Qt 5.3 released, an OS in JS and Papilio’s FPGA power – Snippets

Snippets
Qt 5.3: The folks at Digia seem to be keeping the Qt development pace up, and not forgetting to take a breather and getting the stability story right. The latest release, Qt 5.3 appears to be one of those breather releases with lots of fixes for the desktop platforms and a supported beta for the Windows 8 Runtime. There’s some new additions too; a QtQuickWidget lets Qt Quick UIs be embedded into older Qt Widget based applications for a smoother transition between the old to new development style and there’s now WebSockets support for plugging into more web applications. You’ll find all the open source tools and downloads on the Qt Project website.

Os.js: Every generation is doomed to reinvent the previous generation and here we have OS.js which looks to implement an entire desktop environment, within the browser, in JavaScript. Thats not to say its not interesting as the idea of having a desktop to your cloud isn’t without merit, especially so if the desktop is portable. There’s already a lot in the alpha version of the platform and it seems way more developed than similar projects I’ve encountered in the past. Window and file management, a GUI library, multi-user support, theming and applications such as Draw, Preview, Textpad and Writer make this a project worth looking at. There’s a demo online too and its all under what appears to be a BSD 2-clause licence.

Papilio:Just turning up on my radar, and I’m late to the party, is Papilio, a single board controller which looks like a turboed up Arduino but at its heart is not an Atmel chip but an FPGA chip. That FPGA can be configured with a soft clone of the AtMega chips and driven with the Arduino IDE or it can run a “ZPUino” configuration which works like an “Arduino on steroids” at 100Mhz.

The compatibility with Arduino isn’t the driver for the project though, its more of a stepping stone into FPGA programming. Videos on the site show the Papilo programmed to emulate the Pacman and Frogger motherboards with FPGA emulations of Z80s and other classic CPUs or getting the Papilo to emulate the SID chip from the Commodore 64. The chip, on the Pro version at least, is a Xilinx Spartan 6 LX FPGA – There’s a couple of boards and the UK supplier, SK Pang, offers the newer Pro for £80 inc VAT (and a slightly older, cheaper Paplio One 500K for around £65). A list of other regional distributors is also availble.

There’s also an expansions, such as the LogicStart MegaWing for getting into FPGA/VHDL development, the Arcade MegaWing for game emulation, the Retrocade MegaWing for audio/midi work and [and numerous single purpose “wings. It looks like there’s already a whole ecosystem for the budding FPGA hacker to dive into.

Arduino’s Zero Hero, Postgresql’s beta and fun small projects

ArduinoZeroArduino Zero: It’s looking like the next Arduino will be the focussed refresh we’ve been waiting for. Makezine has all the details on the Arduino Zero, announced at Makercon. It’s a 48Mhz ARM cored Atmel chip with 256KB flash memory, 32K SRAM and no EEPROM. There’s 12-bit ADCs, PWM on all digital pins, support for an embedded debugger, a second USB port (who knows!) and it’s all 3.3V. Looks super interesting, but the real questions will come when we find out how pricing works out and how hard it’ll be to use recreate the Zero from raw components. See also Arduino’s official announcement.

Postgresql’s new beta: There’s a Postgresql 9.4 beta out there now which doesn’t block when refreshing its neat materialised views, lets background workers be dynaminally registered, started and stopped and more. There’s also more structured support for JSON storage, a logical decoding system for streaming changes out to other systems and an ALTER SYSTEM command which lets you edit postgresql.conf from the SQL command line. One to keep an eye on.

Small projects: First up, a fun little project with a Raspberry Pi, Paho MQTT, Mosquitto, Python and Node-RED is also an excellent example of how easy it is to wire things up with MQTT. Second up, do you want to create a realistic landscape in JavaScript? You could try looking at this landscape generator which makes lovely ground shapes, The article even wraps up with some challenges for coders.

Game On! with Gameduino 2

beautySay you wanted to build a games machine with an Arduino at its core, you’d might be a trifle stuck with a stock Arduino. You could do a lot of the interfacing to controllers or the logic, but what about the display and sound. Well, previously you may have got a Gameduino which gave you 400×300 512 colour VGA output, hardware sprites and audio in a nifty Arduino shield. It is pure 8 bit epicness.

But that was back in 2011 and now the sequel is being kickstarted, Gameduino 2, and its a little cracker. With a smarter graphics engine, the FT800, it handles full 32 bit colour, JPEG loading in hardware and has what is described as an “OpenGL” style command set. Now it displays 480×272 in 24 bit colour and can handle 2000 sprites, rotated and scaled. It has 256KB of RAM and 6 sizes of font, 8 musical instruments and 10 percussion sounds already loaded into its ROM.

But where would you find a display for this device? As part of the Gameduino 2, there’s a 4.3″ touchscreen so you have that display and control surface you need for a modern game. It also has a 3 axis accelerometer for orientation-oriented gaming, a headphone jack for audio out and a microSD slot. It basically looks splendid and may even be the missing link in getting more kids into Arduinos – show them this playing games, then take it apart and show them how they can take control. Did I mention how the hardware and software is all open source too (BSD licensed), so ripe for hacking!

I’ll admit I’ve already backed the project – it has passed its $6700 goal and still has 28 days of kickstarter time to go. Now, who’s going to make a handheld case and power kit for this beast.

Arduino’s x86 and TI/ARM treats

TRE_iso
Arduino Tre – Bristling with connections

Arduino has been working with both Intel and TI to create two new boards, both of which are quite interesting departures from their previous designs. Both run Linux, in different ways but while one tries to replace the AVR microcontroller of the classic Arduino, the other hugs the classic Arduino deep into its design.

The first board announced was the Arduino Galileo which is powered by Intel’s Quark SoC X1000 running at 400Mhz and in due to be available in November and, according to some reports, will be “less than $80”. The processor is a 32-bit “Pentium-class” chip and the datasheet(pdf) details how the board has a set of 3.3V (or jumper settable 5V) connectors which are Arduino Uno R3 pin compatible. There’s also 10/100 Ethernet, a PCI Express mini card slot, micro-SD slot and USB client and USB host connectors on the board. This is very much an Intel rendering of what an Arduino would be with Intel’s Quark at its core; note, for example, that for a board of its spec, there’s no video out of any form, despite being closer to the Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone Black in pricing and that from the higher side. It’s an interesting iteration which gets Intel into the emerging market of small embeddable devices, but will it play with the makers – it doesn’t look easy to go from a Galileo to a production device.

The other board may be more exciting for makers, even if it is not available till next Spring and being shown now only as a sneak peek. Designed as part of a collaboration between Arduino and the BeagleBoard.org foundation, the Arduino Tre is a double processor sandwich with a 1GHz TI Sitara AM335x processor running Linux wrapped around a Atmega32u4 based Arduino – yes, the BeagleBone Black and Arduino have had a love-child and the Tre is the result; an ARM based Linux running processor to do the heavy compute lifting and networking and a classic Arduino to do the interfacing. The Tre is covered in connectors to wire up to, with the Arduino shield pins in the centre and the BeagleBone style cape connectors still on the board but separated by a whole Arduino now.

How this’ll work in practice, who knows, but it opens up a range of opportunities, especially as the Tre, unlike the Galileo, has HDMI video out too. Again no official pricing and this is down for a Spring landing so a bit of a wait. Till then, if you haven’t got one, get yourself a BeagleBone Black and interface it to your Arduino to simulate at least some of the experience.

Which reminds me… (he said getting his BeagleBone Black out)…

OpenStack costs, Boot2Gecko on APC, Python debugging and a storage warning – Snippets

Snippets

  • OpenStack Hardware Calculator: Mirantis have an interesting OpenStack calculator which lets you how many and how big you want your average virtual machine, pick hardware and networking vendor and whether you want high availability or not. It comes back to you with a couple of configurations based on those requirements and $ pricing of the cloud’s hardware.
  • Boot2Gecko on Rock and Paper: Via has announced a preview of Boot2Gecko for it’s APC single board ARM-based PCs “Rock” and “Paper”. Boot2Gecko is the name of Firefox OS when its on unblessed devices as Liliputing pointed out, although the GitHub repository is still labelled APC-Firefox-OS. There’s plenty of known issues, but Via are offering free APCs to anyone who fixes them and sends a pull request. Wondering what to fix? There’s a list of bugs and enhancements awaiting work.
  • Python Debugging: Over on Hacker News, people are recommending pudb, the Python Urwid Debugger, which works in the console as a full terminal application. Older hands will get the “Turbo Pascal” vibe from it as it appears to have take some inspiration from there. So, Unix based Python programmers may want to check it out.
  • A warning about storage: A useful reminder from Christopher Deutsch’s blog about making sure that when you release an open source project you aren’t including any URLs which will cost you money. In Deutsch’s case it was a test file on Amazon S3 which was used by HiSRC to check bandwidth… and has just cost him $20 on his monthly Amazon bill.