PocketC.H.I.P. – First Impressions

PocketC.H.I.P.
The new PocketC.H.I.P. by “Next Thing Co.”

FEATURES

  • 4.3″ Resistive touch screen.
  • Full QWERTY keyboard.
  • Removable enclosure and bezel.
  • 3.7-volt LiPo Battery.
  • GPIO Access.
  • WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity.

APPLICATIONS

  • PICO-8 – Play games, change games, and make games with PICO-8!
  • SunVox – The SunVox tracker is a fully featured music production studio.
  • Linux Terminal – A place to type commands directly to the computer for execution and evaluation by the operating system.
  • Write – Write is a minimalist text editor.
  • File Browser – The File Browser provides a visual representation of the files on your PocketC.H.I.P. using icons.
  • Help – A copy of the documentation from the GetChip Website

I received my backer PocketC.H.I.P. today. My apologies, I was much too excited about it after having used my C.H.I.P. received late last year, to bother with any video of unboxing. Those of you that need unboxing therapy, look elsewhere.

It arrived in a beautifully illustrated cardboard box, shrinkwrapped with my VDA and HDMI adapters, as well as a spare battery. As you can see above, the final version is much nicer than beta versions (change not included, placement to illustrate scale only). As expected, it was running an ARM version of Debian. So naturally, I did the apt-get update & upgrade & dist-upgrade. Then I set about to playing with it.

It shipped with only six programmes (noticeable programmes, that is), and after being briefly entertained by them, I set out to creating the server remote that I intended it to be. I installed putty, filezilla and a few other select monitoring programmes for remoting in to my various servers for Who Inc. so that I could pretend that I had a necessary, real world application for this baby.

To be honest, it’s a bit clunkier than I would like. Though the website has various illustrations of the machine in use, nothing really prepares you for its size, or for its weight. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, it just is unexpected. It’s a kind of hybrid between a phone and a tablet, but with the benefit of being a full Linux operating system. All of the commands that you have come to know and love function. If you’re used to Debian, Ubuntu, Mint etc. you’ll feel right at home with one of these. One of the biggest downers is size of available space, but again, as this is full Linux, that’s a simple matter of sticking a low profile thumb drive into the available USB and creating /home2.

To do this:

  • /sbin/fdisk -l  This tells you your available storage devices with detailed info so you can determine which drive is which by /dev
  • sbin/fdisk /dev/sda This allows you to create a partition on /dev/sda (most likely the secondary thumb device as the primary drive appears to be hidden by the system) after which you will enter the following at the prompt: “n” for new partion, “p” for primary partition, “1” for the first partition (it may tell you that 1 is not available, and give you options beginning with 2), “Enter” for the first AND last cylinders (to make this partition use the entire disk) and finally “w” to save your changes. That has created and saved new partition and it will be called /dev/sda1 (first partition on /dev/sda). The next step is to format it.
  • ext4/4 /dev/sda1 – Choose either ext3 or ext4 – this does the basic format of your thumb drive.
  • Finally, to make it an extension of your /home that came installed on the C.H.I.P., mkdir /home2 followed by mount /dev/sda1 /home2. To make sure that this device will auto mount when you start up your PocketC.H.I.P., use mount -a.

Now that this step is complete, you are able to save files as large as your external storage can handle, as well as install a great deal more programmes, which for me, was an absolute necessity.

My biggest complaint about the PocketC.H.I.P. was not the large size or unexpected weight however; as they did a great job with the contour and counterbalance with the shape of the casing… no, my biggest complaint is the keyboard. I am operating, of course, with the understanding that this is essentially a baseline keyboard which is provided as a bonus for what is essentially a builder computer like the Raspberry Pi. But the keyboard, while nicely configured and familiar, lacked responsiveness. I found myself going back several times to press harder to get a letter to take, or backspacing for a letter that received multiple input though only pressed once. If you can live with that, and I can, then this will be an amazing and useful piece of tech for you to have.

Regardless of its size, it still fits comfortably into a standard back pocket. Its extra features such as a touch screen make it much more enjoyable to use. The screen is sharp and bright. All in all, I’m extremely satisfied with the outcome, and both happy and proud to have backed this fantastic innovation.

P.S. – If you do get one, it does NOT come with a web browser. This is simple to remedy. If you like text browsers, use sudo apt-get install lynx. If you prefer a modern browser, use sudo apt-get install iceweasel. Neither Firefox nor Chrome have a release that will install on this unit out of the box, and Chromium gives the “no release candidate available” reply. Iceweasel is clunky on this device to say the least, and you absolutely MUST use a stylus to get anything done with it. But for the power of a full Linux in the pocket, I’m not complaining. I also highly recommend installing aptitude (sudo apt-get install aptitude) and using it in place of apt-get for automatic resolution of dependencies when installing software.