Arduino Duemilanove Side View

Arduino Duemilanove Side ViewJust a brief post to alert RSS subscribers that my how-to Arduino article is now live over on

Anyone who has ever hacked around in their PC will have been hit with an urge to take their tinkering to the next level and create a custom-built device, but few actually try – believing such things to be far too complicated. At least, until the Arduino appeared on the scene.

Originally developed in Italy in 2005 as a tool for students building interactive design projects, the Arduino is a microcontroller-based prototyping board – but one that pretty much removes the barriers to entry that previous electronic prototyping systems had.

The idea behind the Arduino is simple: to create a system that allows electronic circuits to be created, modified, and tested in minutes – complete with a programmable chip in the centre to take control of everything.

What are you still doing here? Go! GO!

The aRSSduino in action

The aRSSduino in actionThe aRSSduino is a simple project for the Arduino microcontroller, designed to display RSS feed entries on a 16×2 LCD.  It’s still in the early stages, with the following outstanding:

  • To Do: Support for larger LCDs
  • To Improve: Better UTF-8 character handling
  • To Do: Multiple RSS feed support

For now, however, it’s a pretty neat hack – and an alternative back-end allows it to display Twitter @ replies instead, with the person’s username on the top line of the display and the message below.

The aRSSduino relies on a USB connection between the Arduino and the host PC – it’s not a stand-alone project.  Currently, the Python back-end is written to run on a Linux-based host – although it should be relatively simple to port to Windows, I have no plans to do so at present.

You can download the project source code – both for the Arduino sketch and for the Python-based back-end here.  If you improve upon it, let me know!

Amazon Kindle 3G

Amazon Kindle 3GI’ve written an – in my not-so-humble opinion – interesting post on the cost of e-books for the recently-released Amazon Kindle and other eReader devices, which I’ve published over on my Freelance Site.

This week culminates in the launch of Amazon’s latest Kindle eReader,which means that thousands of gadget fanciers and avid readers alike will be getting their hands on a pretty special piece of kit – only to find that the surprisingly cheap price belies an expensive habit: electronic books can cost.

You should read it. It’s good. Honest.

Toshiba has confirmed its plans to offer a dual-screen notebook similar to Microsoft’s Courier concept, to be added to its Libretto ultra-mobile range.

The Toshiba Libretto W100 was launched as part of the company’s 25th anniversary celebrations – its first laptop, the Toshiba T1100 was launched back in 1985 – with the company’s Phil Osaki quoted by VentureBeat as stating that the company is aiming for the back-to-school season in the US.

The Libretto W100 ditches a traditional keyboard in favour of a second display with multi-touch technology – when you want to type, an on-screen keyboard with haptic force-feedback functionality appears. It’s unlikely to be comfortable for typing long documents, but it should be no worse than typing on an Apple iPad.
Both displays are 7in and 1024×600 resolution, and can be addressed independently – it’s possible to have a web browser on one screen and a word processor on the other, for example – and used in both portrait and landscape mode.  Interestingly, despite its small size Toshiba hasn’t opted to use Intel’s popular Atom processor, instead using the more powerful 1.2GHz Pentium U5400 chips along with 2GB of RAM and a 62GB hard drive to power a full installation of Windows 7.
Sadly, Osaki has been cagey on pricing details: the current run of the Libretto W100 is to be limited, as the company wants to get feedback from a small number of users before planning a wider launch of an updated mass-produced version later in the year.

Okay, so the title is a misnomer – it’s more of a kitbox.  Still, it’s my new toy and I’ll love it and hug it and never let it go.

The kitbag – designed as a one-grab container for everything I’m likely to need if I have to cover a story, excluding pen and paper which I always have on or about my person anyway – contains:

  • The contents of the Freelancer's KitbagA: Pentax K100D Digital SLR with 18-55mm kit lens. It’s crap – and just 6MP – but it does the job.  Just about.
  • B: Wind filter for F
  • C: 75-200mm telephoto lens for A. It’s slow, but when you just can’t get close enough for the 55mm lens it suffices.
  • D: Desk stand for E/F.
  • E: Medion 720p h.264 solid-state camcorder in 5m-waterproof case.  Fixed focus, but works in the rain.
  • F: Zoom H2 audio recorder.  Uses four mics to record four-channel surround sound in 96KHz WAV format to SD.
  • G: Hand grip for E/F.
  • H: Batteries galore.

All the above is wrapped up nice and securely in an aluminium flight case with foam lining from Maplin.

The bag isn’t finished quite yet – I’ve got a replacement flash unit for the K100D arriving next week, after I carelessly broke mine, but once complete it’ll do quite nicely for covering events.

Sony HD Camcorder peek shotNot content with shaking up the bridge camera market with its new EVIL NEX 3 and NEX 5 mirrorless cameras, Sony has snuck out a sneak preview of an up-coming camcorder using the same APS C-size CMOS high-definition sensor.

Described as still “in development” over on Sony’s official blog, the un-named device will feature interchangeable lenses just like its still variant cousins – with promised support for both the Sony E-mount lenses used by the NEX 3 and NEX 5 and the A-mount lenses used by Sony’s range of Alpha digital SLR cameras, albeit via an adaptor.

Full details of the device are still held closely under wraps by Sony, but using the specifications of the NEX series as a base it can be expected that the camera will record to MemoryStick or SDHC card in the AVHCD format in – most likely – a full 1080p high-definition resolution at an expected 30 frames per second.

The use of interchangeable lenses will offer videographers a wealth of options for changing the capabilities of the camera, with options including macro, wide-angle, and telephoto lenses – and with the pre-existing A-mount lenses as options, the camera will enjoy a wide selection from launch.

Sadly, Sony has yet to announce a firm release date – or, indeed, pricing – for the camera, beyond a vague commitment to an official launch some time in Autumn.

I’ve been going through some of the older stuff I wrote for bit-tech, and came across a couple of articles that never made it.  Rather than consign them to the digital dustbin, I figured – having already written them – I’d resurrect them here.

The first is an article about the agreement ‘twix AMD and Intel over the latter’s allegedly anticompetitive behaviour, written back in November of last year.

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It seems that Microsoft is scoring a bit win in the netbook sector, with claims doing the rounds that Windows XP has gone from a mere 10% of the market in February last year to 96% now.

As someone who uses – and likes – Ubuntu on most of his hardware, this is a surprise.  Sadly, it’s not that surprising – most people will always vote for the status quo.

I did write an article for Bit-Tech on the matter, but a real journalist did the same.  Accordingly, here’s the article that never made it:

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