Friday, July 31, 2009

Touch Screen search

I'm taking a little time off from my studies (my last final is this week, yeha!) and I've decided to post about my quest for touch screens. Over the years I've picked up a few things like the Palm (III, IIIxe and a IIIc), an HP Jornada (terrible software), a Chumby (again, software), the Nokia 770 (nice) and the Apple iPod (very) nice. I intend to get an iPhone as I've fallen in love with the interface and find the rest of the 'smart' phones annoying (and very tiny). Mostly what I've noted is that these devices fit a specific need very well but all were really too small for anything else. The iPhone's ability to expand the image is nice but the over all viewable display is still pretty small (yet any larger and it probably wouldn't be a good phone).

What I'm currently looking for is something more along the lines of a netbook type screen around 10" in size. I found this a few months ago, the Always Innovating Touch Book. I decided not to sign up for the first run (sometimes it doesn't pay to be the beta customer ;-) ). I did try to see when the units were coming out (beta sign ups, beginning of August). There will be a second run at the end of the 4Q09. I did try to sign up for that one but they want my credit card number. I really don't like the idea of my CC number sitting around for that long. Also I'm a little leery of a company that has lead times of this length. Sounds like a garage operation. I wish them best of luck to them as it sounds like a good product.

So I kept looking and Marc Fluery ( says that Mark Spencer ( found another company that does touch screen computing called Touch Revolution. The NIMble They produce a touch screen called the NIMble. They've got a nice little 7" unit. This looks interesting, it uses the Android Application Framework, comes is various sizes and has the appropriate network interfaces. Sounds like the perfect HA interface, at least for the sighted. For the legally blind there are other technologies that we're hoping to see soon. Hmm, I wonder if someone is working on an electro-static interface to make a flat surface feel like it has buttons and a raised surface. Now that would be very cool!

Anyway, now for some hardware specs:

NIMble hardware specs
Main processor Minimum 600MHz StrongARM
Memory 128 MB DDR RAM, 512 MB NAND Flash
Expanded storage SD Card Slot
OS Embedded Linux
Middleware Android Application Framework
Screen type TFT LCD
Screen dimensions 4.3", 7", 10" Diagonal (Other custom sizes supported)
Resolution 480 x 272, 800 x 480 and higher
Touch sensor Type Multi-Touch Projective Capacitive Glass Surface
Connectivity 802.11 b/g WiFi, Bluetooth, USB 1.0/2.0, Ethernet
Audio Stereo Speakers, Stereo Headset Jack, Directional Microphone, BluetoothTM 2.0/2.1 + EDR stereo (A2DP) range of 10 meters
Camera 2MP CMOS Camera, 15fps full resolution video, 30fps 1MP video

I'm not sure what to make of the camera, it's probably not a bad thing to have. I'm just not sure I like something with the ability to peek around without my knowledge. I expect that the NIMble is pretty lite on power usage. In addition to a wall mount (using a power supply) I'd also like a table top unit. I'd expect a broswer to be included so I can get information on not just the home but other things too (Dammit, the Yanks lost! How'd the Mets do?).

I'd also like to see a larger touch screen model, 1024x768 or better. My eyes are having a harder time reading things like my WinCe based smart phones. I very much like the iPod touch except that on things that cover something like a page of paper it's swipe right to left, then back, then down then rigth to left. A pain to read anything but the simpliest of documents. It certainly looks like the future of touch computing is going to keep things interesting. It will certainly be nice to have these inexpesive devices available, one sitting on the entertainment room table (the room with my 13" TV wink ), one wall mounted and one in the library (the bathroom) acting like a kindle but without the limitations.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

One down, one to go ...

Well I'm down to my final week of school for my Bachelor's degree. I have one more lab to hand in (it was a tough setup) and my final (next week). Then I'll take a little time off to rest up but I'm itching to code already so I don't know how much rest I'll get. You should see a lot more links being added and updated for my main web site - Actually expect a lot of activity on all of them (HCS, LinuxHA Project, OpenRemote, etc.)

I'm hoping to put some work into my LinuxHA Project. I decided that I would try to build a HCS II SC emulator using Groovy to write the DSL and emulate it's hardware (i.e. the RS485 network). A hardware SC is the main controller, a Z80 processor, that runs XPRESS code. The SC is part of the HCS II project that was the 1988 idea of Steve Ciarcia, Engineer, Founder and Editorial Director of Circuit Cellar Magazine. It's an extremely flexible system with lots of digital and analog I/O support via it's use of inexepensive RS485 networked boards. But being over 20 years old, it's starting to show it's age and it needs to be brought into the 21st century. My intention is to use a Linux SBC like the ALIX system. The advantage of using Linux is that it gives me is access to a vast array of tools (such as Java and Groovy) and I don't have to write an OS with network, file system, database, ... support (I think you get the idea). Let's face it if you have a HA system that doesn't have networking support it's most likely going to get ignored. Everything is on the Internet these days. In addition it can access any port on the system so it can interface to things like my USB Labjack and web based information.

Last but not least, I don't want to forget about the OpenRemote project. I hope to be going to CEDIA/Atlanta with the OpenRemote folks in September. I expect that during August I'll finally get all the components of OpenRemote up and running in my home (base system on the ASUS 202 and the OpenRemote App on my iPod). Then I can start adding in the equipment I have around my house. And yes, I intend to integrate the SC into the OpenRemote project. "One ring to rule them all" so to speak.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

One Step forward, two steps back ...

... now we're cha-cha-ing (Chris Knight - Real Genius). Anyway, in my constant quest for updated routing software and IPV6 I swapped out my WRT54G for a Netgear WGT624 (it's temporary, until I get the WRT upgraded and reconfigured). The WGT624 was picked up cheap for just this purpose. I attempted to put OpenWRT Kamikaze on the WRT only to find that it doesn't include wireless support because it's too unstable so it was removed. They could have done a better job of posting that info. Maybe in a readme in the same directory? So then my attempt to fall back to OpenWRT White Russian failed because Kamikaze wouldn't recognize it even though the MD5 checksum matched the file on the OpenWRT site. So I used DD-WRT v24-SP1 (standard generic) instead. Kamikaze recognized that and it loaded. So now I now have wireless and IPV6. The information on the web said that IPV6 didn't work but I tried it anyway. I had to configure enable IPV6 forwarding on all interfaces and RADVD. Hmm, looks like there will be no IPV6 tunnel as there isn't enough room for all the necessary utilities (the appropriate IPV6 modules). The good news is that the DD-WRT software gives me the ability to track my bandwidth usage so it's still a useful router. At the moment my other WRT is missing so I can't take advantage of it (in a wireless bridge for instance). I may have given it to one of my friends but for the life of me I can't remember who. I'm also locked out of my Netgear WGT634U because I can't remember the root password (ARGH!). Looks like I have some soldering work ahead of me making JTAG and serial port interfaces for these boxes.

Update: Well I managed to recall my WGT634U's password (gotta be more careful with letter case). So I now have 5 routers, 1 old Linksys 11b router, 1 WRT54G running DD-WRT, 1 WRT54GL running OpenWRT (probably White Russian) that I can't find, my WGT634U running OpenWRT (Kamikaze R3032) and a WGT624 v3. I really need to organize my stuff much better. :-/ I'm hoping to get the WGT634U upgraded to the latest version of Kamikaze (8.09.2). Then I can use the WRTs for other things such as to permit roaming.

Meanwhile on the BuildRoot front I'm having a lot of problems. I had a good config for the kernel and it was mostly working but that was accidentally overwritten (ARGH!). So I attempted to recreate my work. So far nothing has worked. After GRUB presents the menu, it boots the kernel and just prints 'Starting' and hangs (well does nothing visible). I'm at a bit of a loss and very confused as to what the problem is. I've compiled the kernel with debugging turned on but it still remains silent. I'll continue to work on it. Eventually I'll get a working kernel and then I can progress onto getting the rest of my tools working. I have to get this working as my plans for distributing the processing to a lot of smaller boxes requires an embedded distribution.