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Personal Showcase: digital menu of a school canteen based on Jira (Part II)

Yesterday, in part one of the showcase "digital menu of a school canteen based on Jira",
I wrote about the basic concept of using Jira for having a nice digital menu for all diners in our school canteen.
Today you will see some technical details of the implementation.

The overall system had several components.

The display system in the canteen

The part visible to the dining guests was, of course, the screen.
For this we used a standard flat screen TV with HDMI connection.
For all the more professional "digital signage" solutions the budget was too tight.
We knew that the screen would only be in operation for a few hours a day
- so we didn't choose a special model and oriented ourselves to the offers of the electronics stores.

We chose a model with 32 inches screen size - depending on the building and where to put a screen also a larger sized screen is possible with only some additional cost.
We finally set the time-based switching on and off via the TV's menu.

Due to a limited space, we had to choose a "PC" that is space-saving.
There was no need to chose a very powerful system, the requirements as to its speed were minor - what was important, indeed, was an HDMI connection.
We pretty quick selected a "PC on a HDMI stick" - for a pretty decent price of
100 euros (~130 US $).
The solution performed perfectly from day one - the hardware was completely stable. Operating system was Windows 10 (a rather early version) and this also showed to be very reliable.

The software part of the stick solution

On this stick there were some scripts stored. Those fetched the finished content from the virtual server of the club. The content was processed there and then it only had to be displayed as a picture.
In the first attempts, we chose browsers to display the contents. None of them did the job really well. Google Chrome behaved after the (very often necessary) updates not very comprehensible - it forgot about settings and strange pop ups were displayed (apparently it always expected to be closed carefully which our scripts did not).
Firefox overlayed the content from time to time with different hints and dialog boxes, which had to be removed step by step. After an update there were partly new functions and changes resulting in pop ups, hints and tips.

After some time, as I described above, we switched to displaying only pre-built pictures files on the screen that. The pure display was then taken over by a simple tool for displaying slideshows. The generation of the image files was done by open source solution "ImageMagick".

A virtual server as backend - and Jira host

The virtual server also housed the Jira installation.
This was a low-cost model with no special performance specs (2 GB RAM,
40 GB memory). The basis was linux (CentOS Linux).
At that time, there was already a Jira cloud solution that we would have preferred at any time. However, this would have exceeded the budget. The pricing that time was 10 US dollars/month for a plan that would have been a proper fit - and well, we already had to pay for the virtual server.
Hint: if you are planning to do such project on your own meanwhile there is a Free plan for 10 users max.

The "main" cloud solution for managing the canteen and how it worked together with Jira

To bring a bit complexity in we already were using a cloud solution from an external provider - that was specially tailored to the needs of a school canteen.
This solution is still the central hub where all of the magic happens. From pre-ordering lunch by parents to billing and managing customer master data, the main part of the daily work is done in this system. The menu is also stored there.

However, it was hardly possible to implement all the needed logic just using this cloud solution. The provider did not manage an implementation in time and despite the knowledge of upcoming changes regarding legal requirements the feature was simply implemented too late.

We chose the following approach:

  • information about the menu of the day was received from the cloud solution
  • for every menu an issue in Jira was created - just via REST API.
  • a member of the kitchen staff then enriched the necessary data in the corresponding Jira issue
  • after the preparation of data had been finished and the picture has been created based on that data, they were retrieved by the PC in the canteen and finally displayed on the screen

The next blog article is about the Jira configuration (Workflows, Issue Types, Custom Fields) that we had implemented.

2 comments

still waiting are the interesting parts :) 

Daniel Ebers Community Leader Jan 18, 2021

@Gonchik Tsymzhitov 
The last part was meanwhile published - for an experienced user there might be only a few interesting parts in it, however ;)
I hope that the ideas encourage a few people to use modern solutions (like Jira, Trello, Confluence) to do something in their local communities - to assist non-profits and to make a change.

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