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Beyond speechless...

This lunchtime, a guy from UPS turned up. You have a parcel.

No I don't.

This is you, yes?
He shows me a box that says Digi-key. I know the company, they're like RS only they speak to normal people too. Big American warehouse of pretty much anything that works with wiggling electrons.
And yes, my address.

I didn't order anything. I might be messed up with night shift, but I think I'd remember!

He takes his key and whips the box open. I can look at what it is and refuse it, either way so long as I make a signature against my chosen option.

I recognise the contents. What the hell? A look at the receipt, somebody ordered this thing and had it shipped to me. I will point out that it wasn't a little inexpensive thing either.
I signed for it. The picture was clearer now I saw the receipt and could figure out what was happening. Possibly if the UPS man came in the afternoon, by brain might have been functioning too.

The sender? He's a reader of my blog - so if he wishes to add anything... comments section below. ☺ Otherwise, THANK YOU!

Here it is:

Beagle xM


Beagle xM


For those not nerdily inclined, it is an ARM powered computer board. The xM revision is the later Beagle that offers a faster processor (1GHz ARM Cortex A8 with HD capable DSP), PowerVR SGX GPU, 512MiB RAM, ethernet, 4 USB ports... If you think of the RaspberryPi, this is the RPi on acid. Unlike the earlier Beagle, this contains no flash so - as with the RPi - boots from an image held on a microSD card. In this day and age, that might be a more resiliant option. Additionally, it means you can change the OS simply by starting it up with a different card inserted, you don't have to pick one or the other.
The Beagle is supplied with a type of Linux (Angstrom, I think). It can also run RISC OS. The ARMini computer is one of these in a nice box with all the necessary pieces sorted out, installed, and sold as a pre-made unit.

I have no idea what I'm going to do next - I still can't believe somebody sent me one. It's just... wow.
Thinking aloud - I don't have an LCD monitor so it'll be s-video into the capture device. If I run Linux awhile, I can probably install VNC, then see what it can do talking to it via the LAN. I plan to have a crack at RISC OS - one of the main problems I see as a developer is that while I have access to the latest version of RISC OS, the emulator I'm running it upon is a StrongARM RiscPC. This is ARMv4 era, since then things have changed in subtle ways - consider behaviour of unaligned loads where in older processors the base word would be loaded and then the data rotated (in other words, it wouldn't really work) and newer ARMs where it does actually work (but not as an atomic load). If you're interested in this facet of the differences between ARMs, I describe it in more detail on ARMwiki. Unfortunately some older compilers tended to use this as a dirty way to load halfword values (as older processors had no LDRH) and this pretty much fails on newer machines as something different is loaded!

I'm going to go and have numerous cups of tea while staring at my new toy. I... just... can't believe it's in a box in front of me...

Thank you again.


Update - late afternoon

I wasn't going to do anything, but it's like placing a cupcake in front of me and saying "don't touch". Yeah, right.

I hooked up the S-video to the capture box, then powered up from the USB host port. A green light came on. That's it.

Looking online, I discovered I needed to alter the environment file. This was a simple text file held on the microSD, so I renamed the original and created a new version with the info on the 'net. And powered up again. In NTSC mode, I saw colour test bars. All the lights would flicker, then test bars again.

This means my eeePC's US isn't meaty enough to run the board.

Next step, a 5V power brick. I took the one from my D-Link router. 5V at 1.2A. Centre positive. I wasted fifteen minutes looking around until I noticed the user manual said "with a center hot configuration". I guess "hot" is how Americans say positive. Plugged it in, the red overvoltage LED came on. I metered the pack and its regulated output was 6.3V. Either the router is a much heavier load, the regulation is crap, or "about 5V" is good enough for the router. Either way, duh.

Speaking of duh, I was getting in a tiz by now as I had nothing to run the Beagle. Then it hit me. I mean an epic DUH moment. How about one of those little power bricks that charges a mobile? It has a USB connector, it is regulated 5V, and since it charges the phone in like a quarter of the time than when plugged into the netbook, it must be reasonably meaty.

Clicky-clicky, bingo. The colour bars appeared, then rubbish all over the display. I've seen this before, so I switched back to PAL and saw the Beagle logo. Boot up was slow, but this isn't a surprise, it takes a couple of minutes to bring up an Android phone, or a Livebox, or my OSD... It isn't long, however, before the following appeared:

Beagle xM

And after a little longer:

Beagle xM

I didn't go further, for I only had a USB French layout keyboard and no mouse. I have a USB mouse, I'll need to pull it off of Aiko.

I did try booting while holding the user option button. The machine appeared to freeze (might have spat messages to serial port?). This gives me some hope that I might be able to patch in RISC OS to the boot sequence? I'll need to read up on this stuff. It'll be cool if I can hold both on the microSD and switch as desired.


Your comments:

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joe, 14th May 2012, 17:54
Hi Rick, 
I have one of the same brand and name, when you fire it up it loads a reduced version of Gnome, I did play with some other images too, there is this image from Always Innovating, they created an image with 4 operating 
systems, Ubuntu, Android, Chromium OS and AI OS, more 
here: http://www.alwaysinnovating.com/beagleboard/ 
if you don't have a touch screen or AI $120 keyboard, 
you have to modify the booting to boot to either Ubuntu or AI OS, both have got some limitations. 
All the information about beagleboard is here: 
http://www.beagleboard.org/, you can find out there, 
how to run RISC OS on this unit and that is exactly what I am after, I couldn't do it myself, maybe you could. You didn't get anything special for your birthday and the 14th of July, Storming of the Bastille is coming soon, time to celebrate and be happy. 
This is a form of a thank you present from all of us, who enjoy your blog and all the information on you webpage, which is not for free.
Rick, 14th May 2012, 19:55
Thanks again. It'll take some time to familiarise myself with the unit. Don't worry, one way or another I plan to get RISC OS running. Then we can look at having fun with ARM code!
joe, 15th May 2012, 04:03
Hi Rick, 
you can use your mobile phone's internet data via USB to  
connect the beagle to the internet. 
I have managed to link it with Ubuntu running laptop 
and use the internet sharing this way, problem is Ubuntu kept dropping the connections. I haven't managed 
to load drivers for USB wireless stick, Gnome is missing 
some vital parts of its console and AI's images are even 
Trevor Johnson, 15th May 2012, 12:28
Great news! The existence of such generosity is always a pleasure to read about. Hope the RISC OS work comes on well. Regarding a DVI monitor, I picked up a dual DVI-D/VGA s/h one for £40 IIRC a couple of years ago in the UK - it's this Dell 1704FP.

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