One student out of India is looking to get extra credit with a concept that he believes will change the way people interact with microcomputers. Praveen Kumar Pendyala is developing a way to directly program the BeagleBone Linux microcomputer using an Android phone.
Pendyala’s “One cable to rule them all” is an initiative to build a system through which tinkerers can program microcomputers using a device that lives in the worn-out back pocket of blue jeans – cell phones. While the undergrad student is testing out the idea using Android to begin, he believes that in the future, Windows, iOS and Ubuntu users can also enjoy the freedom of programming on the go.
Pendyala’s system begins with attaching an Android phone to a BeagleBone microcomputer using a USB cable, but it’s much more involved than having a physical connection. In order for the phone to successfully communicate with the microcomputer, Pendyala must also develop a kernel module and Android app that can communicate back and forth. Once that’s done, the tiny computer will be fully controllable using the keyboard, display and mouse of the phone.
But, why connect a microcomputer to a phone? Pendyala believes being able to program mini computers using a cell phone gives engineers more freedom and greater reach. For example, if the developing world wants to raise up the next generation of engineers, makers and programmers, being able to tinker with microcomputers using cell phones is much more accessible than purchasing 30 computers for an entire class. Why? Each student probably already has a smartphone and instead of taking selfies all day they can learn to engineer. However, the vision goes beyond that.
Creating a way for microcomputers to be fully programmable using mobile phones opens other doors too. For starters, if researchers are off in the middle of nowhere and figure creating a robot to monitor pollution or capture footage will greatly help their efforts but don’t have a computer, they are likely to have a smartphone (and probably an alternative power source, too). Secondly, it’s just plain cool. Is it necessary to have an on-the-go programming feature for your microcomputer? No, but neither was the invention of brownies and there is surely no one arguing that was a useless creation.
While the idea is cool, Pendyala has work to do yet. In his 12 week status update to his professor, Pendyala reported that the driver was fully functional, but he has yet to figure out how to unload the udlfb module fro the kernel, resulting in the module busy error any time the mobile device is unplugged; but he hasn’t given up hope.
In the next week, Pendyala plans to clean up the code and integrate compression in the Framebuffer. With a few tweaks, it should be up and running in no time. In the meantime, check out his demo on YouTube titled “Beagle Android Remote Control Alpha 3.” It’s sure to get your plaid underpants into a jumbled mess.
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