Dorm Notifier

Problem: College students get lots of time critical email and need notification
 Prof: "as you all got the email this morning at 5AM, please take out your i/o boards for the lab today"
Solution : Cheap LCD & Open source software
Using a commodity pc (yep, that one from the loading docks behind your school), a parallel to centronics extension cable (courtesy of newegg), a cheap lcd, and some solder you too can be updated on your new gmail.
Part 1: Getting The Goods
Part Site Cost
The LCD allelectronics.com / goldmine electronics.com / some old scrap printer ~$4.00 / free
Printer cable (20')  newegg.com $2 + shipping
Misc electric parts Mouser/digikey/your local electronic parts store
(Radioshack is not an electronic parts store)

2:The Interface An hd44780 lcd can be driven directly from the parallel port, why? well its not magic, its how they were designed to work. picture sending an ascii code. its 8 bits long. and there are data lines 0-7 in the parallel port. Coincidence? nope. The software drives the lcd in a similar manner, sending out ascii codes over the data bus, strobing , rinse and repeat.
3: The software  You just cant beat lcdsmartie. Hands down. Its freaking amazing. whats more beneficial is its user base and forum layout, which will probably answer most of your questions. I asked for ssl support. 3 months later, i got it.

The software features an rss reader and a plethora of things to monitor everything from cpu temp to your winamp now playing song.
4: Making it work  As shown by the back side of the LCD (allelectronics) the pinout is compacted onto the side 14 pin setup, with the EL backlight added onto the right side of the picture.
Heres a copy of an email. this one if from Zach Barth on the eclub list. As you can guess, the longer/larger the LCD, the more text you can fit on it. A normal email subject field is more than 24 characters so the lcd I used is considerably smaller than what i actually needed, but it serves its purpose.


Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 
Electrical & Electrical Power

Free Domain Names @ .co.nr!