BeagleBone Black GPIO Benchmark

Look what the mailman brought: It’s a shiny (or maybe matte?) BeagleBone Black, freshly arrived (actually it’s been over a month, but time sure flies…) from Newark element14! I’ve been doing Raspberry Pi related hacking for a while, but especially when the Pi was still fresh and new, I did from time to time consider if the grass would be greener on other side of the fence. Or blacker, in this case, as I mean BeagleBone Black.

BeagleBone was long very much more powerful than Raspberry Pi, but now that Pi2 has come out, price and specification-wise they are closer than ever. A quick personal comparison chart:

  BeagleBone Black Raspberry Pi 2 (B)
Price 46 € (Element14) 32 € (Element14)
Processor 1GHz single-core Cortex-A8 0.9GHz quad-core Cortex-A7
Memory 512MB DDR3 1GB
Connections USB host, USB device, micro-HDMI 4x USB, HDMI, 3.5mm Audio/analog video
GPIO 2x 46 pin headers (65 digital I/O) 40 GPIO pins (26 digital I/O)
Other 4GB integrated flash, works as USB device camera and display interface on board

When Pi1 was out, the BeagleBone Black with the more modern Cortex-A8 chip and higher clockrate was definitely the more powerful, but now with 4-core Pi2, the tables have somewhat turned. Still, the clockrate is higher and there’s more GPIO. And speaking of GPIO, my Raspberry Pi vs. Pi2 GPIO benchmark has gotten a lot of interest, so I thought the best way to take this black beauty for a test drive would be to benchmark BeagleBone Black GPIO in a similar way.

Test setup

Test bench

The test subject is the most recent revision C of BeagleBone Black. I followed the (a bit lacking in detail and readability) Getting Started guide and downloaded the latest Debian Jessie image (8.3, 2016-01-24), flashed it to card and ran apt-get update and apt-get dist-upgrade (2016-04-14).
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Raspberry Pi 2 vs. 1 GPIO Benchmark

Raspberry Pi 2 GPIO Benchmark

It’s battle time! Some of you may have heard that Raspberry Pi 2 is out with more punch than ever. Just how much more? Well, apt-get dist-upgrade went about 5 times faster with the new Pi. With 1 GB of RAM and four cores, this will definitely be a boost for my home SSH box ergonomics over the previous version.

But what about hacking? There has been a lot of interest in getting GPIO benchmarks for the Pi 2 similar to my earlier Raspberry Pi GPIO benchmark. Well here it is! Please refer to the earlier article for source code and nice screenshots of square waves, as I’ll concentrate on the performance difference only here. You can also get the code from Github:

Summary of results

All the Pi 1 benchmarks were ran 14th and 15th February 2015 using latest versions of the libraries as stated in my updated benchmark post. Pi 2 benchmarks were all run 25th and 26th March 2015 with the latest versions. If you get significantly different results at a later date, please let me know and I’ll update the table!

Language Library Pi 1 Pi 2 Change
Shell /proc/mem access 2.8 kHz 7.0 kHz 2,5x
Shell / wiringPi WiringPi gpio utility 40 Hz 95 Hz 2,4x
Python RPi.GPIO 70 kHz 243 kHz 2,5x
Python wiringpi2 bindings 28 kHz 103 kHz 3,7x
Ruby wiringpi bindings 21 kHz N/A 3,7x
C Native library 22 MHz 41.7 MHz 1,9x
C BCM2835 5.4 MHz 7.2 MHz 1,3x
C WiringPi normal GPIO wiringPiSetup() 4.1 MHz 9.3 MHz 2,3x
C WiringPi GPIO wiringPiSetupGpio() 4.6 MHz 9.4 MHz 2x
C WiringPi sys wiringPiSetupSys() 120 kHz 185 kHz 1.5x
Perl BCM2835 48 kHz 154 kHz 3.2x

Continue reading Raspberry Pi 2 vs. 1 GPIO Benchmark

Mounting / Fixing Raspbian SD Card from Raspberry Pi

Shut down my Pi today and thought to make a copy of files in its SD card. This is what mount /dev/sdf2 /mnt had to say:

mount: wrong fs type, bad option, bad superblock on /dev/sdf2,
       missing codepage or helper program, or other error
       In some cases useful info is found in syslog - try
       dmesg | tail  or so

Great. After trying parted and fsck, it became apparent that for some reason, the root partition is marked as being 1 block longer than the physical card. Must be a bug with Raspbian partition expansion or something.

Thankfully, I found this gold nugget which suggested using resize2fs to fix it. Turns out I had to run e2fsck first (and say “y” a couple of times):

sudo e2fsck /dev/sdf2
sudo resize2fs /dev/sdf2
mount /dev/sdf2 /mnt

Voilá! Fully functioning filesystem again.

Raspberry Pi GPIO Benchmark Updated!


The new Raspberry Pi model 2 is out and the Pi world seems more popular than ever. My 2012 benchmark of different RaspPi GPIO access methods has been getting a lot of hits, so I thought to revisit it, and have now updated all the benchmarks with latest versions of firmware and GPIO libraries. I’ve also upgraded my oscilloscope to PicoScope 5444B, so the scope bandwith limitations I had earlier are now gone. :)

Because the benchmark has been linked from many other sites, I’ve just updated the old post to keep links pointing to right places.

Read the updated Raspberry Pi GPIO Speed Benchmark!

Giving Raspberry Pi Camera Nearsight with Reading Glasses

Raspberry Pi with Reading Glasses

Back again! The summer holidays gave me some time to write after a long hiatus, and this time it’s a Raspberry Pi related article. I’ve had the excellent opportunity to play around with a Raspberry Pi Camera Module for a few days. Or actually modules, as I got both the normal and NoIR without IR filter (more about that later) from Farnell / Element 14. They also stock an excellent selection of Pi accessories, so be sure to check those out, too.

But without further ado, let’s get onward. I’m still thinking up cool projects to do with the camera, so if you have nice ideas, please feel free to share them in the comments section!

Unboxing and First Impressions

Raspberry Pi IR camera and a normal one

The camera modules arrived in simple boxes, branded with element14 logo and URL. A nice additional touch was an included instruction sheet outlining the installation procedure, as well as a link to with further info.

Both the IR-filtered (the one showing normal visible light) and the NoIR (the one without the filter, and thus showing both normal light AND infrared) have exact same outward appearance. The installation was quite easy, but the flat cable offers less positioning and flexing freedom that your standard webcam – obviously the Pi camera is meant for more integrated installations.

Raspberry Pi camera electronics
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Raspberry Pi as Arduino HDMI Shield

Arduino to Pi serial link

Merry Christmas to everyone! Today’s hack is something that I’ve been planning to try out for a while: Using the Raspberry Pi as a (relatively inexpensive) “HDMI shield” for the Arduino microcontroller. While the Pi can easily do most things that the Arduino can and usually much more, one might have an otherwise complete project (for example, something related to home theater automation) that would benefit from HDMI output.

Arduino display shields are not the least expensive, so why not use a RaspPi instead? There have been hacks for using RaspPi as network shield, too, and this project is very much like it (actually, you could change the Pi-side code just a bit and have some network-related commands available for your Arduino in no time).

The basic hardware premise for this hack is very straightforward – wire the Pi and Arduino together using the serial interface available on both. Because Pi is 3.3V and Arduino 5V, a level converter is needed – I used one from Adafruit this time, as it’s dead simple to use and doesn’t pose the dangers of overloading Pi like my simple resistor option does (you might, however, check that link out as it contains the pinouts for RaspPi serial pins in the GPIO header).

On software side, the Pi acts as a “server”, taking simple display commands via serial link. You could even start the Pi server script and connect to the serial port with Putty, and the session could look a bit like the following:

# initialize viewport - not actually implemented yet
init 500 500
# draw a 10x10 rectangle at (5,15)
draw 5 15 10 10
# exit the server

The python server uses pyserial for serial communications, currently at 9600 bps, but the Pi and Arduino should be able to do 115 200 as well. For graphics, pygame framework is used. Current version of code initializes a 500×500 pixel graphics viewport, but one could use the parameters given by “init” command from Arduino side to define that, too. The code should be rather straightforward to understand: there are only two supported commands, “draw” with four parameters, and “quit” to exit the otherwise infinite loop waiting for draw commands (I named the file

#!/usr/bin/env python

import serial
import string
import pygame

ser = serial.Serial("/dev/ttyAMA0",9600)

window = pygame.display.set_mode((500, 500))
colour = pygame.Color("blue")

quit = False

while not quit:
	line = ser.readline()
	words = line.split()

	if words[0] == "rect":
		pygame.draw.rect(window, colour, (int(words[1]), 
                                 int(words[2]), int(words[3]), int(words[4])))
	elif words[0] == "exit":
		quit = True


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Arduino and Raspberry Pi Serial Communication

Today’s the last day of my summer holiday, and I had some free time on my hands. So I decided to see if I could get my Arduino Uno and Raspberry Pi to talk to each other. It turned out the task was even easier than my previous Pi to RS-232 project – all that was needed between the two devices was some jumper wire and two 1 kOhm resistors to form a voltage divider between Arduino TX pin and Pi RX pin – Arduino understands Pi’s 3.3V signal levels just fine so Pi TX to Arduino RX needed no voltage shifting at all.

IMPORTANT UPDATE! It turns out that the RX pin on the Arduino is held at 5V even when that pin is not initialized. I suspect it is due to the fact that the Arduino is programmed via these same pins every time you flash it from Arduino IDE, and there are external (weak) pullups to keep the lines to 5V at other times. So the method described below may be risky – I suggest either add a resistor in series to the RX pin, or use a proper level converter (see this post for details how to accomplish that). And if you do try the method below, never connect the Pi to Arduino RX pin before you have already flashed the program to Arduino, otherwise you may end up with a damaged Pi!!!

Setting Raspberry Pi up for serial communications

In order to use the Pi’s serial port for anything else than as a console, you first need to disable getty (the program that displays login seen) by commenting the serial line out of Pi’s /etc/inittab:

1:2345:respawn:/sbin/getty 115200 tty1
# Line below commented out
# 2:23:respawn:/sbin/getty -L ttyAMA0 115200 vt100
3:23:respawn:/sbin/getty 115200 tty3
4:23:respawn:/sbin/getty 115200 tty4
5:23:respawn:/sbin/getty 115200 tty5
6:23:respawn:/sbin/getty 115200 tty6

If you don’t want the Pi sending stuff over the serial line when it boots, you can also remove the statements console=ttyAMA0,115200 and kgdboc=ttyAMA0,115200 from /boot/cmdline.txt. You’ll need to reboot the Pi in order for the changes to take effect.
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Benchmarking Raspberry Pi GPIO Speed

UPDATE2: You may also want to check out my Raspberry 2 vs 1 GPIO benchmark!

UPDATED: 2015-02-15! This article has been very popular, so I’ve now updated all the benchmarks using the latest firmware and library versions. The scope has also been upgraded to a PicoScope 5444B with better resolution and bandwith than the earlier models. :)


Don’t try this at home! Shorting GND and VCC with a probe might fry your Pi and more!

Method and Summary of Results

The basic test setup was to toggle one of the GPIO pins between zero and one as fast as possible. GPIO 4 was selected due to easy access and no overlapping functionality. This is basically the “upper limit” for any signalling one can hope to achieve with the GPIO pins – real-life scenarios where processing needs to be done would need to aim for some fraction of these values. Here are the current results:

Language Library Tested / version Square wave
Shell /proc/mem access 2015-02-14 2.8 kHz
Shell / gpio utility WiringPi gpio utility 2015-02-15 / 2.25 40 Hz
Python RPi.GPIO 2015-02-15 / 0.5.10 70 kHz
Python wiringpi2 bindings 2015-02-15 / latest github 28 kHz
Ruby wiringpi bindings 2015-02-15 / latest gem (1.1.0) 21 kHz
C Native library 2015-02-15 / latest RaspPi wiki code 22 MHz
C BCM 2835 2015-02-15 / 1.38 5.4 MHz
C wiringPi 2015-02-15 / 2.25 4.1 – 4.6 MHz
Perl BCM 2835 2015-02-15 / 1.9 48 kHz

Shell script

The easiest way to manipulate the Pi GPIO pins is via console. Here’s a simple shell script to toggle the GPIO 4 as fast as possible (add sleep 1 after both to get a nice LED toggle test):


echo "4" > /sys/class/gpio/export
echo "out" > /sys/class/gpio/gpio4/direction

while true
	echo 1 > /sys/class/gpio/gpio4/value
	echo 0 > /sys/class/gpio/gpio4/value

Continue reading Benchmarking Raspberry Pi GPIO Speed

Raspberry Pi Serial Console With MAX3232CPE

In addition to the audio, video, network and USB connectors, the Raspberry Pi also has 26 GPIO pins. These pins also include an UART serial console, which can be used to log in to the Pi, and many other things. However, normal UART device communicate with -12V (logical “1”) and +12V (logical “0”), which may just fry something in the 3.3V Pi. Even “TTL level” serial at 5V runs the same risk.

So in this short tutorial, I’ll show you how to use a MAX3232CPE transceiver to safely convert the normal UART voltage levels to 3.3V accepted by Raspberry Pi, and connect to the Pi using Putty. This is what you’ll need:

  • Raspberry Pi unit
  • Serial port in your PC or USB to serial -adapter
  • MAX3232CPE or similar RS-232 to 3.3V logic level transceiver
  • 5 x 0.1 uF capacitors (I used plastic ones)
  • Jumper wires and breadboard
  • Some type of female-female adapter

The last item is needed to connect male-male jumper wires to RaspPi GPIO pins. I had a short 2×6 pin extension cable available and used that, but an IDE cable and other types ribbon cable work fine as well. Just make sure it doesn’t internally short any of the connections – use a multimeter if in doubt!

The connections on Pi side are rather straightforward. We’ll use the 3.3V pin for power – the draw should not exceed 50 mA, but this should not be an issue, since MAX3232CPE draws less than 1 mA and the capacitors are rather small. GND is also needed, and the two UART pins, TXD and RXD.
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Raspberry Pi arrived today!

A rather long wait ended today, when DHL dropped this little package off at work in the morning. I had placed my Raspberry Pi order in the first 24 hours when they started taking orders (or actually, registrations of interest) from RS Components, but it took about two months for me to receive the invitation to order, and three more weeks for the order to arrive.

Opening up the box, I was greeted with a very small computer, and two small leaflets, a quick start guide and a regulatory and safety pamphlet. The board is really quite small, just a few millimeters larger than a credit card. Two USB slots, HDMI, coaxial and stereo audio plugs and micro-USB for power, plus an ethernet jack.

I ran a quick test to see if everything worked. Initially, there was flicker on my projector (the only device with native HDMI input I currently have), but that turned out to be incompatibility with the HDMI switch I had – without it it worked just fine. I used the premade Debian image on a SD card and it worked perfectly.
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