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MIT's Bathroom Server 186

An Anonymous Coward writes: "Some of the undergrads wired Random Hall's (an undergraduate dorm) bathroom system up to the net so that you can visit and see which stalls on which floors are vacant, and if they're in use, how long whoever's been in there. It's a pretty good idea-- you can scout your stall from your dorm room, and watch it to make sure nobody's taken a s$#% there recently."
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MIT's Bathroom Server

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  • i wonder when they'll put in webcams to know who's in the bathroom ;-)
    but in anyway this is a nice idea .. atleast you'll know how approximately how long you'll have to hold it ..... aaaaaaaaaaaaaarh i gotta go NOW
  • by farnsaw ( 252018 ) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @04:24AM (#2244979) Homepage
    Vanderbilt University put up a bathroom monitor page that turned out to be a page to monitor the number of people that would investigate such a page back in the mid '90s.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Most Original!
      The Active Bat location system from AT&T, Cambridge doesn't invade bathrooms but locates people down to 3cm.
      This bathroom sensor would certainly be useful for waiting in line on aircraft...

      lyndsay williams

    • I remember this site...One of the first novel wastes of time and energy I saw exhibited on the web...About the time that the 1st big wave of live webcams came about...
  • by tulare ( 244053 ) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @04:25AM (#2244982) Journal
    Hehe. I mean, this could get interesting. Imagine what pranks you could pull - the most obvious would be to "cheat" the sensors so that the casual user would think that all the bathrooms are in use at some critical time - say 7am on finals week!
    Now waiting to hear the Beowulf joke...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Sheesh. I'm glad I never had to live in a dorm. I absolutely despise using a public restroom to take a crap! In fact, I've *never* done it and don't have any plans to. Don't these dorms have private bathrooms in their rooms? What the hell are we paying so much money for tuition and room and board if the best and brightest of our kids have to use a damned public toilet to take a dump? No siree Bob. I'll wait until I get home or to my hotel. Only in the past 2 years (I'm 25) have I stated using public urinals. I've found it harder and harder to hold. Who knows, maybe some day when I'm 40 I'll have to take a crap as frequently as I have to urinate and I'll learn to use those disgusting public toilets. Until then I'll abstain. (By the way, this is a 100% serious message, I don't crap in public toilets!)
      • the bathrooms in the dorms arent really public in the sense that ones at say a stadium are. There is usually a (in my experience at UT austin) bathroom area in each wing of each floor (stalls + showers), so you are really only sharing with your wing, and you generally all know eachother pretty well.
        • personally, I think I've seen much worse things happen in dorm bathrooms than in any stadium I can think of.
          • heh, well whatever you do, don't ever, and i mean EVER go into the dorm's handicapped stall without adequate footwear...
            • I think that applies to the entire bathroom...I've never gone into my dorm's bathroom (even to take a shower) without a pair of sandals on. You could do some nifty experiments with some of the shit that grows on a dorm bathroom floor.
          • Must be where you go to school.
            The bathrooms in the 2 dorms I lived in at York University were always clean and well kept up.
            Then again, we weren't in with the jocks, so... :)

            I'm sure it has more to do with the attitude of the students going in than anything else: If they're selfish and irresponsible, you'll have crap all over the floors. I sure wouldn't want to room with Mr. Anonymous Retentive above!

      • Don't these dorms have private bathrooms in their rooms?

        You sound like a very angry and constipated young man. I think the only living places as small as a dorm room that has their own toilets are called jail cells. So if you find it increasingly hard to hold, consider taking up drug dealing, turn yourself in, and enjoy your own private bathroom courtesy of your government.

        • Or take up drug dealing, which is about the only way for a student to afford a private bathroom in Caimbridge, Mass these days anyway. Hey kids, try to get apartment style. Sure having five roommates sucks, but you get a semi-private bathroom and kitchen.
        • Don't these dorms have private bathrooms in their rooms?

          We've got private bathrooms at IMSA [], but we're a high school. Still though, I would not be too happy sharing a bathroom with my wing-mates :)
    • by StandardDeviant ( 122674 ) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @04:01PM (#2246064) Homepage Journal
      (denial of shitting)

      seriously, there is such a thing as trusting your remote sensors too much... (the main reason spysats haven't replaces human intelligence sources)

  • A bathroom o-meeter, wonder how they detect if its occupied or not. Hmmm... now if they would only add in remote flushing capabilities, that could make for some really uh "interesting" reactions.
    • Had something similar at TUM a while ago... A computer room had the door opener wired to the serial port of one of the workstations so you could open the door by typing "door" at the command line. The use was that it would allow any authorized users to get into the room at any time via the older serial terminal in front of the room which was connected to the other serial port of the same workstation.

      However, that workstation could also be logged into remotely. And the door opener did its job accompanied by a quite loud buzzer. Now imagine the fun you could have logging in from home and executing that command repeatedly... Well, not much fun since you couldn't see the results, that's probably why nobody did it.

  • Alright! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Auckerman ( 223266 ) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @04:27AM (#2244984)
    For peats sake, Michael, you Slashdotted someones bathroom. You should be ashamed of yourself.
  • by Mr. Neutron ( 3115 ) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @04:30AM (#2244990) Homepage Journal
    So, if I've been wanking for the last 20 minutes, the whole world gets to know about it?
    • Dude, you need to buy better porn!
  • Google's cache... (Score:3, Informative)

    by cperciva ( 102828 ) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @04:34AM (#2244995) Homepage
    Ok, so it's almost a month out of date, but this [] at least lets you know what it looks like.
  • bah (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Site slashdotted, google cache. :b

    This is the text-only version, too.

  • I can't really see what practical use this has, but I'm sure it was a nice excersice getting it up and running.
  • by cerulean ( 99519 ) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @04:50AM (#2245015) Homepage
    if [] is slashdotted, you can look at Random Hall's laundry server [] instead.

    good ol' Random. It's too bad there's no webpage yet about Mjolnir, the homemade big-ass speaker built from a linear induction motor from a dishwasher-sized hard drive, a cone of sheet metal, and a cabinet of medium-density fiberboard.

    what a bunch of 31337 H4X0R5

    • if [] is slashdotted, you can look at Random Hall's laundry server [] instead.

      Great, now not only do I have to walk down the hall to see if the toilet is open, but I will have to check on the laundry room in person to....Thanks /.

      Hope they don't find the page where I track the movements of my 6 girlfriends with hidden GPS sensors, I could be in deep trouble.
    • here [] is a page on Mjolnir, the VVLS (Very Very Large Subwoofer)


      • oops, you're right. I forgot about that one. Mjolnir is great, even if it's not very comfortable to sit in when it's open. and if you play the song "Flat Beat" by Mr. Oizo over Mjolnir at a reasonable volume, at certain parts of the beat loop, the whole room begins to vibrate noticeably.
  • Great (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 02, 2001 @04:50AM (#2245016)
    As if it wasn't enough crap on the net already!
  • The Smell (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if they could add a smell-o-meter to monitor the toxicity of the air.

    - DB
  • What would ever happen then?
    Do we really want to know?

  • Cool (Score:2, Funny)

    but what would be even nicer is if we had a way to find out if the bathroom smelled before we went in. They could probably use the technology that's been developed by Digi Scents [], which would transmit scents over a computer. I think that they've gone out of business (correct me if I'm wrong), but their iSmell Personal Scent Synthesizer would be pretty handy. It basically consists of a speaker-sized computer device that attaches either to the serial or USB port and plugs into a standard electrical outlet. And with a click of a mouse, the device would release naturally based vapors. Now that'd be cool!
    • Re:Cool (Score:2, Funny)

      by windi ( 231689 )
      Oh yhea, then, we would not only have to suffer through the smell while in the bathroom, we could transmit the smell everywhere in case we miss it. :-)

      Really Great. ;-)
  • by imevil ( 260579 ) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @05:16AM (#2245038)

    It would be great to know how they implemented the monitoring in order to apply it to other useful daily needs. For example:

    • HTCPCP: Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol (RFC2324 [])
    • Coke machine monitoring: I remember the frustration of being in the computer lab, willing to get a cheap coke and having to go to the next building (coke next to the computer lab was damn expensive) and then finding NO COKE in the coke machine.
  • Yeah slashdot labels this as funny when it's done by some college students, but I'm sure you won't think it's all that funny once Microsoft start bundling the same functionality into the next version of windows.. (Windows TP?)
  • by G-funk ( 22712 ) <> on Sunday September 02, 2001 @05:46AM (#2245062) Homepage Journal
    Am I the only one who thinks that slashdotting a bathroom is a bad idea?

    "Mr peters, it's happening again. Slashdot has ddos'd our shitter. Dave and Frank have been locked in for 30 minutes since it went down... Mr Peters?..."
  • A Microphone. No, I'm serious! Stream the audio out of the bathroom, and set up a greatest, err, hits page.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Wouldn't it be nice to let the computer
    unlock the door when someone has spent
    to much time...

  • Next step is GPS for the toilets. You get to find out which is the closest open toilet to your dorm room, accurate to the foot.

    • Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't GPS now limited by the DoD? A friend recently told me to withing 30 meters, but that seems pretty high to me.

      Yeah, some I'm in a pedantic mood. Sue me.

  • Statistics? (Score:2, Funny)

    by MikeyNg ( 88437 )

    I wonder what kind of statistics you could gather from this data... You could see which gender spends more time on the can. (I vote men) Simple statistical analysis would be neat. I'd like to know the arithmetic, geometric, and Gaussian means for duration. If you really applied yourself, you could probably differentiate between number one and number two, as that would most likely produce some sort of binodal distribution!

    Does it also differentiate between riding the saddle and driving the porcelain bus? Those would make some interesting stats as well. OK, now I'm just being gross. It's late.

  • Alright; It's a cool idea, well implemented and well suported. The question then automatically becomes: how does it violate the DMCA?
  • This thing reminds me of a rather sick use of a webcam for porn. Without mentioning the site, which was listed as a "sponsor" in one of the MP3 download sites, this site allows users to use its downloadable software for peeping into toilets. These kind of sick applications should not be allowed to exist. But then, enforcing such a thing is just going to be difficult...Talk about technology advancements and humanity!

  • It really is useful! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The reason that you need a bathroom server at Random is that there are only 2 bathrooms per floor (14 residents), and the bathrooms are private (1 person at a time, usually). So on busy weekday mornings, it is some times necessary to go to a bathroom on a different floor. With the bathroom server, you can tell which bathrooms on other floor are open before you go down there. It can make the difference between being on time to class and being late (and thus getting those dirty looks from your profs).

    There was a bathroom server before this one that my friend Ben built. We only had about half the dorm's bathrooms wired though and no pretty graphics interface. But we also didn't worry about being /.ed. :P The institute ripped out our wiring, but I glad to see Jim, Riad and company did such a great job with this new version.

    The laundry server is the coolest, still. It was down for a few weeks last year and I think that half the dorm actually stopped doing laundry. :)

    And Mjolnir literally shakes the whole dorm when you turn it up. Good times.

    Ol' Random Fogie
  • Privacy? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zachary Kessin ( 1372 ) <> on Sunday September 02, 2001 @09:06AM (#2245219) Homepage Journal
    You know with all the privacy advocates around here you would think someone would think this is an invation. I mean how long you are using the can for is a rather private thing. OK yes your dorm mates may know from time to time as they wait for you. But does the entire world need to know when and for how long you are using the bathroom.
    • Re:Privacy? (Score:3, Funny)

      by jareds ( 100340 )

      But does the entire world need to know when and for how long you are using the bathroom.

      It doesn't show who's using the bathroom, just that it's in use. It's not like you have to login with a username before you can get into the bathroom.

    • Dear Lord (Score:1, Troll)

      by tswinzig ( 210999 )
      You know with all the privacy advocates around here you would think someone would think this is an invation. I mean how long you are using the can for is a rather private thing. OK yes your dorm mates may know from time to time as they wait for you. But does the entire world need to know when and for how long you are using the bathroom.

      And how exactly would the people looking at a webpage know it's YOU? All they know is SOMEONE is in the bathroom stall #1.

      By the way, if you want privacy, don't use a PUBLIC FUCKING BATHROOM!

      • By the way, if you want privacy, don't use a PUBLIC FUCKING BATHROOM!

        It is the bathroom of a dorm building. I would guess that the folks who live there have to use it. Unless they want to run down the street to go.

    • The next step is to require logging into the stall. That way everyone will know for certain who you are.
    • Re:Privacy? (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tim Macinta ( 1052 )
      You know with all the privacy advocates around here you would think someone would think this is an invation.

      Heh heh... let's just hope they're not tracking their users by the cookies they've eaten.

  • This has got to be a first! We've been /.ing sites for a long time but now we've /.ed a bathroom! I'm glad I don't live in that dorm, as we all know it can take upto a day or two for a /.ing to wear off. ;)

    Seriously though. This is like many other things on the internet: kind of cool, kind of weird, and completely pointless. We've seen wired coffee makers, Coke machines, and now this. Cool! Where can I find plans to wire my mousepad to figure out which part my mouse is over most of the time? Or how to wire my fridge so people on the other side of the planet can find out the average fat content or my frozen meatloaf?

    • You can thank the push to IPv6.

      Yeah, the coke machine cute. The model train was fun. But this one is just dumb. It is right up there with a Internet Ready: Referator, Stove, Microway or BBQ Grill.

      This may have been a cute prank in the dorm. But it shows the waste of a good class-A that MIT is horriding.

      ICANN/ARNN needs to cleanup these wastes prior to slamming us into another poorly thought out idea... new TLD (a lawyer money maker) or IPv6 (new money for Cisco).
  • No CGI? (Score:3, Funny)

    by wirefarm ( 18470 ) <`jim' `at' `'> on Sunday September 02, 2001 @10:26AM (#2245342) Homepage

    Jim in Tokyo
  • Thanks, Michael, finally the crapflooders have an article where they can go nuts without the risk of being off-topic. I have to say Slashdot has proven to be a very inclusive society indeed.
  • Last night my friends and I were up until 2:30 am setting up our bathroom server! We were trying to get debian on a P133, 420 meg hard drive to be a mail server that would go on the window ledge in our bathroom, (for no reason at all other than to block outsider's view of the inside), giving all of us email addresses. As well as a small write up at This article is like an insult to our failure :)

    Hopefully we will have finished the project by late Sunday, so we can say things like:

    "Dude, have you flushed the logs yet?"

  • The Wired House (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pausz ( 218832 ) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @12:48PM (#2245538)
    Check out []. They wired their entire house onto the net, including their:

    1. Doorbell usage
    2. Frontdoor camera
    3. Trashbin scanner
    4. Cat tracker
    5. Microwave usage
    6. Fridge openings and temperature
    7. Phone usage
    8. and yes: Toilet usage

    They measure how often the toilet gets flushed, and for how long (I guess you can work out statistics on "difficult flushing jobs" :-). They also measure the temperature in the place; around 14.5 C (58.1 F). Not really a place you want to hang out for too long...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    for a mirror in a bathroom server?
  • ..the privacy crowd on this one? I don't mind my personal information being sold, but man, no one needs to know this...
  • Oh shit. The bathroom's been slashdotted.
  • Sodalord (Score:2, Informative)

    As an entering frosh at MIT, I've already seen bathroom and laundry. But it wasn't until I moved to 3rd East that I came upon []. We've got a really old soda machine in the hall, and it's connected to a server. Log in to your account, get your soda, put it on your tab. Check out the hall's habits, or any member thereof, on the web. Fun.
  • Our Bathroom Server (Score:5, Informative)

    by jimatjtan ( 221666 ) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @03:16PM (#2245969)
    Wow. We weren't ready for Slashdot. We knew that our server couldn't take more than a handful of requests at once, and were planning on fixing that before sending anything off to Slashdot.

    I moved the IP address to a faster machine that performs proper caching of the generated images, etc, so this one should have absolutely no problem handling the load (assuming that our building's network can take it).

    Don't forget to try out the finger interface, much preferred by all here in the dorm. "finger" to see it.

    One of these days we'll get around to putting up a page describing how the hardware and software works for both that and our friendly laundry server., for Random Nerds
  • Hacked (Score:4, Funny)

    by yusing ( 216625 ) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @04:18PM (#2246099) Journal
    As I write, one stall has been "in use" for 47 minutes.

    Somebody better go check for either a body, or an alligator clip....
  • Your room mate getting on line and knowning this is you.

    430 has been in use for 63 min
    Boy howdy that would be embarrasing as all hell.

  • Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase

    "Boy do you have a crappy server"

  • ...a Bowl-euf cluster of these?
  • How about something to detect water on the seats? Too many times in our dorms people would go into the stalls to take a leak and never lift the ring (I guess they were shy about using the more exposed urinals). Even worse was this Turkish guy who didn't use toilet paper...he carried a watering can in with him. Only problem was that he'd end up leaving water all over the seat and the floor, and never wiped it up.

    Another thing would be a TP detector...if you knew you were going to take a particularly nasty dump, you could know which stalls didn't have enough TP to take care of you.

    Now, for wired bathroom humor:
    *Gives a whole new meaning to "core dump".
    *Makes you glad you don't have to manually rotate logs.
    *The fact that they implemented finger on this is just so wrong.
    *Gives new meaning to "computer whiz".
    *Is there anything to prevent buffer overflow?
    *Is this application sold with "per seat" licensing?
    *Hope their pipes can handle the load...
  • FP! (Score:5, Funny)

    by sharkey ( 16670 ) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @06:28PM (#2246460)
    Great, now the cry of "First Dump!" will echo up and down the dorm halls.
  • This definitely sounds like MIT. Like the coke machine way back when.

  • My son (he is not MIT student yet, only high school :)) suggested to install reservation system. Before you head off, change the state to something like "On my way..."

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27