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USENIX 2000 "Win a Pet Shark" Contest

In 1997, Digital Equipment Corp. (now part of Compaq Computer Corp.) produced the DIGITAL Network Appliance Reference Design (DNARD), and published the hardware specifications for free use. DEC used the code-name "Shark" to refer to these NCs.

USENIX 2000, in association with Compaq Corporate Research, ran a contest inviting attendees to submit proposed Open Source projects that would use the Shark. (You can read this PDF file containing the entry form.) From over 80 entries, the judges chose 11 winners, each of whom will receive a pet Shark of their own. The winning entries are listed on this page, more or less as they were submitted during the contest.

Prizes provided by Compaq logo Corporate Research

Most of the winners have provided URLs that you can use to learn more about these projects.

List of Projects (in no particular order)

I would like to use the Shark as my own personal weather station. This will involve weather proofing the shark, so I can leave it outside to make the very best observations. I will also need to cobble up a power source. I think the Weather Station 2001 would make an excellent project, and I look forward to sharing the results on my Web page.

For more information, see

Because of its low power consumption, use a Shark with an LDC display and a cellular IP modem to create solar-recharged information kiosks at national parks -- Web-based intranet of park information, local accomodations, reservations of campsites, etc., plus directions, maps, GPS downloads (e.g., Garmin map info), etc.

Using the Shark and a serial to IRDA interface, I would like to build a Palm OS Networked Info Kiosk. Set up in the public area of a conference (like USENIX), the device could provide conference information on an attached display, which could also be beamed directly to a Palm OS device. Information could be updated remotely via the network interface and users could resync periodically as it changes. The device could also offer the same info via a Web server for remote users making it the single point of information. Of course, all developed software would be Open Source!

For more information, see

My wife has progressive M.S. and uses a wheelchair for transport. This is not practical for switching on/off lights and other small chores.

What the Shark would have to do is help her the way a dog would. Placed in a central spot in the house, and with Blue tooth ported to it, it could open doors, switch lights, operate electronic equipment, answer phone calls, get her email. All this via the I.R. remote. Online grocery shopping would make my task easier, and the smartcard could be use for payments (instead of the less safe credit car). Network links to an emergency service could alert them if anything was wrong.

(This idea could be extended in general for all disabled folks, and physical monitoring devices could be added, aswell as a voice recognition and synthesis software for the blind, etc.)

By the way: everything will be implemented in a modular, open sources, Java(?) way ...

The initial motivation was to create a device that would function as a really fancy telephone answering machine -- one that was configurable and could evolve as telephony evolves. Scripts would be used to paste existing software (vgetty, for instance) together.

Some envisoned features: - "spam" filtering - POTS/analog capable via voice modem (additional hardware) - Internet capable - remote administration via HTTP - other interfaces like ISDN could be investigated - perhaps a flat touch screen display - remote I/R control

For more information, see

The computer would sit in one's living room playing ambient noise and displaying video in response to both time of day and activity in the room. (Other factors could be used as well, such as IR.) The video would ideally be projected onto a wall, but monitor display would work as well. Activity would be detected by noise in the room as well as (potentially) optical sensors hooked up via parallel or serial ports. Music would be procedurally generated using sampled audio data and real-time synthesis models in accordance with the computational capabilities of the machine. (Video is optional. Audio is mandatory.)

For more information, see

The low-power requirements of the StrongARM allow for appliance-style applications where normal PCs are just too clumsy (also be aware of electricity cost!) An increasing number of radio stations provide Internet access, allowing one to listen in where one can't receive RF signals.

The Internet Radio Appliance does just that: it is an Internet radio receiver, in a box small enough to fit in the living room.

Control would be over infrared: the RC5 infrared standard (Philips) allows one to change the family code of an infrared RFC allowing one to use a standard (modified) RC.

One can easily add an LCD display for user-interface readout (printerport provides 4 data lines, R/W strobe, and register select) and keyboard connector provides +5 volts.

While I have not seen the Shark (exhibit not open yet) I think the display can be built in.

Advantages: - small footprint - low energy usage - simple interface, suitable to non-techies - no keyboard/mouse/display

Additionally, it can play MP3s from the net! The ultimate Napster device!

Promiscuously monitor Ethernet traffic, continuously providing visual and aural feedback based on factors such as: - Packet size - Source, destination address - Protocol - TTL - Port

Depiction of system outputs

The respective graphic image and sound output can be made available at a public place (e.g., near a wiring cabinet) to provide an entertaining alternative view of the network activity. In addition, rule-based alerts could be set to be triggered by specified patterns.

For more information, see

One neat thing that's come about in the world of model railways is a system known as DCC - Digital Command Control. Long and short: you stick a small board into each locomotive and you have individual control over each.

One bogus thing is that most software interfaces are for some unnamed unpleasant operating systems. To fix this, I wrote some stuff(*) which can talk to DCC interfaces, and really, all it needs is POSIX termios. So you can move trains with awk.

So why the Shark? (Small apartment.) I can't fit a computer next to my trains! (At least, not one that I can actually use ...) This thing's got everything I need (including sound card for all-important train whistle). I could probably even both this thing upside-down under the trains for zero footprint.

(*) that stuff is Open Source, I might add.

For more information, see

We have a big fish tank in our conference room. It has 6 species of fish and 2 lobsters (Al & Leroy). Some of the fish have developed a taste for lobster eyes. As a result, Al is now blind and Leroy has passed away. I'll use the Shark as a monitor. It will lower food when it senses that Al is under attack.

Block diagram of system

We currently have a wireless X10 Webcam that is monitoring the fish tank. The images are fed to a PC. I intend to digitize the image on the PC and send it via TCP to the Shark atop the fish tank. The Shark will analyse the image, and if there's a dark object above Al, it will lower fish food.

[Note: Unfortunately, after the USENIX contest entry was written, we learned that Al had died, before the Shark could be installed. We intend to get another lobster once we have a mechanism in place to protect it.]

For more information, see

I supply the Palm schedule loader for USENIX and LISA conferences. Right now I ship a laptop computer to the conference. There are two problems with this. One is that the laptop has an LCD screen and is therefore fragile. The other is that shipping is inconvenient and expensive. With a Shark, I would store the schedule on a Cyberflex Access smartcard (we use these in our research and know how to use them) and ship just the card to the conference. If the Shark ever had to be shipped it would survive better than a laptop. Finally, I would use both a cradle on the serial port and the IR port to provide more hotsync options.

For more information, see

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Last changed: 14 April 2006 jel
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