Originally posted by Kathy Sierra: Please oh please Mike, tell us a little something more about the Lava Lamp...
Lava lamps work great as visual feedback devices because they're cheap, easy to set up, and just plain fun! I like to use them to make build monitoring a spectator sport. Imagine that you have a scheduler such as CruiseControl that automatically builds your software at regular intervals. As folks on the team check in code, the continuous build cycle keeps everything in check so that you always know the status of the build.
But it's easy to forget to check the build status throughout the day... unless you have lava lamps! The glow of a lamp tends to capture your attention and you can easily monitor the build with your peripheral vision. Happy, green bubbles mean that the last build succeeded and sad, red bubbles mean that it failed.
I describe how I hooked up my lava lamps using X10 devices which transmits signals over a common electrical system in this article:
Indeed, the Ambient Orb is very cool. Inside of the Orb is a tiny wireless pager, so you can take the Orb with you almost anywhere in the U.S. while monitoring anything of interest. To send it signals in response to a custom event you want to monitor, you need to purchase a premium account for a nominal monthy fee. With the premium account you can send the Orb signals (e.g., "change color to red") simply by posting to a URL that contains your Orb's id. They also sell a serial port adapter that you can control with a developer kit.
One downside I've heard is that, depending on your location, it may take the signal a while to arrive, so if you want near real-time feedback you'll want to investigate the serial port adapter. But at that point you've lost the real advantage of the Orb -- its mobility.
I've yet to play with this device, but I look forward to doing so soon.
Mike [ September 21, 2004: Message edited by: Mike Clark ]
Another interesting idea I read about (don't remember where) is using sound to indicate the current build status...
The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny - it is the light that guides your way. - Heraclitus
Joined: Aug 15, 2003
Originally posted by Ilja Preuss: Another interesting idea I read about (don't remember where) is using sound to indicate the current build status...
The X10 device I use with the lava lamps makes a fairly loud clicking sound when it turns on and off, which makes for a nice audible alert. The <sound> task in Ant can also be used to trigger sounds based on the build status.
Something interesting I just had to chime in with. Here in the great city of Wichita, KS, at the Wichita Eagle news center, a girl I work with used to work there.
They used dumb terminal for everything way back when (she's old) and she said in the main press room, there was a big street light (red, yellow, green) and the server admins would flip switches manually depending on the state of the servers.
Green - All is well Yellow - Better click save, servers are going down Red - Servers are toast
Sometimes yellow was skipped all together. You can imagine how the journalist felt about that.
Anyway, somewhat related to this discussion. I found it interesting.