Wow, the last 24 hours have been pretty crazy... I just pulled an all-nighter, and as soon as I post this I’m going to crash and sleep until dinner time… The day all started when I got up in the morning, and there were all kinds of alarms going off because the liquidware website was down. I thought I was getting DDOS'd by the Russians or Chinese or Apple :-) Turns out, a lot of people were visiting the website, which to an undiscerning server looks a lot like a DDOS.
A lot of people have written in over the past 48 hours with questions about the Beagle Embedded Starter Kit, and my Beagle Board projects. First of all, thank you very much! I’m especially grateful to:
-Priya at Wired, who talked to Justin about the motivation for this project
-The guys at Make, and Hackaday, who had a lot of ideas about software to run on the device
-Nuts and Volts posted it on their blog, which is inspirational because I grew up reading that magazine, and taught myself electronics that way
-Engadget for a few a healthy amount of sarcasm and funny comments
I spent the last few hours reading as many blog comments, and replying to emails. I collected some of my favorite ones below - some were nice pats on the back, some pretty funny, and others I thought were really good ideas.
There were a few general points I noticed were common across a lot of the comments, that I wanted to clear up:
-You program it with gcc, built into the Angstrom Linux distribution running on the Beagle Board (I’ll write up some tutorials in the coming days and weeks)
-That means you start it up, then open a shell terminal on the BeagleTouch, and you can use gcc directly from the command line, on the device
-The screen has a great viewing angle, and is surprisingly high res for embedded Linux applications needs. There are higher res screens available, but they tend to get very expensive
-The display drivers are already coded and built into the Angstrom Linux distribution (thanks Chris)
“Wow, this is apple's evil twin, or good twin. I with is had a bigger screen and I wish I knew how to code for it. I would have some fun. But sheesh. Talk about the exact opposite of apple. So anyone know how to code this?”
I certainly don’t pretend to be Apple, but I like the idea of being able to hack and prototype your own devices, hence this project.
“The Beagleboard makes great (cheap) tablet guts, but that screen sucks, and barely qualifies as "tablet". Try doubling the size and resolution, and being capacitive, and then I'm totally sold and will buy one of these in a heartbeat.”
I picked this screen so that it fits well with the size of the BeagleBoard, and that way it looks compact and streamlined. It’s a great size for a mini-tablet, or ebook reader, or screen gauge display for sensors. You can play a decent game of linux solitaire on it too.
“Can we expect Liquidware products to evaporate and become vaporware? … Only when they become really hot. Judging from this one, that's not happening anytime soon.”
That was genuinely funny :-) I hope it’s obvious that to me, the point is the exact opposite, I only talk about stuff if I made from parts you can actually buy, as opposed to vaporware.
You’d be surprised at how accurate the screen resolution is… check out the video showing me drawing on the BeagleTouch screen with Gimp.
“The target audience for this device is much more technical that most of the people, and editors, here. It's for people with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. I love my hobby electronics projects.”
I lent one of these to a good friend of mine, who’s Linux programmer, and he got up to speed very quickly. It didn’t take too long to figure out the gcc environment, which many CS programmers know intuitively.
“…and for Only $100 More You could have an iPad with a Larger screen.. and Not need to Build it Yourself. It's all about that man though, man. The Man.”
I’ve always liked building my own stuff. I like to take stuff apart. I dislike gadgets that are locked down, and you can’t get to their internals easily to modify. If I bought a tablet, I’d want to be able to solder out the Flash chip, and solder in a faster or larger one.
“Hmm.. i love the idea of this here... but I don't know if it's been executed properly. For now, I'm just gonna hold out for a 2nd generation iPad, however... I will stay tuned here, because I like where this is going... Thumbs up for innovation.”
“I'd sooner buy this than an iPhone or an iPad. Not quite one to worship at the Altar of Jobs, myself.”
Sounds like a scene from Monty Python!
“For people with degrees in electrical engineering? Hell no lol... I barely have a two year college degree and I would love to get my hands on this and see what I could do by added a different screen and finding the casing. This is for people who are tech minded... Its like playing with advanced legos... Anyone who can build a basic computer can do this so long as they arent afraid of it not looking like a cookie cutter assembly”
I like the reference, thanks! I’ve received a lot of emails from people saying they want to build their own case for it, and use it for industrial design and medical device projects they’re working on. I’ve had a lot of interest from engineers who work at companies, and have been asked to build a working prototype of a new product concept.
“To be fair, the DIY laptop kit isn't meant for computer novices just looking for an easy way to check their email on the couch. It's a modular system designed for serious geeks and developers looking to write specialized applications.”
I personally like to think of myself as a self taught hardware hacker…
“So if you're a tinkerer and are looking for a non-iPad tablet, this might be a nice option.”
I’m using mine for running Linux apps, works pretty nice so far. I’m still trying to port an Ebook application to it.
“The whole setup will set users back by $400. With more polished options available at around—or lower—than that price, LiquidWare's offering might be a hit with Linux enthusiasts, companies looking to develop their own tablet computing platform for internal use, and people who like tweaking gadgets ad nauseam.”
Most of the emails I’ve gotten are from people who like to tweak their gadgets, and hack electronics, so that makes sense.
“It depends what you're into. Some of us would pay extra for the freedom of getting the gadget to work our way, not Apple's way.”
This was one of my favorite comments, because I completely agree. I’d pay extra to buy an iPhone that I could open up and take apart.
“Unlike polished designs such as the Apple iPad or upcoming Samsung Galaxy Tab, the modular Liquidware design is deemed attractive to tech-savvy users who want a highly customizable tablet with additional sensors or other hardware or want to write highly specialized goals. It should handle Android for those that want a more developed OS.”
That’s very flattering.
“It's a novel idea, though the specs on all the diy kits I've found are pretty weak. I'd love to see one come out with some guts to it.”
Some people want pure performance, and are willing to suffer battery life to get it. I’ve noticed that a lot of people, when building their own gadgets, prefer longer battery life and usable life, because they can prototype longer, as opposed to having a higher performance gadget whose battery life dies out quickly.
“Well, for about 400 dollars, you can build your own “iPad killer” from the comfort of your own workshop.”
This was also very flattering, thank you. It’s all about Open Source Hardware, and rapid prototyping. Hopefully this kit will help people with programming and engineering background make their own gadgets much more quickly than it took the engineers at Apple to build the iPad.
“DIY Stands for Do It Yourself, and this new Beagle kit by Liquidware. This DIY tablet is perfect for those who hate being constrained by what manufacturers are throwing at them.”
I like comments and phrases like this that summarize what I think the Open Source Hardware movement is about… it’s about freedom to hack, program, and freedom to change the functionality and build off of what someone else started.
Ok, time to get some sleep… :-)