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  1. #1
    Lone Star Tex_Arcana's Avatar
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    A PC for Your Bike?

    Someone sent me a link to Hackzine which had a cool project for a homebrew GPS tracker that uses a cell phone Open GPS Tracker which has some serious spy potential.

    Anyway, looking through the Hackzine site I stumbled across something way cooler. It's called Beagle Board. A 3 in. by 3 in. motherboard based on Texas Instruments OMAP3530 Processor that's used in various smart phones that run things like Google's Linux based Android Operating System. It runs on 5 v. is fanless and only draws 2 watts. Basically, it's a fully capable motherboard with laptop like performance for Linux embedded distros like Debian, Mojo (Ubuntu), Mamona, Android, and Nokia's Maemo.

    Possible uses are Google Maps (with cell modem in USB) , MP3 Player, Video Player (Not while riding please) recording video (plug in a laptop net cam), VOIP on the Road ..... That's just off the top of my head. Anyone have any other thoughts about besides journaling your ride on the internet while on your ride
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  2. #2
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    Interesting idea, is there something it can do that a mid-priced mobile phone can't ?
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  3. #3
    Lone Star Tex_Arcana's Avatar
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    Do mid priced mobile phones run apps like Abiword, The Gimp, VLC, Mplayer, Audacious, and Firefox 3? Expandable by memory and SDIO cards, thumb drives, or external hard drives.

    It's pretty much a lot more flexible then a cell phone. You can even write programs in languages like C++, Ruby, Java well anything really. I can see even with the proper app, a couple of reed switches and magnets and making a home brewed bike computer (I've seen a bike computer app for palm handhelds). If your really smart combine that with GPS, and Google Earth, to map your route, distance traveled, where your cadence started to flag, when you slowed down, time your stops, stuff like that. Yeah I think it can do lots more then a mid priced cell phone.

    I'm thinking seriously about getting one of these Beagleboards and making a hand held computer out of it that can be mounted on my handlebars when I'm not using it somewhere else. I've already looked up 5v litheium Ion battery packs, handheld size qwerty keyboards and small color LCD screens. I'll probably make the case myself from polyurethane coated hardwood and brass (for that cool steam-punk look, dremel tools are so cool for projects like this).

    What I'm looking ror is input from the more technically inclined to check out the board and comment on the possibilities I may have overlooked or that think maybe I'm totally off the wall on this and expecting too much. Also my programming skill are pretty basic so input from programmers that have experiance in Unix/Linux systems would be appreciated as well.
    Last edited by Tex_Arcana; 02-23-09 at 03:51 PM.
    Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

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  4. #4
    You Know!? For Kids! jsharr's Avatar
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    I would PM that link to DannoXYZ. The man knows everthing about anything tech IMHO.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tex_Arcana View Post
    Do mid priced mobile phones run apps like Abiword, The Gimp, VLC, Mplayer, Audacious, and Firefox 3? Expandable by memory and SDIO cards, thumb drives, or external hard drives.

    It's pretty much a lot more flexible then a cell phone. You can even write programs in languages like C++, Ruby, Java well anything really. I can see even with the proper app, a couple of reed switches and magnets and making a home brewed bike computer (I've seen a bike computer app for palm handhelds). If your really smart combine that with GPS, and Google Earth, to map your route, distance traveled, where your cadence started to flag, when you slowed down, time your stops, stuff like that. Yeah I think it can do lots more then a mid priced cell phone.
    A lot of midrange mobile phones have built in GPS receivers and many run symbian (or windows), so yes..they pretty much can do everything you have listed there or similar applications and in a much neater package.

    My symbian phone is several years old but has a large colour screen, full keyboard and I'm sure can do everything you have listed.

    I don't know about the 'bike computer app' you mention but there is free software out there that allows you to map your route.

    As far as GPS and mapping the garmin 705 seems to do pretty much everything possible (again in a neat package), although the people that own them do seem to moan a lot about it.

    I'm not trying to knock your idea and maybe there is a sector out there that wants to bolt PCs to bicycles - though I'm not sure that device strictly qualifies as a PC - but I just can't see that that device really offers anything that isn't already available ?
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  6. #6
    Randomhead
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    I'd go with a gumstix

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    I'd go with a gumstix
    And use it to do what ?
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  8. #8
    Non-Spandex Commuter jdmitch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unknown Cyclist View Post
    And use it to do what ?
    Basically, you could use it to do the above hardware in an, ostensibly, smaller package. And, yes, gumstix can do GPS

  9. #9
    Senior Member wirehead's Avatar
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    I like the idea of being able to have fairly arbitrary computing functionality on the bike handlebars. The sort of things that are, in theory, possible are far beyond what people working at Garmin or Sigma or Cateye or the other places are thinking of.

    That being said..

    The biggest problem, IMHO, is battery life. I've got a smartphone with GPS and just from the marginal cell coverage on my rides where it bumps the transmitter power way up to try and hold on to a signal is draining the battery uncomfortably fast... without even using the power-sucking GPS to log data. 2W is going to mean a lot of batteries required. Even if you are talking about Li-Ion.

    I think all of the cool hacks require GPS + Data + Computing device + touchscreen, so that's not far off from what a smartphone already has... so I suspect you'd get better results just figuring out what software and/or hardware could be installed in conjunction with a smartphone.

    I suspect a good route to this would be a bluetooth module and some software. Especially because the bluetooth module could be the same between the Android phones, the iPhones, the Windows Mobile phones, and netbooks.

    I also think that the cost of dedicated GPS dataloggers is such that it might not be the world's worst idea to separate out the software analysis of a GPS track from other things possible while running software on a bike.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdmitch View Post
    Basically, you could use it to do the above hardware in an, ostensibly, smaller package. And, yes, gumstix can do GPS
    Ostensibly smaller ?

    Doesn't the gumstix require several expansion cards just to function ?

    Looks like it would be larger and ridiculously expensive.

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  11. #11
    Non-Spandex Commuter jdmitch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unknown Cyclist View Post
    Ostensibly smaller ?

    Doesn't the gumstix require several expansion cards just to function ?

    Looks like it would be larger and ridiculously expensive.

    Depends on how you do it, what options you use and how you assemble it.

    However, you have a functioning computer in the Waysmall packs

    However, realize that Beagle Board appears to NOT have onboard GPS which neccesitates an expansion board as well.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdmitch View Post
    However, realize that Beagle Board appears to NOT have onboard GPS which neccesitates an expansion board as well.
    Hey !!

    I'm not favouring the Beagle Board, I think both ideas are equally pointless.

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  13. #13
    Lone Star Tex_Arcana's Avatar
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    I thought about Gumstix and even briefly considered the gOS development kit (too big, not really designed for battery power, at 20 watts it's an energy hog compared with 2 watts ). I will probably see if the Gumstix daughter boards can be used with the Beagleboard which is a bit cheaper and comes with more features the the Gumstix mother board.

    Unknown Cyclist - The point is the same as the folks that build their own lights. Since it looks like you have tried a project or two in that direction I can't understand your trolling on this subject.

    After all why build a headlight when you can just go out and buy one of the shelf?
    Last edited by Tex_Arcana; 02-26-09 at 12:09 PM.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tex_Arcana View Post
    Unknown Cyclist - The point is the same as the folks that build their own lights. Since it looks like you have tried a project or two inn that direction I can't understand your trolling on this subject.

    After all why build a headlight when you can just go out and buy one of the shelf?
    Jeez...'trolling' ??

    I don't think headlights are an apt comparison.

    A headlight is a headlight.

    I asked what the point is of bolting a motherboard to your handlebars, is that so difficult a question ? is that really 'trolling' ?

    Building a headlight enables me to have an item of a certain specification that I couldn't buy.

    Bolting a motherboard to the handlebars and suggesting vague uses for it is somewhat difficult to comprehend - it would be ugly, expensive and pointless, probably impossible to power and difficult to operate to boot....

    Give me a genuine use for it and I'll build one myself.

    A headlight enables me to use my cycle more and the PC less, which is a good thing.

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  15. #15
    Lone Star Tex_Arcana's Avatar
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    I see you're confused. You seem thinking that I'm talking about bolting a plain old computer motherboard on my bike.

    What I'm talking about is a flexible handheld device that can be mounted on the handlebars and carry out all the functions that a normal bike computer can do, plus call up maps on the internet when your lost, attach to a GPS unit keep track of your route, and other nifty stuff like that. When your done with your ride you can log in to bike forums, log your ride on your blog, program a new Ruby or C++ app you thought of on your ride, check your e-mails....

    In other words a handheld device that would be a lot easier to handle and actually contributes to the funtion of your bike on say a long bike tour when you might not wish to lug around a lap top that just sits getting jostled in a pannier all day. Not to mention it's not just for bike use but for personal use anywhere.

    The fact that you seem not to have the imagination to visualize the value of such a project when it's easier to just buy a cell phone and posted five times in this thread to that effect kinda sounds like trolling to me. I can just as easily say, "Why build a headlight when you can just go buy one off the shelf?". Thing is I understand your need for a better headlight built to your specifications. Sometimes it's not the light itself but the learning experiance and the Joy of having done it. The fact that it actually turned out the way you wanted is the bonus.

    You seem not to understand this, and have chosen to knock someone elses project several times with derogatory comments about it being useless when there are commercially availlable products that are nicely packaged. Perhaps someone said the same thing about your headlights? Were they right? Did you have no satisfaction from your lights because the ones off the shelf were so much nicer then your projects, so you decided to pass on the wisdom of your detractors and say "Why bother when you can just buy a cell phone off the shelf?"

    Okay, so you don't like the idea for some reason, and think the idea sucks on general principal. Personally, I don't see why you have to say it so often. Especially when other people are trying to offer their positive ideas, and input. Seems trollish to me. Then again, maybe I'm just bad at explaining things. After all I'm breaking new ground. The Beagleboard was not designed for bicycle applications and I'm trying to include it into my love of bike riding. Take a look at this:

    Origins of Beagleboard
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fL_XMieanSc
    Beagleboard Description
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEL0sW71PFs
    Beagleboard running 3d demos, Angstrom and Ubuntu
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuVwh_VrIxk
    Beagleboard running Firefox and GIMP on Unbuntu Mojo
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bL9mUTtaquE
    Beagleboard running Angstrom and MPlayer
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnnW6UAV7us
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  16. #16
    Flying Under the Radar X-LinkedRider's Avatar
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    I ride so THEY don't know where I am. This defeats the purpose.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tex_Arcana View Post
    What I'm talking about is a flexible handheld device that can be mounted on the handlebars and carry out all the functions that a normal bike computer can do, plus call up maps on the internet when your lost, attach to a GPS unit keep track of your route, and other nifty stuff like that. When your done with your ride you can log in to bike forums, log your ride on your blog, program a new Ruby or C++ app you thought of on your ride, check your e-mails....
    Ok, you win. I'm a convert.

    However, those are still all functions a mobile phone can do and a garmin 705 can do all of those apart from email.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tex_Arcana View Post
    you can log in to bike forums, log your ride on your blog, program a new Ruby or C++ app you thought of on your ride, check your e-mails.....
    What size screen is this going to have ? If it's smaller than a small laptop screen you won't find me checking my emails or trolling your threads on one and I strongly suspect you won't find anyone else doing so either.

    I agree there is nothing wrong with designing and building your own stuff and I'd quite heartily have a go at this project myself, but before I bolt a car battery to my rear carrier to power it, I would like to have some reason for doing so.

    You asked for opinions and when you get an honest opinion, it's trolling - just because you don't like it.

    You suggest there are fabulous uses just out of sight but do not state what they are.

    There are lots of netbooks offering portability and connectivity, some of the linux based ones aren't much more expensive than that motherboard alone.

    I'd very much like to pat you on the back and tell you what a great idea it is, so please give me some reason to and I'll join in with the frivolity and celebrations.



    You might think I am out of order but you asked for opinions and you are the one calling other people trolls for providing them.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member jack002's Avatar
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    Ok, this is gonna sound like another troll, but hear me out. You want email, GPS, maps, a browser to hit the internet. You want a blackberry or Iphone. They both do that. right? You want to build one from parts on your own? Im not getting it here.

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    Biking isn't a sport because anybody can do it. I can bike, you can bike. For goodness sakes, my mother can bike! You don't see her on the cover of Sports Illustrated, do you?

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by jack002 View Post
    Ok, this is gonna sound like another troll, but hear me out. You want email, GPS, maps, a browser to hit the internet. You want a blackberry or Iphone. They both do that. right? You want to build one from parts on your own? Im not getting it here.

    Jack
    A troll !!

    A troll !!
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  20. #20
    Member John5.0's Avatar
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    Take a look at www.oqo.com
    We have them as a service tool.
    Not sure I would mount it on a bike but it can do everything any laptop can do...even charge my 705 through the usb port.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  21. #21
    Non-Spandex Commuter jdmitch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John5.0 View Post
    Take a look at www.oqo.com
    We have them as a service tool.
    Not sure I would mount it on a bike but it can do everything any laptop can do...even charge my 705 through the usb port.
    Just saw this little gem on Gizmodo & others: Always Innovating Touch Book... bit big to mount on a bike... but the price is very right. It will probably be my new toy once we buy our house.

  22. #22
    Senior Member RayB's Avatar
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    All that I currently achieve using a windows mobile device. Touch Pro. Mounted onto my handle bars it can play mp3, video, gps, hardware keyboard, take micro sd cards for expansion, google maps, remote control the servers at work, fm radio, skype, blog (if I ever decided to waste my time with that), take video, pictures, check email, make phone calls and whatever else you can find software to put onto the thing. And it fits in the palm of my hand and control it with your voice. I dont really see a point in building a customized micro computer for the bike when you can readily buy them. If the smartphone sucks to much power kill the phone functionality while you use the other options.

    The only thing i want to figure out now is how to hook it up and charge it from a dynamo during tours.

    Dont get me wrong though. I think the pc thing would be interesting to see as well being a techy. I just prefer the solution I have found.
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by RayB View Post
    Dont get me wrong though. I think the pc thing would be interesting to see as well being a techy. I just prefer the solution I have found.
    +1

    Not only that it's compact, self contained and reliable.
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