Building a Digital Sign with OS X for Web Content

To build digital signs like those at NC State OIT requires the following.


First, there is no turnkey digital sign package.

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

  • AC power to the location.
    Note: the location is likely taller than most folks height and may require special installation.
  • 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 is required for digital signs.
  • An LCD monitor or TV of whatever size you can afford.
    Must have some kind of digital input like a DVI or HDMI or display port connecter.
    The digital interface is the important part for best resolutions.
  • A Macintosh Mini with a  3-yr AppleCare plan (warranty)..
    $718.00 education price as of  09-27-2012.
    To get the best prices, be sure to buy using the MarketPlace system.
    The MacMini should be the least expensive one that is available with AppleCare.
    There is no required specification.
  • Cable to hook the big monitor to the computer.
    A MacMini has two output ports: one HDMI  and one MiniDisplay.
    Monitors and TVs can have several types of inputs.
    It’s important to make sure there is a digital connection (i.e., NO VGA).
    Easiest is HDMI.
    An HDMI cable  is about $19 from Apple Store.
  • 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

Beyond the equipment

It is important to understand that there is no turnkey system that allows building “slides.”

We use a web-based system we created to deliver any content that can be put on a website.

It displays any content that can be displayed by a web browser (e.g., jpegs, quicktime movies, html pages).
You must create your content and make it publicly available on a website.

Most people on the NC State campus use the service run by the Department of Engineering.
It takes a community approach using an enhanced version of OIT’s Billboard CE software (, commonly called just Billboard.
See: Billboard: Digital Sign Manager

All Billboard 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
(For details, see webxkiosk. The installer and source code are available.)
This program runs on OS X to display web content full screen.
OS X is a very secure OS that, in combination with, 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 them down.
Since we are proportional and scale down only the graphics (not movies or html), this keeps the best looking picture.
However, it may produce a border around the image.