The cheapest netbook

When I read this blog post telling that there are netbooks available from china for $65, where it is possible to install a proper linux distro, I knew I must have one. Yes, the specs are lowest end, but even more so is the price. It has a WonderMedia 8650 system on a chip. That’s an ARM CPU running at 800 MHz with 256MB RAM. These chips are normally used for low end tablets, and you see that with other things. The netbook has a 7 inch screen with 800*480 pixels and runs Android 2.2. So the device could be described as a tablet with a keyboard, touchpad, wifi, ethernet and three USB host ports, but no touchscreen, accelerometer, GPS, camera nor bluetooth.

From AliExpress, I ordered a device that seemed to be the same as mentioned in the blog. Continue reading “The cheapest netbook”

Driving assistant

Recently I completed the udacity class “programming a robotic car”, where Sebastian Thrun thought us what makes the self driving cars tick. He drew from his experience of winning the DARPA grand challenge in 2005. Now he’s leading the Google self driving car project. It was a very interesting course. Some stuff was already covered in the ai-class, but was a lot more detailed this time. We got homework assignments in python that we could complete directly within the website’s integrated editor. So, we implemented some of the key components in simpified form. Namely Kalman Filters, Particle Filters, Motion Planners with smoothing, and last and most interresting, SLAM.

So, a while ago an idea started forming in my head. Todays smartphones should be powerfull enough to run some computer vision algorithms to help the driver identify obstacles, or warn him when he’s about to leave the lane. In fact, some premium cars already have such systems installed. First I looked in the android market, but found nothing. So I started looking around for how to integrate OpenCV in Android. I knew this part had been done before. I was not too keen to start yet another time consuming toy project, as I’m very busy at the moment. Another more extensive search in the Android market revealed some apps. And I was releaved to find some that implemented just what I was thinking about. There are two that I installed on my phone and am currently testing. Although I must confess, instead of increasing the security, they can also distract.


The first app that I installed was Drivea. It may not be as polished as competing apps, but I like it when yu have the feeling, you know how it works. On my Galaxy S it runs smoothly without any problems other than some inaccuracies in the classifiers. Would be great if ot were opensource, so we all could learn from it, and maybe even contribute to the evolution.


A bit too shiny for my taste. The core of it works really smooth. The classifiers and filters are better tuned than with the competing apps I tested.

CyanogenMod and Ubuntu on my Samsung Galaxy S

I wanted to install a real debian based linux distro and Cyanogen on my Android smartphone for a long time. First I was scared off by voiding the warranty on a new phone. But now it’s one and a half years old. And recently they announced that there will be no more firmware upgrades for my device.

First step was rooting. There are lots of tutorials and descriptions online. Most of them are way too compilcated. Effectively, you just have to find a rooted kernel suitable for your device, and then: Continue reading “CyanogenMod and Ubuntu on my Samsung Galaxy S”

My first Android App

Yesterday, my first Android App hit the Market. Just search for flightpred and you should find it. It should run on any device running Android 1.5 and above. The App doesn’t do a lot so far. Essentially, it downloads an xml file from the flightpred server and displays the predictions for how many kilometers it thinks are possible to fly in the next three days in some flying sites on the small screen. Later I also want to add a GoogleMapsView with the circles like on the flightpred website.

I used to develop some small projects and my diploma work in Java some ten years ago. Since then the language progressed noticeably. I especially like the templatized containers. Back in the days, the containers were not type safe and I always had to cast when accessing elements. Also, the lambda’s look good.

Android Phone

Last week I got my new phone. A Samsung Galaxy 9000 with Android 2.1 (soon 2.2). So, the Openmoko Freerunner was my main phone for less than a year. I tried many different distributions on it. Namely OM2008, SHR, Hackable, Android 1.5 but the one I like most is QtMoko. The freerunner is still the closest you can get to as true opensource phone. Albeit it offers some unique features not found in any other phone, the user experience is not quite the same as with a commercial phone. Some stuff still has to be done at the command line or editing configuration files. Other stuff you have to try 4 times before it succeeds.
Playing around with a pre installed Android is a really pleasant experience. It comes with lots of cool stuff that I didn’t expect from it.
People say, rooting the phone voids the warranty. So, I better make sure the device has no hardware defects prior to installing debian…. To be continued