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Brookstone Rover 2.0 SpyTank Teardown 64

Posted by timothy
from the what's-inside dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Like the Roomba and other hackable consumer electronics, the Brookstone Rover 2.0 looks like a great value for hackers and robotics experimenters. Check out this teardown and another link within for lots of pics and info."
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Brookstone Rover 2.0 SpyTank Teardown

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  • ...or does TFA, just like the OP, only look that way ?
    • by Gaygirlie (1657131) <gaygirlie AT hotmail DOT com> on Sunday February 10, 2013 @07:03AM (#42849241) Homepage

      It looks like one, it walks like one, and it quacks like one. But then again, I'm not an ornithologist.

      • It also has the feathers of one, and pecks at your wallet like one. But then again, I am not a consumer.
    • Re:Is this an ad... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nyder (754090) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @07:11AM (#42849265) Journal

      ...or does TFA, just like the OP, only look that way ?

      No, it is a breakdown, as in, tear apart to see whats inside it, from a separate website/company.

      This is a very common occurrence in the tech world. Some of us like to know whats inside before we buy.

      • Before you buy...so it IS an advertisement.

        I wonder how much these cost. How can I get my product on the front page of Slashdot?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          How can I get my product on the front page of Slashdot?

          Make something interesting enough for us to want to look at.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          No, it's not an ad. If you read past the first paragraph or so you'll see it didn't get a good review. They're promoting it as a hackable toy. For $150 it does have a lot of tech.

      • That was the most pedantic comment I got, ever, upon a Slasdhot post. Congratulations,sir, you broke the pedantry sound barrier in my user space.
        • That was the most pedantic comment I got, ever, upon a Slasdhot post. Congratulations,sir, you broke the pedantry sound barrier in my user space.

          Well, you were kind of asking for it. Some of us find them interesting even though whatever product it is would never find it's way onto our shopping lists. For example, I've checked out ipod and iphone teardowns but would never have one. Just because you disagree doesn't mean you have to be an ass.. oh wait, this is the internet - that's exactly what it means. My mistake.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ...or does TFA, just like the OP, only look that way ?

      It is not an ad, the Brookstone Rover(tm) is merely the consumer device you want to buy right now. Our slashdot readers have priority access to our order web site and our operators are standing by for your calls. But make no mistake, this is not an ad for the Brookstone Rover(tm).

  • Creepy spying (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DKlineburg (1074921) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @06:47AM (#42849195)
    Forget hacking, Someone is going to disguise it as a common place object and spy where they shouldn't. . .
    • Re:Creepy spying (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Gaygirlie (1657131) <gaygirlie AT hotmail DOT com> on Sunday February 10, 2013 @07:14AM (#42849277) Homepage

      Forget hacking, Someone is going to disguise it as a common place object and spy where they shouldn't. . .

      There are much easier ways to go about that than buying one of these. I can think of atleast 12 different ways of hiding Linux-powered computers with networking and video capabilities in plain sight.

    • by dissy (172727)

      Forget hacking, Someone is going to disguise it as a common place object and spy where they shouldn't. . .

      Why on earth would you use a tank camera to rip apart and disguise as something else?

      If that thought scares you, go to Amazon and type in "spy camera" :P

      $30 for a tiny wireless pinhole camera designed for hiding here [amazon.com].

      For the DIY-declined, there are pre-disguised cameras already on the market. They cost a bit more, but you don't need any skills other than having a wad of cash to blow.

      For $90 you can get an analog wall clock with hidden wireless camera here [amazon.com]

      Just over $60 for a smoke detector with hidden camer

      • And for the special-interest audience, tampon dispensers with a built-in webcam.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Even more telling to my mind: you can pick up used cellphones with cash at any flea market that will serve as remote surveillance devices, either via cellular or wifi as appropriate. They are small and low-power in most cases. Anyone worried about surveillance should surely be concerned about those above most other things since they're not only cheap but they're difficult to impossible to trace if used intelligently.

        It's not expensive to get a radio emissions detector, to give you something to play with if

      • Plus, unless your jurisdiction's laws regarding covert videotaping are atypically robust, the fact that the perv-cam is hidden in a fake fire alarm may violate more rules than the fact that you installed it above the bed in that apartment you rent out!

      • I think the joke got lost... I'm just saying.
    • Forget hacking, Someone is going to disguise it as a common place object and spy where they shouldn't. . .

      Yes. They need to send a few of these into area 51. That'll shut up those conspiracy nuts who keep trying to convice folks that they do spy plane work there.

      ... on second thought, even if you showed them pictures of aliens, they'd say it was a hoax. Those spy-plane nutters are unconvincible.

    • by PPH (736903)
      No hot teenage sister of a nerdy Slashdotter kid will ever be safe again.
    • Anyone who goes to the extreme overkill of disguising an entire vehicle-with-a-camera as a common object, when they could just disguise a camera which would be both easier (since it's much smaller and not vehicle-shaped) and a mere fraction of the price, deserves to win. If someone buys a Hubble telescope and hides it in my bathroom disguised as toiler paper roll, I hereby agree that such a badass motherfucker may gaze at my naked form as much as they like.

      Whatever happened to the days that we all admired

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @07:02AM (#42849237)

    You can do pretty much what you want with the system as it stands so I'm not sure what's to be gained by taking it to pieces and reprogramming it. Sure its fun for a while seeing how it works, but this isn't a cheap device and if all you want is a general purpose controller running linux buy a raspberry pi. Why wreck an expensive bit of equipment to get the same result?

    • by Nyder (754090) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @07:14AM (#42849275) Journal

      You can do pretty much what you want with the system as it stands so I'm not sure what's to be gained by taking it to pieces and reprogramming it. Sure its fun for a while seeing how it works, but this isn't a cheap device and if all you want is a general purpose controller running linux buy a raspberry pi. Why wreck an expensive bit of equipment to get the same result?

      My Linksys WRT54LG router worked fine out of the box, but I still installed DD-WRT on it.

      Why? Because I could. Breakdowns are sweet. I didn't have to buy this toy/tool to see whats inside, and now that I know, I can make a more informed decision if I want to buy this device to hack, or to just run on it's own.

      Anyways, you miss the point of hacking stuff. It's about the fun, the challenge, the learning and sometimes it's about doing shit that no one else has done.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      You can do pretty much what you want with the system as it stands so I'm not sure what's to be gained by taking it to pieces and reprogramming it.

      If you want to make it more autonomous you're going to want to hack it up. It would be cool to get it to go on missions outside the range of its communications.

  • by Keruo (771880) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @07:24AM (#42849301)

    I really recommend anyone with roomba to take their screwdriver and open the thing.
    Once you do and compare the inner workings to the device linked in the article, you really start to understand the concept of product design.

    To recap the differences for those who don't own one:
    Roomba design shows massive modularity. Every component inside is relatively easy-to-swap module.
    It's very easy to fix if something breaks down when everything is attached with 2-3 screws max.
    Modules have fixed connectors which just slot in. You won't end up in situation like: "ooh, this 4-pin connector looks like that one, did I connect it right?"(see the pics linked - power connector and speaker for example)
    You could probably 3D print matching spare modules if you made drawings for one.

    Parts of the rover, like motors and gears are supposed to be modular, yet they don't really look like that to me, maybe I'm just misreading the images.
    To me, it looks like "Made in China" - medium cost build. There's some build quality, it's not made from the cheapest material available, but it's not for daily use. Well, it's supposed to be a toy..
    In the Rover, wifi and camera modules are most likely USB yet they use different cabling, why?
    For hackable toy, those should be replaceable easily. Roomba doesn't have USB for wifi or camera either, but then again, it's a vacuum cleaner!

    It’s one of those toys that is relegated to the closet shortly after its first set of batteries die.

    Something from the article I'd have to agree with.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I don't know what model of roomba you have, but mine was a nightmare to get apart. :)

      This thing is like an abacus to a cray, by comparison.

    • Parts of the rover, like motors and gears are supposed to be modular, yet they don't really look like that to me, maybe I'm just misreading the images.

      To me, it looks like "Made in China" - medium cost build. There's some build quality, it's not made from the cheapest material available, but it's not for daily use. Well, it's supposed to be a toy..

      I suspect that it's a matter of Brookstone's style. They do a lot of relatively pricey and dubiously useful novelty gadgets(the sort of thing you end up with if you do your technology shopping from the 'Skymall' catalog...) That's the sort of business with enough churn in the product catalog that you'd bankrupt yourself doing a lot of fully-custom parts, so you'll see moderately mod-friendly levels of modularity, lots of space between parts unless mechanically necessary, connectors rather than ribbon cables

  • The headline promised me a tank. No guns => not a tank.
  • Linux is slow? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Like2Byte (542992) <Like2Byte.yahoo@com> on Sunday February 10, 2013 @08:21AM (#42849383) Homepage

    The system is probably running Linux. It takes a while to become ready after the power switch is turned on, which is typical of Linux. A smaller RTOS would likely come up much faster. The fact that the device requires networking, and streaming of sound and video also lends itself to a Linux system. Linux already includes much of the software to make everything work. The size of the RAM and Flash suggest a lean, but very workable Linux based system.

    Emphasis mine. Really? I've found my Linux installs to be very fast booting - certainly faster than Windows machines. Also, according to your pics there is an 80MHz crystal on there - any modern day OS you threw on that loaded from some external storage cluster would take a while to load. However, I didn't see any SD Card, SSDs or other external media device with which to hold a larger OS which means it's all embedded in one of those IC chips you couldn't find any information on.

    Having said that, there are version of Linux which can fit on a single floppy drive - about 1.2Megabytes - and in this case the OS has been burned into one of the ICs. Point here is that it may not even be Linux.

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      Compared to something like windows Linux is fast. Compared to a RTOS Linux is slow. Take a look at QNX if you want to see fast.

    • Re:Linux is slow? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @09:21AM (#42849545) Journal

      The S29GL032N [spansion.com] on the main system board is a 4 megabyte Spansion flash chip. Not luxurious; but well within the realm of a router-sized embedded linux(though it neither implies nor excludes a bunch of embedded OS options).
       
      As for speed, Linux can be made to be quite snappy; but it wouldn't surprise me if enough of the lag is in starting up network-related stuff, along with whatever server program the device uses to allow the client to connect to it, that you wouldn't be able to readily distinguish between Linux, Vxworks, BSD or WinCE on speed alone: sure, an embedded OS booting from solid-state storage on known hardware should move like lighting; but then it has to bring up an external USB device, do the WPA dance, send a DHCP request and receive a reply, and then start up whatever server program the firmware guys threw together for the client to connect to. And then we don't actually know how often the client side of things actually polls the IP where it thinks the device is supposed to be, or whether the device sends out some sort of broadcast when it comes up, or what. Too many variables to even say how fast the OS comes up.

      What baffles me is that the author of TFA is apparently geek enough to take a screwdriver to a $150 toy; but is making dumb guesses about OS type based on boot time even though he found a populated serial header, with RX and TX labelled, no less... C'mon, man, you can be pretty sure that the thing is 3.3v(based on the flash IC and lack of visible level converters, might be 5v or 5v-tolerant, highly unlikely to be RS-232), the pins are labelled for you, and it'll probably boot-spew something at you, why are you guessing based on boot time?

    • by Goaway (82658)

      Perhaps you could try reading the text you yourself bolded, and find out he wasn't comparing anything to Windows.

      • People with a slight exposure to Linux only know how to compare it to Windows. It's their only frame of reference.

  • by Ceriel Nosforit (682174) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @08:43AM (#42849443)

    I have yet to see a single 3D printed industrial robot arm anywhere. Actually it doesn't have to be printed, it just needs to meet user-picked mechanical requirements. You can calibrate software to compensate for your own inept assembly, which to me implies that simple hardware + advanced software = magic.

    My use would be attaching a router to it and letting it carve stuff out of for example wood. E.g. this chainsaw-bot, [youtube.com] but less terrifying.

  • One of the pictures in TFA shows the FCC ID, ZRB792593. Checking the FCC's site for this (here: http://transition.fcc.gov/oet/ea/fccid/ [fcc.gov] ) turns up the device and a number of documents for it. Alas, the most interesting ones for hacking, namely the block diagram, the operational description and the schematics, are all "permanant confidential" and thus not accessible.

    Still, there's some photos, RF test info, and the user manual (such as it is).

    That FCC site is worth checking if you're trying to reverse en

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