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A9home form factor tempts DIY projects

By Chris Williams. Published: 15th Jul 2005, 15:27:51 | Permalink | Printable

RISC my ride?

A big loud speakerThe A9home's small footprint appears to be conjuring up all sorts of interesting ideas in the minds of RISC OS DIY hardware enthusiasts. The diminutive, low power machine with its ARM9 chipset seems to be ideal for tucking away into a small space to perform some useful function, without you knowing that a computer is behind it.

One project idea we were recently pointed to is based on the MacVroom website, where Apple computer users who have entwined their PowerPC powered machines with their cars can show off their work. As well as assigning their computers to GPS navigation and MP3 and DVD in-car player duties, some Mac Mini users have taken it one step further and matched paint jobs and interiors with their computer kit. Although spraying your ride with the A9home's 'cobalt blue' might hopefully be against a few style laws, the potential is certainly there for A9home owners to try novel DIY projects with their machines.

AdvantageSix's Matt Edgar agreed that lashing an A9home up as an in-car MP3 jukebox "would make a great project for an end-user". One presumes this is once sound output in the A9home is finished, although other projects could include satellite navigation, with suitable software.

He said: "The A9home is a good starting point for a simple solution because of its single, low-voltage, low-power input, rugged case and portable hard drive This is something I have toyed with doing myself, but I honestly don't have the time for personal projects right now.

"I might be able to offer some of my time to help someone who was wanting to do this though. Obviously this would be subject to my availability and there not being any overlap with commercial projects."

The A9 range is no stranger to embedded and pervasive computing. Other computers from AdvantageSix include the A9loc, which features an 8.4" LCD screen, GPS, mobile telecommunications and can be mounted on a wall.

Let us know if you have an interesting RISC OS hardware project planned for the summer.

Links

A9home in beta

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Discussion

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When I first seen the pics of the A9home I wondered how easy it would be to turn it into some sort of Ipod thing.

 is a RISC OS UserRevin Kevin on 15/7/05 5:49PM
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Indeed in the abscence of a RISC OS laptop the A9Home would probably make quite a good GPS/Satnav unit.

GPS modules are widely available and even hand held units (with serial port) are available that could be pressed into such use with A9Home. Garmin (and other makes) in addition to proprietary data sequences can be persuaded to spit out NMEA code (basically fairly easy to read ASCII) the task of generating routes, waypoints and maps on the A9 would then be a programming task. The data rates from the units are pretty low (AFAIK 9600 bps, with the co-ordinates updated at approximately 1 second intervals, no need for USB 2 here folks !!!!).

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 15/7/05 7:08PM
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With the GPS they do an A9LOC with GPS and an 8.4 inch touchscreen, so would that not be a better starting point?

 is a RISC OS UserRevin Kevin on 15/7/05 7:34PM
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Revin Kevin> It might well be - but I suspect it would cost somewhat more. Additionally if it's something that is done "to order" it may not have all the functionality of an A9Home (it may not need all the RISC OS modules - or hard disk or whatever). I don't know the spec of the A9loc - but if it is a wall/bulkhead mounted panel it may not necessarily be as convenient (or cheap) as an A9Home.

But perhaps there's a middle ground - perhaps Ad6 can be persuaded to make the software component of that unit available as an upgrade and allow the user to source their own GPS ? (chances are the data format used is NMEA in which case more or less any GPS unit could be used).

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 15/7/05 7:47PM
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One place the A9home could be ideal, is in a recording studio. Firstly and mostly because it is quiet and by that I mean really quiet, since there isn't a fan making any noise. Secondly it is portable and robust in build, thirdly it boots fast and as such is immediately useable.

Now, if the 32 bit MIDI drivers are released + support for a third party USB MIDI & audio interface and Anthem or MelIDI is 32 bitted, I'll have it for breakfast ;)

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 15/7/05 8:01PM
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In reply to AMS what you wrote makes sense, as long as it does not infringe any agreements they have.

They could perhaps have the GPS componant as an add on, if cost effective.

 is a RISC OS UserRevin Kevin on 15/7/05 8:13PM
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Are there any pictures from this A9Loc ? Is it running on RISC OS 4 or RISC OS 5? Is the LCD screen with the A9Loc in color ? What are the exact differences between those two ?

 is a RISC OS Userdatawave on 16/7/05 3:11AM
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MP3/ogg Player in my car...now that I would puchase it for :@P

 is a RISC OS Userem2ac on 16/7/05 11:16AM
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datawave: No pictures of A9Loc that I'm aware of - I think that it's a design style around which individual companies have based their individual requirements and orders. As I understand it it runs whatever each purchasing company requires which, so far, appears to have been a sub-set of RO4 - hence the reason the move from A9Loc to A9home has required further development of RO4 to give us the full desktop environment. It certainly doesn't run RO5.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 16/7/05 11:22AM
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In reply to jc: Pity. I just came up with a bright idea for this A9Home : You all remember the A4 from Acorn. How about this one: Put an A9home into a A4 computer, The LCD screen must be color then, in widescreen format, 300 Gb Hd in it, running on RISC OS 5 or later version, USB-2, GPS, FireFox, Dolby Surround, 1 Gb RAM, 10 Mb VRAM, DVD/CD RW, FD-12 in 1 reader, USH Hub, etc...

 is a RISC OS Userdatawave on 16/7/05 5:46PM
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That's a great idea!!! You should definitely do that ;).

 is a RISC OS Usermd0u80c9 on 16/7/05 11:03PM
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GPS Navigation software for RISC OS is probably a non starter I'm afraid. I've been looking for GPS Navigation software for myLinux Based Zaurus 5500 almost since I bought it.

Reading the GPS data and even plotting the location on a map is easy. (You can read the data using a telnet program if youre so inclined)

The problem is that map data useful for navigation, as opposed to a map as an image, is extreemely expensive. Only companies selling the software in bulk like Navman and Tomtom (and Sony it apears) can afford it and even they only buy the data ever few years. Unless someone ports PocketPC 2003 onto the A9home of course.

 is a RISC OS Userajpullan on 17/7/05 7:57PM
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Not all SatNav software runs on Poket PC. The market leader, Tom Tom, has a version for Pocket PC and Palm OS, and The Tom Tom Go standalone non-PDA unit, uses Linux t avoid the MS licence fees. So there is a high degree of portability, you'd just have to convince them there was a big enough market.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 18/7/05 9:29AM
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datawave:

Funny you should mention putting an A9 in an A4 case, because about 3 years ago I was working on that. OK, so it was to be a custom ARM7500FE board instead of an A9, but the principle holds. I sorted out driving the mono A4 screen (see [link] ), the keyboard wouldn't have been too difficult (see [link] for the layout), and battery management could have been done with a bit of work (and an off-the-shelf charge controller from Maxim or similar). The same all applies to the A9, though I doubt the A9 could drive the rather strange A4 mono LCD panel without some extra logic, and I've yet to see whether the SM501's LCD outputs are wired anywhere. The A9 however is too large for the A4 case :( However it would be possible to design another carrier board to take Simtec's ARM9-onna-stick (you'd have to buy an A9 first to get the RISC OS licence anyway) that fit in the A4 case. With a bit of case fiddling you might get a colour LCD in there, but not more than 9" since that's the size of the case.

RISC OS 5, VRAM, USB2, DVDRW, GPS, surround sound etc are left as an exercise for the reader ;-)

 is a RISC OS Usercaliston2 on 18/7/05 10:17AM
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In reply to caliston2: Ofcourse you have to put in a brandnew motherboard, which can handle a 9" inch LCD Color screen. A larger battery capacity with more working hours than the original one and nowadays is everything possible, to cram somuch in am A9home, so why not in a A4 case. And also with more possibilities in outputs as well, such like a printer input and scsi-2 input.

 is a RISC OS Userdatawave on 18/7/05 1:06PM
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Centronics/parallel interfaces are old hat these days, Most printer manufacturers prefer to use USB and you should have noticed that parallel ports are becoming harder and harder to find on a printer as they are being 'phased out'.

If you wanted SCSI on an A9 you may want to get someone to do some work on a USB->SCSI interface. Although I'm not quite sure why home user would want to mess about with SCSI these days (except for maybe, oldskool scanners).

 is a RISC OS Userpiemmm on 18/7/05 1:20PM
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Or something like this p[erhaps. [link]

A few years ago I saw a demo of a machine (I don't think it was from sonosite) that ran on windows. IOt crashed a lot and also when rebotted took ages to get to the software. Ther consultants said "Nice idea but the booting of it delays the rounds too long". I thought of RISC OS and speed of booting. Now if only?

PS sorry in advance if my spellingis poor or my grammer is bad.

cheers bob

 is a RISC OS Usernijinsky on 19/7/05 9:44AM
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