Space Cube: Tiny Linux Computer

The one on the left is an apple, the one on the right is a linux computer.
The one on the left is an apple, the one on the right is a linux computer.

This little box contains a full blown Linux computer with a 300 MHz processor, 16MB of onboard flash memory, 64MB of SDRAM, and a 1GB CompactFlash card loaded with Red Hat Linux.

The outside of the cube hosts a USB port, which when connected to a hub will allow the connection of mouse and keyboard, a VGA port for connecting a monitor, an Ethernet port for internet access, RS232 port, and mic and speaker plugs. There is also a Space Wire port which is a standard connector for ESA, NASA and JAXA equipment.

What makes it particularly interesting for me is its potential use in geophysics. It is inherently designed for connection to monitoring equipment and sensors. It requires only a 5V power supply and draws only 5W. It also comes with a GCC compiler so that software can be written for it. Geophysics field kit is becoming increasingly computer dependent and consequently a pain lugging car batteries, inverters and laptops around. Having this little puppy might make things just a touch easier.

Not available just yet, and will cost ~£1,500 when it is, but its potential is huge. I think I may just have seen the future.

Source: Problog

I So Want One Of These : The Microsoft Sphere

I thought that the Microsoft Surface, a table top computer screen where one could interact with objects on the surface with one’s fingers was a really interesting concept and wanted one immediately. Now those clever people at Microsoft have just gone one (dimension) better.

Prototype of Microsoft Sphere
Prototype of Microsoft Sphere

The interactive surface is now a sphere with projection from the inside. The reports I’ve seen have geeks enthusing about being able to play pong in 3D, but as an Earth Science educator I just start to think of the geological education possibilities – 3D plate motion, palaeogeography anyone? 3D stereonets??

A video of a demo is available at SeattlePI.

Boy's Toys

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m into gadgets. As part of a project I’m working on I’ve managed to achieve a nifty integration of gizmos (well I like it anyway).

I’ve taken a Samsung Q1 ultra mobile notebook PC running XP (above) and loaded ArcGIS (a popular geographical information system) on to it. From Edina digimap (subscription required) I’ve downloaded topographic, historic and geological maps for an area I’m working on. I’ve made the geology map semitransparent so the other layers can be overlain with the geology.

I’ve taken my Garmin GPSmap 60CSx unit and connected it to the Q1 by USB cable so now I can see my current position on the geology / topography / historic maps. This is going to make a great field geology resource (well I’m easily pleased!).

For the techy among you, the only tricky bit was the GPS to ArcGIS connection. The GPS outputs the data NMEA data via a USB cable. ArcGIS only accepts the data in serial form via a COM port that the Q1 doesn’t have and the GPS doesn’t transmit to. I’d like to thank the technical support at Garmin Europe for providing me with a program that takes the NMEA data from the USB port and converts it so that it appears to ArcGIS as if it is coming via a COM port.