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ELJonline: WANDER: a Portable Linux Data-Collection System

May 04, 2002, 00:00 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Steven K. Roberts, Ned Konz)

"One of the most entertaining aspects of spending an otherwise exhausting decade conjuring a geeked-out, canoe-scale, Linux-based, amphibian pedal/solar/sail trimaran, is that every new twist in the project involves steep learning curves and, in many cases, spin-offs. Usually these manifest themselves as publications and other obvious ways of piping ideas back into the Open Source community that has done so much to make the Microship adventure possible, but occasionally something utterly unexpected falls out of the boat lab.

"The WANDER Project certainly fits this category. A couple of years ago, I was contacted by Dave Hughes of the NSF Wireless Field Test Project and enjoined to "clone" the Microship core Linux system for use as a ruggedized field data-collection tool. This seemed like an easy and productive technology-transfer project, so I quickly agreed.

"Naturally, it was not to be so simple; there was an almost immediate divergence between the boat system design and that of the WANDER box. The former was becoming more and more wrapped around a rich user interface that could migrate transparently among wireless handhelds running VNC clients, with applications ranging far beyond data collection to include active control, security and communications. The latter, meanwhile, was becoming ever more focused on the problem of deploying a flexible database-centric tool into harsh environments, scriptable by moderately technical end users, able to inhale readings from multiple sensor channels, associate them with time and GPS coordinates, and then eventually transmit accumulated data via Globalstar satellite phone. It also would have to be power-efficient enough to allow unattended solar operation, so WANDER took on a life of its own..."

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