Raspberry Pi

I’ve been playing for a long time to get my hands dirty with Raspberry Pi to gain some new nerd karma. Soon the kids will be old enough to test out their own geek powers, so maybe this will be a hook to get them away from wanting to play on the iPad to trying to create something themselves. So I finally pulled the trigger and ordered myself some goodies:

  • Raspberry Pi 3 with
    • SoC: Broadcom BCM2837
    • CPU: 4× ARM Cortex-A53, 1.2GHz
    • GPU: Broadcom VideoCore IV
    • RAM: 1GB LPDDR2 (900 MHz)
    • Networking: 10/100 Ethernet, 2.4GHz 802.11n wireless
    • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.1 Classic, Bluetooth Low Energy
    • Storage: 8 GB microSD (Class 10) with NOOBS pre-installed
    • GPIO: 40-pin header, populated
    • Ports: HDMI, 3.5mm analogue audio-video jack, 4× USB 2.0, Ethernet, Camera Serial Interface (CSI), Display Serial Interface (DSI)
  • Navilock NL-8002U USB GPS receiver (u-blox 8 UBX-M8030-KT chipset)
  • S.USV Pi advanced (UPS)

So, with a Raspberry Pi, a GPS antenna, and a UPS, I should have everything I need to build an in-car GPS logger for my first project that should have the following features:

  • properly start/shutdown the Raspberry when the car ignition is turned on/off
    • this is why I need the S.USV
  • gracefully start/stop GPS logging when the Raspberry boots up or shuts down
    • GPSBabel should help me getting that done
  • a web user interface for
    • displaying current GPS data
    • setting waypoints for the current location
    • showing all waypoints and tracks on a map
    • filtering waypoints/tracks for a given time period
    • uploading waypoints/tracks based on that filter to this blog

The web interface I will write myself, most likely using Dropwizard + SQLite for the service layer and backend and Durandal for the UI. Visualizing the waypoints/tracks on a map will be a bit trickier, but I am sure it can be done. The other problem I will need to solve is actually connecting to the Raspberry Pi from an iPad in the car. Ideally, this will be wireless, probably by making the Raspberry Pi a Wifi access point. For uploading the waypoints/tracks to this blog I will need internet access, probably via a personal hotspot on my iPhone.

Day 17 – Florida Roadtrip – Washington, DC

Having survived that last sketchy motel near Washington, DC, our first task in the morning was to find some drinkable coffee, so we are prepared for a day at our final tourist destination, the National Museum of the American Indian in DC. Good old Google showed us a Starbucks nearby, so we entered the address into our GPS, and off we went. Car fully packed, we passed some Air Force Base, and oops, the GPS tells to make a turn there. Ok, so lets see where this leads – if it’s a Starbucks on Google, surely it can’t be right in this military zone, right? Wrong!

Before we realized and could turn around, the military checkpoint appeared and we already envisioned our car getting searched endlessly for bombs. So we were apologetically blamed Google, but the guard basically grinned, asked for our ID, duly recorded it, called some other guys about some ‘unauthorized vehicle coming through back’ and made sure we understood where exactly we were supposed to turn around. Probably happens to him a hundred times a day…

Eventually we found a non-militarized Starbucks nearby and then made our way to DC. Our iPhone also told us about the best price for parking nearby the museum, but it actually turned out that street parking was free and unlimited on Sunday, and we had no problem finding a spot right across from the museum, since we were very early.

The museum itself was great. The boys had a lot of fun building an Igloo, and even more fun destroying it, and it was quite interesting for the grown-ups, too. The best was probably the museum restaurant though. It’s quite pricey, but was exceptionally good, with very unusual (for us) American Indian food.

And that was the end – it was time to make the trip home. Almost 4000 miles later, the last stretch had pretty heavy traffic, but we made it, and the kids were happy to be back and re-united with all their toys and a bathtub…

Day 9 and 10 – Okefenokee Swamp, GA

Sadly, it was our last night camping. We are heading back home, from Georgia to New York. We will stay in hotels on the way. Our last stop was Okefenokee National Park. Another paradise, but with mosquitos. Otherwise, the temperature for camping was perfect. Not too cold at night and not too hot at noon.

We arrived on Wednesday night, set up camp and met a three year old boy with his Air Force father, eight month old brother and his grandma. Timofei and Yelisei had a blast. They have not seen any other children for a while. So they ran around in circles like mad people. Then they invited us to have our first smorphs (marshmallow chocolate sandwiches). I have to say I was prejudiced at first, but I do agree it was not bad at all. Timofei and Yelisei enjoyed it as well.

After a nice sleep we had a boat ride on the swamp. This park and shark valley in Florida are the best places to see the wildlife. On our one and a half hour trip, we saw countless alligators, beautiful big birds like ibis and cranes, and small birds like swamp canary. Also turtles and deer. After that majestic trip on the swamp, we had lunch of rice and canned organic chicken. I was hoping that both boys will collapse for a nap but they thought differently.

We took a stroll on a boardwalk in the swamp. There was a fire in that forest that was caused by lightning and was burning for a year. It finished burning couple of months ago. So our board walk was not as long as it needed to be for those boys to fall a sleep. Tired of walking in circles we lay down on the floor and Renzo had a nap. Strangely no one else did.

In the evening we were going to do some star watching. They were going to put out 3 telescopes. Since this camp is at the end of a 17 mile dead end road with no light pollution, the sky is pretty incredible even without a telescope. But stupidly we did not register and when we showed up at 9 pm with children in stroller we found nobody with no telescope!! I was so mad at our stupidity! Lesson learned I hope.

I wanted to share a list of equipment that we found useful in our camping trip. It is not complete. I just wanted to mention things I liked.

Our MSR Spider stove. It is small and packable and takes any fuel. We use kerosine, which is a popular item on the countryside. We are thinking of getting one with 2 burners (and a bigger car).

Sleeping bags that can zip together. You never know when the mood strikes you and when the nights are freezing.

REI Basecamp 4 tent. Best compromise between size an comfort. You can stand up to put on your pants but it is small enough not to take over your trunk. It is also very waterproof. We were lucky not to have rain this time but we have slept in it through over night storms. It also was good in windy conditions.

Two large plastic boxes with lids attached. You can find those at McMaster Carr in the shipping box category. One has all the food and the other all the dishes and stove and everything else. If you put the stove on the picnic table and boxes on either side, it works like a relatively comfortable kitchen.

Kitchen sink. Normal people would probably use tubs but we have a rather small car and we stupidly brought our huge stroller. Luckily there is a ‘Sea to Summit’ packable kitchen sink. Worked very nicely.

Do not leave your house without charcoal! Often camp fires are prohibited but charcoal is not. I have cooked entire meals on it.

Swiss army knife.

Wine. It is cold at night and when you wake up with full bladder in the middle of the night it is such a pain to get out of the tent. Stick to wine, not beer.

Find a herbal concoction that you and your children can drink besides water. I made orange hibiscus honey tea or camomile honey. Put it in thermos cups and drink all day.

iPhone. I can not imagine how people travelled without it. GPS is also important. Use them in combination and you can find and make reservations in coming up town or campground. Find out that all the BBQ places are closed without driving to each one.