2009 was a great year for BeagleBoard.org and there are big plans for 2010. Trying to summarize all the great things that happened in 2009 seems to me to be an impossible task, so I won’t even try other than to list a few recent events. I would encourage everyone to reply to this tread to share their own views of the great things from 2009. I’ll try to summarize the responses in a blog post.
Probably the most noted event around Beagle near the end of last year was the lack of availability at distributors. The good news to semiconductor vendors of demand being greater than supply was bad news for people trying to get their hands on BeagleBoards for the first time. New boards have now been built and the wait is over! Rev C4 will start shipping to distributors this week and we’ll hopefully have enough built to last a few months (when we can get our hands on some more parts). Rev C4 has some improvements to the host-only USB port power supply. This has been shown with lab tests to eliminate the long-term lock-ups caused by the supply noise issue. The u-boot patches have been submitted as we are trying to get the flashed u-boot closer to the mainline version. These boards will also have 720MHz OMAP3530 devices, instead of the 600MHz devices. I hope this is great news to all of you who have waited!
For many of you that couldn’t wait, I hope that you benefited from the ever-growing number of platforms that have been bred using the BeagleBoard as a starting point. Many of those platforms are listed on the http://wiki.omap.com/index.php?title=OMAP3_Boards wiki page and are discussed on this mailing list frequently. Many of those are smaller, available in high volumes, provide modules for using your own connector layout, have adopted more memory and higher frequency devices, and include many peripherals (GPS, wireless modems, WiFi, A/D converters, accelerometers, digital compasses, LCD displays, etc.) and expansion options that will never be offered on a BeagleBoard. I personally hope that the BeagleBoard continues to evolve, it remains a source for other innovators to generate their own open or proprietary hardware and software platforms for innovation.
BeagleBoard XM – the next BeagleBoard!!
Gerald has a new design for us based on all the inputs he’s been given over the mailing list. This is not the Rev C4, but a new design using a next generation OMAP3-compatible device called the DM3730 (a yet to be announced device). It is now up to all of us to review the plans and finalize the updated product that is expected to have some initial availability around April or May. The number of boards built and exact memory available will depend greatly on the memory vendor. The existing BeagleBoard design (Rev C4) will continue to be made available to distributors.
Extra megabytes and megahertz
Why is it called “XM”? No, there is no relation to the satellite radio provider. The idea is that it has extra memory (>= 512MB LPDDR) and extra MHz (>= 720MHz Cortex-A8). It is also likely to cost some extra money due to the additional cost of the memory (likely about $30 extra). The name also refers to the use of an AM/DM37x device which allows migration of all the existing OMAP3 software and already has support in the Linux kernel. To be precise, the board uses the DM3730 which has full software compatibility with the AM3715 (another yet to be announced device), but includes the C64x+ DSP. It is also fully software compatible with the OMAP3630. Call it OMAP, DM, or AM (Sitara), the BeagleBoard utilizes the most readily available super-set device that gives you the greatest flexibility with the option to cost reduce when going into production with your own design. The final memory size and MHz will be determined by what parts are available.
On-board Ethernet and 3 more USB host ports
In addition to the extra memory and extra MHz, it is also planned to be more user-friendly with the addition of an on-board USB-hub device giving a 10/100 Ethernet port and four (4) USB 2.0 host ports that support low-speed, full-speed, and high-speed, instead of the single high-speed-only host port. The BeagleBoard design strategy has been about keeping it simple and listening to the community. The feedback from the mailing list has been overwhelming to include these fundamental features to simplify the ease-of-use, so you’ll no longer need the external hub to just connect a keyboard or to track down a USB Ethernet device that dangles loose from your board. The USB OTG port is unmodified.
Camera expansion and additional updates
Other key hardware changes include:
· switching from a full-size SD/SDIO/MMC+ slot to a microSD slot on the bottom-side of the board,
· switching from a 10-pin header to a standard DB-9 serial cable connector in DTE configuration for direct use with a null modem cable,
· increasing the board size from 3”x3.1” to 3.25”x3.25” while keeping the mounting holes and expansion headers at the same position relative to the mounting holes, and
· adding a camera port compatible with sensors from Leopard Imaging.
This topic is huge, so I recommend starting new mailing list threads for BeagleBoard XM feedback with “BeagleBoard XM” in the subject line followed by the particular topic you’d like to discuss. What I expect to the subject line of one of the biggest threads is “BeagleBoard XM: Demo and Training Distribution”.
Demo and Training Distribution
That’s right, I’m no longer squelching the idea that we include a distribution in the box with the next (XM) version of the BeagleBoard. I’m not 100% convinced this is a good idea and I expect very lively discussions regarding both the contents and the fact that any individual distribution will be chosen. Given that we are talking about shipping pre-programmed SD cards to distributors, the distributions will likely be obsolete and incomplete. Choosing a distribution could also be discouraging to distribution makers who would like equal attention to their likely better BeagleBoard operating systems and distributions. There are also the licensing concerns. Nevertheless, I’ve been convinced that the opportunity to quickly see the BeagleBoard in action and to provide a tutorial on how to use the features exposed via a Linux kernel makes this worth full consideration.
The initial idea is a snapshot of the Angstrom Distribution of GNU/Linux starting with the beagleboard-demo-image with several additional packages, including packages specifically built for training/labs. (Perhaps we should call it the beagleboard-training-image?) For the last couple of years, we’ve had training at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) with participation from some great people around the industry. The latest ESC training SD cards have been built on Angstrom images (with Android builds and labs thrown on top). We haven’t been the best at preserving everything used to generate those lab card images or to propagate that training. Further, there have been multiple requests to write a book and generate course materials, including labs, which requires a known environment. Even though by choosing one distribution it will be incredibly incomplete, I believe it is good for us to pick an initial something on which we can collaborate freely and share our work. Certainly the training materials should also mention getting started with Maemo, Ubuntu, Symbian, Android, WinCE, QNX, and some of the many other platforms for the BeagleBoard and hopefully all the labs are done in a good way that most of them can be utilized on those platforms.
A follow-up e-mail with my own thoughts on the training materials and creating a collaborative book will go out in the next few days. I’ve seen some other related threads that I’ll try to tie in. Please feel free to respond to that message with all of your thoughts, both positive and negative.
Conferences and contests
The BeagleBoard won some awards. There were events and/or trainings on-line and all around the world including San Jose, Portland, Dallas, Boston, Cambridge, London, Grenoble, Brussels, Nuremberg, Berlin, Pune, Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Taiwan, and many others. There would probably be some interest if I listed off all the awards and events involving BeagleBoard.org in 2009, but what is past is past and the list is long so I hope you’ll forgive me for not listing them all out and the individuals who participated. The worldwide participation was absolutely amazing and the credit for BeagleBoard success belongs in the hands of many, many people.
I was very pleased with the participation we had in the Community Lightning Talks and look forward to us continuing to evolve the format and output, including more recordings of live trainings and project demos. Participation by the BeagleBoard.org Sponsored Projects in the Lightning Talks and on the mailing list has been notable but limited, so a lot of the rewards of Gumstix Overo and LogidPD Zoom-2 platforms haven’t been fulfilled due to a lack of information about the on-going project status. Lots of good work has continued, but it doesn’t seem very tied to the sponsored project board giveaways at this point. The giveaways are still there for those showing good progress on their projects. What I have gotten are several requests for even more BeagleBoard.org attendance at various conferences to show off some of the good community efforts that have been occurring.
Where should BeagleBoard.org be in 2010? ESC? LinuxTag? OSCON? SCALE? LinuxCon? FOSDEM? BOSSA? SxSWi? Google I/O? ELC? Ontario Linux Fest? Who should go, how should they get there, and what should they show? Should BeagleBoard.org be putting Bill Gatliff on a plane to give Linux training at OSCON? There isn’t a budget for that, but if there is clear demand, I can take it to the right people at TI and see if we can’t direct some money that might pay for a TIer to go to a trade show and use some of that to reward a couple people in the BeagleBoard.org community who want to share their BeagleBoard project with the world.
Gerald and I will be back at ESC Silicon Valley this year. If you attended the BeagleBoard training there in the past, I’d love to hear your feedback on how we can improve it. As mentioned above, I’d like to make the project of building the ESC SD training cards a public project this time.
Website, chat, and mailing list statistics
The website hasn’t had a major face-lift in a while, but new traffic continues to rise with several thousands of new visitors every week (around 1,000 new visitors every weekday). Progress on the XBMC on BeagleBoard project gave it the highest short-term boost, but the ESC events, Symbian announcements, and write-ups in Make magazine also contributed some notable new traffic. The website now has over 100 projects registered, the IRC chat has typically about 150 people, the primary mailing list has over 2,500 current subscribers, there are mailing lists in Japanese and Brazilian Portuguese, and there are groups on LinkedIn and Facebook—and all are linked together by the BeagleBoard.org website. By joining the project to improve the website to better aggregate these activities, there is a lot of potential for getting your project discovered and that can be a great benefit to all of the BeagleBoard.org community.
The website itself is under version control on http://gitorious.org/beagleboard-org. It should be possible for us to do things like:
· automatically import the RSS feed to enable adding article ratings to keep interesting ones accessible,
· have the ‘BeagleBot’ record and retrieve information relevant to the IRC discussions as it collects the chat logs at http://www.beagleboard.org/irclogs,
· detect language from the browser and return a translated page if available, and
· generally organize all of the project entries and output of their news feeds.
Start sending patches to the mailing list or sending merge requests through Gitorious. As long as the code is clean, the site is pretty, and we all play by the rules that greater contributions deserve greater attention, then there shouldn’t be many reasons for me not to accept your patches and run them on BeagleBoard.org.
Open platforms concept at Texas Instruments
The concept of supporting open platforms has taken hold at TI. There are still many lessons to be learned on how and why TI developers should get involved in existing community projects and take guidance from community developers, but the value of engaging students, hobbyists, and community developers on some of the most complex devices is starting to be shown. This can be seen in the launch of the DesignSomething.org website and continued improvements to the e2e.ti.com community support site, along with the launch of the Neuros OSD3, $99 LeopardBoard, and $79 HawkBoard as community-oriented projects with TI participants.
OK, I didn’t even touch the real “State of the Beagle”. Let me have it. What do you think the big results from 2009 were and where should we be headed in 2010?