Dude, where's my BeagleBone Black?

Just about to post this to http://beagleboard.org/blog, but it
wouldn't hurt to get a bit of community feedback before pushing this
out there....

Dude, where's my BeagleBone Black? I hear that question a LOT. No, we
weren't sleeping, but sometimes it takes a minute for a plan to come
together. And don't you love it when a plan comes together?

Your BeagleBone Black is on the way and below are the whys and hows.

Buying a BeagleBone Black back around October last year was easy---and
then suddenly they were gone. Having a big launch and then slowing
down to a more steady pace of production is what is normally expected.
Demand was strong, but distributors were showing a small amount of
stock and people were getting their boards on demand. Based on the
status, distributors had requested CircuitCo (the Richardson, Texas
based manufacturer of all official BeagleBoard.org boards) to provide
boards at a certain pace, and production dropped from about 6,000 a
week at launch to around 3,000 a week.

Then came Radio Shack, filling their stores with Make's Getting
Started with BeagleBone kit. Then the Christmas rush. Then the Georgia
Tech massively open online course on control of mobile robots hosted
on Coursera. We had a couple of small production boosts, but haven't
been able to make any dent in the demand. Everyone is starting to find
out what BeagleBone Black can do, using it in their classes, hobbies,
prototypes---and products.

When it comes to those people using a BeagleBone Black in an end
product, well, the BeagleBoard.org terms and conditions clearly say we
aren't responsible for the quality in those cases. Nevertheless, the
quality speaks for itself and many people are choosing to simply drop
them into things beyond just a few prototype units. In practice, we'll
never know unless you try to return a bunch of boards at once for
repairs. Our desire is that people using the boards in products work
directly with a contract manufacturer or distributor to enable boards
builds to be planned out in time and with terms and conditions that
won't hurt BeagleBoard.org's ability to supply classrooms, hobbyists
and professionals building prototypes. Still, if distributors show
stock, I expect people building products to continue to chew up some
of the board supply.

While these people building products are certainly sucking up a lot of
boards, it is clear they aren't the only source of the high demand.
Some of our distribution partners, most notably Adafruit and Special
Computing, put quantity limits of one board per customer on their
orders to help keep supply going to individual makers. I took a look
at Adafruit's website while they were showing some sock and observed
board disappearing at the rate of about 2-3 PER MINUTE. One tweet from
me and they were sold out again.

This all leads to the obvious conclusion: we need more capacity. To
accomplish this, we are taking a multiple prong approach of increasing
capacity at CircuitCo as well as bringing on an additional
manufacturer. These two prongs are summarized below.

Prong #1 - Ramping up production at CircuitCo

Ramping up production costs money. More test equipment is needed.
Orders on various parts must be accelerated. Additional staff must be
hired to run additional shifts. CircuitCo has been fantastic at taking
the risk for us, but the margins for BeagleBone Black aren't the
friendliest for them to take on these additional costs. At initial
launch, it is a benefit for them to get exposed to more customers for
their core business, complex circuit assembly and engineering
services, but shipping more of the exact same board isn't going to
give them a lot more exposure.

We're really close to shifting the distribution shipped on our boards
from Angstrom Distribution to Debian. Feedback from different people,
especially Adafruit, tells us this will improve usability in the
largest segments of our community. Angstrom Distribution is much more
customizable and is very friendly to professional developers looking
to tweak the most out of the system, but for many novices it
introduces a barrier to learning. Debian is the basis for Ubuntu,
includes ARM Cortex-A8 support in their mainline and is very familiar
to a huge population of developers. It also takes a bit more space on
the flash storage to provide the best user experience.

To provide the best experience of using Debian on BeagleBone Black, we
are connecting the switch-over to an increase in the on-board eMMC
flash storage from 2GB to 4GB, leaving more free room in which you can
work. The eMMC is faster and more reliable than micro-SD cards, so
this is adding a lot of value---and a little bit of cost.

These BeagleBone Blacks with Debian and 4GB eMMC will be called Rev C
and they will likely cost a bit more at most distributors. This extra
money is helping CircuitCo pay for the additional expense of the eMMC,
but also to cover costs for ramping production to higher-than-ever
rates.

With the additional capacity CircuitCo is bringing on, we expect to be
able to fill all end-user back-orders for the Rev B boards by early
May and shift all production to Rev C. With around 150,000 boards on
*distributor* back-orders, we'll be working with distributors to
quickly accept board shipments such that CircuitCo isn't sitting on
any units.

Come mid-May, you should be able to easily get your hands on a Rev C
board. Some distributors are already taking back-orders for them now.
We'll continue to try to push as many boards as we can through
distributors *not* taking back-orders as well to make sure there is a
continuity of supply.

Prong #2 - Enabling production of the BeagleBoard Compliant Element14
BeagleBone Black

We've launched a BeagleBoard Compliant logo program,
http://beagleboard.org/logo. Element14 is currently the exclusive
licensee of this logo program and has agreed to pay a small royalty to
the BeagleBoard.org Foundation as part of this license. It means that
we've verified they can produce quality clones of BeagleBone Black. It
will be up to them to maintain the quality. As with everything going
on around BeagleBoard.org, we'll be closely monitoring the public
BeagleBoard mailing list, http://beagleboard.org/discuss, for any and
all feedback.

Element14 is the parent company for Embest, who has been making
BeagleBone Black replicas for the China market since the initial
launch back in April of last year, so they have some experience
already. This move takes them beyond just China and will keep them in
more lock-step with software and hardware revisions coming from
BeagleBoard.org. To satisfy demand, they initially offered some of the
Embest-branded boards in the US market, but you'll see the future
BealgeBoard Compliant boards will be branded as "element14 BeagleBone
Black".

Element14 has a world-wide reach and a notable production capacity.
With all of the growing demand for BeagleBone Black, they will need
it. I consider this a huge win for open hardware!

--Jason

Excellent, I think this really helps to clarify a lot of the questions hanging in the air.

Great writeup Jason!

Most of the info exists in bits and pieces around this forum and
elsewhere, but it's a great all-in-one summary. I really like that
you're sharing the plans for moving forward and reasons for some of the
decisions. Open communities thrive on information and communications!

Good information and thank you Jason for sharing. I see there is also someone else producing miniature versions of the BBB, but . . . not my own thing.

Personally, I would like to see other “upgrades” as well, but I voiced those last year, and from the response I received from Gerald seems to indicate that my own wishes are not inline with beagleboard.org’s current roadmap. However, the minnowboard MAX is a perfect fit( even though using a different processsor architecture ).

Personally, I never would have guessed last year at launch that the BBB would take off like this. But very pleased that it did.

Good information and thank you Jason for sharing. I see there is also someone else producing miniature versions of the BBB, but . . . not my own thing.

Who and what?

He’s on the list here, saw the post last night. But already deleted it, and cannot remember his username.

Hi Jason,

Just about to post this to http://beagleboard.org/blog, but it
wouldn’t hurt to get a bit of community feedback before pushing this
out there…

What I would be interested is software (binary) compatibility between the Circuitco BBB and the Embest BB Black.
I can’t find it right now, but Rob Nelson mentioned something like “only supports the Circuitco Version”.

Can you please enlighten me a bit on possible differences which require software adjustments?

I mean can I take an SD card which runs on a Circuitco BBB and expect this to work on an Embest BB Black?

BTW I will do a webinar "From Arduino Uno to BeagleBone Black (and back)![1] on 17th and such a question might arise.

Regards,

Robert

[1] http://www.element14.com/community/events/4021

Well I can’t agree more with you … I’m not using the eMMC because I need the pins that the eMMC use … .

Why not only using sdcard ? it’s much more easy to programm the BBB with sdcard than with eMMC … .

Robert,

The Embest board I received from Farnell last week ago has been used in my BeBoPr++ production test system and I have not experienced any incompatibilities.

As I posted earlier, the Angstrom software on the board was identical to that on a original rev B BBB. The only differences discovered thus far are mechanical and quality related. I replaced Angstrom with the Debian trial image and have had no problems (other than those that were present on the original BBB too).

The on-board EEPROM contents differ and can be used to identify the boards if needed:

Embest:

0000000 aa 55 33 ee 41 33 33 35 42 4e 4c 54 30 30 41 35
0000020 33 30 30 31 42 42 42 4b 39 36 30 30 58 41 58 58
0000040 ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff
0000060 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 41 42 43 44 45 46
0000100 ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff

strings: "A335BNLT00A53001BBBK9600XAXX" "0123456789ABCDEF"

BBB:
0000000 aa 55 33 ee 41 33 33 35 42 4e 4c 54 30 30 30 42
0000020 31 30 31 34 42 42 42 4b 31 30 39 33 ff ff ff ff
0000040 ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff
0000060 ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff
0000100 ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff

strings: "A335BNLT000B1014BBBK1093"

Except from that, both boards seem identical from a software point of view.

-- Bas

SoM version of BeagleBone:
http://www.mentorel.com/product/usomiq-am335x/

From this post:
https://groups.google.com/d/msg/beagleboard/KCr_Sm8tP_o/6YVEfI8Dc-4J

Hi Jason,

Just about to post this to http://beagleboard.org/blog, but it
wouldn't hurt to get a bit of community feedback before pushing this
out there....

What I would be interested is software (binary) compatibility between the
Circuitco BBB and the Embest BB Black.
I can't find it right now, but Rob Nelson mentioned something like "only
supports the Circuitco Version".

Before switching to the "Element14 BeagleBone Black" branded boards,
they sold off some of their older stock which had some really old
firmware on it. It was determined that the really old firmware was to
blame for Robert's code not booting. Reflashing the board solved the
issue.

Can you please enlighten me a bit on possible differences which require
software adjustments?

There are none. Future boards should line up with the same software
version we deliver to CircuitCo.

I mean can I take an SD card which runs on a Circuitco BBB and expect this
to work on an Embest BB Black?

Yes.

BTW I will do a webinar "From Arduino Uno to BeagleBone Black (and back)![1]
on 17th and such a question might arise.

Sounds interesting. Will you talk about stuff like Userspace Arduino
and using the PRUs?

--8<--

To provide the best experience of using Debian on BeagleBone Black, we
are connecting the switch-over to an increase in the on-board eMMC
flash storage from 2GB to 4GB, leaving more free room in which you can
work. The eMMC is faster and more reliable than micro-SD cards, so
this is adding a lot of value---and a little bit of cost.

These BeagleBone Blacks with Debian and 4GB eMMC will be called Rev C
and they will likely cost a bit more at most distributors. This extra
money is helping CircuitCo pay for the additional expense of the eMMC,
but also to cover costs for ramping production to higher-than-ever
rates.

With the additional capacity CircuitCo is bringing on, we expect to be
able to fill all end-user back-orders for the Rev B boards by early
May and shift all production to Rev C. With around 150,000 boards on
*distributor* back-orders, we'll be working with distributors to
quickly accept board shipments such that CircuitCo isn't sitting on
any units.

So no more 2GB eMMC models ever? What about one with no eMMC
at all? I know there are more than a few people here that boot from
network, sdcard or usb.

Never say never, but we are unlikely to make any more 2GB eMMC models.
I've been kicking around the idea of doing a kickstarter for a no-eMMC
model, but I'd like to wait a month or two to see how the Rev C and
Element14 boards are doing out there.

Another thought occurred, has beagle or circuitco done any long duration
eMMC testing? How graceful will the BBB handle a failed eMMC part?
Failed as-in worn out from use not a defect. I think some people are
concerned with eMMC failures and so they don't use it or don't rely
on it.

The only data we have is from the manufacturer and the community.
After a year, we aren't seeing wear-out issues. The ext4 file system
if fairly robust, but if writes start failing, end-user failures can
occur in odd ways. If you are creating a mission-critical app that
must stay deployed for many years without the ability to perform
replacements, I'd encourage you to alter the eMMC contents to
read-only, except for your critical data acquisition.

Good information and thank you Jason for sharing. I see there is also
someone else producing miniature versions of the BBB, but . . . not my own
thing.

Who and what?

SoM version of BeagleBone:
uSomIQ AM335x

Looks pretty cool, thanks. Another win for open hardware!

From this post:
https://groups.google.com/d/msg/beagleboard/KCr_Sm8tP_o/6YVEfI8Dc-4J

Sorry I missed it.

Well I can't agree more with you ... I'm not using the eMMC because I need
the pins that the eMMC use .... .

Why not only using sdcard ? it's much more easy to programm the BBB with
sdcard than with eMMC ....... .

There certainly is a value to going back to no eMMC, but the
reliability, performance and cost advantages make it more practical
for the standard BeagleBone Black.

Hi,

I mean can I take an SD card which runs on a Circuitco BBB and expect this
to work on an Embest BB Black?

Yes.

OK thanks!

BTW I will do a webinar "From Arduino Uno to BeagleBone Black (and back)![1]
on 17th and such a question might arise.

Sounds interesting. Will you talk about stuff like Userspace Arduino
and using the PRUs?

Not really. It's just 30 min :wink:

For the average Embedded software person it's quite painful to create
(or let others create) prototyping hardware in order to write software
which talks to sensors and actuators. On the one hand it's quite
straightforward to build up some hardware and write test software with
libraries available for the Arduino UNO, on the other hand it's not that
easy to do the same thing "right" in Embedded Linux. Wouldn't it be nice
to reuse this tested hardware prototype and write code for Embedded
Linux to talk to it? I intentionally don't want to use Arduino wrapping
libraries on Linux since those are typically not industrial strength,
but targeted towards hobbyists. This is what's going to be presented
here. BTW the prototyping hardware is not only able to convert signal
levels from an Arduino UNO (shield) to a Beagle Bone, but also to
convert signal levels from a Beagle Bone (cape) to an Arduino UNO if
that's needed.

Charles, yes thats it thanks.

Jason, Just on a rough guess, how much would a 4GB model with GbE, and 1GB memory cost ? Since you mention KickStarter, I figure if the price point could be low enough, it also might be worth it. Dual GbE would even be better( I bet you all can see where I am going with this ).

Drop the expansion headers and a lot of things could be done. Keep them, and you won’t get Dual GbE. You might be better waiting on the next generation offering.

Gerald

any chance we will get a bump in RAM any time soon? Would love to see
1GB or catching up to some of the other boards with 2GB. I realize it
would be a cost increase, but I think that would be a better option than
no eMMC.

Not until the memory device is made that can get it to 1GB for sure. The best we can do then is 1GB. The small form factor does not allow us to add memory devices Even then I am not sure we have the power supply to run it. If it means a redesign of the power section, it won’t happen.

Gerald

Gerald, I for one would be willing to go with a larger form factor to gain more memory, and GbE.

Anyhow, yes I am not trying to push you or anything like that, just making my thoughts known. Sounds like I will have to keep my eyes out for the next Generation :slight_smile:

IN the meantime, the minnowboard MAX could fit the bill, but I think I will wait and see whats going on with ARM for a while.