Setting Up The Jetson Mate From Seeed Studio

The Jetson Mate, powered on with fan enclosure

In this article, I will be talking about how to set up the Jetson Mate from Seeed Studio with a single “master” module. In this article, we will focus on installing a single module (Jetson Mate supports up to four) and booting it to it’s Ubuntu desktop image. By the end of this article, you will:

  • Understand the Jetson Mate carrier board
  • Understand how to set up a single-node on the carrier
  • Understand how to use Jetson Mate as a development environment

This article is part of a series exploring the Jetson Mate for building clusters. Before we get to a cluster, it is important to first get a single “Master” module configured, it will be much easier to build and manage our future cluster. This guide is meant to compliment the existing getting started guide found here.

I will be writing more articles in this series to explore how to build and manage clusters of Jetson boards.

Note: There are two differences between the Seeed guide and this one: I focus on the SD-card (Developer Kit) version of Jetson (Nano or NX) rather than the eMMC version, and I only show you how to use one module for simplicity.

Hardware Requirements

  • 1 Jetson Developer Kit (SD-Card type not eMMC) Module (NX or Nano)
  • Jetson Mate (I am using the one with the case and fan)
  • 1 microSD-Card (micro)
  • USB-C cable + Adapter
  • HDMI Cable
  • Keyboard / Mouse / Monitor

Step 1: Flash Your Jetson SD-Card With Etcher

I am going to be using a Jetson NX Developer Kit for my “Master” module and Etcher from Balena.io to install the necessary software. You can use either a Nano or an NX for your Master node, it is up to you. You can skip this step if you have already created a bootable SD-card for your Jetson. For Jetsons with eMMC, I recommend consulting Seeed’s guide on this topic.

Once downloaded and installed, open Etcher and select the appropriate Jetson image file you downloaded from above and target your microSD-card, then click “Flash.” The process will take several minutes.

Select your .zip file and Etcher will extract a sd-blob.img
Sit back and wait, will take a bit of time

Once your SD card is flashed, Etcher automatically ejects it for you. Remove it and proceed to the next section. Set it aside for now.

Step 2: Understanding The Jetson Mate Carrier Board

The Jetson Mate has a single “Master” slot (red) which is located next to the Ethernet jack (green) and is served by a dedicated microUSB slot (yellow)

The most important thing to understand about the Jetson Mate carrier board is that one slot is configured as “Master.” With this module installed, you can then use the Jetson Mate as a standard developer kit with a mouse, monitor and keyboard (or access it via the provided microUSB slot). The module plugged into the Master slot has the following ports:

  • HDMI port links to this module
  • Ethernet links to this module
  • Two USB ports link to this module (vs. 1 for the “workers”)
  • There is a dedicated microUSB port that talks to the Master

The role of the Master node in the cluster is to control and manage the other “worker” modules via Kubernetes. This slot is indicated in red circled above.

The layout of the carrier board allows you to communicate with individual nodes or plug the HDMI cable in, which displays the screen of the Master node only.

The “worker” nodes receive only one USB slot each as indicated above.

You can see the overall layout of the board in the diagram above.

Note: For the sake of clarity, I removed the Jetson Mate fan housing for this article.

Step 3: Installing The Master Module On The Jetson Mate Carrier

In this section, we will remove our Jetson module from the Developer Kit carrier board, install it as the “Master” node on the Jetson Mate carrier board, insert the SD card, plug it in and test it out.

I am using my NVIDIA NX Developer Kit, unplug the fan power (right), then pull outward on the two tabs on either side of the module. The module will “pop up” and you will be able to tilt it back and remove it from the base. Be gentle.

First, remove the module you have chosen as Master from it’s carrier. If you have never removed a Jetson module from the base carrier, this step can be a bit tricky. You have to pull outwards on BOTH sides of the module’s carrier bracket, if done correctly, the module will pop up so you can extract it. If you are using the Jetson NX, make sure to unplug the fan first.

For more help, click here starting at 4 minutes to see the process as a video.

Install your flashed SD card on the back of your module once it is removed.

Once you have removed the module, go ahead and insert the SD card into the back if you haven’t already. Now, install the module into the Master slot on the Jetson Mate board as below.

Note: With the Jetson NX module, the cable for the fan cannot reach the fan socket on the carrier without an extension of some sort. I left it unplugged for now, planning to cool it with the overhead fan later.

Step 4: Booting The Master Module

Note that the “Fan” connector cannot reach the plug on the Mate carrier board. I recommend not doing anything workload intensive while in this state.

Go ahead and plug in your mouse, monitor and keyboard into the slots dedicated to the Master node. I am using USB-C for the power.

The on switch

Activate the “On” switch. Make sure the module is snapped into the board and plugged in firmly.

Step 5: Testing The System

If all goes well, the system should boot like a regular Jetson attached to a standard carrier board. Now that we have set the module up, we can begin to build the rest of our cluster.

Closing Thoughts

Stay tuned for more articles on this subject coming soon.

Hardware, Software, IoT, Edge Computing, Edge AI, fmr Intel, Arm. Edge Computing @ NVIDIA. All opinions are my own.

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