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Scrolling LED Marquee part one

Filed under: Belgium,Hacking,Twisted — Thomas @ 2:16 pm

2008-10-25
2:16 pm

When we moved into the new apartment, one of the things I definitely wanted to maintain the nerd quotient in the place was a scrolling LED marquee in the kitchen pointing to the living room:


IMG_0022

I got the idea when we bought a marquee such as this one as the perfect gift for Peter’s 30th birthday some time ago. I remember racking my brain trying to come up with a good gift for us to give him, and at some point it hit me that one of these things would be awesome for him.

We didn’t just give it to him either – he had a birthday party at the Charlatan, a bar in Gent, and we installed the marquee there as part of the DJ booth, putting up increasingly weird messages until he finally realized that it was a present for him. Good times!

Anyway, having that thing at home for a few days and playing with it convinced me I should get one for myself for the new apartment and use it for news updates. We installed the thing in the ceiling spanner and, apart from some tedious remote control entering of texts for some occasions, I haven’t used it much since. I tried once in a while to control it from the computer but I never really got it to work.

Until last week I had some spare time and decided to figure out what the problem is with the computer control. After a lot of twiddling, I realized that the serial-to-jack cable had a 6P6C jack, instead of the usual 6P4C for RJ-11 use. I hadn’t actually ever seen a cable like that, someone suggested it might have been used for ISDN connections, but I have no idea. Hooking it up directly to a computer made the software work under VMWare and Wine to control the device. After that, controlling it directly from Linux was easy.

Of course, I want to use the marquee in its place in the kitchen, not by my computer. After all, that’s why I invested in the Abitana network I installed. I went to my favourite electronics store in Barcelona, where they had to custom-make the cable because apparently it’s hard to get stock cable like this.

Took it back home, tried it, still didn’t work. After inspecting the cable more closely it seems the guy had put one end on the wrong way. Luckily, one end is supposed to go in the 8P8C RJ-45 wall socket, so I crimped a standard connector on that end, and bingo! Finally have the LED marquee in place and controlled from Linux from my computer!

Next step, to write some Twisted-using software to implement the protocol, and write some code to get RSS feeds and display some news! I considered using LCDProc (which I’ve used on my Dave/Dina box), but it looks like that’s mostly geared towards small LCD displays with multiple lines and characters, and some control buttons.

I need to figure out how I am going to prioritize incoming information (RSS feeds, buildbot status, nagios alerts, incoming mail, …) and create a message queue out of those spread across the 26 pages the marquee offers. If you know any software doing this sort of thing, feel free to comment!

1 Comment »

  1. What is you favourite electronics store in Barcelona? Is it just a computer store which does cables or do they have all kind of stuff? I need some contact spray like Kontakt WL and I have no idea where to get it here.

    Comment by Christof — 2008-11-8 @ 8:26 pm

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