Info Screen

See Also: MMPIS (Part I), and MMPIS (Part III), and MMPIS (Part IV).

MMPIS is semi-related to reMMinderbot, in that it’s meant to actually provide helpful information. reMMinderbot lets us know (via email) when there is a meeting, or if we haven’t blogged in a while, or when the monthly cleanup day is coming. (It has to remind us of that twice! On Wednesday and Saturday before the actual Sunday we clean.) There’s lots of Perl and cron involved in reMMinderbot.

reMMinderbot is also supposed to send an email telling us what’s on the calendar each day. This occasionally works. I’ve been writing code to deal with calendars for way too long. It’s sort of a nightmare. The iCalendar format is best described as Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey.

There’s an old saying:

Some people, when confronted with a problem, think “I know, I’ll use regular expressions.”
Now they have two problems.

Parsing iCalendar files can be like that. Luckily, Perl has a module for everything! So iCal::Parser was pulled into service. Unluckily, it has bugs. iCalendar can be tricky. There are repeating events, but they can have exceptions, days they don’t actually happen. I’ve seen weird time zone issues, and differences between clients. Anyway, it’s all wibbly wobbly.

Our original Perl code grabbed the calendar file from Google, parsed the file, and then output the upcoming events to a file that is then included in the main page. As I said, though… it doesn’t always work. So I decided to scrap it.

In an ideal world, we would just clone the calendar page on the web site and display that. There’s just way too much Javascript on that page though, and it takes too long to render. I then remembered a web application I used years ago, so I turned to PHP iCalendar.

PHP iCalendar

PHP iCalendar manages to display things properly! All events revealed! Though the monthly view is not what I want. Nor is the daily or weekly view, but… At the bottom is a “This Month’s Events” section. We can use that!

List of Events

I took the files that showed the monthly view and started hacking. I stripped out the unneeded HTML, edited the CSS to get what I wanted, and it was pretty close, but… it was just displaying the current month’s event. This would mean that if there was an event on the first of the month, you’d never see it until the first of the month, which is silly. Digging through the PHP it was just a matter of changing things to look at the current month and the next month. Not 100% perfect, but an acceptable solution.

Right now it’s looking two weeks ahead, so you’ll get any event for the next 14 days. This is what you see below.

MMPIS Events

I may play around with setting the viewport to be 1920×1080 and then using overflow: hidden to better use the space on the screen, but I’ve also got the issue that I’m doing development on a 1280×720 screen, so I may need to do some CSS stuff depending on the screen size, if that’s even possible. (Also, to pick a nit, the resolution of the TV I am using today says it is displaying 1360×768.)

Anyway, the PHP iCalendar solution has been working so good I’ll probably roll it into reMMinderbot’s calendar code. It’ll take a bit of Perl-fu to do the right thing there (multiple servers are involved) but it should be a major improvement. (Hopefully.)

What’s that? You can’t wait for Part III? It’s coming…

Stay Tuned!


MMPIS (Part I)


See Also: MMPIS (Part II), MMPIS (Part III), and MMPIS (Part IV).

I typically write about a project after it’s done, but I thought I should turn that around and start writing about a project much closer to the start. So here’s Part 1 of the story of the MMPIS, the project more formally known as the Milwaukee Makerspace Pi-powered Information System, which is a kiosk at the makerspace which will provide members (and guests) with useful (and silly) information.

First, the name… We have a history of naming things with acronyms and/or using an many “M”s as possible, such as: HMMMMMM, M6 (Milwaukee Makerspace Morgifying Marble Manipulation Machine), M4 (Milwaukee Makerspace Maker Mobile), reMMinderbot, M2C2 (Milwaukee Makerspace Can Crusher), MMLC (Milwaukee Makerspace Lighting Controller), and of course, BADASS (Beer Automated Dispensing And Security System). I choose MMPIS because it’s fun to say. I nearly went with MMKIS (Milwaukee Makerspace Kiosk Information System) but unless I’m outvoted, I’ll probably stick with MMPIS.

I’ve long had an interest in digital signage and kiosks, so after my recent Sir Like-A-Lot project, I felt like pursuing a kiosk for the Makerspace. We had a Raspberry Pi that had been floating around waiting for a project, and there’s a huge TV that jason g. brought in that we used only occasionally. Those two pieces and a few other things were all it took. Well, that and writing some code.

The heavy lifting is all provided by Screenly, and actually, it’s the Open Source Edition of Screenly. (Also on GitHub.) Screenly is a pretty nice open source kiosk application. I’ve discovered a few bugs, and have some feature requests, but it definitely works. I’ve been meaning to check out Concert and Xibo as well, but I’ve not dug into those yet.

The first group of screens is pretty simple, here’s a few grabs.

Info Screen

Here’s the main screen (for now) which tells you where you are (duh!) and shows the date and time. It also tells you where to park, has a quote from the wiki, and shows the upcoming events. Well, some of them. We’ll get into that in Part II.)


We’re also showing our Parking App to let members know which side of the street to park on. (This, as every other screen, may change in the future.)


We’ve also got our How Many Members Does Milwaukee Makerspace Have? page. The HMMDMMH page uses our member management software to let us boast about this impressive number.

What's Cookin'?

Prepare Thyself for Making

The last two are just graphics that live on the Pi that runs Screenly. All the others are web pages out there on the big old Internet. Oh, I should note that the pages need to be fairly simple. Large, complex pages utilizing Javascript or other heavy lifting don’t do very well, due to the lightweight nature of the Raspberry Pi and the browser Screenly uses.

OK, that’s our intro to the MMPIS. In the next installment we’ll get into the events that the MMPIS shows, or should show.

Stay Tuned!