How to Mount an External Removable Hard Drive on a Robot


fstab options for mounting drive

We often want to add an external hard drive to our robots in order to have a dedicated drive for data collection. Having the dedicated drive lets the primary drive remain uncluttered, have less wear-and-tear, split logging between drives for performance, and potentially be a larger spinning disk (as opposed to an expensive SSD). It […]

chrony with GPS for Time Synchronization – Kicks NTP’s A$$


time syncing

Time synchronization is something that affects many robots. As robots have more computers and more sensors keeping everything in sync becomes increasingly important. Trying to look through log files where all of the times are skewed is not fun and makes processing difficult. Merging sensor data together with GPS can also be disastrous if the […]

USB device configuration: Alternative to udev


USB Port

Hi all Every time I need to add multiple USB devices to a computer I get nervous and dread the architecture. The problem is when a computer boots it automatically brings up USB devices in whatever order it sees fit (think crazy race conditions). So if you have a motor controller, a camera, and a […]

Convert Linux into an Embedded System


pc104 computer

Hi all Running Linux on your embedded system can be great for giving you a stable base, lots of tools, and you can often solve problems with a quick google search. I define embedded as any custom-built computer system, not only tiny devices. In many cases you can develop on the computer itself for ease […]

TOUGHBOOK: The Super Rugged Laptop Teardown



Hi all Today I have a Panasonic Toughbook CF-18 that I will have the opportunity to tear down and see just what makes these computers so rugged. Please keep reading for the details of scan through for some nice pictures (you can click an image for the larger version). The computer weighs 4lb 10.8 oz […]

Ubuntu Boot Automatically After Failed Shutdown – Stuck at Bootloader



Hi This is going to be a very short post about a Ubuntu boot issues (I know, very sexy topic). Many of the robots I work on are running Ubuntu and this is a very annoying “feature” that you might want to disable. The problem with versions of Ubuntu from the past few years is […]

Computer Field Recovery Kit


computer repair

Hi all So I got a question about what I bring to the field with me when I am taking a robot out for testing. The simple answer is everything that I might need. Here is a list of the basics that a carry with me. I have a box labeled Computer Recovery Kit that […]

CAN bus (CANopen & CiA) for Motor Control


CAN topology

A Controller Area Network, or CAN for short is a common message based protocol used in cars and other vehicles. If you are trying to interface with a car/truck/bulldozer, there is a good chance that you will be reading data its CAN bus, and sending it commands via its CAN bus. It is also used […]

Read Only Operating Systems


kernal panic

Hi all Most robots have a computer inside that is responsible for controlling the robot. Many robots will have multiple computers, each responsible for a different part of the robot. How do you make sure that the operating system and possibly the software that runs the robot does not get corrupt (and avoid kernel panics)? […]

Remote Internet Access


satellite internet remote location

When you are in the middle of nowhere how can you get online? Often while working with robots you must travel to remote locations with no wired (copper/fiber) internet connection or wifi. In these cases you have two primary ways to get online. When I say “you” it can really be either you or the […]

Networking for Robots: A crash course


robot networking

Hi all There are many people who are familiar with setting up a home network, but now lets look at how to setup a network on your robot. There are two parts to setting up a network; the hardware and the software. This post will go into both of those topics. Before I begin to […]

Antennas and Amplifiers for Long Distance Wireless Communications


Hi all This is just a quick post on how to increase the range of your wireless communication system. There are several ways to do it and they mostly apply no matter what frequency you are using. We will discuss several ways to do this below. We will also discuss some of the legal limits […]

Time and Clock Synchronization


Hi all Time. Don’t you wish you had more of it? If you were a robot you would probably be worrying about having consistent time. Why do we need consistent time? In many robots there are multiple systems/computers that are generating and using data, if the systems/computers are not in sync than the result can […]

Embedded Computers


TS-7800 SBC

Hi all When choosing a computer for your robot there are many options to choose from. How do you decide which one is correct? This post is going to go through some of the standard computing platforms and explain the good and the bad. We will look at both some standard form factor computers as […]

Wireless routers for robots – Ubiquity


ubiquiti wireless router

Hi all This is going to be a quick post. I have used many wireless routers on robots over the years and they have all failed on me. Most of them probably failed due to the vibration, shock, and dust. The one vendor that I have found so far that has a reliable product is […]