Pi Replaces Keiko-chan

[Tobias Kuhn] and a handful of colleagues at his workplace built Crystal Signal Pi, a Raspberry Pi based low-cost alternative for a notification device that provides visual, audio and network warnings about server problems. [Tobias] works for a Japanese company where it is critical for their servers to keep humming nicely all the time. Any emergencies or error conditions must be broadcast immediately so the technicians can fix it ASAP. Network enabled warning light stalks are used to provide these alerts. A local company produces a series of indicator and hazard warning lights which are colloquially called as Keiko-chan. These are similar to the hazard warning tower lights commonly fixed on machines on factory floors or many kinds of vehicles such as fork lifts. The Kieko-chans add a few bells and whistles making them more suitable for use in the server data centre — a Gigabit LAN port for wired networks and a USB port for WiFi modules. So, besides visual and audio warnings, it can also transmit messages over the network to alert the maintenance folks. Using this commercial solution should not have been a problem were it not for their rather hefty price tag of almost $500 per pop.

So [Tobias] decided to build his own warning lights based around the Raspberry Pi. After two rounds of prototypes, a simple HAT was designed that could be plugged in to a Pi. Details of the hardware are sketchy, but it’s simple enough to figure out. The part list consists of a PLCC-6 style RGB LED, three transistors to drive the three LED pins, a voltage regulator with a couple of electrolytic capacitors and a large push button. A simple acrylic case, and an acrylic cylinder mounted on top of the RGB LED creates a nice edge lit effect for the indicator.

The code for the Crystal Pi is hosted on Github, and includes handy scripts to make installation easy. Once installed, the Crystal Pi can be accessed and controlled either through a web-based GUI or via the API. There are some more interesting features already implemented or scheduled for later, so do check out the blog and the repository for more. Check out the video below to see the Crystal Pi in action.

20 thoughts on “Pi Replaces Keiko-chan

  1. Overkill. Could have done it on an ESP8266. However the more important part, some company is relying on someone’s cobbled together project to alert them about their mission critical servers!!!??

    1. Is it really that hard to believe that a company relies on a custom solution created by their own engineers and technicians to monitor mission critical servers. No by all means use the generic 3rd party solution.

  2. I agree with anon here. $500 dollars for a proven commercial project or running an unproven home project… $500 dollars isn’t all that expensive to be honest. You’d probably spend that on for instance a scope or a good DMM in a heartbeat.

    1. Really? I guess facebook and Google should also just buy servers instead of making their own. The well-proven product is just a warning light. The comment about using an ESP8266 is somewhat valid but it would be hard to do the audio part with an 8266 vs a pi.
      Who knows maybe this is going to be a product? Maybe they just wanted to do it? Maybe they just wanted to see if they could do it at all. Really when the first two posts are “You should just buy it” you know that the posters need their coffee or to go to another website. This is after alll HAD.

  3. Cool looking system.
    If you are just doing a light then an esp8266 would work just fine if you wanted just wifi support. The Pi makes sense if you must have wired networking and wifi.
    So when are you going to add a speaker? Does it have snmp support? Maybe a small LCD display to give you info on the error? Having one per rack would be handy. You could where the error is and then which machine by a flash code or an LCD display. Add in a voice synth and you could have audio prompts as well. Hit the button and you get the error info spoken to you. Add a nce printed case and you could have a cool little device/product.

    1. It might be most useful just to see the thing change colour from the corner of your eye, and then open a terminal to do the actual work. You’re going to need to soon enough anyway. LEDs, beeps, and particularly voice synths, aren’t a good way at getting the sort of detailed technical messages across that would be relevant in that situation. Too low a bandwidth. Since they’re server geeks anyway, they’re never going to be far away from a terminal.

  4. $500 for a system that just has LEDS, and contains software with KNOWN DEFECTS and NO WARRANTY or even FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

    Unless your downtime costs $500/hr, I’ll do with a solution that I control the software over, the firmware over, and the interface over.

    Then again, it’s just typically other people’s money.

    I’d like to see a teardown of one of these. Pity the software can’t be torn down, since its against the EULA. I’m sure it’s $500 quality software, just like Windows is.

    I’m sure it “fails safe” for every application. After all, software engineers always know what is best, thats why they enable telemetry,and remote management with hard coded passwords, they are concerned about our security.

    Also, updates that are not optional, that can brick the hardware, that is safe!

    1. If the lawyers come to complain about a breach for instance then saying ‘Microsoft did it, we trusted an esteemed company protected by the US government’ works better than ‘we cobbled together some stuff and hoped it would work’. Even if the gobbled together stuff would do a better job.

        1. Who doesn’t like some pie once in a while. And they come suitable for the sweet tooth as well as in varieties for the people who do not want sweets.
          Plus they come in flavours suited for festive seasons.

      1. Protected by the US government. Ha ha ha. Let me laugh harder. MSFTs profits are protected, your rights are not. You got breached because you ran MSFT and they got breached? Pay anyway.

        Remember, your only remedy for any software defect, is the cost of the software.

        If you have to pay for credit monitoring for all your users, I hope the cost of a 199 Windows license can pay 19.99/Mo x 12 Mo x number_of_compromised_users. For the typical price of a Windows license, that covers 10/12 of a user for 1 year, hoping that the words “class action” don’t come up.

    2. It’s a fair bet that the $500 version is just a single-board computer with some LEDs wired up anyway, running Linux and probably mostly open-source tools. That’s the best and most-used stuff anyway. So why not do a bit of cobbling and save the money? And then you have something you own, so if the special $500 lights company turn out to be useless dicks, you don’t have to rely on them.

      All the brains in this are in the software anyway. A good server admin should have the same skillz the Keiko people have. I’m sure the Pi version can itself be updated and managed over the network.

      “Fuck it, it’s the company’s money” is probably an attitude responsible for billions of dollars of business. You don’t give a shit about overpriced rubbish if you’re not paying for it yourself. There’s plenty of business-supplying businesses would’ve disappeared years ago if their customers were actually spending their own money.

        1. Depends if he wasn’t busy doing something else useful. And once he’s made the first one, he can knock out another ten in the time it takes to copy an SD card. There’s also the advantage that he understands the gadget, and might be able to do extra stuff to it to make him more productive.

          1. A new firmware update has been pushed to keiko, it may or may not contain vulnerabilities. It may or may not send data to third parties. How much does a data breech cost?

            I’m sure it doesn’t contain any third party telemetry code, because I’m sure it’s been audited, right?

            I’m sure it comes with data breech protection, and warranties, and 24×7 support, right?

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