project: a screen with all I need to know just now

There’s less value in having a camera pointed at the front door if I need to click too many things to see it. The home automation platform Home Assistant lets me fill a screen with data that I might often want to glance at. That’s what led me to make a display that sits in a cloakroom. A tablet glued to a wall might form another display.

The cloakroom monitor – an oak frame was built around a discarded LCD monitor. I’m still looking for a way to manage the power on this always-on screen.

What information might I often need to glance at?

  • weather, news headlines, share prices (na!) …
  • thermostat and room temperature graphs
  • train and bus times, traffic news
  • electricity use and pv solar generating
  • which devices have been left switched on
  • what’s that track playing just now
  • broadband speed and performance during the day
  • outside camera view
An example of the display on the cloakroom monitor above

How does it work?

Home Assistant collects all this data on a Raspberry Pi. Home Assistant runs as a server, the monitor above connects to it to view it in a browser window.

At the back of the monitor above, a Raspberry Pi runs the Raspian OS it ships with. The window you see is a Chromium browser window connected to the url for my Home Assistant http://hassio.local:8123/lovelace/wc.

My set-up is not without issue as sometimes the window above needs to be refreshed. The cloakroom Raspberry Pi has VNC enabled so that I can connect to it and do any maintenance remotely from my main PC as follows:

To enable VNC on a Raspberry Pi running Raspian OS, go to Preferences > Raspberry Pi configuration to get to this box. Click OK.

First enable VNC on the target Raspberry Pi as above – you do that when have a keyboard attached to it. Next download and install the VNC app on your big computer. Click ‘New Connection’ and enter the IP address of the remote Raspberry Pi. You’ll probably also need to login to the Pi – for example, it might be: user ‘pi’ and password ‘raspberry’.

If instead of a spare monitor you had a spare tablet to stick to the wall, you could run the Home Assistant viewer mobile app on the tablet.

A view of the oak frame made around the monitor

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