What?Tiny little LCD screens
Why?Despite being one of those projects that started out as a bit of a pointless exercise in gadgetry, useful applications have nevertheless emerged. The screens are now used on a daily basis to save powering up a CRT, for various at-a-glance checks.
How?Actually connecting the LCDs to a machine was fairly straightforwards; I just used the IRTrans LCD function. This lets you hook any of a number of different displays onto the IRTrans bus using a small driver board. There are two displays at present, one in the dining room and one in the living room (note: I occasionally live in the dining room and eat in the living room. It's a confusing world).
The slightly trickier part was actually getting them to display something useful. LCDProc was a good starting point for this, as it provides a Linux LCD server which can drive all sorts of displays (including those hooked up through IRTrans). LCDproc comes with a number of clients, such as a client which will display your system's load as a bargraph on the display, which is quite handy, and was the sole purpose of the screens for a fair while.
However, after having the screens around for a bit, it became apparent that there was more useful information that could be displayed. Do we have email? What's the weather going to be like tomorrow? What am I due to do today? These are the sorts of thing you want to be able to ascertain at a glance, without powering up a PC. I know some people carry PDAs for this, but the notion of carrying around a PDA in your own home seems a bit silly. So, we set out to improve things.
Gina developed a Java API using the LCDproc manual page as reference, allowing the use of any of the LCDproc widgets from a Java client. I then took the API and used it to write a number of clients:
- MythTV - shows recording status, disk free and the next scheduled recording
- PHPBB - iterates through polls running on your PHPbb forums, and displays a bar graph of the results
- PHPGroupware - shows calendar items for today, as well as the top of your to-do list
- IMAP servers - shows total number of emails (and emails as yet undread) in a given folder
- RSS feeds - such as weather reports, etc.
- System load information - much like the basic LCDproc client
Oh, and if anyone's interested in the software, there's a Sourceforge page for the project here.