From Peanuts to Chips: EMC2 on the Atom

Sherline CNC with Foxconn D520 Atom
Sherline CNC with Foxconn D520 Atom

Before I forget, here’s how one gets from packing peanuts to a running EMC2 installation:

The hardware:

The PC won’t need a CD after it’s up and running, but it’s easiest to boot/install from a CD. Get a random SATA CD drive from eBay or, more usefully, a USB-to-SATA/IDE converter, harvest an IDE CD drive from a old donor box, plug it into the Foxconn box, and tweak the BIOS to boot from that USB device.

Install Ubuntu 10.04 (not the current 10.10) from CD. I use the mini-iso CD (link to Overview), which has the advantage of fetching the current version of everything from the Ubuntu site. You can putz around making a bootable USB image, which is cute, but the USB-to-IDE drive adapter will come in handy for other things.

Toward the end of the installation you get a list of configurations and packages to install. Pick Ubuntu desktop, down near the bottom of the list. Include SSH server if you want to do remote maintenance.

Install / tweak / twiddle to set up some comfort items:

  • NFS shares to the file server holding my CNC files
  • Desktop sharing so I can dry-run from a warmer chair
  • Screen backdrop on file server to show network is running
  • Browser plugins & so forth

When that’s done, aim Firefox at the EMC2 wiki, and follow the instructions to download & run the script that installs EMC2.

Then devote one of the CPU cores to the real-time kernel, although the new GRUB2 bootloader is less tweak-friendly. Reboot, select that kernel, and away you go.

Run the EMC2 Latency Test to be sure everything is OK.

Run the StepConf Wizard to generate a config file suitable for the new machinery.

This set of hints & tips may be helpful for new-to-Ubuntu machinists.

Lest all this seem like a lot of hocus pocus, remember that you’re
becoming a system integrator with your fingers on all the knobs and
buttons normally hidden behind the “Do Not Open: No User Serviceable Parts Inside” covers.

You could, of course, pay somebody to do this for you… [grin]