Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Packard Bell OneTwo with Linux

Our son, Benjamin is autistic and has severe learning disabilities. Persuading him to do anything other than his current 'favourite' activity is really difficult. We took him to a light room today and I was impressed that he showed signs of interacting with a white square which lit up where you touched it. Laura and I started to think about making him one. It looks quite difficult because as well as the hardware to mount all of the lights we will need a touch sensitive panel and produce some software to drive it. For this reason I started to think about going for a purely software solution instead - just use a simple computer and a touch sensitive monitor.

I have contacted a couple of suppliers to see what they can do, but the first quote for a whole panel PC (which would be neat - no wires!) was very expensive £1620 for a 32" one.
An alternative would be to go for something smaller - HP and Acer make 23" all-in-one touch screen PCs for <£800k, which is still quite a lot, but getting better.
PC World and Currys are selling a 20" touch sensitive monitor for £180 which is more like the price I was thinking of, but I will need to add a computer, which will mean wires. I do have a little netbook which I don't use anymore, which could do the job though, so I may try this and just invest in a bigger one if he seems interested.

When I went to PC World today they did not have any of the monitors, but they did have a Packard Bell OneTwo all in one PC with touch sensitive screen.  This was £599 so I decided to give it a go, because at least it meant no wires.

I downloaded Ubuntu 10.10 onto a USB memory stick and installed it in the spare 'Data' partition on the drive (I actually deleted the data partition and re-created a 10GB swap partition and the rest as a ext4 filesystem to use for the ubuntu filesystem.   The install went ok, and grub appears to give me the option of booting windows (I haven't tried yet).

The most noticeable thing was that the screen resolution was not very good, and it was not using the widescreen aspect ratio.   I fixed this by going to the monitor settings in the ubuntu system menu and un-clicking the 'mirror' option - it seemed to think it has two monitors, one of which is low resolution.  Once I had de-selected that option I could select the resolution of the main monitor (called 'laptop' in this case).   Now that is done it looks better, and the touch screen appears to be working.

For more information on my experiences using Linux on the Packard Bell OneTwo, see my other blog entries, in particular http://nerdytoad.blogspot.com/2010/12/ubuntu-linux-on-packard-bell-onetwo.html.

My daughter Laura and I are working on the applications for Benjamin to use - I am doing the code and she is on graphics at the moment.
The application is at an early stage, but the outline can be downloaded using
svn co https://ntmisc.googlecode.com/svn/benApp
There will be more about this application as we work on it and try to get Benjamin interested in it.

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