Flotilla

The pirates of the Good Ship Pimoroni [4] have been working for more than a year on a new, friendly, electronics experimentation and tinkering platform called Flotilla. As you can see in the figure, the basic platform consists of a dock and a number of smart modules, which include sensors, input devices, and output devices. All of these modules come on fantastically colorful circuit boards, which will be color-coded with the Flotilla cookbooks for an extremely easy user experience. More seasoned users can turn to the "Rockpool," a natural succession from the cookbooks, as well as Scratch and Python libraries for even more flexibility.

Flotilla is designed to work predominantly with the Raspberry Pi; however, it will work with other Linux, Mac OS, and Windows systems over a USB connection if somebody develops the necessary driver software. Pimoroni has only promised support for the Raspberry Pi, but other platforms might, either officially or through a community hack, support it as well.

The project was initially launched on Kickstarter [5] and reached more than £146,000 in one month, meaning it raised nearly 500% of its initial £32,768 funding goal. If you missed out on the Kickstarter campaign, watch the Flotilla [6] or Pimoroni [4] websites for information on future availability.

New Raspberry Pi Desktop GUI

The Raspberry Pi designers have been focusing recently on software optimization, including speed improvements, a new web browser, and many other ongoing projects. The latest of these software endeavors is a new graphical user interface for the Raspbian desktop. Raspbian currently uses the Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment (LXDE) for its user interface, although a Wayland/Weston version is still in the works.

Simon Long from the Raspberry Pi Foundation has been tweaking the original design to introduce a new user interface design, which he calls MECE or "Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive." The idea behind MECE is for the user interface to have "everything you need, but each thing should only be there in one place."

The new GUI by default has the taskbar at the top, with menus dropping down from it. From research into UI design, a top-right task bar is supposedly best for the western world because we read left to right and top to bottom. Having said all that, Simon does clearly understand that a lot of this comes down to personal preference and so has included a Geometry menu, which allows you to move the taskbar where you see fit and customize a number of other personalization options as well.

The latest versions of Raspbian and NOOBS, which are available from the Raspberry Pi Download page [7], include the new GUI by default; however, if you already have Raspbian installed and don't want to start from scratch, you can get the new GUI by typing the following commands in an LXTerminal session

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get install raspberrypi-ui-mods

before rebooting your Raspberry Pi with:

sudo reboot

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