BBB ConsoleCape: A Display/Keyboard Expansion for the BeagleBone Black

Operating an embedded system (a very small computer board) can be fun, but often has the problem that, unlike a PC, or even old laptop, no screen is attached, and, so, there's not much to see.  No error messages, no status info, nothing!

The BeagleBone Black is such a mini-computer:

Built around the 1GHz Sitara Cortex A8 ARM-based system from TI, this board runs a full Linux system on a single 5V power supply.

Standard features are Ethernet, USB, a number of serial ports and, of course, access to I2C and SPI buses, and a large number of GPIO pins.

The two big connectors are where all the I/O expansion happens.

Running software on these boards is headless, as nothing can be seen until you attach a screen of some sort, or connect one of its serial ports, or establish a network connection with it.

For the BeagleBone, several kinds of expansion boards (called capes in BeagleBoard lingo) exist that offer some kind of LCD, but most, if not all of them, are based on graphical displays.  For simple things, a text-only display would be enough.

Based on an existing design for the RaspberryPi system board, we have decided to create a similar board, just because we wanted to monitor our D-STAR hotspot software.  This new board, uhm, no, cape, offers the following features:

- LCD 16x2 + backlight
- 3 user LEDs
- 1 power LED (with user control)
- 5 user keys (DOWN-LEFT-ENTER-RIGHT-UP)
- POWER (on/off) and RESET key
- battery-backed RTC
- temperature sensor/thermostat
- InfraRed receiver for remote control

This board can be mounted on top of the BeagleBone board, and then provides its services without further cabling.

Production of these boards will start 05/12/2014, and they are expected back by the end of May.  They will be delivered as full kits, with the option of leaving out the display in case you wish to select one yourself.

In the above picture, the board runs our ConDV hotspot software, which runs on Linux (Intel 32bit, Intel 64bit, ARM (RaspberryPi and BeagleBoard) and, of course, Windows.  It even runs on Android, in command-line mode.

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