New PocketCHIP user, reactions/wishlist from a GUI Designer and Linux Noob


#1

Hi there, I’ve been using my new pocketCHIP for a week or two, and am more or less happy with the hardware, (though would really like an SD Card slot, and plan to buy that Dip when I get the chance.) though feel the OS needs some serious changes, and have been working on sort of a personal wishlist. Figured I’d share it with others for commisseration or possible solutions. A little background first:

I’m an audio and graphics professional and musician with a wide range of interests. I like retro games, though don’t want to dedicate a system to that. Have done a lot of usability tech support and GUI design / product design, and have been building computers since childhood but not a coder. I wanted a linux box bc my main two systems are dedicated Windows machines, since I have to use a lot of Adobe stuff and dedicated recording peripherals. Dual boot not an option. My desktop also serves as a media server, though had it in the back of my mind to set up a headless media server with CHIP or something. Not a priority. I have installed and used ubuntu studio for a while, but that’s the extent of my Linux experience. I can manually edit the Windows registry however. My main purpose for this thing is as a linux sandbox and as a light laptop alternative / alternative creation / entertainment device. Would also love to use it like an ipod.

A few steps I have taken already: Installed Iceweasel, haven’t put it thru its’ paces or tried to watch youtube, etc. Installed VLC. Haven’t tested it yet. Ordered a pack of 3DS stylii and a bluetooth game controller. Have browsed through the system files but don’t know the Linux architecture and what files do what. Am prolly going to try and find some kind of book or video to help with that. (Also am a starving artist btw)

Here’s the list:

Wishlist for PocketCHIP:

  • would be nice to ship the thing with a stylus socket that actually fits a widely available stylus snugly. I am going to try and make one horizontally between the battery and the CHIP. I imagine it wouldn’t cost much more to make the next production run with a built in stylus hole.
  • Suspend/Sleep that doesn’t wake up upon screen touch!! (big one- This is making the sleep state pretty much worthless because if I put it in a pocket or bag, it wakes up. Also, I am noticing the sleep state consumes a good deal of battery life.
    • hotkey to immediately suspend/sleep without exiting app, wakes up where it left off (Sleep is pretty much worthless to me if I’ve gotta go thru several steps to get there, end whatever I’m working on or playing.)
    • hotkey to change volume without exiting app
    • hotkey to change brightness without exiting app
    • GUI should allow adding icons and multiple pages, nesting icons like a mobile phone (Could also handle a windows-styled interface)
    • GUI allows tighter spaced icons
    • some kind of time/ battery display viewable while in any app.
    • battery display has more segments or numerical percentage.
    • music player/library app like winamp, etc. Playable from keyboard buttons, possible to black out screen while in use.
    • Rear LED turns off while screen is on, is less bright the rest of the time. - or can control rear LED somehow.
    • second keyboard light over other side of keyboard. (integrate into new bezel?)
  • hotkey to rotate the screen.
    • Sketchbook pro app port- I love sketchbook pro and want it on my pocketchip, or something just like it. Manga Studio would be nice too but I imagine it’s got too many menu bars to be practical.
    • DMX control app (I work with professional stage lighting sometimes and would realllllly reallllly like to use the Pocket to control them, so I don’t have to risk a $1200 laptop for the same application. I have seen those little usb/DMX adapters and could buy one of those, or could use the pin outs if I knew how. I do know how to solder cables. My expertise is more in audio though and I don’t know what DMX software is out there, if any, that runs on this OS.
    • Would netflix or amazon prime work on this thing? That would be cool.
    • protective front cover or case- I feel like this thing really needs a hard front cover, maybe with an accessory pocket or something too. I do have some fabrication skills, though not sewing. I have a couple friends who sew.

PICO-8: I know this isn’t the responsibility of NTC, but figured I would include these since there are probably many interested parties here.

- Save the state of the app before exiting, option to resume state
- on-screen d-pad or touch controls for more games
- mark stuff as tried/filters or search by genre
- does the pico-8 art program work with stylus?
- does p8 resolution match screen resolution?  Can p8 be given larger pixels and expanded to edge of screen, or turned sideways?

I know that was super long, but that’s my two cents for now.


#2

ah, another big hardware question I thought of: I have seen usb to video adapters, and specifically micro usb to video adapters. Is there any way of getting a video out on the Pocket without adding that bulky Dip? Also, does the microUSB ONLY do power? It seems weird that this plug couldn’t be easily made to also do data. What about the option of using the TRRS connector for left, right, video, (TRRS to RCA) like some mobile devices will?

EDIT: I noticed in the documentation for the non-pocket CHIP, a mention of the TRRS being used as a composite video jack, and a resoldering required for using this jack as a microphone. Will the pocket work natively with a TRRS - composite already? Has it been changed to work with a mic in natively? Is there a pin out you could just hook up to a cord with an RCA on the other end, and send it to a TV?


#3

Dream accessory for PocketCHIP: A domed snap-on or velcro strapped hard front cover that matches the original design, can store a small gamepad, a stylus or two, and has an integrated 4-port powered USB hub/SD slot.


#4

Okay… That is quite a list! I had to skim it because I don’t have time to read everything but I get the gist of what you are saying! I don’t have time to give answers to each point, but I will cover some stuff in broad strokes, and hope others join in to offer their advice.
I joined this forum a few months before I even got my Pocket C.H.I.P. and found a vibrant user community with answers for many of the things you are looking for.

Software:
For an Improved GUI experience close to what you described you might try this link:


Since the C.H.I.P.'s own GUI is open source, Marshmallow used it as the basis for his own improved version that has a lot of the features you mentioned. His forum post is very long with replies, but it is worth a read through. The top of the post contains the features list and installation instructions, which are fairly noob friendly. If you see a feature you’d like added or improved in a future update, leave Marshmallow a reply. He’s friendly guy, and is always looking for ideas to improve his already excellent work!

As for the other Apps on your wish list, try searching the forum for ideas, or post a shorter list in a separate topic, it’s one way to get a faster more accurate response.

Hardware:
On the hardware side, there are many, many, hacks for adding features to the Pocket C.H.I.P. including some of the ones you talked about. Check out this post for some ideas:


Scroll down to about 7/31, and there are some replies in there about 3D printed cases with keys for the keyboard. Also searching for “Stylus Holder” should net you some nice results.

Accessories:
A USB hub only works well if it is a powered hub on the Pocket C.H.I.P., because of limitations on the amount of power that can put through the USB port, and because this is a big drain on the battery. So you clip on case idea in you last post isn’t going to work well with this feature. If you want this for external accessories like a keyboard and mouse, for when you want to prop it up with a No. 2 pencil and use it on a desktop, here is an idea: Many discount stores such as Walmart and a number of online retailers like Amazon sell cordless keyboard and mouse combos for incredibly cheap prices! They generally work using a USB RF Module, and are pug and play, so there’s no tedious configuration!

As I said I cannot address everything, but I hope this get you started! Hopefully you’ll get some other forum users to respond as well, a lot of them have some great ideas, or at least know where some the best idea are buried here! If you get little to know help from others in a timely fashion, send me a private message and I’ll see what I can do.


#5

thanks- I will def check out the marshmallow thing. Have looked on the forums a bit on alternate OS’es and hadn’t found anything yet that looked like what I had in mind, though I am also noticing these forums are quite active and are often too much to read through.
Well my clip-on case idea mentions that it’s a powered usb hub. I gather they might make usb hubs now that are compatible with android chargers? The thing could be powered by the same charger that charges the chip itself, ideally. It’s more that I want to be able to attach hard drives, memory cards or the DMX thing I mentioned, or transfer data between storage devices. (And I’ve got several usb peripherals that won’t run on 3v.) I have two of the Korg Nano series USB MIDI controllers and am very interested in using those with SunVox, as it’s a powerful program, but the on-screen keyboard is practically useless, and takes up valuable screen real estate. Maybe I should also put that on the wishlist, as I’m not sure how I’d actually assign them after connecting them. I’ve also got a battery backup thing that could fit in the space a small gamepad would fit. Once you get to the point of carrying a keyboard, I figure the lappy is more space efficient/portable than that. Also, the USB RF module on its’ own would take up the only port you could plug extra storage into, thus still needing a hub.

I have certainly considered the thought of 3d-printing a new enclosure, though am not sure whether the materials will come out sturdy enough, and I kind of like the translucent-ness of the current case. I have never seen a translucent printed plastic. (though I guess maybe that would knock back the intensity of the rear LED, I’d rather save what little wasted power I can where I can and send less juice to it if possible.) Also I’m thinking that this may be out of budget for me at the moment.


#6

I agree with 1,2,3,&9 in the bullet list, that led is the bane of my existance and wake on touch has to be something we can disable along with the leds.

I wonder how much juice they eat when on?

Edit, at night the rear led makes a cool pink halo around the case which i like,

Edit edit easy to use bluetooth utility would be wonderous


#7

oh yeah, I should add bluetooth utility to my wishlist too.


#8

hey, so one thing I also noticed- browsing through the directories, I noticed xfce folders already on the pocketchip. is the Pocket Gui laid on over that, or already installed as a dual boot? Is there something about the installed xfce on the pocket that won’t run correctly?


#9

update: I got a youtube video to play on iceweasel on the pocket, but the interface was buggy/slow and the video was a bit skippy on the lowest resolution. (144) Was happy with the still image quality though. Would also probably like a browser with tabs but less screen space taken on them. Or some kind of scheme where the toolbar hides and then appears when you hover near the top.


#10

Re; youtube videos, this works well and not superslow


#11

@MadRooster I think we have the same version of PocketCHIP, and my take on it is that they forgot to remove a lot of user configuration files for packages that were removed from the original CHIP image. And, they also forgot to purge a lot of stuff that is not needed. Run the following command to get a list of the packages that have been installed but not had their system configuration files removed:

sudo dpkg -l |grep ^rc | less

To see what is actually running on your PocketCHIP, run

sudo ps ax | less

A lot of “defunct” process will show, I am not sure why they do not disappear until reboot, but think they are harmless.


#12

hmm thanks. It would be easier if I knew more about Linux architecture. Then I guess the next logical questions would be: if these are unused files, can/should I delete them and clear up precious space? How do I know what’s safe to delete? Do updates on the Pocket remove old files?


#13

POCKET chip and your issues list its part a philosophy. This device it’s not meant to be all out of the box, it’s about try and learn. That’s why a simple thing like a stylus holder/socket doesn’t exist because it’s up to you how you want it to be. It’s a “what if” device, a never done or complete state, there’s no status quo…

Each pocketchip its a different whole world.


#14

I am a professional designer, and this is not a model kit, it is a working finished product, despite the customizability. I make this suggestion because it quickly became apparent that almost EVERYONE could benefit from having a stylus on this thing, and from my experience in manufacturing and product design, I know that adding a hole or two to the design wouldn’t be terribly difficult, and because drilling through plastic is risky and will result in a somewhat unsatisfactory stylus holder any way you do it, short of 3-D printing. I could explain why this is the case, in detail, but I figured it was obvious. And once you’re making every user 3-D print a feature that would be easy to put in the original, and make them waste a perfectly good original part, you’re getting rid of one of the main advantages of this device, it being a CHEAP COMPUTER. Not all of us have hundreds of dollars to blow on projects.


#15

I’m not saying its incomplete, pocketchip or chip, it’s just a medium to do greater things, it’s like the dough, by itself, its just dough, but with preparation and innovation could be whatever you want.

And dough its a finished product, but it’s a just a part or something bigger.

People bought it because of what its and its potential. It’s based on iterations done by the community and NTC. design thinking and lean principles.

Maybe you’re not the target, but your ideal of what it could be, can be a future iteration of these little powerful device.


#16

Btw, peace and love, i really like some of your ideas.


#17

Im no hacker, and by no means even a programmer, i just love tech toys and stuff and i love pocket chip. Yes i wanted a stylus so, i added one in fact i added several. I didnt come whining on the forum but posted a pic of how i did it. I didnt like the way the keys behaved and i made key caps for it .
In the videos for chip and pchip i recall one of the guys (dave i think) saying chip and pchip were designed to be hackable and open sourced not once did they say it was a apple like product (though im glad its not a samsung like product :fire::fire::fire::fire::fire::fire:) they said it was something to tinker with im sorry if you thought otherwise but the reality is young company, just setting up supply chain and doing their damndest to put a product in peoples hands and the one in my hands is well loved and used daily.
So rather than gripe just take what people have told you, chip and pchip are two wonderful little things and you can do loads with it rather than complain of what it isnt make it what it can be.


#18

The last couple replies are completely missing my point- completely. I’m a bit taken aback by how far it flew over your head. What I was trying to do was EXACTLY to help make it a better product, one that more people will love, and I PLAN on hacking it, and have already been doing that. I got it for that reason. but I’ve also taken the approach that making suggestions to the developers might also be useful, and that I’m pointing out opportunities for improvement from all directions, because while I am not a coder, i do understand usability and product design like nobody’s business. Would you say the same thing, or buy the thing if it required every user to get their own screen and solder it to board points? I’m merely pointing out a feature that would be low-cost to include from the start in the second iteration, that would lower the bar for entry again. You guys are small-minded when expecting a device that you HAVE to hack to get it usable. It could be more than that. It could also be a computer you use when you don’t want to risk a laptop, or a computer you give to a kid. I have been building my own heavily customized computers for years, and know what it is to make something your own. I have also done ten years of tech support before moving into professional work, and know how it’s often very tiny tweaks that could save millions of users a lot of frustration, or at least keep them from running in circles, and that’s why I’m making these suggestions.


#19

Hey, does anybody know if there’s a replacement for right-click that works on this thing? A way to put it in without hooking up a mouse? I haven’t been finding anything about it on the forums or on the web. I tried the standard modifier keys with no results. If not, that’s a BIG one on the wishlist.

Also, is there a way to do copy/paste in Terminal? I tried ctrl-shift-c/v/x with no results. Have been trying to get some bluetooth stuff up and running and it’s incredibly tedious. I did chance upon the thing where you hit the arrow keys and scroll thru previous commands. Also, once I saw the thing auto-complete a bluetooth address I was typing in but couldn’t figure out how to do it again.


#20

" Would you say the same thing, or buy the thing if it required every user to get their own screen and solder it to board"

We used to do more than that, at one time folks had to solder chips to a board.