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Why Linux sucks

So the Linux on the Beagle xM, as supplied, will automatically log you in as root. You can say "it is an embedded device", but hardware such as the xM is a little more general-purpose than a PVR or Linux router, so I'm not sure that forcing a login with the root account is the best idea? You can create user accounts, but it'll still try to auto-login as root...

It is not possible, however, to configure the system. I plugged in a USB WiFi card and wanted to see if it was recognised by the operating system. Unfortunately, none of the system configuration options worked - neither system, nor networking, nor user accounts would start, instead I saw the following terribly helpful message:

Stupid Angstrom Linux error - The configuration could not be loaded

Perhaps the Beagle release has moved the configuration file? I took a look at the debug messages, but nothing was mentioned:

Beagle xM - dmesg

As you can see, the probe picked up on the USB WiFi, but I'm not sure if anything happened afterwards.


As it stands, it looks like I'm going to need to find an old microSD card and then recreate the built-in Angstrom Linux with a newer (perhaps working?) image. I wish it was possible to drop a raw image onto the microSD, for it is a complicated procedure as the device is split into a small FAT partition and a larger ext2 partition - I don't think I'll get far trying to set that up on Windows, so it'll be back to the LiveCD of xubuntu...


Just to kick Angstrom a little more, if you should set up a password for the root account, the auto-login will screw up as it will notice that a password is required, it will pop up a prompt for a password, and then when the ticker times out, it'll try and log in anyway. Yeah, useful...

I added a definition for a French keyboard, and then deleted the USA keyboard. Yet, at (re)boot, it comes up with "USA" at the top right of the screen. The French definition is there, I can click to switch to it, but it prefers to default to USA. Oh, and this selection is not passed back to the command line so I need to remember key positions on a QWERTY keyboard when actually typing on an AZERTY keyboard!

Yet more lunacy - I looked in the xlog file for the error, there was none. I created a plain text file and wanted to open it...

Beagle xM - no support for txt out of the box?
What? There's no support for txt files "out of the box"?

Sometimes I think Linux distros are thrown together by bored hackers with little concern as to how well the stuff actually works, if at all, really...


The Beagle xM in use

If we look asides from the issues of the OS's crappiness, the setup isn't that bad. I've done nothing with networking nor system setup, so I've looked at it from the point of view of a user. gedit works well, the File Browser is suitably fast and automounts removable media. I know Beagle target this as a dev board, but really they ought to think a little more "general purpose" and supply a version of LibreOffice with the unit.

When it isn't doing a lot, the system stats are:

Beagle xM - stats

The default movie player plays back H.263 files:

Beagle xM - video playback
[Nihongo Quick Lesson, broadcast on NHK World on 2010/04/29]

Then I tried an evil test. An XviD AVI of Fractale. The opening sequence pushes compression and playback capabilities hard, and with the default player the Beagle xM struggled to keep up.

However, switching to MPlayer and selecting a better graphics driver ('gl', if I remember correctly), resulted in nice fluid motion:

Beagle xM - using MPlayer
[title of Fractale, episode 4, subbed by UTW]


Why stick to Angstrom?

Simple. I have no LCD panel or otherwise digital capable monitor, so whatever I install must be capable of outputting to the S-video port. There's a version of Android ICS that might be fun to play with, needs a DVI monitor. I'm not sure if/how Ubuntu is supported in this respect.

Having said that - it looks like a fairly easy procedure to get an OMAP version of Ubuntu "Precise Pangolin" (what's with these nutty names?) onto a microSD using Windows - https://wiki.ubuntu.com/ARM/OmapDesktopInstall - so I might give that a whirl and see if I can coax s-video output from it.


Why RISC OS sucks

RISC OS, the machine with the heritage of talking to practically everything video-wise (the Archimedes could interface and drive everything from a mono TV-style monitor right up to an SVGA monitor) is lacking when it comes to the Beagle. There is, sort of, support for s-video, but you'll need a debug build of the video driver, plus fiddle with the command line to get it to work. I guess at some stage I'll have to pick up a cheap monitor and/or TV with DVI input, but until then I'm stuck with s-video.


Heavy rotation!

The final note is that the Beagle xM seems to use a hell of a lot of power to init. Running off mobile charger PSU, it fails to boot (all LEDs on, testcard colour bars; then all LEDs flash, and the cycle repeats) if I have any USB devices plugged in. So I need to boot without, and plug stuff in afterwards. Weird. I guess I'll need to find a meatier power supply, but it'll do for now.

I'm just waiting until I get a stable enough operating system installed so I can get down to the interesting stuff - namely poking around the ARM.

That said, <thinks>, it can boot from an image held on the SD. Perhaps... maybe... ☺


Your comments:

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joe, 16th May 2012, 06:02
Hi Rick, 
I am using HDMI to DVI adapter and plugging it in DVI 
port on my LCD monitor, the older type monitors are not 
recognized by beagle. 
Trevor Johnson is recognized contributor to RISC OS on 
Beagleboard community, shame he hasn't got the xM model.
Rick, 16th May 2012, 07:12
I'll mention this tomorrow (or so), but I've dumped the USB phone charger power idea now that I've discovered my old iomega Zip power pack is absolutely ideal for the Beagle. Okay, it claims to spit a mere 800mA, but the board boots flawlessly with keyboard, mouse, USB memory device, and the (non-working) WiFi all connected. Besides, I've used zip drives in the past and I think they require a fair whack to keep 'em going. Plus the power supply will be real stable as the speed of rotation of the disc is determined by the input voltage (long story, yes I was horrified!).
Trevor Johnson, 17th May 2012, 23:49
I do also have an -xM but am not knowledgeable about the many technical aspects. Anyway, I see you've posted on the ROOL forum now, so hopefully someone will be able to advise.

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