Say Hello To Our Little Friend, The BeagleBone

Small and more powerful… what more can you want? This is the newest BeagleBoard offering, called the BeagleBone. It’s packed with some pretty intriguing features, but let’s take a tour of the hardware first.

Like its predecessors, the BeagleBone sports an ARM processor. This time around it’s a TI AM3358 ARM Cortex-A8. It will ship with a 2 GB microSD card and has an Ethernet port and USB connection. The dual pin headers on either side of the board are designed to receive ‘Capes’ for expansion. Currently a DVI cape is in the works, with HDMI and others to follow.

Linux is running on board and one of the best features we see in the video after the break is the browser-based programming interface. When connected to a network, the BeagleBone serves HTML5 web pages. One of these is an IDE that lets you write and execute code directly from your browser.

Now, can we finally have our open-hardware set top box (hopefully running XBMC)?? At an MSRP of $89 this should be able to give AppleTV 2 a run for its money as an easy way to get your television some network connectivity.


[Thanks NsN via Linux for Devices]

57 thoughts on “Say Hello To Our Little Friend, The BeagleBone

      1. Yeah, I saw that too. Thing is, I still personally disagree. I think “capes” just sounds weird. Arduino kind of invented the concept of “shields” and the term (I think, please don’t flame me if I’m wrong), and so yeah, right now it has some implication of Arduino. However, the term shield makes a lot of sense now that its become part of the parlance, and I think that trying to get “capes” into the parlance would be more difficult than trying to change the meaning of “shield” to mean a generic shield, rather than an Arduino shield. They could avoid confusion by generally always saying “beaglebone shield” as a phrase together, since generally the alternative would be what are generally already called “arduino shields”. Its basically already a generic term, thats why it usually has “Arduino” in front of it for clarification.

    1. Means no 2mm pitch header which are hard to find and not breadboard compatible
      Means no 1.8v only i/o which requires level shifter to use 3.3v only components
      Means no 1.8v compatible JTAG

  1. I have a novel idea… Since a main board is often generically referred to as a “motherboard” what if we came up with a generic term for the add ons as well… Maybe something referencing back to “mother” like a ‘son board’ or maybe keeping in line with the female connotation (we men do kind of have a thing for females) like “daughterboard”. That’s it! Let’s call the “daughterboards”!

    1. I’d prefer the “fatherboard” expression, since you plug these in the motherboard. It is a bit less pervert than plugging a mother and a doughter. On the other hand… Naaah.

  2. This does look pretty damn cool. The easier the programming interface the better.

    Completely off topic, but to me the photo looks weird – it looks like the fingers have no nails. I’m sure that’s just the angle though.

  3. I am one of those people who collects things like these- TI Launchpad, Arduinos, Bumble B (no longer available), Dockstar, Bifferboard for various projects and tinkering. I like seeing a diversity of products for their different strengths and weaknesses- ethernet, IOs, peripherals, power consumption, etc. This board looks interesting but I am going to put all further microcontroller purchases on hold until the Raspberry Pi comes out. I think the Pi has the potential to dominate the upper end of these project boards and it is hard to beat the price.

  4. It would be nice if instead of only 3.3V, some microcontrollers could handle up to 24V. I know Ruggeduinos can handle 24 VDC on their input pins (which makes interfacing with nearly anything industrial quite a bit easier) although the allowed current draw is still quite limited. Plus, they don’t have a Mega version as of yet.

    1. 24V is industry standard but so is optically isolated I/O as well with 10 kV isolation or so. And low resistance on inputs to get at least a few milliamps through the wire.

      I’m not sure it would be possible/practical to fit that on the microcontroller.

    2. this thing is a 700 MHz arm on something like a 40nm process. I believe the core is 1.2V or less. I’m surprised they bent over backwards to do 3.3V I/O. OMAP and friends are generally 1.8V.

      Hooking something with a 1V core direct to 24V industrial I/O is asking for trouble IMHO.

  5. “At an MSRP of $89 this should be able to give AppleTV 2 a run for its money as an easy way to get your television some network connectivity.”

    There’s next to nothing on it – a processor with some storage and ethernet/usb interfaces how the hell is it going to give the AppleTV 2 a ‘run for it’s money’ ?

    Lets see now an hdmi ‘cape’ hopefully with audio out for those folks who prefer their sound in 5.1, a psu, an enclosure….oh look that $89 just turned into $189 !

    It’ll be able to give the AppleTV2 a run for it’s money for several reasons but it’s price will not be one of them.

  6. It is basically a 1 GHZ microcontroller with Linux Bootloader to make microcontrollers easy. It has an SD card and plenty of I/O and looks like it will work as a single board computer too.

    It is time for Arduino users to grow up and use something like this with video.

    If you look at the original Beagleboard, a lot of the work is already done and look at what it has.

    1. Well, most Arduino-fans use it to blink leds, so I don’t see why they should migrate to an embedded Linux board…

      Actually, I use Arduinos, Teensy++ 2.0 and Mini2440 but each has its advantages and for example, I won’t use Mini2440 to interface a Genesis pad to the PC. Teensy is just fine for that

  7. Can someone tell me why this is so much better than the Raspberry Pi, which is being release soon? Both have a clock speed of around 700MHz. R.Pi has 256Mb ram, and I think beaglebone has around 512Mb. Are the differences enough to necessitate triple the price for the beaglebone? Sure the Beaglebone has breakouts, but that’s about all I see extra.

    1. There is no better or worse, it’s more of an application thing.

      The Beaglebone’s primary market seems to be the hacker/maker, while Raspberry PI is targeting low cost computer. I suspect though, as usual the hackers/makers will bend what they have to fit. As the R-Pi is less than half the price, I know which way I will be jumping, as ignoring some of R-PI features costs less than adding to the BeagleBone.

      If you are looking to develop a mass produced product the Beaglebone design is easily reproduced when compared to the R-Pi. If Beagle could have added real POE or Wi-Fi for under the price of a USB dongle they could have an alternative product.

      Unfortunately price (over quality a lot of the time) or brand rules and I’m not sure Beagle fits into either camp. If I were at camp Beagle, for the last couple of months I would have been looking to offer what R-Pi cannot.

    2. Because unlike the RPi, it’s open hardware.

      Traditionally, all schematics from the BeagleBoard org have been available, and also, I’ve confirmed that the datasheet for the TI AM3358 is readily available – it took me 10 seconds to find it. TI is usually VERY good about providing hardware documentation.

      The BCM2835 in the Pi – Basically good luck getting the datasheet unless you’re a megacorporation or an ex-employee like Eben of the RPi project is.

      Also, as others have said, clock-for-clock, the Cortex-A8 is quite a lot more powerful than the ARM11 of the BCM2835.

      The 1.27mm header for the GPIOs and SPI of the Pi will be a LOT harder to work with than the dual single-row 0.1″ headers of the BeagleBone.

      So in short – if you want a cheapo “set top box” style device, the Pi is a good choice.

      If you want to do ANY sort of embedded computing work (hardware hacking and such), go for the BeagleBone.

      This is likely going to result in my LM3S6965 dev board being permanently shelved. TI’s micros from the Luminary division are uncharacteristically (for TI) unfriendly to open-source/open-hardware due to the atrocious licensing of their helper libraries.

      1. So in short – if you want a cheapo “set top box” style device, the Pi is a good choice.

        It’s nothing like a cheapo set top box, it has been designed to be a low cost versatile PC, something that you can experiment with and can be destroyed in the process, without a huge financial cost.

        If you want to do ANY sort of embedded computing work (hardware hacking and such), go for the BeagleBone.

        Can you quantify this statement? As once you get over the learning curve (Linux on an embedded ARM device), differences in development platform is irrelevant. In fact, I will go as far to say Linux on Beagle or R-Pi has very little to do with embedded work, its closer to PC development.

      2. I can’t directly reply to JohnnyMax’s comment, so I had to hit “reply” to my own:
        “Can you quantify this statement? As once you get over the learning curve (Linux on an embedded ARM device), differences in development platform is irrelevant. In fact, I will go as far to say Linux on Beagle or R-Pi has very little to do with embedded work, its closer to PC development.”
        No, differences in platform are not irrelevant. If you want to interface with “stuff” using GPIOs/I2C/SPI/whatever, then it is a major hindrance if there are very few interfaces and they’re on a tiny 1.27mm pitch header. Also, said header becomes irrelevant if you can’t get the datasheet for the silicon controlling the I/O lines on that header.

        With the Bone – you get a full IC datasheet for the TI AM3358. With the Pi – you get NOTHING in terms of documentation for the Broadcom SoC.

      3. ditto what he said about Broadcom being a PITA on docs.

        I disagree about the headers – If you’re doing a board the 50 mil pitch isn’t that bad. I’m sure someone will do a translation board for the raspberry.

        It looks like the beaglebone is using two dual row headers which isn’t so good for breadboarding.

    1. I agree. An Intel D525 motherboard with the dual core 1.8GHz atom is like $65. There are probably cheaper ones out there as well. Add $10 for a 1GB RAM stick and $2 for a 4GB usb flash drive to boot and store data and you’re in business.

  8. Those white pcbs with black silkscreen and black components are quite sexy – I think I’m getting a beagleboner.

    Linux ARM computer with lots of I/O pins, I don’t see how this could be a bad thing. If it doesn’t bring anything new, it still is one more option to choose from.

    TI’s own AM335x Evaluation Module for that processor is $995.

  9. I dont get it, you guys will spend $89.00+ $59.00 to make a small XBMC box instead of grabbing a used Apple TV1 for $40.00, slap in a $50.00 mini pci crystalHD decoder card and blow out the OS with linux+XBMC to get a far superior device for a lot less with ZERO effort.

  10. Nifty device, but combine one ofthese sub $100 devices with the Google USB spec and you’ve got an inexpensive (and already encased) programmable device that has networking, gps, an accelerometer a touchscreen and a simple programming API.

  11. Hi guys,
    i’m wondering ,if i can remove the linux kernel inside the board and compile a new one ,i have to do that for my final year project, i must compile a linux kernel.
    thanks for your replies.

  12. Hi Guys,
    I wanted to know whether it is worth buying Beaglebone for learning(I am a novice) ARM programming and Linux kernel programming. I want to be an expert like you all. Please lend me a hand here.
    I thought I could use built-in JTAG debugging with Beaglebone to learn debugging easily with out the need for any other special hardware.(Am I correct?). Also is the CCS available freely to use with Beaglebone for JTAG debugging?

    Thank you all. Happy New Year.
    Warm regards,

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