TI’s BeagleBoard is a great little Linux system. It consumes less than 2 watts and can connect to all sorts of things; it has an HDMI port that carries DVI-D video, a USB port that lets you connect USB peripherals such as keyboards, mice, and network adapters, an RS-232 serial port, and an expansion connector that includes I2C, GPIO, and more. (The autoconfiguring USB port can also act as a USB gadget, allowing the BeagleBoard to appear as a peripheral when you plug it into a computer).
What’s more, the software (operating system and build tools) is open source, and TI makes the schematics and board layouts available as well. See the Embedded Linux Wiki BeagleBoard page for links to the schematics, board layouts, and information on using the design in your own creations.
TI sent MAKE a BeagleBoard and their latest BeagleBoard accessory, the DLP Pico Projector Development Kit. This is a version of their DLP Pico Projector that’s designed for use with the BeagleBoard. Combine the two, and you’ve got a really small Linux-powered system that can go anywhere you can provide power.
The $149 BeagleBoard has been available for some time from Digi-Key. You can order a Pico Projector Development Kit from Digi-Key for $349. (The Pico Projector should begin shipping in mid to late January 2009).
I spent a few days poking around with the BeagleBoard and the Pico Projector, and it’s a very cool system with immense hackability. If you get your hands on a BeagleBoard, the place to start is the BeagleBoard beginner’s page at the Embedded Linux Wiki. There, you can figure out which cables and accessories you need, how to boot a Linux image on the BeagleBoard, and where to go next.
To use the DLP Pico Projector Development Kit with the BeagleBoard, check out this tip from Koen, which explains which kernel to use and how to configure the BeagleBoard’s bootloader to start up with the correct resolution required by the Pico projector.
Here’s a picture of the BeagleBoard’s first boot screen projected in a semi-dark room on the DLP Pico Projector (note that upon your first boot after following the Embedded Linux Wiki instructions, it may take a while for this screen to appear, as the Linux distribution needs to configure many of the packages):
At the time I tested out the BeagleBoard, I couldn’t find a kernel image that would support both DVI video output and the USB Ethernet adapter I was using (the 3-port USB Hub with 10/100 Ethernet from the BeagleBoard shopping list). But then again, I have always had bad luck with USB Ethernet adapters. So, I just used a USB EV-DO card to get online (I’ll save that for a future HOWTO on the Make blog).
Here’s a photo of the Make blog displayed using the Pico Projector:
And to compare, here’s what it looked like when I opened the shades:
So for $500, you get a powerful Linux-based computer and a tiny projector. I’m looking forward to seeing what people make with these two gadgets.