Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lego Curiosity Rover Kit

Lego was my favourite toy as a kid (and my 5-year-old grandson says the same thing). I recently saw that Lego had worked with NASA to develop a model of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover. The kits were initially hard to find, but a local toy store got a limited number in stock and my wife bought me one for Father's Day.

It's quite a nice kit, made up of 295 pieces and is recommended for ages 10 and up. I put mine together in less than an hour following the instructions. The manual looks quite thick, but some of the
information is duplicated in seven languages. As well as assembly instructions, it gives a nice overview of the Curiosity Rover and it's mission and capabilities.
Montage of Images During Assembly
The kit seems to use mostly standard Lego parts with a few customer pieces. It even comes with a stand/platform to sit on.

I have followed the missions to Mars including the Curiosity Rover, and was familiar with it, but putting the kit together really helped me visualize what the real rover is like.

Curiosity Rover on Mars (or maybe the backyard)
If you can get your hands on one, I recommend the kit for yourself and/or any Lego or space enthusiast.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Abandoned Farmhouse Adventure now in Google Play Store

Back in April 2012, I wrote a text adventure game  as an experiment to try out the CC65 C compiler on the Briel Replica 1 computer  (an Apple 1 replica). Because it was written in C, it also ran under Linux, and any platform that supported a reasonable C compiler. I also ported it  to the Briel Altair 8800 computer running CP/M using the BDS C compiler.

When the Raspberry Pi store opened, I packaged it and submitted it as one of the first applications in the Raspberry Pi store.

Later, I made a GUI version using the Qt Toolkit , which is portable to a number of platforms. I intend to release the Qt version into the Raspberry Pi store, but have not gotten around to doing that yet.

With Qt now supporting Android, I tried building it for Android to run on a tablet, and it worked almost flawlessly without any changes. I made a few small tweaks for Android, and packaged it for the Google Play store. It is now available as a free Android application.

Android Version of The Abandoned Farmhouse Adventure
I doubt that any application before has run on an Apple 1, CP/M, Linux desktop, Raspberry Pi, and Android tablet - devices that span almost 40 years of computing and differences in computing power of several thousand times.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Freq-Mite Kit Assembled

Today I received and assembled a Freq-Mite kit. It is a tiny 1.75 inch by 1.25 inch circuit board with a PIC that measures frequency and reports it in Morse code. You typically install it in a radio receiver or transceiver that lacks a digital display and use it to accurately report your frequency. You can program the IF frequency of your radio using jumpers so that it correctly adjusts for the IF offset. It also works with direct conversion receivers.

I ordered a kit, which sells for US$22 in USA and US$30 elsewhere, including shipping, and it soon arrived in my mail box. It has only about 20 components, all through hole, and I was able to assemble it in less than an hour.

The kit comes with all parts.
The assembled board, before inserting the PIC chip and wires.
Powering it up on the bench with a small speaker and RF signal generator, it accurately reported the frequency that was input to it.

Testing it on the bench.
I plan to install it inside one of my QRP rigs, probably the Heathkit HW-8 . I suspect I may have to order another one or two of these for other rigs that I own.

Monday, June 2, 2014

New Retro Computer Kit

Dubbed a Software Defined Computer, the Propeddle  is a new forthcoming computer kit that has a 65C02 processor as well as a Propeller CPU, and is planned to be able to emulate various 6502-based computers by changing the software. The prototype is already able to emulate an Apple 1.

The name Propeddle comes from the Propeller CPU used on the board, and Chuck Peddle, one of the designers of the 6502 microprocessor.

It has similarities to the Briel Replica 1, but aims to be able to be able to emulate different computers.

It looks like a interesting project, and one that I will keep my eye on. Being able to emulate a number of different old computers would be cool. It should be able to emulate, say, a KIM-1, Commodore PET, or Ohio Scientific Challenger by changing the firware. I wonder if it will have the processing power to emulate a more complex machine like the Apple II?