Ubuntu with a GUI on a Beagleboard

beagle

The Raspberry Pi is great if you’re looking for a cheap yet powerful computer running Linux, but let’s not forget all the other ARM dev boards out there. [Adam] spent some time this weekend putting together an Ubuntu distro for his Beagleboard XM to give it the convenience of a GUI and a whole bunch of drivers to get a lot of stuff done.

The Beagleboard XM is another high power ARM dev board that is a little more capable than the Raspberry Pi. With an integrated USB hub, LVDS LCD displays, and a camera board, the Beagleboard already has a lot of peripherals that are now only promised for the Raspberry Pi. The only problem with the Beagleboard XM is the state of drivers and software; a problem [Adam] resolved by bringing Ubuntu to the Beagleboard.

[Adam]’s distro comes with all the goodies a relatively high-powered ARM dev board should have: Python, scipy, numpy, and a few cool extras such as GIMP and Chromium. He says it’s a bit faster than the stock Raspbian distro on the Raspberry Pi, so if you’re looking for the best ARM/Linux dev board for your next project, you may want to give [Adam]’s distro a try.

Robot can barely move with so much hardware strapped to it

web-server-robot

We think that [Andrej Škraba] needs to start looking for a beefier motor platform. This little robot has so much hardware strapped to it the motors can barely keep up. But with a little help it can make its way around the house, and it takes a whole lot of connectivity and computing power along for the ride.

The white stick on the top is a single-board computer. The MK802 Mini sports an A10 processor and up to a gig of ram. Just below that is a USB hub which is sitting on top of a USB battery pack. This powers the computer and gives him the ability to plug in more than one USB device. The robot chassis is from Pololu. It uses an Arduino and a motor shield for locomotion, with commands pushed to it via USB.

This setup makes programming very easy. Here [Andrej] has a keyboard and HDMI monitor plugged in to do a little work. When not coding it can be disconnected and driven over the network. He makes this happen using an Apache server on the MK802 and node.js. See a demo of the system in the clip after the break.

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How to build your own dedicated Pandora radio

This mix of modern and retro acts as a standalone Pandora client. It’s certainly a radio upgrade, falling somewhere in between the passive listening of traditional broadcasts, and the complete control of music players that use playlists.

Inside the wooden case a BeagleBoard does most of the work. It’s running Ubuntu 12.04 on which pianobar, a command line interface package for Pandora is running. Those components alone would make a pretty nice listening experience, but since Pandora rolls different music into the mix it’s nice to be able to see what you’re listening to. The four-line LCD is wide enough to display plenty of information. It’s being controlled by a PIC24 microcontroller which also monitors the controls on the top. As you can see in the video after the break, the user interface offers almost everything you could want. It’s easy to switch stations, and you can still register your preferences on each track being played.

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LED case lights reflect CPU usage

A lot of Linux users include system monitor information in their status panel so that they can see when the CPU is grinding away. [Kevin] is taking the concept one step further by changing his case lights based on CPU usage. Above you can see green, orange, and magenta, but [Kevin’s] implementation uses the full spectrum of color.

The project is based on an ATmega48. It’s running the V-USB stack and connects to one of the motherboard’s internal USB ports. This lets him easily push the CPU usage data over to the microcontroller where it is translated into color. One RGB LED has been installed behind each fan panel on the front of the case, with a white LED above and below as an accent. Pulse-width modulation via some MOSFETs lets him mix and match for just the right color. He’s powering the add-on off of the PSU rails rather than USB so that it turns off when the computer goes to standby.

Don’t miss [Kevin’s] explanation of the system, and a demo of it in action after the break.

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Android on your netbook

Looks like there’s a pretty easy way to install Ice Cream Sandwich, the newest version of Android, on your Netbook. Actually this is limited to a few types of hardware including netbooks like the eeePC. That’s because the ISO files used during installation have been tailored to the hardware used on those devices. As with other Linux distros, the ISO file can be loaded on a thumb drive using Unetbootin. From there you can give it a whirl as a Live CD (or USB as it were) or choose to install it on your hard drive. We haven’t given it a spin as the eeePC version doesn’t want to boot on our Dell Mini 9, but we don’t see a reason why this couldn’t be set up as a dual boot option.

Now why would you want to run Android on your netbook? We’ve already seen that there’s a way to run Android apps in Ubuntu. We bet some people just love Android, and others just hate the Unity desktop that Ubuntu now uses… especially when the Netbook Remix had a lot of good things going for it.

Using a Mac and XCode as a Linux development platform

[Ricard Dias] wrote in to tell us about his guide for developing Linux applications on a Mac. He really enjoys the development environment provided by XCode, and it doesn’t take much to make it work as an all-in-one solution for Linux development.

The real trick here is the use of SSH to access a Linux environment. In this example he uses Ubuntu running as a virtual machine, but also mentions that the same thing can be done just as easily with a separate box as long as it is on the same network as the Mac. SSHFS (the SSH Filesystem) lets him mount the development directory on the Linux box locally. This is where the XCode project and files will be stored, but building the program will be done by the Linux machine via a script calling the make comand via SSH. To test out the newly built program, [L] tunnels in using X11 forwarding for ssh, and the application will be shown as a window in OSX, even though it is running on the Ubuntu machine.

We love SSH and use it all the time. It’s amazing how hand it can be.

Building an up-to-date MSPGCC toolchain

[Sergio Campamá] wrote in to tell us he’s assembled a guide for compiling the latest release of MSPGCC. This is a cross-compiling tool chain for the popular MSP430 line of microncontrollers. We used a version available from the Ubuntu repositories when developing with the TI Launchpad and the eZ430-F2013.

Installing from repositories is easy, but you don’t get the newest features and often newer hardware isn’t supported. [Sergio] reports that the newest version, called Uniarch, pulls source code and header files from the middle of this month and supports over 300 devices. In fact, it specifically outlines the goal of making new hardware easier to incorporate than with previous versions. He’s tailored this guide specifically for Ubuntu but while we were wading through a Google search we also found a page that outlines compilation for OSX.

We didn’t really notice before, but GitHub sure does make those README.md files look nice when viewed on the web, doesn’t it?