Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Google Earth for iPhone Shrinks The Whole World On To Your Finger Tips

Technology has made our world small. But Google and Apple, they made it even smaller. Google has launched a custom multi touch version of Google Earth for Apple's i Phone. Google Earth has been available for the desktop for about three years. This version for the i phone (and i-pod touch) makes it the first ever mobile version.

The application replicates the hard-core experience of the desktop version, but with a touch to it. Powered with apple's multi touch technology, it makes it even more better. The whole world is now at the tip of your fingers. You can now zoom in and out, pan and tilt the earth with just the flick of you fingers. It also uses the i Phones in-built accelerometers make it possible to adjust the viewing angle by tilting the phone. You can zoom in the same way as in the iPhone's browser:by pinching fingers together on the screen. Google Earth also includes links to more than 8 million geo-located Panoramio photos. iPhone-equipped travelers now have the opportunity to see where they're headed before they get there .

The handset version of Google Earth is available now as a free download through the iPhone App Store.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What is a Microcontroller??

Many of us hear word microprocessor or microcontroller. Its sounds really cool but most of us have no clue what it is. If you're one of them you better read this post.

A microcontroller is basically a small low cost computer on a chip and usually includes:

-A microprocessor (CPU-8/16 bit)
-A small amount of RAM
-Programmable ROM and/or flash memory
-Parallel and/or serial generators
-Timers and signal generators
-Analog to Digital (A/D) and /or Digital to Analog (D/A) Converter.

Now let me take an example of an ATMEGA8 microcontroller which i used for my mini project.

The microprocessor is a part of the microcontroller that does all the processing and calculations. For example: the Intel chip in you computer is a microprocessor. The ATMEGA8 has an 8-bit microprocessor doing all the processing in it.

The ATMEGA8 consists of a 1KB(1024 b) SRAM that is used while executing programs.

A very important part of a microcontroller is its memory. ATMEGA8 has a flash memory of 8KB, which is more that enough for our purpose.

A timer is a very essential part of a microcontroller that keeps track of the time. Its not a simple clock to check time but used as a reference to guide various programs.

A/D and D/A converters as they seem are just used to convert analog signals to digital and digital to analog respectively.

Below is a schematic diagram of a ATMEGA8 microcontroller.

My First Step Towards Making A Robot

I finished my 12th grade exams, i am preparing myself for university. I am somewhat exited and somewhat scared. I have big dreams. I visualize myself in university working out thrice a week, making robots, improving my swimming and table tennis and doing many more things while excelling in academics simultaneously.

Well finally I join the university. Its called NITK (National Institute Of Technology Karnataka), one of the reputed universities in India. The first week went smoother than expected, I thought my dream was going to be reality. Then the second week passed by. The classes had started normally. Well the days started becoming busier. Assignments and test started pouring in. Well that was the end of my dreams. Already 2 months had passed by, i had barely gone to the gym twice, maybe i swam a couple of times. And the robot, you're kiddin' right. I didn't even have time to think about it. I could see my dreams being nothing more that dreams. But I was still not ready to accept it.

The mid-exams got over and the end-sems were approaching fast. I finally admitted that my dreams will be nothing more than dreams. Then just at that critical moment a ray of hope emerged out of no where. The Robotics Workshop of our University had organised a Robotics workshop. That was it. I could see it coming. They said that only 30 teams from Ist year could participate. And a team must consist of three members. I quickly managed to form a team with two of my friends, Vishwaas and Ameya. Vishwaas had some previous experience in electronics and basic robotics and Ameya had some experience in programming.

We all were enthusiastic and attended the workshop. They told us some basics of micro controllers and its programming.We were also supplied with kit with a bread board, an ATMEGA8 microcontroller and many other components. Our first assignment was to complete a simple IR circuit(without the micro controller) that would light up when we place an object in front of it. Amazingly our team managed to complete it the fastest. We were all shocked with the limitless possibilities we could achieve in this field. In the following sessions we were taught how to program and use a micro controller to make it do what we want. All excited we went back to our hostels and just realised that the End-Sem exams were coming up within a few weeks. Dam!!!. Again i could see my dreams drifting away. Then we decided to start building on the project the next semester.

Studies for our exams had started and we were all busy. One evening when we were relaxing after a long day of studying, my friend Vishwaas asked me, "Hey!! Why don't we just solder the BSD programmer(the device that is used to transfer the program from the computer to the ATMEGA8 microcontroller)". I was like, "Sure". I didn't mind sparing some time from studies. Well then we started. It was about 10.30pm when we started . We finished soldering the bsd programmer at about 11.15. Then Ameya (the other member of our team) said, "Hey!!! I could write a program for the microcontroller". Then we decided to make a simple circuit that could blink two led's alternatively. I started designing the circuit while Ameya did away with the programming.(He finished the program in no time). Me and Vishwaas completed the circuit on the bread board while Ameya did the necessary stuff on his desktop. It was late. About 3.00 in the morning. Well it was toooo late. We were all excited to see the result of our combined effort. We hooked up the circuit to the desktops parrallel port. All was set to burn the program on to the microcontroller. We all took a deep breathe and Ameya clicked on the EXCECUTE button. Well nothing seemed to happen. It was our first time. We didn't know what to expect. Well experience had taught me that electronic circuits rarlely work the first time. We still hoped for the best and attached the micro controller to the completed circuit. It was a very exciting moment. I attached the battery and ......."Dam!!!! Its not working". My prediction had been true.

We didn't lose hope yet. We rechecked the connections, we rechecked the program but in vain.. It was already 3.45 in the morning. We tried to burn the program again having double checked everything. "It must work this time", I said. I connected the battery. "Whow".."Damm!!"...The LED had lit up for a sec but stopped glowing.. Well it was about 4.30 and we are a little bit frustrated.. Something was wrong but 'What was it'.. Well the led blinked every time i touched the controller. Something was loose..The microcontroller was not fitting properly in the bread board.. "That was the problem".

We decided that we'll have a last go. We hooked the circuit in the computer the last time..It was now or never. I held the controller tightly on the circuit hoping that the was the only problem in the circuit and we burned the program again.. All three of us had our fingers crossed. If the LEDs dont blink this time, then all our effort would be a waste. The circuit lying on the table, the battery in my hand. Suspense in our hearts, "Will it work this time". It was about 5.00 in the morning, our eyes heavy and our fingers crossed. I carefully attached one terminal of the battery, took a deep breathe and connected the other terminal......"WHOA"...."ITS WORKING".. The LEDs were blinking alternatively, just as we wanted it to.We hi5'ed each other..It was the moment of truth..All our sleep vanished and our eyes were wide open. We were now in a party mood 5.00 in the morning.. But then the stinging feeling in our brain, we have our exams coming up in a week. Nonetheless we had accomplished something great that night.

My dreams were finally turning into reality.

The Universities Tech fest, ENGINEER is coming soon and i hope we will we ready by then to build a robot with some help of course..

You can see on the right the final working micro controller circuit with the blinking leds.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The New MacBook Pro is out.

Well we have all been waiting for the new revolution in laptops. Well we have it. The NEW APPLE MACBOOK PRO finally out. The long wait of apple fans and the suspense of others are at ease now.
This new note book brings with it a new standard for laptops all over.

Well this is no ordinary laptop. Powered with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, it can do wonders. It also comes with a 2.53GHz processor or for extreme enthusiasts a 2.8GHz processor. You may expect all this processing to drain out your battery fast but Apple surprises us with battery with a working time of 5Hrs(Not bad Apple).Well we all have to agree that Apple does wonders. Well coming to storage, apple gives us a wide range of options.
  • 250GB or 320GB 5400-rpm Serial ATA hard drive
  • Optional 250GB or 320GB 7200-rpm hard drive
  • Optional 128GB solid-state drive
Thats just the beginning.

MacBooks were usually preferred by the professional class. When these glorious machines were presented to gamers, they appreciated it but turned away saying it was not made for them. It was like offering a Rolles Royce Phantom to a Nascar racer.

But now all that has changed. The wake of the new MacBook Pro powered with true graphics processing capabilities from the all new Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT has given rise to a new revolution for hard core gamers.

"Before the MacBooks had one major weakness, its Intel graphics card. But now all that's fixed, thanks to the new Nvidia." said a friend of mine, a hard core gamer.

Apple said that the new MacBook Pros will come out with the Nvidia GeForce 9400M or the much more powerful GeForce 9600M GT. Apple claims that its new machines are designed to offer UP TO 5 TIMES the graphics power of the previous MacBook Pros.

Well thats all for the gamers. Now lets see what the new MacBook offers for us, the non-gamers..

Apple always tries to make sure that it keeps some new interesting features along with the usual to keeps its products out of the normal. Apple decided to import the Multi-Touch trackpad from the MacBook Air which supports two-finger scrolling, pinch, rotate, three-finger swipe, four-finger swipe, tap, double-tap, and drag capabilities. Its also has a built in full-size backlit keyboard that keeps you going throughout the night. The screen is a 15.4-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen display with support for millions of colors.

Again Apple doesnt let us down with a Built-in iSight camera, Built-in stereo speakers, a rewritable DVD player, Built-in AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi wireless networking and many more features.

Well looks like Apple gets to keep it reputation coming out with such a majestic machine which just leaves us wondering.."WHATS NEXT"..