Talking BeagleBoard with [Jason Kridner]

I talk Google Summer of Code, BeagleBone based 100MHz 14-bit logic analyzer and PRUs with Hackaday.


[Jason Kridner] is a member of the i3 Detroit hackerspace and during the Hackaday meet-up we were able to spend a few minutes talking about what’s going on with BeagleBoard right now. For those of you that don’t know, BeagleBoard is a non-profit foundation which guides the open hardware initiative of the same name. This includes BeagleBone which is the third iteration of the platform. [Jason’s] a good guy to talk to about this as he co-founded the organization and has been the driving force in the community ever since.

Right now the organization is participating in the Google Summer of Code. This initiative allows students to propose open source coding projects which will help move the community forward. Students with accepted proposals were paired with mentors and are paid for the quality code which is produced. One of the projects this year is a 100 Megahertz, 14-channel Logic…

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The CryptoCape For BeagleBone

Information security for everyone. Joshua Datko showing off his BeagleBone cape at HopeX.


[Josh Datko] was wandering around HOPE X showing off some of his wares and was kind enough to show off his CryptoCape to us. It’s an add on board for the BeagleBone that breaks out some common crypto hardware to an easily interfaced package.

On board the CryptoCape is an Atmel Trusted Platform Module, an elliptic curve chip, a SHA-256 authenticator, an encrypted EEPROM, a real time clock, and an ATMega328p for interfacing to other components and modules on the huge prototyping area on the cape.

[Josh] built the CryptoCape in cooperation with Sparkfun, so if you’re not encumbered with a bunch of export restrictions, you can pick one up there. Pic of the board below.

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Backyard Brains: Controlling Cockroaches, Fruit Flys, And People

Hackaday shocks and then remote controls me


[Greg] and some of the other crew at Backyard Brains have done a TED talk, had a few successful Kickstarters, and most surprisingly given that pedigree, are actually doing something interesting, fun, and educational. They’re bringing neuroscience to everyone with a series of projects and kits that mutilate cockroaches and send PETA into a tizzy.

[Greg] demonstrated some of his highly modified cockroaches by putting a small Bluetooth backpack on one. The roach had previously been ‘prepared’ by attaching small electrodes to each of its two front antennas. The backpack sends a small electrical signal to the antennae every time I swiped the screen of an iPhone. The roach thinks it’s hitting a wall and turns in the direction I’m swiping, turning it into a roboroach. We seen something like this before but it never gets old.

Far from being your one stop shop for cockroach torture devices, Backyard Brains…

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IBM tutorial on using TI SensorTag with BeagleBone Black

IBM has published a tutorial on using Texas Instruments’ (TI) SensorTag kit with BeagleBone Black:

The SensorTag kit connects six (6) sensors to TI’s CC2541 Wireless MCU that features Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) connectivity. The sensors are temperature, humidity, pressure, accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer. It seems to me that connecting some of these to a BeagleBone Black could be pretty handy for collecting environmental data, so I decided to try it out. (disclosure: I work on BeagleBone Black and for TI, so I figure my employers wouldn’t mind me doing this on company time either.)

Personally, I like to develop over the USB cable, so I tend to use Internet Connection Sharing to be able to get out to the Internet from my board. The virtual serial port makes it easy to stay connected while you fetch a new IP address using something like ‘dhclient usb0’. If you are throwing your BeagleBone on the network another way, simply working from the Cloud9 IDE GUI is probably the easiest way to go.

I’ll also point out that the current BeagleBone Black USB stack doesn’t like to always detect hotplugged connections, so inserting the dongle before plugging the board in can make for a better experience. Use ‘lsusb’ to see if the BLE adapter is detected.

The script ran for about 5 minutes or so. The tutorial didn’t mention this time, but I did have time to go grab a cup of coffee. After running the setup, running the code to start sending data up to IBM’s cloud is pretty darn simple.

root@beaglebone:~/iot-beaglebone/samples/nodejs# node iot_sensortag.js
Press the side button on the SensorTag to connectMAC address = 90:59:af:69:c0:42
MQTT clientId = d:quickstart:iotsample-ti-bbst:9059af69c042
sensortag connect
MQTT Connected
        device name = TI BLE Sensor Tag
        system id = bc:6a:29:0:0:ac:ac:7d
        serial number = N.A.
        firmware revision = 1.4 (Jul 12 2013)
        hardware revision = N.A.
        software revision = N.A.
        manufacturer name = Texas Instruments

I input the MAC address into IBM’s page and was greeted with the following screen.

Google ChromeScreenSnapz122_600px

My next question was how do I gather this data for my own use. It seems IBM is looking for people to register to use their cloud service. With tools like, which is registration free, and Xively, which is already quite popular, I’m not sure what advantages the IBM service offers, but I’ll give it a shot for you.

One item I wasn’t expecting was the need to remove the colons from the MAC Address when attempting to register my device. I was also disappointed BeagleBone wasn’t one of the pull-down selections, so I had to add it.

The dashboard shows the board, but doesn’t show a lot of interesting controls to interact with the data.

At this point, there is a huge gap of information to figure out what is easy to do. From the tutorial, there is the quote “You can write an application which sends the payload { “rate”: 2 } to the topic iot-2/type/iotsample-ti-bbst/id/<id>/evt/blink/fmt/json”. You can gather some meaning for this in the source of the code running on the device, but it certainly isn’t clear how you’d need to send information into IBM’s cloud. I opted to try out the Node-RED integration with a trial of IBM Bluemix, assuming that I can always go back to running Node-RED on BeagleBone. I was able to create a Node-RED instance on their cloud, but it wasn’t easy trying to figure out how to start collecting data.

I’m still new to MQTT and Node-RED, so when I couldn’t figure it out, I started to dig into the HTML/JavaScript on their demo page. It turns out, they are using a browser-based websocket MQTT JavaScript library. I deleted the device.cfg the registration process had me create and I started debugging the connection under a JSFiddle.

Once I figured out the correct configuration, I was able to reproduce it with the Node-RED client.

The Node-RED graphical flow-diagram environment seems to be a bit awkward to me for working with MQTT due to the debugging headaches, but it is getting close. Fewer and simpler parameters for the nodes, along with self populating options, should clear this up in a few minor revisions. The other data sources/sinks like RSS feeds, Twitter, etc., seem much easier to use.

What this whole exercise pointed out to me was how easy it is to use a BLE dongle and TI SensorTag kit with BeagleBone Black and Node.JS using the sensortag npm module. That part was really simple and a lot of fun. It also got me interested in learning more about MQTT services and Node-RED.

Read the IBM tutorial and another blog post on the entire process.

Hackaday Descends on Detroit: Redbull Creation and a Meetup with You

You can bet I’ll be at the Hackaday meetup at i3 Detroit!



If you live in a flyover state and never thought you’d see the Hackaday crew gallivanting through your neck of the woods, think again. We’re planning to descend on Detroit, Michigan later next week. The trip started when Red Bull invited [Mike Szczys] to come out and judge the 2014 Red Bull Creation contest. But we wanted to see what Detroit has to offer so [Brian Benchoff] and [Chris Gammell] are going to be in town too.

The Red Bull Creation has been a favorite here on Hackaday for years. Who doesn’t love a 72-hour hackathon that results in all kinds of crazy, spectacular, or horrifying builds? You can see the schedule for Creation here. If you can’t make it out when the teams are at work, the complete projects will be showcased on Saturday at Eastern Market followed by a party hosted at the Omnicorp Detroit…

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