Friday, March 7, 2008

More researching!

Well no pictures this time around, as I have been busy figuring out what kind of PC will go inside my droid. I've had a lot of fun researching this, asking friends, coworkers and computer geeks from the various forums I frequent.

Initially I leaned towards mounting a laptop inside of R2. But several things make that unattractive.

First, to borrow from Don Martin of the MAD Magazine cartoon days....the FWAAAAP! BANG! ZZZPPPPT! factors. That is, the ability of a modest priced laptop to handle the jolting and jarring motions of being inside a moving droid. While a lot of accomodations could be made to cushion the laptop, that also makes for another problem: access. When the battery is dead, you have to either find a way to snake a power cord in there, or remove the unit. Other problems were size, where to put it and so forth.

Someone tuned me towards the automotive PC crowd. Lot's of people are playing their MP3s and other digital media in their vehicles with DC powered computers. These systems use Mini-ITX motherboards and have intelligent power systems that automatically power down when battery power is low. (Who wants to crank their tunes only to find they can't start their car!)

Before I got too far ahead of myself, I jotted down the priorities for this computer:

  • Intel Core Duo CPU. No VIA CPUs. We want the CPU horsepower for the applications we'll be creating.
  • Low power usage. Since the computer we build will require a seperate battery, we need to balance power and performance.
  • Flash Drive. Rather than utilize a conventional laptop hard drive, I want a 8 to 10 gb flash drive. These have no moving parts, solid throughput (although less than SATA) and low power usage. Additional space can come via USB Flash/Thumb drives if needed.
  • OnBoard video, sound, RS-232/Serial Port, Wireless LAN and USB ports.

If you think such a system is a rarity, its actually not. The fine folks at LogicSupply.Com have been excellent, answering all of my questions thoroughly and professionally. I'm still tweaking the details of what I need...but its nice to know that there are vendors like these folks who have some great advice.

Monitor? Nah! My co-worker has a Mitsubishi PK-20 DLP projector, which would fit PERFECTLY in a holoprojector. (Daniel's displays one in this type of configuration) And even better, the projector is powered by a battery pack. How sweet is that?

Off course, making all of this fit inside a droid with 2-3-2 will be a challenge. But no more so than trying to code a application that will talk to the motor controllers, the USB Servo controllers and who-knows-what-else I think up.

That's the latest...hopefully some more meaningful progress...and photos...soon!

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