RoadTest: Pocket Beagle
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, Arduino
What were the biggest problems encountered?: Difficulty in connecting to Internet from PocketBeagle.
This is my first use of a BeagleBoard product. I was attracted to the small size and price of this product while still being able to run Linux. My first concern was about how this device would be easy to use without any display connected.
The PocketBeagle contains a 1GHz ARM v7 CPU and 512Mb RAM. Storage is done via a microSD slot, which you will have to provide an SD card for. I'm using an 8GB SD card and the minimum recommended size is 4GB.
The packaging the board comes in has very clear instructions on how to get started. The first step is to get an image to install on the SD card. These are Debian images and work on both the BeagleBone and and PocketBeagle boards. There are two images available, one with the LXQT desktop and a smaller IoT image which is perfect for the PocketBeagle. The download was 491MB. The getting started guide recommends a nice looking cross platform graphical tool to write the image to the SD card, but in my case I just used 'dd' from the command line on my Ubuntu laptop and that worked fine.
Once the image was copied over I inserted the SD card into the PocketBeagle and connected it via a USB cable to my laptop. It booted up in about 1.5 mins and showed up as drive on my laptop. The drive contains a webpage (START.htm) with lots of detailed information about the board, which I thought was a nice way to get started. The webpage is copied from the online website, which meant that parts of it were out of date and some links didn't work quite as I had expected. The drive also contained some drivers, which were not required for Ubuntu but may be useful in other operating systems.
Secure shell is enabled out of the box, so the following could get me into the Linux image (password is 'temppwd'):
Once inside I wanted to try and update the software. However, by default this doesn't work. You can set the default route in the PocketBeagle to be your laptop and with some firewall changes on the laptop get this to work but it's not easy to do.
The PocketBeagle comes without any I/O connectors, but does have 72 IO pins you can connect to. The back of the board has these all clearly labelled which is very handy. With a little bit of soldering you can easily attach some I2C or USB devices to the board. BeagleBoard also sells a large selection of 'Capes' to add feature to the board.
At $25USD, how does the PocketBeagle compare to the competition?
In conclusion the PocketBeagle is a small, affordable device that allows you to make embedded projects. It's a good choice when you want something more powerful than a microcontroller, but don't want a full featured computer like a Raspberry Pi. I would probably still consider the Pi Zero better value in general, but both would work well.
This is an accurate description of the pocketbeagle. For an easy connection to the internet, you really need the Beaglebone Black. To save money, several components are left off of the pocketbeagle. shabaz has some good suggestions here:
and more ideas in this BBBlack blogs.
I really like the pocketbeagle for the quick start in programming and interfacing with sensor. After you burn the SD card, it's all built into the cloud9.