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Uberspire's Project Paradise


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#1 uberspire

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 11:54 AM

Let me introduce Project Paradise which is my attempt to build a graphing calculator/mathematical PDA, one that's truly inspiring and prizm shattering. (Puns intended) In other words, this calculator runs Linux, has massive storage, a 450MHz ARM9 processor with a high color LCD. O.O

I've been working on it and planning it out for a while, funding the project myself. My main impetus for this project is the desire for a calc that's incredibly way more "open" than anything else on the market and by open I mean:

1) Powerful hardware allows more flexibility in what programs can be created
2) Runs Linux, so you have a POSIX compliant operating system which makes it easy to port or create apps if you're familiar with programming on UNIX systems
3) All software packaged on Project Paradise will be open source
4) You can program in Java, Python, C, C++, Lua, BASIC, Assembly, etc.

This means you don't have to depend on any SDK or do any hacking (like Ndless) to get apps running on it, you have complete freedom to run whatever program you want on it.

As of now, everything is just simulations. By mid February or early March, I hope to get what I have right now (the kernel and filesystem) working on real hardware. Still, there are a lot of things to do and I would like your guys input. (exterior design, keypad - or touchscreen?, what software to include on Project Paradise like Maxima). When hardware has been finalized and is proven to actually work, the emulator should be ready shortly after and then you guys can start playing around with it and develop some apps.

Here's the current specs of Project Paradise versus other models: here.

Here are some screenshots of what the GUI is going to look like:

Project Paradise running a Java app and plotting some functions:
Posted Image

Project Paradise on the web:
Posted Image

Project Paradise's desktop (X11):
Posted Image

More pics of Project Paradise's GUI here
Old (without GUI) video of Project Paradise running in emulator here

So I wanna hear what you guys think and what are your opinions. Would you be interested in this?

Edited by uberspire, 24 January 2011 - 12:00 PM.


#2 Martin

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 02:22 PM

Let me introduce Project Paradise which is my attempt to build a graphing calculator/mathematical PDA, one that's truly inspiring and prizm shattering. (Puns intended) In other words, this calculator runs <{GNULINUX}>, has massive storage, a 450MHz ARM9 processor with a high color LCD. O.O

So I wanna hear what you guys think and what are your opinions. Would you be interested in this?


Yes, I am very interested, I have thought may times about such übercalculator.
So simply said it will be something like net-book with arm CPU and <{GNULINUX}>. And of course the application(s).What will be the difference ?
I would appreciate keyboard with many buttons (like calculators have). I also need real time feedback of gui/tui.
This is very good on the casio calculator, where the user interface is very fast. In contrast of TI 92, where the GUI is very slow (expanding of menu in home screen (but of course not only here) takes subjectively very long time).

Do you have some picture (drawing) of the real hardware (design) ?

Martin

#3 uberspire

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 04:10 AM

It'll essentially be a PDA in the form of a traditional graphing calculator, thus an uber calculator. It'll be more math focused than PDAs on the market.

Pictures of hardware, do you mean schematics? I'll be happy to post pictures (and videos) of the hardware when it's working, but I'm hesitant in releasing schematics. Some Chinese company could rip off the project and make cheap clones, which would then make my time and the money I spent on this project a waste. The closest I'll ever show of the hardware internals is a routed PCB design of my development board:

Posted Image

The TV jack on the left side of the board is just for me to play around with, it'll most likely not end up in the final design.It's essentially a PDA in the form of a traditional graphing calculator. It'll be more math focused than PDAs on the market.

I have a board being manufactured in China right now, it should arrive here by the end of January. Then it'll take me a couple of weeks to assemble the board.

Edited by uberspire, 25 January 2011 - 04:11 AM.


#4 Martin

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 10:05 AM

Pictures of hardware, do you mean schematics?

Nono, of course I would like to see them, but after it will be finished and on the market.
I mean the box, how it will look like, with visible display and buttons.
For example image that you develop CASIO calculator fx7700G, then I would like to see something like this: http://martin.poupe....ges/fx7700g.jpg

#5 uberspire

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 09:52 AM

Sorry for not responding sooner. Here's some pics of the 1st working prototype showing it can boot up: http://uberspire.com...m=1st Prototype (I really need a better camera, these pics don't do it justice).

You were saying that you wanted real time feedback or instantaneous response? Well, everything on the calculator is running smooth and silky so far. Clicking on icons and maneuvering around the interface is pretty snappy. The LCD I'm using has pretty good contrast. You can still see the display even in a well brighten environment. I tried playing a movie on this machine with VLC, 320x240 @ 30FPS, MPEG, and it seemed to play fine with no lag in video or audio.

After evaluating the first proto, I'm making some changes to the specs and swapping out the "old" parts in my prototype for more faster and more power efficient chips: https://spreadsheets...uthkey=CLmF0NgB

There's an inventions contest at my university, which I'm hoping I can win. Winning the contest help give in the funding needed to transition this project from just prototypes to an actual product. Right now, I'm broke, so I'm hoping the prototype I have right now is enough to win it. I'm planning that by June (after the contest and if I win), I can get some developer boards made so you guys can start developing for this calculator.

I'm still planning out designs for the case and keypad. It might take me a couple of weeks before I can get some designs drawn up.

#6 Martin

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Posted 04 February 2011 - 11:15 AM

It looks really good.

#7 uberspire

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 09:41 AM

I've spent the past week redesigning and creating a mockup of the design:
Posted Image

So what do you guys think of the design? Are the keys laid out all right? IMO, I think it looks pretty sexy. The current dimensions are 120mm (width) by 88mm (side length) by 16mm (height), so it should easily fit in your pocket.

Modifications:
* Now using a processor with OpenGL and multimedia (MPEG and H.264) hardware acceleration. OpenGL hardware acceleration should help speed up 3D graphing (and games).
* New LCD - 480x272 pixel resolution with touchscreen. The new LCD is either a transmissive LCD or a Casio Blanview, just like the one in the Casio Prizm. I'm thinking of using Blanview because it's designed to use less backlight and thus saves power. Still waiting for a response from the distributor for the pricing. If the Casio Blanview displays are too expensive, they'll be swapped out for the transmissive LCD.
* The calculator now uses for sure an integrated lithium ion battery. It's the only way to get everything to fit in the case. The battery is rechargeable through a USB connection to a computer or to an AC adapter.

The design is gonna be shipped off to manufacturer sometime this week and I should get the board back some time early next month. It'll be an exciting moment when it arrives.

EDIT:
I've signed off the design of the board, so it's gonna take a couple of weeks until I get the board. I'm really hoping that it's works when it arrives, I've changed a lot in the design of the board. Whether or not the board works will be a good indicator of when pre-orders can start going.

In the mean time, I hope you guys like surveys. Here's one I've come up for you guys to fill out here. It's only 18 questions and it shouldn't take up much of your time. The data from the survey will be used to plan out what's gonna happen with this project. Tell me if you guys run into any problems with the survey.

Edited by uberspire, 15 February 2011 - 11:58 PM.


#8 Martin

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 01:27 PM

I've spent the past week redesigning and creating a mockup of the design:

Thank you for the image, this was what I was interested in. It looks very usable.

#9 E_net4

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 05:11 PM

Although it will most probably not be allowed in some high-schools, it's awesome! Even my OpenGL skills won't be left behind either. :D

#10 Kilburn

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 06:03 PM

I'm not a big fan of the keyboard layout, since it's going to have a touch screen, I think it would be better to get rid of the Alpha key and have an actual QWERTY keyboard, with math stuff accessible via the "Shift" key. It would be a lot more practical for coding, most math functions could be accessible via the touchscreen anyway, like the ClassPad. Oh, and don't forget an actual Shift key, for typing uppercase characters! :P

Actually, I think there is something kind of wrong with the whole "foldable" design, because since it has a touch screen, the keyboard will definitely get in the way when you're going to do stuff with the stylus. It would be cool if there was a way to make the keyboard go behind the screen, so that you hold it like a PDA.

#11 Martin

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 11:06 AM

I think it would be better to get rid of the Alpha key and have an actual QWERTY keyboard, with math stuff accessible via the "Shift" key.

I do not think so. <span class=Shift' /> is an upcase/downcase switch. <span class=Alpha' /> will allow you to enter many math functions, so you will save room on the touch LCD for something more important. The logic may be reverted so by default it will be alpha mode and <span class=Alpha' /> will turn it of - but this is a question for the software.
For the hardware - keep the alpha button, software may use it different way.

#12 uberspire

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 11:02 AM

Sorry, for the lack of updates. :) But the board arrived and I've got a video the prototype in action: It looks and sound better in 480p.

By the way, I'm using a USB mouse with the prototype (shows that you can connect USB devices - mice, keyboard, USB flash drives, etc.). The LCD is also a touchscreen, but I figured you don't want to see my hand in the way all the time.

Some stats from the survey:
* 70% said 10 hours battery life would be acceptable as long as it can be easily recharged via USB
* 51% said they would be interested in pre-ordering
* Rated 9.1 out of 10 based on what people have seen or heard about this project
* Max price people would pay for this calculator: $182.17 (>$200 was counted as a flat $200)
* Overall, free and open to programming and community development is utmost importance

Here's a projected look at manufacturing cost distribution showing how Project Paradise Developer's Edition will accommodate the $180 target from the survey. Hopefully, it seems pretty fair (especially compared to TI's estimated manufacturing cost distribution):
Posted Image

The diagram is showing how much it'll probably take to manufacture the first batch. After the first couple of batches get made and shipped off, the manufacturing costs should go done since there will be left over parts from the first batches. Also, the manufacturing costs for the TI-nSpire in that diagram are based on estimates and typical prices around in the industry assuming that TI built TI-nSpire's in batches of 1,000 units. That's probably unlikely and instead they probably build them in batches of 10,000 or even in the millions, meaning that it's very likely that they make much more profit than what my diagram shows and are ripping the students off. It is typical for products made by big companies to be sold at 3-5 times more than what it costs to make it.

Project Paradise can also be considerably way cheaper, but I'm aiming to build them in batches of maybe 100 (or by miracle and we're really lucky maybe 200). If I were to build a clone of TI-nSpire's and sell them myself, I'm certain they could be sold for $100 max and I'd still be making more profit than from Project Paradise. Someone else could try doing that if they wish since that's not the purpose of this project. Main goals for Project Paradise:
* Build a calculator that's technologically superior to anything TI, Casio and HP could make for the next 5-10 years
* Pack in 5-10 times more powerful hardware
* Be within the price ranges of other calculators on the market
* Be the ultimate electronic device for scientific and mathematical education - I believe Project Paradise can effectively engage students way better in education. Ironically, TI sees calculator only as a tool for computation and that's why they want to lock it down. However, computation is only a part of the solving process in mathematics. What's more important is the ability to set up, describe and model the problem. Computers will always be faster and more accurate at computation than humans, but they're not smart enough to set up the problem to get the solution. This is what separates Project Paradise from the other calculators on the market. With it's programming and hardware capabilities, students can write programs to model those problems and get quick solutions. This effectively makes Project Paradise more better for education than anything TI can put out, even though ironically they may claim otherwise. A good TedTalk video elaborates more on how programming and computers can teach mathematics better by Wolfram:
* Be more free and open to community development - If you bought a car, shouldn't you be able to do whatever you want with it? Why should a calculator be any different?

The Standard Edition won't have touchscreen and it'll be compatible with the ACT and SAT testing. I've gone over their calculator requirements and this is likely what's going to happen with Project Paradise: https://spreadsheets...uthkey=CM2a3fEK

As you can see there is no more Professional Edition as it has been consolidated into the Developers Edition. Initially I thought the WiFi module and battery packs would be very expensive, but I think I have found good deals on pricing for those parts. The Standard Edition will come in two versions: one with CAS and another without. CAS is not allowed on the ACT. Standard Edition will have a modified bootloader that will only accept OS'es signed by me to enforce that and on the casing there will be distinctive markings behind the screen indicating what model. Both Standard and Developers will be in a clamshell case that will fit into your pocket like in the mock up (clamshells seem to be allowed on both ACT and SAT testing). I think it's best for it to be a clamshell, since the LCD alone is as wide as the widest length of the TI-nSpire. It would look kind of fat and chubby having it in the traditional calculator form since it would be 5 inches wide then (imagine 5-5.5 inch wide TI-nSpire).

Both ACT and the College Board explicitly state they don't want a QWERTY keyboard. So technically, I can bypass that by having the Standard version use a DVORAK keyboard.

Also, I mentioned before that I was trying to use the Blanview LCDs used in the Casio Prizm, the advantage of them being that they consume only 1/6 to 1/3 the power of the LCD I'm using right now, drastically improving the battery life (that's why the Prizm has a long battery life). I'd tried getting the 480x272 Blanview, but they seem to be generally $100 per screen, which would then make the calculator too expensive then.

@Kilburn: I was thinking along what Martin said about the Shift and Alpha key. There's no Caps Lock key on the keyboard, so a Shift key would be necessary. As for the LCD/keyboard conflict, I initially thought about the same thing too. My fear was that you would have to tap the screen hard, it would knock the calculator over when you lay it down on a desk or table since it's a clamshell design. After playing with the prototype, I don't think you have to worry about it. Touchscreen, I think, compliments the keypad input nicely. For example, it's easier and snappier to drag or move around a 3D graph with touchscreen rather than navigating with keys. Unfortunately, touchscreen is not allowed on testing, so the Standard version won't have it.

#13 JosJuice

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 06:28 PM

Maybe you should rename the Developers Edition to Professional Edition? It might make those who want advanced features but don't want to program more likely to become interested in that version.

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 07:17 PM

Standard Edition will have a modified bootloader that will only accept OS'es signed by me to enforce that and on the casing there will be distinctive markings behind the screen indicating what model.


If someone writes a testing compliant third party OS, would you be willing to sign it or is the standard edition limited to your OS?

#15 flyingfisch

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 10:07 PM

Excellent calc, uberspire!!! I think that to kick the whole thing off you should have a sweepstakes of some sort. Thats just my opinion... ;)

http://uberspire.com...g.png.small.jpg


Are you going to put a zoom tool on the browser, like the iPhone's?

Edited by mfischer, 25 April 2011 - 10:12 PM.





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