How to: news stand, kiosk, information display, news totem – part 1/2: a news ticker application with Processing

I’ve been asked on a side-task to build a news stand – also called kiosk, information display, news totem; i.e.: use an available widescreen television to display some presentation (which are in the case, PowerPoint) and miscellaneous information.

In essence the functionality identified are two:

  1. Cycle between the PowerPoint slideshows
  2. Over-impose on the slideshows a news ticker (the sort you see on news broadcasting channels)

In this post I’ll focus on the latter of the two.

There are a number of free and commercial software that does the job, however in this case I was looking for something easily customizable not only in the output, but also in the way the information (the “news”) are gathered.

Being a former Java developer I immediately resorted to Processing, as for all the quick experiments and visual demos, this is my tool/framework of choice. Also, by chance one of the exercise in the “Learn Processing” book is a similar application. Overnight, I had the application working. What follows are the plus I’ve implemented with respect to the initial starting ground. It reads information from a .txt file placed in an agreed directory: each line of the .txt file is considered a news. Then, the application process the information from this file, creates a window which is 50pixel in height and wide as much as the screen, docked in the lower part of the screen. The window is an undecorated window (i.e.: without the title, close, magnify buttons) and is configured to be always-on-top. In the picture and video which I attached in this post, you can notice it also always stays on top even when PowerPoint is in slideshow mode.

Why do I blog this

I think Processing is a great framework: in my daily job as an analyst, I’m required at times to produce some visualizations which you cannot do with standard reporting, charts, etc. so Processing helps me when I need a quick way to build visualizations programmatically, mock-ups and in this case simple applications. In fact I’ve found several application of this framework from an analyst perspective which I’ll eventually discuss in later posts. In this case Processing helped to implement a visualization application tailored for the need, in a very quick and inexpensive way.

You can find the source on github.com/tarilabs.

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