Running Debian on a Graphing Calculator

While the ubiquitous TI-83 still runs off an ancient Zilog Z80 processor, the newer TI-Nspire series of graphing calculators uses modern ARM devices. [Codinghobbit] managed to get Debian Linux running on a TI-Nspire calculator, and has written a guide explaining how it’s done.

The process uses Ndless, a jailbreak which allows code to run at a low level on the device. Ndless also includes a full SDK, emulator, and debugger for developing apps. In this case, Ndless is used to load the Linux kernel.

The root filesystem is built on a PC using debootstrap and the QEMU ARM emulator. This allows you to install whatever packages are needed via apt, before transitioning to the calculator itself.

With the root filesystem on a USB flash drive, Ndless runs the Linux loader, which starts the kernel, mounts the root filesystem, and boots in to a Debian system in about two minutes. As the video after the break demonstrates, this leaves you with a shell on the calculator. We’re not exactly sure what to do with Linux on a graphing calculator, but it is a neat demonstration.

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Arietta G25 Has Us Wondering Where ARM Boards are Going

ARIETTA-G25-256

This tidy little ARM board is the Arietta G25. It’s based around an AT91SAM9G25 which is an ARM9 chip running at 400MHz. Paired with the DDR2 RAM (in 128 or 256 meg options) to the left, the board runs Linux and runs it well. After the break you can see the obligatory running of Doom. But in this case it doesn’t just run a demo, but is playable from momentary push buttons on a breadboard (props to the Arietta team for using wire wrap for that setup).

See the vertical row of pads between the processor and the SD card slot? That’s a breakout header designed to accept a WiFi module. In at €20-30 based on your RAM choice and just €7 for the WiFi module this board is certainly a contender for any embedded Linux projects. But it does have us wondering, should be thinking of these as ARM boards, or forget the low-level development and just think of them as a Linux machines with plenty of GPIO available?

The 20×2 pin header breaks out a lot of the SAM9′s features. We really like the interactive pinout posted for this device. For instance, there are three sets of USB host lines available. But you’ll want to click on each to see that one set is in use for the SD card, and another is used by the WiFi module. The documentation that has been posted for the Arietta G25 is one of its strongest point. Nice work there!

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Playing Doom (Poorly) on a VoCore

Last May brought the unastonishing news that companies were taking the Systems on Chip found in $20 wireless routers and making dev boards out of them. The first of these is the VoCore, an Indiegogo campaign for a 360MHz CPU with 8MB of Flash and 32MB or RAM packaged in a square inch PCB for the Internet of Things. Now that the Indiegogo rewards are heading out to workbenches the world over, it was only a matter of time before someone got Doom to run on one of them.

After fixing some design flaws in the first run of VoCores, [Pyrofer] did the usual things you would do with a tiny system running Linux – webcams for streaming video, USB sound cards to play internet radio, and the normal stuff OpenWrt does.

His curiosity satiated, [Pyrofer] turned to more esoteric builds. WIth a color LCD from Sparkfun, he got an NES emulator running. This is all through hardware SPI, mind you. Simple 2D graphics are cool enough, but the standard graphical test for all low powered computers is, of course, Doom.

The game runs, but just barely. Still, [Pyrofer] is happy with the VoCore and with a little more work with the SPI and bringing a framebuffer to his tiny system, he might have a neat portable Doom machine on his hands.

Finding a Shell in a Bose SoundTouch

Bose, every salesperson’s favorite stereo manufacturer, has a line of WiFi connected systems available. It’s an impressively innovative product, able to connect to Internet Radio, Pandora, music libraries stored elsewhere on the network. A really great idea, and since this connects to a bunch of web services, you just know there’s a Linux shell in there somewhere. [Michael] found it.

The SoundTouch is actually rather easy to get into. The only real work to be done is connecting to port 17000, turning remote services on, and then connecting with telnet. The username is root.

The telnet service on port 17000 is actually pretty interesting, and we’re guessing this is what the SoundTouch iOS app uses for all its wizardry. [Michael] put a listing of the ‘help’ command up on pastebin, and it looks like there are commands for toggling GPIOs, futzing around with Pandora, and references to a Bluetooth module.

Interestingly, when [Michael] first suspected there could be Linux inside this box, he contacted Bose support for any information. He figured out how to get in on his own, before Bose emailed him back saying the information is proprietary in nature.

[Sprite_TM] Puts Linux in a Clock Radio

[Sprite] needs an alarm clock to wake up in the morning, and although his phone has an infinitely programmable alarm clock, his ancient Phillips AJ-3040 has never failed him. It’s served him well for 15 years, and there’s no reason to throw it out. Upgrading it was the only way, with OLED displays and Linux systems inside this cheap box of consumer electronics.

After opening up the radio, [Sprite] found two boards. The first was the radio PCB, and the existing board could be slightly modified with a switch to input another audio source. The clock PCB was built around an old chip that used mains frequency as the time base. This was torn out of the enclosure along with the old multiplexed LCD.

A new display and brain for the clock was needed, and [Sprite] reached into his parts drawer and pulled out an old 288×48 pixel OLED display. When shining though a bit of translucent red plastic, it’s can be a reasonable facsimile of the old LEDs. The brains of the clock would be a Carambola Linux module. After writing a kernel module for the OLED, [Sprite] had a fully functional Linux computer that would fit inside a clock radio.

After having a board fabbed with the power supplies, I2C expanders, USB stereo DAC, and SPI port for the OLED, [Sprite] had a clock radio that booted Linux on an OLED screen. In the video below, [Sprite] walks through the functions of the clock, including setting one of the many alarms, streaming audio from the Internet, and changing the font of the display. There’s also a web UI for the clock that allows alarms to be set remotely – from a phone, even, if [Sprite] is so inclined.

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The CryptoCape For BeagleBone

[Josh Datko] was wandering around HOPE X showing off some of his wares and was kind enough to show off his CryptoCape to us. It’s an add on board for the BeagleBone that breaks out some common crypto hardware to an easily interfaced package.

On board the CryptoCape is an Atmel Trusted Platform Module, an elliptic curve chip, a SHA-256 authenticator, an encrypted EEPROM, a real time clock, and an ATMega328p for interfacing to other components and modules on the huge prototyping area on the cape.

[Josh] built the CryptoCape in cooperation with Sparkfun, so if you’re not encumbered with a bunch of export restrictions, you can pick one up there. Pic of the board below.

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Apple ][ Graphics as your Screensaver or Second Screen

apple2-xscreensaver-weather-demo

Hipsters rejoice, you can actually make those high-tech IPS panels look like crap. Really nostalgic crap. [Kaveen Rodrigo] wrote in to show how he displays weather data as his Apple ][ emulated screensaver.

2014-07-08-234300_1366x768_scrotHe’s building on the Apple2 package that is part of the xscreensaver available on Linux systems. The program has an option flag that allows you to run another program inside of it. This can be just about anything including using it as your terminal emulator. [Adrian] recently sent us the screenshot shown here for our retro edition. He is running bash and loaded up freenet just to enjoy what it used to be like in the good old days.

In this case, [Kaveen] is using Python to pull in, parse, and print out a Yahoo weather json packet. Since it’s just a program that is called when the screensaver is launched, you can use it as such or just launch it manually and fill your second monitor whenever not in use.

We gave it a whirl, altering his code to take a tuple of zip codes. Every hour it will pull down the data and redraw the screen. But we’ve put enough in there that you’ll be able to replace it with your own data in a matter of minutes. If you do, post a screenshot and what you’re using it for in the comments.

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