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Building a home dashboard with an old tablet and PowerShell

For the most part, I’ve been seeing people build dashboards for business-related solutions. It’s not that big of a surprise as it was the intended audience. Today, I’ll show you another application of a dashboard that you could use in your personal life.

The Hardware Build

I had an older Surface tablet laying in my basement. The battery no longer holds a charge so it’s a very useless as a tablet. Mounting it on the wall seemed like the perfect use of the dated hardware. It has a great touch screen, supports Edge and is light enough to mount right in the drywall.

After pondering it a bit, I decided to use magnets to mount the Surface. This meant that I could easily take it down if I wanted and could achieve that “floating” look that flatscreen TVs usually have.

First, I cut a couple holes in the drywall and installed some low-voltage cable hide boxes. I ran the Surface’s power cord to the other side of the wall where I could plug it in and hide it behind the microwave.

Next, I picked up some magnets from Menards. They are designed for hanging tools and each have a 20-lbs limit. I figured this would be more than enough.

I drilled out the stud holding the hook in place. It left me with a perfect hole for a drywall screw.

Then I mounted the magnets in place.

Finally, I glued small metal pieces onto the back of the Surface. I scored the back of the Surface with a screw driver to provide a grooved surface for the metal to attach to. I then used Gorilla glue, put a bit of weight on it and let it cure for 24 hours. It seems solid.

I covered the metal with a couple MVP stickers for a nice polished look. 😉

End Result

The end result is a nicely mounted tablet that fits very snugly to the wall. If the battery wasn’t toast, it would be very easy to just pull it off and walk around with it.

The Software Build

The tablet will be running a customized Universal Dashboard for my home use. It has a couple different pages. The first page is for local weather. It uses the Yahoo! Weather API to grab the latest weather information and build a page based on that. The radar comes image comes from AccuWeather.

The next page is for news. I’m using Webhose.io to retrieve recent news that has a high performance score. Their performance scoring system tries to find the most popular articles. I try and list those first. I then create a series of cards on my dashboard with snippets of each story with a link to the full thing.

I think I still have to do some tweaking on the queries to get the news I really care about…

And here’s a really shaky video of it in action!

What’s next?

I will be hosting my dashboard on a Raspberry Pi 2 running Windows 10 IoT. Once PowerShell v6 is released that supports this OS, it’s my next adventure. I’ll make sure to blog about it.

The dashboard will also evolve. I plan to get Alexa and SmartThings involved so I can see the status of the Z-Wave devices I have in my house. I’d also like to integrate Spotify to be able to play music through my bluetooth speaker in the kitchen.

If you’re interested in designing a dashboard for your home, I’d love to hear about what you come up with.

 

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