13 March 2014

WSPR-Bone: Linux Adentures in Beaglebone Land 03

What you missed:

After the decision was taken I had to get a Beaglebone Black (BBB), but it was nearly impossible to find one. It seems that some companies have bought huge quantities of BBB to incorporate them in their products. But I was lucky Watterott found a spare one for me. Thanks!

While reading the following, bare in mind my goals: Not a poor mans Linux computer, but a dedicated Ham radio computer for digital modes with a window GUI.

This is not and never will be a Beagle

Before I dive into the adventures of installing a Linux image which is working for my layout, let me summarize my experience, which I learned the hard way - through installing image after image. Although I have already written it, I will not present a step by step tutorial Howto install XXX. You will find it on the web by the dozen. They are  OK most of the time, but time keeps moving on and so do the provided images.

  • When you are new, stick to the images which are provided by Beaglebone.org.
  • Don't mix Beagleboard, BeagleBone, Beaglebon Black. You can do it, but you have to learn when you are allowed to do it.
  • RTFM, RTFM, RTFM and pay attention to the dates. Take the last one and try your best. The community is not so big, but some people like Robert C. Nelson are really engaged in evolving the system and they are fast, good and friendly. So you have to keep up and better ask - after RTFM.
  • You can start the BBB with just plugging in the power. Linux Angstrom is pre-installed.
  • When you want to work with another OS, you have to prepare an SD card on another computer.
  • You can start the new OS from  that SD card. You can even operate the system from that SD card, but you will have nearly no memory left. 
  • When you want to operate from a SD card, you have to expand that image to the size of your SD card. Otherwise you will have no fun.
  • When you start the system from the internal eMMC, you will have for your system AND your home directory 2 GB. Stop! That's all. No way to gain more memory.
  • When you want to run more than one program at a time you can run into problems caused by only 512 MB Ram. Consider installing an additional Swap file. It can be done, but it will cost you another MB of your valuable memory.
  • As stated before: When running your system from the eMMc, you have no additional memory left, but you can install the SD card as an external storage device (for file swapping eg.) 
Said that and done ...

Stage One:
Plugging the USB power into the new BBB from your laptop and you are connected via a web server on the BBB and your local browser to the board. You will find examples explanations. Good for some time to read and play.

Stage Two:
Plugging in a display, keyboard, mouse and power into the BBB will end in a Linux Angstrom window system with several programs ready to use. You can play around but when you want to do the normal thing to get the system updated and open a terminal:  sudo apt-get update; apt-get upgrade you are stuck. The system doesn't know these commands. But when you have read the documentation from Stage One, you will know that it is not apt-get. It is "opkg". When looking around I missed nano, sudo (learned later that I do not need it), ping, ... and documentation. I looked on the web, but found nearly nothing except a paper from a student. I read before that Angstrom was kind of wired and I know my way around with Debian, so ...

Stage Three:
Why not install Ubuntu? Found an image which I copied to the SD card and started the system from the card. Now I wanted to flash the eMMc. From the Ubuntu on the SD card, but could not download the flash image due to lack of space. (See above).


Stage Four:
Why Ubuntu? I wanted to have from the beginning Debian. Found the flash-image and copied on the SD card. Started the system from the SD card and it started to copy the image to the eMMc. When finished I made a reboot and the penguin showed up on the display. Well done. I locked in made my changes keyboard, time, language e. g. made the update and upgrade routine and started to load my normal system environment including of course a X windows GUI (don't remember which one) and went into the kitchen to make a coffee. When I came back everything was stuck. A reboot didn't help. (My premises, that the system would expand the files system by itself and incorporate the SD card proved to be wrong.)

Stage Five:
Started the flash image again, copied all to the eMMc, the penguin appeared and I logged in. Made my normal entries and started locking for a small GUI I think it was Lxde. It started and everything looked normal. I started to search for my normal programs omitting things like Emacs, TeX ;-) ,.. I still had a running system. Then I wanted to integrate my Bluetooth Keyboard and loaded the programs including the Bluedevil Gui. That was a mistake. There were about 30 additional packets who wanted to install themselves. After 10 additional packages No Blue Screen of Death, but all was black. I was truly p.. off.

Stage Six:
Remembering Stage 2 I saw, that I had perhaps made a mistake. After all it seemed, that nearly all prerequisites where already installed. So load that Angstrom flash-image and so on. I took a closer look. After the experimentation of my last trials I thought I give it a try. So let's install the things I need for my ham radio software. (Do you remember: No documentation.) I tried to install, but every time: Sorry we do not know that packet. OK, I will do it like in old times: Verify, if the libraries are there, if not download them, compile them, ... And you might have guessed it, Nada, Nothing. Even essential libraries were not found and I would have to get them from git or somewhere else.
I remembered, that one ham held a talk about 2 years ago. He told that all essential software was running on the Beagleboard under Angstrom and that he would provide the source code and an image. All pages were gone, nothing left. So I left the empty shop.

Stage 7:
Starts like Stage 5 with Debian. But now I check every installation before installing it. I had about 480 MB left on the eMMc. Voted for Xfce, Leafpad, and some minor programs. Killed all doc-files and manpages, made a clean and autoclean. Enabled a swap-file. And have after I compiled 4 programs still 318 MB available. The system is running stable and really fast. I can even browse with Midori. Time to stay.

So I can start build the system. But that's another story.

More to read:

  • WSPR-Bone: Ham-Bone Radio Software Installation 04
  • WSPR-Bone: More Ham Software on the BBB 5

  • )

    Stay Tuned!