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2016

Hello everybody!

 

So happy to write this here =) It's been a long time but the idea lives and I've finally come to the point when I'm ready and the things are in the best state possible.

 

This year, I've been developing a lot. My main project was and still is pyLCI - a headless interface for Raspberry Pi and other Linux boards. It's an external interface you can use on your Raspberry Pi computers to perform any kinds of tasks, such as managing network interfaces (wired&wireless), viewing system parameters and changing the most important parameters, controlling media functions. It's very easy to start using, it's very cheap to add and it solvesyour problems.

It's also been a huge amount of work for me  - but the PipBoy wouldn't be possible to make without it since it's exactly the interface I'll need. As a bonus, it's opensource, has great documentation and therefore you all can install and use it in your Raspberry Pi projects! BTW, it's working for PiFaceCAD boards - the main reason is the board that was provided in the kit =) I think I'll announce it over Element14 forums quite soon.

 

So, let's see what I've got so far. First of all, PipBoy is modular.

 

What are the main PipBoy modules?

 

  1. CPU module - a Raspberry Pi B+, RTC and, soon, some additional components in an acrylic box. It's huge, since it's designed to accomodate a RPi without removing any ports - to improve the repeatability of the project. From this box goes a 40-pin IDC cable - I've got enough IDE cables and corresponding sockets to have a big supply of those =) It's also got HDMI/audio/MicroUSB cutouts, as well as a camera cable slot. I'll still need to make a hole to let USB cables go through somehow...
  2. Display module - with some buttons attached. See, I've got a really cool LCD from a hackathon I was participating in. It's HD44780-compatible, so works with pyLCI I've spent so much time on, it's I2C so it's very fast, it's also very small and therefore I can at least make the display module very thin. In short, it's awesome for my PipBoy =) I'll add a graphical display in the future - I can certainly make it output captures from BitScope Micro, which has become my indispensable tool. The buttons are for pyLCI control, as well as hexadecimal input which I commonly use online tools for, but let's face it, that's not cool.
  3. Power&GPIO module - here's the thing, I'm adding a GPIO socket to PipBoy, connected straight to the Pi. Therefore, I can use existing breakouts/shields/HATs for the Pi and just connect them to the PipBoy when necessary. Will come in handy when I'm handling motors with GertBoard =) It also has a MFRC522 reader for RFID cards. The power part about the module is that it's got DC-DC converters from Li-ion voltage to 5V and, hopefully, some Li-ion voltage monitoring in the future. I'll also add a DTMF addon so that I can communicate with some simple robots I've built that receive commands through DTMF =)
  4. Communication module - has a FM receiver, WiFi/BT radios, sound amplifier, Pi Camera for photos/video, USB hub and an Arduino for switching power supply of all these modules when I'm not using them. I've also got some WS2812 LEDs I want to use as a flashlight, and the Arduino seems to be a nice thing for controlling them, given it's realtime features and its 5V output which's needed for those LEDs.

Which external components are needed but not included?

 

  1. Some kind of input device for pyLCI. I think to make a glove, since it goes so well with "arm-mounted computer". I've actually got all the parts, they're just waiting for me =)
  2. Something to hold it on my arm. I've got some belts from laptop bags, so it's OK.
  3. Something ot cover it. Even the acrylic casings can't be uncovered, but there has to be a cutout for the display. That's going to be the complicated part, since I'm so bad at crafting things like that.
  4. A power source. I have some components for Li-ion battery holders, but it ain't enough - there's a lot of supporting circuitry to be inserted, including battery chargers, protection modules - I simply don't have most of those now, they break very easily and even without human intervention. I have a power bank that works, though, but it's not wrist-mountable.

 

What's the current state?

 

I've been working for a little less than a week now. I've assembled the Power&GPIO module (without DC-DCs though, need to solder them on). The main module is ready. The display module needs an acrylic casing because it's fragile (laser cutter I was using is broken and I can't cut new parts =( ), but the display works with pyLCI, using the 40-pin cable. The communication module is not assembled yet,since there's so much to assemble. I'll probably omit some parts just to make a working prototype, such as power management Arduino and sound amplifier (I need an audio switcher IC anyway because of all possible audio sources).

 

What now?

 

Hacking it all together, of course =) I expect to report back today with some photos, I'll just pick a part of the project I feel like doing today and then show the results.

 

I'm also entering this as a Hackaday Prize project. I've actually already won one of the prizes with an unrelated project I've started working on with a team I've got in at a hackathon. You can read about it here: ICeeData, it's a really nice project making a difference for patients with Implanted Cardiac Defibrillators. and our nomination has got us a 1000$ from Hackaday which we can use to finally buy ourselves equipment we badly need for moving the project forward. I'll mostly make separate project logs for Hackaday and Element14, since I don't mind writing, but I'll copy-paste if I'll feel like it'll impair the "documenting" part because of simple lack of time, which may happen.

 

Regardless. It's 4AM - ain't that a perfect time to announce a project? ;-) I'll come back with photos and details!