Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Packages

It's time for holiday packages!  Not the kind you put under the tree, but the packages you install on your Linux OS to provide new programs and features.

Thanks to the incredibly awesome Robert Nelson, just about everything needed to install and run Machinekit is now available in the default BeagleBone Debian package repositories.  This includes a few things back-ported from Jessie to Wheezy, some things that need to be built directly from source, and even a 3.14 Xenomai real-time kernel!  The actual Machinekit packages (and the buildbot infrastructure that builds them) remain on the private repository generously provided by John Morris at

MANY thanks to Robert for this great work, which frees up the Machinekit developers to keep improving things.

If you haven't worked with a package based Machinekit install yet, I suggest you try it out.  Using packages makes it much easier to stay current with updates and enhancements.  Instructions for installing Machinekit from packages can be found on the Machinekit website.  Packages are available for the BeagleBone (arm7), Raspberry Pi (arm6), and generic PCs (i686/amd64).  For real-time operation, you'll also need an appropriate real-time kernel (PREEMPT_RT, Xenomai, and RTAI are currently supported).

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cool Tool Sandy Box CNC Control

Alexander Rössler and the folks at The Cool Tool have released the Sandy Box CNC controller just in time for the holidays.  If you are unfamiliar with The Cool Tool, they make small CNC machines for research, prototyping, hobby, and education.  While the Sandy Box is primarily intended to control their UNIMAT line of CNC machines, it's possible to use with most any CNC system currently driven by a PC parallel port.

Inside the box is a BeagleBone with a custom cape already setup to run Machinekit.  It should make a great controller for folks looking to upgrade or replace a dated DOS or Windows machine.  If you're interested in using the Sandy Box on your machine, or have any questions, head over to the Machinekit Google group where Alexander and others can answer your questions.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

BeagleBone Encoder Support

Russell Gower has written a HAL driver for the hardware eQEP encoder inputs on the Beaglebone.  This makes it possible to do rigid tapping with an encoder on your spindle, and paves the way for eventually running high-speed servo systems on the 'Bone (which will likely also need support for hardware PWM, since the existing PRU based PWM isn't really fast enough for motor control).

The new code is merged and built, so you should be able to use apt (or your favorite package manager) to update if you've installed Machinekit from packages.  If not, you should consider doing so (instructions), since it makes it much easier to do updates.