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Notes from a BeagleBone Black newbie

A long while back, when Radio Shack was going out of business in Cupertino, I picked up a BeagleBone Black to play around with. Thanks to the pandemic, that time has finally come.

I’m confident in my geek credibility, but this thing has really taxed my skills. All the documentation I could find was, if not obtuse, written with a lot of knowledge assumptions. Here, then, are the things that I had to either discover myself, or suss out from a lot of different places.

  • The board has an OS in firmware, so unlike a Raspberry Pi, it will boot up out of the box.
  • If you do install a memory card that contains an updated OS distro, it will boot up from that instead, provided that you flashed the card with the .img and not the .xz file. Don’t believe the misleading documentation that says the etcher will decompress the file for you. It will, but only the .img, not the .xz.
  • Bonus tip: On a Mac, use the great utility BetterZip to decompress the .xz file.
  • Apparently you can update the firmware with the new OS by editing a single line in image’s config file. You will find instructions about how to do this by booting with buttons held down, but that’s the old method. I didn’t try either method as I’m happy running from a 32GB card.
  • The Display connector is a microHDMI port. Not MiniHDMI like the Raspberry Pi Zero. Time to check your junk drawer for yet another obscure adapter.
  • The mDNS (Bonjour) name will be, by default “beagleboard.local” The only user is “root” and there is no password assigned to that account.
  • If all the LEDs on the board are lit up, something went wrong during startup. If you’re trying to run headless (see microHDMI, above) this is the only way to know there’s a problem. When the unit is running correctly one of the LEDs will flash repeatedly in what is supposed to be a “heartbeat” (but if my heart ever beats like that, please call an ambulance).
  • Raspberry Pi users will be pleased to discover that the unit has a power switch.
  • Once booted, the unit is running a web server. This will show you a few details about your device.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the device, altho it comes with a lot of stuff pre-installed and I have no idea what it’s all for. (Now I know how Android phone users feel.)

I made a pleasant discovery about how to create a box to hold the board, which I described previously: Beaglebone Black Card Box

Most of the notes above were written early in the pandemic, and so far my Beaglebone has an uptime of well over 400 days. During that period I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had to restart the Raspberry Pi.



How to Select All and Copy from the iOS Notes app

I use the iOS Notes app to store templated email messages so that I can quickly respond to common enquiries that I receive for my business. This works quite well for me. (I keep them all in a group called “Copy Desk” so that I can find them easily.)

However, Notes doesn’t have an obvious way to select all the text in a note and copy it to the clipboard so that it can be pasted into a reply. In most iOS apps, when you select a bit of text, the pop-up menu that appears includes a Select All command. But, as you can see below, Notes does not.

screenshot from Notes

But there is a way to copy an entire note to the clipboard, it’s just a bit hidden:

Tap the More button (a circle with three dots, in the upper-right corner of the note).

notes screenshot showing location of control

Tap “Send a Copy.”

notes app screenshot

Tap Copy.

notes screenshot

Then switch to Mail and paste into the body of your message.

Alternatively, if you’re creating a new mail message and not replying to an existing one, tap Mail in step 3.



This documentary is on fire

Historian and public speaker William Pack has produced a nice documentary about The Great Chicago Fire. (This year being the 150th anniversary of the event.) He was nice enough to cast me as one of commentators, but aside from that, you'll enjoy it. It's available on YouTube for a limited time.

The Essential Great Chicago Fire on YouTube

gordon meyer on screen

Screen shot courtesy of another talented Chicagoan, Michael Burke.


Leaky Peet’s Nespresso capsules

Although they are common in Europe, non-Nespresso coffee capsules (“original size”) are just now starting to become widely available in my part of the U.S. This is good news, as variety and price pressure are so very American.

However, having tried the Peet’s Coffee capsules for several months, I don’t recommend them. While the coffee is as good as you’d expect, Peet’s has gotten something wrong about the manufacture of the capsules.

Normally, using other capsules, I can run thru an entire tank of water in my Kitchen Aid Nespresso and there will be just a tiny bit of coffee in the under-cup drip tray.

With Peet’s capsules, the tray is close to being filled! Every so often, it even overflows onto my counter after just four (Lungo) cups.

Clearly, the Peet’s capsules are loosely “Nespresso compatible,” at best. Whoever engineered these knock-off capsules should go back to the drawing board. Because of the mess, and the inconsistent amount of coffee in your cup, pass them up if you see them at your grocery store.


Macro to load remote images in macOS Mail.app

I recently changed my Mail.app settings so that images in mail messages are not loaded automatically. Until the new privacy features in macOS Monterey roll out, I made this change to avoid some tracking by spammers (and mailer services). (You can find this setting in Mail > Preferences > Viewing)

However, I quickly grew tired of having to click the "Load remote content" (sic) button to display legit message properly. If there were a menu command for this (ahem, Apple) it would be simple to use a keyboard shortcut to accomplish this. Unfortunately, clicking is the only way to interact with this control.

When I searched the 'net for solutions, I found several complex AppleScript solutions to the problem. (You'll find them, too.) But these didn't appeal to me at all, so I turned to the excellent Keyboard Maestro instead. It turned out to be a stupidly simple problem to solve, as you can see in the one-step macro below.

macro by gordon meyer

Enjoy!