GC Digital Signage

by Michael Clark
August 8, 2011 4:06 PM

Digital signage shows information, advertising and other messages utilizing electronic displays. You might be more used to seeing them in places such as retail stores and airports among other places.

As you walk into the Gardner Center, you might notice four plasma screens hanging above the Welcome Center. These screens used to display some basic static information so one of the projects I've been working on recently is an attempt to revamp them. Screen one now displays a static image with 'Freed-Hardeman University' displayed in the middle. Screen two is reminiscent of a slideshow, but is actually a series of .swf files playing in succession. Screen 3 shows all of the current guests currently visiting Freed-Hardeman (more on this later). Screen four displays more images in a simple loop, two banners at a time with information about upcoming events, and a simple flash flip clock.

In order to accomplish this, we utilized a set of free software called Signage Studio and Signage Player available for free from a company called Media Signage. Both Signage Studio and Signage Player utilize the Adobe Air platform to facilitate cross-platform development of signage.

Signage Studio is where the actual development of the signage takes place. Inside the Studio, you can manage layouts, resources (anything from .png images to .swf files), campaigns and sequences and even preview your presentation to get the kinks out before publishing. There is still a ton of functionality in the Studio that I haven't begun to play around with.

Once you are finished with the Studio portion, it's a simple matter of saving your presentation and opening Signage Player. Everything is linked to a user account set up with Media Signage so I can easily move between computers to edit and view my presentations. Once logged into Signage Player, I just tell it what presentation to load and view the results on the screen.

Before I close, I wanted to mention the current guests at FHU portion currently displayed on screen three. We created a simple program that allows for up to 7 lines of information outputted to an RSS file. The signage presentation then reads this RSS file and displays the information as it currently exists. This allows us to easily modify what is displayed as guests come and go on campus.

While there some kinks and nuances to learn once you get in the software, it's pretty straightforward to get some simple signage up and running. 

Easier Web Development

by Michael Clark
July 14, 2011 10:35 AM

Something I've been playing with in the past week or so has been a product called Microsoft WebMatrix - a free web development tool from, you guessed it, Microsoft. It includes everything you need to put together a complete web site - including a Web server, database, and programming frameworks.

When you start the program up, you get four options - open previous WebMatrix sites (My Sites), Site From Web Galley, Site From Template, and Site From Folder. A Web Gallery site allows you to seamlessly connect to popular and free open-source Web applications such as WordPress and Joomla. WebMatrix goes through the process of downloading, installing, and configuring everything for you. There are also 5 templates to choose from - Empty Site, Starter Site, Bakery, Photo Gallery, and Calendar.

Upon opening a web site, you can go straight to writing code or manage the settings of your web site - enable SSL, select the .NET Framework, enabled PHP, etc. The file editor is your typical editor with line numbers, syntax highlighting, and code completion. You can also create multiple different files from within WebMatrix - including HTML, ASPX, CSS, and JavaScript files.

When you are finished editing, you can click the run button on the ribbon to view the results in your selected browser.

I'm still playing with the product to learn its ins and outs, but it seems like a pretty good starter development kit. Check it out for yourself at http://www.microsoft.com/web/webmatrix/.

The First Week

by Michael Clark
June 19, 2011 5:16 PM

If you had told me just a couple years ago I would be working for Freed-Hardeman, I'd have laughed. But here I sit, in BK17, already working on a handful of projects. I've truly hit the ground running even though I've only been here for a week.

At the beginning of the week, my first project was to do some research on version control systems we could begin using for our work. For those who don't know, this allows us developers to work on the same projects without having to share computers or manually send files to one another. A system has been chosen and configured, but the true test will be next week when we hopefully deploy the product and put it to use.

Another thing I've been working on is the initial data discovery for the Icinga dashboard user interface to be used for campus system monitoring. This has been a chore because of the large amount of data available, but I'm slowly discovering what we need. I can't wait to see this in action on campus.

Oh, and my office is slowly coming together... that is, if I had something to put on these bare walls and empty bookshelves.