Curious as to your thoughts re: Beaglebone Black

Paul Boddie paul at
Thu Apr 25 18:21:50 EDT 2013

On Thursday 25 April 2013 23:04:01 Ron K. Jeffries wrote:
> My post did NOT intend to suggest that Beaglebone Black is a totally open
> platform that meets the goals of qi-hardware.
> But who among us uses pure open hardware compute platforms for all of our
> general computer work?
> That Venn diagram describes the null set. Every single one of you (I would
> assume) use one or more non-open hardware computers for the vast majority
> of your work.

True enough. Even the Ben sitting in front of me on my desk (currently wired 
up to some ICs via the 8:10 port) is not completely free and open down to the 
level of the silicon, as we all know.


> In the interim, if you need a nice, cheap little server to provide say a
> file server or web server or mail server or other general computing tasks,
> and you desire low energy consumption, then any of several mass produced
> developer boards such as Beaglebone Black will serve your needs
> brilliantly. This one is more open than some competing offerings. Others
> that seem interesting to me include any of a few that leverage the
> Allwinner SOCs most especially Cubieboard.
> This is NOT perfection. It is a commercially available product that can run
> any of several Linux distros. It costs $45, and is shipping now.

Yes, I welcome the availability of these boards. Their most potent impact may 
well be the erosion of Microsoft's influence on the personal computing 
business as people start to realise that their computing needs do not start 
with a parroting of various proprietary Wintel-oriented buzzwords as 
necessary criteria for their next purchase.

But even beyond this, these boards are rather attractive. I guess the debate 
can be distilled down to what you would want them for, what they are good 
for, and whether they are interesting to hardware hackers. Certainly, there's 
no shortage of these boards now, and there's something for everyone in a 
certain audience, at least.

> That's all. It is not alleged to be the second coming of Christ, nor the
> answer to every desire someone who owns the venerable Ben Nanonote might
> have. It is not a pocket, self-contained Linux clam shell. But it costs
> less than half of a Nanonote, supports a broad array of peripherals, has
> good access to low-level i/o e.g. gpio, SPI, I2C, analog capability and, oh
> by the way, full-on USB.

As I may have already mentioned, I think that playing around with GPIO, SPI, 
I2C and all the other stuff that people were already doing with Arduino (more 
or less) is going to become more popular, and the mainstream may rediscover 
all the robotics stuff that was exciting and popular to an extent back in the 
home microcomputer era of the 1980s. They'll be able to afford it a bit 
better now as well.

> It is a clever, cheap Linux box. Nothing wrong with that. Nobody is forced
> to purchase it. LOL
> I am pretty sure you will like it better than the wildly popular (well over
> a million shipped) Raspberry Pi.

I'm going to be tempted by one of these devices at some point once I can be 
sure that they can replace my aging desktop machine.


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