< BeagleBoard
Revision as of 06:19, 13 February 2009 by FransMeulenbroeks (talk | contribs) (Latest News)
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James (acronym for Just A Miniature Entertainment System) is an application providing a home entertainment solution. It is also called James as it aims to be a global "butler" application providing various services. What functionality is actually offered by James also depends on the actual hardware present in the system.

Rationale for calling it Miniature, is because the system will be small in physical size (but not in functionality). Aim is also to reuse as much open source software as possible.

And actually entertainment system is a little bit of a misnomer. James will provide all kind of home services, so it could also e.g. provide NAS functionality or even a web server.

Latest News

A very nice person borrowed me a board! I don't know if you want to have your name exposed, but thank you very much; you know who you are :-)

With this board I already managed to bring up several packages (and updated these to the latest version).
The original plan was to build my own PVR (like I did with NSLU2); but the current plan is to investigate first if I can use mythTV.
For wiimote support libwiimote and CWiid have been ported. Unfortunately the wintv prv usb2 drivers seem to have some issues with usb on angstrom. No idea yet what is wrong there.

ALso a lot of effort was spent on getting Coherence up and running. Coherence is a UPnP server that supports several backends which can e.g. serve FlickR content over UPnP.

Stay tuned for progress reports.

James Hardware

Core of the James development will be a BeagleBoard, although the code should be platform independent. BeagleBoard was chosen because it is very small (although functionality wise it can be big).

Additional hardware used during the development and for prototyping

  • Philips PCVC680K webcam
  • Toshiba MK4007GAL 1.8" hard disk with USB enclosure.
  • Sitecom IT-001 USB phone
  • Pertelian X2040 Character based LCD display (4 lines, 20 columns)
  • Perhaps touch screen/pixel based display
  • GATEWAY OVU400002/00 Infrared receiver
  • bluetooth dongle (I use a very small one, but most bluetooth dongels will work)
  • Support for WII-mote (requires bluetooth)
  • WiFi. I have successfully used a 3com 3crusb10075 USB dongle (zd1211 based), a Linksys WUSB54G and a Philips CPWUA054/00 USB dongle (both Prism54 based)
Hauppauge WinTV PVR2 USB analog TV receiver.
  • A DVB-T receiver. (or maybe a DVB-S receiver)
  • USB CD/DVD drive.
  • various USB hubs

Ideally of course would be to have an expansion board with features like Bbluetooth, WiFi, IR, USB hub), but as such a board does not exist yet initially the system will use standard USB components (although may be with the cover removed and mounted together). Aim is to select small components. As I am not a skilled hardware developer, creating an expansion board is outside my capabilities.

James Software

As written above James will be open source and will use open source as much as possible. Actually the programming effort will be mainly porting open source applications (with the associated debugging and problem fixing) and writing the UI software. For UI the idea is to use something web based. That would allow controlling the device locally, but also remote.

Software functionality on James is the following:

  • Personal Video Recorder (PVR): see for some documentation and access to a prototype running on ARM
  • Security functionality (motion pacakge)
  • Photo retrieval from digital camera (both mass storage and ptp; mtp ?)
  • Audio grabbing from CD
  • writing of CD/DVD (e.g. cdrecord)
  • File server/NAS (samba/swat)
  • uPnP server

All of the above I have already implemented on NSLU2. See my page on that wiki for details.

  • PBX functionality (asterisk) (was ported to NSLU2 by cdoban, I installed it on my system but it never got enough priority to integrate it into the framework)
  • Media rendering (mplayer?), also from USB/CD/DVD if present (NSLU2 prototype only has mp3 playback as there is no video out.
  • Bluetooth headphone (bluez a2p profile)
  • Internet telephony preferably with camera support (SIP based; probably EKIGA (cannot be done on NSLU2 due to lack of CPU power and hardware floating point.
  • Maybe: uPnP playback
  • Maybe: interface with GSM phone (e.g. using the gsm as a remote control using bluetooth)

Supporting software:

  • For wii-mote (CWiid (includes libwiimote)) Already demonstrated on eeePC under debian by me. See this page on on what I did there.
  • Lirc (for remote control) (did that already on NSLU2)
  • Web server for serving the UI (The current demo uses out-of-the-box apache2 with php)
  • Web browser for displaying the UI locally (not on NSLU2 as it has no display).

UI of the NLSU2 implementaion was done with html, javascript, css stylesheets, php and some self-written cgi scripts. It might be that for the next version I'll move to flash. I am planning to make a small prototype, but due to other things I did not get to this yet.

How to install

As James is still in the process of being developed, there is no automated install or precooked image or something like that. Meanwhile as a starter I have listed all steps I had to undertake with my hardware. If you are following the steps below and find things that are unclear or work out different for you (e.g because you have different hardware, please update these instructions.

Generally there is no strict need to execute all steps in the order I gave. Most of the things are pretty independent of each other. I just listed the steps in the order I executed them. If there are dependencies that I am aware of, I tried to list them.

Getting Started

Start off by generating an image using Koen's image builder at In the machine section select beagleboard. From the options select: base system extended. From applications select all kernel modules, alsa utils, apache, bluez, cwiid, firefox, lcd4linux, lirc, mediatomb, mplayer, mythtv, ntp, ntpclient, samba, screen, wireless-tools. Feel free to install additional things that look useful to you. Give the image a name, hit "build me" and wait (could be a few minutes) for the image to be generated.

When the image build is completed follow the instructions that are provided by the generator.

NOTE: upon first boot the packages above will be configured. Especially installing kernel modules will take quite some time. You can monitor the progress if you have connected a terminal to the beagle. If you only use serial it will just take a while (maybe 15+ minutes, I did not time exactly) before you get the first login prompt, so don't be impatient. This only occurs one (on first use). Later boots will be at normal speed (less than a minute).

Configuring the image

I have a pegasus based USB to ethernet dongle. In the kernel the driver for a pegasus dongle is a module. And for some reason the dongle does not get an IP address while booting. Unplugging and replugging the dongle works, but is not very convenient. To avoid this issue the following commands on a console on your beagle:

  • echo pegasus >/etc/modutils/pegasus
  • /usr/sbin/update-modules

After that the module will be loaded before the IP addresses are assigned and the dongle will get an IP address during bootup.

==> additional configuration steps may be added here in due time.

Adding WiFi support

The modules for the WiFi dongles that are supported by Linux are already present in the system. However, most likely the firwmware is still missing. This firmware need to be placed in /lib/firmware before you can use your WiFi dongle.

For ZD1211 based dongles the firmware can be found at This firmware supports the following wifi dongles:

For prism54 based dongles the firmware can be found at This firmware supports the following devices:

Using a webcam

I have connected a Philips PCVC680K (Vesta Pro) USB webcam to my beagle. If the module pwc is present it will be loaded when you plug in the cam. The moudule will be there if you have chosen "all kernel modules" in the image builder. If not you can still get it by issueing the command 'opkg install kernel-module-pwc'

After doing so I was able to play the video on a monitor connected to the beagle by issuing the command
DISPLAY=0:0 mplayer -tv width=320:height=240:driver=v4l2 -fps 15 tv://
on the serial console (if you are running from a terminal you can omit the DISPLAY=0:0 part.

Other webcams can be used in a similar fashion, but you probably need to adjust the width, height and fps commands for mplayer.


Infrequently Asked Questions

Where are the frequently asked questions

LOL, there are no frequently asked questions. This is so new that any question is infrequently asked (or not at all). This section is here to give answers to some of the things that might pop up while reading this.

Great! Where can I download this? When is this available?

Not so fast....
You can see above what exists for NSLU2. Porting to beagleboard has not started yet, as I do not have a board yet. I'm planning to order a rev C board as soon as they become available. Meanwhile, I'll do some preparation and prototyping (on NSLU2, as it can run Angstrom, and also runs the PVR functionality). Anyway, availability will definitely be extended incrementally. I will start with some core functionality and gradually add functionality.

Why don't you get a rev B board and start right away

Good remark, but I'd like to get a rev C board as I would like to have the LCD interface and the additional memory it has to offer.\\ Of course I could buy a rev B board, but I think buying both a B and C board would probably not pass our internal budget committee (and I feel no desire to have an argument with the Mrs. on this :-) )

Of course if you want to support the development and donate or loan me a board, feel free to get in touch with me.

Is this feasible? It looks very ambitious

It is definitely ambitious. Then again a bit of ambition does not hurt.\\ And feasible: I think it is, but only time will tell. A lot of the software is available in the open source domain. I have quite some experience porting software, and a lot of things I did before on NSLU2 where I am eFfeM

But... in the end only time will tell!

Cool, but it would be cooler if you add function XXX

Could be. Feel free to bring XXX to my attention. If there is open source software to support this function, please mention it. Depending on the amount of effort needed and the potential benefit for others, I might pick it up earlier or later.

Can you support hardware device YYY

Depends. I try to make use of existing software as much as possible and try to be device independent, so it might be supported already (perhaps with a little effort).
Then again this also depends on what kind of hardware it is. If it is something nice I'd want myself, I might buy it. If not I might still support it if someone borrows or donates me a piece of hardware to allow testing, if I consider it to be of general use. Then again if your problem is very specific you are probably on your own (although of course I am willing to give some advice).

This project sounds good! Can I help?

Depends on your skills, competences and time.
If you have hardware skills you could probably come up with a prototype for an expansion board, instead of the hodge-podge of USB devices that I am undoubtedly going to make.
If you have mechanical skills you could come up with a casing proposal (otherwise it'll probably be a shoe box project).
If you are graphically skilled you could help defining the UI (I am graphically challenged :-) ).
And if you are a programmer you could port and test some of the packages mentioned above.

Unanswered questions, suggestions, remarks etc

If you have other questions, suggestions, remarks etc. feel free to add them below. I'll try to come up with answers.