Blackberry Pi Puts Desktop Linux In Your Pocket

Let’s face it — Android wasn’t what most of us had in mind when we imagined having Linux running on our phones. While there’s a (relatively) familiar kernel hiding at the core of Google’s mobile operating system, the rest of the environment is alien enough that you can’t run Linux software on it without jumping through some hoops. While that’s fine for most folks, there remains a sizable group of users who still dream of a mobile device that can run a full Linux operating system without any compromises.

Judging by the work put into the Blackberry Pi, we’re willing to bet that [IMBalENce] falls into that camp. The custom handheld combines the Raspberry Pi Zero, a 320×240 LCD, and the BBQ20KBD keyboard from Solder Party with a 2500 mAh LiPo pouch cell and associated charging circuitry. Optionally, it also supports modules such as the Raspberry Pi Camera, a Real-Time-Clock, a ADS1015 ADC to read the battery voltage, and even a USB hub — although you can’t have all the goodies installed at once as it draws too much current.

Everything is packed into a 3D printed case that looks roughly like an original DMG-01 Game Boy if somebody replaced the bottom half with a tiny keyboard. We appreciate the ZX Spectrum theme, even if it’s not immediately clear how it relates to the project other than being an excuse to play around with multi-color printing. [IMBalENce] says the final product works quite well, though the relatively limited keys on the BlackBerry keyboard does make it tricky to use the device for writing code.

Interested in mobile Linux, but not trying to build the hardware yourself? We recently took a look at the SQFMI Beepy, which is fairly similar in terms of hardware, but very much in need of some talented penguin wranglers who are willing to come in and work on the software and documentation. Think you’re up for the challenge?

Old Robotic Vacuum Gets A New RC Lease On Life

To our way of thinking, the whole purpose behind robotic vacuum cleaners is their autonomy. They’re not particularly good at vacuuming, but they are persistent about it, and eventually get the job done with as little human intervention as possible. So why in the world would you want to convert a robotic vacuum to radio control?

For [Lucas], the answer was simple: it was a $20 yard sale find, so why not? Plus, he’s got some secret evil plan to repurpose the suckbot for autonomous room mapping, which sounds like a cool project that would benefit from a thorough knowledge of this little fellow’s anatomy and physiology. The bot in question is a Hoover Quest. Like [Lucas] we didn’t know that Hoover made robotic vacuums (Narrator: they probably don’t) but despite generally negative online reviews by users, he found it to be a sturdily built and very modular and repairable unit.

After an initial valiant attempt at reverse engineering the bot’s main board — a project we encourage [Lucas] to return to eventually — he settled for just characterizing the bot’s motors and sensors and building his own controller. The Raspberry Pi Zero he chose may seem like overkill, but he already had it set up to talk to a PS4 game controller, so it made sense — right up until he released the Magic Smoke within it. A backup Pi took the sting out of that, and as the brief video below shows, he was finally able to get the bot under his command.

[Lucas] has more plans for his new little buddy, including integrating the original sensors and adding new ones. Given its intended mission, we’d say a lidar sensor would be a good addition, but that’s just a guess. Whatever he’s got in store for this, we’re keen to hear what happens.

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Flight Simulator Focuses On The Other Side Of The Cockpit Door

When one thinks of getting into a flight simulator, one assumes that it’ll be from the pilot’s point of view. But this alternative flight simulator takes a different tack, by letting you live out your air travel fantasies from the passenger’s point of view.

Those of you looking for a full-motion simulation of the passenger cabin experience will be disappointed, as [Alex Shakespeare] — we assume no relation — has built a minimal airliner cabin for this simulator. That makes sense, though; ideally, an airline pilot aims to provide passengers with as dull a ride as possible. Where a flight is at its most exciting, and what [Alex] captures nicely here, is the final approach to your destination, when the airport and its surrounding environs finally come into view after a long time staring at clouds. This is done by mounting an LCD monitor outside the window of a reasonable facsimile of an airliner cabin, complete with a row of seats. A control panel that originally lived in an airliner cockpit serves to select video of approaches to airports in various exotic destinations, like Las Vegas. The video is played by a Pi Zero, while an ESP32 takes care of controlling the lights, fans, and attendant call buttons in the quite realistic-looking overhead panel. Extra points for the button that plays the Ryanair arrival jingle.

[Alex]’s simulator is impressively complete, if somewhat puzzling in conception. We don’t judge, though, and it looks like it might be fun for visitors, especially when the drinks cart comes by.

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How To Be A Stinkin’ Chess Cheat — Sockfish

[James Stanley] enjoys chess, isn’t terribly good at it, and has some dubious scruples. At least, that’s the setup for building Sockfish, a shoe-to-Pi interface to let you cheat at chess. We’re pretty sure only the first point is true, but the build is impressive all the same. It’s a pair of 3D printed shoe inserts, with two pressure-sensitive inputs on each insert, coupled with a vibration motor in each. Tap out your opponent’s moves during the game, and the Stockfish software will buzz instructions back to you. Just follow the instructions, and you too can be a chess master.

In practice things went a bit awry, as poking in encoded move data with one’s feet isn’t the easiest task, and discerning the subtle tickles on the toes is error-prone at best. [James] arranged a match against an unsuspecting friend (in the name of science), and managed to fat-finger (fat-toe?) the inputs on both games, leading to Sockfish instructing him to make illegal moves.

This seemed like too much cheating, even for [James], so he played the rest of each game on his own abilities, winning one of the two. Once the deed was done, our anti-hero gladly doffed his shoes to show off his gadgetry. After some debate, they concluded the device might “bring the game into disrepute” if used for greater evil. Naturally [James] is already working on an improved version.

Thanks to [Abe Tusk] for the tip!

Free Your Pi With This Bare Metal Programming Environment

[Rene Strange] has graced these fair pages a short while ago with a sweet Raspberry Pi software based poly synth, with a tantalising reference to it being a bare metal application. So now, we’ll look into circle, the bare metal programming environment that it is based upon. The platform consists of a large set of C++ classes to access the hardware as well as perform tasks such as task creation and scheduling in the cooperative multitasking, multicore environment. Supporting all Raspberry Pi boards from version 2 onwards (not including the Pico!) in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavours, the environment is pretty complete. Classes are provided for USB, networking, FatFS, as well as more mundane tasks such as dealing with interrupts. On top of these classes there are a pile of application-specific libraries, covering functions such as display interfacing, GUIs using a variety of frameworks, and some more esoteric applications such as interfacing to a Pico, and even sending the system log to a remote web browser!

Classes and libraries however, don’t always help by themselves, which is where the 42 (yes, we know) code examples come in very handy. They’ve provided example applications for some fun stuff like drawing Mandelbrot fractals to the display, as well as some more mundane tasks that we have to deal with such as getting that pesky DMA controller to play nice with the SPI hardware. All-in-all, this looks like a great set of tools for taking full advantage of some fairly beefy hardware for your next embedded project that needs plenty of resources, but not all that unnecessary operating system stuff.

Perhaps not quite as complete as circle, but we’ve seen a fair few Raspberry Pi Bare metal projects over the years, like the Nerdsynth, based on the PiZero, and this neat little bare metal assembly language clone of starfox.

Thanks [Ruhan] for the tip!

Header: Aryan Patidar, CC BY 4.0/Evan-Amos, Public domain.

Extreme Espresso, Part 2: An Inductive Water Level Sensor

[Mark Smith] must really, really like his coffee, at least judging by how much effort he’s put into tricking out his espresso machine.

This inductive water tank sensor is part of a series of innovations [Mark] has added to his high-end Rancilio Silvia machine — we assume there are those that would quibble with that characterization, but 800 bucks is a lot to spend for a coffee maker in our books. We recently featured a host of mods he made to the machine as part of the “Espresso Connect” project, which includes a cool Nixie tube bar graph to indicate the water level in the machine. That display is driven by this sensor, the details of which [Mark] has now shared. The sensor straddles the wall of the 1.7-liter water tank, so no penetrations are needed. Inside the tanks is a track that guides a copper and PETG float that’s sealed with food-safe epoxy resin.

Directly adjacent to the float track on the outside of the tank is a long PCB with a couple of long, sinuous traces. These connect to an LX3302A inductive sensor IC, which reads the position of the copper slug inside the float. That simplifies the process greatly; [Mark] goes into great detail about the design and calibration of the sensor board, as well as hooking it into the Raspberry Pi Zero that lies at the heart of “Espresso Connect’. Altogether, the mods make for a precisely measured dose of espresso, as seen in the video below.

We’d say this was maybe a bit far to go for the perfect cup of coffee, but we sure respect the effort. And we think this inductive sensor method has a lot of non-caffeinated applications that probably bear exploration.

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Pi Powered 1:35 Scale Panther Tank

Tank aficionado [Daniel Zalega] has enjoyed playing around with armored fighting vehicles in the digital realm for years, but only recently realized he had the technology and skills necessary to take his passion into the physical world. Albeit on a slightly reduced scale. So he bought a 1:35 plastic model kit for the German WWII Panther tank from Tamiya, and started working on a way to make it move.

Luckily for [Daniel], the assembled model is essentially hollow. That gave him plenty of room to install the geared drive motors, batteries, motor controllers, voltage regulators, a servo for the turret, and the Raspberry Pi Zero that controls the whole show. Those with an aversion to hot glue would do well not to look too closely at the construction here, but it gets the job done. Besides, it’s not like this little Panther is going to see any front line combat.

Another element of the model kit that made it well-suited to motorization is the fact that it had real rubber treads. That meant [Daniel] just had to pop some holes in the side of the tank, and figure out how to mount the drive sprockets to his gear motors. Unfortunately it looks like the wheels are static on this model, meaning the tread has to be dragged over them. That’s certainly robbing the tank of some power and speed, but in the video after the break, you can see its movement is still fairly realistic.

To control the tank, he points his phone’s browser to a simple page running on the Raspberry Pi. By simply dragging a finger on the screen, you can operate the tank’s two independent treads and rotate the turret. [Daniel] said his original plan was more elaborate, with the web page displaying a live video feed from an onboard camera as well as the readings from various sensors. But at least for now, things are kept as straightforward as possible.

This certainly isn’t the first souped-up toy tank we’ve seen here at Hackaday. From gorgeous steam powered machines to this Tiger tank with a laser-assisted aiming system, these small tracked platforms have long been a favorite of hardware hackers.
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