Friday, August 23, 2013

Android on the cheap.

Never buy an ubercheap Android device. Android is awesome when done right, but since anyone and their grandma can make one, sometimes that draws you in with their low low prices. I got a $60 4" tablet as a music player on a whim, and I've spent the past two days hoping it would magically decide to all of the sudden not suck. The same goes for phones. It's better to get a phone that was last years' high end phone and/or refurbished than to get a newly released brand new budget level device. I took an in house census recently, and realized our household has 17 Android powered devices, from Cupcake to Jellybean.(Probably half of those get regular use weekly, some are now more sentimental than useful, some are even probably sitting at the bottom of our kids' toybox).  I've modded, rooted, flashed, re-flashed, and re-flashed again custom ROMs, took a stab at compiling kernels, and even published an App, I've come to reluctantly realize I might be a slight subject matter "expert" on the topic of Android devices.

Since most new devices ship with Ice Cream Sandwhich  or higher these days, a great thing to watch out for as far as performance is RAM size. Android 4.X+ just seems to want 1 gig of RAM or more. I've seen ICS and Jellybean on half meg devices but they are almost always janky, while occasionally giving illusions of usefulness. That doesn't stop me from trying a new ROM for some of my aging devices when a I notice a new one on XDA.

I'm sending my latest acquisition back to Grandma... and I'm replacing it with a "major brand" refurb last-year's model. It did cost a bit more than $60, but it has a ton more features too, but the feature I like the best is that it actually works.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Zaethira Update.

I've made a lot of progress in the past few weeks on my Robot. It had remained dormant for a few months, but I decided to take some time for a context switch to one of my favorite projects. I've got probably 80% of the physical structure built. And the software is probably about 50% done. And the software side of things has made leaps and bounds.

Here's an updated color-coded architecture diagram. I've decided to drop the speaker output feature, mainly because I'm not sure what I'd do with it, but I may resurrect the idea.

Compare to my original chart here

I've got the Pawn scripting working pretty well, I've got some of my low level functionality exposed as Pawn API's, and I've adapted the Chibi/OS shell to treat Pawn bytecode files as "executables" that I can optionally launch in a background thread.

I could probably fill 20 pages with all the developments, but I'm not going to, I just spared myself enough time for a brief post.

Here's a video showing a script running that tries to navigate a square. The compass and and encoder readings are queried in the script to detect 90 degree turns and half meter movements. The compass code is probably beta level, and I'd call the encoder tracking alpha level, so that's why the square is somewhat off. Eventually, I'll have more elaborate geo-spatial reckoning, so that I'll simply command the robot to "go to coordinate x,y, and it will figure out how to get the from the current position(avoiding obstacles too of course). I hope this comes out, Blogger doesn't seem to have an easy way to preview video before publishing a post.

I can also control it manually via IR remote controller from a cheap IR helo.

Fun times.