BeagleBone Black has gained a lot of attention lately. With a suggested retail price of $45, and a set of features that make it a versatile mix of Raspberry Pi and Arduino, it offers a great introduction to hardware development, and an potential pathway from projects made as a hobbyist to commercially viable hardware products. For those new to BeagleBone Black, and wondering about the possibilities, here is a selection of projects on the platform that offer varying levels of challenge to a beginner.
For many beginners, the first programming project taken on is “Hello World,” a simple program that outputs those words to the display. This project on BeagleBoard was developed by a member of the community to offer a similar introduction to operating the BeagleBoard Black. The project uses the Node API, which will be familiar to many web developers. The API is used to control an LED, which lights up, and cycles through colors from red to green to blue. This simple project is a good introduction to the BeagleBone Black as a platform.
This project, like the previous one, uses a familiar software API as an introduction to developing on the BeagleBone Black. The Facebook like counter uses Facebook’s OpenGraph API to receive the number of “likes” for a particular node on the graph using the JSON format. The project then outputs the number to a 4 digit, seven segment LED display. The project provides a simple demonstration of BeagleBone’s power at easily interfacing with web services, while also offering many different physical extension options for output. The web interfaces will be familiar to many developers, and the Cloud9/Node.js script used to power the LED should also be approachable for many beginner programmers.
The BeagleBone Black is well equipped with a multitude of hardware connection options, and the onboard ethernet port allows it to easily become a handy network monitoring device. This project uses technology from a company called ntop, who have developed a suite of open source network monitoring software. The people at ntop have provided a port of their software for BeagleBone Black. Upon compiling and installing the code, the BeagleBone can be used to monitor Internet connections on your network, identifying high bandwidth users and potential security risks. This project might even potentially serve as an affordable tool for a sysadmin running a small office network.
The expression “free, as in beer” used by open source tech enthusiasts speaks to the tastes of many in the community; for these people, the BeagleBrew project might be a great introduction to the BeagleBone Black. The BeagleBrew was developed in part by members of Texas Instruments, the designers behind the BeagleBoard project. The system uses a steel coil, a water heat exchanger, and a temperature sensor to monitor the temperature of a fermentation, and manage it using a web based interface. It is essentially a temperature regulator, which is a simple enough concept that it could be suitable for beginner to intermediate BeagleBone enthusiasts.
Moving up the scale of complexity, the BeagleBone Android project brings the popular open source mobile OS to the BeagleBone Black. The project, named “rowboat” is an Android port for TI Sitara processors, including the AM335x chip that serves as the base for BeagleBone Black. The project has a growing community of developers and is aimed at providing a stable port of Android to a number of TI processors. The rowboat port has been tested with many Android apps of various functions, including file system access, mapping and even games. This project is a great jumping-off point for developers who are interested in Android as the basis for hardware projects beyond mobile phones.