Plat’Home, maker of eco-friendly and small Linux servers, sponsored a contest recently, in which entrants were challenged to come up with projects that used Linux.’s Dave Rosenberg reported on the successful results of the “Will it work” contest. The winner received a $600 OpenMicroServer to test their ideas. The winner:

Gordon Smith of Lakewood, Colo., wanted to do a Linux project and also had a chicken coop. Obviously, they go together. His system is built around an inexpensive Webcam with infrared capability to see in the dark, along with a computer vision library to count the chickens.

To determine when nocturnal predators come out, the server runs simple network time protocol (SNTP). A stepper motor controller and power supply from a document scanner are used to open and close the coop door. The combination should make sure the door closes after all the chickens are home to roost. I love the image of raccoons trying to outsmart Linux.

Other winning ideas were a system to control a farm’s irrigation system, a Home Utility Support System, and an on-board computer for a trimaran sailboat.

There’s obviously a lot of creativity and innovation in the open source community. Have you created any pet projects using Linux? Anything a little outside of the norm, like the winning chicken surveillance system? I’d like to hear about the, and I’m sure other TechRepublic members would too (and of course, offer their expert opinions).