Library upgrade to PRU gives Fast IO on Beaglebone

The BeagleBone Black has a powerful featureset: decent clock speed, analog inputs, multiple UART, SPI and I2C channels and on-board memory, to name a few. One missing feature seems to be the lack of support for the two on-board Programmable Real-time Units (PRU’s). Each of these 32-bit processors run independently of the main processor, but are able to interface with the main processor through the use of shared RAM and some interrupts. Unfortunately, PRU’s are not supported and in the absence of information, difficult to program. Enabling the PRU’s will allow them direct access to external sensors via the GPIO pins, for example. Perhaps most enticing is the idea that the PRU’s add real-time processing capability to the BBB.

[Thomas Freiherr] is working on the libpruio project to allow PRU support on the BBB. It is “designed for easy configuration and data handling at high speed. libpruio software runs on the host (ARM) and in parallel on a Programmable Realtime Unit SubSystem (= PRUSS or just PRU) and controls the subsystems”. Additional information about the project is available on the libpruio wiki, and files can be downloaded from here (German Page).

This paper presented at inter.noise2014 (PDF) a couple of months ago has a nice comparison of various small computer/controller boards and outlines the advantages of the BBB once its PRUs are enabled. If readers come across applications of the BBB with PRUs enabled, let us know in the comments. If you want to work your way into the world of the PRU we highly recommend this tutorial series.

Thanks for sending in the tip, [Patrick]

[Image Source: libpruio stepper motor example]

Passion Project Turns BeagleBone into Standalone Super NES

So you want to play some retro games on your BeagleBone, just load up Linux and start your favorite emulator right? Not if you’re serious about it. [Andrew Henderson] started down this path with the BeagleBoard-xM (predecessor of the BeagleBone Black) and discovered that the performance with Snes9X wasn’t quite what he had in mind. He got the itch and created a full-blown distro called BeagleSNES which includes bootloader and kernel hacks for better peformance, a custom GUI, and is in the process of developing hardware for the embedded gaming rig. Check out the documentation that goes along with the project (PDF); it’s a blueprint for how open source project guides should be presented!

The hardware he’s currently working on is a Cape (what add-on boards for the BBB are called) that adds connectors for original Nintendo and Super Nintendo controllers. It also includes an RTC which will stand in for the real-time clock features included in some cartridges (Pokemon Yellow). Also in the works is a 3D printed enclosure which would turn it into a portable, something like this other BBB portable hack.

Check out a demo of what BeagleSNES can do in the video after the break.

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Talking BeagleBoard with [Jason Kridner]

[Jason Kridner] is a member of the i3 Detroit hackerspace and during the Hackaday meet-up we were able to spend a few minutes talking about what’s going on with BeagleBoard right now. For those of you that don’t know, BeagleBoard is a non-profit foundation which guides the open hardware initiative of the same name. This includes BeagleBone which is the third iteration of the platform. [Jason’s] a good guy to talk to about this as he co-founded the organization and has been the driving force in the community ever since.

Right now the organization is participating in the Google Summer of Code. This initiative allows students to propose open source coding projects which will help move the community forward. Students with accepted proposals were paired with mentors and are paid for the quality code which is produced. One of the projects this year is a 100 Megahertz, 14-channel Logic Analyzer which [Jason] is waving around in the video. It’s the GSoC project of [Kumar Abhishek] and you can learn more from his proposal.

Also of interest in the video is a discussion about the power of the BeagleBone’s PRUs, or Programmable Real-Time Units. They’re basically unused microcontrollers that have direct access to a lot of the processor’s features and are just waiting for you to bend them to your will. Having these is a huge boon for hardware hackers. If you haven’t played with them before, check out our earlier article on what PRUs are all about and then give it a whirl yourself.

After the break there’s a brief table of contents which maps the topics in the video above.

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CNC Zen Garden


Meet the second version of [David’s] sand manicuring CNC machine. We saw version one about six months ago which he built for a science museum in Canada. This offering is much the same, except for the controller. The initial version demanded a full-blow computer to drive it but now that has been swapped out in favor of a Beaglebone Black.

The software has no feedback on the position of the plotter, which is an aluminum slug that [David] machined at Calgary Protospace. It needs to be in a specific position when the machine starts out, and from there patterns are traced by calculating how much spooling or unspooling of the four strings will move the slug.

There’s a bunch of other really neat art installations and projects on [David’s] webpage, it’s worth clicking through!

Reminder: Santa-Pede challenge ending soon

This is just a friendly reminder that our Santa-Pede challenge will be ending soon. Please send your submissions to us by emailing them to or by posting them in the projects section of our forum (did we mention we have a forum now?) by the end of January to be considered. We don’t care how silly, stupid, simple,or slick it is, just send it to us! We have some fun prizes from Adafruit and Make and even have [Phillip Torrone] as a judge. Get those submissions in ASAP.

Santa-Pede Challenge: Take Two

We are going to give the Santa-Pede Challenge another try. This time, you have till the end of January to do something (make it walk/crawl/scoot) with a dancing santa (or dancing musical holiday toy).  As you can see in my example, it doesn’t have to be complicated or efficient in any way.

Here are some issues and questions we would like to address:

1. Many of you suggested a banner of some type to remind you.
Great idea, we were waiting for some other features to be added, but we’ve just gone ahead and popped them in. You can see the featured items at the top of the right hand column.

2. Some pointed out that the “Buy Break Build” title isn’t very hack-ish since we often preach up-cycling.
yeah, we really think you should find these santas anywhere. The alliteration is fun though isn’t it?

You can get all the rules by going to the original post. Just note that the last date for entries will be January 31.

Santa-pede Challenge: the conclusion

At the end of October we announced the Buy, Break, Build series kick off with “The Santa-pede Challenge“.  The goal was to get your hands on one of those annoying dancing santas, tear it apart, then use its parts to build something that walks. We got our hands on some cool prizes and even got [Phillip Torrone] to be a guest judge. Join us after the break to see just what we came up with and maybe have a few laughs.

Continue reading “Santa-pede Challenge: the conclusion”