Friday, March 16, 2012

Darwin-OP, an Ubuntu Linux Machine with legs!

Do you ever sit your couch and realize you need to go to your computer to do something on your server, you need a bigger screen than your Android, but you don't feel like getting up and going to your computer?

Here's a solution: Darwin-OP!

Darwin is a little humanoid robot, about all he is good at right now is playing soccer, but he is indeed a linux machine with legs. With a few bash scripts, or an Android which pings him, you can easily program him to walk over to your couch, let you plug in a screen and keyboard and you've got yourself a "remote head" with an all new meaning of the term.

At the Cloud Robotics Hacakthon in Montreal I had the good luck to meet a Darwin-OP in person, and even SSH into him and poke around. I couldn't do much more than that because he was running Ubuntu 9.10, and we couldn't find any mirrors serving up packages so we didn't have time to update him so we could install what we had been planning on installing including Mercurial, ROS, Festival or Sphinx etc. In the end we settled with a very simple goal, hacking his demo code to make him play musical chairs with our other robot, a little DFRover.

Darwin's code is on SourceForge, and it might even be possible to simulate him. At the moment he has modules for Motor and Vision (crucial when playing soccer).

The fieldlinguist - programmer parallel

A fieldlinguist goes out in the field and asks their informant questions. They return to homebase, build a model to reflect their session with the informant, return to the field a few weeks/days later,  ask the informant some of the same questions, and questions which build upon the model. The informant says "No, thats not how it works, it works like this."

The fieldlinguist goes back to homebase, researches similar constructions, rebuilds the model and returns to the informant, the informant says "No, I can say xx is true, but not really not xxx." And the cycle continues until the model converges...

Sound familiar?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The ATI Radeon install blues

YACLM - Yet another cheep linux machine equals picking up another machine with the exciting missing proprietary drivers for ATI Radeon graphics cards.

Graphics Card

What this means in a practical sense, is geting vertical lines instead of an install screen when installing Linux. Here are the steps for (specifically Acer X1470 towers) installing using vesa aka "safe mode" in Ubuntu 11.10

When the CD loads you will get 3 options. Try without installing, Install, and check the CD.
Get your cursor on the Install line, push e to go into edit mode.

Remove quiet splash, in their place add: xdriver=vesa nomodeset

The result will be the ability to install Ubuntu on 800x600 resolution, but at least it installs.

Once you have installed, you can follow online instructions for setting up the drivers you need to get an enjoyable resolution.

If you have Graphics/ X windows/some colors and menus:

1. Go to System Settings and search for "Additional Drivers."

2. Observe "ATI/AMD proprietary FGLRX graphics driver" is not activated.

3. Hit the activate button.

If you have nothing but a command prompt (no Graphics no X windows)

$ sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list
Uncomment the lines that add "Partner" sources by removing the '#':
$ sudo get-apt update
$ sudo apt-get install fglrx fglrx-amdcccle

Booting alongside Windows 7

In my case it auto-booted to windows without any possibility of choosing. To get access to grub I put the install CD back in and pushed c when it offered me a menu. In my case, my linux was at (hd0,msdos5).

configfile (hd0,msdos5)/boot/grub/grub.cfg

That was informative, and how I got access to my install, but not what worked in the end.

  1. Boot the LiveCD Desktop.
  2. Open a terminal by selecting Applications, Accessories, Terminal from the menu bar.
  3. Determine the partition with the Ubuntu installation. The fdisk option "-l" is a lowercase "L".
    1. sudo fdisk -l
      If the user isn't sure of the partition, look for one of the appropriate size or formatting.
      Running sudo blkid may provide more information to help locate the proper partition, especially if the partitions are labeled. The device/drive is designated by sdX, with X being the device designation. sda is the first device, sdb is the second, etc. For most users the MBR will be installed to sda, the first drive on their system. The partition is designated by the Y. The first partition is 1, the second is 2. Note the devices and partitions are counted differently.
  4. Mount the partition containing the Ubuntu installation.
    sudo mount /dev/sdXY /mnt
    Example: sudo mount /dev/sda1 Note: If the user has a separate /boot partition, this must be mounted to /mnt/boot Note: If the user has a separate /home partition, this must be mounted to /mnt/home. Encrypted home partitions should work.
  5. Run the grub-install command as described below. This will reinstall the GRUB 2 files on the mounted partition to the proper location and to the MBR of the designated device.
    sudo grub-install --root-directory=/mnt /dev/sdX
    Example: sudo grub-install --root-directory=/mnt /dev/sda

The machine I got also didn't have wifi, so I had to take it to an eithernet enabled location to install my wifi usb key which I had kicking around from previous towers. 

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