First Steps

I have been trying to think of and settle on an embedded systems project for quite a while now. What I was looking for was either a microcontroller or microprocessor to interact with the real world through sensors. I’m still not sure exactly what my end goal will be whether its robotics, drones, data acquisition, or something else. I was really set on doing a drone project like on DIY Drones or Paparazzi, but I saw this getting expensive very quickly. Finally, I decided to just get my platform and start playing around.

Here were some of my options:

Gumstix – ARM Computer-on-Module (COM) that seems very powerful with WiFi and Bluetooth already integrated. The processor seems to be pretty nice with a lot of memory to use (Cortex A8 with 512 MB of RAM and 512 MB of NAND). However, I understand that one needs to buy a breakout board in order to start wiring up other components to it. Cost: $189 for the Overo FireSTORM.

Source: gumstix.com

BeagleBoard – ARM platform with plenty of interfaces and a lot of community support. The processor and memory are identical to the Gumstix above. The interfaces are already broken out which aids in more rapid development. As you can see below, there are plenty of connectors including USB, Ethernet, Stereo In/Out, plus others. Cost: $125 for the BeagleBoard XM.

Source: beagleboard.org

Raspberry Pi – Microprocessor platform that seems capable of quite a bit at a crazy low price of $35! It has an ARM11 series microprocessor with 512 MB of RAM. The processor is not as good as the above products but still very capable for most applications. It boasts an HDMI port along with USB, Ethernet, SDIO, and a few other interfaces. Cost: $35 for model B.

Source: element14.com

Arduino – Microcontroller (ATmega16U2) platform that has been used in countless projects, has a lot of add-ons, and a lot of continued development. What makes this board so different than the ones above is the ease of programming the language to interact with the digital and analog pins given that’s exactly what it’s made to do. There are many shields or add-on cards to increase the functionality like Ethernet, SDIO, and many others.

Source: arduino.cc

Ultimately, I wanted a lot of real-world interaction with GPIO to sensors and possibly analog input while having the ability to utilize larger applications with networking. Plus, I love Linux! So, that knocked out the microcontrollers. I wanted something that I could just get up and going pretty quickly so I crossed off the Gumstix due to needing the breakout board for some development. Though the Raspberry Pi is awesome and even more awesomely priced, I didn’t want to be limited by it’s low amount of GPIO ports and interfaces. I then saw the BeagleBone and it looked like it offered quite a bit of sensor interfaces while sucking less power than the Raspberry Pi. It also has a nice Cortex A8 processor with 256 MB of RAM and costs less than the original BeagleBoard. It seems to have a growing community support much like Arduino which is a huge plus.

So, the BeagleBone is currently on it’s way from AdaFruit along with a 5V wall wart and USB wifi module. I look forward to getting to play with it and working with Angstrom. The next post will be unboxing and getting it up and running the OS with wifi.

Source: beagleboard.org

Here’s a video to give you an idea of what it’s capable of doing:

Below are some of the pages that used for my research.

http://mycola.info/2012/09/23/raspberry-pi-vs-beaglebone/

http://digitaldiner.blogspot.com/2012/10/arduino-uno-vs-beaglebone-vs-raspberry.html

http://beagleboard.org/bone

http://learn.adafruit.com/beaglebone/overview

http://www.lirtex.com/embedded/choosing-an-embedded-linux-board/

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