• United States

Embedded Linux has Billy Bigmouth Bass singing a new tune

Mar 08, 20042 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLinux

* Linux enables a fish to recite the Gettysburg Address

You may have heard of Linux geeks hacking their TiVOs or Sony Play Stations and reincarnating these home electronic gadgets into Linux-based PCs. The latest version of this trend is a fish story.

Those who would ask why someone would transform a singing Billy Bigmouth Bass toy into a Linux-based IP video conferencing system just don’t get the spirit of the enterprise. For those who have never seen one, Billy Bigmouth Bass is an automatronic large-mouth bass toy made to look like a mounted fish trophy from someone’s den. When a button is pushed, or a human voice is detected nearby, the fish bursts into one of two pre-programmed songs while wiggling its tail and head – and hilarity ensues.

Leading this project was a research scientist from the University of Texas, who normally plays with atomic clocks and global positioning systems. He wrote a paper on how to trick out the singing novelty toy by replacing a CMOS chip in the fish’s guts with an embedded controller running an embedded Linux software build. Doing this allowed Billy to be programmed to thousands more songs than the fish’s usual catalog of two songs: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and, of course, “Take Me To the River.” Billy’s mouth movements and tail wagging were even re-programmed to be in synch with the customized audio output.

When some additional networking hardware, an open source H.323 protocol stack, and a USB camera were added, the fish was turned into an audio/video conferencing system and Web cam. This could allows users to initiate an audio or video conference sessions over the Web with other PC users through the fish, or just let someone view people’s reactions to Billy singing Vivaldi arias or reciting the Gettysburg Address.

For the new brains behind this borg bass, its creators used a modified version of BlueCat Linux, which is produced by LinuxWorx. But the project creators say any embedded Linux version could be used.

“By replacing that preprogrammed chip with a fully programmable embedded controller,” writes the project creators in a paper detailing their exploits, “perhaps we can create a Billy whose novelty never wears.” Perhaps, gentlemen. Perhaps.