Hardware

Hardware Hacking Made Easy With CircuitPython - Episode 212

Summary

Learning to program can be a frustrating process, because even the simplest code relies on a complex stack of other moving pieces to function. When working with a microcontroller you are in full control of everything so there are fewer concepts that need to be understood in order to build a functioning project. CircuitPython is a platform for beginner developers that provides easy to use abstractions for working with hardware devices. In this episode Scott Shawcroft explains how the project got started, how it relates to MicroPython, some of the cool ways that it is being used, and how you can get started with it today. If you are interested in playing with low cost devices without having to learn and use C then give this a listen and start tinkering!

Announcements

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  • Your host as usual is Tobias Macey and today I’m interviewing Scott Shawcroft about CircuitPython, the easiest way to program microcontrollers

Interview

  • Introductions
  • How did you get introduced to Python?
  • Can you start by explaining what CircuitPython is and how the project got started?
    • I understand that you work at Adafruit and I know that a number of their products support CircuitPython. What other runtimes do you support?
  • Microcontrollers have typically been the domain of C because of the resource and performance constraints. What are the benefits of using Python to program hardware devices?
  • With the wide availability of powerful computing platforms, what are the benefits of experimenting with microcontrollers and their peripherals?
  • I understand that CircuitPython is a friendly fork of MicroPython. What have you changed in your version?
    • How do you structure your development to avoid conflicts with the upstream project?
    • What are some changes that you have contributed back to MicroPython?
  • What are some of the features of CircuitPython that make it easier for users to interact with sensors, motors, etc.?
  • CircuitPython provides an easy on-ramp for experimenting with hardware projects. Is there a point where a user will outgrow it and need to move to a different language or framework?
  • What are some of the most interesting/innovative/unexpected projects that you have seen people build using CircuitPython?
    • Are there any cases of someone building and shipping a production grade project in CircuitPython?
  • What have been some of the most interesting/challenging/unexpected aspects of building and maintaining CircuitPython?
  • What is in store for the future of the project?

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The intro and outro music is from Requiem for a Fish The Freak Fandango Orchestra / CC BY-SA

Helping Teacher's Bring Python Into The Classroom With Nicholas Tollervey - Episode 173

Summary

There are a number of resources available for teaching beginners to code in Python and many other languages, and numerous endeavors to introduce programming to educational environments. Sometimes those efforts yield success and others can simply lead to frustration on the part of the teacher and the student. In this episode Nicholas Tollervey discusses his work as a teacher and a programmer, his work on the micro:bit project and the PyCon UK education summit, as well as his thoughts on the place that Python holds in educational programs for teaching the next generation.

Preface

  • Hello and welcome to Podcast.__init__, the podcast about Python and the people who make it great.
  • When you’re ready to launch your next app you’ll need somewhere to deploy it, so check out Linode. With private networking, shared block storage, node balancers, and a 200Gbit network, all controlled by a brand new API you’ve got everything you need to scale up. Go to podcastinit.com/linode to get a $20 credit and launch a new server in under a minute.
  • Visit the site to subscribe to the show, sign up for the newsletter, and read the show notes. And if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions I would love to hear them. You can reach me on Twitter at @Podcast__init__ or email [email protected])
  • To help other people find the show please leave a review on iTunes, or Google Play Music, tell your friends and co-workers, and share it on social media.
  • Join the community in the new Zulip chat workspace at podcastinit.com/chat
  • Your host as usual is Tobias Macey and today I’m interviewing Nicholas Tollervey about his efforts to improve the accessibility of Python for educators

Interview

  • Introductions
  • How did you get introduced to Python?
  • How has your experience as a teacher influenced your work as a software engineer?
  • What are some of the ways that practicing software engineers can be most effective in supporting the efforts teachers and students to become computationally literate?
    • What are your views on the reasons that computational literacy is important for students?
  • What are some of the most difficult barriers that need to be overcome for students to engage with Python?
    • How important is it, in your opinion, to expose students to text-based programming, as opposed to the block-based environment of tools such as Scratch?
    • At what age range do you think we should be trying to engage students with programming?
  • When the teacher’s day was introduced as part of the education summit for PyCon UK what was the initial reception from the educators who attended?
    • How has the format for the teacher’s portion of the conference changed in the subsequent years?
    • What have been some of the most useful or beneficial aspects for the teacher’s and how much engagement occurs between the conferences?
  • What was your involvement in the initiative that brought the BBC micro:bit to UK classrooms?
    • What kinds of feedback have you gotten from students who have had an opportunity to use them?
    • What are some of the most interesting or unexpected uses of the micro:bit that you have seen?

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The intro and outro music is from Requiem for a Fish The Freak Fandango Orchestra / CC BY-SA

Donkey: Building Self Driving Cars with Will Roscoe - Episode 132

Summary

Do you wish that you had a self-driving car of your own? With Donkey you can make that dream a reality. This week Will Roscoe shares the story of how he got involved in the arena of self-driving car hobbyists and ended up building a Python library to act as his pilot. We talked about the hardware involved, how he has evolved the code to meet unexpected challenges, and how he plans to improve it in the future. So go build your own self driving car and take it for a spin!

Preface

  • Hello and welcome to Podcast.__init__, the podcast about Python and the people who make it great.
  • I would like to thank everyone who supports us on Patreon. Your contributions help to make the show sustainable.
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  • If you’re tired of cobbling together your deployment pipeline then it’s time to try out GoCD, the open source continuous delivery platform built by the people at ThoughtWorks who wrote the book about it. With GoCD you get complete visibility into the life-cycle of your software from one location. To download it now go to podcatinit.com/gocd. Professional support and enterprise plugins are available for added piece of mind.
  • Visit the site to subscribe to the show, sign up for the newsletter, and read the show notes. And if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions I would love to hear them. You can reach me on Twitter at @Podcast__init__ or email [email protected])
  • To help other people find the show please leave a review on iTunes, or Google Play Music, tell your friends and co-workers, and share it on social media.
  • Your host as usual is Tobias Macey and today I’m interviewing Will Roscoe about Donkey, a python library for building DIY self driving cars.

Interview

  • Introductions
  • How did you get introduced to Python?
  • What is Donkey and what was your reason for creating it?
    • What is the story behind the name?
  • What was your reason for choosing Python as the language for implementing Donkey and if you were to start over today would you make the same choice?
  • How is Donkey implemented and how has its software architecture evolved?
  • Is the library built in a way that you can process inputs from additional sensor types, such as proximity detectors or LIDAR?
  • For training the autopilot what are the input features that the model is testing against for the input data, and is it possible to change the features that it will try to detect?
  • Do you have plans to incorporate any negative reinforcement techniques for training the pilot models so that errors in data collection can be identified as undesirable outcomes?
  • What have been some of the most interesting or humorous successes and failures while testing your cars?
  • What are some of the challenges involved with getting such a sophisticated stack of software running on a Raspberry Pi?
  • What are some of the improvements or new features that you have planned for the future of Donkey?

Media

Donkey Car Photos

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The intro and outro music is from Requiem for a Fish The Freak Fandango Orchestra / CC BY-SA

Industrial Automation with Jonas Neubert - Episode 114

Summary

We all use items that are produced in factories, but do you ever stop to think about the code that powers that production? This week Jonas Neubert takes us behind the scenes and talks about the systems and software that power modern facilities, the development workflows, and how Python gets used to tie everything together.

Preface

  • Hello and welcome to Podcast.__init__, the podcast about Python and the people who make it great.
  • I would like to thank everyone who supports us on Patreon. Your contributions help to make the show sustainable.
  • When you’re ready to launch your next project you’ll need somewhere to deploy it. Check out Linode at www.podastinit.com/linode and get a $20 credit to try out their fast and reliable Linux virtual servers for running your awesome app.
  • Visit the site to subscribe to the show, sign up for the newsletter, read the show notes, and get in touch.
  • To help other people find the show please leave a review on iTunes, or Google Play Music, tell your friends and co-workers, and share it on social media.
  • Your host as usual is Tobias Macey and today I’m interviewing Jonas Neubert about using Python for industrial automation

Interview

  • Introductions
  • How did you get introduced to Python?
  • How did you get involved in factory automation?
  • What are some of the technical challenges that are unique to a factory environment and the physical computing needs associated with it?
  • When developing new capabilities for your factory, how do you manage proper testing of your software given the need to interoperate with the hardware?
  • Which languages are most frequently used for command and control of industrial systems and how does Python interface with them?
  • How do you manage the problem of interfacing with the various different protocols and data formats that are presented by the different hardware instruments?
  • In your PyCon presentation you commented on the fact that security in industrial automation systems is lacking. What are some of the most common issues that you have seen?
    • Why is it that security is such an issue in industrial systems?
  • How are production releases of your software managed and how does it differ from other types of products such as web applications?
  • Aside from manufacturing facilities, what are some other types of environments or industries that require similar levels of hardware automation?
  • What are some of the most interesting or challenging projects that you have worked on?
  • What are some of the packages on PyPI that you find most useful in your day-to-day work?
  • For someone who wants to get involved in industrial automation what kind of experience should they have and what are some of the resources that you recommend?
  • What are some of the innovations in industrial automation that you are most excited about?

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The intro and outro music is from Requiem for a Fish The Freak Fandango Orchestra / CC BY-SA

SKIDL with Dave Vandenbout - Episode 96

Summary

As circuits and electronic components become more complex, visual circuit building tools are more difficult to use effectively. If you wish that you could just write your circuits in Python then you’re in luck! Dave Vandenbout created a library called SKIDL that brings the power and flexibility of Python to the realm of Electrical Engineering and he tells us all about it in this weeks show.

Preamble

  • Hello and welcome to Podcast.__init__, the podcast about Python and the people who make it great.
  • I would like to thank everyone who has donated to the show. Your contributions help us make the show sustainable.
  • When you’re ready to launch your next project you’ll need somewhere to deploy it. Check out Linode at linode.com/podcastinit and get a $20 credit to try out their fast and reliable Linux virtual servers for running your awesome app.
  • Visit our site to subscribe to our show, sign up for our newsletter, read the show notes, and get in touch.
  • To help other people find the show you can leave a review on iTunes, or Google Play Music, and tell your friends and co-workers
  • Join our community! Visit discourse.pythonpodcast.com for your opportunity to find out about upcoming guests, suggest questions, and propose show ideas.
  • Your host as usual is Tobias Macey and today I’m interviewing Dave Vandenbout about SKIDL, a library for designing and validating circuit layouts.

Interview

  • Introductions
  • How did you get introduced to Python?
  • Can you describe what SKIDL is and the problem that you were trying to solve when you first started it?
  • Most of my experience designing circuits has been done using a graphical tool. If you are using Python for the entire layout does it become difficult to understand the overall circuit without the visual representation?
    • Is there a way to generate a circuit diagram from the SKIDL code for a visual reference?
  • It seems that there is a substantial amount of electrical knowledge required to be able to design and build schematics in code. For someone who is more of a hobbyist or is just starting to work with circuit design are there any facilities of SKIDL to assist with that understanding?
  • What does the testing and validation process of a generated circuit look like?
  • What does the internal architecture of SKIDL look like and what are some of the biggest challenges that you have faced while building it?
  • For the generated netlist does SKIDL take into account voltage losses due to the lengths of the traces in the final PCB and does it have any facilities to optimize the overall layout for space and efficiency?
  • Sometimes a circuit board is meant to be accessible for maintenance or even display purposes. Is it possible to specify the arrangement of components to make them more aesthetically pleasing or to space them so that they are easier to access physical interface ports (e.g. GPIO pins or I2C buses)?
  • What are some of the most interesting or surprising uses of SKIDL that you have seen?

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The intro and outro music is from Requiem for a Fish The Freak Fandango Orchestra / CC BY-SA

Mycroft with Steve Penrod - Episode 82

Summary

Speech is the most natural interface for communication, and yet we force ourselves to conform to the limitations of our tools in our daily tasks. As computation becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous and artificial intelligence becomes more capable, voice becomes a more practical means of controlling our environments. This week Steve Penrod shares the work that is being done on the Mycroft project and the company of the same name. He explains how he met the other members of the team, how the project got started, what it can do right now, and where they are headed in the future.

Brief Introduction

  • Hello and welcome to Podcast.__init__, the podcast about Python and the people who make it great.
  • I would like to thank everyone who has donated to the show. Your contributions help us make the show sustainable.
  • When you’re ready to launch your next project you’ll need somewhere to deploy it. Check out Linode at linode.com/podcastinit and get a $20 credit to try out their fast and reliable Linux virtual servers for running your awesome app.
  • You’ll want to make sure that your users don’t have to put up with bugs, so you should use Rollbar for tracking and aggregating your application errors to find and fix the bugs in your application before your users notice they exist. Use the link rollbar.com/podcastinit to get 90 days and 300,000 errors for free on their bootstrap plan.
  • Visit our site to subscribe to our show, sign up for our newsletter, read the show notes, and get in touch.
  • To help other people find the show you can leave a review on iTunes, or Google Play Music, and tell your friends and co-workers
  • Join our community! Visit discourse.pythonpodcast.com to talk to previous guests and other listeners of the show.
  • Your host as usual is Tobias Macey and today I’m interviewing Steve Penrod about the company and project Mycroft, a voice controlled, AI powered personal assistant written in Python.

Interview with Steve Penrod

  • Introductions
  • How did you get introduced to Python?
  • Can you start by describing what Mycroft is and how the project and business got started?
  • How is Mycroft architected and what are the biggest challenges that you have encountered while building this project?
  • What are some of the possible applications of Mycroft?
  • Why would someone choose to use Mycroft in place of other platforms such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s personal assistant?
  • What kinds of machine learning approaches are being used in Mycroft and do they require a remote system for execution or can they be run locally?
  • What kind of hardware is needed for someone who wants to build their own Mycroft and what does the install process look like?
  • It can be difficult to run a business based on open source. What benefits and challenges are introduced by making the software that powers Mycroft freely available?
  • What are the mechanisms for extending Mycroft to add new capabilities?
  • What are some of the most surprising and innovative uses of Mycroft that you have seen?
  • What are the long term goals for the Mycroft project and the business that you have formed around it?

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The intro and outro music is from Requiem for a Fish The Freak Fandango Orchestra / CC BY-SA

Test Engineering with Cris Medina - Episode 68

Summary

We all know that testing is an important part of software and systems development. The problem is that as our systems and applications grow, the amount of testing necessary increases at an exponential rate. Cris Medina joins us this week to talk about some of the problems and approaches associated with testing these complex systems and some of the ways that Python can help.

Brief Introduction

  • Hello and welcome to Podcast.__init__, the podcast about Python and the people who make it great.
  • I would like to thank everyone who has donated to the show. Your contributions help us make the show sustainable. For details on how to support the show you can visit our site at pythonpodcast.com
  • Linode is sponsoring us this week. Check them out at linode.com/podcastinit and get a $20 credit to try out their fast and reliable Linux virtual servers for your next project
  • We are also sponsored by Sentry this week. Stop hoping your users will report bugs. Sentry’s real-time tracking gives you insight into production deployments and information to reproduce and fix crashes. Check them out at getsentry.com
  • Hired has also returned as a sponsor this week. If you’re looking for a job as a developer or designer then Hired will bring the opportunities to you. Sign up at hired.com/podcastinit to double your signing bonus.
  • The O’Reilly Velocity conference is coming to New York this September and we have a free ticket to give away. If you would like the chance to win it then just sign up for our newsletter at pythonpodcast.com
  • To help other people find the show you can leave a review on iTunes, and tell your friends and co-workers
  • Join our community! Visit discourse.pythonpodcast.com for your opportunity to find out about upcoming guests, suggest questions, and propose show ideas.
  • Your hosts as usual are Tobias Macey and Chris Patti
  • Today we’re interviewing Cris Medina about test engineering for large and complex systems.

Interview with Cris Medina

  • Introductions
  • How did you get introduced to Python? – Chris
  • To get us started can you share your definition of test engineering and how it differs from the types of testing that your average developer is used to? – Tobias
  • What are some common industries or situations where this kind of test engineering becomes necessary? – Tobias
  • How and where does Python fit into the kind of testing that becomes necessary when dealing with these complex systems? – Tobias
  • How do you determine which areas of a system to test and how can Python help in that discovery process? – Tobias
  • What are some of your favorite tools and libraries for this kind of work? – Tobias
  • What are some of the areas where the existing Python tooling falls short? – Tobias
  • Given the breadth of concerns that are encompassed with testing the various components of these large systems, what are some ways that a test engineer can get a high-level view of the overall state? – Tobias
    • How can that information be distilled for presentation to other areas of the business? – Tobias
    • Could that information be used to provide a compelling business case for the resources required to test properly? – Chris
  • Given the low-level nature of this kind of work I imagine that proper visibility of the work being done can be difficult. How do you make sure that management can properly see and appreciate your efforts? – Tobias

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The intro and outro music is from Requiem for a Fish The Freak Fandango Orchestra / CC BY-SA

Onion IoT with Lazar and Zheng - Episode 56

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Summary

One of the biggest new trends in technology is the Internet of Things and one of the driving forces is the wealth of new sensors and platforms that are being continually introduced. In this episode we spoke with the founder and head engineer of one such platform named Onion. The Omega board is a new hardware platform that runs OpenWRT and lets you configure it using a number of languages, not least of which is Python.

Brief Introduction

  • Hello and welcome to Podcast.__init__, the podcast about Python and the people who make it great.
  • I would like to thank everyone who has donated to the show. Your contributions help us make the show sustainable. For details on how to support the show you can visit our site at pythonpodcast.com
  • Linode is sponsoring us this week. Check them out at linode.com/podcastinit and get a $20 credit to try out their fast and reliable Linux virtual servers for your next project
  • We are also sponsored by Rollbar this week. Rollbar is a service for tracking and aggregating your application errors so that you can find and fix the bugs in your application before your users notice they exist. Use the link rollbar.com/podcastinit to get 90 days and 300,000 errors for free on their bootstrap plan.
  • Visit our site to subscribe to our show, sign up for our newsletter, read the show notes, and get in touch.
  • To help other people find the show you can leave a review on iTunes, or Google Play Music, and tell your friends and co-workers
  • Join our community! Visit discourse.pythonpodcast.com for your opportunity to find out about upcoming guests, suggest questions, and propose show ideas.
  • The Open Data Science Conference in Boston is happening on May 21st and 22nd. If you use the code EP during registration you will save 20% off of the ticket price. If you decide to attend then let us know, we’ll see you there!
  • Your hosts as usual are Tobias Macey and Chris Patti
  • Today we are interviewing Lazar and Zheng about the Onion IoT platform

Interview with Lazar and Zheng

  • Introductions
  • How did you get introduced to Python? – Chris
  • What is the Onion platform and how does it leverage Python? – Tobias
  • Can you compare and contrast the Python support you provide for Onion as compared with Raspberry Pi? – Chris
  • I noticed that you are using the OpenWRT distribution of Linux in order to provide support for multiple languages. What was the driving intent behind choosing it and why is multiple language support so important for an IoT product? – Tobias
  • Do you provide any libraries for using with the Omega to abstract away some of the hardware level tasks? What are some of the design considerations that were involved when developing that? – Tobias
  • What are some of the most interesting projects you have seen people build with Python on your platform? – Tobias

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The intro and outro music is from Requiem for a Fish The Freak Fandango Orchestra / CC BY-SA

Damien George Talks To Us About MicroPython - Episode 15

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Summary

We talked to Damien George about his work on the Micro Python interpreter and the PyBoard SOC (Systom On a Chip). The combination of the interpreter and SOC allows Python developers to get involved in hardware hacking, as well as letting electronics afficionados try their hand at development. Damien explained to us where this fits in with the expanding landscape of low cost embedded devices and why you should get one to start playing with it.

Brief Introduction

  • Date of recording – June 29th, 2015
  • Hosts – Tobias Macey and Chris Patti
  • Follow us on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn
  • Give us feedback! (iTunes, Twitter, email, Disqus comments)
  • You can donate (if you want)!
  • Overview – Interview with Damien George from the Micro Python project

Interview with Damien George

  • Introductions
    • Postdoc in Theoretical Physics
  • How did you get introduced to Python?
  • What problem were you trying to solve when you first had the idea to create the Micro Python board and interpreter?
    • Not really :)
    • Python lets you get things done quickly
    • Abstracts the hardware really well
  • In the Kickstarter video you mention that Micro Python is a complete re-implementation of Python optimized to run on a micro-controller. How hard was it to create an alternative Python implementation? Did you have hard decisions to make as to what to include given the limitations of the hardware?
    • To start with, was it even possible?
      • Proof of Concept: Get a REPL running on the board
    • Lots of tricks to get things to fit into RAM
      • Stuffing integers into pointers
      • Optimizing RAM at various points
      • Runs the parser 4 times, looking for different things each time
      • Lots of things are stored in ROM in the built-in Flash
    • Very fine efficiency trade off between code size, memory usage, speed.
    • REPL runs in 1K of RAM!
      • Most of this is the parse tree
    • 20 line script might take ~5K RAM
    • 128K RAM on the Micro Python board
    • Not 100% Python – but 90% – the most useful parts
  • I know that people who have developed alternative Ruby implementations have run into issues due to the lack of a formal specification. Has the fact that there is a specification for Python made your job easier?
    • Definitely, Python is very well defined
    • Well documented
    • Already multiple implementations
  • The WiPy chip seems like an interesting device. What are some ways in which it could be put to use? A Micro Python cluster for instance?
    • Small, cheap, low power little wireless chip that also runs Python
    • You can telnet in and have a Python REPL
    • Part of the Internet of Things
  • What changes did you have to make to get the Python interpreter to run without an underlying operating system?
  • When you were designing the hardware, what were some of the requirements that you were targeting in terms of performance or peripherals?
    • Wanted the best chip for the least money
    • Didn’t know ahead of time how many resources were required
  • What level of hardware knowledge is required to start working with the Micro Python board?
    • Virtually none
    • Just need to plug into USB and login with a terminal program to get a Python prompt
    • Can change frequency of CPU, turn on/off LEDs, etc.
    • Connecting peripherals requires some hardware knowledge
    • Module namespace to make hardware management easier
  • For anyone who is interested in writing libraries, what kinds of restrictions do they need to be aware of?
    • Be aware of RAM size limitations
    • Prety much anything that will fit will work
    • Libraries with C extensions won’t work because they rely on the CPython API
  • What license is used for the Micro Python interpreter and the PyBoard? Are the compatible with commercial uses?
    • MIT License
    • Hardware schematics are open source as well, open and accessible design
  • What are some of the most interesting/innovative projects that you have seen people make with the Micro Python board or runtime?
    • Damien attempted to make a quadcopter – not completely finished
    • Micro Python controlled guitar – PyBoard connected to actuators to play guitar
  • How does the experience of using Micro Python compare to some of the other hardware projects that are popular right now such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi or Tessel?
    • PyBoard in between Arduino and Raspberry Pi
      • More approachable than Arduino
      • Not a full OS like Raspberry Pi
    • Tessel similar to Micro Python but runs Javascript
  • EU Space Agency (Europe’s version of NASA) interested in Micro Python
    • Prepared to fund Micro Python development to explore possibilities of space based applications
      • Code needs to be well written and with few bugs
      • See if it can be used for real-time systems

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The intro and outro music is from Requiem for a Fish The Freak Fandango Orchestra / CC BY-SA