Erohead, birther of Beepy

The SQFMI Beepy alongside my cat printer

The Beepy is a handheld Linux console designed by artists and built for nerds.

From the first announcement, Beepy’s creator—SQFMI—was candid about the device’s lack of polish.

“Buyer beware!” was a direct quote.

But I snagged one anyway. And so far, the punishment has been minor.

What I dislike

Day one: I breezed through the “Getting Started” docs and readied myself for hacking.

Then the keyboard wailed “aaaaaaaaaa” at me until I rebooted.

Day one: The spirit trapped in the Beepy keyboard cries for freedom.

Off to a bad start.

Undeterred, I took to the Beepy Discord, where I found solace among other new and confused Beepy owners.

The Beepy Discord

Thanks to the active Discord community, I was clued into to the fix: downgrade all the things.1

While this experience was bumpy, everyone in the discord was helpful and awesome—I’m grateful for all the volunteers assisting us wayward nerds.

I’ve contributed some pending documentation changes to pay it forward.

What I like

The idea of a breakable computer was important to us.

– Eben Upton, CEO, Raspberry Pi Ltd

The Beepy is scrappy—an ideal platform for hacking and tinkering.

The form factor inspired some fun ideas for me:

  1. gphoto2 intervalometer for my camera (a compact version of what I used for the last solar eclipse)
  2. Catprinter-powered low-fi photobooth
  3. Ham radio fox hunting with retrogram~rtlsdr
  4. Distraction-free RSS reader and podcasting device via newsboat

Sure, I could do all these things with termux on my phone.

But something about the cold monolithic slab of modern smartphones feels considerably less cyberpunk—you’ll never hack an ATM ála Terminator 2 with a smartphone.

The keyboard is clicky and satisfying. Key chording gets you all the characters you need to use the terminal.

Bonus points for the stellar ASCII-art key chord documentation.

Plus, it’s a delightful Frankenstein’s monster of off-the-shelf parts:

As Hackaday already pointed out—the parts alone make the Beepy a screaming deal at $99.

Final verdict

The PocketCHIP next to its spiritual successor

I’m a sucker for pocket-sized Linux devices. And a glutton for a certain kind of punishment.

The Beepy is not a finished product, but that’s the whole point.

It scratches an itch I’ve always had: the desire to hack alongside like-minded nerds, all tilting at our joyless monolithic slabs.

  1. - Install the old firmware from here:
    - Set up a new sd card and boot Beepy. Wait until it finishes resizing its partition then connect via ssh.
    - Run this setup script which installs the latest sharp drm driver and the old keyboard driver: `curl -s | bash`

    The “Downgrade all the things” fix, for posterity, via the Beepy Discord↩︎