Adding Content to Xibo

After the technical set up it was time to customise Xibo to suit our requirements.

xibo templateFirst I designed a simple background image with the school badge and sections for news, weather and bulletin updates. I wasn’t looking for anything too fancy, so I put it together in Keynote and exported the slide as an image. It’s important to export as a JPEG rather than a PNG. While the quality is better with a PNG file, the transparent sections used for BBC News and Weather don’t display correctly unless a JPEG is used.

In the Xibo web app, I selected Layouts then Design (I just used the default 4:3 layout that was pre made in Xibo), uploaded the background image and removed all existing regions.

Adding new regions was really simple (right click, add a region and resize to suit) and soon I had a Layout with 3 separate content regions that we could edit. First up was the RSS Feeds for live BBC News Headlines and Weather updates. The RSS feeds can be found on the BBC website for my favourite price…free! Just look out for the orange logo shown below.

BBC RSS

Clicking on the RSS logo will give you the feed URL which you have to pop into Xibo. Just edit the region that will contain the news, add a ticker and paste the feed url into the Link box. The rest of the settings can be changed to suit your requirements. Ours is set up to pull live news every 20 minutes, and loop for 600 seconds (10 minutes) at a time.

RSS settings

Finally it was time to add in our existing bulletin messages. These are simply created in PowerPoint and exported as images (again JPEGs) and then added to the bulletin messages region of the layout; by default our images are displayed for 10 seconds.

Media TypesThe great thing about Xibo is it can display loads of different data types including videos or flash animations. As we add more up to date bulletin messages, I’m beginning to experiment with videos, flash animations and even live webpages (the school calendar from our website for example).

It’s early days for our installation, however I’m already planning to move to a web based installation that will allow me to update the content on the screens from any workstation in the school, or indeed any computer connected to the internet.

Digital Signage

Our school is set up with 3 large LCD screens in our social areas to provide information to pupils and up until now we’ve had the screens running with a PowerPoint of our bulletin running on a loop. However I’ve always liked the idea of BBC News 24 or Sky Sports News with a ticker along the bottom of the screen and news displaying to the side.

So over the Christmas holidays I tasked myself with investigating new Digital Signage Solutions for the school. The 2 biggest requirements were ease of setup/use and a low cost (read free!). Most of the solutions that I looked at required a cloud based server and a local client, however I wasn’t entirely convinced that these solutions would work on our Managed Wireless. So after a long search I settled on 3 solutions that might suit the bill Acquire Digital SOLO, Xibo and Digital Signage.

After downloading and installing Acquire I spent around an hour attempting to get the local server application talking to the local client application with no luck; Acquire was out.

XAMPPNext up was Xibo. The server documentation showed states that a web server with PHP5 and MySQL installed was all that was needed; ideal as I’ve used XAMPP on a few occasions before so I knew that it would do the job. After installing XAMPP I started up Apache and MySQL as services and created a database and user for the Xibo installation.

Xibo LogoNext up I copied the server files into the htdocs folder of XAMPP and ran through the (fairly) simple installation wizard. Finally I installed the local client application which is (sadly) only available for Windows or Linux, plugged in the details that I provided during the server setup.

All in all it took me around 25 minutes to download and install everything. After a further 15 minutes of tinkering I decided that Xibo was the solution for me so unfortunately I can’t comment on Digital Signage which may or may not have done the job.

In my next post I’ll show how I setup our Layouts, added existing bulletin content and added live news and weather updates to the bottom and side of our bulletin messages.