What is Beagle?
Where did the BeagleBoard idea come from?
My personal interest with computers and electronics began around age 8 with "Getting Started with TRS-80 Basic" and "Getting Started with Electronics". My mom let me do anything I wanted with the computer, because all of her important files were on floppy disks far away from where I was playing---except open it up and mess with the electronics. Once the bug bit me, I spent all my spare change buying random components from Radio Shack and building simple 555 circuits. It took a long time to eventually getting ahold of Z80 processors and begin programming them in assembly to write to things like voice synthesizers. I’ve always wanted to see those same freedoms to learn about computers and electronics imparted on the next generation---as well as short-circuiting the connection between computers and electronics.
Gerald Coley, at the time a hardware guy in TI strategic marketing supporting OMAP customers, asked me, and others, what could we do with a board based on the highest performance ARM-based system-on-chip available today, if it was small and powered via USB. The answer was to create the most amazing open source development and education project yet seen in the embedded world.
The first thing I did was ask Gerald about things we could add to the board. What about an LCD? What about on-board WiFi and Ethernet? He said, sure, no problem $10 here, $30 there. When I finally woke up and realized that with all the things we wanted to do with this board, the best thing to do was to enable them all by simply getting out of the way.
Doing more with less
By eliminating all of the on-board peripherals not already among the numerous ones on the digital and analog system-on-chip pair themselves, and by providing standard expansion buses, like high-speed USB 2.0, SDIO, and DVI-D, developers are able to bring-their-own peripherals and do exactly what they want. What we created was a low-cost, fan-less computer, with all the expandability of today's desktop machines, but without the bulk, expense, or noise. It is the kind of platform you can use to develop computer science solutions that could be put anywhere.
Instead of using a fixed, embedded LCD, Gerald used the digital and analog LCD ports to add monitor/TV connections, so that any DVI-D enabled monitor or S-Video enabled TV could be used. The USB port (eventually, ports) can be used to add a high-speed hub for adding a keyboard, mouse, and WiFi connection and the MMC/SD connector can be used to add multiple gigabytes of storage, but building a computer out of a BeagleBoard is just the beginning.
Collaborating on Beagle
With the simple theme of supporting standard interfaces and getting out of the way, those who would like to collaborate on extending Beagle are encouraged to do it in any way they’d like. Instead of trying to take control of the community by pushing a single collaboration portal, BeagleBoard.org developers are encouraged to take their contributions directly to the communities already supporting the project they desire to port to Beagles, or to create their own community collaboration tools using existing offerings at github.com and others.
It is certainly true that by encouraging BeagleBoard.org collaboration to spread to the corners of the Internet that there will be fragmentation in the community. Developers will therefore be encouraged to do three things:
- Register their project at BeagleBoard.org/project,
- Provide information about their project using one of the Creative Commons licenses, and
- Publish RSS/Atom feeds that can be used to update the project status.
The web software required to aggregate information about these projects, including their release announcements, bug reports, and discussion links, will all be built using widely adopted standards, such as RSS and Atom, as an open source project of its own that is executed on the BeagleBoard.org server. Developers will be welcomed and encouraged to take the web server build script for Amazon EC2 servers and website source to improve upon the aggregation capabilities of the site.
What can Beagle do?
I'm still trying to find applications where a BeagleBoard can't play a role. The general-purpose processor performance of Beagle exceeds that of other low-cost computing platforms on the market today, such as the OLPC XO-1. Additionally, the processor contains 2D and 3D graphics acceleration capabilities as well as a DSP optimized for multimedia processing. A typical configuration of a Beagle Board system would draw power off of a USB port on standard laptop or desktop PC used for developing and downloading the low-level Beagle Board software, but additional peripherals would allow the Beagle Board to operate as a multimedia computer on its own.
- Low-cost Linux PC
- Network-connected digital signage
- 3D user interface development (Clutter, etc.)
- Game console
- LCD-to-picture-frame conversion kit
- Adobe Flash client "alarm clock" (like the Chumby)
- Kitchen computer
- Web services development
- Google Talk video phone
- Notebook TV-out via USB
- Projector media reader and presenter
- Gaming platform emulator
- Thin client terminal
- Web browser for the TV
- Multimedia codec and framework development
- Home networked media (DLNA/XMPP) server/client
- Security camera analyzer, streamer, recorder, and monitor
- USB traffic monitor (looks like a HUB)
- USB class conversion (add software support where drivers aren't available on the PC)
- Network sniffer
- Set-top box
- Vehicle telematics and automation
- Software defined radio
- Mobile digital television
- Home automation
- and many more that community members can imagine...
How do I get a Beagle of my own?
A purchase link for a Beagle will always be available on BeagleBoard.org and we’ve set it up for each of the boards to be available for purchase for 10+ years.
If you are more adventurous, then you are invited to utilize all of the Beagle design materials. This includes electronic copies of the schematic, layout, and assembly designs. All of the Texas Instruments components utilized on the board will be made available for public purchase. If there is a component that is difficult for you to purchase, please contact me for additional information. Building boards isn't easy and you are encouraged to purchase the boards through the website, but links to manufacturers who can handle making these boards will be provided to those looking to extend the design.
For whom are Beagles intended? / Using Beagle for fun, education, and profit
Makers, educators, explorers, professional engineers and corporations seeking to build upon a rich ecosystem are all encouraged to participate in BeagleBoard.org. With so much openness and thousands upon thousands of examples of people doing fun, interesting and profitable things with Beagles, you're missing out if you don't count yourself in for whom Beagle is intended.