The Inside of an Embedded world !

BeagleBone Black Getting Started...

It has arrived two weeks ago and I really enjoyed the whole plug-and-play experience. It was really easy to get started by following the documentation available on I was impressed by the “everything through usb” approach where the board is seen by the PC as a USB Mass Storage device but also emulates a network connection so you can talk to the board using SSH in a matter of minutes after unpacking (they even have a SSH shell that runs in a browser). I didn’t spend much time on the Javascript based development environment and the so called “bonescript” language since I wanted to reach a lower-level of access to all the features this board has to offer.

Like every “hacker-wannabe” I had to “break it” as soon as it arrived so once I got it running I erased the entire MMC and went on a quest to get it working from the bottom up. I was also intersted to move away from Ångström and use a more conventional Debian distribution. Not that I don’t like Ångström, we use it extensively at work but I was interested to see how well a beefier distro would run on the BeagleBone Black.

I used the information available on this wiki and the excellent work put together by Robert Nelson and available on his GitHub page to build a bootable micro SD card with a bootloader, custom-built 3.8 Linux Kernel and pre-built minimal Debian wheezy file system. Finally I copied the SD card back to the MMC using Robert Nelson’s script “”.

While waiting for the board to arrive (it took less than 10 days from Makershed to my mailbox in Switzerland) I’ve been reading documentation about the processor that equips the BeableBone Black (BBB) and more specifically I’ve been looking at the so called “Programmable Real-Time Units” that are two independent 200MHz cores that could have all sorts of interesting use cases in the future. I also used that time to look for tutorials and documentations on the BBB.

To start fiddling with my board I needed some extra hardware to start interfacing things with so I ordered a breadboard and a “starter set” of through-holes components (resistors, LEDS, buttons, 7 segments displays, etc) from Play-Zone. It’s the first time I use this online shop and it’s been a good experience. They have some of the products manufactured by sparkfun of course they take an additional margin but I can get a faster delivery.

Here is the list of things I bought:

The USB Serial cable is really recommended if you want to make sure you can always access a prompt even if the board doesn’t fully boot or is not fully booted yet.

In my next post I’ll show you the first thing I built with the Bone. It will feature taking apart a Nokia 3310 and learning about the device tree objects and overlays.