Sunday, August 29, 2021

Software updates ongoing

Often my Airball posts are about building hardware. This one is about pure software -- but it has deep hardware implications.

You may recall that the Airball displays have a knob and/or buttons to adjust parameters. Well, we only need adjustment very infrequently. In particular, we only "need" on-device interactors for:

  1. Entering the barometer setting, if the altimeter is being used; and
  2. Changing the screen brightness.
My current test strategy is to hold off on the altimeter for a while and get feedback about the basic device, and the cheap commodity RasPi displays often don't allow software control of brightness and are inadequately bright anyway!

The new scheme is to host a Web app on the device, which will allow the user to edit parameters from their phone or tablet. The user will connect to the Wi-Fi network of the probe and display, go to a well-known IP address, and edit to their heart's content. Since I can use React or Flutter or whatever I want to build this app, I can create a "real" UI.

The first step is the wiring on the device. I changed the code so the airball-settings.json file is in engineering units (not button counts like I had before), and also made a lot of display parameters (like width, height, and whether various widgets are shown) variable at runtime. I added code to use inotify to listen for changes in the settings file, and created a simple CGI script in Python using Apache2 to handle POSTs to change the file.

The result is a super-simple Wi-Fi enabled settings UI, which I'm demonstrating here by editing the file and POSTing it via curl to the device:

I am using a UCTRONICS 3.5 inch display as opposed to the 4.3 inch displays I was using previously -- in an attempt to create a somewhat more compact unit. We'll see what feedback we get from users.

Next up is to create the Web app -- React and Flutter are the main competitors, and I'm leaning towards Flutter just because I want to learn it!

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Congratulations to FlyONSPEED

The FlyONSPEED team are the Grand Champions of the EAA Founder's Innovation Award competition! Congratulations to the whole team, lead by "Vac" Vaccaro, an all-around crazy and super swell dude. See the EAA news report here:

FlyONSPEED Wins Founder’s Innovation Prize Grand Championship

Airball was honored to come in second behind Vac's team.

Coming in third were Mike and Ian Foale (a father/son team) with Solar Pilot Guard, a really cool solar-powered suite of sensors and notification.

Also in the finals were Ed Wischmeyer with Expanded Envelope Exercises, which seek to familiarize pilots with flight outside their "comfort zone" so they don't panic when they have to do that; and Ray Kwong of Epic Optix who showed us how HUDs can enhance safety and situational awareness.

At some point the photographers asked Vac and his team to pose with their grand prize trophy, but he insisted that the rest of us (2nd and 3rd place winners) pose with him too. This is just the kind of guy he is. So here we all are, one big happy family:

The most delightful thing about the event was the "back room" discussions. We all supported one another and were excited to collaborate in whatever way we can. We all cheered one another on. We checked out one another's tech (for those of us dorks who traveled to Oshkosh with piles of geeky junk -- I'm looking at you Vac and Ihab).

Expect, in particular, that Airball and FlyONSPEED will be working really closely together. The killer system is one that has both visuals and sound. We're excited to make aviation better and more fun, and we hope you enjoy watching the journey.

And again -- congratulations Vac and team! Stupendous job!!!!