Jon Simpson

Onward, from Mindstorms to PDA's & Brainstems.

21 Jan 2005 — cscs, lego, mindstorms, rcx, pdarobotics, acroname, brainstem

Yesterday evening was the first session of CSCS (Cool stuff in Computer Science) of 2005, and we separated up the larger robotics kit that has been sitting around for a while (part of which I’d had for a good part of last term, while working out how to get the Brainstem and Zaurus working using my iBook, something I wrote about earlier). It seems to have been quite a good note to start the term on, and I’m optimistic about what can be achieved.

Since I ended up taking the equipment allocation list down on my laptop, here it is, for no good reason (and hey, at least this way it might be a little more accessible than my home folder ;)) If anyone on the list happens to read this post and notices I screwed up, I’m welcome to corrections.

Rob seems to have got off to a flying start with getting information regarding Linux on the iPAQ, which would create more of a homogenous environment, since the two Zauruses (Zaurii?) are both running Linux. Establishing a common base CSCS robotics distribution for these things would be a long way away, but something that might ultimately be worthwhile establishing (stripping the distribution down would also perhaps help with the battery life issues on the Zaurus… 15 min with wireless enabled is unhelpful to say the least)

Oliver and Amandeep who took the Zauruses are pretty much taking up the same issues that I dealt with last term in getting the Acroname C Development Kit cross-compiled, so I guess they might find my notes on the subject vaguely helpful if they happen to stumble upon them.

Jonathan mentioned about looking into the GBA as a potential platform for Brainstem control, which seems to be promising due to the long battery life, but due to issues with getting started on that he’s working with the Palm platform at the moment. If I remember correctly, Acroname ship binaries for PalmOS of their utilities, so it shouldn’t be too much trouble, but the lack of a unix-like environment like that which can be achieved with the other PDA’s may hold this platform back.

I think the vague goal of getting these platforms up and doing things in the next couple of weeks is quite promising, and something I’m excited to see, as I spent quite a while playing with this kit last term in its ‘pieces’ state. I also read the introduction to this term’s CSCS that was posted before the session and it seems as if there’s a wild-card possibility about XML-RPC on there. As I missed the first hour or so of CSCS, I’m not sure how this was discussed or progressed with (if at all), but it takes my interest from a theoretical point of view and would be something I’d like to know more about.

Something that would be nice to establish this term is more of an online circle and presence, something Matt seems to be trying towards by giving out blogs to everyone who doesn’t have one, to get the documentation up in a central place. I think this is a great idea for getting people who aren’t blogging started, but it may also be worth looking into things like the Planet aggregator, so that we can keep feeds together from the people who aren’t using the centralised blog. This would create a central community without forcing double posting on the main blog and keep an informal grouping across all the weblogs. A great example of the Planet aggregator in use would be Planet GNOME.

In the short term however, enabling trackbacks on the main CSCS blog for cross-referencing posts there from external blogs might be a good idea.