A low-cost, always-on mini dashboard on my desk

On my working desk I wanted to have an always-on screen with the current status of the systems and KPIs that I am monitoring all the time. Of course I did not want to run a PC all the time, so I needed something “lighter”.

I also wanted something made from out-of-the-box systems, not an arduino system that I would need to solder together with the risk of hurting myself.

In this post I will share how I created my little desktop dashboard for around €350.

(Yes, of course my desk always looks this tidy…!)

In the picture above you can see my small 10-inch mini dashboard an the right of my desk. The hardware is a cheap 1280×720 HDMI monitor with IPS panel, one of the devices you can buy on Amazon.com for around €80-90 (I ordered mine a year ago and it is not available anymore, buth this looks exactly the same). For €20-30 more you can even get a 1920 Full HD monitor.

I have added the Echo and iPhone XS for size comparison

Once the hardware is set up the next question is: How do I get my content on the screen without running an extra computer? I want to display a map (=dashboard) from my PRTG Network Monitor installation on the screen, so I need a way to pull a web page from the Internet and display it via a HDMI interface.

I found that the tiny Airtame 1 devices are perfect for that. I am using the previous version 1, they have recently released a version 2 model that I haven’t tested yet. This is a wireless screen adapter for PCs and mobiles and is intended for use in meetings rooms, but it works just as fine on my desk. Inside it uses a Freescale 1Ghz ARM and 512 MB of RAM and can run a display at up to 1920×1080 (here is a look inside). A new Airtame 1 costs €279 on Amazon and you can get used ones for around €120 on ebay.

After registering the Airtame in my wifi network I can select a web page URL as default screen when nobody uses the screen wirelessly. The Airtame has enough computing power to display the pages that PRTG renders and bingo, my dashboard works.

During the early days I found that I had to power-cycle the airtame at least once every 24 hours, otherwise it is crashing after two or three days. I wanted to turn off the dashboard during the night when I am not on my desk, so now I used a time-controlled switch to turn of screen and Airtame during the night.

The screen uses less than 10 watts and the Airtame One uses less than 5 watts. So when I run both for 16 hours per day the eletrical bill for a year is about €20-25 for ~85 kWh or €2 per month, but most of the eletrical power in our house is generated by solar panels anyway.

Author: Dirk Paessler

Founder and Chairman, Paessler AG

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