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Built-in Kitchen Computer? 87

shaun_gordon asks: "As a long-time geek and first-time home buyer, my wife are planning on a complete kitchen remodel. As part of the remodel, I want to put a computer into the kitchen to use for looking up recipes, controling the stereo, watching movies, etc. My only requirements are that it be Internet connected. My wife's requirements are that it be hidden. I am currently thinking of a flat screen that would fold down from under a cabinet and a keyboard in a drawer that pulls out. Has anyone had any experience installing something like this? Any recomendations on building or buying the integrated display? Anything else that I should consider?" Those looking into doing something like this may find a laptop with an 802.11-based wireless network adapter a better, and possibly cheaper, alternative for this kind of feature. Webpads might be another viable alternative, assuming they ever hit the consumer market at a worthwhile price. What suggestions might you have?
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Built-in Kitchen Computer?

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  • Audrey (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ghostlibrary ( 450718 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:03AM (#4512716) Homepage Journal
    Buy an Audrey. That's what they're perfect for. Small form factor, fits in nice with the decor, networkable (so you can keep your main recipe db on your main computer and access it from the kitchen), wireless keyboard, touch screen with stylus, etc.

    Durable, too-- my 3-year old hasn't broken ours yet!

    And cheap. Also very important. Hunt around with liquidators or on ebay, should be well under $100 including the USB ethernet (unless the built-in modem suffices... modem-modem maybe, if you want to score extra geek points)

    • Where the heck do you find these? I've never heard of them.
    • Re:Audrey (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BigBir3d ( 454486 )
      New house, old dis-continued [] product? I don't know about you, but if I am going to go through customizing my new kitchen/house, it is for a product I can get a warranty for...
      • Old discontinued $80 3com product. Yes it's not supported by the manufacture, but it's well supported on the net eg. For the price you will not get a better little machine anywhere.
    • You might also look on ebay for Fujitsu Stylistic (pen tablet thingy) with a wireless card. Hang it on the wall mostly, carry it around now and then. In a pinch, you can even use it as a warming tray -- those little suckers run hot!
    • I agree, Audrey is awesome. I bought 4 of them. My web server has scripts to control X-10 lights, and a voicemail system (vgetty plus some playback and management scripts), and a few recipes; the Audreys are just decent little touchscreen web browsers. They can play audio, so I can check voicemail from various places around the house. There is also an MP3 player but the quality isn't good enough really. I also wrote a client-server caller ID system; the server sends out UDP broadcasts and the Audrey client pops up a little dialog when the phone rings. The Audrey runs QNX, and you can get the development platform for free (as in beer).

      Some links: Here's my caller ID thing [] and [] will tell you everything else you need to know.

    • By the way, speaking of mounting issues... the kitchen in our house came with a knife-shelf which pulls down from the underside of the cabinets. I never used it so I mounted the Audrey there. (I had to modify its case a bit and also cut a hole in the bottom of the shelf, for the lump in the back with all the connectors to stick through, so that it can lie flat on its back on the shelf). And there's enough space left on the shelf for the keyboard, too. So it's out of the way of grease splatters most of the time, unless you're actually using it and thus have the shelf pulled down.

      Eventually I want to figure out how to use a CueCat with it (it has USB ports and I have a USB CueCat) and also a OneWire network adapter so I can control the sprinkler system in the garden window with it.

      As for having messy fingers, you just have to be disciplined enough not to use the touchscreen without washing up first. Better have the recipe scrolled into position before you start getting dirty.

  • iCEBOX (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DeLabarre ( 236800 )
  • iBook (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:07AM (#4512756)
    These things are small, they match the color of your fridge, they are very connective, and they are very easy to use. There are all sorts of programs for the Mac that control home appliances. Also, The iBooks are alot cheaper than the TiBooks.
  • by zogger ( 617870 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:15AM (#4512844) Homepage Journal
    --sounds fun to me. You didn't mention cost requirements, but I am always the cheap fix guy, which means used monitor and older but still decent box. If it was me, I would use a normal large screen crt monitor but build it into the wall someplace so the screen is flush. The box goes over yonder in a closet someplace, behind the monitor and within cable range. Scrounge a slide out tray from an old desk and install that under a cabinet someplace for the keyboard and mouse. As you are remodeling, go ahead and run cables instead of the wireless stuff. And here's a hint on scrounging neato old laminated walls, desks, kiosks, etc. If there's a exhibit/display outfit near you, they frequently scrap out old exhibits. typically they are built from good quality birch plywood that has been laminated. I once got a piece of a booth that I turned into a cooking island relatively easily. The varieties I am sure you have seen if you have attended any large shows, it's staggering and some of the stuff is quite beautiful. the wall panels are neat because they usually already have a plethora of ways to run cabling through them and your power feeds and merely bolt together. Check it out sometime, great way to get nice building materials with a geek flair to them. You might luck out and find a total wall solution that already has everything you need to install monitor displays and what not with the cabinets, etc, merely for hauling it off.
  • Rack (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zach Garner ( 74342 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:19AM (#4512875)
    I'm not familiar with this at all, but my department just got a rack from dell for our cluster. It has a really nice pull out LCD and keyboard. The monitor can lay flat and the whole thing slide in when not in use. If you could install something like this at the right height, with a computer hidden in a cabinent underneath, it may work well.

    Monitor image []
  • Keyboard (Score:3, Informative)

    by skwm ( 581559 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:21AM (#4512887) Homepage
    It might be worthwhile to purchase an industrial keyboard [], so that when you're following that pancake recipe on the screen and you spill your batter on the keyboard, everything wont go *poof*.
    • The virtually indestructible keyboard [] is super thin, can be mounted with thumbtacks, is water- and cookie-batter-proof (unless you place your thumbtacks poorly) and almost, as the name explys, indestructible.

      I just spilled wonton soup on mine and it's still typing fine!

      My kids played tug-o-war with it the first day I had it... still works, though admittedly the kids are all under 50 pounds US.

      And, your wife can use it to open those tough pickle jar lids, too. No, I'm not kidding.
    • There are 15-Dollar spill-free keyboards, and evennthose which dont claim to be, are moderately resistant to water (open it and see for yourself). Anyway, if it could get wet and break, you would just buy another one, and still be saving money compared to buying an expensive keyboard.
  • Other requirements (Score:4, Informative)

    by Nomad7674 ( 453223 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:22AM (#4512892) Homepage Journal
    I'd imagine you'd have a few other requirements, too: 1. Water-resistant. Chances are it will get sprayed or splashed rather often. Would not need water-proof, but something not damaged by a spritz here and there. 2. Cleanable. You will want something that can be cleaned off, if the kids drop a jar of tomato sauce and splatters go all over the screen or keyboard. 3. Easily loadable with new info. If you want recipes then you will want the ability to load new ones. Some simple method for info transfer (802.11b, SD cards, etc) would be useful. 4. Not easily overheated. If you are making a roast in the kitchen in the 105 degree heat of summer, you want to make sure the processor does not get cooked. Might be best to avoid a processor like the P4 which is normally very hot anyway, or install robust heat dissipation. 5. Reasonably quiet. Not a big requirement if you are already using an electric mixer, I guess, but it would be nice to have it running but quiet while you are doing some reading and waiting for your confection to bake.
  • Keyboards (Score:4, Insightful)

    by north.coaster ( 136450 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:24AM (#4512920) Homepage

    I would try to avoid the need for a keyboard. Unless your kitchen is huge, space will be at a premium so who wants to fill up an entire drawer with a keyboard. I would also be concerned about how practical it would be to use a keyboard with food covered hands. Finally, anything that you use in a kitchen needs to be easy to clean, both for cosmetic as well as sanitary reasons.

    A standard keyboard just seems impractical in a kitchen environment.

    • Actually, the kitchen is the perfect place to clean a keyboard. It sounds crazy, but you can put a keyboard through the dishwasher. Put it in by itself, with just a tiny bit of regular dish washing liquid. When it comes out, give it a couple of days to make sure it's completely dry. I have personally done this before and it works great.

      Still, I agree that a touchscreen type device is the way to go on this one.
  • by matt_wilts ( 249194 ) <> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:31AM (#4512992)
    How about a spin on the old Space Invaders screen idea? Mount the screen face down in an overhead cupboard, and place a hinged mirror underneath. You'd need to flip the image on screen in software, I don't know how you might do this, but it's a cheap & cheerful way to get round the "invisible" screen issue. You could even use the mirror to leave messages on.

    • Mount it in the countertop like the old cocktail table games.
    • You'd need to flip the image on screen in software

      Um, no. You'd just need to physically rotate the screen 180 degrees to get the correct orientation. Occam's razor and all that.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        You only want one of the coordinates reversed. If you rotated the screen 180 degrees along the required axis, you'd be looking at the back of the screen. Unless you had a transparent screen (like one of those overhead projector displays), that wouldn't work.

        Most likely, you'd need to flip in software somehow.
  • The October 23, 2002 Wall Street Journal has a review of the new Internet-enabled refrigerator. Basically a laptop built into the door. Can be used with touch-screen or stylus. Only $8000.
  • by trentfoley ( 226635 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:35AM (#4513027) Homepage Journal
    Conceal a mic and speakers and mount a video camera that has a big round lens that glows red in the center. Then you can just ask questions to the air and have a recorded voice say, "I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave. You have only one egg and you are out of milk."
  • by Da VinMan ( 7669 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:35AM (#4513028)
    .. and your really nice options are super expensive and will probably require custom carpentry.

    What we wound up doing is buying a older used laptop on eBay for about $400 and putting a wireless card in it that goes to my WAP11 in the office. We just leave the laptop on the counter all the time, with a piece of wood underneath it. The wood will prevent the countertop from discoloring from the heat of the laptop's CPU and it also raises the laptop off the counter a bit, so if something spills on the counter, the laptop isn't necessarily going to fry (although a direct hit would still take it out).

    So there you have it. It works great for my wife and she uses it everyday. It's much less intrusive than one might think since a CRT isn't involved. I guess if you must have a truly hidden option, then you could look into an iMac [].

  • Not a new idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by signal ll ( 150330 )
    This is not exactly a new idea. There have been kitchen computers before, but they didn't really catch on. Look here []
  • ... my wife are planning on ...

    How many wives have you got?

  • by pruneau ( 208454 ) <pruneau@gma i l . com> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:51AM (#4513205) Journal
    "As a long-time geek and first-time home buyer, my wife are planning on a complete kitchen remodel. As part of the remodel, I want to put a computer into the kitchen to use for looking up recipes, controling the stereo, watching movies, etc. My only requirements are that it be Internet connected. My wife's requirements are that it be hidden."

    Non-geek traduction:

    _They_ just bought a new house.

    Beeing geek _he_ wants to put a computer inside the kitchen, too (beside the living room, the toilets and the bedchambers). He's trying to make us believe that the recipe part is important, but what he really wants is watching movies.

    Beeing female, _she_ wants to organize the kitchen to her liking, and just do not give a damn about the computer: note the "hidden" requirement.

    Marketing conclusion: your primary problem here is not technical. What you are into is WR (Wife Relationship), because the thing better have to be:

    • Usefull
    • Not in anybody way
    • Resistant to wet/greasy/small fingers
    • Rember that wifes tend generate small, noisy and smelly things too ! They usually are called childrens, and will break everything you put in their path (including themself).

    Technical conclusion: everything short of an armored version of this [] won't do. Equip it with a disposable keyboard, screen and mouse. Oh, and you'd better tailor the software you put there to please her, or that machine won't last long. A kitchen is indeed not a computer-friendly environmment !

  • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:56AM (#4513256) Journal
    This is the same old rationale that people were using back in the mid-seventies to get a computer...

    "My wife can use it to look up recipes"

    This is one case where dead trees win every time.

    Cookbook=extremely portable, relatively cheap, you can scribble notes on it, bookmark your place with a spoon, not affected by excess heat, won't crash, etc.

    Unless you're actually going to get the computer to cook the damn food (which might work with todays' CPUs running so hot), it's a dumb idea, just like it was 30 years ago.

    Before remodeling, try cooking w. a few recipes on a laptop, just to get the "feel" of it. Save yourself from wasting $$$ on remodeling twice.

    • This is not insightful, stupid. People look up recipes on the goddamn internet.
    • by Da VinMan ( 7669 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @01:03PM (#4513857)
      "This is one case where dead trees win every time."

      I'll disagree on this. I would agree if the only recipes one had available were ones that had been typed in by oneself. However, with the big bad Internet available, it's very feasible to obtain recipes that you will never see in print (unless you print them out of course - just try fitting those into a traditional recipe book!).

      I do agree that a test drive with a laptop is a great idea to prove things out. She may very well decide that the laptop is the ideal anyway. See my other post for why.
      • my wife just prints out recipes she's not familiar with and uses them while cooking. that way she doesn't have to worry about spilling anything on a cookbook and not being able to see the recipe or spilling anything on a laptop and blowing it up.
      • Nope, I agree that dead trees win. Reason?

        I tend to cook a lot for myself. Most recipes come from the Joy of Cooking, which is pretty much the only cookbook one needs. As for things not found in that book, I look up recipes on the internet and always print them. I can safely say I'd never ever ever ever ever want to try to look at a monitor while cooking because it is much easier to shuffle paper around than it is to scroll, click, and wait to load. That and if I modify a recipe it is trivial to scratch in the change on my printout. that's much easier to do when your hands are covered in oil than finding you place and typing it in.
    • In the past, I used my old Newton 2000 to store recipes. It sat on the counter nicely, and if you just enclosed it in a Ziploc bag, there were no worries about spills.

      I don't know about putting a full-fledged computer in the kitchen. I've got two Audreys that will be integrated into my home automation rig when I finish creating the web interface. One is destined for my kitchen. I wanted the Audrey because I can take it out easily to keep it clean (i.e., avoid the greasy film that gets on everything from frying, and the flour film from using a mixer). I wouldn't permanently install anything that wasn't specifically ruggedized for a kitchen or damp/dirty environment.

      If I *had* to put in a full-fledged PC, though, I'd get the smallest case I could find (like a Shuttle) and tuck it away in a cabinet with decent seals around the door, filtered ventilation holes and maybe its own fan. For the display, I'd suspend a fold-down LCD under a cabinet and fashion some sort of removable cover to completely enclose it when it was in the up position. Run the cables where necessary-- including a USB extender cable that is mounted under the cabinet with the LCD-- so your input device can be removed and stowed when not in use. If someone makes one of those waterproof keyboards with a built-in touchpad or other pointing device, that'd be just the ticket.

    • I completely disagree on that.

      There's an old 386 laptop in my kitchen, connected with a serial line to a freebsd box. I use lynx to find recipes with the ingredients I want to use and cook following the directions read off the display.

      Before I had the laptop, I used to look up some recipes on my desktop and print them out. I still like to use a cookbook now and then, but I get most recipes online.
  • by MrBoring ( 256282 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:04PM (#4513330)
    IMHO, one of the biggest advantages to having a computer in the kitchen is tracking things like groceries. Get a computer that can handle a barcode device and then get a barcode scanner.

    Oh, and maybe put the computer CRT under thick glass so you could use it as a chopping board. :)

    Whatever you do, try to make it accessible.
    • Actually, I bought a Virgin Webplayer to modify and use for this exact purpose.

      Use it to track what you buy and what you use, and there are all kinds of things you could do with it, if you're willing to get in the habit of scanning everything -

      * Automatically generate shopping lists to download to your PDA (or if you want to be really geeky, tie it in to netgrocer and let it automatically reorder whatever you're low on)

      * Keep track of nutritional info for the meals you make

      * Plan your menu for the week based on what food you have in the house

      And you can still store recipies to boot!

      Of course, like the rest of my projects, it's still not done yet...
    • The idea of tracking groceries sounds great, but I'm not sure how practical this would be. The biggest potential barrier would be the barcode database. Is there a database similar to CDDB on the net where the software could look up items, or would you have to load the database yourself? I am positive that my wife (non-geek who does about half of our grocery shopping) would refuse to have anything to do with a system if she had to manually type something into a computer whenever she purchased an item for the first time.

      The second barrier would be to remember to scan the empty package before discarding it, but having mutiple scanners placed in strategic areas would take care of that.

  • Uuhhh... so you want a computer built into the kitchen, or you want a kitchen built into the computer? The former is easy, the latter not quite there yet. Though, if you have a dual Pentium 4 Xeon or Athlon MP box, you could cook breakfast [] while fragging.

  • by The_Mighty_Squid ( 551687 ) <> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:16PM (#4513426) Homepage
    If she was a true female geek she wouldn't cook. I am a geek/wife and all I need is a microwave, toaster oven and a husband to use them.

    • I have to agree.

      I've got a lease with an option to buy on a female geek unit right now.

      She's not allowed near *my* kitchen. To be cliche, she could burn water. Even in the microwave.

      Perhaps newer models have 1337 cooking skillz, but I have a substantial investment in my current model and wouldn't want to part with it just yet.

      We'll see once the '03s come out, though.
      • Re:Female Geeks (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        My unit is getting a little old. I am hoping that in a few years I will be able to trade in my 40 for a couple of 20's.
    • I am a geek/wife and all I need is a microwave, toaster oven and a husband to use them.

      I hate going out on a limb like this, but (assuming the huisband can't cook) why does your husband even need to have this kind of wife? Part of the benifits about having a wife (I am married too) is the cooking part and making the beds. Otherwise why not stay girlfriend and boyfriend? And if there is no love, why not just get an escort? Escort would be much cheaper and easier than having a woman nagging you to clean up, go to bed with her, and buy here shit.

      Anyways, they are both geeks, I woudl assume both make a decent salary. Then why not hire a cook or always go to resturants? The whole computer in the kitcken can be avoided.
  • by MrResistor ( 120588 ) <> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:20PM (#4513451) Homepage
    A thin client with a touch screen is what I would do. Elo TouchSystems makes some nice touchscreens, and they provide Linux drivers. You can get their 12" LCD touchscreen for under $900, and you can avoid all the potential hazards of being dependent on a mouse in such a messy environment.

    You'll need VGA and serial connections to make it work. Any random sub-$100 motherboard/CPU combo should cover your needs there, just grab the cheapest you can find on pricewatch. You'll also need an ethernet card that has a boot PROM socket.

    I would mount the motherboard on stand-offs in the back of a cabinet, or maybe behind some (short) drawers. Put a wire cage over it so you don't accidentally shove some tin cans into it or something (ouch!), and it will have more than adequate ventilation.

    An industrial keyboard is a good idea as well, I would look for a mini keyboard as opposed to a full sized one, since it would be easier to hide in a drawer. If you're mostly just browsing, you probably won't need the keyboard that much.

    Of course, you'll also need a Linux box to act as a server. If you don't have one you'd have to add the cost of a hard drive, but I don't expect that would break the bank.

    Anyway, that's how I would do it. The only thing visible would be the LCD touchscreen, and most of them are easy enough on the eyes for even my wife! It's bound to be more aesthetically pleasing than some of your regular kitchen appliances, anyway.

  • Not for recipes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cybermace5 ( 446439 ) <> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:38PM (#4513621) Homepage Journal
    The primary use of this computer will probably not be organizing recipies. It's one of those markets that look like they should be there...but aren't. Products have been offered time and again with little success.

    Once you get past this, you'll have a lot more fun. The real value will be the non-kitchen related activities, as you mention, watching movies for example. You can do a lot make having a computer in the kitchen useful and expandable.

    1) Include a cheap webcam and microphone. By building this in now, you won't have difficulty adding it when you want to do videoconferencing over the home network ("Honey, come out of the Server Dungeon, dinner's ready!)

    2) Do everything you can to make it accessible to someone with a quarter-inch-thick layer of raw hamburger, bread crumbs, and egg clinging to their fingers. This is the biggest challenge. Either you invent a contactless way of typing and mousing, or find typing and pointing devices that can be easily cleaned. Touch-screen is out. I've seen too many monitors smeared with pizza and fried chicken grease, and that was just in an office. Touchpad devices do work if a thin layer of material is between the surface and the user's finger; you could use a piece of thin, tough white plastic (less than 1/16th inch) and seal it into one side of the keyboard tray. If it's waterproof, it can be wiped with a soapy rag like the rest of the kitchen.

    3) Include a TV-and-radio-tuner capable video card. You've just knocked out two devices that you might one day want to have in the kitchen.

    A few good ideas for using (and perhaps selling) the computer: Webcam in baby's room allows Mom to cook dinner and keep an eye on the kid. Grandma's also watching, and Mom is getting some input over AOL-IM on that favorite dish you keep asking for. The radio's on, or maybe MP3s are streaming from your server. And, just maybe, the computer holds a database of recipies.

    I'm starting to envy you. kitchen computer...
    • My only disagreement is here:

      Touch-screen is out.

      You provide the solution here:

      Touchpad devices do work if a thin layer of material is between the surface and the user's finger; you could use a piece of thin, tough white plastic (less than 1/16th inch) and seal it into one side of the keyboard tray. If it's waterproof, it can be wiped with a soapy rag like the rest of the kitchen.

      You can do the exact same thing to a touchscreen, just use clear plastic instead of opaque. In many cases, the clear plastic will actually be easier to find than the white plastic.

      Additionally, a touch screen is much easier to sell to a non-geek wife than a solution that will make it look like there is a computer in the kitchen, which any sort of external pointing device will definately do. It was quite clearly stated in the article that it must not look like there is a computer in the kitchen.

      • No, I don't think the plastic over the touchscreen would work. Most touchscreens I'm aware of use pressure-sensitive arrays. Stiff plastic over the screen would spread out the pressure of contact and may not work at all.

        Not to mention that touchscreens are very expensive, and external USB-PS/2 touchpads are not.

        Touchpads use capacitive sensing, so they can work through a layer of something. I still don't know if a thin plastic card would do the trick, my experience is based on using a touchpad through a piece of paper.

        Also, using a touchscreen can be tiring if it's not the primary input method. You have to raise your hand up off the keyboard and tap the screen whenever you want to move the cursor.
  • by selan ( 234261 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:41PM (#4513642) Journal
    Kitchen computing was also discussed here []. Lots of interesting ideas here.

    I'd still love to have a kitchen system that would combine a recipe database, grocery list, ingredients inventory, meal planning programs, etc. The individual components all exist, but I don't know of any project that has linked them all together. A console like that in the kitchen would be wonderful.

  • I'm thinking of doing the same thing when I move into my new house. I'm thinking of using a Cappuccino [] with a wireless keyboard and mouse (or a touchpad) and a 15 inch flatscreen. It's small enough that I'm thinking of mounting the cappuccino underneath the cabinet (upside down.) Since I'm going to run ethernet through the house, I'll just have a jack in the cabinet.
  • Try a networked stove [] or the internet enabled refrigerator []. The refirgerator link also has an internet enabled air conditioner.
  • I can tell he has no kids in college !
  • One of the new lamp-looking ones might work. It would match the color of most of her other kitchen appliances, and if you really need to, you could figure out a way to mount that hemisphere under a cabinet on a swivel base - just flip the screen around and you'll be set. And getting a Mac in your kitchen will be far easier than getting a beige box/screen in there... something about Apple paying attention to asthetics....
  • Glass Counter (Score:3, Interesting)

    by perljon ( 530156 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @01:03PM (#4513858) Homepage
    I would cut a square into your counter top, and place a glass in the square big enough to see your monitor through. Use sealant on the glass so that it is water resistant. Place the computer in the cabinet directly beneath it. Replace your normal drawer to fit a keyboard/touchpad/ or mouse.

    This solves a couple of issues with other solutions. First, you can use and replace all parts with standard equipment. It keeps the thing completely hidden unless you are looking for it... it looks nice. It is as cheap or expensive as you want... that's what I would do.

    Make sure you get a special saw blade for your counter top as normal blades will chip it.

    You can run your network cable underneath your cabinat and through your floor, if you have a basement/crawspace. Shouldn't be too hard to install power either... (my garbage disposal is broken... thus I have a spare power outlet...)

    I think I'm going to build this.
    • I have seen a desk with a glass top, monitor visible under it, keyboard in a pull-out drawer. There is some company in Boston that sells a kit.

      The MIT prof who has this got it because he has bifocals, and was sick of tilting his head back to look at the screen. When he's not computing, he has a flat, uncluttered desktop.

      Free advice (worth every penny): do *not* use up a cupboard for this. Destroy a kitchen table to hold it instead. You will never have enough cupboard space, nobody does.

  • by EnVisiCrypt ( 178985 ) <> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @02:11PM (#4514553)
    This [] has a flip-down screen, built-in ethernet, tv tuner, and DVD drive. OR, you could be 0ld-sk00l and use this []
  • by rtos ( 179649 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:55PM (#4515750) Homepage
    If you need something small, and don't mind building your own, you should consider the VIA EPIA Mini ITX Mainboard [] :
    "Measuring just
    170mm x 170mm, the VIA EPIA Mini-ITX mainboard is 30% smaller than the smallest Flex-ATX platforms, while maintaining Micro ATX chassis compliancy. It also provides the smallest and coolest processing environment available, including an optional fanless configuration. The VIA Apollo PLE133 North Bridge features integrated graphics with 2D/3D acceleration and DVD Motion Compensation, accompanied by onboard SoundBlaster(TM) and SoundBlaster(TM) Pro compatible audio, delivering key multimedia capabilities. Onboard 10/100 LAN, TV-Out, an additional PCI slot, and a full set of I/O features provide ample connectivity and expansion options."
    Everything from NIC to S-Video all for about $120. Just add 512MB PC133 SDRAM [] for about $55 and either a hard drive or a compact flash card with an IDE->CF adapter []. The "EDEN" Via chips don't even need a fan but still run at up to 667MHz.

    For more info, check out the unofficial source of mini-itx goodness... [].

    Of course, there is still the issue of keyboard, waterproofing, touchscreens, and all that. But getting a nice, cool-running, system that fits in a 7"x7" square is a good start.

  • A few other ideas (Score:3, Informative)

    by dacarr ( 562277 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @04:48PM (#4516421) Homepage Journal
    First and foremost, don't forget a keyboard condom (you know, those plastic things designed to fit the contours of a keyboard) so that, if you spill your coffee/water/whatever on the keyboard, it doesn't affect the circuitry. Since we're on the keyboard, I'd also recommend a raised base - remember, that condom is going to slough the spills out elsewhere, and the spill will expand underneath the keyboard if it's on a flat surface, so do the right thing and have it go into like a catch pan or somesuch. If you have the extra money, have it drain to the plumbing or a floor sink (see below).

    Also, if you can hack this, set up a palm organizer or similar to act as a wireless remote. Sort of a rich-man's X10. (Even better, get an X10 array in your kitchen.) Don't ask me how this would be done, but having this handy would be optimal, especially if you're going to wire your kitchen to be controlled from the computer. (Perhaps future technology or a few hacks could explain how to control your stove's variable controls from your palm.)

    And last, a low-tech idea - if you have the money, get a floor sink/drain. (See also the drip pan for the keyboard above.) An ideal assembly would have it recessed obscurely behind the cabinets, and accessible if you have to clean it - if the wife doesn't want a computer visible in the kitchen, she won't want something like this visible, as this is typically an industrial application. (I'd recommend directly underneath your kitchen sink - this way, the sink can be configured to drain into the floor sink. It's not unlike a typical restaurant or retail setup, so if you've ever worked for (say) McDonald's you probably know how this is done.) The rationale is simple: if you spill, rather than spending 20 minutes mopping it up with a sponge, all you have to do is spend a couple of minutes mopping it into the floor sink. Just make sure you pour water in it once every week to keep the odor down, or let the main sink/dishwasher/etc. just drain to it, but most importantly, keep it clean lest it backs up all over your new kitchen floor. (You can get commercial drain cleaners for this last bit, but you're looking at using a spoonful of drain cleaner once per week to keep it clear.)

  • We've had a Mac in the kitchen for more than a year now, thanks to reading one of those "technology is soooo cool" articles about wireless networking with the Airport. I'm sure you can do all those wireless things with PCs also; my experience just happens to be with a Mac. Here are a few tips, based on experience.
    • Use a laptop. You can protect the keyboard from mess by folding it shut.
    • With a laptop plus wireless, you can also carry it out into the garden when you're ordering bulbs online.
    • Google is great for finding recipes to match your ingredients.
  • I have a computer with a spare 17" monitor in the kitchen. It also has a decent sound card and an old tv tuner. The monitor, speakers, keyboard and mouse don't take up that much room, and the keyboard (it is one of the thin rubber ones that is spill proof and can be rolled up) and mouse can be put on top of the monitor, freeing up counter top space.

    I use it all the time for watching tv or listening to music while I'm cooking, or to chat with some friends while waiting for the odd 5 minutes that some recieps call for. I don't use it to store recipes, but I do use it to look up recipes online. Besides, if you area true geek, you will have the recipes hosted on your own webserver :)

    If it has to be hidden, build a cabnet where the monitor goes and have it able to open up to see the monitor when you are going to use it. Be careful of ventilation, but that woudl be the only concern I can think of, and that isn't important for LCD monitors.
  • by Vrallis ( 33290 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @05:38PM (#4516883) Homepage
    Try looking for keyboards like this one: Go to CyberGuys [] and search for "water keyboard" ("foldable keyboard" doesn't work for some reason). These are completely flexible keyboards, 100% sealed and water-proof, and can be completely rolled up (except for the area directly under the right-hand keypad where the board is). I've actually messed around with these some, and the keys feel usable (sort of like some of the recent "quiet" keyboards).

    I've thought of this as well, but my stickler is trying to find a mouse that is waterproof. It would probably be optical, but with a sealed lens cover, and a completely rubber topside with buttons underneath the rubber.
  • Be careful you don't end up like this [] poor user of Kitchen based computer-appliances.
  • by Telecommando ( 513768 ) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @08:50PM (#4518446)
    How about the LG Internet Refrigerator? []
    Saw one locally and it looked pretty neat. I'm not in the market for one so I didn't pay attention to the price. I recall it also played MP3s and had a TV.
  • =6
  • I was looking into this as well and was inclined towards the Audrey, but then found out about the Gateway Connected Touch Pad. You can mount it under a cabinet (designed for it), runs a flavor of Linux (Midory, from Transmeta),has an HPNA adapter, two USB ports, Touch Screen, and a wireless keyboard. These where pretty much all the things I was looking for. You may not have an issue with wiring, but it was convenient for me to use the existing phone line for broadband access. Having Linux in th box was a big plus for me too; Is there any other OS? : )

  • The problems with a kitchen computer are numerous:

    - Space - No one wants to give up counter space for a computer, and besides it would be a pain to lean over (you don't sit down very much in the kitchen).
    - Cleanliness - a keyboard and mouse would be ruined in short order.
    - Noise - maybe a bit of a minor issue, but it's always better to have less noise.

    I always thought the following would be cool:


    - Motherboard - a mini-ITX motherboard would be perfect (low energy, possible fanless operation, tiny, integrated everything).
    - Enclosure - a slim box that would mount sideways, screwed to the side inside of one of the upper cabinets.
    - Cooling - if heat is a issue, a plenum could run on the inside of the cabinet from holes on the bottom of the cabinet through the enclosure to the ceiling. A fan to draw air through (as well as the power supply, ethernet, etc.) would all be up out of sight
    - Screen - an LCD panel with touch-like screen, mounted portrait layout, right on the cabinet door (so that it is right at eye level, and out of reach of the small kids).
    - Pen - whether it is a true touch screen (like a PDA) or a wired light pen, I don't know, but this would be the primary input device.
    - Speakers & microphone - small, slim models also mounted into the cabinet door.
    - USB/Firewire connections - for quick upload & download to/from a PDA, camera, memory keychain, etc.
    - another PC - running as a server.

    Note that I don't want a hard drive, keyboard, or mouse. The most work in this would be physically installing the screen & speakers in the door so it looks good and the wires flex properly with the door swing, and with designing the motherboard enclosure and plenum. Oh, and wiring everything through the ceiling.


    - X-terminal setup - this machine would be boot-on-LAN, and all storage would be over Ethernet - run as much as possible on the server end.

    - Handwriting recognition - since the machine would never be used for entering in large amounts of data (I don't code while cooking), there is no need for a keyboard (most entry would be on the server, and this would mostly be a "retrieval" device) - but there should be a handwriting code for when you need to enter in text, maybe like Palm's graffiti.

    - Applications - I want this machine to do the following functions
    - Organizer - standard PDA stuff (calendar, address, to-do, notes, calculator, etc.)
    - Recipe database - duh! (and actually useful, given the screen's location)
    - Message centre - retrieve both voice and email messages
    - "Thumbtack" board - leave notes for others in the house (vocal or written)
    - Browser - access to the Web and local files
    - Live Broadcast - you could access TV, radio, etc. with server-based tuners
    - Stored Entertainment - play back mp3, divx, etc.

    No word processing, spreadsheets, photo editing, games, etc. here! Just stuff that makes sense in the kitchen (communication, passive information and entertainment).

    Even if all the pieces were in place for doing everything I want here, there would be a lot of work to build an interface that would pull it all together nicely. All apps would be set up for as little data entry as possible (tapping on buttons should be the main interaction).

    Of course, all this is way beyond my abilities, time, and cash flow to actually do. But that's my dream kitchen machine.
  • They're coming out with a new wireless enabled Tablet PC that would be more or less perfect for this.
    It's got a touchscreen making the keyboard and mouse completely uneccesary, and has an extremely complementary form factor.
  • One of the requirements was the ability to search for recipes. Internet's always an option, but is there anything similar to Meal Master [] out there for Linux? I searched around Freshmeat, Sourceforge, Google, and the Debian package database, and most of what's available are PHP/SQL web-based solutions. I'm setting up a 486 laptop for my wife to enter recipes, and I was hoping for a console-based app instead of having to run Apache, SQL, and all that. Any suggestions?
  • Due to dietary constraints (my family has Celiac disease, so we can't eat wheat, barley, rye, oats, or any derivatives thereof), my family has to make most of our own food. Since I'm the resident geek, I dug through my spartan computer stockpile and came up with a Compaq Concerto laptop. It's 486/33MHz, and it's unique in the fact that it was intended to be a tablet-type computer. The guts are behind the 256 greyscale 640x480 screen, and the keyboard is loosely hinged and can even be removed (when you remove it, you get another PS/2 port). The screen/guts section is held up by a sort of a stand that folds out. The screen is a inductive (I think that's the right term, it's not resistive) touch screen that needs a pen I don't have, but it's got a spare PS/2 port for a handy mouse. With a floppy drive, 4 (or 8, maybe) megs of memory, 300 megabyte-ish hard drive, and 2 PCMCIA slots, it's a rather slick piece of retro computing.

    For software, I've got Windows 95a (it was hard enough to install that over floppies, and I don't have a linux compatible PCMCIA network card), and AbiWord [] for recipes. No fancy databases here, just a folder for the recipe files, and a naming convention for the files themselves. (Food category, food name. Ex: Pizza, thin crust. or Cake, Mayonaisse chocolate).

    That little computer is the most complemented and congratulated computer in my house, and we have no lack of them. After making a recipe, just click the little switch to flip it to a quick standby, fold the keyboard up, and it's nearly footprint-free, due to it's easel type stand.

    I say, think about what you want it to go, and don't over-estimate it. Do you really need it to be a big whiz-bang system? Or, would a simple little older computer like this one work better? (It could go online, over a network card. Phoenix [], a web browser project related to Mozilla, would probably work. (Don't quote me on that, haven't tried, though I use Phoenix for my day-to-day browsing)
    br? In summary, don't overestimate your needs, and don't be afraid to look for older, but viable, solutions. Plus, if you find a Compaq Concerto, either use it, or give it to me. :-)

The primary function of the design engineer is to make things difficult for the fabricator and impossible for the serviceman.