For the PC, an el cheapo PC or laptop will do (a Netbook works great and is nice and compact). It can't be too old though as it does need to run the video smoothly. If your PC can play these videos files
, then you'll be ok. These are the same video files that come with the software installation so are quite large and will be normally running from your local hard drive so expect some network delay when you click the link.
I went the custom route and re-purposed an old vacuum tube tester case. I went with an Intel ATOM motherboard
since its low power and very compact (mini-ITX form factor). One annoying thing on this model was the excessively loud fan which would ruin the effect. I found a silent fan
at Fry's for $20, you can still hear it but barely. I re-purposed some of the controls, the on/off switch and a pot which is used to select the mirror mode on the fly (princess, halloween, or pirate). Also added some fiber optics for show. For the sound, I run the normal soundcard output into a whole house audio distribution system and play through the in-ceiling speakers which is nice so you don't see the PC speakers.
Another nice feature and benefit of using Flash with an Internet connection is you can play different videos based on data received from the Internet. For mine, I did different things for the weather and stock portfolio. For the weather, I call a Yahoo Weather API and then play a different video based on the forecast, one video for good weather, one for ok weather, and another for rain. For the stock, a different video plays based on how your stock portfolio performed with the stocks being specified in the config file. Same concept, one video for good performance, one for no or little change, and one for down. The threshold limits on what defines up and down can be changed in the configuration program.
For remote maintenance, VNC is setup so you can connect remotely from another PC using a ultraVNC
. VNC comes with UBUNTU so if you go the LINUX route, its already there. Its very easy to install though on Windows, although I don't know if VNC works with Windows Vista or Windows 7.