Notes from a session held at the Luminous Green Hands-On Workshop, 3rd of May 2007
following on from patrick's low power workstation discussion
perhaps starting from a known power source (eg. the two solar panel setups and their batteries) and trying to fit an installation within their power output envelope.
as well as dealing with low power, it is worth considering that the power source may be unreliable. what does your system do if it temporarily loses power? a dedicated system without a large operating system should be able to recover faster (no boot-up time).
although some dedicates systems are still slow to power-up anyway, like digital cameras.
the transient nature of the power could also be used as an aesthetic device.
a short discussion about the practicalities of programming microcontrollers. arduino, and other simplifying alternatives.
ideas from the group for low power installations:
patrick's low power general workstation
autonomous wireless audio/video streaming station
embedded dedicated video
dedicated, minimal implementation as an aesthetic goal
tiny speakers driven by solar
small vs clean (dedicated)
nano itx and xp embedded, still not very dedicated (a lot of functionality you don't need even when stripped down)
the second half of the session was with a much smaller group. we decided to look a little more at the challenging dedicated video idea. we decided to look at an existing implementation (a broken dvd player) for inspiration.
while researching the chips we saw used in the dvd player we had access to (ESS vibrato II), we found a community based around hacking an earlier version of it's board, made by a company called Sampo. it appears that earlier versions of it's ESS based dvd players used an IDE dvd-drive. IDE is the bus used in home computers for hard drives and CD-roms, making it easy to replace the dvd reader with a hard drive. it's also possible to change the firmware on the chip by playing a specially made dvd.