Digital Signage

I’ve been experimenting a bit with Digital Signage. I have a TV set up on the wall in the basement with my Raspberry Pi connected to it so it is the perfect place to try out some signage software.

After trying a couple of signage apps, I put this together using DAKboard. They have a free to use version which allows you to create a screen with some options for layout, background, calendar, weather and news, etc.

DAKBoard

Here I have selected a basic layout and linked my Google calendar, some local weather and I’m cycling photos from one of my albums on Flickr. There’s an option to add a news RSS feed as well, but after a while I decided the screen was too cluttered and removed it.

DAKboard is web based and thus is platform independent. I have created and edited my screen using my Windows 10 computer as well as my Raspberry Pi running Pi OS.

If you want multiple screens and more advanced features, you can upgrade to the Plus version for a monthly fee.

Some of the digital signage apps I’m looking at are:

High Speed Internet

I posted back in the summer about our internet woes. Our service from Xplornet, formerly Detour Wireless was relatively slow and at times unreliable.

I recently took up an offer from Bell to install their high speed rural internet. It’s still a line of sight system but we have gone from 3 Mb/s down 1 Mb/s up with Xplornet to 25 Mb/s down and 10 Mb/s up with Bell.

That’s a significant increase and I’m also hoping for better reliability. The Bell tech was here today and everything seems to be working. And yes, it is noticeably faster.

As part of the deal with Bell, we are also getting an upgrade to our satellite TV package. Just in time for winter!

Xplornet woes

This is my first post from my phone. The reason being is our internet is down.

Had Xplornet out yesterday to upgrade our service from the old Detour Wireless system to their new LTE system. The technician said the signal is too weak and left things as is. I paid them the $40 service call fee.

After he left I tried to use the internet and found we had no service at all. I did some tests – rebooted the router, power cycled the modem, even plugged the cable directly into the computer to bypass the router. Nothing worked.

I talked to both the installer, LB Communications and Xplornet who referred me to their tech support which just happens to be the old Detour Wireless guy.

I haven’t heard back from them yet, but I’m hopeful that Detour will get us up and running. They were always good in the past.

We will see how this unfolds. But posts might be few and far between for a day or so.

Update: Friday, July 30th. We’ve had no internet for 4 days now. Contacted Xplornet for the 4th time this week. Their service contractor, Detour Wireless is not responding to requests for service. Left them 4 messages this week too. Xplornet says they cannot send anyone other than Detour to service the old Detour equipment. They did offer me a one month credit on my August bill. That helps but what I really want is service not a credit.

For now, I can set up a wifi hotspot and we can use my phone’s data plan. It works, but it’s not very fast and I will use up my monthly data in a few days. If Detour doesn’t respond by Tuesday (why does everything go south on a long weekend?) I’ll be looking for other alternatives but there’s not much out there.

Raspberry Pi 400

A few weeks ago I bought a Raspberry Pi 400. The Raspberry Pi is a Single Board Computer (SBC) that comes in a variety of flavours. The 400 is basically a Raspberry Pi 4B built into a keyboard.

Raspberry Pi 400

For what it costs (CDN $134.95) it is an impressive bit of technology. Here’s some specs:

ProcessorBroadcom BCM2711 quad-core Cortex-A72
(ARM v8) 64-bit SoC @ 1.8GHz
RAM4GB LPDDR4-3200
ConnectivityDual-band (2.4GHz and 5.0GHz) IEEE 802.11b/g/n/ac
wireless LAN, Bluetooth 5.0, BLE
Gigabit Ethernet
2 × USB 3.0 and 1 × USB 2.0 ports
GPIOHorizontal 40-pin GPIO header 
Video & sound2 × micro HDMI ports (supports up to 4Kp60)
MultimediaH.265 (4Kp60 decode);
H.264 (1080p60 decode, 1080p30 encode);
OpenGL ES 3.0 graphics
SD card supportMicroSD card slot for operating system and data storage
Keyboard78 key compact keyboard, US Keyboard Layout
Power5V DC via USB connector
Operating temperature0°C to +50°C
Dimensions286 mm × 122 mm × 23 mm (maximum)

The Pi runs a version of Linux called Raspberry Pi OS which is based on the Debian distribution. Learning Linux wasn’t too bad once you catch on to the way things are done, which is different from Windows.

My rationale for buying the Pi was that I needed a dedicated computer to run my PROVer 3018 CNC machine. My original intent was to use the Pi, but because it requires a monitor I found it easier to just move my Windows 10 laptop to the workshop.

My Raspberry Pi 400 has now replaced my Windows 10 laptop as my everyday computer. So far it has handled every task I’ve given it: web browsing, email, spreadsheets, word processing and presentations. The Pi OS comes with LibreOffice software which does everything that Microsoft Office does, is fully compatible with MS Office and costs exactly $0.00

Component Kit for Raspberry Pi

All Pi’s come with a set of I/O pins. The Pi 400 has 40 pin I/O which can be programmed using Python. I bought a component kit which includes an assortment of resistors, LEDs, switches, etc which you can control from the PI using Python.

I have so much more to say about this amazing machine. So I’m sure there will be more posts about it in the future.

If you’re interested in a Raspberry Pi, I purchased mine from BuyaPi.ca and I highly recommend them. Their customer service was great.