Beagle Bone Black

May 17, 2014

I have a beagle. She’s a great dog.

No, that’s not right. She’s a terrible dog.

When you look up breed information about beagles, you see “merrily stubborn” and “amiable and determined.” What that means is “thinks you are an idiot but is pleased with the opportunity to laugh at you.”

My dog thinks I’m dumb for not wanting to roll in whatever it is she just rolled in. In her world, I’m her not-so-bright straight-man, trying to make her go in boring directions instead of following her supernose. But she’s a happy-go-lucky dog, having accepted the burden of trying to teach me about the joy of squirrels.

(Seriously, she’s an awesome dog, far too intelligent, and very seldom as sad as her pictures indicate.)

And so we plug the beagle into the USB port…

Every time I think about the Beagle boards, I fall into rumination about my pet. Let’s just say, this board had best not act like my dog.

But let’s see what it does act like… Philip over at Fliptronic loaned me his Beagle Bone Black for a week or two after my twitter-whining about Sparkfun’s lack of stock got overwhelming and I finally just asked if anyone had one I could borrow. Yay Philip!

I spent some time on beagleboard.org, reading about the system. It looks sort of like an Arduino or an mbed or any number of other small processor development boards. I keep forgetting that it (and Raspberry Pi) are computers, not really embedded platforms. Certainly, it has more oomph than the computers I had in the 90s.

Now that I have one in my possession, what am I going to do with it? I don’t have an end goal but I do have a couple of things to try, mostly following along with some Adafruit Beagle Bone tutorials.

Step 1 is unbox it, then plug in the BBB to USB.  That was relatively unclimactic until I plugged the hub into my computer. Then it started signalling planes with its ridiculously bright blue LEDs. Next step, install drivers.  Clearly my beagle told them about my mental deficiencies because they’ve really made the getting started page simple.

Though, of course, it didn’t work. (I swear, computers hate me.) Everything installed ok, didn’t say I needed to reset my computer. The getting started page say to use Chrome to navigate to, which will be a network-over-USB thing. That doesn’t work. The page says older software images require ejecting the BBB as a USB drive but that gives me an error (as in “An error occurred whiled ejecting ‘Removable Disk (G:)”, thanks Microsoft. Unplugging USB doesn’t  work but it does get the flashing lights to stop.

Oh gods, the flashing lights. They make me really, really anxious. I put a sparkfun box over them but it still leaks. I thought I could deal with it but making it stop was such a huge relief.

I think the next step is to find a bigger, less light leaking box. Oh, and reboot my computer to maybe activate those drivers I installed (despite the huge warnings Microsoft put up).

 After Windows reboot

The reboot didn’t work but using the USB cable from the box did. The BBB is serving up a webpage which has little scripts I can edit and run (from the webpage). There is an IDE that runs (Cloud9 IDE) though I have to sign up (I hate signing up for things, particularly for things I don’t know if I’ll want to play with).  There is an SSH shell that doesn’t work (“This webpage has a redirect loop”) until I set the date (there is a button on the page that will do that).

Lots to do. Lots of hardware pins.

I’m torn between an dimming an LED and reading about I2C RTC so I can use the information to talk to an accelerometer or something. (I suppose I have an I2C RTC around here somewhere but I know where the accels and fuel gauges are.) I also want to update the FW build, maybe cross compile it myself so I understand all of the pieces. Oh, and I could try out Willow Garage’s robot operating system for Angstrom (the Linux variant that the BBB runs).

Oh, I2C was pretty easy. I don’t even need to know the address? What sort of black magic is this?

There is so much here. I’ll be lost for awhile.  That’s ok.