June 2005 - Posts
I was looking for the WinCE supported processors and came across this list
I thought I'd share. it seems like quite a few devices are supported, including the Intel XScale PA255
As reported by slashtroll, Aerovironment has a press release stating that they've created a liquid hydrogen powered UAV named Global Observer "HALE". Flies 65k feet with a 1000 lb payload for one week. Pretty impressive.
This is the type of work I'd like to do down the road when my embedded skills are more solid, my UAV experience is up to par, and I feel comfortable in the entire robotics/autonomous area.
Here is one example of what they are looking for:
Experience with R/C aircraft and/or UAV's is a requirement. Prefer candidate to have expertise in micro-controller and embedded systems. Should be proficient in "C" and "C++" programming languages.
has some good info on project Atlas
, a Microsoft project to develop AJAX
tech for asp.net: What we’ve set out to do is to make it dramatically easier for anyone to build AJAX-style web applications that deliver rich, interactive, and personalized experiences. Developers should be able to build these applications without great expertise in client scripting; they should be able to integrate their browser UI seamlessly with the rest of their applications; and they should be able to develop and debug these applications with ease. For this work, we’ve been working on a new project on our team, codenamed “Atlas”. Our goal is to produce a developer preview release on top of ASP.NET 2.0 for the PDC this September, and then have a website where we can keep updating the core bits, publishing samples, and building an active community around it.
Just a follow up to my other post on Friday
, gumstix has released their Robostix expansion board
($50 USD). It can be programmed directly as it has an Atmel ATMega128 embedded processor, or it can be programmed using the Gumstix platform.
Over the weekend I played around with a friends Atmel dev kit, a STK500
, and got some LEDs blinking using a ATMega128. I'm pretty sure this is my first time I wrote any working embedded code. As I suspected it was all about bit masking "ports", where each port has 8 bits and each bit controls a seperate pin out. The chip itself is smaller than my thumb nail. With 64 pins in such a small package the idea of soldering this chip to a PCB is pretty daunting. But I'm excited about embeded programming, it's challenging and the results are only limited by your imagination.
For all you .Net developers there are PC/104 embeddeds capable of running Windows ce.net, such as the PCM-5335
which uses a AMD Geode chip. But at 2.0A@ +5V this type of platform would put way too much draw on my platforms Li-Po batteries. If I had greater power supply it might be different. But I'd like to get a dev kit for the Geode down the road and see what I can break.
EETimes has reported
that the robostix
expansion board for the gumstix platform
will be released today, but according to Gumstix it will most likely be released next week.
I can't wait to get my hands on a gumstix with this expansion board. My plans for building my own expansion board using the Atmel ATMega128
have now been put on the back burner, no need to re-invent the wheel when you can buy one on the internet. This may be a tiny bit more expensive, but it will cut my UAV
design time down so I think it's worth it. This expansion board will allow the control of servos and motors quite easily ( 6 PWM channels ). There is no rs232 interface directly from the ATMega128 on this board, but if I really need to use the chip in another PCB I can just pick one up from digikey for about $15 USD. I'm going to play around with a friend's ATMega dev kit (STK500) this weekend and see if I can get a servo moving or maybe just an LED blinking. I'll post some pics if I do.
Over the wekend I went to a fun-fly event at a local R/C group
's flying field and saw one of the most amazing things I've seen in quite a while. A member there did a demonstration for the public of his 200 mph+ King Cat
remote control jet from BVM Jets
. The first thing I thought when I saw it fly was "now add a microcontroller and a decent sensor package
(gps, alti, wing leveler, etc) and you've got one hell of a UAV". But given the cost of the current remote controlled jets, which average around $1000-$5,000 USD, I don't think we'll see one for a while. But man, what a dream. The enginering that went into this small aircraft was amazing. I'v built and flown a few R/C aircraft but never anything even remotely close to this thing.
I picked up two books on robotics yesterday and I like them both. PIC robotics: A Beginner's Guide to Robotics Projects Using the PIC Micro, which has some useful information on writing programs for microcontrollers
used in robots to control various sensors and servos. The microcontroller focused on in this book was the 8-bit PICmicro
distributed by Microchip
. The programming is lower-level than I'm used to, but honestly, if someone had told me how easy it was to program these controllers years ago, I might have never started building the typical business-software. 50% of it is simple bit manipulation. Can you say "gravy train"?
The other book is The Robot Builder's Bonanza
(TAB Electronics), which has a ton of information on the various microcontrollers, cpus, servos, motors, mechanisms, and electrical components of modern-day robots (This was updated in 2001 so there are some new advances since then but the basics are the same).
I'm going to check out the PC/104
embededs (particularly the Aaeon PCM-5335
which can run win ce.net), the Atmel AVR
embededs, and of course Gumstix
(which use the Intel Xscale CPU and run Linux) before I decide on a mcu/cpu for my homebuilt UAV
In the words of the bobby digital
: "Bung bung. Boom. Throw that out there."
has a great commentary
on Paul Graham's
essay, Great Hackers
and why hacker pride can sometimes get in the way of business. Some excerpts: We need to talk about what customers want, but our own preferences get in the way. We bring our technology prejudices and biases to the discussion, often without ever being aware of the problems they can cause
The higher productivity of a great hacker is a big advantage, but probably not big enough to overcome our attempts to sell something that users don't want.
Although I do consider myself a hacker (NOT a cracker) given my willingness to crack the machine open for my own curiousity, I have let my own pride and prejudices (ZING) get in the way of my job before. I get reprimanded in some fashion, usually a "come to Jesus" meeting with the higher ups. This pride gets in the way of our mission - to provide the user with the software they want
. The user doesn't care about my personal OS preference or my bias towards OSS software, they want the software to meet their needs, not help me build my own personal shrine. It's a constant course correction, trying to make sure I don't let my personal bias get in the way of my job.
Robotics and autonomous agents are way more interesting to me then writing the same organization process-oriented software every day. I've been doing a lot of research on autonomous micro-air vehicles (MAV) and Unmaned aerial vehicles (UAV) lately and I've come across a few Open Source projects I'd like to share:
The paparazzi project
includes pretty much everything you need to build your own relatively inexepensive UAV. It's GPL'd and includes the software for controlling the UAV and the hardware designs for autonomous operation of the vehicle.
The RCpilot project
seems to have the same goal: GPL Autopilot software
for UAV operation. This software was created by Trammell Hudson of Rotomotion
, a UAV manufacturer that sells small UAVs and their related hardware.
Here is a Bluetooth robotic helicopter
that apprently uses features from the autopilot project above.
I also found out that my employer, SAIC, is involved in the development of several autonomous platforms, including the Vigilante helicopter
, a large UAV that is used by the US Navy and the US Army. I'm personally not too keen on killer robots, but it is interesting the amount of research my employer does regarding robotics and autonomous agents. You may remember that not long ago SAIC helped develop Carnegie Mellon's autonomous Humvee
, a competitor in the Grand Challenge
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