Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Computer Dashboard, part 1

This is a project I built some time ago, but I thought I'd give it a write-up, since it's kind of interesting and maybe someone else will get some ideas.

The idea is to create an "ambient device", which is something that either connects to your computer, or to a network, and displays some kind of information in a way that doesn't involve your computer screen. For instance, Ambient Devices sells plastic orbs that light up blue or red, depending on weather forecasts or the stock market. Kind of a way to see information from the internets that isn't as useful or dynamic as having a computer, but looks cooler. Or different.

I wanted to build a device with panel meters (the things with needles that swing back and forth) to display information either from the internet or about my computer (like a car dashboard for your system - CPU utilization, disk utilization, network traffic).

I started, as I usually do, with the fun cosmetic junk - what kind of old meters could I find to go on the front. I went to my favorite store, Austin Electronics, to peruse their surplus meters, and found some edge meters that met my main criteria of "cheap". The big ones were surprisingly expensive. I also found some huge LEDs which I thought would make good binary status indicators ("do I have any new email?")

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