Thursday, July 31 2008, 04:21 am

Nokia and Python, a Tight Pair [Part 1]

Little, neat gadgets are sometimes necessary to keep life from being a complete drag. That's where the ELM327 OBD-II device comes in. A mouthful? OK, sue me. It's a chip that can read your car's information, such as MPH, RPM, air temperature, water temperature (yes, your car uses water), and all sorts of other goodies. The chips sell for around $60 on eBay for Bluetooth versions. Normally OBD-II readers sell for hundreds of dollars and are standalone products, which are very limiting in what you could do. The catch? It's just the chip - no software. However, since the chip has open specifications there are a dozen or so different softwares that are ELM compatible. Garmon is one such software.

When I first got the device I had a dilemma. I could either drag my desktop computer out to my car and ran a long extension cord for power, bought a laptop, or borrowed a friend's laptop. I chose the third option, thinking I was looking to buy a laptop in the future. But wait! I have my Nokia N95 don't I? The only thing that kept me from thinking of my phone is that I would have to write a program in Symbian C++ - a task I wouldn't do unless I was paid a cool mil or two. So for a while I could only use my ELM reader when I was with my friends.

A few days ago my brain finally clicked into gear: Garmon is written in Python and Nokia has released Python libraries for their phones. I could certainly port Garmon to my phone. No need for a stinking laptop! After installing the libraries and running a "Hello, world!" program I knew it would be possible, with a little help with Google, seeing as this was my very first Python program (I'm a C junkie). Stay tuned for the results...