Radio's Next Generation: Radii
A phrase we heard many times when we sought venture capital to develop the Internet appliance we call Radii was “If this were 1999, you would already have your money.” Unfortunately, it was 2004 and there was no money for a risky consumer product such as Radii, despite our compelling prototype and a well-defined market. Rather than let our efforts go to waste, we decided to share the details of the prototype here with the Linux community that made its development possible. In this article, we explain how we quickly built our Radii prototype using low-cost hardware and Linux along with some of its companion software, including Perl and GCC.
Radii is a radio: a box with buttons and dials used to select bands and tune stations in a familiar way. Because this radio receives Internet radio, it provides hundreds of noise-free stations with a wide variety of listening options. The band selection dial, instead of AM and FM, is used to select genres such as News, Sports and Rock. The station selection dial scrolls through station names that can be tuned by clicking the select button.
At the beginning of this project, the three of us threw in $100 each and some spare time while continuing to work our day jobs. We never thought of this as an exercise in rapid prototyping; it was all about implementing our vision as quickly and inexpensively as possible. At every step of our development, we looked for the fastest way to get the task accomplished and balanced that against its cost.
The prototype is housed in a converted SW-54 radio made by the National Radio Company in the 1950s. The radio was in poor condition before the conversion. As admirers and collectors of old technology, we like to think we gave it a new lease on life.
The Radii core hardware platform is an old laptop running Linux. The operator interface consists of two rotary encoders, three momentary contact buttons, a 40x2 backlit LCD, a power supply and a retro radio cabinet. The encoders and buttons are connected to a PIC microcontroller development board that is, in turn, connected to the laptop's serial port. The LCD is connected to the laptop's parallel port.
On our budget of $300, cost was important. As such, eBay was our vendor of choice. Here is our hardware shopping list:
PIC microcontroller dev board (OOPIC) ($70).
One TTL to RS-232 chip (TI MAX232) and associated bits to interface the PIC to RS-232 ($5).
Three momentary buttons for selection/special functions ($3).
Two rotary encoders one for band selection, one for stations selection ($3).
One 40x2 LED backlit LCD ($12 eBay).
Gateway Solo 5150, 300MHz Pentium laptop, broken screen ($100 eBay).
One National NC-54 vintage radio ($35 eBay).
Power supply for PIC and LCD (3/$10 eBay).
Cables, connectors, bubble gum, baling wire and so on. ($25).
Shipping, fees and taxes took up most of the remaining funds.
A PIC microcontroller is a single-chip computer produced by Microchip Technology, Inc. Although these tiny computers are capable of many useful things, we used it here simply to handle operator inputs. For prototyping with a PIC, a development board normally is used. PIC development boards provide an easy way to prototype a PIC application by allowing a range of input power options and easy access to the input and output pins for the chip. It is not necessary to use this, but it makes creating a prototype easier.
We used the OOPIC development board/system by Savage Innovations. It is inexpensive and provides a simple object interface for many input and output devices, including buttons, encoders and RS-232 serial communication. Unfortunately, there is no Linux development environment for OOPIC, although a SourceForge project is underway.
The hardware is rounded out with a Gateway Solo 5150 laptop that has a broken LCD. Similar laptops go for between $50 and $100 on eBay.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
July 20, 2016 12:00 pm CDT
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
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With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide