Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Car PC – Alpha Build (GPS Navigation)

After the success in first Car PC build I had, decided to go further with adding a GPS unit to the build. So I went straight to eBay and ordered a GlobalSat BU353 USB GPS Receiver. After a couple of weeks I received a mail from Colombo central mail exchange that the item is on hold at customs. Oh Sh!# Annoyed.
So I went to the customs office and upon inspection in presence of customs officer, I was directed to TRC (Telecommunication Regulatory Commission) to obtain the approval. I really did not have any option other than that since the damn thing was clearly marked as a GPS. Upon submitting a written request to TRC they said they would forward my request to MoD (Ministry of defense) for approval. Fortunately I did not have to go to MoD as well (They did a brief interview over the phone though Call me)
And after the much of the drama and almost all the government institutions sending letters here and there between each other to consult on the matter, finally I got the approval back from TRC. (At one point I was wondering whether they would even consult CIA, FBI and DoD of USA as well for the matter that I’m about to use their GPS system Smile with tongue out) Then after submitting back the TRC approval and paying around thousand rupees Money got the damn thing back. Following is the bunch of letters I received from various government institutions regarding this matter. Sarcastic smile
Phew, However fortunately I found out that It’s having a Prolific chip for converting serial data to USB and managed to get a WindowsCE driver and get the GPS receiver to connect to eBox. I also decided to put the mini PC under the drivers seat so the dashboard stays clutter free.
DSC04550 (800x599)
The next task was to put in a navigation app. Unfortunately it was not easy to find a navigation app for the Windows CE x86 processor architecture. Even there was since there is no way to make input to the PC. it was not going to make much help. So I decided to make a homebrew application using static maps tiles I scraped off the Google Maps static map API. (I know it kind of violate the license agreement but do I have any other option? specially since the device is not connected to internet.) Following is the crude UI of the current system. It simply show the current location on the static map tiles so basically it’s better than nothing.
Apart from that it also logs all the information received from OBD-II cable as well as GPS receiver data in case requirement arise for the later analyze.
So I think now it’s time to get serious and buy some real H/W for a decent Car PC. Auto
[Posted with Windows Live Writer™ 2012 on Windows 7 64bit]

Friday, July 15, 2011

Kinect Services for RDS 2008 R3

Now with the release of Kinect SDK for Windows, Microsoft is putting a lot of bang on the next generation human computer interaction technology to the mainstream PC. This time it’s none other than the Kinect Services for Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio - a Windows-based environment for hobbyist, academic and commercial developers to create robotics applications for a variety of hardware platforms.Thumbs up
Similar to Kinect SDK for Windows 7 Kinect Services for RDS 2008 R3 is available at Microsoft Research site for free download. According to the site, “Kinect Services for RDS provides sample services that use the Kinect for Windows SDK to allow access to the Depth and RGB data from a Kinect sensor. In addition to a service for a real Kinect, there is also a service for a simulated Kinect that works with the RDS simulator.”
Kinect Services for RDS 2008 R3 is vailable for download at:
There’s already a tutorial of powering the Kinect using iRobot’s internal battery is available at
Now that’s one more reason to buy a Kinect Sensor. Hot smile
Reference & Image Courtesy:
[Posted using Windows Live Writer 2011 on Windows 7 64bit]

Sunday, June 26, 2011

MidpSSH – SSH at your fingertips

While browsing the web for new J2ME programs for the software collection in my LG KU250 mobile I just happened to come across this little piece of software called MidpSSH, an SSH and Telnet client for MIDP 1.0 / 2.0 (J2ME) devices such as Java(tm)-capable cellphones and other mobile devices. Wow That’s pretty amazing!
Well with this little piece of software enables to control any public server with SSH enabled to be used and controlled from any corner of the world with a GPRS access. It’s true that with my mobile it’s bit difficult to use since the screen real state is very constrained. But with a caliber phone it would be really useful.
Following is a short video demonstration of the software.
MidpSSH Demo
[Posted using Windows Live Writer 2011 on Windows 7 64bit]

Friday, June 24, 2011

Kinect for Windows SDK beta Released


As it was earlier announced Microsoft Research had released the Kinect for Windows SDK last week. According to the Microsoft Research, “The Kinect for Windows SDK beta is a programming toolkit for application developers. It enables the academic and enthusiast communities easy access to the capabilities offered by the Microsoft Kinect device connected to computers running the Windows 7 operating system.”

“The Kinect for Windows SDK beta includes drivers, rich APIs for raw sensor streams and human motion tracking, installation documents, and resource materials. It provides Kinect capabilities to developers who build applications with C++, C#, or Visual Basic by using Microsoft Visual Studio 2010.”

The most interesting thing is the skeletal tracking API. The demonstrated Shape Game using this API is pretty awesome. Now I just need to get hold of a Kinect sensor. Smile

Get Microsoft Silverlight
Shape Game Demo

If you have a Kinect sensor you can download the SDK from

More information is available at

[Posted using Windows Live Writer 2011 on Windows 7 64bit]

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Car PC – Alpha Build

From the first day I got my Auto I wanted to build up a Car PC. Hot smile But the problem was finding the parts I want to put in the build. While entry level components like Intel 945GCLF and later 945GCLF2 was available in the local marked I couldn’t convince myself to settle for anything that does not have a ION chipset. And neither I could find an easy way to get that kind of board from offshore. Disappointed smile
So I just ordered only an OBD-II cable from eBay for some 17$ and was using with laptop to read out OBD parameters that I noticed it also have Windows CE drivers as well. Well after all while I don’t like to waste my Moneyon an Intel board I could certainly try out hooking up eBox 2300 I had on my i-Robot Sumo which I won at Imagine Cup 2009 Finals if I just had a suitable screen. Thinking smile
Well I thought why don’t I try out buying a cheap VGA to AVI converter and a Small screen used for Car reversing cameras. It won’t be a waste since I can certainly use those for either robot itself or for the Car PC it self as a secondary display in a later stage when I got the proper hardware. And anyway total cost for both will be just under 40$
So again off to the eBay and got both ordered. While VGA converter was fast to come the screen got a considerable time to get delivered which almost annoyed me but fortunately it was finally delivered.
So I just wired in everything together and stuffed the CE PC inside the empty DIN slot below the Car Audio/CD player.
But the problem was that I noticed after a while eBox was really hot and worried about it’s long running health. So I just moved it to the slot over the cubby hole and stuffed all wires and the VGA converter in the DIN slot.
For the software part I actually didn’t had much of a requirement at this stage. After all it is just a Windows CE 6 PC with just 200MHz CPU, 128 MB RAM with 256 MB Flash storage. Embarrassed smile
It even showed that not just adequate to even run a Full screen video at VGA resolutions so no use of trying it as a video player. But after all I was just after the onboard diagnostics so I just wrote out a crude application that collect all those fancy data from the OBD-II protocol and log them.
Car PC–Build 1
Later I wrote a simple program that let me to analyze the captured data on a PC. Following is a sample data set from that tool.
[Posted with Windows Live Writer™ 2011 on Windows 7 64bit]

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Academics, Enthusiasts to Get Kinect SDK


Ever since the Kinect for Xbox 360 was announced I wanted it to have support for PC. But unfortunately at that time Microsoft did not thought in the same line as we computer enthusiasts.

However it was fortunate that community was really keen to get the Kinect to work with PC one way or other Hot smile. And numerous hacking attempts began to surface.

And finally it seems Microsoft has listened to the community and decided to  release community release of SDK of Kinect for PC.High five

And it’s interesting to learn that the mastermind behind AdaFruit Industries' Kinect hacking contest was former core member Johnny Lee from the Kinect team.

"Back in the late Summer of 2010, trying to argue for the most basic level of PC support for Kinect from within Microsoft, to my immense disappointment, turned out to be really grinding against the corporate grain at the time (for many reasons I won't enumerate here)," Johnny Lee had said. "When my frustration peaked, I decided to approach AdaFruit to put on the Open Kinect contest. For obvious reasons, I couldn't run the contest myself. Besides, Phil and Limor did a phenomenal job, much better than I could have done. Without a doubt, the contest had a significant impact in raising awareness about the potential for the Kinect outside of Xbox gaming both inside and outside the company."Thumbs up


[Posted with Windows Live Writer™ 2011 on Windows 7 64bit]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Windows Live™ Writer 2011


I had been using the Windows Live™ Writer for blogging ever since it was introduced. Since it did not had emoticon support out of the box in first versions I had been using a 3rd party plugin for the requirement. (Can’t remember which I did used but think it was Insert MSN, Yahoo and Custom Smileys)

But during last months I happened to find that it had broken the compatibility with Live Writer™. Just today I realized why Microsoft had released new versions of Windows Live Writer™ 2011 which of course has the emoticon support out of the box. (It even has the ability to auto format emoticon phrases to relevant emoticon automatically)

Among other features are ability to insert Bing Map locations, Post tags and more Windows 7 like user interface layout. Thumbs up

Only problem I found to be is no longer I can change the size of the emoticons which I can accept for the time being.

[Posted with Windows Live Writer™ 2011 on Windows 7 64bit]

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Nao Developer Program


Aldebaran Robotics, a start-up headquartered in Paris has released it’s medium-sized humanoid robot for the developer preview. It’s invitation based only accepting 200 developers worldwide.

It seems however there is a price tag for the participation since the package also includes the humanoid robot itself. One-time entry fee is 3,600€ (including taxes). While Nao probably won’t get any cheaper soon even with a public release for which it is not ready yet it is still bit steep price for me without a sponsor. :(

More details and invitation requests at.

[Posted with Windows Live Writer on Windows 7]