Interview with the Creators of CHIP, a $9 Single-Board Computer

Single-board computing is hot on the DIY scene right now and riding that knife edge is C.H.I.P., a project currently in crowd-funding which prices the base unit at just $9. I was happy to run into the crew from Next/Thing Company who developed C.H.I.P. They were happy because, well, the project’s reception has been like a supernova. Right now they’re at about $1.5M of their original $50k goal. We spoke about running Linux on the board, what connectors and pinout headers are available, as well as the various peripheral hardware they have ready for the board.

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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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Turning the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 into a proper Linux box

Over on the xda developers forum, [exception13] shows us the work he’s put into geting Debian running on his Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, allowing him to dual boot Android and Linux on a single device.

The project is still in a fairly early state, but so far [exception13] has most of the goodies required for a decent Linux experience running already. There’s WiFi, bluetooth, sound, usb-otg and touchscreen support, as well as support for the Note’s S Pen, the Wacom digitizer that basically turns the Galaxy Note 10.1 into an Intuos touch pad.

There’s still a lot of work work to be done, including getting the camera up and running, as well as enabling the GPS receiver. Still, it’s a very cool project that puts the power of a proper desktop interface into a tablet with enough horsepower to get something useful done.

If you’d like to get this running on your Galaxy Note, [exception13] has a download avaiable over on Google Code. There’s also a video [exception13] put together demoing all the cool stuff his Note can do, you can check that out after the break.

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Dedicated Pandora player plus AirPlay built around the Raspberry Pi


[Shaun Gehring] wanted an Internet radio player. Although he did have some troubles along the way, the final project turned out very well. Housed inside this case which used to house a spindle of bland CDs is a Raspberry Pi that plays Pandora radio and serves as an AirPlay receiver.

The GPIO header of the RPi makes this project a lot easier. [Shaun] used Adafruit’s breakout board to solder connections for the six buttons and the character LCD screen. Plug some speakers into the audio jack and the hardware end of the deal is finished. The software side of things is very similar to the BeagleBone Pandora player we looked at in September. It uses a Linux distribution (Rasbian Weezy) and the Pianobar package.

Pianobar is very versatile. You can control it using a First-In First-Out file. Once [Shaun] figured out how to use mkfifo to set up the file, he was able to control it from a script by monitor button presses and echoing the associated command to the FIFO. The finishing touch was to add AirPlay support via the shairport package.

Playing video games on your office phone

So IT has your computer locked down, but if you’re lucky enough to have this model of telephone you can still play video games while at work. [AUTUIN] was at the thrift store and for just $8 he picked up an ACN videophone on which he’s now playing video games. We don’t know what magical second-hand stores sell functioning electronics of this caliber  but you should never pass up an opportunity like this.

It turns out the phone is running Linux natively. After some searching [AUTUIN] found that it is possible to telnet to a root shell on the device. Doing so he was able to figure out that the phone uses standard packages like ALSA for the Audio and /dev/input/event0 for the keypad. It even includes an SD card slot so he loaded one with a Debian image and used pivot_root to switch over to that OS. At this point the phone is his to command and of course he loaded up a video game which you can see in the clip after the break.

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Raspberry Pi wedded to a DSLR

This is a Raspberry Pi outfitted in a DSLR battery grip. [Dave H] was very interested in the idea of combining a single-board computer with a high-end camera. The size and cost of such a computer was prohibitive until the RPi came along. He managed to fit the board into the broken battery grip he had on hand, and he already has the prototype up and running.

[Dave’s] alterations to the battery grip allow access to the USB, Ethernet, and Composite video ports. Powering the RPi was a bit of a challenge. He tried using an iPhone charger with four AA batteries but that only provided 4.2V. After going back to the drawing board he discovered he could rework the parts that he removed from the grip, using a Cannon 7.2V 1800 mAh battery. So far he can automatically pull images from the Camera and transmit them over a network connection. But since the RPi is running Linux, there’s a whole world of hacks just waiting to be exploited. What comes to mind first is image manipulation software (like ImageMagick) which has a command-line interface.

[Thanks Christian]

Fattening a thin client to run a Debian desktop

While watching his thin client boot up [Nav] noticed that it’s using some type of Linux kernel. He wondered if it were possible to run a full-blow desktop distribution on the device. A little poking around he got a Debian desktop distribution running on a thin client.

The hardware he’s working with is an HP t5325. It’s meant to be a dumb client, connecting to a backend machine like a Windows Terminal Server or via SSH. But it’s got a 1.2 GHz ARM processor and [Nav’s] preliminary investigations revealed the it’s running a version of Debian for ARM. He used CTRL-C during the boot sequence to derail that process and dump him to a shell. The login was easy enough to guess as the username and password are both ‘root’.

Once he’s got that root access it was slash and burn time. He got rid of the HP-specific setup and made way for additional Debian modules like the apt system. This isn’t trivial, but he’s worked out a bunch of sticking points which makes the process easier. With the repository tools loaded you can install Xserver and Gnome for a full-blown desktop on the embedded hardware.