Visual Alerting

September 14th, 2013 in Electronics by 0 Comments

NxJ – NxJ Hackathon 2013
Name: Visual Alerting
Platform: Web, Server, Electronics
Author: J.O. & Ezra Velazquez
Release: September 14th, 2013
Technology: Unix, Bash Shell, SNMP, Ethernet-Enabled power-strip, lightbulbs
Source Code: Currently Unavailable
Version: 1.0

About: A physical alert & monitoring system that reports on site outrage, revenue progress for the week, and outbound mailing progress.
Intent: To give key company metrics a physical attribute. While seeing a red light go off in a dashboard on a site means something is wrong, seeing a physical siren go off brings a real sense of urgency to the physical world since as humans we instinctually react to the physical and what is right in front of us.
Personal Intent: To work on shell scripting, something I’ve been meaning to learn more about but never had a chance to fully pursue.
Backstory: A week or so ago J.O. approached me about this crazy idea he had: instead of relying on different dashboards all throughout the internal system, how about having a device that could be displayed in a public space and display key monitoring statuses. I was intrigued and joined his team, mostly because it sounded like an awesome project and because I would doing “physical computing”.
Process: We first figured out what exactly to display on the device. After scratching our heads, it made sense to display site outage with a red light siren. The revenue status for the week would be best displayed with a stop-light approach, with red being behind goal, yellow being near goal, and green exceeding goal. Finally, given that we have outbound emails going out for great periods of time, it made sense to use a lava lamp. As for the code to run it all, we decided to use an ethernet-neabled power-strip that was lying around that accepts SNMP calls, which can be easily triggered with a bash script running every minute or so on a cron job.
Success: The actual physical device got built, and we where able to detect site outage & revenue progress via scrapping the site. Even though we could have easily used credentials to run an SQL script to check revenue status, we believed that wouldn’t make it a real hack.
Failures: While the mercury light got installed and be responsive, we ran out of time to write a shell script that would detect outgoing mail status.

  • Rely on the MAN pages. They will explain what all those crazy characters after the command mean.
  • Always wear protection when doing woodwork
  • Piping will save you a great deal of time when you need to write a script quickly and don’t have time to clean it up
  • Try to work with people with different work backgrounds than you. You’ll learn a great deal, and have some bonding time in the process


Photo of me wiring a lightbulb stand by @praetoriansentry

Author: ezraezra

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