Hardware Hands-On

You have little chance today to get your hands dirty with electronics or computer hardware, either we deal with small devices like mobile phones, tablet and notebooks which are not made to be opened and tinkered with or our hardware is virtual only and sits in the cloud (no screwdriver required). Few people now still own a desktop size PC where one can add or change hardware (major hardware companies claiming massive loss due to dropping sales in this market).
During my studies in the 90’s we still dealt with CPU’s at a very low level which helped to ‘see’ and understand what’s going on.

If time allows I am doing some DIY  projects with Arduino or Raspberry Pi, 2 electronic platforms which seam to be similar at the first glance, but operating very differently.

The Arduino is a progammable microcontroller, designed to work with sensors or to control external components like relays or motors. Is a very hardware oriented device, no OS or whatsoever included. It does basically what you program it to do. More info and getting started at http://arduino.cc

Arduino

Arduino

The Raspberry Pi on the opposite end is rather a miniature computer, running an OS from a SD card and equipped with ethernet, HDMI and USB plugs. It is clearly more a software platform which can be used for more powerful applications than the Arduino. More info and getting started at http://www.raspberrypi.org

You have the option to combine both, to have processing power of a computer and the myriad of inputs and outputs to the real physcial world.

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi

Hardware to run Android Emulator

I thought it would be a good idea to use the touch/netbooks I bought the other day to do development on the go. Running Eclipse is certainly not a problem, but the emulator becomes a nightmare to use.

  • On the Asus EEE T101MT (Atom N450, 2GB) it takes 3 minutes to start the emulator, it will continuously response with some core android processes not responding. Any click or drag takes a few seconds before something happens.
    Verdict: Not usable.
  • The Acer Aspire 1825 PTZ (Intel SU4100, 2GB) is a bit faster with 2 minutes to start. Using the emulator is possible, but not very fluent though.
  • Compare with my regular notebook  (Dell Vostro Core 2 Duo T8300, 4GB). A minute to start and smooth to navigate. Not quite fair to compare with an Atom CPU.

The minimum hardware requirements to run decent speed emulation and debugging becomes quite clear.