Note: This article was originally published on Librato, which has since been merged with SolarWinds®AppOptics™. Learn more about monitoring dashboards available at AppOptics.
Do you have a TV or a large monitor that you want to turn into a dashboard, but don’t want to shell out big bucks for a PC to drive it? Well, all you need is $50.
At Librato, we have a 50″ flat screen TV on the wall constantly rotating through three dashboards that give us a real-time view of our service health. The TV is hooked to a Mac mini running Chrome. We use shared links of our most important dashboards, load them into tabs in Chrome and use the Revolver or AutoTabCycle plugin to rotate through the tabs every 20 seconds.
This works really well but using a Mac mini solely to run a browser seems like a bit of a waste.
Some Initial Challenges
I started investigating cheaper alternatives and discovered Android-based mini PCs. These devices were designed to make TVs and monitors more useful by giving them Android smarts. I purchased a Ricomagic MK802III for around $50 that sports an HDMI port that can deliver full 1080p HD images, has Wi-Fi connectivity, a Micro SD slot, and is powered through a USB port.
Steve Peak (@iopeak) happened to stop by our office to get to know the team and hang out for a bit. He literally whipped up Taberific in no time at all to solve the tab rotator problem. I downloaded Taberific onto a Micro SD card, popped it into the Ricomagic and used the preloaded explorer to open the index.html file in a browser. Taberific presents you with a menu that lets you enter different URLs, set the delay between each rotation, and even configures the screen sizes.
The browsers I liked most for this exercise were Dolphin and Boat Browser primarily because of their configurability. You can set the default device to “Desktop” and easily switch to full screen mode. They also allow you to load a file directly from the tool bar by entering file:///mnt/external_sd/index.html. For some reason, Chrome doesn’t let you do that.
When everything is set and you click the Run Tabs button in Taberific, the screen goes blank for a cycle but then shows the web pages in their full glory.