Making Catchup: ChainDuino, HackADay bits and Pi HATs

makingcatchupChainDuino: An interesting Arduino varient now gathering funds on Kickstarter is the ChainDuino project. Simply put it allows a number of Arduino-style microcontrollers to be chained together over CAT5 cable with that cable delivering power, using a passive Power over Ethernet mechanism, and communications, using RS-485.

This could be incredibly useful in creating a large area sensor net (current max, 32 boards) as it can stretch for up to quarter of a mile and there’s no need for power sockets along the entire length apart from where you inject the power. The ChainDuinos have two RJ45 ports on them for chaining or an IDC connector for cutting into a long uncut run of cable. That does mean there’s no space for USB on these boards so they’ll need programming over an FTDI(serial) connection… there’s no programming over the wire yet but its on the todo list. There’s also a Mega version of the board for more I/O and plans for a shield. An intruiging way of getting Arduino controllers connected.

HackADay bits: HackADay always has interesting stuff. Things that caught my attention this week are:
* the 68008 bootstrapped by an Uno – check out that breadboarding. It’s not a new technique a friend noted pointing out the Amstrad PCW8256’s Z80 was also bootstrapped from a microcontroller, the keyboard controller to be exact.
* a touch screen that balances balls – the ball rolls on the resistive touchscreen and an Arduino then rebalances it according to where it senses the ball.

Hats for Pis: Arduino’s have shields, BeagleBone’s have caps and Raspberry Pi’s have those-thingys-that-plug-onto-the-IO-pins. Well, thats how it was, but it seems the Pi folks have set out to change that with HATs – Hardware Attached on Top specifically for the Pi B+ with it’s 40 pin IO. The B+, unlike its stable mates, has mounting locations for screws with these add on boards and a specification for the board. So we get stability, physical and electrical. And now Adafruit are going all out prototyping HATs. Here’s a proto-board HAT, a GPS HAT, a TFT HAT, an Arcade HAT and a servo HAT… they aren’t available yet, but there’s going to be plenty of HATs to choose from in the future.

Making Catchup: The ODROID W and VU, BBB GPIO and tutorials

makingcatchupODROID-W: Hardkernel are more known for their Exynos based single board computers which pack quite a punch in a small space – enough that a meaty heatsink is needed. But their latest product eschews the Exynos chippery for a Broadcom chip, the same chip as the Raspberry Pi. The ODROID-W is apparently the result of a wearable research project which saw Hardkernel minimise the Pi design down to a wearable module. This module loses Ethernet, switches to a MicroSD slot and micro-HDMI then adds an eMMC socket, real time clock and battery booster and packs it into a tiny board. It’s rather neat and if you want more ports, there’s docking modules with or without touch TFT LCD screens. It’s one of the more interesting additions to the Pi ecosystem and I’ll have more to say about it when they arrive at Codescaling.

ODROID-VU: While looking at the Odroid-W, I noticed the Odroid-VU. This is a 1280×800 9″ multitouch display with USB and HDMI connections which seems to be joining the race for who can make the all-purpose hacker-maker portable screen.

BeagleBone Black GPIO: BeagleBone Black’s have a lot of IO capabilities and it can be a bit daunting taking it all in. So Kilobaser’s BBB GPIO tutorial is a great place to get a handle on all these pins and how to control them from Linux.

BeagleBone Black Tutorials: Another useful resource is Logicsupply’s Inspire blog where various handy articles have been appearing like this one on how to drive OLED displays fromC/C++ or making Xbee work or this one on web controlling LEDs using a smartphone.

Making Catchup: Pi Gameboys, Free routing, Easy IoT service and a robot dinosaur!

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Two Gameboy-a-likes: There seems to have been a little resurgence in the idea of emulating the classic Gameboy.At the start of the month, Adafruit introduced the PiGrrl which used a 3D printed case, a hacked up SNES style controller, a Pi and an Adafruit TFT display as the screen. It’s a fine project and on my “may do” list but it was the second Pi project which really impressed me. The Super Pi Boy eschews hip niceties of 3D printing and crams the electronics in an original Gameboy case for that authentic feel. The screen is an interesting hack too, taking a vehicle reversing screen (they are cheap) and converting it from 12V to 5V to wire into the Pi’s composite. It’s a tale of roughly hewn modifications but a good read.

Routing for freedom: The EFF are campaigning for safer networking and as part of that they’ve announce the alpha developer release of Open Wireless Firmware which should eventually offer something better than the bag of holes your typical router firmware is. Currently it only runs on the Netgear WNDR3800 so you’ll want one of them if you want to hack on it, unless you want to port it to something else.

Sparkfun with data: Sparkfun, makers of many fine hackable gadgets has announced a data service at data.sparkfun.com which can hold 50MB of data (rate limited to coming in at 100 update per 15 minutes). Posting data to it is as simple as composing a URL with a string appended. It looks great for experimenting with IoT concepts without diving in to full message queues and protocols. Behind the service is Phant.io, an open source platform you can set up yourself if you want.

Roboceratops rocks: Hackaday points to a project, in early development but looking fine, Roboceratops that is creating a robotic dinosaur. I can’t wait to see how the beast looks when it’s fully autonomous and fleshed out.

New PI Details

The new Raspberry Pi B+ is official. No change at the core, it’s the same 700mhz Broadcom chip with 512MB RAM, but it’s all changes outside. There’s a new USB/Ethernet chip, 4 USB ports, composite video pushed into the 4pin audio connector, reworked power handling and a 40 pin GPIO port. The latter is most likely to generate physical incompatibility though the layout changes mean no current cases will work. There’s more information over at Adafruit’s B+ page.

My theory? This is step one in rationalising the board for the future and that when a new more powerful Pi appears, it’ll appear in this form with an ecosystem prepared by the B+ release.

Catchup: New Pi?, MeArm & JavaScript, Docker goes big, harder Dart, Breach

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Hot Pi: First up, a hot rumour via Hackaday is that there’s a Raspberry B+ with 4 USB ports, no composite, a 40 pin GPIO port and other changes… is this real? We shall see, but the Pi has been aching for an update and even if this isn’t it, there’s a gap to be filled.

MeARM by JavaScript: Two of my favourite projects, the low cost MeARM robot ARM and the JavaScript running Espruino board have been brought together for a fun little remote control project for the ARM.

Big Docks: Google’s Kubernates project has drawn in a whole load of contributors. Kubernates is a cluster manager for containers. Now, [according to the announcement], IBM, Red Hat, Microsoft, Docker (and CoreOS, Mesosphere and SaltStack) have all signed up to develop various aspects of the platform. Could be interesting… it’s already interesting that Docker has at once become the centre of and just a component of bigger effort all at the same time.

Dart hardens: Dart, Google’s replacement for JavaScript and poor relative of Go in terms of adoption, is now ECMA-408. Whether getting the ECMA badge will push Dart forward or will the cross-browser-centic JavaScript community continue not bothering to look… we shall see, though Dart seems to lack the features that engender excitement and adoption so…

HTML Breached: Ever wanted an all JavaScript browser? The Breach developers did and are creating just such a thing.Node.js eventloop and wrapping the Chromium App API so that the top side of the browser is all HTML/JS. There might be some interesting code to come from it but its still early days.

Newsy: CentOS 7 for x86-64 is here

h-5c-a-1340Just announced in the last few hours, CentOS 7 for x86-64 has arrived. This is the first release under the new arrangements since Red Hat reversed into CentOS, leaving the distro independent but hiring a number of key players. Apart from this being a rapid arrival for a major new release, the announcement notes that they aim to get future updates heading out within 24-48 hours of release. There’s a new versioning system too, so this is Cento 7.0-1406,14/06 being June 2014, when Red Hat released RHEL 7.0 and the code base that this release of CentOS was built on. There’s torrents available for the DVD ISO, “Everything”, GNOME Live (the announcement has a malformed link for that – it’s http://mirror.centos.org/centos/7/isos/x86_64/CentOS-7.0-1406-x86_64-GnomeLive.torrent), KDE Live, a Live CD and a NetInstall. And to the torrents we fly to check out how it looks… well it should look like RHEL 7.

Making Catchup: BeagleBone GSM Basestation, Pi ScreenKeyboards, Tiny Clocks, Wifi Steals

makingcatchupWant to be your own GSM Base Station? This article will show you one way, though before you get too excited you’ll need a Ettus USRP B200 which starts at £495, or some other RTLSDR rig. This isn’t a cheap venture but the article steps through bringing the BBB together with the base station and adding the call handling and routing through OpenBTS.

At the other end of the scale, Hackaday pointed to this tiny bubble clock project which uses the old-school LEDs which have recently reappeared on the market and a MSP430 microcontroller to create a perfboard based clock. Very nice and very future retro.

You can get tiny touch screens for your Raspberry Pi and with the appropriate drivers boot your Pi using the screen. But then you have to schlep out the big old keyboard and it just looks silly again. Adafruit pointed out Matchbox a mini display keyboard for the Pi built for just this situation and a tutorial on how to configure it. You wouldn’t want to live with it, but it could save the day when you need to configure a Wifi connection or fix a random flaw.

And back at Hackaday there’s some actual hacking ongoing, namely stealing someones Wifi credentials by… hacking their LED WiFi connected lightbulbs. Or at least how you used to be able to do it since the vendors bulbs have now been fixed. But its a chance the scratch your chin and ponder at the number of ways the super-connected-thing future is going to open up even more attack surfaces for bad actors.