Although the PiGlow visualisation of CPU usage was pretty, we reckoned we could go a couple of steps further and integrate a much more complete tangible solution – a hardware-driven load monitor dashboard.
Made of cardboard.
This was to be driven by two high torque servos (Ben had them lying around) which would rotate according to whichever performance indicator we chose. Servos are not, of course, very good pointers so with a trusty craft knife to the fore we re-purposed some Pi packaging into a cardboard user interface.
In my last post I described how I set up a 5-strong Raspberry Pi Docker swarm. It wasn’t long before I realised I wanted some ambient way to see how they were performing which a) didn’t involve staring at a screen and b) would wind up the cat.
Luckily my friend Ben was round and he’s quite into tangible stuff so after rummaging in a few dusty boxes for inspiration we found a PiGlow and wondered if that would do the trick.
My father, Ben Anderson plays with numbers. As his Twitter bio says “big data, small data, open data, any data”. He works with R a lot and has been persuading me to take a look at it. I’ve held off until now because I’m all for analysing data in real time (primarily using delightful JS libraries such as Chart.js and D3.js). As far as I understood it, R is geared towards static data analysis and because of that, is able to utilise the hardware it runs on to optimise computations. Dad has an SSD in his Mac which reduces the time to load data substantially, but he also makes use of the R package data.table. This library makes manipulation of data ridiculously fast as it stores it all in RAM.
My ageing hand-me-down MacBook (late 2007 – 1GB RAM) has been serving me well – it ended it’s OS X life in the Autumn of last year and has been running Linux Mint 17 ever since – we call it the MintBook. Linux has been a saviour. Making the shift was easy enough (having used GNU/Linux before – mainly in Raspberry Pis and web servers), the ease of software development has been greatly improved (bar Xcode of course!) and it has basically resurrected an almost dead laptop.