Top 20 Raspberry Pi projects to try yourself
Raspberry Pi projects: Build a download hub
With the internet being an almost limitless repository of digital content, it seems like we spend a frustrating amount of our lives waiting for downloads to complete. You can get around this by routing them all through a Raspberry Pi and into an external storage device.
Rather than clogging up your main computer with numerous files, fighting with your everyday tasks for disk space and processor speed, use a Pi as a dedicated hub for all your torrents, streams and other downloads. This leaves you free to get on with your life while you’re waiting for the entire box set of The Walking Dead to finish downloading. An added bonus is that if any malware or viruses happen to hitch a ride with your content, you can safely scrub them clean without the risk of infecting your main computer.
Raspberry Pi projects: Create a dedicated Minecraft machine
Minecraft is one of the biggest success stories of the indie games world, and was bought from the original creators by Microsoft in 2014. The sandbox construction SIM is essentially an infinite digital LEGO set, and is naturally hugely popular with kids. However, its simplistic, blocky graphics also mean it’s ridiculously easy to run, and the latest versions of the default Raspbian OS come with a custom-optimised copy of the game preinstalled.
If you have children who play Minecraft and you’re tired of them constantly monopolising your tablet or computer, a Raspberry Pi can be an inexpensive, durable machine that they can use for schoolwork, movies and all the digital digging they can handle. All you need is a cheap monitor, mouse and keyboard, and you can even easily confiscate it if they’re using it too much.
Raspberry Pi projects: Build a camera trap
The Raspberry Pi can be used to help rig up your very own camera trap, which can be used to snap animals in your garden. You’ll need to buy a few extra supplies – our recommendation is that you grab Naturebytes’ Wildlife Cam Kit.
Raspberry Pi projects: Build a case
One of the reasons the Raspberry Pi is so cheap is that it’s shipped with nothing but the bare essentials: no keyboard, no cables, and no case. However, all that exposed circuitry can look worryingly fragile, and it’s a scary thought that your new machine could break at any time.
You can buy cases for your Raspberry Pi in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. But a fun, simple starter project can be to build one yourself. The beauty of the Pi is that it’s small enough to fit into just about anything.
With some judicious modification, you could make a case out of an old tobacco tin, or a hollowed-out book. There are numerous guides online for constructing your own Raspberry Pi case.
Raspberry Pi projects: Control your stereo wirelessly
Advances in audio technology are making it increasingly easy to take your tunes with you everywhere you go. For aspiring audiophiles on a budget, the Raspberry Pi can help you realise your hi-fi dreams with minimum fuss, using it as a music server in a similar way to the media centres described above.
By using the RuneAudio disk image, you can connect your Raspberry Pi to your home audio setup and use it to control all of your music – whether it’s stored locally, on one of your devices, or on a remote storage drive. You can search and organise your library and play tracks through your browser or smartphone, and the Pi will direct it all through your big shiny speakers. For truly superlative audio quality, you can even send the signal through a USB digital-to-analog converter for HD sound. If that tickles your fancy, have a go yourself with our guide on how to use a Raspberry Pi to control your hi-fi.
Raspberry Pi projects: Create your own cloud server
With an always-on internet connection and an external hard drive, you can create your own free cloud storage server.
If you want to unshackle yourself from the limitations of cloud storage services such as Dropbox and Google Drive, then Raspberry Pi is a good low-cost option. A quick Google search will bring up plenty of tutorials on how this can be achieved. Lifehacker has one of the easier-to-follow tutorials on how to set this up.
Raspberry Pi projects: Make a phone
Smartphones are getting increasingly similar, so if you’re bored of the choice between Android, iPhone and Windows Phone, why not make a PiPhone? It isn’t a project for the faint of heart – but it should be cheap, with one owner putting together his own PiPhone for around $160.
Thanks to its versatility and host of connections, turning the Raspberry Pi into your next phone doesn’t require too much tinkering. All you need to buy is a compatible touchscreen, battery pack and GSM device, and you’ll have all the hardware you need. Creating software for the new phone to run on isn’t easy, but there are already several tutorials around to help.
A great project to learn about electronics and coding, or to make you appreciate your current smartphone more, making a PiPhone is one of the most sophisticated, rewarding uses for your Raspberry Pi.
Raspberry Pi projects: Make your own PiRate radio station
If you fancy yourself as the next Zane Lowe, or just want to learn about the mechanics of broadcasting, why not use your Raspberry Pi? A relatively simple hack will allow you to make your own pirate radio station, and take over the FM airwaves.
Unlike other hacks, you won’t even need any additional bits of hardware to make your own PiRate radio station: the Pi already has a GPIO 4 connector capable of transmitting FM radio. It has a range of only 10cm, but using a plain wire extends it to something closer to 50m – more than enough for tuning in indoors, or in the car.