The Tiny, $25 PocketBeagle

It was announced a day or two ago, but now the PocketBeagle has made its first real-world appearance at the World Maker Faire in New York this weekend. This is a tiny, tiny Linux computer that’s small enough to fit on a keychain, or in an Altoids mini tin. It’s only $25 USD, and from the stock lists on Mouser and Digikey, there are plenty to go around.

The specs for the PocketBeagle are more or less exactly what you would expect from any BeagleBone. There’s an ARM Cortex-A8 running at 1GHz, 512 MB of RAM, and SD card storage. I/O is eight analog inputs, up to 44 digital GPIOs, up to 3 UARTs, 2 I2C busses, 2 SPI busses, and 4 PWM outputs. All of this is packed into the OSD3358 System on a Chip from Octavo Systems.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Octavo Systems’ ‘BeagleBone on a Chip’ — Before the release, head Beagle herder [Jason Kridner] built a PocketBone in Eagle, which was shortly followed by [Michael Welling]’s similar efforts in KiCad. The PocketBeagle has been a reality for months, but now it’s accessible to hackers who don’t want to deal with soldering BGA packages.

This version of the PocketBeagle is getting close to as Open Source as you can get, with the design files available in Eagle and KiCad. One interesting feature of the PocketBeagle is which pins, busses, and peripherals are enabled by default. The killer feature of the BeagleBone has always been the PRUs — programmable real-time units — that enable vast arrays of LEDs, fast steppers for CNC machines, and DMA tomfoolery. The pins for the PRUs on the PocketBeagle are set up by default, with no need to screw around with configurations, modules, or drivers.

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Hackaday Links: April 30, 2017

This last week was SEFF, a week of electric-powered remote-controlled aircraft above 1700 feet of Bermuda grass in the middle of Georgia. [Damon Atwood] has been bringing his 16-foot-wingspan Emmaselle to SEFF for a few years now, and this year we’re getting a great video of the flight. This is, or was at one time, the 3rd largest electric RC on the planet. It’s flying on 11S, and is absolutely beautiful in the air.

Speaking of electric RC meetups, Flite Fest West is going on right now. Flite Fest East will be July 13th through the 16th. Here’s the link to the relevant YouTube channel.

One of the very inexpensive 3D printers announced at CES by Monoprice is now on sale. It’s the improved $200 Cartesian, not the $150 delta. As I saw at CES last January, this is a slight improvement over the already fantastic V1 version of this printer. Improvements include an all metal hot end (an E3D clone) and working WiFi on the main board. Still waiting on the $150 delta printer? The only thing I can tell you is that it’s coming out soon.

StippleGen is an application from Evil Mad Scientists Labs to create stippled drawings. Stippling is dots, but not halftone. [HEXceramic] is using StippleGen to create laser cut molds for making ceramic tiles. The results look awesome, and I can’t wait to see one of these fired.

Hackaday has been voted, ‘The Hacker News of Hardware‘ by the Hacker News community. I would have included this in the links post last week, but feared that would be seen as manipulating the upvote system on Hacker News. This is great, but of course you already know Hackaday is seen as a reputable source of hardware and embedded news!

As a rule, Hackaday is nonpartisan and not political at all. In fact, two of my headlines have been shot down so far this year for using the word ‘trump’ as a verb. You’re welcome. This project is too cool, so we’re going to bend a few rules. This is a Trump gummi. It’s the rarest gummi of them all. It was carved by gummi artisans who work exclusively in the medium of gummi.

[Michael Welling] designed the PocketBone Mini in KiCad. It’s built around the Octavo Systems OSD3358, and is really, really tiny while designed to be as capable as a full size BeagleBone. He’s doing an interest check to gauge the community’s interest in this tiny, tiny single board computer.

An Even Smaller BeagleBone

The BeagleBone famously fits in an Altoids tin. Even though we now have BeagleBone Blacks, Blues, and Greens, the form factor for this curiously strong Linux board has remained unchanged, and able to fit inside a project box available at every cash register on the planet. There is another Altoids tin, though. The Altoid mini tin is just over 60×40 mm, and much too small to fit a normal size BeagleBone. [Michael Welling] has designed a new BeagleBone to fit this miniature project box. He’s calling it the Pocketbone, and it’s as small as the mints are strong.

The Pocketbone is based on the Octavo Systems OSD355x family, better known as the ‘BeagleBone on a chip’. This chip features a TI AM355x ARM Cortex A8, up to 1GB of DDR3 RAM, 114 GPIOs, 6 UARTs, 2 SPIs, 2x Gigabit Ethernet, and USB. It’s housed in a relatively large BGA package that makes routing easy, and as a proof of concept [Jason Kridner] built a PocketBone in Eagle.

[Michael]’s version of the Pocketbone is based on the earlier proof of concept, with a few handy additions. There’s an IO expansion header, provisions for a battery input, a few fixes to the USB, and all the parts are on one side of the board facilitating easier assembly. This version of the Pocketbone was created using KiCad, which will endear the project to the Open Source community.