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Locux + Internet Dongle = Low Cost Anywhere Connected devices

Low cost anywhere internet connectivity is always an issue when designing devices. Also when building in low quantity , most are not able to keep costs low.

So here is a low cost demo of a internet connected platform which can be used for a lot of things like monitoring , information display , communication , control , tracking etc.
So a basic device should be achievable at < USD 40 BOM at 100x quantity.

Internet Dongles are subsidized by carriers and bought in bulk so its cheaper to use them , they also come with Free data plans at start .
GMS/CDMA Internet modules on other hand when imported are quite expensive at low quantities.

Also the whole design is a low power and can easily run on batteries, Currently it runs linux 2.6.35 and has python so people should be able to develop easily.

Low cost 3g setup

Locux @ GitHub

We have put the files on GitHub , So anyone wanting to fabricate and Build Locux should be able to do it –

https://github.com/baseapp/locux

Locux – Updates

Just some updates regarding the locux project , things are moving as planned and now we are planning the second production run with 10 – 15 boards. Other than that olimex guys have also released similar low cost platform which can be used as a low cost development board .

We have also started putting it into our current projects , where it will be replacing some other low cost cores which used to cost like 6 times the cost.

And the BOM for now at 100x ( Not including taxes / shipping ) –

IMX 233 – USD 5
64 MB DDR RAM – 2.5 USD
MISC COMPONENTS – 3 USD
PCB – 2 USD
Assembly – 2 USD
————————
About 14.5 USD … without the micro sd .

And a picture with the Ethernet connected –

Locux Ethernet

SutraLite Review – Naukri + Human Filtering … No Guarantees

SutraLite advertizes itself is as a startup friendly HR service. I got to know about them when i posted on hasgeek. They called me up explaining their service and how they use multiple sources (social media/job sites) to recruit relevant applicants and simplify hiring.After some thinking i took the Premium plan which after taxes costed around INR 13,235 .

In premium service i was assigned a agent who handled finding and scheduling of applicants . So every 3 days she used to send 3-4 resumes ( so about 25 – 30 / month ) , these resumes had keywords mentioned by me. My Profile was quite basic which was PHP with CI and Jquery ( 1-3 yr exp with 2 – 4 lk pkg ). And the applicants who’s resumes was forwarded did have all this in their resumes atleast.

So I went through a lot of resumes , and took telephonic interview with quite a few and then had offline interview with about 3 -4 people.The finding and scheduling was handled by Sutra Lite.

But i ended up hiring no one , and one month went by. So end of the day unlike normal HR it did not work out and money was gone. My interview questions were also quite basic also , so it was not like i was looking for Rockstars.

For ex none of the applicant knew about Cross Site scripting or what md5 actually is. Supposedly md5 encrypts passwords by almost all of them. In final interview i made them code a simple email validation using ajax. Yep i had low expectation , yet i could not find people who could get it right the first time ( actually only one got it working after spending hour ) . Supposedly 2 + yr in php and CI .

So i realized Sutralite was basically forwarding naukri type applications to me which i had experienced before when posting on naukri/monster , and nothing social / multiple sources like quoted on the site.
And using HR Services for startups is a Bad Idea. As the applications were least interested in the jobs they were doing or they were going to do. Also as the system is a monthly subscription system it might not work for you.

Other wise some other findings about applicants through such services –

  • PHP Programmers are paid quite less , Avg salary of 2+ yr exp application was 13 k .
  • Due to constant WP/Joomla they cannot think or do much beyond these two either.
  • Work on frameworks like CI is very basic,not worth talking about.
  • No one reads any blogs or keeps himself updated.
  • Use Dreamweaver , never done any debugging / profiling or testing.
  • Severely lacking database skills and no idea about scalability or security.

If hiring for a startup where every employee counts please avoid such services. They might work if looking for a lot of people for very small very defined taskings.

Locux Updates : We have liftoff

We have hand assembled the board and things worked in a single go, which rarely happens but we have booted successfully into Linux on Locux.

Our low cost linux board’s first output –

arm-none-linux-gnueabi-gcc (4.4.4_09.06.2010) 4.4.4
root filesystem built on Wed, 26 Jan 2011 06:31:41 +0700
Freescale Semiconductor, Inc.

freescale login: root
login[913]: root login on 'ttyAM0'

BusyBox v1.15.0 () built-in shell (ash)
Enter 'help' for a list of built-in commands.

root@freescale ~$

The Hynix ram requires some modifications but for now things seem to be working . Some more pictures for you all -

Locux Updates – PCB is in

The PCB’s are in , the first batch just mailed in … here are some previews –

Now off to mounting and getting the board up …

Locux – Low Cost Linux Core Board ( SOM )

Locux is our new project which aims at delivering the lowest cost Non BGA Linux board available for rapid prototyping and integration into products. It will be available in a small easy to integrate form factor with standard pin spacing which you can build a PCB around easily.

Why Locux ?
Many would argue that there are many boards like RaspPi, BeagleBone , BeagleBoard etc , but the problems with these boards is all are BGA, locally BGA fab is expensive also the PCB goes into multilayer. Our Last experience with Beagleboard was a disaster as after the initial prototype it was really hard to source it, It looks like the same case with RaspPi . Also no client would prefer a development board inside their product.

So idea is to have a really low cost core board with a basic base board which can be used for development and Release. The nearest counterpart is RasPi but it does not the product requirements we have.

Costing ?
We are trying to keep the cost of the core board below INR 1000 ( < USD 20 ) . Now if thats achievable in 100x production run we still have to see.

Specifications ?
Here are some specification we have decided on and are building around on for now –

* LQFP i.MX233 ARM9 @ 454 Mhz
* 64 MB DDR RAM
* Micro SD instead of Nand

Vision
Our aim is to build a low cost linux board which is helpful in rapid product prototyping and release. And which is available a decent pricing and volumes so that it can be shipped in products also. We plan to build a sample projects and libraries database around the project which further accelerates product development.

We will try to make it Arduino of the Linux world.

Licensing
It will be open source , but final license has not been decided yet.

Help us
You can help us by sharing ideas, joining the team as developer, collaborating in its life cycle. If interested get in touch using our contact form.

Preview
Here are some first pictures from our developers -

IMX233 CPU MODULE

IMX233 PINOUT

What we do in 2011

2011 was a Great Year , did lots of work , so am just listing what all did i do maybe if you need advice on something similar you can get in touch –

VideoSwiper (Web) – First product of BaseApp in 2011 , pretty successful and profitable now. It is a Mass Embedding and download tool for video webmasters. Something like mass grabber but orders of magnitude advanced ( PHP 5 , MySQL ).

Vidfetch (Web) – A Java based video streamer , allows you to save bandwidth if serving video.It also does video conversion and video downloading. Doing well we had almost no downtime since launch , and currently doing millions of api hits ( Java , PHP 5 , MySQL ).

GSM LED Board System (Hardware+Software) – LED Message display board which can be fitted anywhere in the world and controlled from single location, Based on GSM it allows placement in remote locations also. ( C# , SQLite , C and x51 Assembly ).

Queue management System (Hardware+Software+Web) – A touchscreen high end queue management system with full analytics. Event driven architecture with TCP/IP based connectivity between nodes allowing unlimited configuration all remotely manageable. It was a pretty segmented project with the use of a lot of technologies . Hardware was built with Microchip PIC18f and Atmega AVR. Software is a mixture of a customized linux , PHP5 , MySQL , Java and is platform independent ( C , C++ , Shell , Java , PHP 5 , MySQL , Custom Linux ).

BaseApp Studio (Software) – We went ahead and built a customized development environment based on Netbeans . We built it for our Riduino Product , but now use it internally for AVR based development and have dumped avr atudio. ( C , Java , Netbeans ).

Riduino 2 (Hardware) – A Customized Robotics Board based on Arduino but intended for robotics with extensions for servos , motor controllers , encoders etc while maintaining Arduino footprint and expandability( C , Eagle , Atmega328).

Secure Storage for Thin Clients (Software) – A Microsoft EFS like system for thin clients with our own custom Crypto algorithm and modification . Since EFS does not allow Cyrpto plugins or control I had to get a custom system built based on File system filter drivers allowing On the Fly Encryption and Decryption in a multiuser Windows environment( VC++ , DDK ).

USB OMAP Device (Software) – We built our own OMAP35x based custom hardware, easily reconfigurable for our clients for a variety of application. Initially based on Beagleboard we built our own boards it made us realize how difficult high end design is in India.Built Linux USB Device drivers and customized LibUSB on host side.( C , C++ , AngStrong Linux , OMAP35x ).

Embedded x86(Hardware+Software) – Boxed a few applications into embedded x86 boards and connected LCD’s and keypads to them :) , Made Tiffin sized black boxes for Desktop application. ( x586 , C , Python , Slitaz ).

And many more things not worth mentioning or cannot mention due to NDA …

And this was done by a team of 2 people , Me and another developer and having Fun while at it.

Hoping 2012 remains same more work less time …

VideoBB Video downloader and streamer php script

Here is a small php script which will grab VideoBB download link and is able to stream it to JW Player. Streaming uses server bandwidth due to VideoBB same IP restriction.

You can also use the included class separately to suit your own needs.

This will not work as now videobb uses Encryption to generate tokens , I will update the php script when i get some time.

Till then unless you have the php solution avoid commenting.

For a reliable and always working streaming look into Vidfetch , Both VideobBB and VideoZer work using Vidfetch.

File System Filter Driver Frameworks

Unless you are expert in device driver development I would not recommend anyone to attempt doing a file system filter driver themself if they are on a tight deadline. I would recommend you pick up framework and build on that , it easier and more reliable. I had one such requirement from a client which required on the fly data modification ( encryption and Access control ) and after some search found the following –

  • Very hard to write,avoid unless you know what you are doing.
  • Hard to debug and develop
  • Very few experts and project development costs are very expensive if outsourced
  • No real reference source code unless you wish to invest a lot of time
  • OSR is where the experts hang out and best resource and forum if you plan to do it yourself.

Doing some research we planned to use a commercial framework for faster turn around and more reliability, since I am not a Device driver experts and here are some which i found which offer File system filter driver with sources.

  • Crypto Driver – Its a new entrant , plug and play architecture which is easily extendable. Not much documentation or support options for now.
  • Alfa Transparent File Encryptor – Well documented and complete in most ways. You cannot change crypto unless you get the code.
  • CallBackFilter – Very flexible,well documented and was found easiest to use, They have very flexible pricing which is startup friendly.
  • OSR DMK – Best in the league but was way out of our budget.

If you find more do let me know i will add them to my list and keep them for reference.