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Geeking For Cheap: 6 Major Holiday Gifts To Make W/ Raspberry Pi

It’s that season, FanBros.

Holiday lights are hitting you on the way home. Advertisements are flooding your mailbox & inbox. Your favorite shows are shoving awkward Thanksgiving and Holiday episodes into plots. Kids are calling in receipts on good deeds, because they want to know that debts are due. Your significant other is dropping hints about what they may be digging on the shelf, this season. It’s time to start checking your budget for decorations, holiday parties, neighborhood tree lightings, ugly sweater scenarios and of course: Gifts.

Well, your friendly, neighborhood tech geek Mellow has got you covered. Hacking things together and making “something out of nothing” is what our culture is about. Why wouldn’t we apply that to the holiday season?! And this year, I’m focusing on the Raspberry Pi. Around the FanBros Spaceship, it’s well-known that I can never shut up about this amazing device and will run up and down the halls screaming about whenever it’s found a new amazing use in the world. We’ve even seen it be a crucial part of the plot on Mr. Robot in the first season. It’s a device that makes me more than a little happy it exists and it’s most expensive version costs no more than $35.


So, here a few projects that are incredibly cheap for you to build. If you aren’t giving these away as gifts: Treat Yo Self!


1) Game Emulator:


Average Price: $70

Difficulty Level: Easy(No Coding Necessary)

Here’s What You’ll Need

  • Raspberry Pi
  • Video Cable (Preferably an HDMI for sound, but HDMI to VGA/DVI if you really need to, but you’ll need speakers for the audio jack)
  • Micro SD Card (Preferably 8gb or more, but 32gb sells cheap, and Samsung read speeds are the fastest)
  • Power Supply (Micro USB Cable and Power Brick)
  • USB Keyboard
  • SD Card Reader
  • Game Controller(optional, but come on… Why wouldn’t you??)



So, here’s something that is really ridiculous to me: The Mini NES Classic has sold out at $60 almost immediately upon release with no signs of being back in stock for Black Friday. This is ridiculous to me because you can actually create a game system that has every game from the NES, Super NES, Gameboy Advance, Arcade Cabinets, Sega Genesis, Atari, Dreamcast, PS1 & N64. This would cost you only cost you $10 more and add 8 more systems to the line-up. This is an easy, smooth and simple build for beginners and pretty inspiring for those who just want to dip their foot in the makerspace game.

If you want to go all out, feel free to put in the extra effort of making a new game cabinet


or even a tabletop:



2) Hi-Fi/Rune Audio Player(multi-room):


Average Price: $45

Difficulty Level: Easy

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Raspberry Pi(w/ power supply)
  • Micro-to-standard SD Card
  • Stereo system
  • (Optional) Computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone to control the application from through wi-fi.



This is a full sound system setup that you can control anywhere in your house. The options for this are pretty innovative. You can line speakers along any room in your home, for example. And this can still be controlled through an app in your phone. After a few installations and configurations on your Raspberry Pi, simply using a USB cable to plug this into your system and activating the app will set all of this in motion.


3) Media Center


Average Price: $35

Difficulty: Very Easy

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Raspberry Pi(w/ power supply)
  • Micro-to-Standard SD Card
  • HDMI Cable
  • ….That’s it.(No, really)



This seems to be the favorite among average hackers and makers. Why go out of your way to buy your parents a Roku, Amazon Fire stick or Apple TV with all of their individual content exclusives and restrictions? Instead, you can do one simple Kodi download, create links to a few of your favorite extra legal content sites that can give them free TV shows, movies & even live sports events(I’m not saying FanBros condones any of those sites, but I may know a guy…). Get a little more for your buck!


4)  Amazon Echo


Average Price: $50

Difficulty Level: Medium

Here’s What You’ll Need:



This is amazing, right? Why didn’t I mention this first? Two Reasons: Amazon is no fool and they discovered this is an easily created hack. So, they created a very cheap version of the Echo for $50 with a junk speaker. And the version we’re creating doesn’t have a Spotify or Pandora connection. But, it is also open-source, which is way cooler. It will have updates that aren’t restricted by brand. But, all of the many other advantages are at your disposal.

5) Magic Mirror


Average Price: $70

Difficulty Level: Medium

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • A monitor
  • A double sided acryllic mirror fit to the size of the monitor
  • A few 2 x 4’s to build a case around the monitor
  • Thin wood to build the forward facing mirror frame, I used 1/8 x 3’ board
  • A raspberry pi and it’s needed components, i.e. the power supply, HDMI cord, wifi usb dongle, and a keyboard for initial setup
  • Basic woodworking tools like a saw, sander, screwdriver
  • Screws, liquid nails



This. Is. Fly. This is a concept that is so smooth that I’m surprised more people aren’t making this regularly. You can put in the extra effort of creating a wooden frame of your design, but in all honesty, I’d go for the Blade Runner/Neo-Tokyo-style sleek look. Whoever is getting this from you: They better be dishing out points afterwards. There are multiple projects to do under this, including connecting this to online repository of pictures that change every day in your frame.


6) R2-D2


Hacking the Pi2D2 – Wifi, Webcam, Video Projection, R2D2, and You #piday #raspberrypi @Raspberry_Pi

This project is everything to me. It is what brought me into software engineering years ago. I often build robots with kids in makerspaces to give them a sense of accomplishment and hope for the future. And nothing has been a stronger reminder than providing them a robot pet they can come home to. I’ll let you go to the link above and enjoy all the details of what’s needed for this project. Because I recommend it higher than any other gift this holiday season.


I hope this inspires more of you to enjoy building these projects and finding something special for you and your loved ones. Yeah, a lot of these are money savers and great in presentation, but they’re also very relaxing hobbies and something cool to share with people you care about. And what better way to celebrate than to share a moment creating something special with someone you care about.

Happy Holidays, FanBros!

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