Kitchen Computer
October 29, 2006 2:23 PM   Subscribe

Anybody know where I should start looking for a Kitchen computer? Recipies, news, music... etc.

I am moving into a new place, and have some free money to spend spiffing up the place. One of the things I've always wanted to do has been to have a computer in my kitchen. Goals for this system are:

* Recipes. Local or web based (both!).
* Music. Probably need external speakers for this one, streamed from a remote computer in the house
* News/RSS/CNN Homepage...
* Touch screen that deals with slightly messy hands (easily cleanable)

As for my skills, I am very knowledgeable in computers, can program, and create custom programs if needed for any of this interface.

I need ideas mostly on hardware, but also on any integrated software for this type of thing as well.
posted by cschneid to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This sounds like an ideal application for a VIA Epia-based mini-ITX machine stuffed in a cabinet. They have fairly strong multimedia capabilities, and are light on power-use and typically run fanless.

As far as touchscreens go, I service Compaq-branded touchscreens in a business setting fairly frequently. I don't know the part number off the top of my head, but they look like 17" analog-input (VGA) LCDs with an additional serial output for the touchscreen. The ones I work with were purchased circa 2000, so there may be better solutions out now; you may want to check out for their touchscreen offerings. I'm pretty sure they offer at least one kit that's an EPIA mini-ITX board strapped behind a touchscreen. I'm not sure if they have kitchen-friendly enclosures, though I bet a few hours with a tablesaw could turn out something usable.

One thing to keep in mind with touchscreens is that, relative to your mouse pointer, your finger is fat. The software the touchscreen app I work with has buttons that're at least 1" x 1", although I'm not sure how much of that is due to anticipation of users lacking hand-eye coordination.

You'll probably want to roll your own solution, but I bet you could develop something pretty easily in PHP or another server-side language that wrapped content pulled from your own backend or other sites in a touchscreen-friendly interface..
posted by Alterscape at 2:43 PM on October 29, 2006

Like alterscape, I'm also an ITX fan - but your question immediately brought the audrey to mind, as 3com initially promoted it as a kitchen computer. They can still be found on ebay and are very hackable. Compaq had a similar appliance which would also work (I have two and found them to be decent mp3 players/web readers).
posted by datacenter refugee at 2:53 PM on October 29, 2006 [2 favorites]

At least one person has used a Mac Mini for this purpose.
posted by camcgee at 2:58 PM on October 29, 2006

This doesn't do exactly what you want, but it is a kitchen computer. You may need to learn to make recipe requests in binary.
posted by roue at 2:59 PM on October 29, 2006

Might be a good application for a very thin client, and membrane type keyboard/touchpad. Add high quality speakers of your choice, and voila! Kitchen Magic! After all, you're not going to be writing the sequel to War and Peace while standing in the kitchen, right?
posted by paulsc at 3:14 PM on October 29, 2006

I've just been using an old laptop in the kitchen. I honestly thought it would only be 1 week until someone spilled soda on it, but it's been running fine without incident for months now.

You can see it in action here.

I'll also reccomend you use a little barcode driven grocery list web app I made. Just buy a barcode scanner off of ebay and plug it in. It's a lot of fun to scan items to buy again before I throw them out.
posted by GregX3 at 4:28 PM on October 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

As for other software, I just keep firefox open with tab for each useful page. Here are some websites you might want to keep open:
Tv Guide
Unit Conversions (great for cooking)
Calorie counter
posted by GregX3 at 4:30 PM on October 29, 2006

I always felt ITX computer were cute but overpriced.

Instead, I would go for the Norhtec MicroClient Jr. It is about as small, full featured, slow, and only 120$.

I never bought one though.
posted by gmarceau at 7:27 PM on October 29, 2006

You will, of course, need such apps as Cookbook (from My Dream App). This particular program is will be Mac only, but the idea is an iTunes type inteface - download recipes, add ratings, etc. I believe it will also handle shopping lists, like GregX3's system.
posted by niles at 9:14 PM on October 29, 2006

Pepper Pad 3. Splash-resistant, touchscreen, Linux and Gecko (like Firefox web browser) based, built-in WiFi, speakers, and a kickstand that's perfect for countertop use. The software requires no difficult setup or administration. Yes, I'm a very satisfied customer. Plus you'll use it outside of the kitchen!
posted by chuma at 5:49 AM on October 30, 2006

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