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Al Williams

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Stupid Beagle Tricks, Part II

October 02, 2012

I've been working more with the BeagleBone, and I've found that it takes a little different mindset to develop with a tiny Linux system instead of a traditional microcontroller. I wrote about this back in June but I wanted to share a few other tips on Beagle development. Many of these tips will probably also apply to other small Linux boards like the Raspberry Pi or the Olimex OLinuXino (Micro and Maxi; sorry Tsevan, that's a terrible name).

My favorite trick of all is near the end of my entry from June: Use sshfs to mount the BeagleBone's file system as a local disk. Then you can use any of your normal tools on your desktop machine. I don't use Windows much, but if you do, you might try the Windows version, which seems to work, although with some quirks. I suppose you could also install Samba (just run opkg install samba from a prompt running on the BeagleBone).

One reason I really like that trick is that I can use my beloved emacs easily to edit files. However, you can install emacs on the board itself. For some reason, it doesn't show up on the Angstrom's opkg package manager, but there is a way to get a working version from an older Angstrom distribution (I found the information about this here).

You can look up the details, but the short instructions are:

wget http://www.angstrom-distribution.org/feeds/unstable/ipk/glibc/armv7a/base/emacs_22.3-r1.6_armv7a.ipk
wget http://www.angstrom-distribution.org/feeds/2011.03/ipk/glibc/armv7a/base/liblockfile_1.06-r1.6_armv7a.ipk
opkg install liblockfile_1.06-r1.6_armv7a.ipk emacs_22.3-r1.6_armv7a.ipk

That same website suggests installing xinetd and swat if you want to use Samba, by the way.

It is certainly pleasant doing simple tasks with Linux tools. You can only wonder how much lower Linux modules can go in price and at what point that will start to erode some of the market for traditional microcontrollers. If I had to create a high-volume or hard real-time system, I'm still going to lean towards a microcontroller, but for a lot of non-demanding control applications there is going to be a price where the Linux environment will win my vote over a dedicated microcontroller.

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Comments:

ubm_techweb_disqus_sso_-b51f7a869a1175412e56da18be4810cb
2012-10-14T19:09:24

Hi Rudd,

Yeah I saw it didn't have any GPIO which is strange. I was thinking about a USB I/O device like a GP3 but then that starts to negate the size and cost benefits. The Olimex board does have GPIO and I should probably grab one to play with. I'm like you though, I have a few dozen development boards laying around and only a few of them get put into real service.


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rudmerriam
2012-10-10T17:44:30

I have an APC IO. I got it because it is an Android system. Now that I have played with it I don't have anything I want it to do. LOL

There is an effort to bring up other Linux distros on the board. The main stopper has been the video drivers which are not open-sourced.

The APC does not have any general I/O capability which limits its usage as a control device. Also, no expansion capability unless you can add something via USB. Then you face the issue of getting a USB driver installed.

I have thought about using it as a TNC for packet radio, or maybe other soundcard modes.


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ubm_techweb_disqus_sso_-b51f7a869a1175412e56da18be4810cb
2012-10-07T05:46:38

Yes, I have a mini2440 sitting on my desk right now with a custom Qtopia interface doing some magic things. They are great. I think of it is a little bigger than a BeagleBone though. More like a Beagle Board but I'd prefer the Beagle if I needed the video out.

I do like the cool touchscreen on the mini2440. There are some "Raspberry Pi" "killers" coming out now that I want to review (like the Olimex and the VIA APC). Watch for more on those soon, I hope.


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ubm_techweb_disqus_sso_-4c554988e44d7a8b602e84befb972b98
2012-10-05T04:31:05

The mini2440 AKA friendlyARM, has a tactile TFT screen and sells around US$100,00 The linux kernel has already a predefined defconfig for it. You write the kernel in the board's flash memory
and you can boot a filesystem from either the boards flash or
a SD card. You can customize a system using buildroot and put in
it whatever you desire.


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