Digital Signage using Ubuntu aka screen displaying room bookings

A while back I read this post which intrigued me about how you could use such a small device like a Raspberry Pi with a variant of Linux to run a screen with the key information that you needed to display. Recently, our machine in CEDE that runs our screen which displays the room booking information had trouble booting up with long boot up times or freezing and requiring a restart. Speaking to Paul who is our resident IT expert, he checked with Ray who manages our IT Services locally about installing Ubuntu. We were given the green light and so this started my ‘techie’ project. For most people, Ubuntu would be the best place to start when looking for an alternative OS to Windows and Mac OSX.

I had a copy of Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS (Long term support) on a USB stick that I used as a live version with other variants of Linux. I had created this sometime ago. Looking at the Ubuntu website, they had released 14.04.2 LTS. For purposes of security and stability I decided to download this and ‘install’ it onto my USB. At that time, it did not occur to me that the software I used – YUMI – was an older version that was the latest version at that time. When I used the latest version of YUMI now, that may have caused some issues as I could not get Ubuntu to work. Therefore I formatted the USB and reinstalled Ubuntu. This time it worked but was temperamental, being really slow. I investigated the speed of the USB using USBFlashSpeed. I thought this was the best USB I own. It was, however it was only good on USB 1.1 which was quite slow. After checking the other USBs I owned, I found one that was quite good on USB 2.0, with reasonable read and write speeds. I installed Ubuntu on there and proceeded to install Ubuntu. This worked a treat and I had a fresh installation of Ubuntu ready to go.

Or so I thought. The open source graphics driver was good when I used the main monitor, however when connecting an additional monitor (in this case a TV screen) it struggled to handle both of them. From previous experience, I knew that proprietary drivers were available from nVIDIA. Once they were installed I no longer had any graphics issues. I then followed the advice provided by this website to optimise Ubuntu for that system. Then I carried out some other tweaks which included turning off the screensaver and allowing the display to stay on.

Next was the browser. Mozilla Firefox was pre-installed with Ubuntu. I added the Tab Rotator add on to rotate through our main website and the room booking page every 30 seconds and installed the Tab Reload add on to reload the tabs every 5 minutes. I also changed the start up script so that Firefox would load upon PC bootup and that it was set to full screen automatically.

Hopefully Ubuntu will ensure that the PC lasts for a number of years since the demands of the OS are less compared to other OSes. This also depends on whether the machine is used for displaying content only as it is now or if its purpose changes in the future. We could have invested in a Raspberry Pi to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions, however the PC would most likely be recycled through the WEEE program. In general, this is a good idea rather than sending to landfill, however the end of life of the machine would still need to be considered which includes the possibility of being sent to another country and the CO2 emissions with that and the WEEE process amongst other things.

It was great to do a techie project after a long time and I quite enjoy doing things like that. Reminds me of the sorts of things I did in a ‘previous life’. I look forward to doing more IT projects in my spare time in the future…

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UNITECH GA 2014 follow up

A long time ago I mentioned that I would share some photos and video footage that Abdi and I had taken whilst we were at the UNITECH General Assembly (GA) 2014 in Delft, Netherlands. I’m sure some of you may have come across the videos if you’re part of the UNITECH Alumni Association. Anyway, in order to reminisce what happened and to give an idea of what we’re looking forward to in Dublin for the UNITECH GA 2015, take a look at the links below.

UNITECH Trialogue 2014 – Round 1

UNITECH Trialogue 2014 – Round 2

UNITECH Trialogue 2014 – Round 3

UNITECH Trialogue 2014 – Round 4

UNITECH Graduation 2014

In case you did not see my comment on my earlier blog post, here are some photos taken by photographers appointed by Delft University of Technology (aka TU Delft).

I forgot that Abdi and I had taken some photos during the event as well. So here’s a different perspective and a reminder of some of the great ideas by the 2013-14 and 2014-15 students.

Maybe see you in Dublin?

EDEN FLIX Presents: No Impact Man

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I have the pleasure of presenting to you our ninth and final EDEN FLIX film screening for this academic year 2014/2015 – ‘No Impact Man’. This will take place on Wednesday 27th May 2015 at 15:00 in the Design Studio, 1st Floor Keith Green Building, Loughborough University. This documentary looks at how Colin Beaven decided to undertake an experiment of a zero impact lifestyle on the environment for one year, taking his wife and daughter along with him. It’s a refreshing look at how life can be different in a good way when we no longer rely on the items that are part of the consumerist society and look towards what nature has to offer us. Take a break from revision/research, come down with your own snacks and have a cup of tea/coffee/juice/water on us. 🙂

EDEN FLIX Presents: 9 11 Explosive Evidence Experts Speak Out

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I hope that you all have had a restful Easter vacation so far and are enjoying the warm weather. For the final academic term for 2015/2016, we have two EDEN FLIX film screenings to present to you. Our eighth screening is of ‘9/11 Explosive Evidence Experts Speak Out’ which will take place on Wednesday 29th April 2015 at 15:00 in the Design Studio, 1st Floor Keith Green Building, Loughborough University. You are all cordially invited to learn more about what the film has to say from some architects and engineers point of view on what happened on 11th September 2001. This will look at the World Trade Centre 7 building (which most people were not aware of) and its collapse. This will be followed by a discussion session with the audience who will have the chance to critique the film.

EDEN FLIX Presents: ‘The Cleantech Future’

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Our seventh and last EDEN FLIX screening this academic term before we break up for the Easter vacation is ‘The Cleantech Future’. This will take place on Wednesday 11th March 2015 at 15:00 in the Design Studio, 1st Floor Keith Green Building, Loughborough University. This documentary is part of the ‘VPRO Tegenlicht‘ series, which is run by the Dutch public broadcaster, VPRO. The Cleantech Future will be screened in English and ‘explores the unprecedented possibilities of a new industrial revolution: Cleantech’. All staff and students are welcome to all our EDEN FLIX screenings and feedback is much appreciated.

‘Documentaries Week!’ – EDEN FLIX Presents: ‘The Yes Men Fix the World’

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This week is a busy week for documentary film screenings at Loughborough University.

We all look forward to seeing you at one or more screenings this week.

Eight months summary

Here is a summary of the sort of work that I have been involved with since starting in July 2014:

  • I have participated in the ‘Staff Student Enterprise’ meetings (held monthly) that take place at the Loughborough Students’ Union (LSU). This is in conjunction with other staff members who are working on enterprise from a variety of angles such as:
    • Teaching modules related to enterprise
    • Student outreach
    • MOOCs
    • Weekly Wednesday evening workshops from the Enterprise section at Loughborough University
    • The Enterprise Hub at the LSU where students can drop in to discuss their initial ideas
    • The Studio in the Design School supporting Loughborough graduates develop sustainable businesses
    • CONNECT (student-led activities) supported by CEDE
    • Think BIG competition
  • After reviewing feedback from students using our rooms and facilities here at CEDE (survey set up by the previous CEDE Intern, Raimat Ali), each computer now has AutoCAD and MATLAB installed.
  • I compiled statistics of our room usage for the Stakeholder Report 2013-2014.
  • The CEDE team spent the away day afternoon brainstorming how to change the culture of teaching and learning within the School of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering. As a graduate from the School, my ideas and understanding of how the School works from a student’s perspective were invaluable.
  • I attended the UNITECH Start-Up Week in Delft, Netherlands and presented my topic on ‘Emotional Engagement’ at the UNITECH Trialogue. Check out this blog post here.
  • CEDE produce a monthly eBulletin for those signed up to our mailing list. I have written a couple of articles and mentioned a number of events that could be included.
  • I promoted the Sustainability Newsletter sent out by the Sustainability team on approximately a monthly basis to colleagues in CEDE.
  • One of my responsibilities include managing the resources in the Centre and locking up at the end of the day.
  • I provided advice and supported the CONNECT committee when they organised their events such as the Symposium in November 2014 and recently the PwC ‘A Day in the Life of a Consultant’ Workshop last week.
  • I attended a seminar by Nick Falkner, an educator and researcher at the School of Computer Science at the University of Adelaide. The title of this seminar was ‘Learning Analytics: What We Measure Because We Can and What We Should Measure’. This informed our work on the analytics functionality in Co-Tutor.
  • Arranged for a pop-up banner to be created that promotes the facilities (including rooms) that CEDE has to offer to the staff and students of four Engineering Schools and the Loughborough Design School. This has been used in conjunction with flyers to promote our facilities.
  • I created a discussion forum on a module on Learn specifically for EDEN FLIX which students and staff can use before and after the film screening.
  • Loughborough Design School requested generic assessment criteria to be created that could be used across all their programmes. This started off with a literature review which was used as a springboard to create our own version that meets the needs of the Design School but can also be applied across the university in the future. More information can be found here.
  • From the away day session, the ideas were used to form a project for enhancing learning and teaching with technology for the School of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering. My input into this project was to benchmark how content was delivered, the use of lecture capture, any mobile apps that are appropriate, MOOCs, the use of remote labs for those doing distance learning courses and dedicated software for the discipline. This was quite an extensive review which will now feed on to what are the best options for the School. More information can be found here in due course.
  • VC Bob has been getting involved with UNITECH for the last two General Assemblies. This year, he wanted to meet with our incoming UNITECH students 2014/2015 to welcome them at the beginning of term and then hold an evaluation session near the end of term. They all enjoyed the hospitality and I’m glad that I got the opportunity to organise and attend the meeting as well.
  • I have contacted Programme Presidents for the five Schools that we support to let them know of the facilities that are available here. In turn, the plan was to engage them to promote it to their peers and those that they represent on an academic level.
  • During the course of the academic year, there have been various competitions running for students to get involved with to use their engineering/design knowledge and skills. I have promoted these through the School admins via email and via our Twitter account. There was also a #ShareMyThesis competition which aimed to engage postgraduate researchers (PGRs).
  • I have supported CASPA by entering assessments for engineering/design modules and also assisting School admins with any difficulties they have via email/phone. Furthermore, I have updated our student and staff guides on how to use CASPA which will be published in due course.
  • With the support of my colleagues, I have organised the UNITECH Mid-Term-Week 2015 that was held on the first week of the spring term 2015 and supported the UNITECH Assessment Centre 2015.
  • I attended a workshop titled ‘Introduction to Online Assessment’ hosted by the Centre for Academic Practice on Wednesday 14th January 2015. This enabled me to complete my literature review on e-Assessment, e-Submission and e-Marking tools for a Wolfson project. You can find more information in due course here.
  • I’ve updated the Kit-Catalogue case study that will be used by the Centre and Jisc in promoting the tool to registered members as part of the Greening ICT programme.
  • By the end of this week I will have organised five film screenings as part of the EDEN FLIX initiative supported by CEDE. The first four were compered by guest speakers from either academia or industry.