Dear Lifehacker, I am involved with setting up a new business in a new office. We were lucky enough to purchase all the existing office furniture which included a mounted plasma TV which is visible to all our sales rep staff. I am wondering what I could use it for?
Because we are a new business, we have been cutting costs as much as possible and have not purchased a massive server. In fact we are using Microsoft Online Services for Exchange email/contacts/calendar. But I have implemented an old laptop (Celeron 1.8, 512MB RAM, 1TB external hard drive) with Xubuntu as a small file server just as a backup solution for the internal staff. There is a VGA cable running from the plasma to this "file server" so perhaps I could output a Google Calendar that all staff can contribute to. Or perhaps there is a website with fun/interesting information that updates automatically. I'm not sure, what do you think?
Picture by cjdaniel
First things first: if you want to keep your staff happy, make sure there's an antenna connected to the TV as well. Undoubtedly you don't want people watching TV regularly in the office, but come Melbourne Cup day, it will seem a sensible decision.
Beyond that, there's several things you could do. Implementing Google Calendar is certainly one possibility, though you'll need to spend time playing with the various view options. You might want to switch on the automatic weather display under Settings, while Google Labs includes year view and world clock options that could be helpful depending on the nature of your business.
If you want to offer a broader perspective on the world, a Twitter feed is a possibility. If you set up a specific account for the office and then follow various news organisations (such as this one, ahem), rather than just individuals, you'll have a regular set of headlines you can easily customise without too much clutter.
One issue with nearly any web-based application is that what works well on a screen close up doesn't always work while hanging on a wall. Setting up Firefox to work on a larger display is definitely a sensible move.
If readers have any other useful suggestions for what might work on an office display, share them in the comments. Good luck with the new business!