Archive for the ‘Gadgets’ Category

Amiga SBC: were are you?

Quarta-feira, Setembro 15th, 2010

I would love to have a small SBC (single-board computer) Amiga, with an optional companion touch-screen display. :)

Something like a crossbreed between an Amiga A1200 and an Arduino Mega. A small, cheap, powerful, easily programmable SBC.

Imagine a small A1200-like system (on a 12×12cm board), running a dedicated version of AmigaOS 3 (light and fast, 3-second boot time), a 68030-equivalent CPU, 32MB RAM, an updated graphics chip (Sarah) with video out (Composite and VGA/DVI/HDMI), Paula audio, a comms chip (Vera) sporting Ethernet, RS-485, I2C, and GPIO (general purpose digital and analog I/O pins). 7-36V input power, very low power consumption (5W tops).

Advanced users could take full advantage of AmigaOS by developing full-fledged applications (full-screen graphics, lots of programming languages and platforms, control the booting process via Startup-sequence, etc). But for the system to be really popular, one should create a simple IDE (integrated development environment), like the Arduino’s, for the basic functions (GPIO logic, communications, and  some basic touchscreen graphics and widgets).

Sell it for 100€ each board. Sell it 125€ on a small enclosure, with DIN rail and wall mount adapters, and fast-connect headers on the GPIO pins. Sell a 6-inch touchscreen for 150€.

I’d love to have something like this for my projects (industrial control, home automation, telemetry, kyosks, points-of-information, etc)… maybe A-Eon/Hyperion will launch something like this after the X1000?

PVR #1 - Media Center - PVR #2

Segunda-feira, Abril 6th, 2009

Last week, while watching Un dîner presque parfait on M6 (a french channel), me and my wife realized it was a pity we couldn’t catch all of the shows during the week. We have a very busy life, and even when we are home when the show airs, we usually cannot just sit down and watch it. So we decided to get a PVR, and on our next visit to Aveiro we purchased a Samsung DVD/HD PVR (for 222€). When I finally found time to install and test the machine (about a week later), we realised just how much noise the fan on the back of the device made… still, that was not the worst of it. The DVD drive made an amazing whirring sound when reading a standard commercial DVD disc (matrix-created, not a recorded one). I could clearly hear it above my floorstanding speakers while watching Asterix contre Cesar. Assuming my unit was normal and had no defects, someone took a couple of awful engineering decisions…

We returned the PVR (thankfully, MediaMarkt is a great store, and gave us our money back). Then I started wondering about building a Media Center arond one of my old Macs and an Elgato EyeTV 250 Plus. But my old Macs are really, really old Macs (no USB 2.0), so using the EyeTV was not an option. Getting a new MacMini would be much more expensive, so I finally decided to postpone the Media Center to next year, when the Digital TV is settled here in Portugal (yes, we still don’t have digital here…).

After thinking a bit, we decided to purchase a PVR anyway, because we will make good use of it for the time being. We’ll hopefully be moving out in a year or so, and I’ll think about our Media Center by then. So, next time we were in Aveiro we searched around a bit and got a Panasonic DMR-EH58 PVR (for 215€).

 Panasonic DVR

What a diference! The fan protrudes from the machine’s case, but is essentially silent. In fact, I can actually hear the hard drive spinning up! The DVD drive is not only silent (all I can hear is the laser seek movement), it is actually faster than my Sony DVD player when detecting discs and moving in menus. The remote control is very well designed, the commands are clear and easy to use. The case is very well designed, sleek and stylish.

As for performance, I’m very happy; menus respond immediately to remote buttons (slow-responding and slow-redrawing menus are a personal pet peeve of mine with appliances), power-on is quick, recording quality in XP mode is amazing (I see no difference from direct cable TV), programming the thing to record at a certain date is easy and quick (and complete, like recording every work day, Monday to Friday, or on every weekend), the menus are intuitive (and so is the remote).

All in all a joy to use, and recommended!