Steps to install debian:

a. Download the latest image onto the host computer (https://beagleboard.org/latest-images).

b. Unpack the file.  On osx, you will need to get “The Unarchiver” from the app store.

c. Copy the img file to a micro-sd drive using a low level write command.

The first task is to locate where the SD card is mapped into the filesystem.

Open a terminal on the OSX machine, and look for the disk devices on the machine.  Type

ls /dev/disk*

Plug in the SD card, wait a bit, and then repeat the above command.  The new disk is your SD disk.

In my case, it was located at /dev/disk3 with a partition /dev/disk3s1.

The next command is a very, very dangerous command to run.  If you pick an incorrect disk (e.g., your hard drive), you will wipe the contents.  Make sure you back up your data before running the command.  Make absolutely sure you have the right disk.  Make sure you enter the command correctly before hitting enter.

In order to get the dd command to work, you will first have to unmount the file system partition (not eject which will remove the /dev entry).

diskutil unmount /dev/diskNsM

where N = your disk number (3 in my case) and M is the partition number (1 in my case).

The command to write the img to your disk is:

sudo dd if=<path to your img > of = /dev/diskN bs=1000

 where <path to your img> is the location of your image file. The parameter bs is the block-size. This can be a lot of different numbers (e.g. 1, 1000, 1M).  This will affect the time of the write.

This command takes a while to complete.  Go get a cup of coffee and respond to some email.

d. Connect the Beaglebone to a monitor (through the HDMI cable) and keyboard/mouse.

e. Insert the micro-sd into a beaglebone and start it up.  You have to hold down the “user boot” button to get the BBK to boot off the sd card.

You can get to a shell by typing ctrl-alt-F5.  Login to the shell using debian:temppwd.  Set up a root password by typing “sudo su”  at the command prompt, using temppwd as the password.  Type “passwd” to set the root password.  Type in your desired root password twice.

Once you’ve booted to the sd image, edit the file ‘/boot/uEnv.txt’ (sudo nano /boot/uEnv.txt) and uncomment the line ‘cmdline=init=/opt/scripts/tools/eMMC/init-eMMC-flasher-v3.sh’ at the bottom of the file.

f. Reboot the Beaglebone off the micro-sd card as before.  Now, after a little bit, the LEDs will start to flash in a sequence which has been described as similar to a cylon’s eye.  Wait some time (30 minutes?) until the Beaglebone shuts back down.

g. Remove the micro-sd drive and reboot normally.  You will now be live with the latest debian.

Any data and config files you had on the Beaglebone before this upgrade will be wiped clean.  Back up before you start this process.  Either manually replace the key files or set up a script to replace things after the update has completed.