I want to be able to have something either on my desk, or stuck to my monitor which indicates what my current presence level is (e.g. available, do not disturb, working but please interrupt me, etc.), fed by my Instant Messenger presence.
I’ve only been able to find a single buy-it-and-go option: the Ambient Orb, which looks great but is pricey beyond belief.
The next thing I looked at (or rather, was pointed at, by Gareth) were scrolling LED signs and badges like those on digitalbadge.com (there are hundreds of scrolling LED items on eBay), but the messages on these only seem to be updateable by hand or infra-red, and my limited IR gadget experience has led me not to rely on it in any serious way.
A bit of Googling led to me what looked like a marvellous solution which used some kit from x10.com and lava lamps, and someone else’s followup on the same article which used the same x10 kit plus some different-coloured lightbulbs. Sadly, the Firecracker automation kit doesn’t seem to be available in the UK (not named as “Firecracker” at any rate), but it could just be that I couldn’t find it – the x10.co.uk website is one of the worst retailer websites I’ve ever had the misfortune to use.
Obviously there are other uses for ambient information, such as build status of your projects, outstanding priority one bugs and so on. It turns out this is called Extreme Feedback (which links to a very good article on developertesting.com the URL of which has changed and can now be found here), but again these mostly seem to use the Ambient Orb – there must be something else out there, or a kit available in the UK to help me do something like this, surely?