BeagleBoard Gives New Power to Open Source Gadgets

Open source hardware hobbyists now have a chipset to play with that’s comparable to the powerful processors found in smartphones.

“The USB-powered Beagle Board is a low-cost, fan-less single board computer that unleashes laptop-like performance and expandability without the bulk, expense, or noise of typical desktop machines.”

Above is the description of the beagleboard as written on their website. It is a really small piece of hardware (about 7.6 cm) and can be extended with other (USB) hardware. Just like the Dream it also uses an ARM processor.

Texas Instruments has released a new version of its low-power, single-board computer called BeagleBoard-xM. It’s based on the same 1-GHz ARM Cortex A8 processor that drives the most sophisticated smartphones today. That gives it far more processing power than the leading open-source microcontroller platform, Arduino, which many hobbyists currently use to create robots, sensors, toys and other DIY devices.

A small shopping list of hardware that should be bought when using the BeagleBoard can be found at http://code.google.com/p/beagleboard/wiki/BeagleBoardShoppingList Looking at the minimal hardware list, the total price is about $180 without shipping costs.

The BeagleBoard-xM has multimedia features similar to the processor seen in the Palm Pre and Motorola Droid, and includes on-board ethernet, five USB 2.0 ports and 512 MB of memory.

“It’s a fully loaded, open platform that allows users to run multiple applications and embed them in devices,” says Jason Kridner, ARM software architecture manager and BeagleBoard community manager. “We wanted to offer something that’s cheap, ups the performance level and has sufficient memory.”

The first BeagleBoard debuted in 2008, targeting hardware hobbyists who wanted a powerful chipset to build home-brewed gadgets. But, so far, it has been eclipsed by the simpler open source microcontroller Arduino. Arduino has become a big hit among DIYers powering an eclectic variety of projects including electronic textiles, a fire-breathing dragon and many robots.

The 3-inch–square BeagleBoard-xM runs a full Linux operating system with desktop managers and office applications. It also includes a 2-D and 3-D graphics accelerator, a port to add a computer monitor and an S-video port for TV.

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