Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New home for BeagleBoard.org blog

I've moved this blog to http://beagleboard.org/blog. It just seems like an easier place to find it. I'm also going to try to start being more consistent with at-least-weekly posts.

Monday, July 29, 2013

BeagleBoard.org celebrates 5 years of enabling Linux DIY hacks

BeagleBoard.org launched with support of Digi-Key in 2008 and DIYers quickly adopted BeagleBoard for migrating XBMC to ARM, building GPS accurate down to the centimetereight-legged robots and creating controller hacks. In 2010, Google Summer of Code students contributed numerous projects to help other open source developers, including sniffing USB traffic and XBMC performance optimizations. GSoC students are back at it again in 2013, providing solutions for booting BeagleBone from aNexus phone, running Arduino sketches and even building new peripherals out of an on-chip microcontroller.

With the introduction of BeagleBoard-xM in 2010, projects accelerated with homemade tablet computersopen graphing calculatorscluster computing in abriefcase,repurposed laptop LCDsremote presence and versatile RC robotsspace camerasUSB killswitches and wearable LED matricesBeagleBoard-based wearables back in 2010 even provided a strikingly similarity to today's Google Glass.

BeagleBone seemed to find a surprising home in retro computingmimicking PDP11 blinkenlights and saving dot-matrix printers from the dust bin. This seemed to be an inspiration for inventive minds seeking to teach others about the more subtle capabilities the board is packing. The two, small 200MHz 32-bit microcontrollers on-board were used to mimic external peripherals to a discrete 6502 processor, enabling more people to understand the capabilities of these independent units previously demonstrated performing independent generation of VGA signals using a simple resistor ladder.

The tutorials continued with everything from twiddling an LED and running Ubuntu with a full GUI, to extracting video signals and wiring up your own LIDD displays, evenbuilding your own dedicated Pandora radio. This is all before BeagleBone Black launched, boosting performance to 1GHz, adding on-board eMMC and HDMI and dropping the price down to $45.

BeagleBone Black is just getting its legs underneath it in its initial production run of 125,000 units with around half of those shipped so far. Early adopters were able to share some of their creations at Maker Faire, including LED strips being used to display live video. Beyond the obvious and popular lighting solutions, BeagleBone Black has found an early home in manufacturing solutions, especially with makers like Elias Bakken, who created the contest-winning Replicape 3D printer-enabling add-on board and a tiny HDMI display for use with BeagleBone Black, and Charles Steinkuehler, who has created the MachineKit software image containing LinuxCNC and Xenomi real-time Linux kernel. Both Elias and Charles have been steady contributors to the project of late and have helped enable several of the improvements making BeagleBone Black a complete and easy to use solution for all sorts of makers.

As of the recent June 20th software release for BeagleBone Black, significant improvements have been made since launch. Monitor support is greatly improved with better automated resolution setting and a documented process for setting specific resolutions over the command-line or at boot-up, including resolutions up to 1920x1080 at 24fps. The node.js-based BoneScript library, used in such fun things as multi-room physically interactive video games, has several bug fixes and a growing body of interactive wiring examples that work within Chrome and Firefox browsers. Support for the on-board 32-bit microcontrollers called PRUs has been improved with an updated assembler and documentation supporting previously undocumented instructions, including multipliers, and hints have been made at a C compiler being developed, including Pantelis Antoniou's example of using the PRU C compiler to add 32 additional channels of pulse-width modulation (PWM). The value of aggressively chasing the mainline kernel is also being shown with simple command-line statements for enabling UARTs, SPI, I2C, CAN and more peripherals, including improved cape add-on board support.

With an amazing community, stand-out performance and capability, a true open hardware approach that is sustainably profitable but not greedy, continuous demonstrated improvements and a focus on educating aspiring engineers and hobbyists alike, BeagleBoard.org has proven to be a DIY force with which to reckon and an inspiration for makers everywhere. Happy Birthday Boris!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

BeagleBoard.org GSoC 2013 update

In the last blog post, the students and mentors were introduced and links were given to the projects.  The Minix I2C project shared a video for the last post and has progressed as far as pushing initial I2C support into the Minix mainline. A couple of the other students have now provided some videos describing their projects.

First, the Beagle-ROS project...

...and now a bit on the project to add IIO support to the Linux mainline for the BeagleBone Black ADC...

The Userspace Arduino project has also made some excellent progress, demonstrating running Arduino sketches on BeagleBone Black...


The BeagleBoard Android Boot project has also produced successful bootloading from a Nexus phone.

Friday, June 14, 2013

BeagleBoard.org Google Summer of Code 2013 -- coding starts this Monday, June 17

BeagleBoard.org is just about to kick-off coding on our second time as a mentoring organization for Google Summer of Code. This is an amazing program that pays students for writing open source software over Summer. Seven (7) students will be participating in projects that advance the state of open source software for Beagle users and will earn them each US$5,000 if they are successful. Twenty-three (23) qualified mentors from the BeagleBoard.org community have volunteered to help the students reach their goals.

Each project has a page on BeagleBoard.org giving a bit of a description of the project linked in the table below. Each of those pages in turn links to blogs where the students will update the BeagleBoard.org community on their progress. Most of the daily collaboration will be happening on the #beagle-gsoc IRC channel, including weekly status meetings, which are all being logged. The nicknames of each student and mentor are included in square brackets in the table below, so you can contact them with any feedback you might have. You might also choose to join the BeagleBoard-GSoC Google Group for related announcements and additional technical discussion on the projects.

Each of the projects is rather interesting and you'll be able to read more about them here in the weeks to come. Scroll past the table below for a video describing one of the projects, the development of I2C drivers for the Minix operating system.

Project Student Mentors (* = primary)
Minix I2C drivers for the BeagleBone Black Thomas Cort (Heritage College in Canada) [tcort] Kees Jongenburger* [keesj], Ben Gras [beng-nl], Frans Meulenbroeks [effem]
Arduino for userspace Linux Anuj Deshpande (Pune Institute of Computer Technology in India) [hatguy_] and Parav Nagarsheth (Nirma University in India) [anujdeshpande] David Anders* [prpplague], Matt Porter [mdp], Andrew Bradford [bradfa], Luis Gustavo Lira [lglira]
Android-based boot system Vlad Victor Ungureanu (Jacobs University Bremen in Germany) [vvu] Vladimir Pantelic* [av500], Tom King [ka6sox], Kees Jongenburger [keesj]
Software Defined Peripherals: JTAG/Debug via PRU Jon Bailey (University of Waterloo in Canada) [jj2baile] Tom King* [ka6sox], Andrew Bradford [bradfa], Pantelis Antoniou [panto], Hunyue Yau [ds2], Matt Ranostay [mranostay]
IIO, ADC, PMIC, LCD debug/patchwork Zubair Lutfullah Kakakhel (University of Leeds in UK) [ZubairLK] Greg Kroah-Hartman* [gregkh], Koen Kooi [koen], Vladimir Pantelic [av500], Tom Rini [Tartarus], Laine Walker-Avina [Ceriand]
Beagle-ROS Víctor Mayoral Vilches (Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Spain) [vmayoral] Koen Kooi* [koen], Khem Raj [khem]

One of the students has already posted a video describing their project and all of the students will eventually provide video presentations of their projects, so stay tuned if you want to be video-spoon-fed.

Thanks to Thomas for providing that video. Of course, there are several other individuals involved in supporting this year's Summer of Code, including, but certainly not limited to:
Our mentors-at-large: Derek Molloy (general BeagleBone) [molloyd], Mans Rullgard (ARM) [mru], Karim Yaghmour (Android), Russ Dill [Russ], Jason Kridner (BeagleBoard.org GSoC administrator) [jkridner] and
Our backup administrator (and all around amazing person): Cathy Wicks [cwicks].

Thanks to everyone for their participation and support. Looking forward to an amazing Summer!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

BeagleBone Black was a huge hit at Maker Faire!

I'm on my way home from Maker Faire and I am still in awe that Beagles where everywhere! Clearly, BeagleBone Black is quickly becoming the embedded computer of choice for makers of all types. To start, BeagleBone is on the cover of Make Magazine and the huge banners of the magazine cover at the show. Within the enclosure of the OpenROV open hardware underwater remotely operated vehicle kit and ocean exploring project, you can just make out the outline of an included BeagleBone!

Above on the left is the cover of Make Magazine and on the right is Eric Stackpole sharing
with a young explorer at the show what the OpenROV community has made.

Back on land, one of the physically largest, or at least tallest, exhibits at the show is also driven by BeagleBone. Benjamin James of coolneon.com about his BeagleBone based LED wall.  The wall consists of over 1,000 LEDs fed by an SPI serial port from BeagleBone.  BeagleBone is also performing animations and he even has a massive scale Tetris implementation written by Christopher De Vries where kids share the controls and need to cooperate to succeed.  He's also got a mode that uses another computer connected to a Kinect camera to feed information to the BeagleBone such that the LED wall can be "conducted" as if in a concert.  Benjamin is a huge BeagleBone fan looking to bundle up his LEDs and BeagleBone-based controller so that anybody can make some incredible light displays.

Above on the left is a picture of the BeagleBone-based LED exhibit to the left of a full concert stage. On the right is an interview I did with the maker, Benjamin James.

Benjamin wasn't the only one showing off LED lighting solutions using BeagleBone and sharing source.  Paul Stoffregen of DorkbotPDX out of Portland, Oregon has a BeagleBone Black based LED display solution fed by stomp pads connected to his affordable Teensy microcontroller modules, a webcam and his open source software.  Openness and performance were huge factors for Paul as he tried using another popular low cost computer and found it was dropping frames. That non-Beagle computer simply didn't have the performance he needed and he found it dropping frames---all problems that went away using BeagleBone.  Another factor for his choice is the consistent build quality he's found using boards from Circuitco and BeagleBoard.org.  He did much of his development on his laptop computer and was able to move his code over to Beagle without any hassles in about half-a-day.  He also notes that BeagleBone Black ships with the video-4-linux (V4L) drivers that enabled easy use of a webcam to drive his LED array.  You can read more about his experience on his dorkbotpdx blog post about getting ready for this event.

Above is a quick interview I did with Paul Stoffregen about his BeagleBone Black based LED display.  

I was able to grab a couple of other quick interviews with BeagleBone Black users at Maker Faire, including Marcus Schappi of Ninja Blocks and Edouard Lafargue who built a model train exhibit.  Both of these users are running Ubuntu, perhaps the most popular desktop Linux distribution, on BeagleBone Black (as opposed to the Angstrom Distribution image shipped with the boards).  Because BeagleBone Black runs armv7 instructions, it can run the latest Ubuntu builds for ARM.  Both of these projects are focused on connecting sensors and controls to a web interface. There are great community write-ups on getting Ubuntu installed on BeagleBone Black.

On the left is an introduction to Ninja Blocks. In the middle is a quick interview I did with Marcus Schappi of Ninja Blocks at Maker Faire. On the right, Edouard Lafargue shows off his BeagleBone Black based web controlled train.

In addition to the ability to run Ubuntu, Edouard chose to use BeagleBone Black thanks to the project's true open nature including an open hardware design where he can get all of the design materials and documentation, and not need to use any closed binary blobs to boot his hardware. Porting his application from his Mac to his BeagleBone Black was simply taking only about half a day.

I spent much of my time at Maker Faire running around with my BeagleStache moustache camera running OpenCV.  Below is a quick stache tweet I captured of Brian Jepson in the Maker Shed.  While I was there, I also checked out the stock of BeagleBone Black.  They didn't put out the BeagleBone Black boards until Sunday, but that didn't keep them from selling out before I managed to get back again.  They also had a kit I haven't seen on-line yet that was $65 and included a pre-release preview of Matt Richardson's book "Getting Started with BeagleBone: Linux-Powered Electronic Projects With Python and JavaScript" and several other goodies including multiple breadboards and LEDs.  The kits sold out as well.

I had many great discussions with other people showing me their BeagleBoard.org related projects including stuff they had now and stuff they were creating.  A tremendous thanks to Hunyue Yau for doing so much to educate people about BeagleBoard.org with his BeagleBone-based ProtoBone Android tablet prototype. Hunyue focused his booth on BeagleBoard.org activities and answered question after question after question about BeagleBoard.org and BeagleBone. He was also kind enough to share his space with a couple of volunteers from Ansync Automation, Sam Miller and Tom, who partnered up with Uncanny Vision to demonstrate a BeagleBone-based robot using Ansync's motor controllers and Uncanny Vision's UncannyCV. They created a really cool and powerful color tracking robot that gave dozens of aspiring young makers joy in following them around on the expo floor and making its R2-D2 sound effects.

Above on the left is Hunyue Yau's ProtoBone BeagleBone-based Android tablet prototype. On the right is a video of Tom describing the Ansync BeagleBot.

Another huge thanks goes to Drew Fustini, who frequently played host to Jessica and I, introducing us to many of the great makers that he knows and bringing the whole Texas Instruments crew out to Jeri Ellsworth's Bring-a-hack event. Drew brought a hack he got from the BeagleBoard.org community: an RF spectrum analyzer running on BeagleBone Black with a USB connected $25 receiver.

Above on the left is Drew Fustini. In the middle is a picture he took of the TIers going to Jeri's Bring-a-hack event.  On the right is the RF spectrum analyzer Drew demonstrated at the event.

The whole experience was once in a lifetime and I never want to miss another Maker Faire. If you've ever thought about making something, anything, I really, really encourage you to register your idea on beagleboard.org/project, tell people about it on Google+ and the BeagleBoard.org Google Group getting their collaboration as needed, then propose it to one or more of the upcoming US Maker Faires or even the inaugural Maker Faire Europe in Rome still accepting applications until June 2nd.  Happy Beagling!

Monday, February 25, 2013

BeagleBoard.org at ELC and SCaLE

It has been a big week for BeagleBoard.org. The next generation BeagleBone has been teased with a page open for registering interest. Matt Richardson created a teaser video and I showed off the board at ELC connected to an Motorola Lapdock to act as a monitor, keyboard, mouse and power supply. Victor Meyerson was also letting people know about the next-generation BeagleBone and provided BeagleWall, Motorola Lapdock and other demonstrations at SCaLE 11x where he was selected as the "Most passionate .org booth!"

Here's Matt's video about the upcoming BeagleBone:

Here are some pictures that Victor took at SCaLE showing the BeagleBoard.org booth with BeagleWall and Motorola Lapdock demos. The second picture shows a USB touchscreen connected to a BeagleBone using upstream kernel drivers for both the display (displaylink) and touch (e2i) portions as well as Xorg drivers provided by xf86-video-fbdev. Thanks again Victor (calculus on #beagle)!

Now is a great time for BeagleBoard.org and a great time to get involved. I am looking for more contributors to:

Join us at http://beagleboard.org/discuss and get involved today! I'll be posting requests for contributions to our Google Summer of Code ideas page soon.

Update: I corrected the blog post to say "most passionate" not "favorite" and added the link provided by Russ Dill.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

BeagleBone and Linux seeking cure to hardware black magic

Embedded Linux Conference Europe (ELC-E) 2012 wrapped up last week in Barcelona. By far, the most popular embedded platform of choice for demonstrations was BeagleBone. Here are four examples that include links to the slides taken from the eLinux wiki ELC-E presentation page. Videos of the presentations should be available from Free Electrons soon.

Matt Ranostay opened up the presentations with "Beaglebone: The Perfect Telemetry Platform?" where he explored various telemetry applications such as weather stations, radiation monitors, earthquake detection mesh networks, home security systems and entropy pool generation. He discussed sharing data with tools like COSM and the hardware and software he developed for his own Geiger Cape plug-in board.

Alan Ott of Signal 11 Software followed up with an excellent overview of "Wireless Networking with IEEE 802.15.4 and 6LoWPAN". Alan discussed the power consumption of various wireless communications technologies, security and much more, including what is supported in Linux. Alan wrapped up with a demo using BeagleBone and an ultrasonic range finder. Dave Anders snapped a picture of the Altoids-tin encased demo.

Matt Porter of Texas Instruments stepped away from sensors and controls bringing back the Commodore 64 demoscene with "What's Old Is New: A 6502-based Remote Processor". While this might seem like a bit of a throw-back, many modern issues and solutions were explored to give us this taste of the past, including the Linux remoteproc/virtio interfaces to remote processors, the AM335x PRUSS processor that is extremely adept at bit-banging and the Fritzing design tool.  Matt has also shared a picture of his wiring handy-work.

Finally, Koen Kooi of CircuitCo presented on one of the fundamental BeagleBone challenges, "Supporting 200 Different Expansionboards: The Broken Promise of Devicetree". If you frequent #beagle, you probably already know that Koen isn't easy to please and so the title shouldn't be much of a surprise. You might then be surprised to note on the first slide where "broken" has been scratched out! We certainly aren't there yet, but the device tree maintainers and AM335x kernel developers are starting to address the unique opportunities around BeagleBone cape expansion boards in the mainline Linux kernel, making a reality out of the dream of supporting hundreds of boards with a single kernel distributed ahead of the add-ons!

The continued enthusiasm of the embedded Linux community is just one element of what makes BeagleBoard.org successful, but it probably makes me happier than any other. With many of these developers moving the state of the Linux kernel ahead and even looking at sharing their hardware ideas in the BeagleBone Cape Plug-in Board Design Contest, I see a bright future where the largest collaborative software project of all time fully embraces the hardware and maker communities such that we can build a world where individuals and even children can reproduce electronics and computers down to the circuit level, not simply build on black magic.