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Published on: October 15, 2013 / Comments: None

The DECbox is a beautiful DEC VT100 terminal running from a beagle bone

When you think of emulators, you probably think of old video game emulators.  Well think further back to a text based gaming society like Zork.  Before GUI’s were established most computing was done via serial terminals.  And this project pays homage to that time.  The DECbox emulates a variety of vintage terminals, wrapped in a sexy vintage enclosure.

The brains of the DECbox runs off of a beagle bone with a special cape to break out all of the UARTs the processor has into serial ports.  On the software side its running multiple versions of SimH from the The Computer History Simulation Project.

If you are into retro computing, this is a really awesome project.  Collecting numerous vintage terminals can take up a lot of space, and a lot of that old hardware is broken now.  It’s great to see the project rebirth the feel of the vintage terminal for history preservation.

DECbox project link here, more info about the software install here.

Published on: October 3, 2013 / Comments: 1

It’s an Arduino, no it’s A beagle bone, no, it’s both?

It’s the Arduino TRE.  Not unlike the previously announced Arduino YUN, a dual processor design.  The board is a Leonardo style Arduino (ATMega32u4) paired up with the same workings that make up the beagle bone black (AM335x Sitara).  Which gives you an environment suited for embedded Linux on the Sitara side, and Arduino (on the Arduino side).

Although I haven’t seen the price point, if it’s cheaper or the same price as the YUN I would prefer this setup, however I feel sort of mixed about these weird hybrid boards in general.  Everyone wants to jump on the Arduino bandwagon.  Everyone wants to jump on the Raspberry Pi bandwagon, and some people want to jump on both and produce these weird hybrid things.

In my opinion these boards create market confusion, especially to newbies.  Everyone says ‘we are Arduino compatible’ which means you can write code somewhat like an Arduino, or it has a footprint for an Arduino shield.  But what they don’t tell you is you can’t run Arduino code, or there is no library to support that Arduino shield.  What used to make the Arduino great was the fact there was tons of shields and code out there you could run.  Now that isn’t the case.  With all the new gross hybrids and incarnations you can’t simply get some code that used to work — to work.  It requires some interpretation and porting.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for cheap, powerful hardware.  But I feel that more hardware like this starts to separate the people who write code, and the people who use code.  Something like the TRE will be an awesome processor for your 3D Printer and tons of people will use it.  That’s the key word, use it.  They will download pre-compiled binary images and  eventually figure out how to get code on the eMMC and the Arduino at the same time etc.  But then when there is a bug they will rely on others to fix it or enhance it because the environment becomes more intimidating and there are less examples on how to do things.   That’s just my take.


Published on: September 11, 2013 / Comments: 1

A comprehensive comparison of embedded Linux boards

Sure you’ve heard of the Raspberry Pi, and the Beagle Bone Black… What about the PcDuino?  CubieBoard?  How about the MK802?  Well they’re all small arm core powerhouse machines running embedded Linux.  open-electronics has put together a neat comparison of all these systems.  See how they all stack up to each other.  Chipset, cpu speed, ram, storage, etc.  One takeaway from the article is the fact that none of them really conform to any standard like they do in the PC world.  So it’s important to pick the right board for your own application.


arduinovsraspberrypiIf you really are new to the game, surely you’ve heard of Arduino.  Go check out this comparison of Arduino vs Raspberry Pi first.  TLDR; Arduino: real-time, limited in some ways but quick to start;  Raspberry Pi: not real-time, very powerful but more difficult to get started.


Published on: August 18, 2013 / Comments: None

Turning the Beagle Bone Black into an Android tablet

You most likely already know that the Beagle Bone Black is a cool piece of hardware.  Well you may or may not know that you can get Android running on it.  Nikolay did a nice write-up on essentially making your own Android table.

Hardware wise you’ll need a touch screen shield, a battery, and a USB WIFI adapter.  Once you’ve compiled the Android kernel using rowboat (or just downloaded the pre-built binaries) and setup your  SD card, a little configuration is needed for the WIFI adapter and touch screen.

While probably not the cheapest or smoothest approach to gaining an Android tablet, it’s still damn cool.  Read the full article here.

Published on: August 15, 2013 / Comments: 1

Development environment setup and remote deployment for Beagle Bone Black

The Beagle Bone Black is a great embedded platform running Linux.  Sure you can download a pre-made distro and apt-get install whatever you want.  Or you can start writing your own apps (and not just python scripts either).  If you’ve never done any cross-compiling before it may be a daunting task to get up and running.

Michael has put together a really extensive guide to getting set up.  Normally you just install the right tool-chain and you are good to go, but he’s gone a step further with setting up a graphical dev environment (Eclipse) and showing you how to do remote deployment of your binaries.  This saves you the trouble of doing it manually (or even worse, rebuilding your sd-card image each time to put it on there).

Great article, check it out.

Published on: August 4, 2013 / Comments: 1

Using GPIO on the Beagle Bone Black

There’s not a lot of magic to controlling the GPIO on the Beagle Bone Black, it’s actually the same as other embedded linux boards like the Raspberry Pi.  What actually is the confusing part is knowing which pin from the header actually maps to which pin number in code.  As odd as it seems it’s not very straight forward mapping, pin 10 isn’t pin 10.  There is a GPIO interface manual you will need to consult.  After that everything is available through the sysfs interface.

If you need a refresher or want to find out more about mapping the gpio, check out this tutorial.  While you’re diggin around in the sysfs interface, there are other goodies in there such as setting pin mux and what not, but that’s another tutorial :)