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Thread: Embedded Newswire

  1. #1

    Lightbulb Embedded Newswire

    I've recently learned that TinCanTools is discontinuing the Hammer Board, because they aren't making money on it. This is sad, to say the least. Tin Can Tools is not planning to make any more CPU based products. This has left me in a bit of a pickle, since I have spent almost a full year trying to make things work for W.A.L.T.E.R. I've been plagued with toolchain problems of one sort or another.

    Given that, I am now looking at other possibilities for a new "brain" for W.A.L.T.E.R. as well as for use in other projects I have in mind. So far, the only cost effective product I can find is the Beagle Board.

    The Beagle Board is based on the TI OMAP 3530 Cortex A8 (ARM11) processor with an additional TI DSP processor. I've already installed and successfully built a development environment for the Beagle Board and am now proceeding to learn how to build custom software images for it. If all goes well, I plan to get a Beagle Board in Jan or Feb. The Beagle Board has the computing power and feature set (in some ways it's overkill) for what I want to do with W.A.L.T.E.R. and in other projects. The Beagle Board sells for $149.95 and is available at Digi-Key.

    I'm not dropping Hammer, but will be repurposing it. I still like Hammer very much, but it just doesn't have the power to be the main controller for W.A.L.T.E.R.

    8-Dale

    P.S. Just today it has been brought to my attention that what I wrote about the Hammer being discontinued by TinCanTools is incororrect. TinCanTools is NOT being discontinued at all. This was MY ERROR. TinCanTools has a good stock of the Hammer Board now and will continue to support it. I apologize to TinCanTools and anyone this misinformation on my part has affected - I misinterpreted some of what I was told by TinCanTools.
    Last edited by LinuxGuy; 12-02-2008 at 05:30 PM. Reason: Added note from TinCanTools
    I can handle complexity. It's the simple things that confound me.
    Do everything in moderation, ESPECIALLY, moderation..
    Sometimes the only way to win, is not to play.. -- Stephen Falken

  2. #2
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    Re: Embedded Newswire

    I'm surprised you're not all over the Gumstix?
    I Void Warranties´┐Ż

  3. #3
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    Re: Embedded Newswire

    I'm personally moving over to the Gumstix/OE platform. Cost-performance as well as all the add-on boards and community support for it is astounding.

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    Re: Embedded Newswire

    Quote Originally Posted by LinuxGuy View Post
    Given that, I am now looking at other possibilities for a new "brain" for W.A.L.T.E.R. as well as for use in other projects I have in mind. So far, the only cost effective product I can find is the Beagle Board.
    The Beagle Board is pretty good as long as you don't mind using USB bridgeware to do your interfacing. The GPIO is a little hard to work with because it is 1.8V.

    The Gumstix Overo is also a good option. Since it uses the same chip and OS distribution, it's very compatible with the Beagle Board. A little more expensive (once you add the mother board), but it's smaller and may have some neat peripheral support.

    At the last Homebrew Robotics Club meeting in California, there were three robots up and running on the Beagle Board. At least five more were in the works. So it seems like it's gaining traction among hobbyists.

    I think it's a popular choice because it's cheap and PC-like. Any project that uses Linux on a Pico-ITX motherboard is a good fit for a BeagleBoard, since the BB is smaller, uses under 2 watts (compared to 10-15 watts), and usually (not always) delivers more raw performance.

    - Nathan

  5. #5

    Re: Embedded Newswire

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrenalynn View Post
    I'm surprised you're not all over the Gumstix?
    I just found out about a new Gumstix board - the Overo. I am just starting to look at it now. To date, I have not liked the mechanical aspects of the Gumstix setup.

    8-Dale
    I can handle complexity. It's the simple things that confound me.
    Do everything in moderation, ESPECIALLY, moderation..
    Sometimes the only way to win, is not to play.. -- Stephen Falken

  6. #6

    Re: Embedded Newswire

    Quote Originally Posted by Nammo View Post
    The Beagle Board is pretty good as long as you don't mind using USB bridgeware to do your interfacing.
    What do you mean by this?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nammo View Post
    At the last Homebrew Robotics Club meeting in California, there were three robots up and running on the Beagle Board. At least five more were in the works. So it seems like it's gaining traction among hobbyists.
    This is cool!

    Quote Originally Posted by Nammo View Post
    I think it's a popular choice because it's cheap and PC-like. Any project that uses Linux on a Pico-ITX motherboard is a good fit for a BeagleBoard, since the BB is smaller, uses under 2 watts (compared to 10-15 watts), and usually (not always) delivers more raw performance.
    Yes, the Beagle Board definitely has the potential to run applications that would otherwise be run on an x86 pico/mini-ITX board. I have some things in mind where this would be the case already.

    8-Dale
    I can handle complexity. It's the simple things that confound me.
    Do everything in moderation, ESPECIALLY, moderation..
    Sometimes the only way to win, is not to play.. -- Stephen Falken

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    Re: Embedded Newswire

    Originally Posted by Nammo
    The Beagle Board is pretty good as long as you don't mind using USB bridgeware to do your interfacing.

    Originally Posted by LinuxGuy
    What do you mean by this?

    Most embedded controllers (like the Hammer) have some GPIO you can use to drive servos or connect to TTL UARTs. The BeagleBoard appears to have this too, but its GPIO can't handle voltages above 1.8V so isn't suitable for direct connection to robot controllers.

    But, if you have USB-based motor/servo controllers they work just fine. For example, Phidgets! Or something like the Make Controller.

    - Nathan

  8. #8

    Re: Embedded Newswire

    Quote Originally Posted by Nammo View Post
    Most embedded controllers (like the Hammer) have some GPIO you can use to drive servos or connect to TTL UARTs. The BeagleBoard appears to have this too, but its GPIO can't handle voltages above 1.8V so isn't suitable for direct connection to robot controllers.
    This is solved by using level shifters to convert between voltages. It's not a difficult thing to handle with various solutions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nammo View Post
    But, if you have USB-based motor/servo controllers they work just fine. For example, Phidgets! Or something like the Make Controller.
    While this is, of course, a possible solution, it is not the only one. I don't think Phidgets is cost effective for the things I want to do with embedded computing. Now, using Arduinos or compatible boards would be cost effective and pretty inexpensive. I'll be using some Arduinos, and hopefully other boards, in various projects over time.

    I do plan to experiment with Phidgets at some point, but not for things I have in mind fairly soon, mainly W.A.L.T.E.R. I plan to save the USB connections for things like WiFi, Thumb Drives, etc.

    8-Dale
    I can handle complexity. It's the simple things that confound me.
    Do everything in moderation, ESPECIALLY, moderation..
    Sometimes the only way to win, is not to play.. -- Stephen Falken

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    Re: Embedded Newswire

    Here's another interfacing idea:

    Tony Pratkanis had a RoboMagellan robot using a BeagleBoard. He had a PIC board doing the motor control and sensor interfacing. He connected the RS232 port on the BB to a MAX232 style level shifter and hooked it right into the PIC's UART.

    - Nathan

  10. #10

    Re: Embedded Newswire

    I'm interested in eventually getting a RoboMagellan type of robot built, but don't see that happening any time soon. I'll gradually aquire sensors I will need and learn them as I go. As for the Beagle Board, I've now got a complete development environment built for it. I won't be able to get a Beagle Board until Jan though. I have to replace my main video monitor next month (I'm going for a Samsung T220HD or T24HD, so it can double as an HDTV too), and may get a new wireless keyboard/trackball combination too. If I don't get the latter, I may get a Beagle Board for Christmas.

    So far, getting setup to develope for the Beagle Board (and Gumstix Overo) has been much easier than doing the same thing for Hammer. Now I am wondering how hard it would be to define Hammer within Open Embedded and use that for developing for it.. I was sorry to here that TinCanTools is discontinuing Hammer and will not make any more CPU based boards. I'm looking into the Gumstix Overo more closely also, and think it could have a good future in my projects, and it is the same price as a Beagle Board. However, the Gumstix Overo requires a small motherboard to bring out all its connections to the outside (another $59.00).

    8-Dale
    I can handle complexity. It's the simple things that confound me.
    Do everything in moderation, ESPECIALLY, moderation..
    Sometimes the only way to win, is not to play.. -- Stephen Falken

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