BeagleBones At MRRF

[Jason Kridner] – the BeagleBone guy – headed out to the Midwest RepRap Festival this weekend. There are a lot of single board computers out there, but the BeagleBoard and Bone are perfectly suited for controlling printers, and motion control systems thanks to the real-time PRUs on board. It’s not the board for you if you want to play retro video games or build a media center; it’s the board for building stuff.

Of interest at the BeagleBooth were a few capes specifically designed for CNC and 3D printing work. There was the CRAMPS, a clone of the very popular RAMPS 3D printer electronics board made for the Beagle. If you’re trying to control an old mill that is only controllable through a parallel port, here’s the board for you. There are 3D printer boards with absurd layouts that work well as both printer controller boards and the reason why you should never come up with the name of something before you build it.

[Jason]’s trip out to MRRF wasn’t only about extolling the virtues of PRUs; Machinekit, a great motion control software, was also there, running on a few Beagles. The printer at the BeagleBooth was running Machinekit and apart from a few lines of GCode that sent the head crashing into the part, everything was working great.

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BeagleSNES for Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, NES, and – yes – SNES

By far the most common use for the Raspberry Pi is shoving a few dozen emulators on an SD card and calling it a day. Everybody’s got to start somewhere, right? There are other tiny, credit card-sized Linux boards out there, and [Andrew] is bringing the same functionality of the Raspi to the BeagleBone Black and BeagleBoard with BeagleSNES, an emulator for all the sane pre-N64 consoles.

BeagleSNES started as a class project in embedded system design, but the performance of simply porting SNES9X wasn’t very good by default. [Andrew] ended up hacking the bootloader and kernel, profiling the emulator, and slowly over the course of three years of development making this the best emulator possible.

After a few months of development, [Andrew] recently released a new version of BeagleSNES that includes OpenGL ES, native gamepad support through the BeagleBone’s PRU, and support for all the older Nintendo consoles and portables. Video demos below.

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Turn your BeagleBoneBlack in to a 14-channel, 100Msps Logic Analyzer

The BeagleBoneBlack is a SoC of choice for many hackers – and quite rightly so – given its powerful features. [abhishek] is majoring in E&E from IIT-Kharagpur, India and in 2014 applied for a project at via the Google Summer of Code project (GSoC). His project, BeagleLogic aims to realize a logic analyzer using the Programmable Real-Time units on board the AM335X SoC family that powers the BeagleBone and the BeagleBone Black.

The project helps create bindings of the PRU with sigrok, and also provides a web-based front-end so that the logic analyzer can be accessed in much the same way as one would use the Cloud9 IDE on the BeagleBone/BeagleBone Black to create a new application with BoneScript.

Besides it’s obvious use as a debugging tool, the logic analyzer can also be a learning tool that can be used to understand digital signals. BeagleLogic turns the BeagleBone Black into a 14-channel, 100Msps Logic Analyzer. Once loaded, it presents itself as a character device node /dev/beaglelogic. In stand-alone mode, it can do binary captures without any special client software. And when used in conjunction with the sigrok library, BeagleLogic supports software triggers and decoding for over 30 different digital protocols.

The analyzer can sample signals from 10Hz upto 100MHz, in 8 or 16 bits and up to a maximum of 14 channels. Sample depth depends on free RAM, and upto 320MB can be reserved for BeagleLogic. There’s also a web interface, which, once installed on the BeagleBone, can be accessed from port 4000 and can be used for low-volume captures (up to 3K samples).

[abhishek] recently added the BeagleLogic Cape which can be used to debug logic circuits up to 5V safely. Source files for BeagleLogic as well as the Cape are available via his github repos. [abhishek] blogged about his project on his website where there’s a lot more information and links to be found. Catch a video of BeagleLogic 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 shown off in the video.

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Yo Fish, We Pimped Your Tank


[Studio Diip] a machine vision company based in The Netherlands has created fish on wheels, a robotic car controlled by a goldfish. The idea of giving fish mobility on land is nothing new, but this definitely is a novel implementation. A Logitech 9X0 series camera captures overhead images of the fish tank. The images are then fed into a BeagleBoard XM, where they are processed. The image is thresholded, then a centroid of the fish-blob is determined. With the current and previous blob locations known, the BeagleBoard can determine the fish’s swim direction. It then and commands the chassis to drive accordingly.

The system appears to work pretty well on the video, however we’re not sure how much of the input is due to the fish swimming, and how much is due to the water sloshing and pushing the fish around. We definitely like the chrome rims and knobby tires on the fishes’ pimped out ride.  This could become a trend. Just make sure no animals or humans are hurt, and send your animal powered hacks to our tip line!

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Tre: When Arduino Meets Beagle Bone

Although yesterday saw the announcement of an x86-based Arduino powered by an Intel chip. This may have not been the big story to come from [Massimo] at Maker Faire Rome. Announced along with the x86 Arduino Galileo was the Arduino TRE, a collaboration between Arduino and the BeagleBoard foundation.

The TRE is really two Arduinos in one: in the center is basically an Arduino Leonardo with the standard Arduino headers and an ATmega32u4. Elsewhere on the board is a TI Sitara ARM Cortex A-8 processor running at 1GHz with 512 MB of RAM, 10/100 Ethernet, HDMI out, USB host and device ports, and a bunch of connectors intended for an LCD and a ZigBee.

There is, of course, the obvious comparison between the TRE and Raspberry Pi. Hardware-wise, the TRE is very close to the BeagleBone Black, a bit more powerful than the Raspberry Pi, and able to do some very cool stuff (i.e. OpenCV) the Pi just can’t handle.

There is – I think – no official price for the Arduino TRE quite yet. It will be available in spring, 2014, though. You can check out all the press release photos in the gallery below.

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USB sniffing with the BeagleBoard-xM


[Matlo] wrote in to share his USB sniffing project using the BeagleBoard-xM. It builds on the Google Summer of Code project from 2010 that used the non-xM version of the hardware to build a pass through USB sniffer. [Matlo] couldn’t get it to work back then, but recently revisited the project. He’s cleaned up some scripts and generally made it a bit easier for others to pull off as well.

The ARM-based BeagleBoard seen above acts as man-in-the-middle. You connect your target USB device to the board and the board to a computer. The board emulates the target device, passing packets in either direction while also logging them. The captured data is in the correct format for display using WireShark, the de facto standard for making sense of captured communication packets.

This is great for figuring out how to use USB devices on non-standard systems, or vice versa.