Sunday, 30 December 2012

Flight planning on the Raspberry Pi (!)

This is not a New Year wind-up. So, please keep reading. Having bought a Raspberry Pi for my 11 year-old son for Christmas, I couldn't resist trying it out with iNavCalc for flight-planning.

If you don't know what a Raspberry Pi is (an ARM/Linux computer for $25), visit this link for an intro.

Here it is, ready  to be connected-up to my TV, ethernet hub, and USB mouse/keyboard (shown beside a $10 bill to show the scale!):

...and here's how you connect it up (image courtesy of

When you power it on, you get the unix (linux) command-prompt: almost magical breath of fresh air in this day-and-age! If you don't agree with that comment, abandon this post. It is not for you. If you do, read on...

The whole point of the Raspberry Pi is to provide a sensible "bare-bones" platform for teaching kids how to write software, uncluttered by all the fancy stuff that comes pre-packaged with a modern consumer-oriented device such as a Windows or Mac desktop, Android tablet/phone,  iPad/iPhone or other such tablet/smartphone.

In terms of programming languages, the Raspberry Pi comes with Python pre-installed, so this is the natural starting point for code-development. However, I will leave that for another day. Instead, for now I'll simply fire-up the Chromium web-browser to test out the iNavCalc web-app interface. Note: Chromium (basically a flavour of Google Chrome which is suitable for the Raspberry Pi) doesn't come pre-installed out-of-the-box on the Raspberry Pi, but it is easy to install. I first tried the Midori browser which does come pre-installed, but the GoogleMaps (used by iNavCalc) didn't seem to load correctly...

Here, then,  is the iNavCalc web-app successfully rendered on Chromium on the Raspberry Pi showing a simple straight-line sample route from EGNS (Isle of Man) to EGPF (Glasgow):

...and here is the corresponding "Get detailed PLOG" pop-up...

...and here is the response email (via Gmail, also rendered in Chromium on the Raspberry Pi)...

...demonstrating the full functionality of the iNavCalc web-app, just like on a Windows PC or iPad, etc.

Of course, this only demonstrates that the Raspberry Pi browser works as desired when rendering the FlyLogical website. But it's a start: and it gives me yet another device to use for flight-planning when all the "real" computers in the house are taken-up (for games and shopping, etc.)

On a more serious note: since I've written the iNavCalc software suite to make extensive use of web-services from the ground-up, it represents a fun and feasible challenge to build a client app (e.g., using Python)  to "consume" these web-services on the Raspberry Pi. I'll leave that for another day...and hopefully convince my 11 year-old to help me.