Ubuntu on a Dell

I was excited to learn that a major PC manufacturer is finally deciding to offer a Linux distribution on their machines and actually support it, however, there are some very disappointing aspects to the new offerings from Dell. Since I build all of my computers, the only PC’s I would be interested in are the laptops. My Thinkpad T30 is great, but theres a lot of times that I feel the need for a little more power, usually in the realm of a faster video card. So when I started to look at the Ubuntu laptops that Dell is offering, it was a bit of a letdown to see that only one model is available, the Inspiron E 1505N. The worst part about this offering is the lack of choice in terms of the video card that is installed, which is limited to a Intel integrated chip. This is made worse by the fact the the Windows version of the laptop has the option of a 256MB ATI chip. Hopefolly, this is just temporary, because limiting the graphics system in such a way does not place the system on an even footing with other products.

EDIT:  It seems that Dell has changed the system and now allows  the selection of a 256MB GeForce Go 7300 graphics chip.  I’m glad to see that they choose an nVidia chip over an ATI because of the far superior Linux drivers available.  So most of this post is now useless, but I still wish that they offer Ubuntu on more models.  I imagine the main issue with expanding the product line is lack of drivers for the hardware.  This, I hope, will change over time.

Bluetooth Comes Alive!

Despite my lack of posting, I actually have been working on my bluetooth hardware, and am proud to report that I have had my first successful bluetooth wireless communication between my Windows machine and my CB280 microcontroller (its based on an Atmega128). Using Hyperterminal, I connected to the outgoing COM port created when the bluetooth dongle makes a connection. The program running on the microcontroller switched LED’s and relays on and off depending on the ASCII character that was sent. Currently, the program only recognizes single character commands, and the next step is to expand that to include entire character strings. On the hardware end, I want to eliminate the use of RS232 as the communication method between the microcontroller and the ACODE-300 bluetooth chip. By using RS232, I am required to use a RS232 converter board for the bluetooth chip. If I eliminate that, I can use direct TTL for the communication, which will give me reduction in power consumption and in the amount of hardware needed.

Getting this far was not without its problems, however. I did manage to fry 2 of my RS232 conversion boards ($20 each) as well as one of my bluetooth chips ($60). First mistake was using what turned out to be a 9V AC power supply on the chip. This proved disastrous for the bluetooth chip, but also means that I now have a power supply for my Alpha 210A LED sign. Programming that will come later, since increasing the functionality of my bluetooth setup is my current priority.