Tag Archive: hardware


Long time since the last post. Fell ill after the previous recce for the camera at the camere-wali-gali in Chandni Chowk. Work had stopped for the last week, and the flight test has been postponed for the first week of Jan, tentatively. As mentioned in the last post, had to look for compact cameras that supported remote capture, which turned out to be surprisingly challenging, as apparently no more compacts are sold with that feature. Perhaps the manufacturers deemed it a frivolous expense.

Anyway, our first choice was the G10, which really blurred the boundary between a DSLR and a compact, but to our dismay, it was nowhere to be found (It’s been long discontinued) After a lot of haggling we finally managed to net the Nikon P1 at a pretty decent bargain, and are now fiddling around with it. As an added bonus, the camera supports WiFi, but well, that’s unnecessary.

Using gPhoto on the command line is pretty straightforward, and the hook-script param is really helpful. All I need to do is add the path of my shell script that transfers the captured image to the ground station via scp, and voila! All the capture business is done. Alternately, I could execute any image processing code on the image before transferring it. But that will require some conversion first, perhaps (unless some settings can be tinkered with) as the images are being captured in .nef format, and I doubt if OpenCV accepts that format (I have to check that, though). Another thing to note is the massive delay between consecutive pictures ~2-3 seconds. I think it autofocuses each time, so if I can omit the autofocus bit, hopefully the camera will be able to shoot faster. Hm. Or possibly try the burst mode. Have to work on all this retrieval stuff for the moment.

Bugling the Beagle

The BeagleBoard’s here! Finally! So, after a day of messing around with the board, and trying to figure out how it worked, I am now, typing this very first blog post from within the Angstrom distribution loaded on the board! Woot!

In other related news, we had our first flight test this Saturday. The video feed was pretty good at 640×480, and the targets held up pretty well against the wind, contrary to ahem people’s expectations.Got a decent image of the star target, but the image quality in general was very poor. On switching to 1280 the video feed started lagging, and there was an issue with the antennas as well, so couldn’t test that thoroughly. However, it’s pretty evident that we need a better camera to get those stills. The Axis camera is just not making the cut – We couldn’t get it to focus at ~200ft, there is a LOT of spherical aberration, and the resolution wasn’t acceptable either. So, most probably we will be employing a still image camera in the next flight test, when we’ll couple the beagleboard to the camera.

One of the better captures on flyby

So, back to the Beagle Board.

Now, the very first thing was setting up minicom. That was pretty straight forward, and following instructions on the wiki, managed to get the serial comm working. Now the next part was checking the functioning of the board. So hooked up the null cable to the board, and connected it to a mini usb cable, and saw an entire boot up process, that eventually led me straight to a linux terminal (angstrom) over the minicom terminal. Encouraged by the result, I tried running it again with the display connected, only to be greeted by a Kernel Panic, and subsequent hung Uncompressing Linux… dialogs.

So, procured the MLO, u-boot and uImage files along with the Angstrom tarball from the Angstrom website. Formatted the SD card in the boot and ext3 partitions, copied the requisite stuff. Put everything together again and voila!

Points to be noted, then

  1. The default screen resolution is a VERY garish 640×480. It’s pretty exciting to look at initially, but is not workable. So, to go around this, after much searching, figured out that it is at the preboot stage (when the uLoader asks for a keypress to stop autoboot) that we assign the dvimode to the resolution of our requirement. So, it means a simple boot.scr (edited in vi) containing
    setenv dvimode 1024x768MR-16@60
    run loaduimage
    run mmcboot

    and you’re done!
  2. The SD Card reader jackets (the micro to SD card converters) are VERY unreliable. DO NOT trust them. Ever. Go ahead with the much simpler and reliable netconnect modems. If obtaining junk characters, check to see if the COM cable is tightly attached, and that the SD card has the MLO file, the uImage and u-boot.bin file in the boot partition.
  3. Plug the HDMI to DVI cable before plugging in the power. Also, get a power supply of 5V, and around 2A. An old Axis adapter fit the bill perfectly. Also plug in peripherals before plugging the power. The mini-USB cable is not really required then.
  4. Connecting the board to the network is easy enough. In the network connection applet, set the IPs manually, and set IPv6 to automatic. That gets the internet working.
  5. #beagle is your friend on freenode.

Now, as the beagleboard is up and running, the next task is to get opencv (and consequently the code) working on it. Hm. Also, will probably be looking at building customized boot images of Angstrom. Let’s see over the coming days.