Support for Beaglebone Black running Ubuntu 13.04

I’ve been very pleased with the performance and support for the HSMM-Pi project on the Raspberry Pi platform, but have been curious to know how well it would work on other platforms. I received my Beaglebone Black (BBB) board in the mail on Friday and didn’t waste any time installing Ubuntu on it. The BBB is a small single-board computer similar to the Raspberry Pi. One of the compelling features of the BBB is that it has 2GB of onboard flash memory in addition to the memory card slot. I can see this bringing the cost and complexity down in an installation with several BBB nodes. You can install and run the OS from the onboard flash memory which is much faster than the SD memory card. It’s also easy to reflash the OS onto a BBB node; just pop in a memory card with the OS, hold down the Boot button while applying power, and the BBB gets re-flashed. It’s also got a 1GHZ ARM processor that is noticeably faster in comparison to the Raspberry Pi. And being priced at $45, it will be a strong competitor with the $35 version B Raspberry Pi. Lastly, the ARM processor features an open-source design that is preferable to the closed design of the Broadcom processor used on the Raspberry Pi.

I installed the Ubuntu 13.04 flash image dated 2013-08-24. The installation was pretty straightforward: write the image to an SD card, insert the card into the unpowered BBB, hold down the boot button on the BBB, apply power, then wait till the 4 surface-mounted LEDS are lit.

Once Ubuntu was installed, I SSH’d into the BBB and began installing HSMM-Pi. This was the first time I’ve tried the installation of HSMM-Pi on a clean Ubuntu system other than the Rasbian distribution meant for the Raspberry Pi. I encountered a few surprises:

  • The chkconfig utility to enable/disable system services is not available on Ubuntu 13.04. The sys4-rc-conf program should be used instead.
  • The make utility for processing Makefiles is not installed by default. That was a shocker.
  • There was one spot in the install script where the ‘pi’ user account was referenced, but that account is obviously not present in a non-Raspbian distribution.
  • The Beaglebone uses the ARM CPU architecture which supports position-independent code (PIC). The OLSRD codebase generated some compilation errors related to the use of PIC. I resolved this by changing the OLSRD build steps in the HSMM-Pi install script to pass the -fPIC flag to gcc while compiling.
  • Must include an explicit ‘auto eth0’ statement in the network interface configuration file to ensure that the Ethernet adapter starts automatically on boot.
  • The resolv.conf file is actually a symbolic link to a file in the /run ditectory. The link had to be replaced with a regular file that could be managed by HSMM-Pi.

I have corrected all of these issues in the ‘’ script that is checked into the HSMM-Pi Github repository. This means that HSMM-Pi is available for use with:

  • Raspberry Pi nodes running Rasbian (based on Ubuntu 12.04)
  • Beaglebone Black nodes running Ubuntu 13.04

This is great news for HSMM, as well as the HSMM-Pi project. More device platforms and versions of the Ubuntu OS should give people more options for building HSMM mesh nodes with versions of Linux that will be supported well into the future.


4 thoughts on “Support for Beaglebone Black running Ubuntu 13.04

  1. Nice, but wouldn’t it be a better thing to use 12.04? Ubuntu only supports non-LTS releases for. I think, six months after the next release. In any case, a very short amount of time. 12.04 still has years to go.

    • The Beaglebone eMMC flash image is for 13.04 only, I think. I’ll see if it’s possible to put 12.04 on the BBB and will post an update. Thanks for the suggestion!

      On Wed, Aug 28, 2013 at 1:15 PM, HSMM-Pi Blog

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