Got a project too big for a microcontroller? This embedded Linux board offers powerful features in a small package.
Many makers love microcontroller platforms like the Arduino, but as the complexity increases in an electronics project, sometimes a microcontroller just won’t cut it and you need something with a little more “oomph.”
For example, if you want to use a camera and computer vision to detect dirty dishes in your sink, it might be a good idea to explore your options with embedded Linux platforms. These boards are generally more powerful and capable, and are sometimes the perfect solution for projects that are too complex for our beloved microcontrollers.
Not only that, but as the price of embedded Linux platforms drops, the community of support around them grows, which makes them much more accessible to novice and intermediate makers than ever before.
The BeagleBone is an embedded Linux development board that’s aimed at hackers and tinkerers. It’s a smaller, more barebones version of the BeagleBoard. Both are open source hardware and use Texas Instrument’s OMAP processors, which are designed for low-power mobile devices.
These days, a typical microcontroller-based board costs $20 to $30, while the BeagleBone retails for $89. Other than a more powerful processor, what are you getting for your extra money?
Even though these platforms are becoming easier to work with, it helps to be well versed in digital input and output (I/O) before tackling embedded Linux for your physical computing projects. Arduino is a great platform for getting started with GPIO (General Purpose Input/Output); to learn more, visit makezine.com/arduino.
Matt Richardson is a San Francisco-based creative technologist and Contributing Editor at MAKE. He’s the co-author of Getting Started with Raspberry Pi and the author of Getting Started with BeagleBone.
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