Archive for August, 2011

I recently got an ASUS Eee Pad Transformer (for being the RHIT ASUS Campus Rep.)  and HP Touchpad. After using both for a while now, I thought I would share some thoughts on the two products.

First lets talk about the HP Touchpad. The Touchpad is running WebOS, a nifty operating system that can multitask like no other. The big issue with using the Touchpad is that it lags. It would appear there is not enough horse power to run even the email application. I have already updated it and turned off all the logging as other reviews have suggested and it still hangs from time to time. It would appear there is some bloat to WebOS that we just can seem to turn off. The next I have is the weight. The devices gets heavy after holding it for a minute or two. This makes it really hard to play a game or watch a movie. These issues aside, the Touchpad still had a ton of applications and quite possibly the best facebook application for a tablet. To my surprise the tablet also came with Beats Audio by Dr. Dre. While the quality is okay through the speakers, it has quite good performance through the audio jack. All and all it is a good toy, but that is exactly its problem. The Touchpad is a $99 toy. I have found it difficult to be productive on it (or any tablet for that matter).

The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer tablet alone suffers from the same issue as most tablets. When only using it as a tablet, I am not productive and after a while, it does get tiring to hold (even though it is lighter than the Touchpad). It is slightly longer than most tablets and this felt odd at first; however this has come in nice for watching HD movies. The Tegra 2 processor can easily keep up with Android but lacks a native facebook application. When I need to be productive with the Transformer I can quickly dock it to its keyboard.The keyboard is pretty standard (though slightly smaller than that of a laptop), but has a few unique features. There are special keys for functions on the Eee Pad. This makes it easy to turn on and off wifi, bluetooth, screen brightness, etc. In addition, it has a back button where the escape key usually sits and a dedicated home and search button. The dock has an additional battery and USB ports to make it more usable. To put it in to perspective, with moderate use, I still have 83% battery life remaining as I write this review and I haven’t charged it in 3 days. Lastly this device is a tank. At dinner with my parents, I tried to stab the screen with a force and then tried to scratch it. Lets just say the fork lost and there is yet to be a ding in the device. This is super handy and I tend to just toss it in my backpack as I head to class or a meeting.

Both devices have been fun to play with over the past few days and if I had to buy 1, it would be the ASUS Transformer by far. I have plenty of electronics to play with and what I need is something that is productive. While it is yet to get a native Netflix (the Touchpad does not have Netflix either) or facebook app, the use of Android opens it up to a larger market of games and applications.  Post your thoughts or questions below. I am interested to see what others think!

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While my summer in Austin has come to an end, I am bringing a few new things back to Rose-Hulman. At NIWeek, NI introduced us to the concept of mini systems for the myDAQ. This takes complex engineering problems and places them on a small add on board for the popular device. I wanted to bring one back for Rose-Hulman. What you see here is the myGRID kit, yet to be assembled. The myGRID allows students to explore power engineering and an introduction to smart grid technology. The board plugs into the side of the myDAQ. Students can write control software in LabVIEW to power the houses and  manage the power from the solar array and generator.

For more information on the myDAQ and myGRID check out ni.com/mydaqzone.

NXTBee Blocks Updated

Posted: August 24, 2011 in LEGO, News
Tags: ,

There have been a few minor bugs found with the NTBee block. I have corrected these and they are live on Files page. Note the version has changed on the blocks. The current version is 2.12. If you are running an older version I suggest you update. This update addresses an issue with setting the type of data you intend to send or receive. Thank you Alan for finding these! If anyone else finds something not quite right with the block, please let me know!

Also, there has been some confusion on how the read works. It will wait until it receives a message. You must start to read before you send, otherwise the message may be lost.

On the road again…

Posted: August 21, 2011 in News
Tags: ,

This past week and next week I will be transitioning back to RHIT. However, once things calm down I will have a few posts to share. I have a completed NXSheild video, new NI myDAQ projects, reviews of the HP Touchpad and ASUS Eee Pad Transformer. In addition, I have almost completed a new LEGO MINDSTORMS project and have some cool Beagle and Panda board projects. Wow thats a lot. It has been a busy summer!
I will try to post some things over the next week. Sorry for the lack of activity!

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics has changed the lives of millions of children from elementary through high school. It brings the message that science and technology is fun.  This hour long special on ABC features the 2011 FIRST World Championship, better know as the “Super Bowl of Smarts”, in St. Louis, Missouri. Singer and songwriter will.I.am stepped up this past year to make FIRST loud. The event in St. Louis featured a concert by the Black Eyed Peas as well as a presence from major technology companies. Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST said this was the one sporting event where every child can go professional.

I personally attended this event along with several MCPs. I believe very strongly in the program and I am happy to say that I coach a team!

Don’t miss this special event on ABC and look for ways you can support FIRST Robotics in your community! For more information how you can get involved check out usfirst.org

I am happy to report that I have pass my Certified LabVIEW Architect exam! This meas that I have reached the highest level of LabVIEW certification. If you are interested in LabVIEW certification check out ni.com.

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I decided to have some custom bricks made for the shuttle. First, I wanted to get some custom name beams to put on the shuttle. This beam, engraved with the name “Enterprise” will be mounted on the model to officially name it.

The engraves bricks show off every event the shuttle has attended in 2011. They will be added to the base of the shuttle. I plan on continuing this tradition for all future events of the shuttle. Special thanks to Jeff of IndyLUG for organizing the order!

You can catch the shuttle next at Brickworld Fort Wayne in Fort Wayne, Indiana

So I have been working on the Beagle and while it compiles I cant help but continue to play with some electronics. I have finished constructing (and basic electrical testing). This is built off of  1 Launch Pad, 2 linear power regulators and a Sharp IR distance sensor. I have a dual motor gearbox (taken from the myDAQ bot) and a battery box to provide power and locomotion.

The photo here is just the electronics (and a wiring mess). I have some work to do still with respect to programming, but it does generate the required signals to move. I will be posting a schematic with the video later this week. (Following the NXShield video.)  I will mount the Launch Pad better when I add the motor and battery pack. Let me know what you think!

In addition to NIWeek, I have a few new projects in my queue. After a busy week and a lot of LEGO, I will be taking a (short) break to explore some new toys from Texas Instruments. Right, you will see the new Panda Board designed by Texas Instruments. The board is an open source design featuring the TI OMAP 4430 (same as in the Droid 3 and Droid Bionic). Furthermore the OMAP featured on this board has much of the RF built into the single piece of silicon. The board can run Ubuntu and Android. I plan to make a thin VM to target the board from LabVIEW (similar to LabVIEW for Arduino).

The next two boards from TI are equally awesome! First up is the smaller TI Launch Pad with Cap Touch Booster Pack. This addon contains a capacitive touch board and a new MSP430 to interface with it. It has a built in proximity sensor and is pretty cool to play with. Over the next few days I plan to experiment with it and see what ideas I come up with. The last board to join my army of embedded (soon to be robotic) projects is the Beagle Board. With a community of over 50,000 members, the Beagle packs an ARM Cortex A8 and can run several variants of Liniux. I plan to get LabIVEW working on this board as well, but what is more important is that this board integrates nicely with daughter boards, bringing the power of the Beagle to new heights. Expect to see some code in the next few days. I want to thank TI for these boards and helping me to continue my hobby. TI makes amazing digital and analog products that are great for building cheap low power projects. For example a Launch Pad costs $4.30 from the TI eStore.

And just in case you were wondering, I have a lovely bot built from the NXShield from Mindsensors.com. I plan to shoot a video this weekend and post it later next week.

Day 3 brings NIWeek to an end. What an amazing time to get out and meet fellow engineers. This year was super exciting as I got to see some old friends and make many new ones. Among these were people from Intel, Xilinx, and TI. Besides saying good bye to all the people I met, Day 3 also featured a keynote from Storm Chaser Tim Samaras. Tim has been featured on The Discovery Channel and is truly passionate about what he does. Not only does he chase tornadoes but he has also made several inventions that capture lightning in never before seen ways. I cant wait until NIWeek 2012. It always amazes me to see all the innovation and excitement this event generates!