I started working on a new little robot called Gremlin. It is based on a Parallax Boe-Bot base with an Erector set and plexiglass frame. For electronics it has a Raspberry Pi w/ WiFi adapter, 16-channel I²C Servo controller and the Raspberry Pi Camera Module. Power comes from 10 AA batteries (4 for servo controller and 6 for Raspberry Pi), but I will likely upgrade to LiPos. Here’s a short video showing the Android control app (sorry for the crummy production quality):
It’s currently missing the 6 AA batteries for the Raspberry Pi (I’m waiting on a few parts), so the tether is just there to power the Pi.
The Android app is a little something I wrote which connects to the robot over the network (WiFi). It has a live video stream and virtual joystick controls. Once I get the whole mobile power assembly hooked up I’ll be able to use it for telepresence.
With my primary robotics project, the Drogon Quadcopter, grounded for the winter, I’ve started Gremlin to keep some of the work going The goal is really to have a smaller, easier to work with mobile robot for building a general purpose robotics software platform for Drogon and any other robotic projects I pursue. Also I’d like to use it as a test-bed for building learning algorithms and working with the camera, also applicable to Drogon.
Yeah, I think the Android Central post is mostly correct — average users shouldn’t mess around with unlocked bootloaders and Verizon customer service can’t help them if they do — but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t let anyone do it. Hackers (the good kind, the hobbyist; not the kind to illegally access or destroy other peoples’ information) accept, and are often proud of, the fact that certain modifications will void their warranty and will prevent them from taking advantage of that warranty for support and repairs. I can install my own OS on my computer and use that computer on my ISP’s network, so why can’t I install my own OS on my cellphone and use it on my cellular carrier’s network?
There has long since been an artificial distinction, enforced by corporate interests and accepted by society, that your cellphone is your cellphone and your computer is your computer. They do very different things and share very few similarities. But this is changing. Cellphone hardware and software are improving at incredible pace. Android phones now run the same operating system kernel as I run on my PC: Linux. And now software developers can easily create software for it. Your cellphone is now a personal computer you can fit in your pocket and take anywhere.
People care about, and corporations mostly respect, the fact that you can crack open your PC and install and run any hardware or software you wish. People care about it because there is meaningful benefit to modifying your hardware or software on your PC. The PC industry has dealt with it. Many PCs have little stickers that you have to break to open your case. Everyone understands that doing so voids your warranty and you are mostly on your own for repairs.
Until recently, there has been little benefit to modifying the hardware or software on your cellphone. But as cellphone hardware and software becomes more advanced, more meaningful benefits to modifying your cellphone’s software (there is still little benefit to modifying your cellphone’s hardware) will begin to emerge. There will come a point where there is enough meaningful benefit to enough people that the mindset of cell carriers and manufacturers will begin to shift as well to allow unlocked bootloaders and all that which it enables.
Yeah, there are currently options available for the hackers (again, the good kind) to have their fun. There are some cellphones and carriers that allow unlocked bootloaders. But most carriers and cell phone manufacturers still are are doing their best to hold a tight grip on their cellphones. And society still lets them get away with it.
There are signs of society coming around. FSF Europe has put together information (Liberate Your Device!) and a campaign (Free Your Android!) expressing their concerns. Hopefully these concerns will keep growing and the broader public and cellphone industry will take notice and action.