TI has announced the availability of the Beagle Board, a hackable embedded development platform built around an OMAP3530 processor, which incorporates an ARM Cortex A8 and a TMS320C64x+ DSP. Aimed squarely at hobbyist developers, the board provides an expandable foundation for experimentation and homebrew computing appliance projects.
The board, which is sold through Digi-Key for $149, includes DVI and S-Video outputs, an SD card slot, stereo audio input and output, and a USB OTG port. It has 128MB of LPDDR RAM and 256MB of NAND flash. It has a small footprint (only 3 inch by 3 inch), very low power requirements, and no fan. It can be powered via a USB connector, AC adapter, portable battery, car adaptor, or even a solar-powered backpack. Several flavors of Linux have already been experimentally ported and tested on the board, including Ubuntu, Maemo, and an OpenEmbedded derivative called Angstrom. There is also a project that aims to bring an embedded version of Windows to the device.
We spoke with TI open platform architect Jason Kridner, who explained that the function of the Beagle Board is to empower enthusiasts and enable them to innovate in the hardware space. He says that a vibrant community has already sprung up around the product and is exploring applications ranging from homebrew media centers to wearable computing. If you add a monitor and USB input devices, it can be used as a low-cost computer. I saw it used in this manner myself when I was at Lug Radio Live earlier this year.
The Beagle Board mailing list has become the primary hub for communication between adopters. It already has over 500 members and lots discussion on topics like software compatibility and power consumption.
Overall, it’s a nifty little hardware platform for open source experimentation and it offers enough performance and expandability to facilitate some useful things. For more details, check out the project’s web site.