Bigger BeagleBone Blacks and Thoughts on Raspberry Pi’s Module

The Embest BeagleBone Black looks like it'll be appearing outside China now

The Embest BeagleBone Black looks like it’ll be appearing outside China now

Bigger BeagleBone Blacks

It’s been hard to get the BeagleBone Black(BBB); limited production capabilities have fought with some big adoption stories. If you are unfamiliar with the BBB, its a small board computer in the same size factor as the Raspberry Pi, but with eMMC storage, micro-SD slot and lots of I/O pins – what it lacks in media player cores, it makes up for in clock speed.
Thats “hard to get” nature is about to change though according to a blog post. Production is being ramped up at CircuitCo where they are also upping the storage from 2GB to 4GB which will give more breathing space to the new Debian distribution being shipped on the eMMC of BeagleBones, replacing the previous default Angstrom Linux. The upgraded boards will be referred to as Rev C BBBs. The price will likely be going up to cover the extra memory and production ramp-up but with a back-orders for 150,000 units, CircuitCo are going to be busy.

There’s also a new logo program for the BeagleBone line with Farnell/Element14 being the exclusive licensee. They don’t need to work out how to make BBBs though, for the last year their subsidiary Embest has been selling their own version but only in China. The logo program means they’ll be able to sell globally and it should see even more BeagleBone Blacks out there.

Thoughts on Raspberry Pi’s Module

You’ll have most likely seen the announcement of Raspberry Pi’s SO-DIMM sized module which incorporates the Pi’s SoC with 4GB of eMMC storage on a stick for popping into custom designed boards to provide compute power. That eMMC storage is more than just standing in for an SD card; its fast and having used devices with eMMC storage its a great upgrade.

Right now, the Foundation is pushing this as a way to bring the Pi ecosystem to the world of embedded devices. But are they missing a trick? Alongside the Compute Module is a Generic I/O board(pdf) which brings out most of the pins in a more accessible fashion. That means you can plug in HDMI, USB, two camera ports and two display connectors – not on the I/O board is the Ethernet port, implemented on the Pi as a USB device, and SD card slot.

It got me wondering though… what about a Pi Board for the module which made up for that gap, maybe even put WiFi on board. Packaged right, the Compute Module could be used with it to give an upgradable “Pi Pro”. But would you want a Pi Pro? What more would it need to make it distinctly better from the Pi.

Over in China, there’s companies who’ve already decided what they want in their own improved “Pi” – take the Banana Pi with a dual core AllWinner A20 CPU, gigabit Ethernet, SATA interface, IR reciever, three programmable buttons on board and all in a package the same size and layout of the Pi, including having the IO pins in the same location. Sounds super, all it lacks is one killer feature – anywhere to buy it from.

Varnish 4.0, Erlang/OTP 17.0 and Rails 4.1.0 – Snippets

SnippetsFresh Varnish: Varnish Cache, a popular HTTP reverse proxy, has had version 4.0 released – version 3.0 came out two and a half years ago. The new version can now cache streamed objects, refetch expired objects in the background and security has been hardened up. There’s also a new query language to help dig through Varnish’s extensive logs.

Erlang Enhanced: Version 17.0 of Erlang/OTP has been published – The new version of the languag –, renown for its support for concurrency, high availability and scalability – and its middleware libraries (the OTP) now runs on OSE, a POSIX compliant multicore real-time and fault tolerant operating system. Other changes include an experimental Maps dictionary data type, more “natural mappings” for ASN.1, new options for sockets and many enhancements to the run-time system.

Rails Renewed: The release of Rails 4.1.0 brings a new preloader, variant templates, enums for status (rather than multiple booleans) and mailer previews to the Rails framework. There’s also a useful enhancement to security in that passwords and the like are being moved out to secrets.yml. A run through of the 4.1 features give more info.

Heartbleed, MongoDB 2.6, Easier BeagleBone Black – Snippets

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Heartbleeds out: So the Heartbleed OpenSSL vulnerability is out and about and everyone is checking their systems and updating to OpenSSL 1.0.1g (go straight to the (http://www.openssl.org/source/) or wait for your OS distribution to update – it won’t be long and if it is long, consider another distribution). It’s tempting to use the various Heartbleed test sites out there, it is much safer and trustable to test for it yourself. There’s lot to look at in the bug – this diagnosis offers some insight and reminds us, yet again, how bad people are at managing memory.

MongoDB 2.6: Leading light of the NoSQL world, MongoDB has been updated to version 2.6. The release notes cover the details – updated aggregation, newly integrated text search, various order preserving changes to insert and update, a write protocol with support for bulk operations, an enhanced query engine with index intersection support and much more. A big update with lots to take in, lots to test if you are upgrading before going to production and a lot more being added to MongoDB Inc’s proprietary enterprise layer.

Easier BeagleBone Black: Setting up a BeagleBone Black (BBB) immerses you in the full gamut of configuring device trees and more. So it’s good to see a project like beaglebone-univeral-io – it’s scripts and files that configure the BBB so that all the pins (that aren’t being used to drive the HDMI and other built in components) can be used easily. Of course, there’s still more configuration that needs to be done to set what the remaining pins do so the appearance of BB Universal IO Configurator which is a GUI application to help with that. A short video shows it in action. The BBB is a great little board but needs more tools like this to help people really get to grips with it. Think of it as more than the compute power of a Raspberry Pi with much more GPIO. Meanwhile, I just got some Beaglebone collars which make it easier to locate those pins.

TypeScript 1.0, IPython 2.0.0 and Rust 0.10 – Snippets

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TypeScript hits 1.0: Microsoft’s take on reworking JavaScript, TypeScript, has hit version 1.0 and is now accepting pull requests on the open source compiler (though it’s bug fixes only for now.). Meanwhile, Microsoft have embarked on an open source fest with the creation of the dotNet Foundation, now home to a .NET compiler, micro frameworks, Couchbase for .Net, various SDKs, ASP.NET modules and other stuff. And to top it all off there’s WinJS, a set of UI controls and scaffolding for making Windows applications. Microsoft may be changing, but how effective that change will be is the big question. In the meantime, TypeScript gets to fight it out in the crowded playground that is JavaScript complements/replacements with Dart, CoffeeScript and, lets not forget the next generation of JavaScript, ES6.

IPython 2.0.0: The interactive Python environment IPython, has been updated to version 2.0 and adds interactive widgets, directory naviagation, persistent URLs, a modal UI and security model to its idea of Notebooks as a container for projects. Under the hood, the codebase is now native for Python 2.7 and 3.3 which are also the minimum required versions. There’s lots more changes listed in the release notes or you can just go install it and get into the tutorial which gets you going with the rather clever world of Python powered notebooks.

Rust 0.10 oxidises: Away from the controversies at Mozilla, the Rust developers have rolled out a new Rust release, version 0.10, which continues the steady development of the systems programming language. Changes include the libextra package being broken down (‘misc’/’extras’ libraries are always a bad sign so good to see it go), cross package (crates in Rust terminology) syntax extensions, better smart pointers and I/O handling. As things kick up a notch towards a final version, there’s now a RFC process for changes and nightly releases of binary installers. It’s all still alpha but progress is good – it was recently reported that Servo, the web engine being built on Rust, has passed the Acid 2 test.

Linux 3.14, Etherpad 1.4, Pass and an RGB/LED/Pi tutorial – Snippets

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Linux 3.14 lands: And another ten week dev cycle of Linux ends with the release of Linux 3.14. There’s a new realtime scheduler (deadline), event triggers for tracing, graphics driver updates (stablised Broadwell support, NVIDIA GK110 support, dynamic power management for newer AMD hardware), new TCP autocorking for better small packet handling and the usual gamut of driver improvements, patches and enhancements. For a good list, check LWN.net‘s three part listing (1, 2, 3) (and if you are interested in Linux and don’t subscribe to LWN.net, why not?). As of writing, Kernel Newbies has yet to catch up with its pages, while German speakers can read Thorsten Leemhuis’s Die Neuerungen von Linux 3.14 which is packed full of details.

Etherpad 1.4 arrives: For Etherpad, it’s mostly lots of bugfixes and security patches, but it’s worth noting the arrival of Etherpad 1.4. The Node.js-based collaborative editor’s changelog has the details.

Pass, you may: Pass is an interesting idea – password management using a simple text file (encrypted of course) with a simple (and configurable) file storage heirachy, with simple commands to manipulate them and use them from the keyboard. Now to see if I can get the password manager I use elsewhere to export its contents in Pass format – there’s already scripts for lots of other passwords managers.

Your name in lights: A nice little tutorial from the folks at Adafruit ahows how to use a 16×32 RGB LED matrix panel, which happens to be available over at Phenoptix, with a Raspberry Pi. The matrix usually comes with instructions to use it with an Arduino due to the bit bangy nature of getting stuff onto the display so the Pi instructions offer a whole new set of opportunities for hacking. The next edition of CodeScaling might be in 16×32 format real soon now.

GNOME, Systemd, Node Packages and a comment – Snippets

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GNOME 3.12: And so GNOME 3.12 has arrived with updates all around. Over here at Codescaling, we’re looking forward to the improvements to HiDPI display support . We had been spoiled by Apple’s fairly smooth switch to HiDPI support but on Linux and Windows its all, surprisingly, a work in progress. Our GNOME desktop on a HiDPI dispay brings a range of font sizes to the screen, only some of which are appropriate. (Google Chrome has its own special mix of tiny tabs, chunky (too chunky) bookmark bar and microscopic (mostly) main window so its not just GNOME that has issues). Thats why we’re using HiDPI as our new proxy for up-to-date-ness. Back at GNOME 3.12, there’s also some nice additions like the popover menus for a flatter UI and more work on making Applications more managable entities. Unfortunately, all this won’t be making it into Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS because it feature froze just over a month ago in what could be described as un-cadence. For the curious, there’s already a FreeBSD with GNOME 3.12 VM available. There is also a more traditional Fedora based GNOME 3.12 live image available to download as an ISO.

Systemd 212: An update of bugfixes for the future dominant ‘init’ system in systemd 212. My favourite feature is at the top of the list… make sure that the screen has minimal brightness when restoring settings to stop people rebooting into a black screen. There’s also been work done on timers including the ability to persist timers to disk so they can be used to start processes over a longer span of time and through reboots.

Comment: Steady improvements with GNOME, systemd and Wayland make me hopeful that there will emerge a good end user Linux distro with a solid desktop designed for a general population but configurable for power users – GNOME 3 is well on the way there, but there’s no distro that seems ready to host such a combo as its primary environment beyond Fedora and that’s not aimed at the general populous. Agree/Disagree? Why not try our comments section below?

Node package popularity: It’s the little things that count, and one little enhancement just made to the Node package manager site sets out to make package searching easier by ordering results by popularity – though on testing here at Codescaling, the algorithm will need a bit more work as it seems packages with no ratings and no downloads rise to the top of the list. Still, its good to see work being done on the NPM site, that isn’t security fixes, after the somewhat contraversial creation of NPM Inc . The backend was already getting attention

Java 8, Firefox 28 and wibbly wobbly timey wimey – Snippets

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Java 8 lands: So, after what feels like an age and after its been through the thresher of reality, Java 8 has officially arrived. What’s changed? Lambda expressions, functional interfaces, default methods for interfaces, streams, a new Date API, repeatable annotations, the Nashorn JavaScript engine… there’s a good quick intro to some the language features but theres going to be plenty of settling in to do. For all the docs go to the release notes, downloads can be found on the Java SE downloads page. There’s also a NetBeans 8.0 release to go with the Java 8 release which includes JDK 8 support, including features like Lambdas and Streams, among many other enhancements.

Firefox 28 slips out: Quieter than ever, Mozilla’s Firefox 28 release has some interesting tweaks; VP9, the H.265 competitor, gets video decoding implemented; Mac OS X’s notification center becomes the destination for web notifications; WebM now gets Opus audio support; SPDY/2 is obsoleted by SPDY/3… oh and there’s 5 critical security fixes, three high, seven moderate and three low. If you’re running Firefox, you’ve probably updated already, if not you can download it for your system and language.

Wibbly wobbly timey wimey: An intruiging StackOverflow question asked why the difference between two times one second apart was over five minutes. The times were in 1927 and this was happening in a Shanghai locale – who knew there was an adjustment of 5 minutes 52 seconds to the clock there in that year? Well, one commenter did and it sheds light on how hard time can be to work with and how much information is wrapped up in those timezone files.