After a couple of months of searching, reading, patching, and compiling, I finally have managed to get a build of linux working on the BeagleBone with userland SPI that you can access through the file system.
The path was paved for me by an excellent tutorial by Brian Hensley on how to get the BeagleBone’s big brother, the BeagleBoard xM running with userland SPI. I figured out how to modify his instructions for the bone and combined it with a patch by Craig Berscheidt I found on the BeagleBoard mailing list (which I had to re-create for the 3.2 kernel). I’m going to be working on getting a full tutorial up, but since that may take me a week or more I figured I’d first share an image of my working system. Just write this image to a 4gb micro SD card as you would any other disk image and you’re good to go (These directions on how to write disk images for hacking on the Nook Color should point you in the right direction if you haven’t mucked about with disk images before). The username is ‘ubuntu’ and the password is ‘temppwd’.