ECE497 Tips and Tricks

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Some useful tips and tricks for Linux and the Beagleboard.


Quick Tips

Tip Description
$ gnome-open
Open a file or directory using the default program
Give the IP address a name Inside /etc/hosts add a line of the form <IP address> <alias> this will allow you to refer to the host by name.
Built-in GUI for gdb If you invoke gdb with the command line argument -tui, it will show a built-in GUI
$ ntpdate
This will go to a network time protocol server and get the current time and set the Beagle to it.


Tip Description
Ctrl-r Reverse incremental search
Ctrl-g Abort command
Esc-. Insert last argument from last command


Suspending ssh

Most programs can be suspended by typing ^z (Ctrl-z). If you have an ssh connection to another machine you can suspend it by entering ~^z. You can resume the connection by entering fg.

ssh and X-windows

When using ssh between to X-windows systems try

host$ ssh -CX root@beagle

The -X set the DISPLAY variable on the remote machine so you can open windows from the beagle on your host machine.

The -C compressed the data over the link. Good for slow connections.


You can run a vnc server on the Beagle. Install it with:

$ opkg update
$ opkg install x11vnc

Install a password with

$ x11vnc -storepasswd

Run it on the Beagle with

$ x11vnc -display :0 -ssl -usepw -forever -q &

On your host, connect to it with:

host $ vinagre

or Applications:Internet:Remote Desktop Viewer

Authorizing ssh

Note: This isn't currently working for me.

ssh and scp can be set up for automatic authorization so you don't have to enter your password when using these commands. Here's how to do it:

  • On your host computer run
host $ ssh-keygen
host $ cd ~/.ssh
host $ scp id_rsa root@beagle:.
host $ ssh beagle

The first command creates an authorization key and places it in your .ssh directory. Remember the pass phrase you enter here. You'll use it below. The next two commands copy that key to your Beagle. The last command connects to your Beagle.

  • On your Beagle run
beagle $ mkdir ~/.ssh
beagle $ cd ~/.ssh
beagle $ mv ../ .
beagle $ cp authorized_keys
beagle $ exit

Here we create a .ssh directory and copy the public key into it. The authorized_keys folder contains a list of all the machines that are authorized to connect to your Beagle without a password.

  • Back on the host computer:
host $ ssh -CX root@beagle

This time you should see a window pop up. Enter your pass phrase from above. You should be logged into your Beagle. Log out and log in again. This time you should get access without having to enter your pass phrase.

Here is move information on ssh authorization.

Mounting dfs/afs

You can set up your Linux box to directly mount your afs and dfs files. The Rose-Hulman Linux Users' Group has a nice page with the details .

After installing sshfs I added the following to my /etc/fstab file: /home/username/MyDocs fuse user,noauto,uid=1000,gid=1000 0 0 /home/username/dfs-home fuse user,noauto,uid=1000,gid=1000 0 0 /home/username/afs-home fuse user,noauto,uid=1000,gid=1000 0 0

You'll have to replace username with your login name. Then create the mount points:

cd ~
mkdir MyDocs
mkdir dfs-home
mkdir afs-home

Now you can mount your files by using:

cd ~
mount dfs-home
cd dfs-home

You should now see your dfs files. You can unmount using:

cd ~
sudo umount dfs-home

Tool chain work flows

Here is a link to a list of workflows for various tool chains.

Installing more applications

On the Beagle

On the Beagle under Angstrom you use opkg to manage packages. Start with

beagle$ opkg update

This updated the local database with the current version information. Then

beagle$ opkg list > /tmp/list
beagle$ less /tmp/list

will list all the available packages. You can also search here [1] to see what packages are available.


On the host

There are tree command that I use for managing packages.

is used for listing what packages are installed.
is a GUI-based package manager. I used it to discover new packages to install.
is used to install and update packages.

For example, let's suppose you run make menuconfig and the error message says

 *** Install ncurses (ncurses-devel) and try again.

Let's see what's installed.

host$ dpkg -l > /tmp/list
host$ grep curses /tmp/list
ii  libncurses5      5.7+20090803-2ubuntu3  shared  libraries for terminal handling
ii  libncursesw5     5.7+20090803-2ubuntu3  shared libraries for terminal handling (wide
ii  mtr-tiny         0.75-2build1           Full screen ncurses traceroute tool
ii  ncurses-base     5.7+20090803-2ubuntu3  basic terminal type definitions
ii  ncurses-bin      5.7+20090803-2ubuntu3  terminal-related programs and man pages

Hmmm... there's something related to ncurses installed, but the error says something about ncurses-devel. Let's fire up synaptic

host$ synaptic &

Enter ncurses-devel in the search field. Screenshot-Synaptic Package Manager .png

The green dot in the S column says the package is installed. libncurses5-dev isn't installed. Install it with:

host$ sudo apt-get install libncurses5-dev

And now your make should work.

byobu - A Screen Manager

For years Unix has had screen which is a screen manager. byobu is wrapper for screen that puts a nice face on it. You can run byobu on your host computer and on the Beagle. With byobu you can start a long running program (bitbake for example) in one terminal and detach from the terminal and the program will keeping running in the background. Using byobu you can later attach to the program (possibly from another terminal) and see how the program is progressing.

Install byobu on your host with:

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install byobu

It's a bit harder on the Beagle.

  1. opkg update
  2. opkg install screen
  3. Go to here and download the latest version to your Beagle.
  4. Run tar zxvf byobu_*.orig.tar.gz
  5. cd byobu* and follow the instructions in INSTALL. I had to hack one file.
  6. gedit /usr/local/lib/byobu/.constants. Change the last two lines to:
# command -v gsed >/dev/null && export SED="gsed" || export SED="sed"
# command -v greadlink >/dev/null && export READLINK="greadlink" || export READLINK="readlink"
export SED="sed"
export READLINK="readlink"

Now you can run it.

$ byobu

You'll see a command prompt. You'll also see some status information on the bottom two lines. Type Ctrl-A ? for help. Type Ctrl-A Ctrl-D to detach from the session. Running byobu again will reattach you to the session. Try running byobu in two windows at the same time. You should see the same session in both.

Hmmm.... I had to reinstall and it doesn't seem to be working now.

Finding what opkg installed

Once you've run opkg, how do you know what's been installed? Take a look in /usr/lib/opkg/info. The files that end in .list contain a list of what's been installed.

Backing up an SD card with dd

Here's the command I use to backup an SD card. I use System:Administration:Disk Utility to figure out the path to the card. In this case it's /dev/sdc

$ sudo time dd if=/dev/sdc of=FIE2011.img bs=4M count=1000
$ sudo chown yoder:yoder FIE2011.img
$ md5sum FIE2011.img > FIE2011.img.md5
$ bzip2 -k FIE2011.img

It takes about 5 minutes to dd a 4G card, 1.2 minutes for md5 and bzip2 takes about 23 minutes.

CSSE's Linux reference page

CSSE332, Operating Systems, has a nice page of Linux resources here.

Local Ubuntu Update Mirror

Darryl Mouck in CSSE has passed this on...

We host a local mirror for all ubuntu updates. This is from the current distro back to hardy; it hosts every distro that ubuntu currently supports.

In order to get your system to point to our mirror, please copy and paste this rather lengthy command into a terminal:

sudo cp /etc/apt/sources.list{,.old} && \
sudo sh -c '\
. /etc/lsb-release &&
echo "
deb $DISTRIB_CODENAME main restricted universe multiverse
deb $DISTRIB_CODENAME-updates main restricted universe multiverse
deb $DISTRIB_CODENAME-security main restricted universe multiverse
" > /etc/apt/sources.list' && sudo apt-get update

The text and further instructions are available here.

The script makes a backup of the updates file and replaces it with links to our mirror. The $DISTRIB_CODENAME is replaced by whatever distro you are running (eg. lucid, maverick, natty etc.). I wish I could take credit for it, but it was a joint effort with Mike McLeish :-)


Most of the work is done under Linux; however there are some handy Windows-based tools.

Tera Term

Tera Term give you access to the serial port.


Notepad++ is a nice text editor for Windows.

Set up on the BeagleBoard

Accessing the Beagle via the Serial Port

During boot up the Beagle logs various messages on the serial port. You can see these messages by:

  • See what USB/tty devices are already attached to your host
host# ls /dev/ttyU*
  • Attach a serial to USB converter to your host computer and the Beagle's serial port.
  • See what new USB/tty devices appeared
host# ls /dev/ttyU*
  • On my host, /dev/ttyUSB1 appeared. On the host computer run
host$ byobu /dev/ttyUSB1 115200

where ttyUSB1 is what appeared when you plugged in your converter.

You are now talking to your Beagle's serial port. Login quickly. There appears to be a bug that makes garbage appear on your screen if you wait too long. Try

beagle$ shutdown -r now

You will see the shutdown messages, followed by the U-boot messages. After a 3 second (or so) delay you will see the kernel booting.

Tip 1: Ctrl-a H will cause the data on the serial port to be logged. See

host$ man byobu

for help.

Tip 2: <F6> will disconnect from the session. You can reconnect later.

Installing Ubuntu

I've installed 2 different versions of Ubuntu on my SD cards. Each of my SD cards is 4GB, and this is just large enough to hold the Ubuntu images.

I followed the instructions from here and here.

The first link references a Ubuntu wiki which details how to install a netbook edition of Ubuntu on ARM/OMAP processor-based systems. It is not beagle-specific. This image runs a little slowly, but not much slower than the SPEd image.

The second link references instructions for installing another image. This image is very minimal, and doesn't have a gui. There are instructions for installing a gui, which I did, with good success. As far as I can tell, even with the gui, this is the fastest image so far.

Installing Always Innovating's Super Jumbo

Always Innovating works with branded products and services companies that are looking to deliver great touch devices as part of their offerings. They have published a free SD card image for the BeagleBoard that runs Angstrom, Android, Ubuntu, and ChromiumOS. Here's a video showing what it can do.

I've put a copy of the compressed image on my DFS site. Feal free to play with it. Here's a wiki that shows how to switch between OS's on the fly.

Resizing an SD card partition via the Beagle

The following is a slick way to boot the Beagle so it isn't using the SD, then repartition the SD card. It came from [1]

Jason Kridner says ... I got a related question from Mark about how to perform the partition resizing, so I figured I'd address that here. I don't believe you'd be able to resize a mounted partition and that this operation would require another file system to mount. Because this image does not have the ramdisk, I downloaded the one used being shipped with the xM boards today [2].

root@beagleboard:~# wget
Connecting to ( 
ramdisk.gz           100% |*******************************| 19492k 00:00:00 ETA 
root@beagleboard:~# cp ramdisk.gz /media/mmcblk0p1/ 
root@beagleboard:~# shutdown -r now 

I halted the board during reboot and did:

OMAP3 # mmc rescan 0 
OMAP3 # run loaduimage 
Loading file "/boot/uImage" from mmc device 0:2 (xxa2) 
3194256 bytes read 
OMAP3 # run loadramdisk 
reading ramdisk.gz 
19960110 bytes read 
OMAP3 # run ramboot 

I allowed it to boot and did:

root@beagleboard:~# umount /dev/mmcblk0p1 
root@beagleboard:~# umount /dev/mmcblk0p2 
root@beagleboard:~# fdisk /dev/mmcblk0 
Command (m for help): p 
Disk /dev/mmcblk0: 3965 MB, 3965190144 bytes 
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 482 cylinders 
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes 
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes 
Disk identifier: 0x00000000 
        Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System 
/dev/mmcblk0p1   *           1          15      120456    c  W95 FAT32 (LBA) 
/dev/mmcblk0p2              16         444     3445942+  83  Linux 
Command (m for help): d 
Partition number (1-4): 2 
Command (m for help): n 
Command action 
   e   extended 
   p   primary partition (1-4) 
Partition number (1-4): 2 
First cylinder (16-482, default 16): 
Using default value 16 
Last cylinder, +cylinders or +size{K,M,G} (16-482, default 482): 
Using default value 482 
Command (m for help): w 
The partition table has been altered! 
Calling ioctl() to re-read partition table. 
Syncing disks. 
root@beagleboard:~# umount /dev/mmcblk0p2 
root@beagleboard:~# resize2fs /dev/mmcblk0p2 
resize2fs 1.41.9 (22-Aug-2009) 
Resizing the filesystem on /dev/mmcblk0p2 to 937794 (4k) blocks. 
The filesystem on /dev/mmcblk0p2 is now 937794 blocks long. 
root@beagleboard:~# shutdown -r now 

I then waited for the reboot. That was all there was to it. Going the other way would require performing the resize operation first and specifying the size.

Anyone care to automate this and submit this to Angstrom?

Sharing Laptop Internet Connection with BeagleBoard

Two options: One uses Ubuntu's GUI network connections manager, the other requires modifying things yourself.

Option 1 - Using Ubuntu Network Connections GUI

  1. In Ubuntu, go to System -> Preferences -> Network Connections
  2. On the 'Wired' tab, select 'Auto eth0' and click 'Edit' (Note: name may be other than 'eth0'. If nothing exists in this list, then make sure there is not an entry starting with 'auto eth0' in your /etc/network/interfaces file; such an entry prevents Network Manager from managing that interface.)
  3. Click the 'IPv4 Settings' tab and change 'Method' to 'Shared to other computers'
  4. Click apply
  5. Restart Ubuntu
  6. Connect the BeagleBoard to the laptop with the crossover Ethernet cable
  7. Boot the BeagleBoard - if Ubuntu was already running and the Ethernet cable was already plugged in, the BeagleBoard should automatically get assigned an IP address and you should be able to access the Internet on the BeagleBoard via the laptop's wireless connection

Option 2 - Modifying Things Yourself (DHCP Server)

This will setup a DHCP server on the host machine that will listen to the Ethernet port and assign an IP address to the BeagleBoard when it is connected with an Ethernet crossover cable. The host machine will then act as a router using NAT to send packets out the wifi interface.
A number of steps were taken from the Ubuntu Community Documentation.

  • 'eth0' will refer to the internal interface (connected to the BeagleBoard) and 'wlan0' will refer to the external interface (connected to the Internet). Your interface names may differ.
  • A number of configuration files are changed. It's a good idea to save a backup copy of these before modifying them.

On the host machine, configure eth0 for a static IP:

sudo ifconfig eth0

If you don't want to configure this after every boot, add an entry to /etc/network/interfaces with the following:

auto eth0

On the host machine, configure the IP tables to use NAT translation for routing packets:

sudo iptables -A FORWARD -o wlan0 -i eth0 -s -m conntrack --ctstate NEW -j ACCEPT
sudo iptables -A FORWARD -m conntrack --ctstate ESTABLISHED,RELATED -j ACCEPT
sudo iptables -A POSTROUTING -t nat -j MASQUERADE

To avoid having to setup the IP tables after every boot, save the IP tables

sudo iptables-save | sudo tee /etc/iptables.sav

And add the following command to /etc/rc.local (or other appropriate file for your distribution) to be run at boot

iptables-restore < /etc/iptables.sav

IP forwarding needs to be enabled:

sudo sh -c "echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward"

To make sure this is set after rebooting, add these lines to /etc/sysctl.conf:


Install the DHCP server software

sudo apt-get install dhcp3-server

And edit the configuration file /etc/dhcp3/dhcpd.conf (comment out any already existing lines other than "ddns-update-style none;")

#Added for DHCP with BeagleBoard
default-lease-time 600;
max-lease-time 7200;
option subnet-mask;
option broadcast-address;
option routers;     #<--This must match the IP address you statically set for eth0
option domain-name-servers,,;    #<--Rose-Hulman's DNS servers (according to my laptop, at least)
option domain-name "";

subnet netmask {
range;  #<--You can specify a larger range; I used this to force my BeagleBoard to always have the same IP so I could add an entry for that IP in /etc/hosts

You may need to edit /etc/default/dhcp3-server to specify the interface for the DHCP server


Then restart the DHCP server service

sudo service dhcp3-server restart

You may need to reboot your host machine, and it may be necessary to run the command above to restart the DHCP server every time you boot (I'm not sure if it starts appropriately at boot).

Now connect the BeagleBoard to the host machine with a crossover Ethernet cable and boot the Beagle. After booting, run 'ifconfig' to see if the Beagle was assigned an IP address. If it does not have an IP address, try running the command 'dhclient usb0'.

Once the Beagle does have an IP address, try

ping -c 3 -W 10

to test if the setup is working correctly. If it complains about a bad name, the DNS servers are incorrect; try pinging a specific IP such as to see if packets get through (though unless you want to rely on all IP addresses, you will need to get some DNS servers that work).

Option 3 - Manual Routing, Static Beagle IP

This will setup the routing on Ubuntu (sending all eth0 traffic out wlan0). It will then set a static IP address on the BeagleBoard (so you can stick an entry for your BeagleBoard in /etc/hosts for convenience). The key difference from Option 2 is that the DHCP server in that option supplied the BeagleBoard with DNS servers. In this option, we add a script that gives the BeagleBoard some static DNS server addresses every time it boots.

First, follow through the steps in Option 2 right up until it starts talking about installing the DHCP server. Instead of installing the DHCP server, do the following.

On your BeagleBoard, add the following entry to /etc/network/interfaces (comment out any pre-existing entries regarding 'usb0')

auto usb0
iface usb0 inet static
      address         # This is the static IP address of your choice
      gateway         # This must match the static IP address you assigned to eth0 on your host machine

After booting, the BeagleBoard is now configured with a static IP address and knows the gateway for all its traffic is the address of your host machine. The last thing to do is to make sure your BeagleBoard knows what DNS servers to use. This information is stored in the /etc/resolv.conf file. You could add it manually every time after boot, but we'll make a script to do it at boot instead.

On your BeagleBoard, navigate to the /etc/rc5.d/ directory. In this directory, create a file named S99<name> where <name> can be anything you prefer. My file was named S99SetRoseHulmanNameServers. Add the following inside that file:

#! /bin/sh
echo "nameserver" >> /etc/resolv.conf      # These three IP addresses are the Rose-Hulman DNS servers
echo "nameserver" >> /etc/resolv.conf       # Replace them with whatever DNS servers you are using
echo "nameserver" >> /etc/resolv.conf

That should be it. Assuming all cables are connected properly and you have a WiFi connection on the host machine, after booting the BeagleBoard should have a usable Internet connection.

Using u-boot to specify a MAC address at boot

The BeagleBoard has a problem where Linux will randomly select a MAC address at boot. In order to get around this, one blogger provides a patch to enable a kernel command line parameter to set a MAC address. Below is one way to apply, your mileage may vary.

  1. Make sure your kernel compiles and boots.
  2. Grab the patch, and open it with gedit
  3. Open .../git/drivers/net/usb/smsc95xx.c
  4. Go to line 64-ish, and look for a place to insert the first code with plus signs preceding each line. Remove the plus signs.
  5. Go to 656-ish, and repeat for the other block of code.
  6. Save and re-compile.
  7. Install the new kernel as normal.
  8. Edit the kernel command line. There are two ways to do this:
    1. Edit the uBoot source and recompile
      1. Go to u-boot, and edit ../include/configs/omap3_beagle.h
      2. Change mmcargs, nandargs, and ramargs to include a parameter for "ethaddr=...", where ... is your MAC address.
      3. Save, close, recompile.
      4. Install the new u-boot as normal.
    2. Edit the boot.scr file
      1. See Modifying Kernel Command Line Parameters
  9. Register your MAC Address via any method that works, and enjoy reduced-hassle internet access on your Beagle.
  10. Optionally, Update opkg.

Rename an External Storage Device

I ran out of space on my Linux (Ubuntu) partition, so I opted to do all my development on an external hard drive. This works just fine, except that the drive is labeled "Expansion Drive" and the space in there causes problems in some of the setup scripts. It is possible to add an entry in /etc/fstab that mounts the device with a certain name, but this is very cumbersome, for many reasons. Instead, I used this [1] very helpful guide to change the label on my external drive.


Setup a USB Wireless Device on Beagle

The device I used to setup a wireless connection on the Beagle Board was the Linksys Compact Wireless-G USB Network Adapter with SpeedBooster.

I first opened the wpa_supplicant.conf file to setup my networks:

root@beagleboard:~# cd /etc
root@beagleboard:/etc# gedit wpa_supplicant.conf &

This file is filled with numerous examples of possible wireless configurations for you to basically fill in. After looking at the examples, I scrolled down to the bottom of the page and set up two networks: one for home and one for school. Here are examples of my setup networks:

#Home Network
        psk= "YourHomeNetworkPassword"

#School Network
        phase1="peapver=0 peaplabel=0"
        identity= "YourSchoolUsername"
        password= "YourSchoolPassword"

For the network examples above,the quotation marks actually belong there but replace the Your.... areas with your corresponding information.When finished editing save and exit this file. The information for the RHIT school network was found here:RHLUG

Now you must specify that this is the file to use for the wireless device:

root@beagleboard:/etc# cd network
root@beagleboard:/etc/network# gedit interfaces &

This file will display all of the different types of Internet connections you have setup. To use the wpa_supplicant.conf file, scroll down to around line 42 of the code and uncomment the configuration for wpasupplicant. After doing this make sure all of the above lines mentioning anything about wlan0 are commented out. Return back to where it says "iface wlan0 inet dhcp" that you uncommented around line 42. Add "auto wlan0" above this line, make sure the line "wpa-conf /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf" is uncommented below the iface line, and change the wpa-driver line below that line to wext. So after all of that the code in this file for the wireless device should be the following:

auto wlan0 
  iface wlan0 inet dhcp
     wpa-conf /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf
     wpa-driver wext

NOTE: the auto wlan0 command in this file means that this device will load at boot time. You can take the time in here now to comment out any interfaces you don't use like auto usb0 to make these devices not load at boot time, which will increase the speed at which you boot up. Save and exit this file

Once you have finished this you can either restart the Beagle Board or:

root@beagleboard:/etc/network# cd
root@beagleboard:~# /etc/init.d/networking restart

I've found that a lot of the time the interface doesn't receive an IP address when it boots up. If you run ifconfig in the terminal you should see your wireless device connected to a network. If it is connected but no IP address I do the following:

root@beagleboard:~# ifdown wlan0
 # it will report messages here and then
root@beagleboard:~# ifup wlan0
  # more messages and it should report connecting and having an IP address

This ifdown ifup method has worked every time for me so far but if anyone can find a way to prevent having to do this almost every time please feel free to edit this

Development tips for bitbake and oe

Gumstix Development Tips appears to have some good ideas that can apply to the Beagle too.

Point to a given git snapshot

The original SD card image came from here. The file shows how the image was build. There are a couple of interesting things in this file.

Line 564 shows an additional git repository was used.

$ cd sources/openembedded
$ git remote add myrepo git://
$ git remote update

Run this git command to get access to this repository. (It took about 2 minutes at 6:20am.) Line 21 shows the hash tag for the build.


If we pull from this tag we will have the same files as were used to generate the SD image. So do the following

$ git checkout 24805033b1205acc35f8b4d75cc42f8b9c2a1b38

This takes about 10 seconds.

Fixing Problems

Kernel Boot Problems

Here is a link with some suggestions of what to do if your kernel isn't booting properly.

Serial port garbage

If you are having trouble with garbage on the console, this might help. Sometimes the serial port times out. Most of the time it just generates some junk which can be cleared with CTRL-U or backspace. However, if it happens at the login prompt then getty thinks the terminal is 7-bit with parity (rather than 8-bit raw). If this happens and you continue to login the whole session appears to be scrambled - if you press CTRL-D you can login again provided you don't stop typing... :] I have simply added the following two lines to root's .profile:

stty -parenb -parodd cs8 -inpck -istrip 
echo 0 > /sys/class/tty/ttyS2/device/sleep_timeout

A better fix would probably be to just add the second line to a rc.d startup script somewhere.

This suggestion came from this posting.

Turning off gpe

The following worked last year, but doesn't seem to work now.

Running above will write on top of what Angstrom is doing. You can turn off the display manager by using:

/etc/init.d/gpe-dm stop

Replace stop with start if you want to run it again.

Details of making your own MLO

Hardware Environment for a BeagleBoard XM with JTAG

Software Environment for a BeagleBoard XM with JTAG

This might make a good lab.

Getting help from a news group

Here's a nice tip on what to do before posting a question to a news group.