I have been slacking lately with my blogging due to it being exam time and blogging being low priority, but I have some free time today as well as a topic to talk about. So after waiting in the queue to order with RS to get a Raspberry Pi (RPi) on Thursday I got a notification that I could order, which I did immediately, and my unit should be sent/arrive some time in the next 6 weeks according to RS. So, I thought I would share what my project for the RPi will be.
First off, I havent done much electronics before, so this will be a learning experience for me, but I have some simple ideas that I would like to pull off using a single unit (which was all I could order for now). The first goal will be to attach an LCD screen to the RPi, then to set it up so it swaps automatically between the LCD and HDMI if I happen to use the HDMI output (so if I plug it into my TV via HDMI it automatically swaps to HDMI from the LCD), as far as options go for screens I have seen that I could use a BlackBerry screen, a Nokia N9 or N8 screen, or several other derivatives of phone screen (basically TFT LCDs), though these seem to be too expensive for the purposes I have in mind. I will need to shop around before choosing an LCD to use in the project, and similarly as part of the process I will be looking through how the LCDs could connect to the RPi. Chances are in the end I will use a phone screen as the RPi already has a connector. Similarly, I will probably need to do quite some work to get the displays switching and displaying correctly for HDMI and the LCD. The main reason that I would like the screen is that I cannot use the HDMI everywhere, and I would like to be able to use my RPi at university for instance for my Dream Build Play project.
The next step I want to take is make it remotely programmable, this probably presents a security problem, but as part of this goal there are several things I want to achieve. Firstly, this means that I want to be able to connect my RPi to a wired or wireless network (using a super small wireless-n adapter most likely) and then remotely access it. The next thing will be to allow me to access the console, either through SSH (most probably easiest), or through a web console, though I dont really want to run a web server or extra app on the RPi "just because", so I would prefer SSH. Lastly, I want to build a "script launching" system that works simply (navigation of the system would use dpad style controls with at least an "accept" and "cancel" button), that achieves 2 goals. First goal is I need to be able to run apps that I have installed (eg. video player to watch a movie), and second goal is to run scripts of some sort (perhaps Python and pygame) from the same interface with access to sandboxed storage space and the 6 (or I could perhaps do more) buttons for input that I can put in some organised directory structure with images, sounds and other files I might need. The scripts would form the "remote programming" where I could just edit a script through the console to fix it, or just "upload" new scripts to the RPi. When I have this working to a degree that I am happy with I will probably share the code on my blog.
My next step will be to make a case of sorts that houses the LCD screen, some "hardware buttons" to give me a dpad and the other buttons I want, which also gives access to all the connections, and securely holds my RPi safe. I will probably get a cheap 3D print done if possible of a prototype to house the whole case before I get an aluminium case made as a permanent housing. I will not be attempting to build in any power source (after reading up 4 AA batteries do not cut it, whereas 5 are too many, and that they do not give very good running times), I can perhaps at a later stage look at external power supplies as many of the RPi forumites have seemed to choose for their mobile power. As part of the casing I will probably need to build in a USB hub to give more USB outputs (1 used for the wireless adapter), just in case I want to attach a keyboard and/or mouse to my RPi for whatever reason, though I could probably just have a single USB input and connect a hub to that later on to save space, though if I ever need a second or third USB port it would be easiest as part of the unit. Lastly as part of the housing, I have read from other people working on projects about Sugru which is cheap and simple to use, which I will use to "mount" all the components within the case I make.
Rough image of how a case might look and fit:
Simply put, I want to build my RPi into a (nearly, no power point = no pi) portable device that I can use with or without a keyboard and mouse, with or without a screen easily to do several tasks. That way my RPi will be as versatile as I can possibly make it. If I want to watch a movie on a flash drive? No problem. If I want to watch youtube videos I can make the dashboard work in a way that makes it simple. If I want to use it to control a project (for example a robot for Dream Build Play) I can easily manage it through any of the RPi capabilities.
Oh, and I shall call it "aRPi" (pronounced "are - pee") and probably air brush some nice design onto it so it also easy on the eyes.