XBMC running on ARM


The XBMC team has posted a teaser showing the current state of the ARM port of this popular open source media software. We’ve embedded it after the break where you can see the package boot up and playback HD video. In it we see that the system is decoding the signal well, but image rendering needs some tweaking before this will be ready.

The hardware used is a Beagleboard which runs a 600 MHz ARM processor, has OpenGL 2D/3D acceleration, puts out HD via a DVI port, and is selling for about $150. The 3″ by 3″ board can be connected to a network using a USB WiFi dongle. Although integrating XBMC by hacking TV firmware is a long way off, we’d consider velcroing one of these to the back of our HDTV and getting rid of the hulking PC behind the entertainment center.

Can’t wait for this version to hit a stable release and don’t mind using hardware that is just a bit bigger? Check out this guide for setting up XBMC on the $200 Acer Aspire Revo.

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Time-lapse courtesy of Arduino


[Ross] put together a small package for use with time-lapse photography. The Nikon camera he’s using can snap a picture when it receives an IR command. [Ross'] solution connects an IR LED to an Arduino to generate this signal. The delay between frames is set with a potentiometer that is read in through the ADC. This is quite a bit less involved than the last solution we saw.

The unit consisting of an Arduino clone, a 9v battery, and the IR LED on a cable is easy to fit into a camera bag. He’s posted the code and we’ve embedded an example of his work after the break. An enclosure as well as time references around the potentiometer would complete this handy tool.

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Processor built with Transistor-Transistor Logic


[Donn] wanted know exactly what is going on inside of a processor so naturally he built a CPU out of TTL components. He had previously built a couple of versions of a computer based on the Z80 processor. Using the troubleshooting skills he learned and a second-hand textbook, he set to work using 74LS series chips connected using the wire-wrap method we’re familiar with from other cpu projects.

The finished product runs well at 1.8 megahertz, but he also included a 2 hertz clock and a step clock for debugging. At the slower speeds, the register board (seen at the left in the picture above) lights LEDs and can be used to tell what the CPU is currently working on. Programming is accomplished through either  a dumb terminal or a PC running a terminal emulator.

His writeup is from about five years ago but that didn’t prevent us from getting that fuzzy feeling in the geek-center of our brain when we read about it. It is well written and thorough so if you’re into this kind of thing there’s plenty to enjoy.

[Thanks Raleigh]

How to create TrueType from an image


[Viacheslav] wanted his virtual terminal to have the look of a DEC VT220. He was unable to find a font set that looked just right so he set out to make his own TrueType font. He managed to find a sample image of the glyphs that the VT220 used as fonts. Using a collection of free software he sliced the image into 256 different parts, resized and converted to one-bit index images, and converted these to vector graphics. This was accomplished with a bit of python, an image tracing program, and font editor called FontForge.

Take some time to dabble with these font tools. With an adequate sample you should be able to reproduce any font set. We won’t achieve anything as sophisticated as the font printed with bacteria, but this will be a start in the right direction.

Arduino “python” integration


[Cyberspice] informs us she likes snakes. Hey, who doesn’t? She’ll soon be adopting a lovely ball python and wanted to keep close tabs on the sensitive creature’s environment. To that end she assembled a network-enabled vivarium monitoring system based on Adafruit’s Boarduino (a minimalist Arduino clone), a TMP36 analog temperature sensor, Saelig’s WIZ810MJ Ethernet interface, and a common LCD screen. The Arduino rig periodically issues updates to a web server, which can then generate informative graphs using a set of PHP scripts (what, no Python?).

Okay, so we could probably count on one hand the number of readers in need of fancy reptile monitoring and still have fingers left over. There are countless other applications where networked sensor monitoring of this sort is a frequent necessity, so the article could be a good starting point for your own projects. There’s lots of source code to work with, on both the Arduino and web server sides. And the parts list demonstrates serious frugality: the Boarduino, the generic LCD, and especially the Ethernet interface; even with the breadboard adapter, this unit is about half the cost of the usual Arduino Ethernet shield, leaving more funds available for the snake food budget!

Single servo robot

[Guilherme Martins] rose to a challenge to build a robot with a single servo. His robot is a puppet controller, called talkie walkie. In real time, it will move its mouth to the sound of what you are saying. For those really curious, he’s speaking Portuguese and he roughly says “Hi, how’s it going”. He’s using an Arduino with a custom sound sensor, a single servo, a box, and a folder paper mouth.

Building a single servo robot shouldn’t be that much of a challenge, we’ve even seen walking robots with a single motor. There’s this 2 legged crawler, and we recall seeing a 4 legged B.E.A.M. walker with a single servo, but can’t find it right now.


[via RobotsDreams]


AIDA the dashboard bot

In an attempt to create more interaction with our vehicles, researchers have created AIDA. AIDA is basically a car computer and GPS that has some well designed personification. That cute little face will learn your daily habits and schedules and make recommendations to keep you out of traffic. We really like the idea, and the little bit we see of AIDA already has us falling in love, but won’t the placement be a distraction? We already know some people who give their car a name and treat it like a person, we don’t want to imagine what would happen if their car actually had some interactive personality. AIDA’s motion and emotive display are worthy of the crabfu challenge for sure, but do we want AIDA on our dashboard? Yes, most emphatically. She can sit right by the little hula girl.


[via BotJunkie]