BeagleBone Black project spotlight: Facebook “Like” Counter

By Tara Stratton

Here’s something we are sure you will ‘Like.’ While at Maker
Faire Bay Area this year, we gave away a few BeagleBone Black
open-source computers to some lucky faire attendees. We heard back
from one of the winners, Christopher Berg, about a creative but
functional project he’s created on the board over the past few
months that would make Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg quite
proud.

Christopher made a Facebook “Like” Counter for his wife—an author
who was in the middle of writing her first romance novel and was
interested in tracking the number of ‘Likes’ on her Facebook page.
His device gives his wife a readout of Facebook Likes that is easily
readable and constantly updating. According to Christopher, many of
his projects are inspired by his family—his kids have been the
beneficiaries of many of his projects. (Cool side note—check out
the
Quorra from Tron costume
he made his daughter for Halloween!)]

The Facebook Like Counter uses the JSON interface provided by
Facebook to count the number of Likes for a page. Once it reads the
value, the counter updates the display using a simple bit-bang SPI
interface.

“It’s currently a really simple setup, but I’m planning on expanding
it to provide more metrics, including books sold, Twitter followers,
etc.,” said Christopher.

The part count for the project is really low. Christopher used the
BeagleBone Black open-source computer (of course) as well as some
jumper wires and a four-digit, seven-segment display that he found
on eBay through some friends at 43oh.com.
The display uses a PT6961 driver from Oasis. Christopher
noted the display is “dead-easy to control and has a low pin-count.
A few simple SPI commands and you’re good to go.”

But why BeagleBone Black? Christopher said he had his eye on
BeagleBone for a while.

“When the new version came out, including a price drop — I had to
have one,” he said.

After years of experience developing projects such as an electronic
etch-a-sketch, a Bluetooth®-controlled RC car and even a retro VFD
tube clock on several of TI’s development boards, including his
favorite MSP430™ Value Line LaunchPad as well as the Tiva™ C Series
LaunchPad and MSP430FR5739 FRAM Experimenter Board, he felt
comfortable picking up the TI Sitara™ AM335x processor-based
BeagleBone Black computer. In addition, the Ethernet on BeagleBone
Black came in handy for this project.

“When you need a network-enabled board, there’s really no easier way
to go,” Christopher said.

With several years of experience developing on TI’s microcontroller-
based LaunchPads, Christopher admitted that he faced a challenge
with this project since he knew almost nothing about Linux. However,
he said that the Ångström distribution that comes loaded on
BeagleBone Black helped him get the project going without having too
much to learn. He used the Cloud9 IDE that comes pre-installed and
was able to use JavaScript—something he’s already familiar with
since he is a Web developer. Once he started working with the on-
board software, he was able to get the project up and running fairly
quickly.

“I have absolutely no electronics training, but I’m a great example
that with the right tools, almost anyone can create these types of
projects,” said Christopher.

What’s next on Christopher’s list of DIY projects? He said he’s
always wanted to create a Hexapod using a BeagleBone Black and a 3D
printer. Based on his track record, we can assume it will be awesome!

More details about Christopher’s Facebook Like Counter are available
at http://forum.beaglefu.com/topic/124-facebook-like-counter-7-segment-display-and-cloud9/.

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