Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Setting up the Raspberry PI with the 7 inch touch screen and SmartiPi Touch display mount.

I recently got the Official Raspberry Pi touch screen and the SmartiPi Touch display mount. The main reason I got it was that I was getting a couple things that are intended to work with a computer, and I wanted said computer to be portable.  And the Raspberry Pi with Touch screen could be run off of a USB battery.  And this also means I (or my kids) won't be tying up a computer (or a desk) that I would rather be using for work while they do their explorations.

The standard references for assembling the SmartiPi Touch are the videos by the creator, Thomas Murray, and and a more complete video by Francesco Vannini (both videos embedded at end for reference)
However, many commentators have noted that there is not a good set of written directions, and I think the big disadvantage of an expert commentator is that they don't always remember to say things that a non-expert may have a hard time figuring out. I mostly followed Francesco Vannini's video, so here are a few additional notes.

Here are the boxes, with a Raspberry Pi. Not pictured is the Sense HAT that I will also put on.
Raspberry pi in a Smartipi Touch case with touchscreen display in boxes

Raspberry pi in a Smartipi Touch case with touchscreen display unboxed
All the components from both boxes. Note that not everything will be used.

Raspberry pi mounted in a Smartipi Touch case
At this point I have:


  1. Added rubber feet to the corners of the stand (back side of the part that is mounted on the hinges). 
  2. Attached stand to case body using included nut and bolt.
  3. Connected the display connector ribbon to both the display driver and the Raspberry Pi. I used the one that came with the touch display. I should have used the one that came with the SmartiPi case because it was longer and would have been easier. 
  4. Mounted the Raspberry Pi to the display case. the instructions state I could either use the screws to mount the Raspberry Pi or I could use the hinge cover (bottom of picture). The cover has plastic that is sized to touch the Raspberry Pi when closed so I choose that option. 
  5. Screwed the case back to the display. Note that one of the screws will be covered by the cover and any HAT so I tightened this now instead of waiting until the end to tighten everything.


Raspberry Pi camera module with mounted Raspberry Pi and SmartiPi Touch case.  Note that the ribbon that comes with the camera will be just long enough to mount to the top or side LEGO studs. A longer camera cable will be useful since the Raspberry Pi with display and case is going to be placed on a table top, which is not necessarily where you want the camera.

Raspberry Pi camera module with mounted Raspberry Pi and SmartiPi Touch case

Here is the camera attached to the Raspberry Pi. Note that it goes through the slots in the door and the Sense HAT.

Raspberry Pi camera ribbon connected through door and Sense HAT

Now, attach the door, then mount the Sense HAT and tighten the screws on the Sense HAT.  Note that the screws come with rubber spaces that put the HAT the right distance above the door.

Pi Camera connector ribbon attached through Sense HAT and door


Picamera added to Raspberry Pi in SmartiPi Touch Case on the top LEGO pieces. I used a 4X6 plate because it is long enough to reach the back LEGO mount for the top. (mounting to the side could be done with camera mount as is)

Picamera added to Raspberry Pi in SmartiPi Touch Case


Pi camera mounted to LEGO from back

Pi camera mounted to LEGO from back

The working camera.  Note that I have the whole thing running off a USB battery.  I usually have this connected to a keyboard, and use a touch screen to serve as a mouse.  It really needs a longer camera connector ribbon. I tried to mount it on a LEGO stand, but the SmartiPi case had to be right next to the stand.

Working Pi Camera





Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Parenting Month 79: A voice and a will

Our little threenager is definitely willing to let her views be known.  Every day is punctuated by cries of 'Mine!' 'I want!  and the occasional 'please' and 'thank you.'  So not nearly as agreeable as big brother was at that age.  On the other hand, she is more daring, willing to try things for a moment.  More active in her play and coloring, less able to keep a long term focus on anything.  Also is as possessive as a three year old usually is (big brother was not)

Favorite song:  How far I'll Go (Moana)
Favorite toy: Duplos
Favorite food: Strawberries
What is mommy good for:  food and sleeping
What is daddy good for: reading and exercising
What is gege good for: hitting and pushing
What is laulau good for:  food
What is yehyeh good for:  playing


First media appearance - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Parenting Month 78: he is still a bean

Every now and then we get a startling reminder that our 6 1/2 yr old is still quite young, and not so big. In this case it has been in Taekwondo, which for him has been an arena where his sense of focus for his age has shined. Now, he has moved up to the 7-12 year old group (at our school, kids move up in age group from the 4-6 yr old group after they turn 7 or when they reach 3rd grade decided (i.e. the next testing is for brown belt ). T was the only one in his group to promote out of the 4-6 yr groupings (as opposed to aging out).  So he is the youngest one in his class, and the second smallest.


Doing the laundry
T is the bean in the second row, and smallest in the room


Being one of the two smallest in this age group class leads to a few oddities.  The mother of the smallest kid asking if T was going to be in the in-school tournament, because she wants to know if there will someone else of approximately the same size.  An earlier conversation with the same mom where we agreed to present a united plan about a class that we are pretty sure the kids will be asking about at some point.  Practicing self-defense techniques (arm bar) with someone about twice his size.

Our other highlight this month was being a host to his cousin. Said cousin is two years older, and that still makes a big difference as T is still the happy bouncing bean that you expect in early elementary.   But they still are close enough that they can play and explore together.

Section of Mysteries
What is in the Section of Mystery?

Doing the laundry
Time to unload the washer
Doing the laundry
Starting the dryer (and get the next load for the washer ready)

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Parenting month 77: Moves and changes

This month was marked by a move.  We did not move far, close enough that all of our commute patterns are essentially unchanged. But it was a move. And for our kids, we told them what would happen, they would leave home to go to school, then when they came back, it would be to a new house.  And so it was.

One thing I appreciate about my kids is how adaptable they are. Especially my son (who is older), it seems that anyplace we take him, no matter what the situation, he will enjoy himself with us. Of, course, the key is that we are with him (he is slow to open up to strangers), but with that in mind, he pretty much adapts to anything, any place. This makes traveling very easy, and the move was a non-issue as far as the kids were concerned.

My son is pretty good about following me around doing small tasks. Anything that involves a screwdriver, he is good for.  And little assemblies of things are fair game as well.

In other news, his academic rank in his school is now in competition. In the online math exercises his school does, there is someone else in First grade who suddenly discovered the website in earnest. So while T and a few others at the school were in the lead getting 100-200 points a week all year, this boy suddenly did 1000 points in a week, followed by 500 points in a week.  So, now T is not the first in first grade anymore.  If anyone has been paying attention, the 8th and 7th graders should have noticed that there is a 1st grader in the school lead, and that there is a first grade class is in the lead by classes as well. But not being first is something that T notices, and he is not way ahead of everyone anymore. And that is good to know at this age.

Other notes:  with a new house means we have rooms for things we did not do before. We turned out basement into a workout area where we have covered a large section with exercise mats, which is big enough to do taekwondo forms. So we practice taekwondo. We also practice stretches and bodyweight exercises. I have a set of cards from Stack52.com that we use. T can pick from the basic exercise cards, and this leads to a reasonable workout that he can lead that covers many of the exercises we do at taekwondo (and a few new ones) He very much enjoys it, and he also wants to use the equipment we have (but I think he is too young for weight equipment, bodyweight strength exercises is good for now.

Both of them have a bit of combativeness and resistance in them.  We probably are still in the realm of not noticeable for most families with young children, but it is a noticeable deterioration in behavior that we see.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Parenting Month 76: No longer one of the little kids

The major milestone of the kids is the 6 year old has had his last American Taekwondo Association (ATA) Tigers belt testing.  In the ATA, the Tigers is the group for 4-6 year olds where they allow for follow the leader in testing and advance at half speed (in each testing, they cover half of the form that the older groups do. Developmentally, this makes a lot of sense, somewhere around 7-8 kids begin to reliably tell left from right and there sense of time and sequencing develops.  However, at this school, they join the older kids (7-12) after the first half of blue belt (i.e. they will test for brown belt with the older kids).  At this testing cycle, he is the only one to advance due to belt promotion (there are two others doing the same, but because they turned 7)


ATA color belt testing
Blue belt testing.

One thing we have appreciated about his taekwondo classes and tournaments is that he has been one of the smallest ones, but has generally been one of the more focused kids, which results in him being noticeably more in line with the class than the others his age. And the way that manifests itself is that the teachers use him to flex pairings during sparring or self-defense testing, he will match his partner. While generally they try to match kids on size and temperament, they can pair him with smaller or shyer kids because he won't bully people over.  And with the bigger kids, he has enough skill that he will not get knocked over or hurt.

But now that he is with the older kids, as the youngest and one of the smallest in the room (there is one smaller). And we actually like it that way. We have always felt that we wanted him to be comparing himself to kids who were older, bigger, and smarter than him, so that there would always be someone ahead of him and he would always know what better looks like.  We have appreciated this in Taekwondo, where the teaching philosophy is that at whatever level a student was, the aim of the day's lesson was to always get better.
ATA color belt testing
High block


We think that T has shined in this setting, and anyplace like that where we have been able to create that. We get worried when he gets too many accolades this young, because we want him to be ready for the challenges in the future. And at this age, it is best if he is always learning and competing with people who have natural advantages over him, so when that changes, he will do well.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Parenting Month 75: A is for Attitude

Our two year old is speaking more and more. As foreshadowed by many events, she talks, pretty much non-stop.  And if she was able to proclaim her will when she was 18 months and not actually knowing words, she show guile now that she actually has english and chinese vocabulary.  While big brother is getting pretty good to, it is even money on whether he is learning from his classmates, or if he is learning guile from his little sister.

On the other side of the equation, we are seeing that there is tradeoff.  While little sister clearly is well beyond what big brother was like verbally and socially, we remember how generally agreeable and happy he was in simple ways. And especially the fact that big brother could concentrate on something for extended periods of time.  And the effect is that while there are things that little sister does that big brother did not at the same age, there were many opportunities we could provide big brother at that age because he was so well controlled and he could focus and be satisfied with one thing for extended periods of time.  If you asked us who is smarter, we both would say little sister, but big brother could maintain his attention and stick to things longer that she can now.  And that is starting to show the difference.

T has been learning how to lie. And we suspect he is picking this up at school, because when he does, he has this habit of looking to see if it was successful. So whenever we notice that pause, we start to think about what has he just said. At this point, it is experimentation.  He is also still very bad at hiding things. One little habit he has is when he makes a mess on something. He will come along and ask for things that happen to be cleaning supplies, and inform us that there is no need for us to go look at ___.  At this point, while we immediately go look, we are being good at merely helping him clean up after himself. And hoping he does not get better at hiding.

Last, we have a couple more events. His first college basketball game:


Pitt women's basketball friends and family day
Getting a tiger named T, because then if there is trouble, he can say that T did it without lying.

Pitt women's basketball friends and family day
Presenting the colors for the national anthem



Pitt women's basketball friends and family day
Pitt colors at the Pitt game

Friday, December 30, 2016

Parenting Month 74: New environments

The highlight of the month has been two weeks in Thailand. We have had a desire to make sure that our kids experience a world that is different than the upper middle class suburbia we live in.  In contrast, our family in Bangkok, Thailand is in the middle of a city of 8 million people and is a place where wealth lives side-by-side with poverty, much different than the U.S. where we are very segregated economically.


Jumping on the boat at the pier
Someone jumping onto a riverboat before it leaves the pier


T experienced a number of new experiences.  He used a river boat that was a means of transportation (not just a tourist boat), he rode a tuk-tuk (2 stroke engine powered tricycle-cab), and walked down a street market daily.

Wai phra at the local street market
Wai Phra to a monk on the street market on Petchburi Soi 5
Dodging traffic on a Soi
Letting some cars go by in the morning street market
Our general approach to raising our children has been encouraging competence. This has included skills such as woodworking, using tools, and generally toys that involve building. But we also want to include social competence, meaning that they can function in a world different than the suburban upper middle class world we live in.  So on this trip we did some normal tourist things like going to the malls and temples, but we also did things that were closer to how life was lived, like going to the local street market every day to get food for breakfast, or traveling by river boat on commuter boats (as opposed to the tourist boat). We taught him how to read maps for train and boat, to practice social curtesies with everyone, and to become more aware of his surroundings. 

He obviously stands out. The very casual dress compared to school kids, the fact that he bounces along as he walks would make him stand out even if he was not speaking english. And in social status conscious Thailand, this particularly makes him stand out as many service personnel have gotten used to not having their curtesies returned by those of higher social class, so my six year old stands out from greeting everyone he interacts with properly.

When I was in Afghanistan, I had spoken frequently with a former CIA officer on a range of topics. One day he commented that I was someone who could go anywhere in the world and learn to interact with anyone. Now, that is not true, I spent much of my growing up years just trying to reduce how much I got yelled at instead of building competencies, and I was still getting used to being in a place where it was acceptable to act when lives were in danger. But being a parent, I can think about what it would take to actually be such a person. And that would include learning to function in new environments, with new social rules and requirements, and new patterns of life. Even now as someone this young.

We hope that he will experience three cultures growing up: the U.S., Thailand, and China. And that this could be a springboard for being the type of person my colleague talked about. 

Riding a river boat on the Chao Praya river
Riding a river boat

Thailand 2016 Trip anecdotes part 2


  • T playing with a 4 year old Thai girl. They do not have a common language, but one of their games is to whisper in each other's ear. 
  • Realizing that said 4 year old has never colored (with crayons) before.
  • Said 4 year old trying to quiet down A's tantrum by shushing her. 
  • We think that she likes the fact that there is someone in the family compound that is younger than her. 
  • Our go to method for shortstopping a two year old tantrum, get her singing. A sang alot this trip.
  • People on the BTS train offering us their seats because we have young children with us. This happened every single time. (Except Christmas Eve, which is why A singing was so exceptional that night.) 
  • I got a lot of exercise carrying around A in a ring sling.
  • The boys went to see Rogue One. This is T's third movie in a theater.
  • At my father's one year remembrance, T was told to watch the door and greet (wai) everyone who came in, and he did. 
  • T going to the street market on his last morning to give food to the monk, and chatting with the monk after the blessing. 
  • I don't think I'll get used to being greeted by 'sawasdee pii' from professional adults ('pii' refers to someone older, I'm used to using it to refer to older kids, not adults)
  • A likes to pass the time by singing songs she knows from daycare or YouTube videos. Our soundtrack from the vacation is highlighted by Everything is Awesome, the LEGO Movie theme song by The Lonely Island 
  • T passes time by singing songs from school. We are starting to suspect that he is making up lyrics for the songs. 
  • On the trip back, we had to walk a long way between gates to catch a connection, A saying to T "keep walking" (they had been watching Finding Dory on the plane, Dory's catch phrase is "keep swimming") 
  • Waiting at O'hare for the last leg, A was singing and dancing in the waiting area. Completely inappropriate for a 2 year old who left grandma's house over 24 hours ago. 
  • A woke up around 2 AM for her morning concert. Which is when I am writing this.