Introduction: Digital Sign-age on the Cheap

About: Saving the world..... without a cape.

Digital store front window sign-age can be expensive. You may not have the technical know how to manage or create updates to the information seen on the display. Here is how you can create and manage your own sign-age for less than you might expect using freeware and a little imagination.

Step 1: Got an Old Obsolete Computer?

I picked one up from the curb similar to the one above. It had Windows 98, a 933Mhz Pentium III with a 20 Gig hard drive and 384Meg of ram. Yikes, no wonder it was put to the curb. However, many people do not realize that a computer such as this is perfect as a one trick pony, doing one task continuous throughout the day without an ounce of struggling. This fellow was resurrected as a control unit for digital sign-age.

Step 2: Decorate the Covers Before Starting

I went to the recycling center and found some antiquing spray paint. It made for an interesting texture to the cabinet.

Step 3: I Used Ubuntu for Mine.

I'm sure you could use other versions of linux. Given that this pc was ancient, I used an earlier version of Ubuntu. Version 10.04 worked well on this system. You can download previous versions at no charge since it is all freeware. Version 10.04 desktop has open office already installed. This will run the Libre Office Impress Presentation with no troubles. If you have a newer (older) computer use the current version of Ubuntu if it meets the specs. These have Libre Office pre-installed. Once linux is loaded, you will have to set the screen and computer to never sleep. This is generally done under screen lock and power sections under the settings menu.

Step 4: Create Your Impress Presentation

Gather your pictures, ideas, and documents to create a presentation. This is easier than one might think. It will take a little trial and error if you are not familiar with the program. The learning curve isn't too steep though for a digital sign-age type presentation. Since the computer doing the presentation was quite old, I created the presentation on a newer computer. This saved time and frustration. Remember, the older box need only play it, not actually create it.

Step 5: Loop Your Presentation

Do this by setting the type to auto and time to 00:00:00. This is under the slide show, slide show settings . This will loop your presentation indefinitely.

Step 6: Start Your Presentation

You might need to buy a large flatscreen for your display or use what you currently have. For the most part a new 32 inch tv generally has a computer video port and is $200 or less. The only real money in this project is the display. Otherwise everything is is re-purposing an older computer with a free operating system and it's associated freeware. Once the presentation is running, you may remove the usb mouse and keyboard for a clean look. If you are using a ps2 mouse and keyboard, you should not unplug them as it might damage the motherboard. The system will run uninterrupted 24/7 until you replug the mouse and keyboard to stop it. Think of how it would look on your store front or office reception with a 60 inch monitor. Why pay several thousand for a commercial system, a 60 inch plain flatscreen can be had for less than $500 now. Again, the only real expense is the monitor. In our case, this presentation is in corner of our sales floor, using an older monitor presenting the latest products for sale.