Rad1o, the CCCamp SDR badge

As a nice tradition, some events have given out badges that inspire the visitors to tinker with them, to give everybody a common thing to work on. At the CCCamp 2015 this was the Rad1o. This badge is a full Software Defined Radio on one board. As everyone present had one, the possibilities for experimentation with this advanced device were large, and there were some events that used the badge, like a beginners workshop and a foxhunt.

Picture thanks to Christoph Krichenbauer (CC BY-NC-SA)
Picture thanks to Christoph Krichenbauer (CC BY-NC-SA)

There are a lot of things to learn with this device, from soldering the optional parts, getting a casing (thanks FablabTruck), uploading firmware, configuration, to animating and more. All that is even without using it for the SDR functions.

Once you start discovering that part of the device, things like antenna’s, frequencies, modulation and more get into view, and things get really interesting. The install of the software can sometimes be a bit tricky, but once you are set-up, lots of information is available on the web, like Michael Ossmann‘s introduction course into SDR with a very similar device. Some info from others can be found here.

Since its initial use during the CCCamp its firmware has changed a lot. The stated “current release” was still REV02 from 13th of August though, and no-one was doing an update. That is why I just uploaded a REV03 “Ketchup” version of the firmware to the wiki. It is just a build of the current GitHub with one change, the change of the REV. Here are the update instructions. As this badge will be the current CCC badge for the next four years, it could get a lot of extra features in the next years. I am very interested in seeing this firmware grow better.

I would like to do a good changelog of the changes since REV02 and have some info from the Git, but I would like your help. If you have more information about what was changed in the Rad1o FW please contact me at the “info” address on this site.

Also, if you did some cool experiments or had interesting experiences with the board, please let me know.

I personally have experimented with some antennas, and will do a writeup about this later.

BeagleBone Green Part 7: Arrival!

It is real, and it’s here. The BeagleBone Green has arrived, and it looks great! Thanks to the people at SeeedStudio I already got a preview.

It's real, and it has arrived!
It’s real, and it has arrived!

Today I got a box in the mail, and inside was the BBG:

Contents of the box
Contents of the box

The box contains a clear manual, a short USB cable, and the BBGreen board itself. It looks very clean and just as well made as the BBBlack.

They also sent me some Grove modules to start experimenting with:

Also in the gift pack, 10 Grove modules.
Also in the gift pack, 10 Grove modules.

Here are some more pics of the unboxing, more will follow once I got more time to experiment, but first there is my B-day to take care of. :) Thanks for the presents!

Also I would like to congratulate the BeagleBoard.org team with the new “BeagleBone Compatible” part of the family, I hope it will grow to be used by a lot of other boards.

Go and get one for yourself here! For more info read the Wiki page, and of course all the previous posts about it on this site. Please tell me what you made with it, and be sure to post your recipe.

BeagleBone Green Part 6: Orderable Now

It finally arrived! the orderpage has more info and lists the differences between the BeagleBone Black and BeagleBone Green. It will be sold with an USB cable and a user guide. The price is indeed $39, as announced in previous posts. It’s a preorder for now, the site says: “Planned Shipment Date: Aug 20, 2015”.

They also prominently show the BeagleBone Compatible logo. I hope that program will be used by a lot of other boards. That means the official BBB images work for it, but on the wikipage there is a specialized version of the image.

BBG Overview

It was a lot of fun following the development of the device throughout this year, and I cannot wait till it arrives. Good luck and thanks to BBG and SeeedStudio! (I’m not one of the mentioned Media Highlights, but this blog is too small :) ) Don’t forget to order the I2C Hub as well, likely you are going to need it.

Update: Yay, I’m included in the Highlights :) Thanks!

BeagleBone Green Part 5: Almost there!

There is more info from SeeedStudio that the BeagleBone Green will be orderable from the 12th of August, and the price will be $39. That is a good price point if you ask me, and I hope there will be a lot of takers for it, so the Beagleboard system will grow and improve.
There also is a BBG Seeed Wikipage.

It seems on the pictures on the Seeed Promo Page that the RTC has been removed. Disappointing, but easy to work around.
The I2C hub seems to be necessary to most projects, if you’d want to avoid a full cape.

No more RTC.
No more RTC.

There is a list of supported Grove modules on the promo page, and also a all of modules from the Grove Starter Kit for Arduino are supported:

From the Starter Kit:
Grove – LCD RGB Backlight
Grove – Relay
Grove – Buzzer
Grove – Sound Sensor
Grove – Touch Sensor
Grove – Rotary Angle Sensor
Grove – Temperature Sensor
Grove – LED
Grove – Light Sensor
Grove – Button

Additional supported modules:
Grove – 3-Axis Digital Gyro
Grove – 3-Axis Digital Accelerometer 1,5g also: 16g 400g
Grove – 3-Axis Digital Compass
Grove – IMU 10DOF
Grove – Digital Light
Grove – Temperature & Humidity Pro
Grove – Barometer
Grove – Finger-clip Heart Rate
Grove – GPS
Grove – IR Distance Interrupter
More are being worked on. Also kits are in preparation to get you setup with a complete kit to start experimenting.

About BeagleBone compatibility: there is a new logo infopage on the Beagleboard.org site, explaining the new endorsement level: “BeagleBoard Compatible”. From the info: “The product bearing the BeagleBoard Compatible Logo has been tested by BeagleBoard.org and has been determined to be BeagleBoard Compatible. […] General support for this board is available from the BeagleBoard.org community. All hardware support for this product is the responsibility of the supplier. Return merchandise authorization support is provided by the supplier and access to this is provided by the supplier via its website.”

This means the BBG is the first to be on this “looser” rules that allow for hardware design changes, while still using the BeagleBone name. This is a great way to add more resources to the boards design, and the BBG is the first example.

More may follow, like the BeagleCore (Warning: annoying autoplay video), a project to make the core of the BB separately available for industrial use, much like the RaspberryPi compute module. It seems to be not reaching its goal (it runs till 7th of August, just over 10% with 3 days to go) but it could be this is just because it is aimed at the wrong audience. The board seems to be more suited to industrial designs, a hobbyist would most likely not be in the position to get this board in use without just using the BaseBoard, which makes it into a normal BBB. If you like the idea, pledge fast!

Well, for now this is all the info I got, more to follow once the board arrives :)

The BeagleBone Green part 4: New opportunities

The new addition to the BeagleBone family – the upcoming SeeedStudio’s BeagleBone Green – has some changes, and they offer new limitations, but also new options. (for more info, read parts 1, 2 and 3)

Some of the changes are removals, like the HDMI chip and the barrel jack for 5V, and some are additions like the RTC and Grove connectors. Each change can be a plus to the user, as long as he knows what to expect.

A picture that shows off the new Grove connectors and the RTC battery holder on a proto BeagleBone Green.
A picture that shows off the new Grove connectors and the RTC battery on a proto BeagleBone Green.

HDMI support has been unimportant for a number of people who just want to setup a headless system, and do not need HDMI support at all. This frees up 20 pins, which on the BBB are also assignable to GPIO, PWM and UART ports. For people needing more of those ports, this could make it easier for them. The BeagleBone Black could also free up those ports when disabling the HDMI virtual cape in the Cape Manager, but if you do so, it is now an option to not have to worry about that at all. See http://elinux.org/Beagleboard:Cape_Expansion_Headers for more info on this.

A barrel jack for the 5V input is missing on the Green’s design, nowadays consensus seems to have set to using microUSB, so adhering to that frees up room on the board, and removes one clunky connector. The barrel was a more study design, so if you will have strong vibrations in your application, you might want to look into making extra sure the connection does not get severed.

An RTC (real time clock) is a great add-on, among others for the people using the built-in random number generator, as it gives them a good time source as well, so it could do time-sensitive encryption protocols from startup, without having to rely on unverified sources before connecting directly. There are a lot of other uses for a board that can reliably keep time even when the board is not powered, without having to rely on external sources. The space to add the battery is provided by the removal of the HDMI chip.

But a great asset will be the addition of the two Grove ports. SeeedStudio’s Grove is a system of base boards, Stems (like the BeagleBone Green) provide the processing power, and the Twig modules provide sensory input and output. There are a number of different connection types, but as there are only two of them on the board, I will concentrate on those for now.

I2C (pronounced IsquareC): This is a protocol for IC to IC communication, and it can be used my multiple modules chained together. They can be individually addressed by a hex value. There are a lot of Grove modules that can be used this way, see this list on the Seeed Wiki. A lot of the modules are IMU’s (Inertial Measurement Unit) that can sense acceleration, orientation and more. But also the small OLED screens could easily be connected to a BeagleBone Green now, for status updates, or with some buttons even a full user interface.

A small OLED screen to provide status messages that could just be plugged in into the I2C Grove connector
A small OLED screen to provide status messages that could just be plugged in into the I2C Grove connector

UART: A serial communication method, that can be used to communicate between computers, and other things like the modules listed in the Seeed Wiki. This includes things like a serial camera and wireless connection modules.

These devices can also be connected via the expansion headers on the other BeagleBone’s, but having a dedicated connector can make things a lot easier and faster to get setup.

These improvements are not earth-shattering, they are refinements that can make the BeagleBone Green a more interesting platform for builders that do not need some parts of what the Black offers, while retaining everything we have learned to love from the BeagleBone series.

The Grove line of products also offer a lot of other modules, like Analog and Digital Twig’s, and these can also be used with the BeagleBone Black as well as Green, you just need to use Grove to Male Jumper wires. These cables are also useful if you need access to more UART or I2C ports.

I am interested to see if there will also be kits to take advantage of BeagleBone Green’s advantages, but there has not been any information on that yet.

The BeagleBone Black has almost sold a quarter of a million boards, as seen in the docs, so I hope the addition of the BeagleBone Green will add even more users to this already very popular platform. I cannot wait till the release date of 19th of June!

I also want to thank the people of SeeedStudio for working with me on this series, they must grow tired of my constant questions, but try to keep me informed as best they can :) Keep watching this space for more info 😛

And here is Part 5!

The BeagleBone Green part 3: Presentation

So the Maker Faire Bay Area is in full swing, and info about the new BeagleBone Green is in. After 4 months and a day, the rumors about a BeagleBone Green come true. The differences with the reference BB Black design were mostly known from our previous blogposts, but there was one new thing that was not in the pictures before, and that is a builtin RTC with battery power.

The board will not be available immediately, we’ll have to wait till June 19th to order it, and it will cost about $50, which puts it in about the same price range of the BeagleBone Black. The release will be at the Maker Faire Shenzhen.

There is a video with Jason Kirdner from BeagleBoard.org, explaining about the differences between the BBB and the BB Green. He also tells some things about the other boards that have been made based on the BeagleBoard designs, that were also mentioned in my January blogpost.

See the video here:

As soon as the people of SeeedStudio are able to send me their info, I might have more news, but it seems Jason told us most of what we can expect already. Maybe I can get some better pictures too.

I am very interested in the BeagleBone Green, but I think SeeedStudio/BeagleBoard.org could easily get more interest from the community. If there is only one marginal site that is interested in talking about a new product till the day before the presentation when one other blog finally picks it up, that shows that Open Source Hardware marketing still has a long way to go. Competitors that have less freedoms and functionality in the products themselves are much better at making a buzz for their new products.

It does however show the organic appeal that BeagleBone gathers, that without a lot of marketing, the BBB is still seen as the runner up in SBC boards, after RPi and their massive marketing push. I dont think it is their fault though, there is no good way yet to follow the progress made on OSHW that solves specific solutions, so the closed way to present new designs that is known is the only way to reasonably go.

Do not get me wrong, I love the OSHW movement, and am a happy customer of both Seeed and BeagleBoard, but I think this halfhearted approach to introducing a new product does not help OSHW. If you give out hints to the community, feed the buzz, not let it die out again.

That said, I hope to have one in my hands soon, so I can show more about the plus points of the BB/Grove combination. And again, if you know more or have made pictures of the BBG, please contact me!

Update: (2015-05-18) Some pictures emerged on twitter showing the BBG at the SeeedStudio booth:




We continue with part 4 of this series.

Thanks to Jason and the team at Seeed to make this great board possible! To be continued :)

BeagleBone Green close to release

Today, on the SeeedStudio blog it shows the first picture I know of of the new BeagleBone Green they announced in a previous post, I also wrote about that discovery in my last post. After four months of suspense, the rumors come true 😛

This seems to be the new SeeedStudio BeagleBone Green.
This is the new SeeedStudio BeagleBone Green, as seen on the bottom right of the silkscreen.

The changes are (among others?) the two Grove ports. There are a UART and a I2C port, the USB-port has moved to the place of the power jack and move/removal of the HDMI chip.

The two Grove ports as seen in the picture.
The two Grove ports as seen in the main picture.

The Ethernet still is 10/100 and the SD card markings on the top-right are gone. Maybe all the BB parts are concentrated on the left, and grove on the right. Chip numbers are not visible at this images resolution, but they seem the same (probably the same chip, the TI logo can be recognised). As soon as we have a picture of the back side (or in higher resolution) we will know more :) Perspective seems to show it is almost flat at the back, so I don’t expect more Grove ports there.

The single USB port marked "USB Host"
The single USB port marked “USB Host, in place of the power plug. Y cable for power?”

There will be a public presentation of it soon as it is planned for a May release, but the people at SeeedStudio asked me to wait for a few days to tell you about when and where, while they gather more info. I will keep you updated, as this could be a very exiting board, dependent on the price of course. I cannot wait to see what I will able to do with it.

Probable specs:
(Mostly the same as the BeagleBone Black)
1GHz AM335* Processor
4GB eMMC storage
RTC chip and Battery (Updated info)
1x MicroSD card slot
1x 10/100 Ethernet port
1x USB Host (combined with power?)
1x Grove I2C
1x Grove UART
Likely no HDMI (which i never use anyway, so that is a plus)

I hope I win the contest! I sent a comment as soon as the post came up, but I’m not approved yet. :) Who knows. The message was sparse, others made much better observations in their comments.

Update: The presentation of the BeagleBone Green will be at the Maker Faire Bay Area 2015 on 16-17 May, so if anybody is there, I would like to hear what you have seen! This will just be a demo, the BBG will be on sale on a (to be confirmed) later date. Cannot wait :)

Update2: There is another blog that picked up on the BBG today, and even has some extra info: “May 15th, 2015, 9:10AM -Beagleboard.org now has a separate page for the BeagleBone Green: http://beagleboard.org/green. It points to Seeed Studio. No content uploaded yet.”

Update3: More info emerged during the Maker Faire the 16th, see the BBG blogpost part 3 :)

And even more info in part 4.

Exiting days ahead! For those going to the Maker Faire, please keep me posted at info at ikmaak.nl with all info you have!

BeagleBone Green?

Interesting Beaglebone news: In one of SeeedStudio‘s latest blogposts by Eddie Hu about RaspberryPi alternatives there is a competitive analysis with an interesting item. There seems to be a plan within SeeedStudio to release an alternative BeagleBone with Grove sensor connectors, with the (code)name “Beaglebone Green”.

BeagleBoneGreen Announcement?

And for better visibility I will zoom in:
Zoomed-in text

The Grove line of products is a set of breakout boards with standard connectors to Analog, Digital, I2C or UART. Most of these tools are sensors and the add-on boards to Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and other small computers. Their site already lists 156 products.

Technically, one of the best boards for the purpose of using a lot of their sensors at the same time is the BeagleBone Black. Their board has specifically added things like analog i/o and real-time processors so no extra Arduino is necessary, like on the Raspberry for instance. The only problem is the intimidating expansion ports that most of the time just work as side bumpers. They do that job very well by the way :)

The people at SeedStudio already made a Grove Cape for the BBB, but that is almost as big as the BBB itself, and seems not to adhere to the cape instructions as it has no EEPROM to provide setup info. It also has only two Analog(dual) ports, two UART ports, and two I2C ports. As most Grove sensors only use one of the analog ports, it can get full rather quickly, unless you mod the cables yourself. The digital ports are easily reachable from the GPIO itself, but that is beside the point with Grove modules. All that could be solved by a BB version with a lot of adapters built-in.

So SeeedStudio adapting a BeagleBone to become extra Grove friendly would be a huge boost to the usability for hackers prototyping new ideas with their system. Add to that the possibility that people could add a lot of tutorials to that base, moving the Grove Wiki documentation from mostly Arduino based, to BeagleBone Green based. As prices for ARM based development boards keep falling, the competition to dethrone Arduino seems to be mounting.

We asked about it on the blog yesterday, the post was moderated, but no more info was given. Maybe more will be known soon, there is a mail gone out to ask for more info.
We will also ask someone within the BeagleBone project for more info.

I could not find more info on search engines, maybe you all could do better?

I’m looking forward to it :)

Update:(2015-01-29) I got some answers from the SeeedStudio people, they confirm they are working with TI on the a BeagleBoard Green, but haven’t got approval yet. They are sample testing now, and hope to sell the boards in May of 2015. I have asked for more info, but there was no reply yet (two weeks, so chances are low).
The people from Beagle/Circuitco haven’t replied yet (also two weeks ago) or acknowledged receipt of my mail. Maybe I should do a follow-up mail?

Update 2:(2015-02-04) I met someone from BeagleBoard.org on IRC, and he did not want to “give details they aren’t giving about their product”, but explained there are other boards in preparation based on non-BeagleBone designs, and that “BeagleBoard.org is very interested in having people clone the design and trying to help promote those clones”.

“The design is open, so ultimately they can do what they want in terms of product development. Details around branding are still being worked out.” So for now there is no decision on using the BeagleBone name on non-Beagle designs. The “BeagleBone compliant” badge would be only for direct clones, so other designs would need a different badge. For more on the organization’s view on the BeagleBone design, see the talk (video) from Jason Kirdner of BeagleBoard.org during the OHS Summit 2014 in Rome.

As an example of their cooperations he referred to the upcoming Arduino Tre a cooperation with the Arduino team that should arrive soon, and also another board that is under development, the BBP, which seems to be a BeagleBone for Reprap, designed by Truby Zong. An eventual release date is still unclear.

A view of the prototype BBP
A view of the prototype BBP

As Truby describes it himself:
BBP BeagleBone 3D printer control board:
5 stepper motor drivers
3 MOSFETs for 2 extruders and 1 HPB
6 MOSFETs for Fans or LED strips
6 endstops

Also there is mention of a new board from BeagleBoard.org itself, the BeagleBone-X15 but that will be a very different design, also at a different price, certainly above $100. But also with lots of more extra’s :) It should arrive in the coming months.

BeagleBone-X15BeagleBone-X15 Beta board image.

More news when it happens. There surely is a lot happening on the BeagleBoard.org side of things. This update could have been a full post in itself!

Update 3: (2015-05-08) New blogpost with more info.

Update 4: (2015-05-16) The board is presented, see here for the info.

Update 5: The story continues in part 4.

Buildparty Düsseldorf Report

The build party was another big success, the 7 participant teams built themselves a brand new Reprap “Prusa i3“.
The people from GarageLab were very helpful, and have a nice space to work at. We used the coworking space rooms to do our building. Thanks to Daniel Bruns and Carsten Born, they helped out a lot. Also thanks to Lab maintainer Axel Ganz for helping setting things up, and Yvonne Firdaus, the Coworking Space / GarageLab owner.

We had a lot of help from the community people attending, there is a lot of information to be had when you are in a room with Kliment Yanev, Josef Prusa, Joachim Glauche, Nathan Zadoks and Ruben Lubbes. Also there was a group of locals working on their Reprap’s in the fablab itself, there were a few machines from our earlier parties present. It was nice seeing them improve the machines, and using them a lot.

We built a reasonably new model, the Prusa i3, and it is a big improvement in building the machine. That was also one of the reasons the machines are so quick to be in use, most of the people were printing at the start of sunday afternoon, and everyone printed a model that looked pretty nice.

The i3 is different from the model we used in our previous courses because it now uses a wooden box-frame that is very stiff, stable, and easy to build. Also it moves the motors to the bottom of the machine, so the Z-axis does not hang from the motors anymore. Also the amount of noise the machine makes is lower, and cable management is improved. Also the spool mount is integrated on top of the machine.This makes the i3 a very good option to build as your next Reprap. The design is still in developement, so for now the build info is still incomplete.

We did most of the building in the first day, and were mostly doing the last part of the electronic setup on sunday morning. The electronics we used were ReprapDiscount RAMPS system, and jhead hotends. Most of the other parts were sourced at ReprapSource. Both of these performed very well. Around lunch most of the people were getting ready to print, and we made some cool models in the afternoon.

Then we also did some presentations on the history of the project, getting help from the community, and some info on how to do 3D modelling with OpenSCAD.

2nd print on a newly built Reprap

Just look at this 7,4cm tall Statue of Liberty, it is not very visible because of the background and transparent material, but the crown is really very nice. I hope we will get more pictures of that soon.

2nd print of the new Reprap, different angle

Some pictures are already available here, but i hope to see more soon.

And this time we managed to do a group picture again, so here it is!

There was even an interview done with me by Josef Prusa in his series of interviews, see it here

And finally: a timelapse of the build!

I would like to personally thank Axel Funke, for driving me home afterward although he had to go a totally different direction to get home himself!

We will be doing more of these buildparties, so if you want to organise one in your town or hackerspace, contact us!

Prusa interviews me in Düsseldorf

During the Reprap BuildParty in Düsseldorf Josef Prusa did an interview with me in his series of interviews about Reprap and the community, and he posted it to Youtube.

In the interview we talk about me finding the project, collecting reprap memorabilia, my island promotion of Reprap, the history of IkMaak, why the courses are organised, and the way progress in the project is made. I’m rambling a bit, but i did not prepare for the video, so have fun!

The FrankenBot project is also mentioned, if you want to join in with a part for that, get the part from the list, do anything you like with the design, as long as it is still functional, print it out, sign it, add some documentation, and send it to me! Contact me for more info.
I hope you like the interview, there’s more where they came from. They are featured after the break.
Continue reading Prusa interviews me in Düsseldorf