Thursday, May 27, 2010

WikiReader Serial Port Hack Pictures

Per a recent request...

Here are some pictures of my small hardware hack.

First, I just added 3 header pin sockets to the already exposed debug port:

But that proved too cumbersome to maintain a good tethered connection to my laptop (plus the batteries would have to be exposed).

So, with the aid of a master machinist (Sandor -- a co-worker), I put a stereo "micro" jack on the top side of the device:

Here is the finished result:

You can see where I (badly) pried open the case ;-)

And here is where I am today:

Now, onto software...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

So many CFT projects...

  1. Hands-off! - Small, mountable, personal alarm system. Attach to a bike, briefcase, computer bag, etc. Arm/Disarm with a key fob. Piercing alarm when someone "moves" your possession. Key fob also has a smaller alarm/buzzer to notify you (up to 10 meters away).
  2. mooTracker - Ultra low power GPS tracker for livestock, pets, etc. Can be used with GSM/SMS module, Iridium modem, etc. Uses an accelerometer to detect motion before engaging GPS trackers. Standby current should be <>
  3. UV Index Clip - Small (discrete) UV Index sensor (1" square max). Uses a button cell battery, SiLabs C8051F930, and ANT for communication to iPod/iPhone/Pocket-device to alert you when you've had enough rays. Can be clipped to clothing or hat.
  4. Crop/Garden moisture monitor. Seed your garden (co-op, winery, etc) with low cost, very low power wireless sensors. They contact a hub (with GSM/SMS capability) to send you status/alerts as text messages. The hub should also support data logging/consolidation for summation or later retrieval.
  5. Portable Power Consumption Data Logger. The key word is "portable" here. This data logger/monitor is designed to be used "in the field" with portable devices (sensors, auto accessories, robots, etc). Mainly for battery powered devices. Should be able to measure power consumption between 0-12volt and between 1uA and 3A.
  6. WikiReader Portable Terminal - Use the WikiReader as a local/personal display and a controller of UART enabled devices. Maybe use Bluetooth to use it to query/control sensors.

So many CFT projects, so little time. Is there a way to tie them together?
Is there a common theme?

If I only built the things that "I" find useful, which would they be?

I could use #4 in my yard and I have friends that would find it useful.

My wife could use #3....

I could see where #1 would be useful, but it generally sounds pretty boring
(from an implementation point of view).

None of these projects are terribly unique. Maybe my approach is
"low cost / low power". I find it challenging to do a lot with a little.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gonzo Engineering

This manifesto strikes a chord. I am not as brave (or insane?) as Steven Roberts, but I do find resonance with his writings. I remember briefly encountering Roberts at InterOp Spring 1992 where he had a booth showing off his BEHEMOTH bike.

I just finished his book.

I need to do more about my crazy dreams.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

WikiReader, Forth and Hacking

It's old news, but I find the WikiReader very cool. It is an "offline" pocket size wikipedia reader (searches a mini-SD card of a wikipedia dump). It came out last fall (2009) and it has already been subject to a teardown and random hacks. What finally got me interested is knowing that it runs a cross compiled (almost ANSI) Forth.

I've been doing a lot of low level and high level Forth recently and wanted a "lighweight" hackable device for some mall programming (my 11 yr old son plays Warhammer 4K at a local mall and can be engaged for up to 3 hrs -- ugh, 3 hrs of waiting in a mall). The problem with most of my devices is that they have lots of wires, bare boards and LEDs. I don't need the attention (blinking LED.. somebody call the police!).

So, I got me a WikiReader and I've already opened it up to hack in a connector for a serial port (pictures later).

The toolchain and source code is free (developed under Linux w/ open source tools), so I installed ubuntu (once again: goodbye windows) and was quickly cross compiling new Forth engines!

More later, but some quick mini-stats:

The device works off of 3 AAA batteries and draws 11-13mA (avg) while "idle" (waiting for a touch screen or serial event) and 80-90mA (avg) while searching, handling I/O and doing wikipedia stuff.

Not bad.