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Hands-on with the BeagleBone Black, a 32-bit Micro Computer - Setup and Use

Hands-on with the BeagleBone Black, a 32-bit Micro Computer

The BeagleBone Black is the latest development board to hit the Maker / DIY scene and packs one heck of a punch in terms of hardware.

| Development Boards in Maker & DIY | Posted: Nov 16, 2013 6:14 pm

Setup and Use

 

Getting started using the BeagleBone Black is much easier than any other development board that I have ever used. Getting up and running is as simple as following three easy steps.

 

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Step 1: Plug in a USB cable to the device. This will power up the board and once it runs through its boot process, you'll see the PWR LED steadily lit. Within 10 seconds, you should see the other LED's blinking in their default configurations. If everything looks to be in order, then you can move on to the next step.

 

  • USR0 is configured at boot to blink in a heartbeat pattern.
  • USR1 is configured at boot to light during microSD card accesses.
  • USR2 is configured at boot to light during CPU activity.
  • USR3 is configured at boot to light during eMMC accesses.

 

TweakTown image content/5/8/5881_12_hands_on_with_the_beaglebone_black_a_32_bit_micro_computer.jpg

 

Step 2: Install the needed drivers. Head over to this link to download the correct drivers for your operating system. Currently support for Windows X86 and X64, Mac OS X and Linux is available, which makes the BeagleBone Black a true cross compatible development board. In the event you need FTDI USB to JTAG drivers, you can find them here. Likewise, USB to virtual Ethernet drivers for Linux can be found here and here.

 

TweakTown image content/5/8/5881_13_hands_on_with_the_beaglebone_black_a_32_bit_micro_computer.jpg

 

Step 3: Use your PC's browser to browse your BeagleBone Black. Using either Chrome or Firefox, you will need to navigate to http://192.168.7.2. This will load BeagleBone 101, the internal user interface for your BeagleBone Black. Unfortunately, this interface is only reachable using Chrome or Firefox, as Internet Explorer has issues with USB virtual Ethernet connections. Look on the bright side though, this is a perfect reason to ditch Internet Explorer, forever. :)

 

Once you are in the interface, you can get started setting the GPIO pins to do things, you could jump into turning the Black into a web server, or any number of things depending on your skill set and imagination. One of the coolest features of the BeagleBone Black is its ability to run what are known as BoneScripts. These consist of a JavaScript library to simplify learning how to perform physical computing tasks using your embedded Linux. This means that anyone familiar with Arduino can take a Black and begin programming it to do low-level functions right away.

 

TweakTown image content/5/8/5881_14_hands_on_with_the_beaglebone_black_a_32_bit_micro_computer.jpg

 

The BoneScript library runs in Node.js. You can run it directly on the board using the 'node' interpreter or the Cloud9 IDE that invokes the 'node' interpreter. You can also run it using the bonescript.js script within your browser via remote procedure calls using Socket.io and served up by the web server running on your BeagleBoard. Access to the library functions is provided through the "require('bonescript')" function call. The call returns an object containing all of the functions and constants exported by the library. The Node.js API documentation on modules provides more information on the usage of 'require' within the 'node' interpreter.

 

TweakTown image content/5/8/5881_15_hands_on_with_the_beaglebone_black_a_32_bit_micro_computer.jpg

 

For those of you unfamiliar with the Cloud9 IDE, it is an online development environment for JavaScript and Node.js applications as well as HTML, CSS, PHP, Java, Ruby and 23 other languages, and can connect directly to the BeagleBone Black to edit, configure, and test code live. Cloud9 IDE is free for basic use, and is fully featured at the free level, though those needing additional advanced features can purchase a subscription to the service for $12 per month.

 

The free version is more than enough for a single BeagleBone Black. Cloud9 IDE also features easy-to-use plugins for the most popular repository services on the internet including Github, Bitbucket, Windows Azure, Open Shift, and more.

 

 

The BoneScript Library provides several functions that are useful for interacting with your hardware.

 

Digital I/O

  • getPlatform()
  • pinMode()
  • getPinMode()
  • digitalWrite()
  • digitalRead()
  • attachInterrupt()
  • detatchInterrupt()

 

Analog I/O

  • analogWrite()
  • analogRead()

 

File I/O

  • readTextFile()
  • writeTextFile()

 

You can quickly test this functionality by running the following Bone Script on the BeagleBone 101 page.

 

var b = require('bonescript');

b.pinMode('USR0', b.OUTPUT);

b.pinMode('USR1', b.OUTPUT);

b.pinMode('USR2', b.OUTPUT);

b.pinMode('USR3', b.OUTPUT);

b.digitalWrite('USR0', b.HIGH);

b.digitalWrite('USR1', b.HIGH);

b.digitalWrite('USR2', b.HIGH);

b.digitalWrite('USR3', b.HIGH);

setTimeout(restore, 2000);

 

I am going to limit my coding for this review, but if you would like to see further examples, tutorials, or information on the BeagleBone Black, please do not hesitate to let me know via a comment on this article, or by emailing me directly.

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