What is a Raspberry Pi?

Over the past 3 years there has been a lot of buzz and chatter on the internet about the Raspberry Pi. However, for the uninitiated the Raspberry Pi, may still mean something that your mother knocks up in the kitchen to eat after your Sunday roast. In this post we’ll provide a brief overview of that the Raspberry Pi is and why all the cool kids are talking about it.

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SD, SDHC, SDXC, microSDHC memory cards explained

Over the past decade or so portable data storage technology has dramatically improved. The are a myriad options available, many suited to specific needs or niche requirements.   Making a purchasing decision on for your data storage needs, may at first hand seem a complicated, especially if you are in the market for memory cards.

 Secure Digital (SD)

The humble memory card or Secure Digital (SD) card, as it is more widely know, has come along way since it’s release in August 1999. Back then Sandisk, Toshiba and Panasonic collaborated to improve the technology that was available in it’s predecessor the MultiMedia Card (MMC). While both cards shared the same physical card size, there were huge differences in the storage capacity.  The MMC was available in capacities of 128, 256 and 512 MB, when SD cards were initially released they could store up 2GB of data, based on the FAT16 filesystem. This was a huge leap forward at the time.

Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC)

  • Class 2 : >=2MB/s TV recording / DVD/ standard DC
  • Class 4 : >=4MB/s Mpeg2 (HDTV)/ DC with continuous shooting
  • Class 6 : >=6MB/s Reflex DC and professional DC – on continuous shooting

Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC)

In 2009, a further specification upgrade was released Secure Digital Extended capacity (SDXC), enabling further increased data storage capacity of up to 2TB and increased speeds of up to 300MB/s. SDXC standard also provides capabilites to increase bus interface speeds up to 104 MB per second for UHS-I and up to 312 MB per second for UHS-II, as well as UHS Speed Class.

SDXC’s extended capacity will provide more portable storage and offer greater speeds required to support new features in consumer electronic devices, mobile devices and industrial devices. It also gives consumers a valuable easy upgrade option, allowing them to add capacity as needed vs. replacing devices and creating more consumer electronic waste.

Which type of SD card should I buy?

Using an SD card (Secure Digital)  is a great way to store data and move data between a myriad of different devices.  For Instance, taken photographs on your digital camera, and then inserting the disc into your laptop to edit the files, then taken the disc directly to your specialised printer to be printed. SD cards are also a great way to increase the amount of storage on your mobile phone.

The use of SD cards has become increasingly popular, and the technology is this sector is continually improving. Unfortunately, as is the case with most technological advancements, it is easy for the casual user to quickly lose touch, get confused or even daunted by the choices available.

When buying an SD card there are 4 important criteria you should  take into consideration your use case criteria, physical size requirements,  storage capacity, and the speed at which it can write data,

SDHC Speed Classes1. Use Case

The first thing you need to consider is, what is going to be primary use of the SD card. For instance, are you only going to use it as a means of moving files and documents between differing devices? Most devices available on the market today come with built in SD card ports i.e. Laptops, smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, game consoles and raspberry pi, often enabling you to view the SD card as extensible storage capacity. However, there is a catch not all SD card ports are created equally. Although this does not matter when it comes to reading data from a disc, it does make a big difference when writing data to a disc. An example is the difference is requirement when writing word processing document, as opposed to High Definiton Video.

Using a class 10 card in a device that can only optimally write to a class 4 disc, is not going to improve performance but it will not have any adverse effect, conversely using a class 4 card in a device that optimally designed to work with a class 10 disc, can have a severe degradation in performance and your device may not operate as expected.

Before purchasing a SD card, ensure you review the capabilities of all your devices you’re potentially going to use the card on, to determine the most efficient class standard.

2. Physical size

SDHC card SizesThere are now 3 different sizes of SD cards. SD, miniSD & microSD.

The original format started with cards measuring 32 x 24mm, which was very small for the time. These are still common in digital cameras, audio recorders and similar products. Smartphone makers wanted smaller cards. This resulted in the miniSD format, measuring 21.5 x 20mm, and then microSD cards, measuring 11 x 15mm.

You can use a miniSD or microSD card in an SD card slot by plugging it into an SD-sized adapter, most manufacturers of SD cards provide adaptors or sell cards are sold with them. It is needless to point out that you can’t fit an SD card into a miniSD or microSD slot, but I’ll do it anyway.

3. Data Storage

There are 3 different types of storage capabilities in SD cards ; SD, SDHC (High Capacity) , SDXC (extended capacity).

When SD cards were first introduced in August 1999 they could hold up to 2GB of data, which was a huge amount at the time, but most cards stored a lot less. In 2006 the industry introduced high capacity SDHC cards which could store up to 32GB using FAT-32.   in 2009, SDXC cards were released which are able to store up to 2TB using Microsoft’s proprietary exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table) format.

With the release of Mac OS X 10.6.5 (Snow Leopard), Apple started supporting exFAT,  making it the defacto standard for shared hard drives or for the transfer of very large data files.   This paves the way for future SD cards to use exFAT to store data upto and potentially beyond 512TB.

Generally 8, 16 and 32GB SD cards are big enough for most purposes. It is possible that some users may choose 64 or 128GB SD cards to expand capacity on their smartphones or MP3 players.  However, before purchasing these size cards, it’s important to check that your device can support it.  The Samsung Galaxy S5, is one of the first phones to support 128GB microSD cards.

4. Data writing speeds
The SD Card Association has different classes of cards, and produced a bunch of mandatory logos with the class number inside a big C. However, Class 2 is 2MBps, Class 4 is 4MBps, Class 6 is 6MBps, and Class 10 is 10MBps or faster — sometimes much faster. For this reason, faster cards are often marked with the speed in large letters, such as 45MB/s or 90MB/s.

Consulting the specifications of your device, you should be able to find out how fast it can write data to an SD card. As long as your cards can handle that data rate, you should generally be ok.

A point to note is that class rating shows a minimum speed, and not the actual speed. A good Class 2 card may work faster than a Class 6 or even a Class 10 card.

Buying SD Cards

You can buy any card that your device supports from any manufacturer. However, I would recommend buying SD cards by respected brands, such as Panasonic, Verbatim, Kingston, SanDisk, Samsung, Toshiba and Sony. Panasonic invented the SD format, and developed it with SanDisk and Toshiba. I also warn you against using any “cheaper” Chinese imports, as quality and reliability of these are extremely questionable.

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What is LED Lighting?

What is LED Lighting?

Light Emitting Diode (LED) is the latest technology in energy efficient lighting.  A “Light Emitting Diode” are diodes (electronic components that let electricity pass in only one direction) that emit visible light when electricity is applied.  A simpler way of looking at it is LED’s are essentially semiconductors that convert electricity into light.LED-bulbs

LED lights are predicted to be the lighting technology of the future, primarily because they use very little energy, last a very long time and unlike other energy saving light bulbs they are instantly bright when switched on.

On initial cost purchase LED lights are more expensive compared to most other energy-saving light bulbs and are mainly available in lower brightnesses. However,  they do last alot longer and will therefore save you money in the long run.  The technology is also developing rather quickly and as LED lighting becomes more popular they will come down in price.

The way that LED bulbs generate light is different from traditional incandescant bulbs.  In traditional light bulbs electricity is passed through a filament,  whereas LEDs produce light through the use of a semi-conductor that emits light energy when an electrical current is passed through it.   The other energy saving light bulbs pass energy through a mercury vapour to create UV light, which is then absorbed by a phosphor coating inside the lamp, causing it to glow.

Should I buy LED Bulbs?

If your goals are to bring down the cost of electricity usage in your home, conserve as much energy as possible and help reduce overall waste and save money  then the answer is a resounding YES.

LED lighting is the most energy efficient, long lasting light sources available. An added bonus is that they are become instantly bright when you flick the switch.

Test the water buy buying one LED bulb first, to see if you like the spread of the light before committing to replacing more bulbs in your home.  Once, you have made your decision on your choice of bulb and are satisfied with the spread, ensure that when you finalise your purchases that you buy future replacement bulbs too.  This is primarily because this market is a fast paced you may not be able to find the identical replacement bulb.



energy conservation

Top 3 low cost energy saving tips for the home

Follow these top 3 low cost energy saving tips for the home to reduce your energy consumption and the cost of your bills.

  1. Never standby – Switching off all unused devices at the plug, instead of leaving them on standby, could save you between £45 and £80 per year on your bills.  Nearly all electrical devices can be safely turned off at the mains.
  2. After hours in the kitchen – You could save an additional £45+ a year just by making use just by ensuring you use your dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryers after midnight when electricity tariffs are cheaper. Also ensuring your microwave is switched off at the mains,  leaving a microwave clock on uses unnecessary electricity.
  3. Shower efficiently – Fitting a new water efficient shower head to your water tank or boiler connected shower. Through installing a water-efficient shower head, a family of four could save around £65 a year on gas for water heating, as well as a further £95 on water bills if they have a water meter.

By following these simple tips you could save a potential £200 a year on your energy bills, not to mention also making a significant contribution to helping to conserve the planets dwindling energy reserves.



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Top 10 energy saving tips for the home

Follow these Top 10 energy saving tips for the home to help save on spiralling energy costs in your home.

  1. Instead of making use of the standby function most devices are shipped with these days, switch off all your appliances at the plug. This can account for 6% of all energy usage in the home, nearly all electrical and electronic appliances can safely be turned off at the plug without upsetting their systems.
  2. Switch your microwave off. The clock may be using more energy over time than is used for cooking.  It will cost far less buying a cheap battery powered wall clock, if you really need to know the time.
  3. If you prefer to leave your desktop or laptop computers on ready for use, ensure that you make use of the Hibernate or standby feature.  Ensuring that you also switch off your peripherals i.e. Printers, Scanners & monitors at the mains.
  4. Make use of your Sleep Timer or Count down timer on your TV sets, to ensure that they switch off when not in use.
  5. Switch off your Electirc blankets at the mains before falling asleep, not only is this for your own personal safety but it ensures
  6. Replace your existing appliances for more energy efficient ones. Most new appliances will have a sticker indicating how they are rated.
  7. Try and ensure that you make use of your Dishwasher and washing machines during low tarrif times, say after midnight.
  8. Always use your washing machine with a full load or follow the manufacturer’s instructions for most economical usage such as the economy program. Modern washing machines and washing powders and liquids are designed to work at lower temperatures.
  9. Only boil half a kettle of water and use an energy saving kettle
  10. Timed heating – don’t leave the heating on unnecessarily at night or when you are out of the house. Set the timing for the heating and water to turn on an hour before you wake or return home and to switch off an hour before you leave the house.

What is the raspberry pi and why should I care?

25th December 1983, is a day I remember well, it was the day that I was first introduced to computing. I unwrapped this big box, that was under the Christmas tree to reveal this miracle of the modern age, the Commodore 64 personal computer! I didn’t realise it then but this Christmas present from Santa Claus would have a profound influence on my life.  My Commodore 64 was the only Christmas present I can remember from that Christmas!
commodore 64 box

Within minutes of opening the box and connecting it up to the television were transformed from average boys too geeks! We slowly became obsessed with this box of tricks, both for two completely different reasons.

My brother who from a very early age had become obsessed about anything to do with aviation.  He used to build model aeroplanes,  read countless books about aeroplanes and he used to constantly scanning the skies to spot aeroplanes. I fact I remember, that as a “treat” and probably as means to keep to boys occupied my dad used to take us to Airport on the weekends, just so my brother could watch the planes take off and land!   So for my brother this box, was a means of playing flying games.  We would eventually have all these fantastic games such as Heathrow air traffic control, Time Pilot, Wing Commander, solo flight and a whole host of others.

For me though, the attraction was being able to instruct this box to do things.  I had no idea at the time, that the skill I started to learn was called programming. To me I was just having some fun with this new computer.  I could type in a few commands and I could make it do things, change the screen colours,  display random characters on the screen and whole host of simple programs. I had no idea that I was learning 2 cutting edge programming languages i.e. BASIC and assembler.

That Christmas present back in the mid 80’s transformed mine and my brothers lives, he went on to become a successful airline pilot, flying all over the world. I went on to a lot more glamorous lifestyle of becoming a Computer Programmer!

Raspberry PiThe raspberry Pi is the modern equivalent,  commodore 64. It’s a cheap, credit sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It is a capable little device that enables people of all ages to explore computing, and to learn how to program in languages like Scratch and Python. It’s also a great platform for you to get to know the worlds most adaptable and scalable operating system Linux!

It may be credit card sized collection of electronic circuitry and components, but it is a highly capable device that can do everything a normal desktop computer can do. i.e Browse the internet, media player, making spreadsheets and documents and playing games!

Further more, the Raspberry Pi has the ability to interact with the outside world, and be be in a wide array of digital maker projects, from music machines, weather stations and smart home servers.  We at threenine.co.uk have even built a secure door access controller for a government client using the raspberry pi as the controller.

The Raspberry Pi puts the fun back into computing, by being a flexible bit of engineering designed in equal parts for learning and utility. The real fun and joy about computing is not about using systems or solutions other people make for you, it’s about creating and playing around with new concepts and ideas. Computing is not about being confined to one specific device or software application, it’s about making a computer do what you want it to do.   The Raspberry PI, might just be your key to a door that leads to a new life time of adventures!

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5 must know tips for successful entrepreneurs

The web is littered with tips for successful entrepreneurs and “overnight” success stories, the kind of story that some guy sitting in garage somewhere came up with the next big idea that propelled him to riches mere mortals can only imagine. Most people only read the high level, journalist view of the story, that all it took for this guy to become 3rd place on the worlds rich list, is that he knock up a web page in HTML, because he had some brainwave in the shower! All it took for that brainwave to become a reality was little bit of keyboard jujitsu.

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6 free digital tools

Top 7 free tools for small business

Starting a new business is tough! Especially when you’re bootstrapping the business from your own savings or drip feeding it from income generated from small sales. You are always going to be looking at reducing costs to the point where you will try find way not to spend money unneccesarily, at the same time seeking to improve productivity and efficiency, one of the key areas to make changes is how to efficiently use Information Technology. Often the IT cost centre for alot of new businesses can be crippling.

A little over a decade ago, making use of I.T. was seen as a way of gaining a competitive edge over your competitors. Times have changed and now IT is so ingrained in most organisations, that it is only a means to remain competitive. To truly maximise the returns on any investment into your IT infrastructure you need to ensure, that the products and services you invest in provide the greatest value with a minimum investment.

In this guide we will provide you with the best of the FREE tools for small business available for you get the best out of your IT infrastructure, without losing efficiency and productivity.
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Using Remote Desktop Connection Manager

If you as part of your job, are required to connect to multiple servers or computer workstations over a Remote Desktop Connections, then you will undoubtedly run into the difficulty of remembering various connections details, credentials and settings for all the machines.

You’ll be glad to know that there is a free tool available Microsoft that will help you to store and have all this information available, to help you to effortlessly connect and manage the connections to your multiple servers.  Remote Desktop Connection Manager.


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