Once upon a time, there were PIC microcontrollers which are being used to make electronics projects at home. Then, Arduino kits have been released and led a paradigm shift in the DIY community. They were easy to use and program, they had a large community and lots of working examples. I admit that it is quite unlikely that they will be replaced by any other kit but Rasperry PI like open source hardware singleboard computers are coming into the scene in a very fast pace. I know many people have already started to implement their cool ideas with these tiny computers. NinjaBlocks is a very good example of it.
Here in this project, I will show you only one example of how these computers can be utilized in a productive way. I called this project as SmartBox, I admit I wasn't a creative guy thinking of a name but it will indeed serve as a small computer that can do many jobs. As a first application, I will use that box to show tweets, e-mail notifications and current time on its LED scrolling display. I will also notify status with a blinking RGB Led fading in and out attached to the back side of the box.
In this tutorial, I am going to start from scratch. I will first show you my first design on paper and the idea behind it. Then, I will move on to the electronics design of the product, namely, LED Scrolling Panel, Power LED Driver, Circuit to drive LED Panel etc... In the next phase, I am going to share my product design sketched in Google SketchUp. And lastly, I will show you how the software works.
I don't expect you to do the same of this project but I am hopeful that it will inspire you for other way cooler projects in which BeagleBone can be used.
Step 1: First sketches on paper
I have intentionally designed a small box and also slim one because it looks prettier. Here is my first sketches: