Installing Linux on my Dad’s old laptop

Hi guys, CrazySqueak here. Sorry about being inactive for a year but a lot of things have happened and I haven’t been able to make anything interesting and get it to a publication-ready state (i.e. finish it).

Recently, I had the idea of installing linux on an old computer, something me and Dad had been thinking about for a while. Originally, our idea was to install it on the old vista computer, but the installer for the version I planned to install didn’t support dual-booting windows and linux, and dad needed access to windows vista still. In the end, my Dad found an old DELL laptop of his that he never used any more.

The laptop had Windows XP on it but the design of the logo on the windows key looked more like the Windows 98 logo, and the keyboard layout was a lot different. On top of that, the laptop didn’t have a built in wireless card like you have in modern laptops, and we had to dig a wireless card out for it to access wifi.

The LaptopThe laptop (A Dell INSPIRON 2650 according to the text on it) that I installed linux on.

After live-booting many distros and trying them out, I decided upon the Debian Stretch with Raspberry Pi Desktop disk that I got with the Magpi. You can download an iso that you can burn to a disk here (The version you download may be different if a new version comes out). Once you get to the menu, choose the regular installer instead of the graphical installer as otherwise, the partitioning may fail. Navigate the menus with the arrow keys and the enter key. Once installed, I had a lot of setup to do; namely adding the users and updating the system.


First, I had to add the users. You can add a user by typing sudo adduser in the terminal (note that user names cannot have capital letters or symbols). You will be asked to type a password for the new user and add some information about them (You can leave the extra information blank and just press enter).
My dad wanted an account and so did I, so the full code I typed in the terminal was:
sudo -s
adduser crazysqueak --home /home/CrazySqueak
adduser dad --home /home/Dad
I used –home to make the home directories different to the names of the users.
Then I had to add the groups. This took lots of trial and error. In the end I got the groups that pi was in using the command groups pi and used python to add each user to the groups. You can view the code at:
When run, you should get a vertical line of zeros equal to the amount of groups, however this will not work unless you run it as the superuser.
I ran this code where NAME was set to “crazysqueak” for the first run and “dad” for the second. This added the crazysqueak account and the dad account to the specified groups. I also added myself to the sudo group but not for my dad, meaning I was the only one with sudo permissions (excluding pi).
Next came updating the system, which I did using the command sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
This took a while. To finish up, I ran the code
sudo apt-get autoremove
sudo apt-get clean


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Making a Maker Lab

Hi guys, Mumma here!

I’ve hijacked the Squeak’s blog to share my approach to creating a maker lab for us both, on a budget.  The end result was to be a creative, organised space that we could both use to indulge in our creative hobbies – for me that’s more crafts and construction, while for the boy that is, of course, more programming and some simple electronics.

Those who know me know I suffer from ill health, and chronic pain, so as with everything I do in life – creating the lab was a case of ‘working smarter, not harder‘ (literally my life motto.)  With that in mind, the first thing I did was take visual stock of what I had at my disposal in the spare room I was planning to transform into our lab.  Not only would this minimise the strain and physical workload for me, as well as the need to go out and physically purchase additional items, but it also served to minimise financial expense.  Win-win!

Hopefully, some of the ideas below will inspire others to create a maker lab, or maker space, using some of what they already have as well.  It saves money, time, and of course, the environment too.  It might also prompt other parents to consider giving their maker-mad kids a useful space to work in on realising that it doesn’t have to cost much, if anything at all.  Even if you don’t have something to hand that you can make use of – chances are you can get what you need to upcycle free or cheaply off your local Freecycle or Facebook selling site.

The first item I had to make use of was an old single bed, and looking at it, I could see it had clear potential to serve as a workbench if I removed the slats and turned it on its side – so that’s exactly what I did.  I had thought that I’d then need to secure it to the wall, but a thorough poking and prodding satisfied me that simply wedging a thin piece of wood at either end of the frame would serve to keep it firmly in place.

For added security, I fastened a couple of the slats into place underneath the middle of the workbench.  A few good, firm, pushes later, I was content that the bench would hold up under a fair amount of use and weight.

I situated the frame a little away from the wall, then topped half of it with some panels I prised from an old vivarium that we had sat in the garage.  Fixing them involved the amateur lazy workman’s technique of a quick sanding of both surfaces, a drizzle of wood glue, and a handful of bolts to ensure the surfaces stayed put.  This half would be used for electronics and soldering, and so I also situated a large ceramic tile on top to catch any solder spillages and avoid ruining the wooden tops prematurely.

The second half of the bench was to be for Mumma’s candle making, so I used some MDF off-cuts wedged into place rather than secured, topped with old vinyl off-cuts that a friend gave me, intending for them to be easily replaceable if damaged – or even just flipped over.  Again, I situated a large ceramic tile on top, to catch any wax drops and situate the single hob on (when I finally order one.)

To finish this feature, I used some of the old slats to create a wall mountable tool storage board.  I had seen various adorable peg boards on Pinterest, but felt that these would be an unnecessary expense, both financially and energy wise, given that I already had the slats ready and waiting to be used.  I fastened them together by binding them securely with several rounds of ducktape, then hammered the board onto the wall in several places to ensure it sat securely.  If I was intending to put more weight on it than the hand tools I have, then I would have used rawl plugs and screws, and drilled holes through the corners of the board of course.  A few carefully positioned nails held each tool into place where I wanted them, and could easily access them while making things in the future.  Already we’ve found having screwdrivers so easily to hand a massive time saver.

I wall mounted a screw storage chest, which is labelled clearly with all of CrazySqueak’s various programming and electronic components, and sat the soldering iron and extra hand on top.  Besides this, I mounted reels of tape, copper tape, and garden wire, as well as a Lego board.  Originally I’d just fastened some Ikea storage tubs there, sat on a couple of nails, but then decided that the Lego board would be a more fun storage feature there.

Along that wall I also fastened an old Ikea toy storage pockets gizmo that was already in there, and moved the Ikea storage bar with clip-on pots to sit at a convenient height above it, with pots for stationary and tools to be added to as I went along.  I’d love to link to these products for you guys, in case you’re interested, but sadly can’t locate them on the Ikea site right now!  They are very common market hall items so I’d expect them, or something similar to them, to be in stock should you want to pay your local store a visit.

Behind the candle making space, I drilled through a circular Lego board and used a screw and rawl plug to fix the board firmly to the wall.  I attached various handy embellishments to the board by hot gluing fake Lego bricks onto the backs of the packets – easy to use and then replace or change around as desired.  I hammered nails into place to mount a variety of ribbons, and used a couple of sticky hooks to hang hand items from.  Underneath, I positioned a cheap shoe rack, to store my bigger materials.

Finally I used the shelf above, which was already positioned where it is, to stash my candle jars and finished candles on.


Despite my chronic pain issues, none of this was as difficult or arduous as it might look and sound; in fact I found it quite enjoyable!  The rubbish I amassed early on, however, was a different story.  To say I hurt myself clearing this lot is an understatement!  It was an entire evening’s work just to round it all up and get it down the stairs, then another session’s work to take the bags of rubbish down the local tip (on the rare occasions it’s open these days.)  As anyone with chronic pain will tell you – it’s all about pacing yourself.  So I had to view this as a separate task, and not an afterthought to other tasks.  The advantage for anyone doing it this way is that it is a time efficient way of dealing with the rubbish though.  By identifying it as a single task, and approaching it as such, you don’t waste time faffing around with smaller loads of rubbish.  You amass it all at once, collate it all at once, and dispose of it all at once.  I imagine that those who faff around back and forth with smaller loads take much longer than I did to get rid of the rubbish during similar projects.  While I was at it, I also dismantled and tipped an old chest of drawers that I had no use for in the new lab.  I prised it apart, carried the pieces down bit by bit (was a ridiculously long process involving a lot of tea breaks), and tipped it along with the general rubbish.  From there, I had plenty of space in which to tackle finishing off the other half of our lab.

My next job was to get a decent sized desk installed, and as a stroke of luck, I got offered a giant desk top for free!  A friend of ours was clearing out their office, and the scrap men had happily taken the desk legs – while leaving them with the desk itself.  My friends kindly loaded it up into my car for me, along with a little cabinet they had no use for anymore, and my neighbour’s strong young man lugged it up the stairs for me at the other end (poor sod looked like death afterwards!)

I took the legs off of my existing Ikea desk, drilled holes into the new giant desk top, and fastened them on.  CrazySqueak helped me to flip it over, and then I slightly rounded off the corner nearest the door to minimise the space it blocked on entering our lab.  As a small single room, space is limited, so I’d rather have a slightly strange looking desk that is big enough for all of the things we want to use it for, than a small one with easier access.  I just turn slightly sideways to get in and out – it’s fine!

On top of the desk, I installed my existing craft storage drawer tower that had been cluttering up my living room till then, along with some mini drawers that hold most of my craft tools, and one of these cool make-up organisers that perfectly suits my stationary needs.  I love those babies so much I have about four around the house now!  I also re-purposed the box this organiser had come in, by turning it inside-out and lining it with PVC tape, to store some of my papers in since it’s just the right size for doing that with. NB the organiser I’ve linked to includes two sections – the organiser, and a set of drawers.  These items are sold separately in store at most Home Bargains store at the moment, with the organiser part on sale for £4.99.

Above the desk there is a shelf which was already installed, with some handy under-shelf storage baskets attached to the underside: perfect for papercrafts!  On top of the shelf sit my embellishment organisers (open topped for easy access while working) and my new resin supplies (not going so well!)

As a few fun extras, I decorated some old pots I had to store surplus tools in, as well as stash my decoupage papers neatly.  I further decoupaged up a set of boxes to store my favourite papercraft materials in.

The other end of the desk was for hosting my main PC and monitor, with a monitor for an RPi stashed just behind on materials I already had handy.  I could have wall mounted the second monitor but that would have been more work and expense!  Besides which, we regularly use this monitor at Jams so it’s convenient to be able to move it easily.  Next to that sits a printer and scanner, and some more velcro hooks are on the wall, with a Star Wars bag full of RPi bits handily hung off one of them.

Underneath the new desk, sits a couple of large storage tubs containing my scrapbooking supplies, and the little cabinet I was given – now filled with gift supplies.  I hung my bargain bag stash on teeny screw hooks either side, and filled the drawer with my gift supply stash (I always snap up these items when Tesco have a clear out.) Finally, there’s a little bin under there, for paper scraps and things while I’m working, though for bigger bits of rubbish there is a sticky hook on one of the walls to hold a black bag.


The next major task was mounting a series of heavy-duty shelves to hold the boy’s extensive programming library, as well as provide general extra off-floor storage given the minimal space available to us in the box room.  Unfortunately, I was half asleep when purchasing my shelving brackets, and accidentally came home with single slotted ones instead of the doubles I’d intended to purchase – and bought brackets for in the same purchase.  Clearly the woman on the checkout in Wickes didn’t notice this glaring error either.  Due to my impatient nature, and tendency to take a lot of naps as it is, I decided to plough on with the single brackets and hope they’d prove sufficient – which they just about did.  Overall this is an expensive way to mount shelves compared to purchasing individual shelves with single brackets that fit underneath at either end, however it is more secure, and this is especially important where mounting heavy books onto the wall, and even more so where said wall is hollow and crumbly inside.

NB. The crazy one wasn’t overly helpful, but he got to have a go with a hammer at least.

An important finishing touch to our lab was, of course, a drinks and snack supply station.  I can’t stress enough how essential this feature is in any lab.  How can you make things while hungry? Or without a cuppa?!  Madness.

In the photo below, you can see an instant Hot Cup hot water machine, however I have since switched this round with the Tassimo machine I had downstairs: the reason being that the Tassimo, when used with the service disc in, lets out a little cold water before boiling water follows – making a cuppa that is a drinkable temperature straight away.  The Hot Cup machine, however, produces an instant cup of boiling water; by moving it into the kitchen, it’s near to a tap, so I can add cold water much more easily.

Drinks (bought fairly cheaply from B&Ms) got stashed away in an old, empty filing box, and snacks were hung up underneath the workbench, slightly out of our normal line of sight to minimise temptation a little!

Finishing up the snack essentials, the boy’s Xmas presents of a sweet station, and automatic jelly bean dispenser, got sat upon the book shelf.  Part of my reason for doing this was ornamental given how the Crazy one isn’t a big sweet-eater, and to fill some of the empty space without adding even more weight to the existing heavy load on that shelf.

The last purchase to be made was a couple of bar stools for use at the workbench, which I picked up at a reasonable price off of Amazon (click on the hyperlink to view/purchase.)  I did consider holding out to see what came available cheaply on our local Facebook selling site, but decided that given our joint problems, it was better to choose the right style and height for our needs – but this is certainly an option to consider if you don’t have our needs and are on a budget.

Well, that’s about the full story of how I turned our spare room/dumping ground into a maker lab for us both.  In the coming weeks I’ll also be purchasing a hot plate, along with some additional candle making supplies, but for now I’ve got some other financial commitments that take priority.  I did also consider getting a wall mounted TV in there, but on reflection, that’s just lazy of me!  I have a 10″ tablet I never use anymore, and I can watch pretty much anything I want to on my PC anyway.

I’ll leave you guys with a few snaps of our first lab-makerings:

Mumma x

Project Analysis

David Whale sent my Mum some pointers on analysing my recent Pi Wars project so that I could make progress for next year’s competition.  This is an important skill for people like me to learn, who want to work in the computer programming industry when we’re older.  I made notes about my project on the day, and since then I’ve looked at how best to analyse relevant points, so that I can produce a more efficient project in the future.  I can use this template for my other projects, both in advance as well as retrospect.

Project Analysis: PiWars Robot



  • The chosen chassis material (laser cut acrylic) was sturdy and supported the hardware well.
  • It was a good idea incorporating pre-cut wiring holes in our design where we needed them, as this made assembly easier.


  • The messy wiring made it hard to locate and fix wiring problems.
  • I didn’t double check the measurements when I laser cut the chassis, meaning that it ended up being the wrong size for our design plan.
  • It was hard to see whether the ball was aligned with the built-in curve or not during the skittles and golf challenges.


  • Acrylic makes a good, strong chassis.
  • Pre-cut wire holes are convenient.
  • I need to plan better how to organise the various wires.
  • I need to double check any measurements before laser-cutting the chassis.




  • The tyres had a decent grip, just not enough power from the motors.


  • The motors weren’t very strong and not able to meet the demands of the competition.


  • Strong motors are essential for competing in PiWars.



  • Our rechargeable battery packs for the Raspberry Pis were convenient size-wise.
  • The motors stayed powered throughout the whole competition using 4 AA batteries. Our LEDs also remained powered for the duration from button cell batteries.


  • The controller pi’s battery didn’t last for more than a few hours between charges, which created problems during the competition.


  • We could do with a better power source for the main RPi.
  • Batteries work well for motors and LEDs.



  • The lights looked awesome on the robot.
  • They stayed lit throughout the entire competition.


  • The Astro Pi failed to read its program partway through the day, meaning that it got stuck on a static rainbow colour.


  • The lights were awesome! We should use similar things again.
  • I should test things like my Astro Pi program more thoroughly in advance, to have time to troubleshoot problems.

Control and Steering:


  • The miniature keyboard allowed me to start programs without scrolling through a list, as I would have to had done if I was using the Wii remote.
  • The keypad doesn’t require manual pairing each time the program is run, unlike the Wii remote.


  • Steering was awkward and difficult using the keypad, which cost me points in the various challenges. Steering with the Wii remote was considerably easier and smoother.


  • Ideally, it would be a good idea to combine the two, if possible.
  • For the sake of scoring well in the challenges, the better controller would be the Wii remote.



  • The right sensors were used for each job.


  • I didn’t start testing on the sensors early enough, and was unable to get them to work as needed in time.
  • I should have measured the correct distance above the floor for the line follower.
  • I should have measured the range of the distance sensors before creating the final design.


  • Testing the sensors well in advance is vital. This includes getting the correct measurements for each sensor.

Decoration and Style:


  • The robot looked awesome! Jim Darby said that an incredible mind must have designed it!
  • The robot won the funniest robot prize.


  • The decoration got in the way when we needed to access the inside wiring.


  • Similar decoration to what we had would be great!
  • We could do with making some of the decoration easily removable for when something goes wrong on the inside of the robot.

Key Points:

  • Early and thorough testing is vital, project plans could help with this.
  • Powerful motors are vital (i.e. proper motors, not beginner kit motors)
  • A responsive, smooth controller (i.e. Wii remote) is important for remote control challenges.
  • TEST WELL IN ADVANCE! That way any problems allow for troubleshooting time.
  • A good power source (i.e. Longer lasting than a mobile charger pack) is important.
  • Tidy wiring is also important.
  • It’s helpful to look at what’s gone right with previous projects, as well as what’s gone wrong.


Projects I’ve Been Working On

Hi guys! CrazySqueak here! Today I’d like to show you some of the projects I have been working on.



ProcBeats is a rhythm game made using Processing.

I hit a bit of a snag when I found out that the sound library only works in the 64-bit version though (I was coding on a Raspberry Pi.)  Sadly it means that for now I won’t be finishing this particular project then!

You control the gameplay alone using the 1,2,3, and 0 keys.

You can download the sketch with a test level here.


SkedMan is a Raspberry Pi only schedule/homework manager for kids and teens.

This is my first program to come with an installer, instead of requiring you to manually run commands.

Install by running the command wget; bash in the terminal, and let me know what you think.


SqueakTweets (Internally known as JokeBot) is a Twitter program that tweets jokes every three hours with the hashtag #CrazySqueakJokes.

I did a little video about it as part of the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Young Pioneers #makeyourideas competition, which you can watch here.

The tweets are posted on the twitter account @CSqueakTweets.

You can download the code to have a look here.

I hope you like my programs! Feedback is always welcome.

My Minecraft Minigames

WARNING: This program is not compatible with PC or Python 2: please use a Raspberry Pi and Python 3 to run

Hi readers, it’s CrazySqueak here, I’ve recently exhibited a few projects at Southend Jam and this is one of them.

I’ve written a Minecraft game called McPiWare. The aim of the game is to earn as many points as possible by completing minigames. The minigames occur in a set order and keep coming until you fail at one of them. There is also a bonus round that first occurs when you reach 20 points, and then it multiplies the score required for the bonus round by three each time. You can find a list of the minigames below.

Name Objective Allocated time (secs) Win criteria Bonus points awarded Notes
 Flowers Pick all the flowers  10
  •  The player has picked all the flowers
  •  (0-5) for speed
 Speed bonus is near-impossible to obtain without cheating
 Parkour Land on as many blocks as possible  15
  •  The player has landed on at least five obsidian blocks
  •  (0-any) for each extra block landed on
 Blocks turn to glowing obsidian when landed on, only landing on normal obsidian counts
 Survive  Don’t fall down 30
  •  The player has at least 1 life left at the end
  •  (0-4) for lives left
 The minigame instantly ends if you run out of lives
 Treasure  Find as much treasure as you can  30
  •  The player has found at least 1 treasure block
  •  (0-any) for extra treasure found
 Searching is done by right-clicking grass near cobblestone or farmland while holding a sword
 Miner  Mine as many diamonds as you can  15
  •  The player has mined at least one diamond ore
  •  (0-any) for extra diamonds found
 You will see text in chat when you are near diamonds, diamons are hidden under the layer of stone
 Bonus (aka Path)  Move from the gold block to the diamond block as many times as you can without falling down  15  You complete this minigame no matter what
  •  (0-any) for paths cleared
  • (0-any) bonus points
 Falling down instantly ends the minigame

I’m really pleased with how this game turned out, especially the built in leaderboard which means you can invite your friends over to compete with you. The leaderboard starts with some pre-set scores so it takes a master of the game to achieve the top ranking score.

Feel free to download and share my project but please leave credit to me for creating the original program. I hope it will be included in the next Minecraft Pi hackpack too!

What I’ve been doing on Codecademy

I’ve recently been doing a lot on Codecademy, which is a website where you can learn programming languages by working through free online courses. You can visit the website here.

I have been working through the Ruby and Javascript courses. On Javascript I’ve reached Unit 3, which is about ‘for loops’, and on Ruby I’ve reached part 2 of unit 2 which I’m looking forward to, as I’ve found the course very interesting and educational so far.

You can get started with Codecademy yourself by registering for a free account on the website and finding a course to start.

An overview of my progress

Completed courses:

  • Master the command line

In progress courses:

  • Javascript (27%)
  • HTML and CSS (25%)
  • Ruby (16%)
  • PHP (20%)


In my opinion Codecademy is a great learning tool for people who want to learn new programming languages, or learn more about programming languages they already know a bit about. It’s helping me to learn lots of functions that I never knew that I could use in a programming language before.

My visit to Koyoki video games in London

Hi guys, I visited a video games company’s office yesterday (actually the offices of three different companies but they were in the same building.)

I met the person that invited me at Chelmsford Jam (where I was demonstrating some of my projects.)  He’s called David Hasovic and he owns Koyoki Limited.  I thought he was great, and really enjoyed listening to all the things he was able to tell me about the work he does.

We started by seeing the rooftop terrace and then we got round to seeing the offices and having a look at the games.

When I first went into the Koyoki office, I was really surprised and pleased.  I’ve never been in a professional programmer’s office before, so it was exciting for me to see what it’s really like to work as a game developer.  I liked that they are a small company and that their office is nice and quiet – I’d love to work somewhere like that when I’m older.

It was interesting how everybody had their own part of the game that they work on in lots of detail, and to see how much information needs to be stored for various aspects of the game to work.  I got to see processes being used that I’ve only read about in books before too, so that was really interesting.

Everybody was friendly, and I was allowed to pull up a chair or stand next to people, to see what they were working on up close.  They explained to me what they were doing and answered some questions for me too.

The people in Koyoki games were developing a game called Forces of Freedom, which is an army type strategy game played on tablets or mobiles.  You can find it here:  It’s not the kind of game I would normally play because I’m 10 and there are guns and things in it, but I did get to try out a little bit to see how the program works.  I liked how the sound effects and speed your character is moving at are programmed to change depending on what terrain you’re on.  So if you’re on a bridge, you hear thudding footsteps, and if you’re climbing a hill, your character moves a bit slower – like you would do in real life.

It was a great experience to see how all the files and bits of code come together to create professional games like this, and to learn about how the processes work (e.g. how each person has responsibility for specific parts of the overall program.)

Another company I saw was creating an update for a game called Pocket Mortys (that is actually how it’s spelt, not a me making a typo), which is based on an episode of a TV show called Rick and Morty (you can view the trailer for the app here).  They let me have a go on the apps they were developing as well.

At the end of my visit, David gave me a free book about Refactoring my code to take home with me.  It’s a really big book that I’m looking forward to reading!  I love computer programming manuals and this one should help me to understand how to get my own code to work as best as it can.

I’m feeling inspired to try and set up my own network after my visit, as that’s not something I’ve done before.  I’ll keep you guys posted when I’ve made a start on that. Thank you to David Hasovic for inviting me, and to everyone for being so friendly and helpful.  I learnt a lot and really enjoyed my visit!

Below: Pictures of my visit

Find the block game

Hi guys, I’ve just written a find the block game in minecraft pi that uses the gpio pins. It uses the pins to power LEDs that tell you how close you are to the block. The game tells you how to play before the main part starts.

To play this game, you need to connect some LEDs to the pins, the LED colours and the pins to connect them to are in the table below (Instructions are written for a raspberry pi B+/2/3 so consult your own raspberry pi leaf diagram if your raspberry pi is different):

GPIO pin Led colour
2 Red
3 Yellow
4 Green

You can download my program here.

Install and run is simple, set up the circuit (Remember to use resistors with the LEDs), make sure you have python and RPi.GPIO installed, and run the program normally (Make sure you have Minecraft pi open and a world loaded before running).

The video below is of the game in action.

I hope you enjoy playing my game.

Completing my ECDL

Yesterday, I completed the last 2 exams for my ECDL (ECDL stands for European Computer Driving License). It was only meant to be my penultimate exam (Excel), but after I’d finished that we asked if I could sit the last one (improving productivity)  as well and just pay another exam fee.

I passed both of these exams and my overall score equates to an A* GCSE, bet that’ll look good on my CV, especially as I did it at 10!

I completed the improving productivity exam in 15 minutes as well, the invigilator said that most students take the 1 hour that they are allowed to use for the test.

I’m feeling very pleased with myself for this achievement, and I hope I achieve more things like this in the future.