Cheap email notification
June 27, 2005 9:57 AM   Subscribe

What would you recommend as the cheapest way to set something up that would offer at-a-glance notification that there was an email waiting for you on the computer.

It's easiest for me to communicate via email during the day, but my wife only checks email occasionally (she's a stay at home mom.) I'd like to put some kind of display in the kitchen that would let her know that there was an email waiting. In descending order of priority, this set up would:

1) Not take up too much room (counter space is at a premium)
2) Allow her to glance at something and tell if there was an email in her inbox (no need to turn anything on or pick something up.)
3) Let her see who the email was from.
4) Let her see how many emails were waiting
5) Let her see the text of the email
6) Let her respond to the email.
posted by jbradley to Technology (7 answers total)
What is your price range? What are the astetic considerations?

One could get a 6 year old computer for around $50. If you're Linux-savy enough it would be pretty trivial to set up all the things you describe above, (in such a way that one wouldn't have to be Linux-savy to use it) but you'd have a big ugly brown box in the kitchen.

If you're handy enough, you could hide the computer part in a nice box, but there's still the monitor, keyboard and mouse.

If Price Is No Object, then a wee little Shuttle PC hidden under the table, wireless keyboard and mouse, and a slick LCD display on the wall would get the job done too.
posted by Capn at 10:12 AM on June 27, 2005

One of these and a simple perl script would do it.
posted by cmonkey at 10:19 AM on June 27, 2005

On a Mac you could just set up a rule to speak the From and Subject headers of incoming mail on her account, and turn your volume up (or plug in speakers if the computer's a long way from the kitchen).
posted by nicwolff at 10:22 AM on June 27, 2005

A Mailstation is about 6" x 4". While I've seen them in stores, I've never used them, so YMMV.
posted by unixrat at 10:31 AM on June 27, 2005

Mobile phone?
Filter the email to forward to the cell phone, cell phone will beep/vibrate whatever and show who message is from.
posted by cushie at 10:55 AM on June 27, 2005

I second cushie's suggestion. That's very practical, simple, cheap, and effective.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 11:56 AM on June 27, 2005

... until you realize that each message is a few cents incoming (at least with my plan). To get unlimited incoming its something like $6/mo, which is a decent amount just to be notified of mail.

I'm moving my main workstation downstairs, but keeping an old laptop upstairs running X Windows on BSD. It wouldn't be hard at all to write a little screensaver/desktop app to display # of unread emails on a POP3 server. The laptop was $60 from Ebay, incl shipping, plus a few days work of figuring out the hardware to install an OS on it. That's 10 months of messaging, and a laptop does a lot more than a simple notification too.
posted by devilsbrigade at 3:46 PM on June 27, 2005

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