Saturday, April 16, 2011

A new Arrival in our Household

People normally use this phrase to announce the birth of a child. I don't love my gadgets as much as I love my children, but the arrival of my latest new gadget is a reasonably big deal.

I wrote before about how I needed to have my weather station constantly attached to a running computer in order to have the collected weather data instantly uploaded to my personal weather site on the internet. Since I don't want to waste power by leaving my desktop PC plugged on all the time, I needed to look for alternative options.

My initial thoughts was that I could use an Arduino device, but an Arduino expert that I met at the Young Scientist advised me that it wouldn't really be up to the task. I then decided to check out one of the new "plug computers". This is a newly emerging form factor for low power computers which look just like a voltage converter (see the picture of my new device beside a pair of sunglasses for comparison.

I looked at a few options on the Internet, before finally settling upon a TonidoPlug, which is an Ubuntu 9.04 based PC which comes complete with a specialised home server package installed upon it (which is optimised for sharing files and other things that you might want to do).

The device was trivially easy to set up. I had my home server up and running in about 5 minutes after opening the package. It took me a little longer to get the weather station installed and configured, but there were no major problems since I am already fairly familiar with Ubuntu, and now my personal weather station is being kept constantly up to date instead of having  to depend upon me remembering to manually upload data.

The device was not completely perfect. I had assumed that it would come with WiFi support but it didn't so I am going to have to leave it close to a network port until I get around to buying a new WiFi card for it. In addition I was hoping that I would be able to attach my 1 TByte USB drive to the Tonidoplug, but it seems that the USB ports don't provide enough power so I am going to have to make do with a 8 GByte USB card for now.

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