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I've been wanting to play around with some low level hardware stuff and simple operating system development. I've got an idea for something that would be fun to work on, and useful, but I don't really know if it's possible, and if it is, what to use.

Basically I would like to build something iPod Nano size (if possible, but bigger isn't really a problem) that has a little screen, three buttons, and can send commands over Wifi and receive progress and status information back over Wifi. Basically the user would use two of the buttons for navigation, and one to execute a command. It's kind of like a remote.

Is it possible, without a big budget and lots of resources, to build something like this? Is it possible to fit a Wifi "card" into something that size?

Obviously it can be done, but can someone who is just a "hobbyist" in this area do it?

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+1 I have been wanting to do the same thing for AGES, just never have a moment free to actually try it (and when I do, I am usually on SU!) :( – William Hilsum Sep 18 '09 at 19:08
I suggest asking this on Stack Overflow, too. – Barry Brown Sep 18 '09 at 22:17


Take a look at the BUG, from Bug Labs. It's a modular, open-source system that does exactly what you want. You start with a base module that contains the battery, a couple of buttons, and WiFi. The base can host up to four BUG modules. Modules include:

  • Color screen
  • GPS
  • Audio
  • USB
  • Accelerometer

It runs Linux and can be programmed in a variety of languages, including Java.

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whether or not i go with that, it's pretty freakin cool – Max Schmeling Sep 18 '09 at 20:12

Hmm... ipod nano sized. I think the closest thing would be a gumstix. Pretty powerful, runs linux, there are wireless options, and options for DIY i/o.

Another platform, based on the same chipset as some of the gumstix, is beagleboard.

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Ideas area always worth pursuing, and it can be done. Go for something like the OpenPandora or OpenMoko platform as a base to build your prototype on.

In fact, you might even want to just buy a cheap second-hand PDA off eBay that supports Linux, and start going with that. And surprise surprise, the Garmin Nuvi GPS system runs off Linux, and can be hacked to install a capable Linux system on it (I also believe it has 2 buttons).

The criteria essentially are 1) Fit your specs 2) Active hardware dev community 3) Supports Linux. And with Linux, if you can code, you will be able to compile for the Pandora platform, and take your idea to fruition. :)

Chase your dreams, don't let go!

alt text

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Most modern mobile phones would work well for the useful- and wifi part, though less so for the "playing around with basic hardware" part I guess. But you could do that separately through a simulator on your PC ^^

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Apple iPod Touch

You could write an app for the Apple iPod Touch. It has WiFi and, of course, a touch screen on which you could put as many buttons as you can fit.

As a developer, you can install your own apps onto your own iPod Touch.

Cheaper, discontinued, and less-cool alternatives are available on eBay:

  • Palm Tungsten T|X
  • Other older Palm models with the addition of a WiFi card.
  • HP Journada handheld PCs
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And if you don't want to pay 99$ to put something on your own iPod Touch/iPhone, you could jailbreak it. – Mk12 Sep 18 '09 at 21:08

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