A Newbie buys a gumstix

Gumstix motherboard and expansion boards

Some time ago I wrote a post over on The Quiet Way about a project I was starting.  I said that in time I would write about it here.  The time has come to write at least a short post about it.  I have learned a lot but right now I have nothing to show for it but a pile of parts. 

A gumstix is a tiny Linux based computer, shown roughly in the center of the photograph on the pink antistatic sleeve, that is truly the size of a stick of gum.  I bought a couple of expansion cards to add audio, wifi, and compact flash storage capabilities to it.  The project I am using as a springboard to learning the system envisions a self-contained programmable acoustic monitoring device that can be used to record sound from a microphone for a prescribed length of time and to repeat the recording at prescribed intervals, for extended periods.  The recordings will be transmitted via the wifi network to a centrally located computer for later analysis.

In the time since I ordered the computer, the documentation and the software for the gumstix has shown a lot of improvement.  The development software has changed for the better or at least it is more understandable through better documentation.  I downloaded it to get the latest audio drivers since I didn’t seem to have any as it was received.  I went through all of the installation on my Ubuntu desktop machine, not a simple task for a complete Linux newbie.  The gumstix documentation was very clear and after a few hours it was installed.  I read some more.  At a little bit past 8 pm one evening I instructed it to build a new filesystem.  It started off like gangbusters…there was a continuous stream of text scrolling past on the terminal window.  Fifteen or twenty minutes passed.  The instructions had said the first time through it would take some time to complete.  Then I noticed that one of the lines said 15 of 1385 tasks complete!  This was going to take hours!  The long and the short of it was, I left it running and went to bed.  For some reason, I woke up abruptly at 12:40.  I went to the computer to see what had happened…1378 of 1385 tasks complete.  So I watched the first build finish up…no errors.

The next day I tried to flash it to the gumstix over a serial connection using Windows Hyperterm.  It reported that I needed a new bootloader.  This was scary because while flashing a new filesystem can disable the gumstix, you can keep trying until you get it right.  You have only one chance with the bootloader.  Screw it up and your gumstix is totally dead.  I downloaded the binary, stewed around about it for a day or so and then gave it a try…and failed.

I sent it back to the factory and in about two weeks I got it back.  That is where I am right now.  I hope to get back on it this week…

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