Tidbyt hardware display device: a review

I believe its pretty cool.Alternative display hardwareI actually like alternative display screen technology. Sure, those flip board displays have mechanical failures more typically than standard screens, but they look and sound so nice.Most alternative display technology is troublesome and expensive, particularly when compared to the absolute marvel of supply-chain efficiency that is modern standard LED screens. The Television I have in my living space is a monolith to the ruthless however bothersome optimization of complimentary markets and mass industrialization: a handcrafted split-flap display screen is not.The Tidbyt is a 64×32 full-color LED matrix display screen. Turning those raw screens into something that can reveal an image will require much more hardware, and then youll require to build an enclosure, offer with a power supply, and enough little tasks to easily inhabit a few weeks.The Tidbyt costs $200 (currently $180). It will not update.The responsibilities of the Tidbyt hardware are therefore really directly specified: it links to the network, belongs to a user, and displays some graphics.

This is about the Tidbyt, a hardware display gadget I purchased and am using to reveal some numbers and charts in my home as ambient information. I think its quite cool.Alternative display hardwareI actually like alternative screen innovation. eInk displays, unlit LEDs, like on my AlphaSmart, or flip-disc screens, vane display screens, split-flap screens – I want it was all more widespread. Sure, those flip board displays have mechanical failures more frequently than conventional screens, however they look and sound so nice.Most alternative display innovation is bothersome and costly, especially when compared to the outright marvel of supply-chain efficiency that is contemporary traditional LED displays. You can buy a good 39″ television for a little over $200 today. A 31″ eInk panel will run you $1,500, and a flipboard screen expenses around $3k. The television I have in my living room is a monolith to the troublesome but unrelenting optimization of totally free markets and mass industrialization: a handmade split-flap display screen is not.The Tidbyt is a 64×32 full-color LED matrix screen. You can see the specific pixels.The display screen itself isnt super-rare: you can purchase two 32×32 LED panels on Sparkfun for $97. Turning those raw screens into something that can show an image will require much more hardware, and then youll need to build an enclosure, deal with a power supply, and enough small jobs to easily inhabit a couple of weeks.The Tidbyt costs $200 (presently $180). I believe its a take for that rate: its a niche product with real hardware and a walnut enclosure, produced throughout a pandemic with supply chain concerns. The hardware feels strong, everything well-aligned, no rattling when you move it around. The panel on the back is basic and well completed, although no one will see it.And yes, it took 8 months between my pre-order and arrival, but for an early hardware job that might be better than average.The softwareThe setup circulation for the Tidbyt is slick. You combine it with the iPhone or Android app, connect it to Wifi, and youre set. It worked completely for me and has had no problems because. You can manage it from the iPhone app and pick from a bunch of pre-built applets that will auto-rotate. So, does it “just work”? In my experience, yes. The pre-built applets are pretty good, too: youve got weather condition, calendar events, train departures. All of the neighborhood apps are handled in a GitHub repo and you can simply submit a Pull Request. It appears like the Tidbyt group are actively reviewing and combining brand-new apps often.My custom appletThe default applets are good, however I desired to make something custom. The entire point of this display screen for me is that it feels peaceful, personal, and ambient. I might string together a few of the prebuilt applets, however that would make the display screen switch in between graphics. I dont desire a brand-new distraction.So, I desired to construct an applet: one with all the information integrated and made up. That led me to Pixlet, Tidbyts advancement tool. Its a toolchain written in Go, that carries out scripts composed in Starlark. I am a specialist in neither.Thankfully, Starlark is really comparable to Python, and the modules that pixlet consists of (hattip starlib task & & Qri) make it reasonably smooth to generate some graphics. The entire widget system reminds me of React or Qt, which is actually good – this being a raster system, I expected something more like a Canvas-like API that would need a lot more thinking.Theres a choice in the CLI to check out your applets in your area, which works smoothly. Actually, this developer experience is pretty nice.As you can see above, this applet consists of: the time, the variety of emails in my inbox, the number of tasks on my todo list, a chart of my runs in the last 7 days, and the temperature.These originated from the Fastmail JMAP API, the Todoist API, a complicated export circulation from my Strava account, and NOAA Weather Services.So all that was left was to run this on the device.Running my appletOkay, so this part was difficult. As it ends up, the Tidbyt does not run the applets you compose in Starlark. When you set your Tidbyt to run a neighborhood applet, a server is producing the graphics and sending them to you. When you utilize the CLI tool to run pixlet push and reveal your custom applet on the device, its simply showing an image, created on your computer system. So it wont update.The obligations of the Tidbyt hardware are hence really directly specified: it links to the network, belongs to a user, and displays some graphics. I get it – and this honestly appears like an okay design decision. This gadget simply works, and most likely a big part of that is that its firmware does not need to handle all the intricacy of running and keeping applets.There is an issue prowling here: you are counting on Tidbyts servers for this thing to work. The gadget itself can accept new firmware, so Im guessing, or hoping, that if the company goes defunct, the community will rally to execute an alternative.But there were more instant issues to solve: how was I going to put my own data on this device? I examined a couple of choices: A cloud server, like a Digital Ocean bead. This would probably work, but I currently run absolutely no individual cloud servers, so I do not have any patterns for it and I d rather not.A cron task on my laptop. This would only work when my computer is on, which is not always.Running it on my Synology NAS, which is practically a server, but runs in my apartment, and I utilize for other odds and ends currently. I attempted this, but putting together pixlet on the NAS was really difficult: youve got shared libraries that also require to be put together for the NAS, I had to compile Go in order to compile pixlet. Once I started needing to deal with libwebp connecting issues, I bailed.Running it on a Raspberry Pi W that I had in a drawer.So, the Pi was the option, partly to lighten the regret of leaving a fully-functional computer system lying unplugged in a drawer for many years at a time. I flashed the important things with the newest Raspbian OS, went through the strangely-obtuse procedures of setting up SSH & & Wifi, assembled pixlet on it, and we were almost there.So we wind up with something like this – I establish the applet on my computer, push the code to the Raspberry Pi, which renders an image every twenty seconds and presses that image to the Tidbyt via the Tidbyt servers. Its a little hacky, but it works well.Building a personal appletThere are some notable gotchas around structure Tidbyt applets just for yourself.First, the entire Starlark/pixlet environment is based around a concept of hermetic execution: Hermetic execution. Execution can not access the file system, network, system clock. It is safe to perform untrusted code.This makes a lot of sense for a hosted service like the one Tidbyt is running for neighborhood apps, however its limiting for individual applications. In specific, you cant check out from the filesystem. So, say if you need to use a Python or JavaScript library to produce some information, its tough to state how you get that info into your applet – running a regional device microservice?Ive avoided microservices, so I did something weirder: I run scripts that customize the Starlark code. Like Python, you can primarily put JSON values directly into Starlark code and theyll work, so I did something like this: runs_line=”RUNS = %s” % json.dumps( triggers).
star = os.path.join( cwd, “tmcw.star”).
with open( star) as f:.
text = f.read().
lines=n. sign up with( list( map( lambda line: runs_line if line.startswith(.
RUNS =-RRB- else line, text.split( n)))).
with open( star, w) as f:.
f.write( lines).
So, every time the script runs, it includes a new “hardcoded” dataset. Works fine.Theres likewise the question of configuration: as you mayve noticed in the screenshot of the pixlet environment, theres a configuration system in which you can define inputs for your applets. Its pretty sophisticated. When those applets are released, you can configure them from your phone.But none of that applies to personal applets, so I simply hardcoded everything. Heres what the applet looks like, minus all of the hardcoded parts.TakeawaysSo, in brief, the Tidbyt is a beautiful and well-crafted gadget that is basic to use with its prebuilt applets.If youre like me and want something customized on it, be prepared to do more work. But the yak-shaving hacking required to put custom-made data on the Tidbyt is nothing compared to going back to square one: their system vastly simplifies the task.

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