1 Dec 2002 nevyn   » (Journeyer)

Gosh, quite a while since my last diary entry! Well, I've been busy but, unfortunately not with much robotics :( Let me see. Well, starting with my work on new 'toys' for the third year undergraduate course in robotics at my uni, most of it works, I am pleased to say :) We have both a Windows pocketpc 2002 pda and an intel compatible linux based pc104 board talking to my new Handyboard firmware but only via serial. We also have my firmware talking to my Mac (OS X) via USB so the firmware USB client drivers are working nicely (hacked together in a mix of C and ASM, in case you wondered!). The problem is linux and pocketpc usb drivers. Has anyone got any idea how to write them! You would have thought it would be easy but no: the documentation is non-existent and the example code usually totals the linux kernal. Hmm, fun. I've got a linux driver sending to the firmware but nothing is coming back atm.

On the same vein, we now have batteries and enclosures ordered (as well as 17 pc104 boards) so, as long as we stick to serial for the moment, we are doing fine. I'm sure I'll crack the usb driver problem somehow. Everything anyone would need to build the handyboard adapter (for usb), the new firmware source code (with comments and docs), the pc104 details, the custom linux install (including a java micro vm) and the interface low level and high level api's should all be available about end of january (once we've tested and written it!). Even if you are not interested in the complete project, little bits (like how to get a 2MHz HC11 to talk to a pc via USB) could be useful to you :) I will also be posting a very largely modified version of a windows HC11 c compiler I've revamped to work with the Handyboard interrupt vectors, ports and memory addressing. I've also got source for things like display drivers for the lcd display etc.

Next to my research and, overall, this is also going in the right direction - just very slowly! I now have a prototype of the USB to packet radio hub built and I'm currently programming it. I could really do with a good C compiler for HC908 code but they don't seem to exist (well, for less than a few hundred pounds). I tried to revamp the c compiler I used for the hc11 code but with little success to date. The problem is the hc908 don't have much ram but lots of flash (unlike the handyboard where it is all ram). Looks like it's asm all the way for now. I've also solved a few battery problems (found a very useful very-low-drop voltage regulators) and some motor interference problems (also solved using the regulators) and found some suitable batteries.

Lastly, the robot wars entry has ground to a halt. Basically the constant problems of time and finances have put a freeze on further development. Never mind - I am lucky enough to have two other projects to play with!

A final thanks, before I finish, to everyone who emailed about my last list of questions / problems - you were all very useful!

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