Flashing Arduinos with a Zipit


[Giacomo] finds that every once in awhile, he needs to flash a sketch to an Arduino while on the go. While he doesn’t always carry his laptop with him, he almost certainly has his Zipit Z2 on hand. He prefers to use the Zipit because it’s tiny, it uses Debian, has built-in WiFi, and can run for about 5 hours before requiring a recharge. The only shortcoming is that the device lacks a serial port.

Following instructions we featured last year he added a serial port to his device, then built a small converter cable that allows him to connect it to virtually any Arduino. He says it only takes a moment to get avrdude up and running on the Zipit via apt-get, and once that’s done, he is in business. He wrote a short script that saves him from entering the flash command over and over, so the process couldn’t be simpler.

He does mention that since the Zipit does not have a DTR line, Arduino resetting must be done manually. For the convenience of flashing sketches from the palm of our hand, we can deal with that.

Check out the video below for a quick demonstration of his setup.

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USB host comes to Zipit

This USB to Zipit Dock adapter and a special kernel makes USB host mode for the Zipit possible. Previously, the cheap and hackable wireless client needed a hardware modification to enable USB support. The new kernel bootloader, called U-Boot, makes the internal alterations unnecessary (see the demo after the break). Now the only caveat is one of voltage. Zipit only supplies 3.3V when running on battery so your choices are to only use USB when the Zipit is plugged into a charger, or use a powered USB hub. But if you’re already building a hub adapter it shouldn’t be too much trouble to add in the option for a battery-powered hub.

So can we play our NES games using a USB controller now?

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NES on ZipIt

Going even further back in time than 4th gen, [Kevin] tipped us off to this project by [Hunter Davis]. It is a collection of software mods for Zipit’s Z2 instant messenging device. Some of them include allowing it to run (ports of) the Fluxbox window manager, FCE Ultra NES emulator, and (most impresively) the Java framework. The next leap in development, a SNES emulator optimized for the Zipit, is in the works. The Z2 runs Linux out of the box. This means you no longer have to reflash the device to add software, such as DOSbox (also introduced to the Zipit by [Hunter Davis]). Be sure to check out the video demo of FCE Ultra on the Z2 above.