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gswbbb kit box BeagleBone Black: Update to Debian (for Windows)

NOTE: The guide below is for Windows users. OSX users click here for the same update guide. Linux users I will presume you already know the various options for running Debian on your BeagleBone Black. :)

BeagleBone Black Rev C — In Brief

The third major revision — or Rev C — of the BeagleBone Black introduced a few minor updates, notably the increase of onboard memory from 2GB to 4GB (and as such an increase in price). But it’s the operating system (OS) in this guide that I’m focused on. Rev C ships with Debian (Linux) preinstalled. Previous revisions of the BeagleBone Black were shipped with Ångström (also Linux). For instance the “Getting Started with” kit above that I have contained an “A6” revision board running Ångström by default.

A sticker is located on the side of one of the banks of expansion headers. The designation at the end indicates the revision board you have.

A sticker should be located on the side of one of the banks of expansion headers. The designation at the end indicates the revision board you have.

Whether you’re unfamiliar with Ångström or whether you would simply prefer — like myself — to be running Debian, this guide will show you how.


To eMMC or not to eMMC

The BeagleBone Black contains either 2GB or 4GB of onboard memory, depending on the revision board you have. This memory is “nonvolatile” meaning when the board is turned off, what is written to the memory stays there, and will be accessible the next time the board is turned on. Think of this like your mobile phone’s “storage” capacity. The number is much smaller, but for most development projects 2GB or 4GB is plenty. Henceforth I will refer to this onboard memory as the eMMC.

StepOSX_to-emmc-or-not-to-emmc

There are two ways to boot Debian on the BeagleBone Black.

One way is to flash a microSD card with the latest available firmware and to boot the OS directly from the microSD card.

The other way only requires one additional step, and seems risky, but it isn’t. You can flash the eMMC (onboard memory) with Debian, effectively loading it from the microSD card directly onto the board.

This has two benefits: 1) the OS will run marginally faster from the eMMC versus running off the microSD card and 2) it allows you to keep your microSD card for flashing other BeagleBone Blacks with Debian. The second benefit is especially useful to me because I like to make one microSD card with the firmware I want, and use that one reliable card over and over again.

This guide will show you both procedures.

Note: Flashing the eMMC will require a 5VDC adapter that supplies at least 1A of power. If you plan to build a project using the BeagleBone Black that uses WiFi, you’ll want a 5VDC adapter that supplies at least 2A of power. Thus the 3.6A supplied by the Enercell adapter recommended in the parts list above is plenty, and why I’ve chosen this adapter.


My Configuration, Your How-To

For Windows my configuration is a ThinkPad running Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. This PC has a built-in SD card reader, for example. All instructions below assume this configuration. Make adjustments where needed to suit your needs.

Related

Steps

Step #1: First Connection with the BeagleBone Black

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  • Unpack the BeagleBone Black from the box and grab the USB cable also. Connect the USB Type B Mini to the Mini USB Port on the BeagleBone Black. Connect the USB Type A plug into your computer. This will power up the BeagleBone Black and mount a volume to your computer. It mounted 'BeagleBone Getting Started' to My Computer.
  • Open the volume and double-click the START.htm file — this will open a tab in your browser. Scroll down to the 'Install drivers' sub-section and follow the next instructions for installing Windows drivers.
  • You need to download and install the necessary USB drivers. Click the link for either the 64- or 32-bit version, depending on your OS. For me, the 64-bit version downloaded BONE_D64.exe to the computer. Double-click that .exe to launch the BeagleBone Driver Installer. Follow the prompts for a successful driver installation.
  • OK we'll come back to the BeagleBone later. Now it's time to update the OS running on the BeagleBone Black to be the latest version of Debian available.
  • Eject the BeagleBone Black from your computer (in Windows Explorer, right-click the drive and 'Eject' it).

Step #2: Download the Debian XZ file

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  • Go here: http://beagleboard.org/latest-images.
  • If you wish to flash the BeagleBone Black's eMMC, download the 'eMMC flasher' version of Debian. Click the respective link for the image you want.
  • This will download a .IMG.XZ file to your default download directory (image 2). Note the filename may be different than the image shown, depending on the image type you choose to download.

Step #3: Install 7-Zip

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  • Go here: http://www.7-zip.org/.
  • Click the link for the 32- or 64-bit version of 7-Zip depending on your machine's configuration; I run 64-bit software whenever possible.
  • Install 7-Zip as required by the software's prompts.

Step #4: Extract the .IMG.XZ file

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  • Navigate using Windows Explorer to the directory where you downloaded the .IMG.XZ file.
  • Right-click it to bring up the Windows context menu, scroll over 7-Zip and click 'Extract Here' and it will do exactly that.
  • Ain't modern life wonderful: a 1.6GB IMG barely takes over 30 seconds to un-compress these days. Wow!

Step #5: Install Image Writer

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  • Image Writer is a program designed for writing all types of image files to SD & Compact Flash cards on Windows computers.
  • Go here: https://launchpad.net/win32-image-writer and follow the link to the project hosted on Sourceforge. (Just to be clear the link is sending you off-site but this is the official homepage for the Image Writer software.)
  • Sourceforge will recognize what version of the software to deliver you. Now click the Download button and your download will begin shortly.
  • Navigate to your default download directory and find the file you just downloaded (for me it was 'Win32DiskImager-0.9.5-install.exe'). Double-click it and follow all the prompts for the Setup Wizard to install Win32DiskImager.

Step #6: Write the IMG to your SD card

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  • Insert the SD card in your laptop.
  • Launch Win32DiskImager. Click the folder icon and navigate to where you have expanded the .IMG and double-click the file. Ensure you have the correct 'Device' selected for the drive where your SD card is mounted.
  • When you're sure everything is ready, click 'Write' and Win32DiskImager will begin the write process. This takes a few minutes so go make a tea.
  • When the write process is complete remove the SD card from your computer and remove the microSD card from the SD card adapter.

Step #7: Insert the microSD card

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  • Insert the microSD card in the microSD card slot on the BeagleBone Black as shown.
  • Push the card in and you will hear it 'click' into place.
  • Note: If you installed the 'eMMC flasher' version of Debian to your microSD card, proceed to the next step. If you opted for the bootable microSD version of Debian, I recommend you glance at the next step (to see what you're missing out on!) and then proceed to Step 9.

Step #8: Flash the BeagleBone Black's eMMC (optional)

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  • This is the exciting part! You're about to flash the BeagleBone Black's onboard eMMC which will effectively write the Debian firmware to the BeagleBone Black.
  • With the microSD card inserted, locate the 'Boot Switch' on the component side of the BeagleBone Black.
  • Note: Before proceeding ensure your Adaptaplug's "M" tip is in the correct polarity orientation (image 3). If you want to flash the eMMC, you will absolutely require a 5VDC adapter; computer USB ports simply do not supply enough current needed by the write process to transfer data from the microSD card to the eMMC.
  • This next step is a bit tricky. Push down on the 'Boot Switch' and hold it down — try it a few times so you can tell when it is depressed. Now while holding down the Boot Switch, plug in the 5VDC power supply.
  • The 'PWR' LED located between the power connector and the ethernet port will light up. You're still holding down the Boot Switch. Next the four onboard LEDs will all light up. Then they will begin flashing. At the point when the onboard LEDs begin flashing, count to three and then let go of the Boot Switch.
  • The eMMC flasher version of Debian is now being written from the microSD card to the BeagleBone Black's onboard flash memory. The process takes around 20 minutes. You'll know when the process is done because all the LEDs (onboard and PWR) will turn off and the BeagleBone Black will power down.
  • When all the LEDs are off, unplug the 5VDC power cable and remove the microSD card.

Step #9: Connect to the BeagleBone Black via Serial over USB

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  • Now it's time to confirm you can connect to the BeagleBone Black. Connect the USB Type B Mini to the Mini USB Port on the BeagleBone Black. Connect the USB Type A plug into your computer. Debian is now booting from the microSD card. Give it a couple minutes; meanwhile go here: http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/download.html.
  • Download the latest version of PuTTY, an open-source terminal emulator for Windows. I downloaded the Installer version (image 1). Double-click the .EXE file and follow the prompts to install the program. When complete, launch it.
  • By now Debian will likely be booted on the BeagleBone Black. And you're looking at the PuTTY program window (image 2). In the 'Host Name' field box type 192.168.7.2 and ensure 'SSH' is selected. Click 'Open.' When it connects and prompts 'login as:' type root and hit Enter.
  • You have just tunneled your way in to the BeagleBone Black via Serial over USB. Success! Type 'exit' to cancel the connection. Eject the BeagleBone Black from your PC.
  • Begin strategizing your next embedded Linux electronics project using the BeagleBone Black!

Nick Normal

I'm an artist & maker. A lifelong biblioholic, and advocate for all-things geekathon. Home is Long Island City, Queens, which I consider the greatest place on Earth. 5-year former Resident of Flux Factory, co-organizer for World Maker Faire (NYC), and blogger all over the net. Howdy!


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