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  1. Hardware Review: Integreight's Arduino 1Sheeld

    by , 07-09-2014 at 03:41 PM

    What is it?

    The 1Sheeld is an Arduino shield that allows for smartphone sensor information to be used with an Arduino device.

    The Verdict:

    1Sheeld to rule them all! The 1Sheeld for Arduino is a must have component for beginners and advanced users alike. It's easy to use, easy to setup, and arms most Arduinos with a bevy of prototyping tools at their disposal. The bottom line is if you own a compatible Arduino and an Android device you should buy a 1Sheeld.


    Anyone who's ever spent any amount of time with an Arduino knows of its seemingly unlimited potential. Arduino has an extremely large support community and because it's open source hardware, the number of ways you can expand are only limited by imagination. Buy an Arduino, and if you're anything like me you'll feel compelled to purchase many of the available shields add-on modules just to see what new possibilities exist. The cost of Arduino shields seem to increase based on their usefulness, so often times many of the cheaper shields you buy first simply get left out of any design when it comes to protect implementation time. What if "1 shield" could effectively replace the pile of shields you'd normally purchase during prototyping? Meet the 1Sheeld.

    1Sheeld is a prototypers dream add-on. Using an Android device running 2.3+ and an awesome 1Sheeld app, your smartphone becomes your Arduino shields. 1Sheeld's job is to communicate between the Arduino and the Android. Using the built-in HC-06 Bluetooth module, 1Sheeld allows any available sensor in your smartphone to become a virtual shield, so that the sensor data can be used in Arduino sketches.

    The 1Sheeld can serve as a GPS shield, Wifi shield, and most any other shield available today. In addition, it replaces smaller hardware components like LEDs, buttons, and buzzers. Want to design a sketch using a gamepad or keyboard? 1Sheeld makes this easy. Email, SMS, Facebook, and Foursquare implementation is a breeze thanks to the 1Sheeld.

    With the power and flexibility the 1Sheeld affords, its easy to see an incredibly complex Android control app. I was frankly amazed at how clean and easy to use the app is. Upon first running the app, you're presented with a short tutorial, then a scan button that searches for 1Sheeld devices in the 30 foot range. Once a 1Sheeld is found, pairing is a single tap process. From there, the UI shows all of the available sensors the app has in a simple and clean manner. You can select which of the various sensors you would like to enable, and any sensors not available to the Android device are blocked immediately via toast notification. Once you've selected the sensors you want to utilize, a single button presents a screen where the selected sensors are displayed with their various values. The entire app interface is fluid, fast, and organized. There's even an included plugin for the powerful automation Android app Tasker. The available 1Sheeld library for Arduino is also top notch, with several example sketches for the various sensors the shield provides.

    The 1Sheeld is designed to attach to the standard Arduino shield form factor. Connecting to an Uno or Mega is very easy. Compatibility issues do exist with Arduino's without the standard shield form factor. The 1Sheeld is also a pass-through shield, allowing access to the Arduino's input/output pins.

    The Positive:

    Powerful, flexible platform
    Terrific Android app
    Arduino library all but eliminates sketch implementation issues
    Easy learning and setup process
    Standard shield form factor
    Tasker support

    The Negative:

    No current Apple support
    Wont connect to Arduino's without the standard shield form factor.

    The Verdict:

    1Sheeld to rule them all! The 1Sheeld for Arduino is a must have component for beginners and advanced users alike. It's easy to use, easy to setup, and arms most Arduinos with a bevy of prototyping tools at their disposal. The bottom line is if you own a compatible Arduino and an Android device you should buy a 1Sheeld.

  2. Hardware Review: Portal Media Bluetooth TPMS module

    by , 06-16-2014 at 11:31 AM

    What is it?

    The Portal Media Bluetooth TPMS module lets you monitor tire pressure wirelessly via Bluetooth.

    The Verdict:

    Portal Media's Bluetooth TPMS improves on the last generation of devices by allowing wireless communication via Bluetooth. The module is sleeker and reception appears improved. Once the kinks are worked out of the Android app, the Bluetooth TPMS module will be an awesome addition to any compatible car.


    Quite a few years ago at mp3Car's first national car PC meet, I was lucky enough to win a prize for having as many as 19 USB devices connected to my car PC. The prize received was USB number 20, a car PC connected tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) from Portal Media. Many years and several dead sensor batteries later, the device had served me well, but it was time for an upgrade. Luckily, the guys at Portal Media have been busy at work improving on their existing technology. For years it's seemed that the Bluetooth variant of their TPMS devices was simply an idea in our mp3Car forum, but the time has arrived, and the device really exists. I've been privileged to spend the last few weeks testing this new device out and getting to see if the wireless abilities actually improved the experience.

    Let's get the obvious information out of the way first. The tire sensors required for the Bluetooth TPMS device must be professionally installed, so be sure to account for the cost of installation when considering this purchase. My cost was roughly $30/tire, but yours can vary. Also, as if this review, there is no Apple or Windows application that will work with the Bluetooth TPMS module. It's unknown whether this will be created by Portal Media in the near future, but as the mp3Car community is founded on the idea of tinkering and fitting square pegs in round holes, I'm sure solutions will exist shortly. Once the sensors are installed in the tires, the rest of the process of setting the system up is a breeze. The TPMS module is smaller and sleeker this time around, so it's easy to plug into any available 12v source and slide in a glove box or other compartment. It's recommended to install the device in a centralized location in relation to the tire sensors, but I've had far more success with reception despite installation location in comparison to the USB unit. Once the device is mounted and powered, the Android application will need to be downloaded from the Play Store. Once the app is installed, its time to begin the process of synchronizing the tire sensors to the Bluetooth module. Check out the video below on the steps required here.

    The Android application for the Bluetooth TPMS is very easy to use. The user interface is very simple, and once the sensors are learned, it will quickly and accurately report sensor information. In the app settings, there are a large number of variables which control sensor alert notifications and display preferences. The app is not without faults though. I have the application installed on three of my Android devices; A Samsung tablet with QHD resolution, a Samsung smartphone with HD resolution, and the ODROID X-2 Android low resolution head unit. Each instance gives me a different take on the app. The smartphone displays the perfect scaling of text, buttons, and images. On the tablet, the buttons are very small and often a chore to press, and the vehicle image and text does not scale to make use of the added real estate. The ODROID's low resolution allows for the buttons and images to display correctly, but the text is too large for the bubble window it's presented in. Portal Media has acknowledged some of the drawbacks of the app, and is aggressively working to correct the issues.

    Ultimately, the experience of being free of the installed car PC screen when dealing with my tire pressure is a much needed improvement. Rather than having to run back and forth between tires and the monitor to check pressure levels, I can take my tablet with me to each tire. I'll still receive alert notifications through my Android car PC, but the flexibility to use an additional screen when I choose is awesome.

    The Positive:

    Module has a sleeker and smaller profile
    Tire sensor reception seems improved
    Android ability allows for cross-device usage
    Easy learning and setup process

    The Negative:

    No current iPod or Windows support
    Android app is functional, but will need work

    The Verdict:

    Portal Media's Bluetooth TPMS improves on the last generation of devices by allowing wireless communication via Bluetooth. The module is sleeker and reception appears improved. Once the kinks are worked out of the Android app, the Bluetooth TPMS module will be an awesome addition to any compatible car.

  3. Automotive Computing (R)Evolution - The Android Head Unit Build - Apps That Rock!

    by , 08-15-2013 at 03:33 PM

    No matter what operating system you choose to control your automotive infotainment, software plays a heavy role in how the driver controls the solution. With Android, most every knows about the popular Google applications like Voice, Maps, and the Music, but someone venturing to install android as the heart of their car computer may not realize the power of the Google Play store in creating a terrific Android-Powered experience. The purpose of this post is to recognize some of the software products that provide functions to an automotive setup. So without further delay...

    Car Home Ultra

    I've mentioned this piece of software in prior posts, but it deserves recognition as a valued car Android software centerpiece. Car Home Ultra is a terrific solution for someone looking to access a host of android applications in a touch-friendly manner. Designed similarly to the Windows-based front ends we've all grown to love, Car Home Ultra may be the current best option to those looking for that experience. The buttons are large and touch friendly, allowing for 5 screens of 3x3 application launch buttons which can be customized to your liking. The colors can all be uniquely altered to match driver preference, and items like Speed, Weather, and Time/Date are all handy. Car Home Ultra can even be set to replace the Home launcher in Android. You can set the software to load on boot and use it exclusively to manage your android functions.

    Tablet Talk

    The would be hands-free solution for the ODROID. Short of creating a hands-free call link, Tablet Talk can do it all. The application must be installed on both your ODROID, and Android smart phone, but once the Bluetooth connection is made your Android car computer can send, receive, and manage your SMS messages. Users can select ringtones, receive text pop-up screens, and reply to texts via on-screen keyboard or voice. Tablet Talk will also ring for incoming calls, display incoming call prompts, and mute audio playback during a call. Keep in mind that with the ODROID, it can not play your caller through the audio system, based on lack of Bluetooth HFP profile support, but the app is still great!


    Anyone who has ever thought about automating an Android has probably heard about Tasker. There are many ways in which Tasker can come in handy when installing an ODROID in the car. While not the most touch-friendly application, Tasker can be used to automate tasks large and small. Want to dim your screen at a certain hour? Tasker can handle it with ease. Tasker can also tackle small tasks with the ODROID, such as reducing power consumption by underclocking the CPU when a Bluetooth phone is not connected. Tasker can lift heavy duty scenarios too with built in scripting support.

    MortPlayer Music

    I used to really love Google Music... until I tried to use it in a car. The interface is beyond chaotic to try to navigate, and if you're looking to play media from local storage like an external USB drive you better have a computer science degree. Enter MortPlayer Music. Built for touch from the ground up, MortPlayer can give you access to all of your music on local media in a clean and easy to use manner. MortPlayer does not rely on a database for music sorting, it relies on the user to have a folder structure in place to make the most out of the music library. MortPlayer has built in support for playlists, ID3, cover art, and more. It can also be heavily customized with themes, movable buttons, and color options.

    Other Android apps that rock include...
    Tunein Radio Worldwide radio stations at your fingertips. Nice touch interface.
    Torque Pro Incredible OBD-II/CAN all in one solution. Heavily customizable and Touch-friendly.
    Waze Crowd Sourcing navigation and live traffic information, Waze can many times serve as a free-replacement to Google Maps
    Beyond Podcast A great podcast downloader and manager allowing for streaming and offline support of your favorite shows
    PL2303GPS MockLocationProvider If you have a Prolific-based GPS device such as the BU-353, you need this app to make the device work with Android!
    Paragon Ntfs Mounter Users playing songs from external based storage will appreciate this app which will auto-mount USB media at boot or when its plugged in.

    Have an Android app you'd like to add, please do!

  4. Automotive Computing (R)Evolution - The Android Head Unit Build - Road Test!

    by , 07-18-2013 at 02:24 PM

    Well, the first full week worth of road testing the ODROID-X2 is in the books. Overall I'm delighted with my windows car PC replacement. Key improvements over my previous install include the time from ignition to boot, access to all of my media needs via existing applications, and the system absolutely flies. I cant get over the speed of the ODROID-X2. Even comparing it to my collection of Android based tablets, it really does breeze through everything I want it to do. Whether navigating, watching YouTube, or playing an emulator, the system never misses a beat. Configuring the UltraCarHome application with all of my frequently used programs was also a snap. I've also managed to get some functionality out of the SpaceNavigator, allow me to access all button controls on screen and swipe between main menus in UltraCarHome. I'm sure that with more bench testing I'll unlock a greater set of functionality.

    As with most test scenarios however, I do have a couple of complaints with the install as it stands. The Anker external battery pack is not living up to my expectations. It appears the battery life is heavily effected by the ambient temperatures. Inside, the battery lasts for several days under a charge with no power usage mitigation. In the summer heat inside the vehicle, the battery barely manages to last 10 hours. Also, at 1.5A input maximum, it takes close to a full day to charge the battery, meaning my car will never truly charge the battery properly. The Anker portion of the project will be scraped for now.

    Another problem I am not so surprised with is touchscreen accuracy. The higher on the touchscreen I press, the more inaccurate the points become. It becomes burdensome in apps where the menu or other controls are on the top 75 pixels on the screen. I'll have to do more modifying of the kernel to attempt to correct this problem.

    The final gripe I have at this point is one that many tablet owners have come to somewhat expect. Despite the fact that my area has 4G LTE coverage, there are points where I wish the ODROID-X2 wasn't so heavily dependent on a network connection. Because the X2 doesn't have an internal battery, it needs internet access to correct time/date settings after a cold boot. Also, at times it takes upwards of 30 seconds for the X2 to scan and pick up my mobile hotspot connection. There have not been times where I've been left with buffering messages on the go, but I find myself waiting for that internet icon to display before I really feel like I can enjoy my X2.

    These small issues aside, I definitely still get excited when I can start my car and not see resume problems, BSODs, or configuration issues. The ODROID-X2 already feels closely integrated into the vehicle, and I'm definitely ready for more bench testing to continue to maximize its potential.
  5. Automotive Computing (R)Evolution - The Android Head Unit Build - Touchscreen Setup

    by , 06-25-2013 at 07:50 PM

    A part of the thrill of using custom hardware is that eventually you will run across an obstacle. The resistive touchscreen that's used in the Lilliput and Xenarc monitors presented quite the thrill when connecting it to the ODROID-X2.

    Upon plugging in the USB connector the initial response is delightful. The touchscreen will automatically begin responding to touch. The problem lies in where those touches occur based on the position of your finger on the screen. The X and Y axes are reversed, leaving you with a touchscreen that cant really be used. Unfortunately, the solution isn't as easy as it would be in Windows, where a simple recalibration of the touchscreen would correct the issue. The driver that allows the touchscreen to operate on the ODROID-X2 is a part of the system kernel files, and the only real way to apply any fix is to recompile the OS with the modified kernel files.

    Luckily I have Googled enough to stumble on an easy to use guide to correct the issue and get the ODROID-X2 working in harmony with our standard touchscreen fare. This solution may work on other Android development boards, but obviously your source files will vary.

    I must note that I take NO credit for the solutions presented here. It's mostly a combination of information found at these two sources:!to...86/uNo7a39-s3I

    -A computer running Ubuntu
    -Android SDK with ADB installed (I used this guide to set it up)
    -Download the Toolchain application for Ubuntu from here
    -Download the Android Beta 1.6 Kernel Sources from here

    1. Open the Terminal application in Ubuntu and run the following command. You will need admin access as well as the admin password as these are root commands:
    sudo apt-get install build-essential libqt4-dev xz
    2. If your Ubuntu is installed on a 64bit machine, you will need to run the following commands (if not, go to step 3)
    sudo apt-get install package-name:i386
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo-apt-get install ia32-libs
    3.Run these commands to install and configure Toolchain:
    tar -jxvf arm-2010q1.tar.xz
    cd arm-2010q1/bin
    export CROSS_COMPILE=`pwd`/arm-none-linux-gnueabi-
    4.Unpack the kernel sources. Run the following commands:
    tar zxvf kernel_4412.tar.gz
    cd kernel_4412
    5.Configure Toolchain for your ODROID-X2 storage type.
    If using the eMMC module enter:
    make ARCH=arm odroidx2_android_emmc_defconfig
    If using an SD card enter:
    make ARCH=odroidx2_android_sdmmc_defconfig
    6.At this point you can minimize terminal, and navigate to the directory where your kernel sources were unzipped (should be in Home folder, a folder called kernel_4412). In this folder, navigate to the file kernel/drivers/hid/hid-input.c. Open this file with a text editor, as we will be modifying a small portion of the file with the corrected code.

    7.Find the hidinput_hid_event() function, and append the following code between the lines that read "input_event(input, EV_MSC, MSC_SCAN, usage->hid);" and "input_event(input, usage->type, usage->code, value);" . You can use the find/search capability to help locate these lines within the hidinput_hid_event() function:

    -//+RDG: patch for eGalax touchscreen: swap X and Y, invert X
    -if (usage->type == EV_ABS)
    -        if (usage->hid == HID_GD_X) {
    -                usage->code = 1;        // vs 0 (X becomes Y)
    -                value = 4096 - value;
    -        } else if (usage->hid == HID_GD_Y) {
    -                usage->code = 0;        // vs 1 (Y becomes X)
    -        }
    -//printk("RDG: hidinput_hid_event: type = %d, code = %d, value = %d
    (hid = 0x%x)\n", usage->type, usage->code, value, usage->hid);
    (In the event you cant find this/don't want to be bothered with it, the modified version of the file is attached)

    8. Save and close the file and maximize your terminal window. Run the following command to build the modules:
    make -j4 ARCH=arm zImage modules
    This step can take several minutes, so be patient.

    9. copy the modules to the ODROID-X2 by running this command:
    adb remount
    for module in `find . -iname *.ko`; do adb push $module /system/lib/modules ; done
    10.Copy the kernel... we're almost there:
    adb push arch/arm/boot/zImage /system/lib/modules
    11.Flash the kernel to complete the process!:
    adb shell
    cd /system/lib/modules
    busybox dd conv=notrunc seek=2455 bs=512 if=zImage of=/dev/block/mmcblk0
    adb reboot
    This command reboots the ODROID and should fix the touchscreen axes!

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