The log below is derived from the Ubuntu logging bot's logs which log in Coordinated Universal Time (five hours ahead of local time) which otherwise assumed during the proceedings it was January 29, 2013.


03:00 skellat: NTP reports 10 PM, we can begin

03:00 skellat: Good evening and welcome to Educational Session 2013-1: "The Joy of BeagleBoard"

03:00 skellat: My name is Stephen Michael Kellat. I am an Ubuntu Member and the podcast presenter for the Ohio Local Community Team. I will be leading tonight's session.

03:00 skellat: The slides for tonight's session are available at and if you do not already have them open your are advised to do so now.

03:00 gilbert: speedy Smile :)


03:00 skellat: On the second slide there are some basic ground rules for tonight's session. The key ones to remember are: Please follow along with the presentation in IRC as there will be requests to switch to different pages of the slide deck

03:01 skellat: Followed by: As we go along, please hold your questions until the end

03:01 skellat: And then by: If a question cannot be answered immediately, it may be "parked" to be addressed directly via e-mail at a later time after the session.

03:01 skellat: And with that, lets flip to the third slide and begin...

03:01 * gilbert already broke the rules Wink ;)

03:01 * skellat is okay with that


03:01 skellat: And now to type without having prepared text strings

03:01 skellat: A couple years ago I started off getting a BeagleBoard

03:02 skellat: Previously I used a PowerPC to good effect

03:02 skellat: As happens with most hardware I have, it most certainly it is not the latest or greatest. If anything, it is often a hand-me-down.

03:02 skellat: At the time I picked up a BeagleBoard, ARM was the new thing in the Ubuntu realm.

03:02 skellat: As you can see from the slide, the board is pretty small.

03:03 skellat: Normally folks build "dog houses" for the BeagleBoard but I have chosen for too long to just let the board remain exposed to open air. If anything that allows me to most easily see the message lights. It also prevents my cat from attacking it.

03:03 skellat: The BeagleBoard-xM is the latest full-featured version that comes with a validation image of Angstrom Linux

03:03 skellat: It boots great

03:04 skellat: But this is an Ubuntu-related IRC channel

03:04 skellat: That's where the adventure begins

03:04 skellat: To properly set up to use the board as a desktop, you have to get an external power supply. While the board can run from a MicroUSB connection the amperage that gives just isn't enough to also support peripherals.

03:05 skellat: You get four USB ports and an Ethernet jack soldered directly to the board

03:05 skellat: For ease of access, decent hubs are recommended so you do not have to handle the board too much directly

03:06 skellat: In my case, I previously had a working smart phone and other devices with Bluetooth capability so I have a Bluetooth dongle on my BeagleBoard for simple Personal Area Networking to move files

03:06 skellat: I also have a gamer on my LAN who loves World of Warcraft and heaven forfend if I interrupt her gameplay with moving files Smile :-)

03:06 skellat: Lets move on to the next page of slides


03:06 skellat: Okay, there are three key points to the BeagleBoard

03:08 skellat: It is an ARM device. Conventional x86 binaries do not play well here. Coding of programs has to be careful as playing for x86 may make your program Fail To Build From Source (FTBFS). For a while Firefox repeatedly went FTBFS as it was too dependent upon x86 specifics in its code.

03:09 skellat: The BeagleBoard is also a low power device. As for my in-house gamer, I know the bill from FirstEnergy Ohio will easily have one kilowatt-hour of usage from that conventional x86 box running for just under 2.5 hours. To get a kilowatt-hour usage out of the BeagleBoard, it takes many more hours of use.

03:09 skellat: The BeagleBoard is also a very cranky device. Since the board is built around a System On A Chip you have interesting issues that erupt that you do not see in the conventional x86 realm.

03:10 gilbert: sorry for the question, but about how many hours to use up a killowatt of usage?

03:11 skellat: Alrighty, since we needed to pause for a second...I'll note that I've seen the board pegged at 7 W/hr exclusive of its display which is a conventional television. As a headless device it would take a couple days. With the display active, that would come to about a day by rough estimate depending upon display used.

03:12 drkokandy: wow

03:12 gilbert: cool, i'll not interrupt anymore Smile :)

03:12 skellat: It's all good. We needed to pause. Lets advance to the next slide.


03:13 skellat: As you see in this slide, that's my BeagleBoard. That's also the top portion of my keyboard. The BeagleBoard really is not that big. The main storage is a MicroSDHC card.

03:13 skellat: Since storage is a MicroSDHC card and that that is the boot device, that cannot go beyond 32 gigabytes since going past that takes you into the somewhat incompatible SDXC standard.

03:14 skellat: Now, I initially tried to use the Canonical provided preloaded images to bring my board up. You can find documentation about this at though sadly it hasn't been updated since 12.04.

03:14 skellat: The ARM development efforts have had a knock-on effect for the Ubuntu Phone effort.

03:15 skellat: As I learned to my horror, the image worked perfectly on the third try. Once it finally booted to a mainline Ubuntu didn't recognize any input from the USB hub.

03:15 skellat: That's right, it booted to Unity but you couldn't use the mouse or keyboard and there was no other way to access the system!

03:16 skellat: In the end, I turned to some interesting directions here to create a netinstall situation using debian-installer that allowed me to load Xubuntu on the board:

03:17 skellat: Custom firmware does have to be downloaded but in the end it comes from somebody who's passed trust by the overall BeagleBoard project so I've been able to trust well as do a dist-upgrade to totally replace said custom firmware on my own

03:17 skellat: I don't grok KDE so I haven't tried Kubuntu and the last attempt at installing Lubuntu failed. Xubuntu via netinstall has worked on the board well.

03:17 skellat: A key issue that erupts is that the repositories do NOT match for i386 and armhf

03:17 skellat: Sometimes packages just are not built

03:18 skellat: Another big thing is that if you are dependent on something from a had better be ready to build it locally yourself. The PPA infrastructure does NOT build by default for armhf.

03:19 skellat: For the most part, the packages I need are available. I use a metapackage created with ubuntu-defaults-builder to let me keep such in sync between the x86 netbook from System76 I'm sitting at right now and the BeagleBoard.

03:19 skellat: Outside all that, the board operates as a conventional wired desktop on armhf.

03:19 skellat: And lets flip to the next slide


03:20 skellat: There you can see the top of my Singer Sewing Computer Table with the keyboard, TV/Monitor, mouse, and the little BeagleBoard gets somewhat lost in the picture compared to everything else

03:20 skellat: Now lets flip to the next slide


03:20 skellat: The BeagleBoard is a cranky device

03:21 skellat: It is not a set it and forget it device for me

03:21 skellat: The first thing you have to remember is that it is a System On A Chip. You cannot upgrade the video, the processor, or the memory. That's all built-in. On occasion a program may act like a fork-bomb (Firefox being a big offender) and will drag the system to a crawl.

03:22 skellat: Midori is often recommended as a more appropriate browser to use although I also have lynx & w3m installed

03:22 skellat: There are only 512 megabytes of memory. You cannot breach that wall. Games, even if they are successfully compiled and in the repos for armhf, may butt up against that.

03:23 skellat: Steam for Linux does not exist for armhf, alas

03:23 gilbert: not surprising...

03:23 skellat: Unity does not play well at all on armhf to the point that Ubuntu Phone wound up having to adopt an entirely separate toolkit to be able to function on all those ARM-based smartphones out there

03:24 gilbert: quite an esoteric platforms for high-end games...

03:25 skellat: Core dumps do happen but in the event of too many downloads happening at once, on occasion the network controller will just decide to quit. I had that happen a couple nights a couple when I set up a couple at jobs using aria2c as my Bittorrent client to download ISOs of other distributions.

03:25 skellat: The USB hub can also pull that trick too. I've never figured out why as I haven't had a serial console available to slap onto the board to try to get a trace.

03:26 skellat: The other big problem in the end is that the BeagleBoard lacks a Real Time Clock. The BeagleBoard is meant to be networked rather than standalone isolated. NTP keeps the clock working right on my board. I have tried to run the BeagleBoard isolated and the clock can drift to the point of my seriously considering ways of constructing an external timebase receiver.

03:26 skellat: Alrighty, lets move ahead to the next slide.


03:27 skellat: To wrap up, the BeagleBoard is a bit of an adventure. If you want comfortable computing...

03:27 skellat: ...stick to x86.

03:27 skellat: If you want an adventure where things will break and you will be on the bleeding edge of software, the BeagleBoard is a new horizon.

03:27 skellat: All the major languages work on it and all the compilers are available.

03:28 skellat: If you want to work hard to ensure your code is truly portable, the BeagleBoard is a great platform for that.

03:28 skellat: For using the Internet outside Flash-based gaming and Steam-based gaming, it is a great little board that works well that runs LibreOffice nicely.

03:29 skellat: Debian also supports the BeagleBoard and Arch is increasing its support. Fedora right now only supports it in headless server mode so you'll need a serial console for that.

03:29 skellat: With all that being said, what questions do we have tonight?

03:29 drkokandy: what do you use it for?

03:29 gilbert: so there's 512MiB ram, is there flash memory for hard disk?

03:30 skellat: drkokandy: I use it as a server currently since my SheevaPlug is dead. The crontab is pretty big and it is busy throughout the day. It also lets me check the news first thing in the morning and peek at my e-mail after I get up without booting up my netbook.

03:30 skellat: gilbert: On one of my hubs there are typically multiple USB sticks plugged in

03:31 skellat: gilbert: I also have yet to run out of space on the 32 gigabyte MicroSDHC card

03:31 skellat: drkokandy: I use the command line tool gpo that comes with gpodder to automate podcast downloads throughout the day with a little bash scripting of my own that pops off every couple hours

03:31 Unit193: I'd guess you haven't tried xombrero as an alternate browser? indicates it at least used to build on armhf.

03:32 drkokandy: Love gpo, I use that on my server too

03:33 skellat: Unit193: Not yet. It is packaged in precise so it looks like I might not need to attempt a repack to make it usable.

03:33 gilbert: so, is the microsd reader built-in?

03:33 skellat: Gilbert: Yep, that is an integral part of the board.

03:34 gilbert: any reason you've been looking at the BeagleBoard vs. the raspberry pi?

03:34 skellat: Gilbert: See also:

03:34 drkokandy: or this ODROID thing with an Exynos processor?

03:35 skellat: Gilbert: Ubuntu supports the BeagleBoard but does not support the Raspberry Pi as our project overall supports ARMv7 instruction set and later while the Raspberry Pi uses ARMv6. Debian can support such under armel instead.

03:36 skellat: drkokandy: I haven't seen much concrete documentation on the ODROID within the Ubuntu realm. Arch has a ton of documentation on utilizing it, though.

03:36 drkokandy: oh, I remember that from the forums. they talked about how much work it would take to make ubuntu run on v6

03:36 drkokandy: maybe this is a novice question, but what the ODROID people claim to have running on it is Linaro Ubuntu... what is that

03:37 drkokandy: ?

03:37 skellat: drkokandy: That'll take a moment to answer

03:37 skellat: drkokandy: Linaro releases monthly builds of Android and Ubuntu

03:37 gilbert: skellat: have you considered loading debian, since armhf is a first-class architecture?

03:38 skellat: drkokandy: Linaro Ubuntu is one of their special monthly builds which are designated by Year dot Month

03:38 skellat: gilbert: I've considered it. I'll be definitely considering such once Wheezy goes golden.

03:38 gilbert: skellat: and would be perhaps less troublesome than ubuntu where non-x86 archs are an afterthought?

03:39 gilbert: skellat: well its in such a deep freeze at this point, what you see now pretty much is the release

03:39 skellat: gilbert: The thing is that Ubuntu Phone is the coming big shift. I think Canonical in this respect is on the the right track except for not building the bloody phones themselves.

03:40 gilbert: i think that's smart. hardware is a tought market for non-hardware makers, just look at how google avoids hardware

03:41 skellat: gilbert: With the overall declines of PC sales from all manufacturers and the continued rise and growth on smartphones into phablets and other transitional devices...we may not need to wait for the Year of Linux on the Desktop. We've already got the Years of Linux on the Device and as the Device displaces the Desktop we need to see Ubuntu there.

03:41 skellat: Besides, running everything on your phone in Java still freaks me out. iOS at least uses Objective C while Ubuntu Phone will have a Terminal on it and allow more conventional languages hopefully.

03:41 drkokandy: and even when Google "sponsors" hardware like the Nexus line, they have a terrible time with the ordering/inventory/selling of the devices

03:42 skellat: drkokandy: Yep. If Canonical came out with their own Ubuntu Phone built in Britain, though, I would seriously consider buying it.

03:42 drkokandy: that's a good point about Linux on the device

03:43 drkokandy: me too, maybe... GSM carriers are terrible around Ashland though

03:43 gilbert: well, windows on the device has been pretty much proven doa - exhibits: zune, windows phone

03:43 Unit193: drkokandy: What I got linked to was one that worked with Ubuntu 12.10.

03:44 skellat: gilbert: Indeed. That's the big thing that worries me with Ubuntu Phone and why I paid special attention in Burning Circle to Full Circle Magazine #69...making an aftermarket operating system for Android Phones doesn't seem like a good idea. I want a cool device built by cool people within the Ubuntu realm that can rock the world.

03:44 drkokandy: one what, Unit193? ODROID?

03:45 Unit193: appears to, at least.

03:45 drkokandy: ah, cool - thanks Unit193!

03:45 skellat: I've technically made my BeagleBoard into a phone when I've installed gammu & wammu while also hooking up a Huawei data modem for SMS traffic

03:46 skellat: But alas

03:46 skellat: There are a few x86 based phones out there but the vast majority are ARM based

03:46 skellat: Okay, what other questions are percolating out there?

03:47 drkokandy: skellat - how much trouble do you think a newcomer to Ubuntu (1.5 years) would have with getting/keeping a BeagleBoard or similar device up and running?

03:47 skellat: drkokandy: Definitely need some hand holding as well as dogged determination to make it work

03:48 gilbert: how much does the board cost (including necessary add-ons like a mircosd card)?

03:48 skellat: The board is $148. I picked mine up through Mouser Electronics in Texas. The remainder of parts I got on sale at RadioShack.

03:49 skellat: If you time the sale right and have a spare small TV with HDMI, you may be able to get away with $250 at a minimum.

03:49 gilbert: is the only display output hdmi?

03:50 skellat: No, it isn't. S-Video is available BUT it is not very well supported. It is best to stick with HDMI as that is well supported.

03:50 * gilbert is not an hdmi fan Sad :(

03:50 skellat: There are some conversion boxes floating around on Amazon to turn HDMI into VGA that look reasonably priced but I've not had one in-hand to play with yet.

03:51 gilbert: does 4 usb ports seem limited (give you're already tying 2 up with keyboard/mouse)?

03:52 skellat: gilbert: No, not really. It is best to use hubs in lieu of just the 4 ports as you can feel worry about possibly denting something if you try to fit something directly into a port. I've got two hubs hooked up and only the Bluetooth dongle is directly in a port as it isn't going anywhere.

03:53 gilbert: skellat: have you ever looked at gumstix?

03:54 skellat: gilbert: Yep. Currently don't have the money to buy, though. My dream is to have a small cluster of little ARM System on Chip boards running something like Predict tracking satellites since I am a ham radio operator and all.

03:55 skellat: Canonical uses a bunch of PandaBoards as their build farm for arm packages, for example

03:56 skellat: Are there any other questions?

03:57 skellat: Going once

03:57 drkokandy: besides the site you mentioned, have you found any good resources for Ubuntu on ARM?

03:57 gilbert: not from me, great presentation skellat Smile :)

03:57 drkokandy: yes, this was great!

03:57 skellat: drkokandy: The IRC channel is the big one. That and reading every bloody man page you can.

03:57 skellat: Going twice

03:58 drkokandy: I'm good Smile :-)

03:58 skellat: And with that, we wrap up Educational Session 2013-1. I thank all attendees for this participation tonight. A transcript of tonight's session will be posted to the Ubuntu Wiki Infrastructure with slides interleaved on Tuesday at some point I have yet to determine.

03:59 * drkokandy claps

03:59 Unit193: Pogoplug is dead, or went with crappy hardware, right?

03:59 Unit193: skellat: Danke.

04:00 gilbert: so, just to clarify on power usage, you saw about 1 kW/day vs 1 kW/2.5hrs for a normal pc?

04:01 skellat: gilbert: Roughly. Depends upon how much the monitor is being used. I know when I threw the monitor and board on my emergency power 90W alternator brick I could keep them going for at least an hour so the two combined are under that per hour.

04:01 gilbert: cool

04:02 skellat: With all these new graphics cards demanding 450 W power supplies it really cranks over the power usage. The last FirstEnergy power bill was not cool as it showed a tripling of usage month on month from November to December so I've been having to reduce power drain where I can.

04:07 * skellat wanders off

OhioTeam/Meetings/IRC20130128 (last edited 2014-08-17 23:23:12 by belkinsa)