September 22, 2010

Arduino and GuruPlug

Arduino | Hardware

Few months ago I attempted to make an Arduino-based project accessible via a web browser and/or a phone using an Ethernet shield (see here and here). The results were a bit disappointing, as the Ethernet shield tends to behave strange when the files to be transferred are large. Everything seems to be fine if the file to be transferred is just below the Ethernet MTU (1492 bytes by default), with extremely fast transfers all the time. When the file exceeds that threshold, there are a bunch of inexplicable timeouts which make the file transfer to be seconds instead of milliseconds.

I then discovered the GuruPlug. For $100 you get a full computer running on a Marvell 1.2GHz processor, with 512MB RAM and 512MB flash as the hard drive, 1 Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g and 2 USB 2.0 ports! The best part is that the GuruPlug consumes less than 5W, so you can have it on at all times.

The company making the device is positioning the GuruPlug as a general purpose computer, but I think that's a mistake. I'm not going to trust such a puny computer to run my file server. However it's powerful enough to run a bunch of dedicated little applications. I've been running my home's internal DNS server for more than a year now on the previous generation SheevaPlug.

Since the GuruPlug has 2 USB ports and has both Ethernet and WiFi, you can easily connect it to an Arduino and have the web server run on GuruPlug, while having the actual interface with motors and sensors done by Arduino. The communication between the two can easily happen over USB using a custom made protocol. More on the software side of things in a different post

Since I want my project to go inside a single box, and not have lots of wires running around, I disassembled the GuruPlug and removed the main board. Doing so voids the warranty, so do this at your own risk! You need to provide 5V at 1A to the board. I removed the USB connectors on both the GuruPlug and the Arduino board, and ran some wires directly between them. This way I don't need to run a dedicated USB cable between the two boards. On the downside, I lost a USB port which could have been exposed outside of the box.

Right now I'm in the process of building a small box for the project. Since the GuguPlug doesn't have an external WiFi antenna, I needed to build the box from plastic instead of metal. Another thing to keep in mind is that the metal part that's on top of the GuruPlug board is a heat sink that runs very hot. I'll most likely put a fan right on top of it, even though the original GuruPlug doesn't have any. More on the building of the actual box in a later post.

Posted by ovidiu at September 22, 2010 09:11 PM |
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