It's a great time to be alive if you're a fanatic about the particulars of various performance-boosting graphics APIs. AMD's Mantle is here, Microsoft's DirectX 12 is coming with Windows 10, and at GDC in early March we'll hear the first news about a successor to the open-source, cross-platform OpenGL API.
That's not necessarily huge news if you're using a Windows machine—unless this OpenGL successor is really special, most games will probably stick with DirectX 12 in a perpetual love/hate relationship. If you're a Mac or Linux gamer, however, the next-generation OpenGL is potentially a huge deal.
There's plenty of excitement in the Raspberry Pi world this week: the big news is the announcement of the Raspberry Pi 2 hardware - the long-awaited and much-anticipated successor to the immensely popular original unit, which will now be known as the Raspberry Pi 1.
But that's not the only news: there is also a new release of the Raspbian operating system and the NOOBS (New Out Of Box Software) package. I am just back from a week in Amsterdam, and will be leaving in a few days for a short trip to Iceland, so I just have time to download and install the new software on my two Raspberry Pi 1 units (Model B and B+), and I have ordered a RPi 2 so I hope that will be waiting for me when I return. At least, the Swiss Pi-Shop says that it will be available on 3 February so I am keeping my fingers crossed - because almost all of the excitement is about the Raspberry Pi 2.
A bundled microSD card arrives preinserted into the rear of the CuBox-i, and it’s loaded with a version of Google’s Android operating system. Interestingly, SolidRun has gone to the effort of seeking the certifications required to load the Google Apps suite onto the card, meaning users receive Google Mail, YouTube, Google Maps and full access to Google Play straight out of the box. An even newer build, based on the latest Android 4.4 KitKat branch, can be downloaded from SolidRun’s website and provides an entirely useable desktop Android experience.
Back in September AMD announced new FX CPUs that included the FX-8370, FX-8370E, and FX-8320E. Back then we reviewed the FX-8370/FX-8370E CPUs under Linux but at the time didn't have our hands on the more affordable FX-8320E processor. In December AMD sent over the FX-8320E and so for the past few weeks I've been happily using this new Vishera CPU.
If you’re not up for spending your money on one of the less advanced smart watch models, you may want to check out maker Jonathan Cook’s DIY Open-Source SmartWatch, part of which is 3D printed, something the prognosticators of future tech surely didn’t forecast. Cook shared instructions for making his SmartWatch on the webzine “Make:” and also on his own website, DoNothingBox. You can download the STL files on the DNB site, too. For around $125 or less you can make your own smart phone and you can customize it, something that you wouldn’t be able to do with a store-bought version.
quick terminology dive: a spacial haptic device is a physical manipulator that enables exploration of a virtual space through force feedback. A user grips the “manipulandum” (the handle) and moves it within the work area defined by the physical design of the device. Spacial Haptic Devices have been around for years and serve as excellent tools for telling their users (surgeons) what something (tumor) “feels like.”
In our case, this haptic device is a two-link, two-joint system grounded on a base station and providing force feedback with servo motors and tensioned wire ropes. The manipulator itself supports 3-degree-of-freedom movement of the end-effector (translations, but no rotations) which is tracked with encoders placed on all joints. To enable feedback, joints are engaged with cable-drive transmissions.
An “EVB” Kickstarter project replaces the Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot’s ARM9 brick with a BeagleBone Black, adding performance, expandability, and sensors.
When Lego added a Linux-based “Brick” computer to its modular, open source Lego Mindstorms robot platform, we were psyched, but were also somewhat disappointed it was only a modest ARM9-based device. Now, a startup called Fatcatlab has found Kickstarter success with an EVB computer you can use in place of the Brick that is designed to plug in a BeagleBone Black for a much faster 1GHz Cortex-A8 experience.
It has never been a better time to understand the components that fit together to make the hardware we use work. To do that, lets look at my five favorite open hardware projects.
First, what do I mean by open hardware? I mean that the components that make up a device are available for the user to see. No secret formulas. The ingredients are completely transparent, and if you chose, you can source the raw parts and assemble them yourself. You can also learn from the process of assembly and with a team spirit share any problems encountered, then improving the formula of the device. For example, you could suggest better parts or improve the code to make it run faster.
SmartThings debuted a 2nd generation home automation hub that moves to Linux, and adds new sensors, battery backup, optional cellular, and premium services.
Prior to Samsung’s acquisition of SmartThings last August, the company told us its next-generation home automation hub would likely move from an embedded RTOS (real-time operating system) to Linux. A SmartThings rep now tells us the newly announced second-generation SmartThings Hub does indeed run Linux. Not so surprisingly, consider the Samsung acquisition, the rep also said “We will be moving to Tizen over time.”