkering, was able to put it inside an original Xbox controller.
Using the RetroPie emulation software, he was able to make a retro games console that’s entirely contained in the controller. The controller itself loops back into the Pi, so all you need to play your favourite old-school games is an HDMI display and a power source. There’s even enough space to fit in a portable power pack for those that want to take it out and about.
Terence’s blog post with a full how-to is available here.
A quarter-finalist in the 2014 Hackaday Prize, this project by James Pavur is designed to automate the process of making a nice loose-leaf cuppa.
Tell the Raspberry Pi for how long and at what temperature you want your tea brewed, and the Pi will activate the connected kettle, measure the temperature, and lower the tea in with a servo motor.
Once the tea leaves have been in for the desired time, it’ll lift them out again, ready to be made into a lovely cup of tea.
Raspberry Tor Router
Anonymising network Tor is beloved of privacy advocates everywhere, as well as Dark Web users with more nefarious purposes in mind.
This project turns the Raspberry Pi into a router to send all your network traffic through Tor, rather than just browser sessions. Best of all, you can even slap a battery pack into it to take it wherever you go!