Building a Digital Sign with OS X for Web Content

To do digital signs like NC State OIT does them requires:

First, there is no turn key digital sign package.

The parts you will need to build out a sign like those you see in the library and other places are at NC State:

1) ac power to the location (Note: the location is likely taller than most folks height and may require special installation)

2) ethernet drop to the location (Note: the location is likely taller than most folks height and may require special installation)
OIT does not provide a way to permanently register wireless ethernet  configurations.  An ethernet configuration (MAC) permanently registered in hostreg.ncsu.edu is required for digital signs.

3) An LCD monitor or TV of whatever size you have money to pay for with some kind of digital input like a DVI or HDMI or display port connecter.  The digital interface is the important part for best resolutions.

4) A Macintosh Mini with  3yr AppleCare $718.00 education price 09-27-2012.  http://www.apple.com/macmini/
 Be sure to make purchases using the MarketPlace system to get best prices.  The MacMini should be the least expensive available with warranty (called AppleCare).  There is not a certain required specification.

5) Cable to hook the big monitor to the computer
A MacMini has 2 output ports 1 HDMI  and 1 MiniDisplay Port.  Monitors/TVs can have several types of inputs.  The important thing is to make sure there is a digital connection (i.e., NO VGA).  Easiest is HDMI.

An HDMI cable  is about $19 from Apple Store –  http://www.apple.com/us_edu_21499/shop/product/MC838LL/B/apple-hdmi-to-hdmi-cable-18-m?fnode=8ba9dffa81230a261e178c4ff82851296eab4fa5591203d14f4edb7fc76754a53ba729dbeae46dd763b0de35a2e9d91884edb57e9cb400eb27711ecbafd3f765e4bea5c6bb83a3cbc27a1edd80561f5de1919aa2b195cc7683d7d7bcf7a8b604

6) Some kind of mount for the LCD that has a CPU Adapter for the MacMini.  These will vary depending on the monitor.  We have been using Chief Mounts running about $250 each.

Tilting Wall mounts by Chief  http://www.chiefmfg.com/Products/PWCU

Beyond the equipment, we use a web based system we created to deliver any content that can be put on a web site.

It is important to understand that there is no turnkey system that allows building “slides”.  Our system displays any content that can be displayed by a web browser (jpegs, quicktime movies, html pages, etc).  This content must be created by you and made publicly available on a web site.

Most people on the NC State Campus use the service that is run by the department of Engineering that takes a community approach using a enhanced version of Billboard of OIT’s Billboard CE Software (https://ot.ncsu.edu/ot/) commonly just called Billboard.
See: https://billboard.ncsu.edu/index/about/

All Billboard really does is allow a list of urls to be assigned to a group of IP addresses that represent machines.  These machines are running a full screen web browser. NC State OIT writes and provides free of charge a secure web browser application called webXkioskII.app (http://oit.ncsu.edu/macintosh/webxkiosk for details. The installer and source code are available.)  This a program that runs on OS X to display web content full screen.  OS X is a very secure OS which in combination with webXkiosII.app gives a very robust and secure digital sign engine.

One thing to emphasize is that none of our software helps create the content.  We have had the best results by creating graphics for our highest resolution LCD’s (say 1920×1200) and allowing Billboard to scale down proportionally the graphics.  Since we are proportional and only scale graphics (not movies or html) down this keeps the best looking picture but may result in a border around the image.