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BlinkBoard

Introduction

BlinkBoard is a lightweight administration platform for web-based dashboards. Imagine you have an old monitor in spare, perhaps a Raspberry Pi you don't know what to do with - BlinkBoard lets you transform this setup into a slick dashboard. By now, you're probably wondering, what kind of information you want to display on such a dashboard. Well, the architecture allows for anything, really, and I've included a few sample viewers (as I call them) to show how they function. And you have to build these yourself. Viewers are simply Angular directives with specific parameters. BlinkBoard simply makes the administration of these settings along with placement on the monitor easy.

Dependencies

In its current form, BlinkBoard uses Google's FireBase as its database, but only makes use of the realtime-API on the dashboard hosting device, so it could be changed to use any sort of database without too much work. The platform runs as a Node.js server, so along with the before mentioned monitor and Raspberry Pi, you do need a server as well. Other than that, you just need Docker or NPM to install and run the platform.

Installation

First you need to create a FireBase app with at least 1 user. Having accomplished that, you have the information needed to setup the environment variables. Create a file called .env and fill it out as follows:

FIREBASE_APIKEY=[insert Google project API key]
FIREBASE_AUTHDOMAIN=[insert Firebase domain (e.g. myapp.firebaseio.com)]
FIREBASE_DATABASEURL=[insert Firebase url (e.g. https://myapp.firebaseio.com/)]
PORT=[insert the port you want to use (e.g. 80)]

Now you need to add the rules provided in the rules.json file to the app in the FireBase administration system. Just copy paste them and save. Currently, you also need to import the viewers.json file into the database. This contains information about the available viewers, which I will explain in the How to Use section below.

To install and run the app, by far the easiest is to use Docker: docker run -d --env-file=.env -p [port]:[port] mathiaslm/blinkboard:master Alternatively, clone the repository and run npm install followed by npm start.

How to Use

The structure of BlinkBoard consists of 3 objects:

  • Users are the people with their own login credentials. A user can manage any number of units.
  • Units are the clients displaying the dashboard. A unit is defined by its unique unitID, which is set in the browsers LocalStorage using the /setid# entrypoint. Once a unit is added by any user, it will forever exists in the database. Users do not own units, thus multiple users can manage the same unit at the same time.
  • Viewers are the modules being displayed on the dashboards and are defined in the viewerModels database-object. A viewer instance is owned by a unit.

When running the server, 3 endpoints become available:

  • /setid should only be used once, when adding a dashboard. In order for the dashboard hosting device (e.g. raspberry pi) to know what to display, it has to have a unique unitID. This ID is stored in the browsers LocalStorage and can be set or regenerated at this endpoint (point the raspberry pi's browser to this).
  • / is where the actual dashboard is displayed. As such, when you for instance open a browser on your dashboard hosting device, just by pointing it to the address of the server, it should display the dashboard.
  • /management is where you manage your dashboards. You login using your FireBase credentials and add the units (dashboards) you want to manage. Any change you make here should automatically be reflected on the units. This is what makes BlinkBoard easy.

How to Add Viewers

As previously mentioned, viewers are simply Angular directives with parameters. The outlines of these parameters are defined in the viewerModels database-object, so by adding to this, you can define your own. Look at the sample viewers in public/viewers/ for inspiration. Please take note that currently you need to refresh the dashboard hosting device after having added a new viewer type, as directives are dependencies of Angular on initialization.

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