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By the time I got familiar with Arduino and start finding limitations of it, I was looking for another toy to play with. One of the biggest limitation that I got with Arduino was that it does not have built in network connectivity. At first, I was thinking of using Arduino Ethernet Shield or WiFi Shield, but it cost too much. The price of those shield were double or triples of the Arduino board itself. And then I tried with ESP8266 WiFi Module and got it working with initial connection. But I found Arduino does not have enough resources to do a complicated programming like internet application. So I thought it is about time to looking at some other solution.
Like many people, the next thing I looked into was Raspberry Pi and it seems that it has most of the features that I wanted to have. If I go with Raspberry Pi 3, it has LAN, WiFi, Bluetooth built in the board by default and works on Linux. I can play practice for Linux and some other operating system with the board. But still there something I am not completely happy with the Rasphberry Pi. First, there are not so many GPIO pins as Arduino. And even worse, I learned that Raspberry Pi does not have Analog Read pins which is crucial for many sensor applications. Also I need to have a monitor, mouse, keyboard to use the board and need SD card to install the operating system. Price of Raspberry Pi itself is not that high (only about 35 USD), but it would cost much more to get keyboard, mouse, monitor and SD card. Of course, after you do some initial configuration you may get access to the Raspberry Pi Operating system by remote access or remote desktop, but at least you need all those accessories at least for initial setup. And then I get to hear of Beaglebone which seems to have almost everything that I want and does not have such a drawback that I had with Arduino or Raspberry Pi.
As of now (Jul 2016), I see three most common variation of the board as shown below. Beaglebone Black is the original design and most widely know as for now. Recently a new variation called Beaglebone Green and Beaglebone Green Wireless came out.
As you see above, regardless of the variation you would see a lots and lots of IO pins (64 IO pins) and Wired LAN and USB port by default. All of them came with Linux installed by default (you don't need to install the Linux on your own. This was another attractive feature to me comparing to Raspberry Pi). If you like, you can install various other Operating system like Android, QNX etc. Also, Since it has Linux running on the board by default and you can get access to the Linux over USB, you can get access to the board from your PC (laptop) over the USB (See Initial Connection page). That is, you don't need any extra monitor, keyboard, mouse to use the board.
For most of all, it provides the three most hot key words in embedded/microcontroller application as listed below and it would be a good not only for a hobbiest but also for those who are preparing to getting into this industry.
And very important point ! It is very cheap (low cost)
 Hands-on BeagleBone Black PRU Tutorial (1 of 2) (YouTube, by Original Developer of Beaglebone)
 Hands-on BeagleBone Black PRU Tutorial (2 of 2) (YouTube, by Original Developer of Beaglebone)
 Beagleboard:BeagleBoneBlack (Official Beaglebone Black Wiki)
 Real-time programming with BeagleBone PRUs (YouTube, by Orignal Developer of Beablebone)