Eugene’s fishing line header hack for Raspberry Pi Zero

0.38 mm / 5.4 kg test Trilene threaded through Raspberry Pi Zero header holes
0.38 mm / 5.4 kg test Trilene threaded through Raspberry Pi Zero header holes holds male jumper wires snugly without soldering

Eugene ‘thirtytwoteeth’ Andruszczenko (of Game Boy Zero – Handheld Edition fame) posted a neat idea to help your Raspberry Pi Zero take jumper wires without soldering. He threaded fishing line through the 40 hole header, making an interference fit for male header pins. I tried it with 0.38 mm Trilene, which worked rather well.

Building (but not necessarily running) Amiberry on Raspberry Pi 3

I might not have Amiberry — an optimized Amiga emulator for Raspberry Pi — running quite yet, but the build instructions at midwan/amiberry are a bit lacking. If you want to compile it under Raspbian Stretch, you’ll need the following packages:
sudo apt install libsdl2-dev libxml2-dev libxml2-utils libsdl2-ttf-dev libsdl2-image-dev
This will at least allow you to get it to build correctly with:
make -j2 PLATFORM=rpi3-sdl2-dispmanx
More later when/if I get it working.

Raspblocks: Blocks-based Python coding for Raspberry Pi

Raspblocks is a new Blocks-based web programming environment for Raspberry Pi. You don’t even need to write the code a Raspberry Pi, but the Python 3 code it produces will need to be transferred to a Raspberry Pi to run.

For maximum authenticity (and slowness), I fired up on a Raspberry Pi Zero over VNC. It took a minute or more to load up the site in Chromium, but creating a simple program was all easy dragging and dropping:

The code it produced was pretty much exactly what you’d write by hand:

import RPi.GPIO as GPIO
import time
GPIO.setup(26, GPIO.OUT)

while True:

And, as you might expect, the code make an LED connected to GPIO 26 turn on and off. Science!

Raspblocks isn’t as polished as its more established rival  EduBlocks, but Raspblocks doesn’t need any software installed. Edublocks installs its own Node.js-based web service, which would be painfully slow on a Raspberry Pi Zero. Raspblocks’ code needs to be run manually from a terminal, but I’d put up with that any day over having yet another Node server distribution installed under /opt.

MQTT Talk tonight

I’m talking at the Raspberry Pi Toronto Meetup tonight, and if all goes well, the Net-Connected Cowbell will make an appearance:

My slides: MQTT.odp


Teensy USB Keypad

in which I finally learn about Fritzing’s wire alignment facility …

I’ve had a couple of Teensy boards for a while, but a misunderstanding that they needed a load of of extra software installed (they need one thing, and it’s easy) had kept me away. They’ve got really impressive specs, and they’re especially easy to turn into USB devices like keyboards.

Super-heavy CEECO keypad

Here’s a little demo that turns a phone keypad — in my case, a ridiculously solid CEECO solid metal keypad designed for institutional use — into a simple USB keyboard. Plug it into any machine (including a Raspberry Pi) and it will be identified as a keyboard. No drivers are required.

The code is based on the standard Arduino Keypad library basic demo. That code was meant for a different keypad, so I eventually found a configuration that worked in the Sparkfun 12 button keypad datasheet. Rather than printing characters to the serial port, I used calls to Teensy’s USB Keyboard library instead.

There’s no reason why this wouldn’t work with those very cheap 4×4 button matrix keypads for Arduino too with only minor modifications. Those keypads use 8 data lines, and they’re arranged (I think) as rows 1-4 on pins 1-4 and columns 1-4 are pins 5-8.

The Teensy USB keyboard isn’t limited to sending single characters: a single button press could trigger sending a whole string. I haven’t yet thought out any major uses for this (except “Crypto!”, which is my usual idea when I have no idea what I’m doing), but you might have better plans.

Creating a systemd user service on your Raspberry Pi

Flushed with success from yesterday’s post where I made my first systemd service, I got carried away and wanted to show you how to create a service that runs as a regular user.

A fairly common question on the Raspberry Pi Forums is “How do I run a script every time I reboot?”. The traditional answer (and one I’ve given more than once) is to add a @reboot clause to your crontab. This will indeed run a command when the computer reboots, but it will run pretty early on in the boot sequence when there’s no guarantee of network or time services. So the usual remedy is a bit of a kludge:

@reboot sleep 60 && 

This waits a full minute after rebooting, then executes the command. Network and time services are really likely to be available, but it’s not very elegant. Cron also has some weird gotchas with PATH settings, so while it’s ubiquitous and has worked for decades, it’s not easy to get working. Systemd, however, has a much better way of doing it, and better yet, you can do it all without ever hitting sudo.

I’ll take as a basis for this post the forum query “python and crontab”. The asker wanted to log the time when their Raspberry Pi had rebooted, but they’ve hit the usual problem that the clock didn’t have the right time when their script was triggered, so the log was useless.

(I’m not going to do exactly what the forum poster did, but this is more a demo of a systemd user service than recreating their results.)

First off, here’s the script to log the time to a file (saved as ~/bin/

from time import strftime
with open("/home/pi/logs/boot_time.txt", "a") as log:

I’d have done this as a shell script, but the OP used Python, so why fight it?

FUN FACT: Under most Linux flavours, if you create a bin folder in your home directory, it’s automatically added to your path. So I could just type and the shell would find it.
(You might have to log out and log back in again for the shell to review your path.)

In order to get that to run, I need to do a little housekeeping: make the script executable, and make sure the logs folder exits:

chmod +x ~/bin/
mkdir -p ~/logs

Now we need to do the bits that pertain to systemd. First off, you must make a folder for user services:

mkdir -p ~/.config/systemd/user

NOTE: mkdir -p … is useful here as it makes the directory and any parent directories that don’t exist. It also doesn’t complain if any of them already exist. It’s kind of a “make sure this directory exists” command. Make friends with it.

And here’s the service file, which I saved as ~/.config/systemd/user/boot_time_log.service:

Description=boot time log



The service file does the following (even if I’m slightly mystified by some of the headings …):

  • Unit
    • Description — a plain text name for the service. This appears in logs when it starts, stops or fails.
    • DefaultDependencies — as this service runs once at boot-up, it doesn’t need the normal systemd functions of restarting and shutting down on reboot. Most service files omit this line.
    • After — here we tell systemd what service targets must be running before this service is started. As we need to write to a file and have the right time, the and seem sensible.
  • Service
    • Type — this is run once, so it’s a oneshot rather than the usual simple service.
    • ExecStart — this is the command to run when the service is required.
  • Install
    • WantedBy — tbh no idea what this does, but if you omit it the service won’t install. Found the answer in this SE, and it works. So I guess what it does is make the service not fail

Finally, you enable the service with:

systemctl --user enable boot_time_log.service

Next time you reboot, the time will be appended to the log file ~/logs/boot_time.txt.

Unlike most (that is, Type=simple) services, it’s perfectly fine if this one spends most of its time inactive:

$ systemctl status --user boot_time_log.service
● boot_time_log.service - boot time log
 Loaded: loaded (/home/pi/.config/systemd/user/boot_time_log.service; enabled;
 Active: inactive (dead) since Sun 2017-10-22 22:17:56 EDT; 1h 5min ago
 Process: 722 ExecStart=/home/pi/bin/ (code=exited, status=0/SUCCES
 Main PID: 722 (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)

It has executed successfully, so the process doesn’t have to stick around.

Combined Restart / Shutdown Button for Raspberry Pi

A very simple systemd service for Raspberry Pi that provides a software-controlled restart / shutdown button. Code: scruss/shutdown_button


Default behaviour is:

  • your Raspberry Pi will reset if the button is held for more than two seconds but fewer than five seconds;
  • your Raspberry Pi will shut down if the button is held for more than five seconds.

By default, the software assumes the switch is connected to pin BCM 27. Both the pin and the timing can be changed in the Python source file.



  • A Raspberry Pi (tested on a model 2B, 3B and Zero, and on a model B after minor software modification)
  • A normally open, momentary contact button. I use surplus ATX power buttons (as used on desktop PCs), as they’re cheap and come with a handy set of wires and header connectors. Virtually any button will do the job, though. Just make sure it’s normally open (push to close).


  • A Debian-based operating system that uses systemd (tested on Jessie and Stretch)
  • the python3-gpiozero package to provide GPIO Zero (tested on version 1.4.0)



40-pin GPIO connector (B+, 2B, 3B, Zero)

Connect the button between GPIO 27 and GND. If you use an ATX power button and a Raspberry Pi with a 40-pin GPIO header, connect it across the seventh column from the left:

· · · · · ·|·|· · · · · · · · · · · · · 
· · · · · ·|·|· · · · · · · · · · · · · 

This shorts GPIO 27 (physical pin 13) to ground (physical pin 14) when the button is pressed.

26-pin GPIO connector (models B and A only)

GPIO 27 is not exposed on the original Raspberry Pi header, so GPIO 17 is a reasonable option. If you use an ATX power button and a Raspberry Pi with a 26-pin GPIO header, connect it across the fifth and sixth columns of the second row:

 . . . . ._. . . . . . . .
 . . . .|. .|. . . . . . .

You will also need to change [line 7 of]( to read:



The software is installed with the following commands:

sudo apt install python3-gpiozero
sudo mkdir -p /usr/local/bin
chmod +x
sudo cp /usr/local/bin
sudo cp shutdown_button.service /etc/systemd/system
sudo systemctl enable shutdown_button.service
sudo systemctl start shutdown_button.service


Enabling the service should produce output very similar to:

Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/ → /etc/systemd/system/shutdown_button.service.

You can check the status of the program at any time with the command:

systemctl status shutdown_button.service

This should produce output similar to:

● shutdown_button.service - GPIO shutdown button
   Loaded: loaded (/etc/systemd/system/shutdown_button.service; enabled; vendor 
   Active: active (running) since Sat 2017-10-21 11:20:56 EDT; 27s ago
 Main PID: 3157 (python3)
   CGroup: /system.slice/shutdown_button.service
           └─3157 /usr/bin/python3 /usr/local/bin/

Oct 21 11:20:56 naan systemd[1]: Started GPIO shutdown button.

If you’re seeing anything other than Active: active (running), it’s not working. Does the Python script have the right permissions? Is it in the right place? If you modified the script, did you check it for syntax errors?

The output from dmesg will show you any error messages generated by the service.


If you use a HAT/pHAT/Bonnet/etc. with your Raspberry Pi, check to see if it uses BCM 27. If you do need to change the pin, best to pick one that doesn’t have a useful system service like serial I/O or SPI. If you’re using an ATX button with a two pin connector, make sure you choose a pin physically adjacent to a ground pin.

If you modify the timing, please ensure that you keep the shutdown button press duration longer than the reboot one. Otherwise you’ll only be able to shut down.


You should not need to reboot to enable the service. One machine of mine — a Raspberry Pi Zero running Raspbian Stretch — did need a reboot before the button worked.

The reboot code is based on the Shutdown button example from the GPIO Zero documentation.

This is not the only combined shutdown/reset button project to use GPIO Zero. gilyes/pi-shutdown also does so, but pre-dates the implementation of the various hold time functions in GPIO Zero.

GPIO 27 was used, as it’s broken out onto a physical button on the Adafruit PiTFT+ display I own.

This is my first systemd service, and I’m still at the “amazed it works at all” stage. The service file may not contain the ideal configuration.

Connector Pinouts

From GPIO Zero’s pinout command

40 pin

   3V3  (1) (2)  5V    
 GPIO2  (3) (4)  5V    
 GPIO3  (5) (6)  GND   
 GPIO4  (7) (8)  GPIO14
   GND  (9) (10) GPIO15
GPIO17 (11) (12) GPIO18
GPIO27 (13) (14) GND   
GPIO22 (15) (16) GPIO23
   3V3 (17) (18) GPIO24
GPIO10 (19) (20) GND   
 GPIO9 (21) (22) GPIO25
GPIO11 (23) (24) GPIO8 
   GND (25) (26) GPIO7 
 GPIO0 (27) (28) GPIO1 
 GPIO5 (29) (30) GND   
 GPIO6 (31) (32) GPIO12
GPIO13 (33) (34) GND   
GPIO19 (35) (36) GPIO16
GPIO26 (37) (38) GPIO20
   GND (39) (40) GPIO21

26 pin

   3V3  (1) (2)  5V    
 GPIO0  (3) (4)  5V    
 GPIO1  (5) (6)  GND   
 GPIO4  (7) (8)  GPIO14
   GND  (9) (10) GPIO15
GPIO17 (11) (12) GPIO18
GPIO21 (13) (14) GND   
GPIO22 (15) (16) GPIO23
   3V3 (17) (18) GPIO24
GPIO10 (19) (20) GND   
 GPIO9 (21) (22) GPIO25
GPIO11 (23) (24) GPIO8 
   GND (25) (26) GPIO7 

Raspberry Pi combined reboot/shutdown button demo

NB: this version doesn’t actually do the rebooting or shutting down: it’s a demo. This one does, though …

Here’s how you might have just one button being a reset button (hold down for two seconds) or a shutdown button (hold down for five):

Installing the Pimoroni OnOff Shim the hard way

Hey! This process permanently modifies your Raspberry Pi and may prevent it from working with many HATs and add-ons … It also has some really fiddly soldering. If in doubt, don’t.

Pimoroni’s OnOff SHIM adds what the Raspberry Pi should have had all along: a power button. While there are lots of soft power switches out there, the OnOff Shim adds circuitry to cut power to the Raspberry Pi after shutdown.

While the shim comes with a 12-socket header, that prevents you from using any other device that uses the leftmost GPIO pins. I wanted access to all the pins, and not have the shim create an unsightly bump on the pins. So this is what I did …

Regular GPIO header in place on a Raspberry Pi Zero W
Test-fit the socket header to mark where you’re going to cut the pin support block
Very carefully, cut the pin support block between (physical) pins 11-13 and 12-14. I used a mix of a sharp craft knife and nibbling with fine diagonal cutters. Try not to bend the GPIO pins either as you cut the block or lever the block out of the way
Apply non-conductive tape to the back of the OnOff Shim. I used Kapton, but electrical/insulating tape will do. Just make sure you don’t block any of the GPIO holes
Test-fit the shim. You may have to pare away at the support block a bit to get it to fit level with the rest of the pins
Now solder the shim in place. You want the solder joints as small as possible. I used extra liquid flux and very fine silver solder to just fill the pin holes. Too much solder left on the pins will stop HATs and socket headers fitting, so you may have to desolder as I had to do on the rightmost pin
Example HAT fitted with OnOff shim underneath. Note that his particular HAT — the Pimoroni Inky pHAT — will not work with this shim.

The OnOff SHIM uses GPIO pin BCM 17 (physical pin 11) as the power button sensor and BCM 4 as the power off signal. Any device that also uses BCM 17 (and possibly BCM 4) will likely cause the reset process to be triggered. This means that I can’t use the shim with my Inky pHAT EPD. You would have thought that Pimoroni might’ve considered that, since they made both. Consulting suggests that 41 boards that likely may not work with the OnOff shim: Cirrus Logic Audio Card, Display-o-Tron 3000, DOTs, Enviro pHAT, ESP IoT pHAT, Explorer HAT, Explorer HAT Pro, Flex, GertVGA 666, High-Precision AD/DA Board, Hyperpixel, Inky pHAT, IoT pHAT, LEDBorg, MotoZero, Navio2 Autopilot, PaPiRus HAT, PaPiRus Zero, Piano HAT, Pibrella, Picade HAT, Pi Cap, PiGRRL Gamepad, Pi-LITE-r, Pi-mote, Pi PoE Switch HAT, PiStep2 Dual, PiStep2 Quad, Pi Stop, Propeller HAT, RoboHat, RTK Motor Controller, Servo PWM Pi Zero, Skywriter HAT, Ultimate GPS HAT, Voice HAT, Witty Pi, Witty Pi 2, Zero2Go, Zero LiPo and ZeroSeg.

While I like the OnOff SHIM, check carefully that it will work with your application.

Installing the Versatile Commodore Emulator (VICE) on Raspberry Pi

As requested on our local Commodore user group mailing list, how to install VICE on a Raspberry Pi 3 running Raspbian Stretch:

# get dependencies - this may take a long time and ~ 1.5 GB
sudo apt install autoconf automake build-essential byacc dos2unix flex libavcodec-dev libavformat-dev libgtk2.0-cil-dev libgtkglext1-dev libmp3lame-dev libmpg123-dev libpcap-dev libpulse-dev libreadline-dev libswscale-dev libvte-dev libxaw7-dev subversion texi2html texinfo yasm libgtk3.0-cil-dev xa65

mkdir -p src

cd src

svn checkout trunk

cd trunk/vice



make -j4

sudo make install

This was freely adapted from the build docs, Linux-Native-Howto.txt, which has more info if you get stuck.

gpiozero is rather good

gpiozero (‘A simple interface to GPIO devices with Raspberry Pi’) continues to impress me. One of its newer features is a pinout guide, accessed by the pinout command:

Raspberry Pi Zero pinout – click through for PDF

I’m trying to resist running it on every generation of Raspberry Pi that I have (B, A, 2B, 3B, Zero, Zero W) just for these pretty displays.

(ANSI console colours captured using script, then fed through ansi2html [from the Ubuntu colorized-logs package], printed to PDF from Firefox then mucked about a bit with in Inkscape)

inky phat draws a design

A bit dusty, and no sound, but worked out pretty well. (YouTube link if embed doesn’t work — inky phat draws a design)

Tiling based on plate 43, “a rotating motif …”, Wilson, Eva. Islamic designs for artists and craftspeople. New York: Dover Publications, 1988. ISBN: 978-0-486-25819-5

two-colour EPD displays are so pretty …

rotating tile pattern on Pimoroni Inky pHAT EPD display

This is a 600 dpi scan of a Pimoroni Inky pHAT EPD display. EPDs — electrophoretic displays, aka ‘e-ink’ or ‘e-paper’ — retain their image when turned off, so this Raspberry Pi had no power when I scanned it.

The image I made to fit the display is really small —

It’s a bit of a process making the images with just the right palette in GIMP, but I’m pleased how it turned out. I’d like to be able to write the vector images directly to the screen from SVG, but that might take some time.

Tiling based on plate 43, “a rotating motif …”, Wilson, Eva. Islamic designs for artists and craftspeople. New York: Dover Publications, 1988. ISBN: 978-0-486-25819-5

Easy Raspberry Pi framebuffer screenshots with raspi2png

I gave a talk about retro-gaming on the Raspberry Pi yesterday. I was describing RetroPie, and I really needed lots of screenshots to illustrate games. I’m used to grabbing screens under X, but RetroPie runs without it, so all my usual tools were of no use.

I’d just found out about raspi2png, and it works really well! Usage is simple: just call it like

raspi2png -p outfile.png

and it’ll save whatever’s on the screen. It doesn’t play well with X, but there are already tools to take screenshots with that. As I was playing games, I didn’t want to have to pause the computer to take a shot, so I ran the command every five seconds for 30*5 seconds like this:

for f in {1..30}; do raspi2png -p retro_$(date -Iseconds).png; sleep 5; done

Here are some quality shots via raspi2png from Deathchase, officially the best ZX Spectrum game ever:

VM-CLAP1 👏 sensor + gpiozero on Raspberry Pi

Well, that was easy!

Since the Verbal Machines VM-CLAP1 sensor is an open collector type — that is, it sinks current when triggered — it behaves like a simple button to gpiozero, the Raspberry Pi Python GPIO library. If you attach a callback function to the sensor’s when_pressed event, your Python script will call that function every time it registers a clap.

The wiring is as simple as it could be:

 VM-CLAP1: Raspberry Pi:
 ========= =============
      GND → GND
      PWR → 3V3
      OUT → GPIO 4

This example code just prints clap! when the board picks up a 👏:

#!/usr/bin/env python3
# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-

# Raspberry Pi gpiozero test for
# Verbal Machines VM-CLAP1 clap sensor
#   scruss - 2017-06
# Wiring:
#  VM-CLAP1:    Raspberry Pi:
#  =========    =============
#    GND     →   GND
#    PWR     →   3V3
#    OUT     →   GPIO 4

from gpiozero import Button
from signal import pause

def clapping():

clap = Button(4)
clap.when_pressed = clapping

This is a trivial example, but at least it shows that anything you can do with a button, you can also do with this hand-clap sensor.

Clap Sensor part for Fritzing

I have no idea if this wiring would work, but it’s pretty …

For work, I blogged about Verbal MachinesHand Clap Sensor VM-CLAP1 (“Clap on 👏👏, Clap off 👏👏 – Elmwood Electronics”). I’ve made a preliminary part for Fritzing for the board: VM-CLAP1 Clap Sensor for

It should work in Breadboard and Schematic mode, but absolutely doesn’t work in PCB mode. This shouldn’t be a problem, as it’s only available as a standalone board. Fritzing doesn’t have any way to create new parts from scratch any more, so I had to base it on a somewhat similar-looking board, the SparkFun Electret Microphone Breakout.

I’m looking forward to see what I can do with gpiozero and the clap sensor.

Headless Raspberry Pi + VNC: useful resolution

Breadboards of Canada …

I just set up a Raspberry Pi Zero to be a little breadboard computer. Running a headless machine only through SSH gets a bit dull at times, so the inclusion of VNC Connect in Raspbian is handy.

Only problem was that the default screen size — something like 720×480 — was too small for most dialogue windows. Here’s how to enable a more useful resolution of 1024 × 768.

All of these are enabled from the raspi-config tool, so open a terminal and start it with:

sudo raspi-config

Enable Boot to Desktop

Select 3 Boot OptionsB1 Desktop / CLIB4 Desktop Autologin:

Enable VNC on Startup

Select 5 Interfacing OptionsP3 VNC, and answer Yes to Would you like the VNC Server to be enabled?:

Set Screen Resolution

Select 7 Advanced OptionsA5 ResolutionDMT Mode 16 (1024×768) …:

Once you’ve enabled all of these, raspi-config will ask if you wish to reboot your Raspberry Pi. Once it has rebooted, you should have a usable remote desktop.

(All of the above screenshots were taken from a headless Raspberry Pi Zero via VNC.)

Before & After

These were taken later on a Raspberry Pi 2 I’m setting up for a maker festival booth:

decidedly smol: 720×480
fix it to 1024×768 …
so much better!

The Pocket DEC Pretender (PDP) Zero

PDP (Pocket DEC Pretender) Zero: lettering came out a bit more, um,  artisanal than I’d hoped …

Digital (aka DEC) used to make some very solid minicomputers back when a minicomputer was fridge-sized and people were still building nuclear power stations to be controlled by them. The Raspberry Pi Zero is a very mini computer indeed, and in USB gadget mode running SimH it makes a nice little emulation platform.

The case is from Thingiverse: One Piece Raspberry Pi Zero + Camera Case (with GPIO) by Superrei, but with the DEC PDP logo in relief on the top.

DEC minis were famous for their arrays of blinkenlights. The Pocket DEC Pretender, not so much: it has one tiny green light that flickers a bit now and again:

PDP (Pocket DEC Pretender) Zero: case open, very few blinkenlights

But it’s a genuinely useful (for my values of useful) emulation platform. Here it is pretending to be a PDP-8, running BASIC under OS-8:

PDP (Pocket DEC Pretender) Zero: PDP-8 BASIC!

(background in case pictures woven in Toronto by Deftly Weft)