C.H.I.P. or Raspberry Pi Zero

Posted in Technicalon Dec 2, 2015

There are two really cheap small single board computers coming out, and while I haven’t yet had a chance to play with either, I have some opinions based on the specifications of each.

The Raspberry Pi Zero is a $5 slimmed down version of a Raspberry Pi. To get it running, you need a microUSB power supply and a microSD card. To view any output, you would need a mini-HDMI cable to connect to a display. To provide any input, or for any network connectivity, you would need a USB adapter, like a USB-OTG cable, and then the appropriate USB device. (Alternatively, you could solder something to the GPIO holes.)

The C.H.I.P. is a $9 computer which comes with 4 GB of flash, built in Wifi, and Bluetooth. To get it running, all you need is a microUSB power supply. All you need is a 2.5mm composite audio/video cable to connect it to a display. For input, you can quickly connect a USB or Bluetooth device.

Both computers run Linux on a 1 GHz processor and 512 MB of RAM.

At first look, the C.H.I.P. looks to be almost twice the price of a Raspberry Pi Zero. But before you can even turn on the Raspberry Pi Zero, you have to provide a microSD card. That card eats up most or all of the $4 price difference.

So for simple operation, the C.H.I.P. provides enough to get things working faster and cheaper. If I want to turn it into a wireless IoT-styled sensor, the C.H.I.P provides everything I would need to do that but the sensor. Whereas with the Raspberry Pi Zero I would have to add the microSD card, a USB-OTG adapter, a USB Wifi Adapter, and then the sensor.

However, the C.H.I.P. has a harder time competing with high-resolution video. By itself, the C.H.I.P. only provides low-resolution composite video. You can buy a VGA module for $10 or an HDMI module for $15. The Raspberry Pi Zero provides HDMI output with just your adapting cable.

The Raspberry Pi Zero also allows greater storage flexibility. Want 32 GB? Simply use a 32 GB microSD card. With the C.H.I.P., you would need to add USB storage.

So whether the Raspberry Pi Zero wins or looses over the C.H.I.P., depends on the application. But for many IoT applications, I think the C.H.I.P. provides more bang for the buck.

Another Jacob Brunson

Posted in Life, Technicalon Jul 24, 2015

Just found out that there is another Jacob Brunson out there.  And he codes in python.  And searching for “Jacob Brunson” in Google shows his web site first.  It is like my identity has been stolen.

I am Jacob Brunson, and now I have to put on my search engine optimization hat for a while.

However, Bing still shows my web page as number 1.  I might have to switch my default search engine for a while.  Google is obviously flawed.

Full circle Javascript

Posted in Technicalon May 22, 2015

When I first started learning Javascript, in the Netscape Navigator version 3 days, all the programming for a page was done in the web browser.  Javascript could read the query parameters to a page and construct the page with information according to the request.  In those days, I did everything in the browser because I couldn’t afford my own web server, and the free servers of those days (Geocities, Tripod) only really supported static pages.

Finally I got access to a server that ran PHP, which was awesome because I could do all the programming on the web server, reducing the frustration of dealing with various versions of web browsers that supported different feature sets.

But recently, web browsers conform to standards better, support a richer feature set, and are supported by many Javascript client libraries.  I’m finding that more and more, I’m ditching the server side program in favor of more client side programming. This is especially true with my embedded system work, where offloading the User Interface to the web browser provides a better experience.

Recently I got a Chromebook, which has forced me to step up my search for a good web-based IDE. I only looked at the free-level capabilities, looking for something that would handle multiple projects and maximum flexibility. Here are my top three recommendations:

Koding provides a clean interface with a lot of flexibility. In particular, I like that they provide a full AWS virtual machine. This is particularly nice for those who want to do more than just code, but to design or experiment with an entire software stack. However, their interface is a little bit less like an IDE and more of just a terminal and editor connected to that virtual machine.

Cloud9 works more like a good IDE where you can set up a build and run tasks. But the build and run environments seem to work outside of your particular terminal environment, which makes their workflow different than it might be on other platforms.

Codeanywhere maybe be a good mix. For code editing it provides a little more than a text editor, and doesn’t want to control or own your project. You can actually keep your code external, and access it through (S)FTP, Google Drive, or Dropbox, and simply access it through code anywhere. But the still also give you a “DevBox” which is something like a VM.  Additionally, Codeanywhere provides mobile apps (which I haven’t tried).

I looked at other solutions (Codio, Codebox, Codenvy, PythonAnywhere, Nitrous) but excluded most of them because they didn’t allow me full control over my software stack.

The problem with all of these is that they can’t access code that you don’t have on the Internet, for example, code in your private Intranet only. For that I found that I could quickly install the open source Codebox IDE on my private Intranet server.

This is why USPS struggles

Posted in Businesson Nov 8, 2014

Here is a screen capture from my USPS package tracking:

snapshot2

Notice that “Postal Product” indicates “2-Day” mail. Which means that it should have been delivered on October 2, which is two days after my ship date of September 30.

But somehow this package is:

  • On Time (for delivery on October 2)
  • Expected Delivery on October 4
  • Delivered on October 3

If there has been one reliable trend for the stock and bond markets, it is that over long periods of time, things generally go up.  For someone who doesn’t know much about investing, this one, reliable trend can be utilized by these three rules:

  1. Invest regularly and periodically.  The rule, “buy low sell high” is a dumb rule, because how do you know when stocks are low or high?  Instead of trying to time the market, add additional money into your investment accounts as regular intervals, like once per month.  Sometimes you will invest when the stocks are higher, and sometimes you will invest when the stocks are lower.  Overall, that averages out and you avoid the risk of buying high.
  2. Invest in everything.  Trying to pick just a handful of stocks to invest in in risky.  The chance of picking a stock that will crash is too great.  So instead, invest in lots of different stocks.  Stocks that do great will offset stocks that do poorly.  Overall, things average and you avoid the risk of buying a bad stock.  Mutual funds (or ETFs) are a great way to invest in lots  and lots of stocks, but many funds focus too much on a single market segment.  Choose a handful of different funds that cover different market segments: different sizes of companies, domestic and international, different ages of companies.
  3. Choose a stock/bond ratio for your timespan of investing.  Stocks are more volatile.  They have more potential of going up, but they can also go way down.  Over a long long term, they generally go up.  Bonds are more stable.  Funds containing bonds still go up and down, but not as much as stocks.  Generally, bond funds go up over shorter periods of time.  If you want bigger gains over longer periods of time, you should invest in stocks.  If you are ok with smaller gains because you need to withdraw sooner, then you should invest in bonds.

I know of a couple of good platforms that can get you started investing quickly and without a lot of money.  But I don’t want to discredit this post as a shill for a particular service.  If you are interested, leave a comment and I’ll email you directly.

Politicians these days

Posted in Funny, Politicson Oct 28, 2014

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