I've always wanted some sort of at-a-glance display at my desk that would give me performance statistics on the Post-Gazette web server farm. Dot-matrix electronic displays were always a little too expensive and having a window of numbers on my Windows desktop was a little too obtrusive for my tastes. Over the years I tried a bunch of solutions in the middle but never found one I could stick with for too long. But this weekend I hit the jackpot.
Make Magazine's blog is chock full of neat How-Tos and a recent entry about their USB7 6-digit LED display got me thinking about this project again. This device connects to your PC via a USB cable and then displays six digits of text that you send to it over the serial connection. I ordered the kit and assembled it in about half an hour.
Next came the data input. After all, a device like this isn't any good if you don't have actual information to display on it. I had already cooked up an ASP.NET web application to display server usage data. I modified it to broadcast XML instead of HTML, and then wrote a consumer .NET application that sits on my PC and bridges the gap between the LED display and the web site. Now I get data on the module every five seconds.
My next trick is to mount this somewhere so everyone in the office can see it. Maybe then they'll stop asking me about our traffic every five minutes.