RoadTest: BeagleBone Green
Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools
Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True
What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: Raspberry Pi and all its clones, Arduino Due/Leonardo
What were the biggest problems encountered?: SD card issues (burned through two SD cards while trying to write an image), bad USB cable included in box
I'd like to begin by thanking all those who made this possible. This road test was quite the roller coaster ride. I got so caught up in it that I had almost forgotten I was doing a write up.
I started out with a glorious unboxing. I'm sure most of you are quite sick of these so I'll make it short.
The slid open package:
The package contents:
Huge props to whoever decided to include the quickstart booklet- the inclusion of the USB cable also scored some serious points. Zipper locked anti-static bag is also a bonus
I quickly plugged it into my trusty laptop I use for these sorts of projects, and was saddened by this:
A Blinding Blinking Blue light special. This is much more of a personal gripe as I've had cataracts removed and my eyes are much more sensitive to blue light than they were before the procedure, but these things are bright. So much so I ended up covering them with a bit of electrical tape to save my eyes and my sanity. I don't hold it against Seeed or anyone else but for me at least I'd rather have different LED's. Again, a minor issue, and for most probably a non issue, but there you have it.
Upon plugging it into my laptop for the first time it took a few minutes for it to connect and install drivers (to be expected), but what I didn't expect was the onboard documentation. I should have read it before I plugged it in, but I was excited.
I was then quickly disappointed as it disconnected on me. And then reconnected. At nauseum... Great I thought- a lemon board. Tried a different USB port, still the same results. The wife insisted I try a new cable before I write off the whole project and write a rather scathing email... and once again she was correct. The board is perfectly fine, the cable was bad. Turns out it has a short in it. Minor loss and probably an isolated issue (hopefully).
Now that we had that fixed, I went to the webpage.... 192.168.7.2 is the default IP that it is assigned when using USB to connect (very cool feature)
Better yet, the devs at beagleboard.org made it so that it could interact with the Beaglebone website and allow you to run code straight from there as long as the device was attached to the local machine:
The bonescript engine is pretty familiar and I'll admit I spent wayyyy too much time playing with it... I'll admit I felt like a student again making various LED's blink and servos move without the need to compile or upload. Type in the code and hit the run button. Amazing. Everything I threw at this board worked
Originally for this I was going to use BeagleLogic and make a logic analyzer- unfortunately however this is where the real trouble began. I followed the tutorial to the letter but ended up discovering that I had several bad SD cards... I suspect they may have gotten damaged in transit as they were from a very reputable retailer. My third attempt actually screwed up the onboard image and I was honestly afraid I had bricked it. Thankfully, it is as simple as burning a new image onto a new SD card and writing it back- once I dug out an old SD card that I knew worked.
I did finally manage to get BeagleLogic run on the board, and I was able to sample a serial connection between two MSP430's, but I unfortunately forgot to grab any screen shots, and didn't realize it until I was doing the full write up. My apologies dear reader. I can assure you it is quite fun, and I highly recommend doing it with a cape (I had to have mine fabbed as I couldn't find one prebuilt for sale) so you can use it on 5v systems as well.
Honestly I have fallen in love with this platform and intend on buying several more for future projects. The price tag is a bit higher than most other dev boards but it comes loaded with features that I wish other devs would include, such as the onboard documentation, the "one cable" approach and the glorious failover system image.
Pros: Documentation was easy to find (included in the package AND on board the default image)
LOTS of I/O
Getting started programming doesn't require any software or compiling on your local system, just plug in the usb, visit the website and click run.
Relatively easy recovery if system image is corrupted- doesn't require external hardware and the process is well documented
Minor complaints (things that bugged me):
Blue LED's- not my favorite. Too bright for my taste.
Not 5v tolerant (minor complaint)
Not bone shaped /s
A bit expensive for beginners. I would love to see these things have the proliferation that Arduino has, but I doubt that will happen until the price comes down (if at all possible)
TLDR; - It is a fun board and I LOVE the documentation included on the board, the internal webserver that allows for code execution, and the ability to recover from stupid mistakes with relative ease using an SD card
Thanks for the review. Too bad you had a bad USB cable, every BB Black I've had, the cable was good. And for the bad SD cards, remember, another advantage of the beaglebones is the eMMC memory it boots from, you can use SD cards, but it's not required.
When you get time, I'd like to see what you can do with the beaglelogic, if you can reload the software, take a few photographs.