Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Things you can do with PocketCHIP (other than gaming)

Introduction

As a backer of the PocketCHIP Kickstarter I received the PocketCHIP a couple of months ago. For those who don't know, PocketCHIP is a very portable Linux computer.  It comes in a case complete with keyboard and screen. After receiving it I played with it but it soon ended up in the drawer. PocketCHIP is very nice and all but I just couldn't think of a killer app for it. Recently however I saw a YouTube video of SuperHouseTV who used PocketCHIP to reprogram Arduino's on remote places. This inspired me to get my PocketCHIP out of the drawer and do something useful with it. In this blog post I describe three different purposes that the PocketCHIP can be used for.

PocketCHIP, Arduino and breadboard peacefully together on my workbench.


Radiostreams and music

The PocketCHIP can be a very basic mp3-player. I first tried mpd with mpc as client but it was too much of a hassle. Next I installed mplayer and it worked flawlessly.

apt-get install mplayer

Now I can listen to mp3's and radio streams. For example to listen to a radio stream of  Dutch Public Broadcasting type:

mplayer http://icecast.omroep.nl/radio1-bb-mp3

or to run an mp3 or ogg file

mplayer <filename>

I noticed that the audio stream was interrupted when I did other things on the PocketCHIP (running CHIP 4.3) diminishing the usability. Hopefully this will change when the CHIP software will be optimized in the future. NOTE: The mplayer software is more than an audio player in fact it's a very capable media player.

Camera surveillance

Earlier I installed a Raspberry Pi based camera system to keep an eye on our backyard. I wanted the PocketCHIP to connect with the Pi not only for maintenance but also to check the backyard from. This proved to be surprisingly easy. First login from the PocketCHIP to the Pi using SSH:

ssh pi@192.168.178.27 (change the ip address to your own)
your password

Next I use simple surf webbrowser to stream the video from the Pi to the screen of my PocketCHIP.

surf 192.168.178.27:8081

and presto a video stream of my back yard is shown on the PocketCHIP display.

Keeping an eye on my backyard with the PocketCHIP.

Programming an Arduino with PocketCHIP

as mentioned above the PocketCHIP can be connected to an Arduino to (re)program it. But I took it a step further. On the top floor of our house I have a hobby space. The Linux laptop (Puppy Linux) in the hobby space is very old and I'm unable to install the Arduino IDE on it. So I have the PocketCHIP with Arduino software installed connected with a USB cable to my Arduino UNO. With SSH I remotely connect my Linux laptop to the PocketCHIP and program the Arduino making use of the keyboard and screen of the laptop. This works great.

To install the Arduino software on PocketCHIP follow the instructions of SuperHouse. In addition to his instruction make sure to install the GNU make utility on PocketCHIP:

sudo apt-get install make

Now Arduino sketches can be written or changed on PocketCHIP and uploaded to the Arduino. Now to remotely connect to PocketCHIP I open the terminal program of the Linux laptop and type:

ssh -X chip@192.168.178.60
your password

substitute the ip address of my PocketCHIP with the one of your own. The default password of PocketCHIP is chip. The -X option enables the X11 forwarding which is needed for the following step. Type in the terminal:

arduino

and after a few moments the Arduino IDE becomes visible on the laptop monitor enabling me to write, save, compile, build  and upload sketches from the PocketCHIP to the Arduino, remotely controlled by the laptop. Type:

make upload

To compile and upload the sketch from the PocketCHIP to the Arduino. Call me crazy but I really love this.

Working with the Arduino IDE on my laptop but running on the PocketCHIP.

Overview of my workbench with the Linux laptop on the left and PocketCHIP and Arduino side by side on the right.
 

Conclusion

These three purposes of the PocketCHIP reignited my interest in the platform.  The PocketCHIP has gotten a permanent place on my workbench which is much better than lying around in a drawer. I'm use it almost on a daily basis to program my Arduino. In the next months I hope to give some more tips on PocketCHIP and the things you can do with it (other than gaming).

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