Friday, February 24, 2012

FRS Radio hack + Raspberry Pi?

If you've recently felt a disturbance in the techno Force, you may be sensing the arrival of the Raspberry Pi. The R-Pi, as some are calling it, is a credit card size computer based on a Broadcomm SoC (BCM2835) that boasts an ARM processor, a 2D/3D GPU, general purpose IO and runs Linux. Its stated purpose is to be a low-cost educational platform for youngsters, but its announcement has stirred up an amazing amount of interest in the streets of Nerdtown, Earth. At this writing, the first batch of 10,000 units aren't available yet, but I, like a few thousand others, am already planning what I'll do with it. That is, if I can get one.

Even though, cost-wise, it still makes more sense to use a cheap microcontroller in my planned FRS radio hack, I'm imagining the possibilities with a full-blown network stack and a Real(tm) operating system...

I've another project that I haven't mentioned here before that has me eyeing the Pi. The "Semi-autonomous Lawn Maintenance Platform" (aka RoboCutter) is a project that my son (11 at the time) and I started last year. It uses the wheel drive motors from a power chair (mobility scooter) and the Cypress Semiconductor PSoC that I alluded to in my previous radio hack post. The plan was to use the PSoC to do the low-level smarts such as power management, drive control, sickle bar control, etc. The higher level intelligence was planned to be a headless netbook computer running Linux, connecting back to a base station computer via WiFi. One problem with that plan is that, while I have a netbook, it's not headless and I don't want it to be! Well, the Raspberry Pi has all that handled, along with weight and power savings.

More on all of that later.