• Now that's a keyboard!..and project update (it's over)

    Colin Stuart02/27/2018 at 05:40 0 comments

    Check out that small keyboard! It looks sweet. Not quite sure about the processor performance but it's neat. 


    And as far as anyone can tell / cares... I'm pretty much shelving this project for now. 

    As cool as it would be (accessible, "easy" for people to source parts and build their own)... in reality it's impractical. I kinda had this feeling from the start, I wanted to build it anyways for fun, but other projects and money lead me to abandon this. 

    • I doubt the battery life would be any good (or, at least compared to your average smart phone)
      • This was never a HUGE goal, as the main one was to have pfsense + FreeBSD in your pocket, but what good is it if you have to plug in every few hours? 
    • It would be too big. Not pocketable, or even that fun to carry around
      • Just carry around a laptop? Would be just as hokey. 
    • Any attempt to use this in public, or heck, get through an airport, would be anything short of embarrassing / a nightmare. 
    • My naïveté with reliance on Google (with this project). 
      • I just saw a pretty critical comment on my project that has some truth, and it also kinda stuck a dagger in my side. While I'll admit that Google isn't any saint, I can say that as far as how they handle encryption, their constant pressures on services/companies/people to beef up website/browser security, and the relative security of one's data within their products, it seems to be pretty good. They also provide a variety of products that mesh well together and would provide an easy/cohesive experience. 
      • The thing is though... that also pretty much involves letting Google and all their ad stuff know everything about you. Saying "security" and "put all your faith in google" was maybe not the best idea on my part. While I'm ok with this fact (as it's a free service, I can't really complain. And it's not like every other governmental agency already knows or wants to know everything about you anyways... to think they don't is pretty funny), other people obviously aren't ok with this. Why do people bring it up? I'm not sure. Nothing is stopping them from installing and setting up whatever they wish. I was merely trying to suggest something easy to start up with, something that I'm sure most people are comfortable with and using already. 

    I didn't bother reading into detail of what that person said. I read enough to get the gist and I don't see how it's supposed to encourage me to continue or make me feel any better.

    And for all these reasons, it's over. 

    I hope someone else was at the very least, inspired, and maybe even attempted to build a little something of their own / play around with the idea. Maybe someone will build upon this and do it much better? Please, I'd love to know! 

    The fact my dumb little project was featured in a show/podcast was very inspiring / encouraging! But I don't think it will be enough to save it. 

    Maybe someday, a more thought-out and grandiose production with a Kickstarter campaign and catchy video will be made (or something) by someone else, officially partnering up with pfSense and a hardware maker to create such a device. 

    Who am I kidding.<rant> "All the online services are all hacked and leaking info, all the cell towers are insecure and leaking info, the companies and government know everything and your project sucks and you're not funny!" </rant>


  • UDOO X86 now available for purchase!

    Colin Stuart07/28/2017 at 04:54 0 comments

    Hello all!

    Sorry for no updates recently. 

    UDOO has emailed this out to subscribers. Can now order this complete board directly from their site, it is in stock and shipping! 

    I have not forgotten about this project, I've had other projects come up and haven't spent as much time on it. 

    Also: There has been interesting news with soon to be released versions of pfSense. Both 2.4 and 2.5 have a number of great sounding features, some that would also happen to help this project out. Read more at their blog.

  • My project was featured! Questions answered

    Colin Stuart04/06/2017 at 01:21 0 comments

    I was informed that my phone was discussed in a video / podcast.


    There were some nice comments, I like hearing about the interest in the device!

    An answer to a question:

    Yes, there will be a case for the phone. I would imagine it would be 3D printed, but I have never modeled anything nor have a 3D printer.

    Without all the components here yet, it's also difficult to figure out for now how all of this will be sandwiched and packaged together.

    But yes, if followers want to purchase parts and build along and model/print a case for this phone it is 100% welcomed!

    And yes, it doesn't need to run BSD as the main phone guest OS. Still need Bhyve and pfsense, but the guest OS for the phone/internet part could really be whatever you want. Like mentioned, it could be android if you wanted. It could even be Windows if you wanted too... Bhyve has lots of possibilities.

  • UDOO x86 videos

    Colin Stuart03/28/2017 at 15:47 0 comments

    UDOO has released a number of videos that give a tour of the board etc, neat to see! https://www.youtube.com/user/UDOOboard/videos

  • Keyboards & the motherboard (UDOO)

    Colin Stuart03/18/2017 at 13:33 1 comment

    Some neat news. UDOO posted yesterday on Kickstarter that they've received PCBs a couple days ago and should begin shipping completed boards out on March 23rd, great!

    ALSO, on a recent episode of the 8-bit guy, he reviewed a small folding computer that has JUST the keyboard I'm looking for. Review found here and amazon page here. That KB is just the right size, and has all the needed keys/layout! If ANYONE knows who/what/where that keyboard actually comes from/ who the OEM is, let me know. Contacting the manufacturer directly might also help.

  • UDOO X86 shipping announced

    Colin Stuart01/23/2017 at 21:01 0 comments

    I've received an email that UDOO has announced that:

    "The development in fact has finished successfully: the board has been validated and is now working like a charm.
    According to the new schedule, we're going to start shipping pre-ordered items in the first week of April, eventually in the last week of March."

    Sweet! I haven't preordered yet, as I wanted to see that they were shipping first. I look forward to seeing them get in the hands of users and then I can move forward with purchasing one of my own and trying it out.

  • Item purchased, and response from UDOO

    Colin Stuart11/02/2016 at 01:42 0 comments

    "here is Andrea Rovai, UDOO Team: nice to meet you! here's no problem for doing what you want to do. Best wishes"

    That's the response to my question about the PCIe lanes and the key-ing they used on the M.2 slot for the "SSD"...so it sounds like WWAN cards would indeed be supported there! It sounded like it should work previously, but that's my confirmation right there. (well. until I actually try to plug one in for myself).

    Also, I just bought a 5" LCD and touchscreen combo, I have updated the item list for my project, check that for model information and specs. Supposedly the touchscreen shows up as a USB mouse to the OS, so that eliminates all my concern about software and drivers to make a normal touchscreen working. It comes pre-calibrated, but Windows software is required to re-calibrate if desired. Let's hope the calibration it comes with is accurate, and doesn't "drift" or anything weird over time.

    This whole unit is also all contained together into a single small unit, eliminating long cords, extra boards, etc. The whole thing is powered via USB, as well as communicates the mouse info that way too. The only other connector is HDMI, which the UDOO has, so no adapting will be required. Sweet!

  • Encouraging

    Colin Stuart10/23/2016 at 15:12 0 comments

    I am still waiting for the UDOO X86 motherboards to be shipping, once they are I'll go order one and begin delving deeper. For now I should concentrate more on the software component with current hardware and getting that figured out, I just fear that 1) once the motherboard ships I'll have to do it all over again (which really shouldn't be a bad thing) 2) Pretty confident that what I want done, is indeed possible already, so why figure out twice when it can be figured out once....? on the final hardware no-less.

    One possible snag is the PCIe support on UDOO's M.2 B-slot. They've advertised as supporting PCIe, but there's been a recent update from them saying they're still working the kinks out on that (it was a stretch goal. it previously was SATA only). I WILL need PCIe support on that slot in order for it to support WWAN cards. If that feature doesn't make it, I would have to resort to USB-based WWAN solutions, which appear to almost always include their own internal routers and other sketchy software. That isn't an acceptable solution to me, so I'd have to wait for that feature to be made available. BUT it sounds like they should figure it out in time so it shouldn't be a problem at all.

    One thing I'm still concerned about is how I should enable input into this device. I'd want some kind of touch screen, but it seems like capacitive is hard to come by in 4-5" screens for kits/projects like this... and even then, the software side of things required to get any useful input also sounds really hard. I might have to use resistive screens... which have their own benefits and drawbacks. Only 1 finger/point is allowed at a time, but then again this would be running full-fledged FreeBSD so that OS is already only geared up for a single point of input. The screen also has to be calibrated, and it's not 100% precise, so I would have to scale the UI up so it's not too small to use with a finger and/or stylus. Again, not a real big issue. There's plenty of horsepower with this CPU/GPU/RAM so it wouldn't be a slow or laggy experience, just might require more zooming in and out of web pages to touch small elements on them.

    On the topic of inputs, I would also need a keyboard. Finding a small, USB WIRED keyboard is also a nightmare. I've found tons of tiny ones, but they all use RF wireless or bluetooth. That means MORE complexity, batteries, charging, interference, and people possibly listening on that signal and logging keystrokes... that's just not an acceptable workaround. I'd also like to avoid on-screen keyboards, as they would be slower (especially with a resistive screen), and would require more software trickery to keep them open at the right times in the right places, open and close when desired, etc. There's this that looked kinda promising (wired, fairly small), but it appears to be discontinued. If anyone has a suggestion I'd love to hear it. Maybe a software keyboard could be made workable. Or maybe there's a tiny USB keyboard I'm just not finding.

    Other then that... guess I have to keep waiting. Here's a list of to-dos:

    • Figure out Hardware:
      • Motherboard - DONE (Solves Mobo, CPU, GPU, RAM, SSD)
        • Waiting for final confirmation of PCIe B-key support, and ship date
      • Wireless WLAN - DONE (Really any M.2 E-key would work, would go with Intel 2x2 or 3x3)
      • Wireless WWAN - DONE (Mentioned in previous post, use Sierra Wireless LTE/LTE-A cards)
      • WWAN SIM support - DONE (Again, prev post. Discovered adapter that lets me use B-key wwan and enable SIM support, which is needed for cell service)
      • Touchscreen - Not really done (Several 4-5" screens out there, but usually have low-quality panels, low resolution, resistive touch, and cludgy ways of powering/connecting it all up. It could work but I'm not thrilled).
      • Keyboard - Not really done (small options kind of exist, but they seem to be discontinued. Might have to stick with a software keyboard... but I would definitely prefer something wired)
      • Battery - Kind of done? (There are a number of USB battery...
    Read more »

  • WWAN & WLAN cards

    Colin Stuart08/17/2016 at 15:39 3 comments

    Been doing research on cards for this system, and for WWAN the Sierra Wireless EM7455 looks like a solid card. Supports lots of Bands & LTE-Advanced. The EM7355 looks like the step down without LTE-A support and could also be a possible choice. These appear to be M.2 B-key cards, which means it would use the M.2 slot that would normally be used for an SSD on the UDOO Ultra. That means one would be "limited" to the 32GB eMMC & Micro SD slots for storage on this system. Looking up it appears people have gotten pfSense to work with these cards so there is hope.

    The good thing about this is that it keeps the M.2 E-key slot available, which would be used for a WLAN card. I haven't searched on what FreeBSD would support or work well with yet on this, I'm assuming an Intel 802.11AC would be something to use.

    The thing that is beginning to scare me though is how the WWAN card would work, as it requires a SIM card yet the card itself doesn't contain a slot for this, neither does the UDOO. Does an intermediate M.2 adapter exist that can add a SIM card to allow use of a WWAN card? If not... then I fear an alternate solution will have to be found. a USB-based LTE modem which is something I really want to avoid, as it seems most USB-based modems contain a miniature router. Not to mention it uses USB, which would add to the bulk.