Why is it that I always discover my perfect birthday present right after my birthday.
I’m talkin’ bugs. They are reviewed in the current Linux Journal (no link … I’m talking about this thing on paper … current issue, August 2008, Issue 172). Well, there is a web site you can go to (references below). The thing is, the BUG is the coolest piece of hardware to come along since the properly busted rock. It is many things, it does many things, and it is radically open source.
The BUG is a product of buglabs. It is an open hardware device that runs Linux (of course) and connects to, at present, a small number of different modules. These modules can be controlled by the operating system, and of course, provide data streams to the operating system. The modules currently available are: A tiny little touch screen, a motion detector, a GPS unit, and, naturally a “bug-cam.” So it can see, get input, feel motion, and it knows where it is.
I recommend paging through the review by Mike Diehl in Linux Journal. He give an excellent run down, including all the great features as well as the, ah, bugs (not many of those, actually) and suggests some uses for the system that would make the Department of Homeland Security proud. Or nervous.
These modules can be put together in a variety of ways, and controlled with a Java based API. There are numerous out of the box sets of code that you can use to start off with, so the programming demands are light. Indeed, this might be the ideal way to learn Java! Motivation is a great teacher.
The hardware is opensource in the sense that the pin configurations and other details are fully documented, and the company will not sue you for replicating or extending functionality (it seems).
Bug Labs is a new kind of technology company, enabling a new generation of engineers to tap their creativity and build any type of device they want, without having to solder, learn solid state electronics, or go to China. Bug Labs envisions a future where CE stands for Community Electronics, the term “mashups” applies equally to hardware as it does to Web services, and entrepreneurs can appeal to numerous markets by inventing “The Long Tail” of devices.
According to Diehl’s review, dozens of new modules are on the drawing board. In fact, here is an item from the web site indicating what will be available any moment now (Q2 08, which I’m pretty sure is just prior to now):
It’s gonna cost ya. The base unit is about 350 bucks, and the other units range from about 60 to 120 bucks. I hope all the rich crazy people buy a lot of them to drive the price down (though production efficiencies, etc.) Ideally, a base unit and six or seven parts would be in the same price range as a fraction of a computer, or a pretty good tool set or power tool. $249.99.
More info and videos at their website: http://buglabs.net/