Making Catchup: 6502 home computer, Trinket Mouse, Beaglebone IO, Manga Screen and piCore Linux

makingcatchupAnd it’s another catchup as the world whizzes by…

Cool 6502 Builds: Dirk Grappendorf has built a lovely looking 6502 based microcomputer but more importantly takes you step by step through the entire build process from generating the clock to getting Basic running on it. Illustrated with schematics and downloads, this is a great article to read if you want to get a feel for what’s involved in recreating a machine which never existed in the 80s. The entire thing is battery powered too so you can use the “mix of a C64 and an Epson HX-20” on your lap.

Make a mouse: Well not quite a mouse. A new Adafruit tutorial shows how you can make a Trinket Pro act like a USB HID mouse and that in turn lets you control a PC. There’s another tutorial mentioned on making it work as a keyboard which is even more useful; I’ve built custom macro keyboards using the technique.

Beaglebone Black PWM: Beaglebone Blacks rock but they can be a bit hard to get your head round when it comes to doing stuff with that huge array of IO pins. So this worked example of configuring and driving the IO as PWM to control motors is well handy to have. Talking BeagleBone’s… we’re getting close to the time when we should be seeing more details about that next gen Beagle board…

Manga Screen: Meanwhile, my screen fetish continues with me backing Manga Screen’s Kickstarter, a delicious looking 4.3″ touch screen display which is powered from USB and takes HDMI (DVI) signals in to make a rather unique little panel.

Tiny Core for Pi: Want a different Linux for your Raspberry Pi? The redoubtable Tiny Core just landed a final release on it as piCore 6.0 so you can check that out. Keeping your OS on SD cards does have the advantage that its easy to experiment.

Making Catchup: 1Sheeld, Codebender, Odroid/W, Beans, Metawear and more

2014-10-10 18.15.26First of all a catchup on some of my making. I presented a short talk at Oggcamp 2014 on using the 1Sheeld with an Android phone to make experimenting with Arduino much simpler. The 1Sheeld sits on Arduino’s serial ports and using Bluetooth, talks to an Android phone app. The app is able to emulate a whole range of devices, like keypads and LEDs, and sensors, such as gyroscopes and barometers, and act as a proxy to web services like Twitter and Facebook. You just click on the things you need active and write code for the 1Sheeld library that talks to the board and onwards to the phone.

The demo involved using a Nexus 5’s gyroscope to roll a pixel around an Adafruit Neopixel shield and you can check out that code for that on my Rollapixel page on Want to see that working? Here’s a bit of video:

Big shout out to the folk as they have the 1Sheeld libraries and examples all online as part of their splendid online IDE – it’s great to be able to cut code without spending time wrestling Java and the Arduino IDE into shape and even better to be able to quickly share it.

Other devices I’ve been playing with recently….

The ODroid/W Raspberry Pi-clone: Lovely bit of work by the HardKernel folk. It’s built to go into those smaller devices that the Pi doesn’t address, has LiPo battery support, real time clock and it’s well compact. That Broadcom cut off the supplies is more a worry for Pi owners as it looks like your locked into a Pi Foundation organised ecosystem. The HardKernel folk still have their tiny quad core ARMs like the 4core Odroid/U3 and octocore Exynos-based Odroid/XU3, one of which is mounted behind a monitor here (the smller one).

The Light Blue Bean: A small BLE/Arduino compatible… the software’s a bit hairy and Mac OS X/iOS centric at the moment but its a little board with a lot of potential. The ones I have will probably all end up being turned into iBeacons at some point.

The Metawear wearable: Andother BLE/ARM-core controller combo, this is really tiny, so much so I’m not brandishing a soldering iron near it till I get some really tiny tips. Waiting to see where the creators go with it as the world of wearables is, well, odd.

Other catchups:

Making Catchup: The ODROID W and VU, BBB GPIO and tutorials

makingcatchupODROID-W: Hardkernel are more known for their Exynos based single board computers which pack quite a punch in a small space – enough that a meaty heatsink is needed. But their latest product eschews the Exynos chippery for a Broadcom chip, the same chip as the Raspberry Pi. The ODROID-W is apparently the result of a wearable research project which saw Hardkernel minimise the Pi design down to a wearable module. This module loses Ethernet, switches to a MicroSD slot and micro-HDMI then adds an eMMC socket, real time clock and battery booster and packs it into a tiny board. It’s rather neat and if you want more ports, there’s docking modules with or without touch TFT LCD screens. It’s one of the more interesting additions to the Pi ecosystem and I’ll have more to say about it when they arrive at Codescaling.

ODROID-VU: While looking at the Odroid-W, I noticed the Odroid-VU. This is a 1280×800 9″ multitouch display with USB and HDMI connections which seems to be joining the race for who can make the all-purpose hacker-maker portable screen.

BeagleBone Black GPIO: BeagleBone Black’s have a lot of IO capabilities and it can be a bit daunting taking it all in. So Kilobaser’s BBB GPIO tutorial is a great place to get a handle on all these pins and how to control them from Linux.

BeagleBone Black Tutorials: Another useful resource is Logicsupply’s Inspire blog where various handy articles have been appearing like this one on how to drive OLED displays fromC/C++ or making Xbee work or this one on web controlling LEDs using a smartphone.

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.

Heartbleed, MongoDB 2.6, Easier BeagleBone Black – Snippets


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 ( 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.

Linux 3.13 lands, Node-RED re-flows, FreeBSD 10 close, BBB-SDR challenge – Snippets


  • Linux 3.13 lands: It took a couple of weeks longer than expected, but Linux 3.13 has been announced. KernelNewbies has their 3.13 summary up, or if you speak German, Thorsten Leemhuis has his What’s New up on heise. Highlights? New firewall packet subsystem nftables, new multi-queue I/O that works better with fast devices, open source driver Southern Islands Radeon (HD7550-HD7590) 3D support and power management (and HDMI audio) are now on by default. Throw in improved NUMA and hugepage support, squashfs performance and many more additions and changes and you got yourself a 3.13. Look for it to percolate out through the distros over the coming months.

  • Node-RED self-flows: I’ve talked about Node-RED before – it’s the neat GUI for connecting the Internet of Things, and more, together. In a neat article, Andy Stanford-Clark looks at making Node-RED make its own flows. Flows are what you create in Node-RED to implement how data flows around and the idea that Andy looks at is making a flow which would squirt out JSON which could be sent to other Node-RED instances to configure them. Imagine, stepping back for a moment, that you could have a flow which looked up all the devices that ran Node-RED and the other devices that could be accessed and created flows for all of them so they could all work together … thats where this idea is going. Worth a read (and if you haven’t played with Node-RED, make some time for it).

  • FreeBSD 10 very very close: It looks like FreeBSD 10 is just about to be announced – ISO images have appeared but there’s no announcement quite yet. There’s a frisson of activity around a Hacker News posting that the files have turned up, but it ain’t announced until the PGP-signed fat lady sings.

  • BeagleBone Black Radio challenge: The folks at Element 14 are running a BeagleBone Black Radio Challenge looking for people to propose how they’d make best road-test use of a package comprising of a BBB, a 4.3″ touchscreen cape and an AdaFruit Software-Defined-Radio USB Stick. So are you up to test your maker-mettle?