Recently, I came across a forum post somewhere that mentioned the PicoBoard (formerly called a Scratch Board) worked in Linux. So, I set off to see just how easy it would be to get my PicoBoard working on Ubuntu 9.10.
Picoboards provide external sensors that feed input from the real-world into Scratch. The sensors are light, sound, resistance, button clicks, and slide control. And they’re a blast to use. I highly recommend them.
First stop, the PicoBoard driver download page. First the good news. There must be people requesting Linux drivers because the page supplies the ftdi_sio Serial to USB kernel driver as a download.
No Driver Download Required
The driver file on the download page is actually the FTDI USB Single Port Serial Converter. And if you visit the Sourceforge page for the project, you’ll find this advice from the previous project maintainer, Bill Ryder:
Use the most up to date linux kernel. This means 2.6.x or at least 2.4.30. The driver is included. I only ever use 2.6.x kernels so if you are using 2.4.x you are on your own. The driver is marked experimental at the moment. But I’m going to change that because it isn’t experimental any more.
Still, Scratch wasn’t detecting my PicoBoard. Though Linux was detecting the PicoBoard when I plugged it in the USB Port.
Load the Module
The ftdi_sio module is included with the kernel, but it wasn’t loaded for me. Here’s the command to load it:
sudo modprobe ftdi_sio
Now make sure the PicoBoard is plugged in and restart Scratch. The dmesg command is your friend here. It will give you feedback about how Linux is seeing the board. Here’s the last few lines of my dmesg output:
[451394.964027] usb 4-1: new full speed USB device using uhci_hcd and address 5
[451395.140265] usb 4-1: configuration #1 chosen from 1 choice
[451395.144909] pl2303 4-1:1.0: pl2303 converter detected
[451395.164947] usb 4-1: pl2303 converter now attached to ttyUSB0
[451470.917714] USB Serial support registered for FTDI USB Serial Device
[451470.917840] usbcore: registered new interface driver ftdi_sio
[451470.917843] ftdi_sio: v1.5.0:USB FTDI Serial Converters Driver
The first four lines is the kernel detecting the device. Then remaining lines appeared when I loaded the ftdi_sio module.
A sample script
Here’s a quick script to test out the PicoBoard. Cameron is going to love this, especially when we combine it with the webcam support.
If you run into problems, I can’t say that I will have the answer, but I’ll definitely try. Feel free to ask for support.