Getting my Nvidia Jetson Xavier NX dev station going

Sometimes I love my Amazon shipments!

Arduinos aren’t the only SBC (single board computers) I love to play engineer. Lately, I’ve been fascinated with actually doing some AI with live video feeds for some possible use in robot builds. To that end, I have been looking at the Nvidia Jetson series of SBCs. I had mulled getting an Nvidia Jetson Nano. And, being a big fan of Paul McWhorter, I had planned on possibly buying a Jetson Nano and following his lessons utilizing that platform. Well, now that he has a series out on Nvidia Jetson Xavier NX, I can’t put off learning about programming AI and video.

To that end, I have started to put together a basic development workstation for programming the Nvidia Jetson Xavier. This post will briefly highlight my setup. Perhaps this will help others out when deciding what to procure for their development workstation.

The Xavier

The Jetson Xavier NX is insane. It’s GPU capabilities are off the chart for an SBC, which I suppose it to be expected from a company such as Nvidia. I’m not going to gush on about the geeky details because then I’ll never stop. But I’ll say this board’s ability to decode video and integrate AI features is off the chart for something in a price range a hobbyist can afford.

Here is a look at the board itself just after I unpacked it.

Nvidia Jetson Xavier NX. This thing screams, “hook me up and create!”

Monitor, Keyboard, and Mouse

But no matter how great the Xavier is, it is no different from other SBCs in the fact other hardware is needed to do something with it. It might seem silly to have a whole section of this post about the monitor, keyboard, and mouse. But in reality, these are important decisions that I’ve seen people not consider what they need. Those same people will later have problems because due to a lack of planning.

The keyboard and mouse are a wireless set from Topmate. This was a recommendation from McWhorter I decided to follow. One of the problems with new technology is that sometimes existing technology may not work with it. I know I’ve had wireless keyboards and mice that do not work with new tech because drivers are not available yet. In this case, McWhorter passed on the information that he knows this particular keyboard and mouse combo work with the Nvidia boards. That was good enough for me. Plus, the keyboard is a low profile model, which is very important as I am quickly running out of desk space.

It’s not the size of the hardware that matters. Well, sometimes it is.

Speaking of desk space, for the same reason, I wanted to ensure the monitor I got would take up very little room. Plus, I wanted a monitor that would be handy to use with other SBCs with video out ports. To facilitate my needs, I ended up getting a 12″ HD LCD monitor I found on Amazon. For less than a hundred bucks, I found a good quality monitor with many inputs. It supports HDMI, COAX, RCA A/V, USB, and VGA. That should about cover anything I’m going to do. Plus, at 12″, I can put anywhere I want on my desk. If for some reason, I would need a larger monitor for the Xavier, I can always temporarily utilize one of my desktop monitors.

SD and SSD Cards

Samsung MicroSD

Technically the Xavier only needs an SD card. It boots and runs directly off of an SD card. For this particular case, I decided to splurge and get a quality microSD card. Over the last few years, I have done a lot with digital cameras and hobby electronics, all of which seem to utilize SD cards. The problem is they go bad, a lot. Heck, just this month, I had to replace a corrupt SD card in a Raspberry Pi. To that end, I took the recommendation of using the Samsung 128GB MicroSDXC EVO. This thing has tremendous speed. And more important, it is a quality product that hopefully won’t leave me hanging. Although knowing my luck with SD cards…

WD SSD is installed under the Xavier.

Now technically, no hard drive is needed for what I’m doing with the Xavier. But, even with a good quality SD card, I really have no faith in SD technology. So I did install a Western Digital 250GB SSD card to the bottom of the Xavier. Now I can make sure everything I do while booted up to the SD card can be backed up on the SSD drive. And who knows, I may need some of that extra space when doing video work. Plus, it just looks pretty cool mounted to the bottom of the Xavier (even if nobody will see it there.

Webcams

Pi Cam 2.

Technically only one webcam is needed, but two will increase the programming possibilities of the Xavier. McWhorter noted that the Pi Cams and Logitech cams are known to work with the Xavier. This is great. I already have a USB Logitech hooked up to the main computer that I rarely do videoconference meetings. I’ll hook the Logitech up to the Xavier and move it back to the PC on the rare occasion I have to be in a Zoom meeting.

And while I would love to get another Logitech camera, I can’t justify buying one right now with a special COVID price on these popular webcams. So I did buy another Pi cam, a Pi Cam V2. I even ordered a little clear case and extra-long cable to go with it. Sadly, I could not hook up the longer Pi Cam cable and must order another one. Earlier this week, one of the Raspberry Pi’s I have hooked up to a 3D printer had a cable get pinched when I wasn’t paying attention. So until I get another cable in, the really short one that comes with it will have to work.

Up next, getting it booted up

It doesn’t seem like a lot of hardware. But deciding what to get can make or break the success of a project. Trying cheap USB keyboards that may or may not work can cause enough frustration to drive people away from projects like this. Taking time to plan out a development workstation will mean getting to playing with code much sooner and hopefully with fewer hassles. The next post on the Xavier will be about getting the Operating System installed and a quick overview of the dev tools.

Song of the day: Video Killed the Radio Star

All this talk of video brought this classic Buggles song to mind.

Bonus Song: Internet Killed the Video Star

Remember when Shockwave was everything? This parody does.

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