More tinkering fun

Back to the real world. I have re-immersed myself in the learning required to build a little automated, web connected weather station.

I have been learning a lot about working with the Arduino (proto boards built around the Atmel ATMega 328 microcontroller), and have added some goodies around connecting sensors, working first with a 1 wire humidity and temperature sensor, and soon to come some more sophisticated modules that will be more flexible.

However, while it is possible to do almost all of the work I want with the arduino based system, ultimately, I am going to want to drive a little display for review here in the house, and to log it to one of my internet servers, so I can be a geek and see the readings at home wherever I happen to be.

This weekend, I dove into the Raspberry Pi, as that is a suitable central control, data logging station, and a vehicle to push the readings to the internet. However, it was a wee bit more complicated to get working than the Arduino. Continue reading →

Project Time – Step 1 The Raspberry Pi

A few years ago, I got a wild hair up my hind-side, and bought a Raspberry Pi to mess with. A small, fully functional computer, running a Linux variant, built around an ARM SoC, it was a pretty nifty bit of kit.

I connected it to my monitor, wired up a keyboard and mouse, added a wifi USB dongle, and had some fun. Did a lot of learning to program Python on it.

But then the move happened, it got chucked into a box, and ignored. With the move done, the house bought, and the project bug biting me again, I have resurrected it.

The first challenge was to actually FIND it. Alas, it was hiding in my monster box of cables and other items. Still connected to the powered USB hub that I had for it.

Continue reading →

Making things too difficult – RasPi WiFi setup

Well, sometimes I am an idiot.  I jumped through major league hoops that were totally unnecessary in getting my WiFi dongle to connect with my Wireless router. I looked for help on the web, Found a lot of guidelines that were a bit involved, but not atrocious.

So I started doing what they asked. Got my system plugged into the router via ethernet cable.  Update the Raspbian install, check for chipsets, add drivers.

But it was confusing, because it said all this stuff had been done.

Finally, I looked at the desktop in the X-Window window manager, and “fuck me, there is an icon for WiFi Config” right there on the desktop.

Shit, 2 minutes later, I am connected, got an IP address, and am all set.

That was hard. But I am posting this from the minimal browser in the system, and all is well.

Having fun doing some hobbyist hacking around in linux.

Next up on the Raspberry Pi

Last week, I wrote about how I on a lark bought one of the raspberry pi single board computers. The first round of goodies for it was a SD card (to write the OS to and boot from), and a HDMI cable to connect it to my Samsung monitor.  Got it fired up and all was cool.  Of course, it sitting naked on my CSS reference book was a bit clunky, so back to Amazon I go.

Now it is in a clear plastic case, and I have a dedicated power supply for it.  I also have a WiFI dongle to get it on the internet, and ready to do more heavy lifting. I began to work my way through a Python tutorial, and will continue that this weekend.

Next up, I am going to have to move my kit to the living room for a couple hours.  Alas, to get the Linux install updated, and to add the correct kernel modules for the WiFi dongle, I need to be on the internet, and that is where the router is. Oh well, but after that, I should be good to go.

I am still impressed with what comes on this little board for a mere $35.00. I bought it to bring back memories of my early computer experiences, an 8-bit Atari system, but this has so much more, including internet, and HD video output.  I remember endlessly fiddling to get a decent serial port (the 850 module) and a modem to connect to the outside world (there was no private internet at that time), living with composite video out on a mediocre CRT display. Living with 48K of memory (actually, that was a luxury), writing small assembly language adjuncts to speed up Basic or Basic XL (OSS System software ROCKED), and running a full featured BBS system.

I still have an old Atari (some of its games are still very playable), but I don’t break it out often, because it is so painful to setup, so this will be my “toy” for now.

But what will I do with it in the long term?  Media center? MAME cabinet? Do some robotics?  Maybe build a weather monitoring system?  Hoo boy, it will be fun.

Next post will have pictures, I promise.

Latest toy: Raspberry Pi

On Tuesday, I was reading a story on The Economist about the Raspberry Pi.  It certainly spawned the nostalgic sense in the Babbage editor, and it drove me to make an impulse purchase.

For $35, you get a pretty complete single board, miniature computer. about 2.5 by 4 inches, it packs in a pretty powerful package. Based on a Broadcom SoC with both an ARM core and a GPU, it comes with 512M ram, an SD card for main storage (not included), 2 USB 2.0 ports, audio, HDMI and an ethernet port. I ordered up a SD card from Amazon, downloaded a linux image, and waited for the unit to arrive.

Surprisingly quickly, it was in my mailbox. Simple to setup, and straightforward to use, it was a snap to get it going, and it detected and drives my 24″ LCD monitor just fine.

It does scratch the itch of a very basic computer, harkening back to a simpler time when computers were slow, and rather primitive. I recall my first computer was a 48K Atari 800 (I still keep an Atari 130XE around for grins and giggles), and this is reminiscent of that. So far, I have just started working my way through a Python tutorial, and have ordered another batch of goodies for it (its own power supply, now I share it with my iPad, a clear plastic case, and a “back to the basics” book to learn from, and a WiFI dongle to hook it up to the internet). While I will probably not break out an assembler and learn machine code (like I did back in the day for the 6502 processor systems), I will putter about with Python. Maybe put Octave on it. Who knows.

I can clearly see myself adding one of the interface cards, and doing some weather monitoring, or water usage monitoring. Perhaps I will build it into a media center for the TV to stream movies to our TV. Or build a MAME cabinet with a Raspberry Pi to run it.

It is a hoot to play with.