Excess capacity
April 8, 2009 12:46 PM   Subscribe

I have a 26-inch flatscreen LCD and a spare computer. I don't need a TV and I don't need another computer. Help me come up with something cool to do.

I've thought about doing a few things, but what I keep coming back to is a kind of "kitchen information center" - hanging the TV on one of the kitchen walls, connecting the spare computer, and using the setup to display a constant stream of information. Stuff like sports scores, BBC headlines, weather, a digital clock, twitter feeds, or maybe what song is playing over our apartment's Squeezebox. And since it's a kitchen, why not throw in a recipe viewer as well, or an inventory program. Really, the possibilities are endless and I'd want any solution to be modular and modifiable. Since the monitor will be hanging on a wall and the computer itself will be tucked away in a kitchen cabinet, I'd probably need the setup to be controlled by voice or with my laptop.

My question - is there any open-source solution similar to this? Any other interesting ideas on what to do with a spare TV and computer?
posted by downing street memo to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've never used MythTV but it looks like it might meet your needs.
posted by angrybeaver at 1:13 PM on April 8, 2009

I've often had this thought (along with the idea being to show calendars, reminders of birthdays and events, etc.)
posted by mmascolino at 1:16 PM on April 8, 2009

The problem with kitchen computers (I've helped with a few) is always input. Keyboards are bad. Mice are worse. Touchscreens are okay but they limit where you can install the thing, and restrict your software choices (touchscreen Linux drivers = hellquest).

My best solution so far was to use an MCE remote along with a macro program (I forget the name... Intellikey?) to reprogram every button, so that the tv-like remote could control everything needed: switch to the (Flash) sports/weather/news display, run web browser (use bookmarks!), switch to iTunes, etc. Another bonus is that it's easy to get the power key on the remote working to turn the screen off (but not the PC.) I keep meaning to do the same myself but with a Mac Mini and an iPod touch for controlling it. Somday.
posted by rokusan at 2:11 PM on April 8, 2009

Someday, even.
posted by rokusan at 2:11 PM on April 8, 2009

Response by poster: Rokusan - any solution you know of to just have all that stuff up, widget-like, on an always-on screen? I can't imagine I'll be doing too much web browsing from that computer, after all.
posted by downing street memo at 3:02 PM on April 8, 2009

DSM, I used Flash last time, loaded from a localhost URL.

Full-screen window acting as a browser with some widget-like URL objects. You can make your own "dashboard" pretty easily with only beginner-level Flash skill, loading bits and pieces from all over. You can do the same thing with Ajaxy Javascripts if you're more technically inclined, though getting rid of the browser chrome is a bit harder.

There are lots of ways to do it. A browser in 'kiosk mode', no menus or windows, is the best starting point, I think.
posted by rokusan at 6:45 PM on April 8, 2009

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