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Hardware Hacking

Homebrew Digital Picture Frame w/Remote 110

feagle814 writes "I've always wanted to create one of those digital picture frames out of an old laptop, and on the heels of a recent slashdot story, I've written up my Digital Picture Frame project. What's unique about this particular incarnation of the digital picture frame is that mine includes a homebrew remote control recognizer made out of a programmable IC, the Microchip PIC16F628. The article discusses everything from design considerations to custom slideshow software, all the way to final presentation, with lots of photos along the way."
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Homebrew Digital Picture Frame w/Remote

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  • Nothing New (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Performaman ( 735106 )
    I saw one of these made with an old Powerbook Duo about 3 or 4 years ago.
    • Made this a long time ago .. Made a webby also to select album, restart slideshow (stop, clear, start) Even a page with thumbs to select to display. (pressing the thumb didn't change my browser screen, just the LCD)
  • by Zorilla ( 791636 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @12:11AM (#11189239)
    I've heard of projects like these before, but isn't there the huge problem of only being able to view the picture from directly ahead, seeing as it's usually a passive matrix screen? It seems like it defeats the purpose of having one as a background decoration.
    • It's not too hard to find an active-matrix screen on a P200-vintage laptop, actually - by the time they came out it seems a lot of people were realizing that the old passive matrix screens just weren't worth the trouble. The only laptops I've seen with the old passive-matrix screens on 'em in that vintage were the real low-end consumer units (Compaqs, actually) - everything else I've worked on that's that old has had an active-matrix screen, but I pretty much only see Dells. I'd worry more about getting a l
    • I have a wallflower http://wallflower-systems.com/ [wallflower-systems.com]. Its well crafted (very nice wooden frame), silent and with an active matrix display - the images are great. Viewing angle is wide.

      And its linux :-).

      On a P166!

      • So let me get this straight!

        You bought a $700 system which runs linux on a P166. You got ripped off dude.

        I bought a Toshiba-Libretto for $50. Silent as a whisper.

        I'll have to shell out some dough for a wooden frame, but I'm pretty sure it will be under $600. LOL
    • huge problem of only being able to view the picture from directly ahead

      This is why I hate the laptop based frame projects. They will always have a substandard display- #1, laptops are designed to be viewed from a very specfic angle, and #2, folks will typically used older, even more crappy laptops for such a project.

      I made a micro ITX based frame [epiacenter.com] using a very nice samsung open frame LCD kit. Much nicer than a laptop based frame.
  • Anyone know of other good projects to do with old laptops? I've got about 4 in various states of disrepair, mostly not working, but the screens on all of them are good.

    I may try to do something like this, though.

    Jerry
    http://www.syslog.org/ [syslog.org]

  • Analog (Score:5, Funny)

    by Icarus1919 ( 802533 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @12:17AM (#11189269)
    Digital is cool and all, but when I was in boy scouts we built an analog picture frame. Man, you should see the technical specs on it, amazing.
  • by anamexis ( 753041 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @12:20AM (#11189290)
    Watch out!
    " I'd seen do-it-yourself picture frames on Slashdot [slashdot.org] before,"

    He's trying to trick us into Slashdotting Slashdot through a link back!
  • IR control (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RedWizzard ( 192002 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @12:23AM (#11189312)
    What's unique about this particular incarnation of the digital picture frame is that mine includes a homebrew remote control recognizer made out of a programmable IC, the Microchip PIC16F628.
    Perhaps it's unique because it's unnecessarily complex? I'm using LIRC under Linux on my home theatre PC for remote control with a homebrew receiver that connects to a serial port. The reciever is very simple (see circuit diagram on this page [lirc.org]). I guess if you're determined to use Windows you might need to build this sort of PIC-based solution, but surely the LIRC based solution is cheaper and easier? No wonder his "Linux loving friends" gave him a lot of flak for going with Win 98.
    • Re:IR control (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rolo Tomasi ( 538414 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @01:10AM (#11189528) Homepage Journal
      Heard of WinLIRC [sourceforge.net]?

      So yes, the IR receiver wasn't really necessary (maybe he did it for the learning experience though, or maybe he can use the code for something else).

      But Win98, WTF? This is probably the first picture frame that has to be rebooted daily.

    • Re:IR control (Score:2, Interesting)

      by feagle814 ( 640886 )
      Well the reason I went with my PIC-based IR receiver was that I had already built it several months ago, when I did not find any of the remote control solutions suitable for my purposes. When I created it back then, I re-used a custom scripting engine that I had made. All I did this time around was solder together a second IR/PIC combo unit (which took me a half hour) and I had a working remote receiver. Granted, I had to tweak the code to move from a least-squares recognition algorithm to a pulse-tolera
      • Well the reason I went with my PIC-based IR receiver was that I had already built it several months ago, when I did not find any of the remote control solutions suitable for my purposes. When I created it back then, I re-used a custom scripting engine that I had made. All I did this time around was solder together a second IR/PIC combo unit (which took me a half hour) and I had a working remote receiver. Granted, I had to tweak the code to move from a least-squares recognition algorithm to a pulse-toleran

  • Why not? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CodeYoddler ( 674760 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @12:23AM (#11189315)
    Why not just take a portable dvd player (7" for $129) and put a DVD into it filled with all your favorite pictures, then it'll display them. Then you just mount the thing in a frame.
    • Re:Why not? (Score:1, Flamebait)

      Perhaps because ready made solutions are not fun?

      There are some of us for who it is the struggle of solving a problem, rather than the solution, that is the enjoyable part.
      • Re:Why not? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Bill_Royle ( 639563 )
        Yet if it's ready-made and mass-produced, does a problem really exist, and is there really a struggle involved?
        • Yes it does, you can't really use much from the mass-produced version since it's a different design. The two devices are only superficially the same, since your goal isn't to copy the mass produced version part-for-part.
    • He didn't do that because he wanted to find a new use for his old laptop he received. He wanted to do it because he was impressed with some of the other laptop-monitor picture frames that he've seen before, and wanted to do the same.

      A portable DVD player with pictures on a DVD might had been an easier approach, but the poster showed that with an old laptop, a remote control, and some software, one can achieve the same effect.

      Besides, these projects are cool. Taking a device and using it differently than

    • Re:Why not? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Snard ( 61584 ) <mike.shawalukNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday December 27, 2004 @09:18AM (#11190907) Homepage
      Why not just take a portable dvd player (7" for $129) and put a DVD into it filled with all your favorite pictures, then it'll display them. Then you just mount the thing in a frame.

      Have you tried this? (I did.) The picture quality on the low-end 7" DVD players is crap. Even an 800x600 LCD screen would look wonderful compared to one of the cheap DVD player screens.

      IMHO.
  • by Saven Marek ( 739395 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @12:30AM (#11189338)

    The final battery connection
    Of course, we all know that messing with Lithium-Ion batteries is just asking for a chemical acid explosion.


    This is actually urban myth. Only old first style lithium batteries from earlier in the 1980s would explode or be capable of igniting on touch with the atmosphere.

    Lithium Ion are exactly that, the Lithium are stored as IONS in the solution and are not reactive.
    • by YggdrasilOS ( 713459 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @01:02AM (#11189502) Homepage

      I think you have your terms confused:

      Isotopes are stable atom configurations which have an electically neutral charge, differing only in the number of neutrons.

      Ions, on the gripping hand, are chemically excited atoms which have gained or lost valence electrons (according to their electronegativity) and become reactive.

      This is, in fact, what makes Li+ ions useful for battery cells in the first place. Whether alkaline, NiCad , NiMH, or LiIon, chemical batteries all work on the principle that the sustained chemical reaction will produce a useful amount of electricity.

      When we "recharge" our batteries, we simply apply current to the battery in such a way as to reverse the chemical reaction.

      What they've done is introduced stabilizers to retard the rate of reaction, so that rather than exploding upon atmospheric exposure, the battery solution simply gets warm.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    nothing burnt out, no smells other than new circuit board smell. The thing didn't even have any dust in it for such an old thing.

    Did you think of maybe using a multimeter or some other basic testing equipment to see why it didn't work?

  • by zippity8 ( 446412 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @12:37AM (#11189378)
    The funny thing is that I've been meaning to do a project just like this.

    Except, unless you're looking for a reason to make your life more difficult, Windows IR software is abundant. Hardware is even cheaper, and not very complex. I remember using Girder (back then it was free, there might still be some sites around that offer the older version), and this captures IR codes from a COM port, and feeds specific keystrokes to a program of choice. MUCH easier than the route that the submitter mentioned.

    Look up the LIRC project (in the FAQ somewhere) for schematics on a IR receiver if you really want to put the work in, or you can even buy some pre-made receivers. I bought one for $5 including a remote a few years back.

    To get this running under Linux is easy enough, and well documented throughout the web. But to get it under windows can be just as easy.

    Basically, to get this going under Windows (as the submitter chose, for some reason), you need to just load Windows XP and use the preloaded My Pictures screensaver (or some other alternative, I'm sure that they are abundant). Take an extra 10 minutes to mount a frame on a LCD (removed from the cover), and then set the screensaver to kick in 1 minute after booting (no password, not that it really matters). And you're done, ready to enjoy the rest of your christmas break with family or friends.
  • by nsuccorso ( 41169 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @12:37AM (#11189379)
    Folks, I realize that digital picture frames are "cool", but may I please present another perspective?

    Until we figure out a way of generating clean, renewable power, perhaps this isn't the time to be coming up with more and more ways of consuming power for trivial applications, such as digital picture frames and blowup lighted Christmas figures that run an electric blower motor all night(!) Just consider it, please.

    It's just as interesting to come up with ways of reducing household power consumption.
    • And how much power did you waste by posting this comment to slashdot?
    • depends. maybe he removed the need to order the newspaper every day by this.

      or maybe he lives in a house that's heated by electricity anyways.

    • Maybee we should concentrate on producing MORE energy cleanly instead of trying to save on consumption. Cause saving on a consumption is fighting a lost battle.

      You can not stop the growing need for power in evolving nations. I just wish the oil would run out once and for all. Finally forcing mass production of solar cells, hydrogen power, and methanol fuel cells.

      It'll be a cold day in hell when I turn off my PC. As long as hell doesn't freeze over I'll be tapping it's heat for power.

      I've got a webs
    • clean power? We have it. It's called nuclear. Trouble is, it's too 'imperfect' for all the types that cry 'save the earth!' at every inoppurtune moment.

      If it wasn't for the idiot tree huggers who put a stop to nuclear power in the US, our air would be a lot cleaner right now.

      • If it wasn't for the idiot tree huggers who put a stop to nuclear power in the US, our air would be a lot cleaner right now.

        Yes, I'm sure the reason that nuclear power is because of "tree huggers", a group who has had little political power at its peak and none at all for the past decade or so. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that nuclear power takes away from the profits of the oil and coal industries, and that the GOP is deep in the pockets of same. No, that whole link between Saudi and the

        • Yes, and the 8 years of Utopia Clinton Presidency got us so much advance in clean energy. I don't recall him doing anything other than pander to the enviornmental lobby.

          You make accusations where there is no actual fact. How about we point some blame at Clinton for not proposing solutions for 8 years. Or even attempting to get Osama when he was offered on a plate (at least) twice.

          All the same kind of shortcomings could be applied to either party or a given politican. The parent post was generally correct.
          • You make accusations where there is no actual fact. How about we point some blame at Clinton for not proposing solutions for 8 years. Or even attempting to get Osama when he was offered on a plate (at least) twice.

            Hahahahaha you're response is "Blame Clinton hey let's change the subject and talk about Osama!" Oh man, you're a walking cliche, aren't you?

            Why do Republicans hate responsibility?

            BTW: Cute kids.

        • Hey, you forgot to blame 'haliburton', didn't say the term 'neocon', only implied a 'conspiracy' and left out the part how the republicans have been planning this all since the 70's, as proved by memos 'recreated' for CBS and dan rather.

          Really, too many things missing from the standard moonbat screed to qualify for full points. You're almost there, though!
          • So again you have nothing to say in reply besides offering up monumentally stupid straw-men? Ok, so we'll take it as fact then that you (a) disdain responsibility when things are the fault of the Republicans and (b) things are the fault of the Republicans.

            If the Republicans wanted nuclear power, we'd have it. They're in the pockets of the oil and coal industries, so we don't.

            Gotcha.

      • If it wasn't for the idiot tree huggers who put a stop to nuclear power in the US, our air would be a lot cleaner right now.

        It would help, though, if the energy industry wasn't composed mostly of stubborn fossil fuel conglomerates that own the wells, the pipelines, the refineries, the plants, and everything, all supported by heavy government subsidies and a finger in every bureaucratic pie. Oh, and if it didn't cost so much to build and maintain a nuclear plant.

        Environmentalists (not all of whom can be
        • It just doesn't make financial sense to fossil fuel-based energy companies to spend tons of money on a plant that makes their existing plants and infrastructure obsolete and has the effect of making their product, energy, cheaper.

          That's a good point, and I'm sure it's responsible for some of the stagnation. You must also keep in mind, though, that in the many de-regulated markets that exist in the country, new companies (or ones from different regions) can come in, build a new plant, and undercut old comp
    • This is why digital ink systems [slashdot.org] are going to be very important in the future. They only use power when the image changes.
    • It's just as interesting to come up with ways of reducing household power consumption.

      Here's one... Power your home from a large bank of deep-cycle car/truck batteries. Then, take the drained batteries to work, put them under your desk, and plug them in to a charger. There... You're greatly reduced your household power consumption.

      Personally, while I agree that household appliances should be more effecient, advocating a stop to progress is insane. In your world, everyone should throw away their Tivos

  • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @12:53AM (#11189462)
    This isn't a bad idea, but I was hoping he was using the PIC to drive the panel directly. It'll cost a few bucks to keep this picture frame running.

    I've driven VGA monitors from a FPGA before, but never a LCD panel directly - they're typically nightmares to work with. It strikes me that a digital picture frame might be a great project for someone to work on, and a practical application for some of the stuff over at OpenCores [opencores.org].

    A low-end Spartan FPGA would do the trick (or maybe even something more lowly than that). You'd need to implement a driver core for SVGA or a DVI interface, a interface to a compactflash card, some glue logic for that, and not much else. And a PCB to hold it together.

    Unfortunately I'm much too busy to tackle something like this myself right now, but if anyone would like to try it, I could point them in the right direction to get started.
    • I have this one: xapp381 [xilinx.com]. They don't make them any more, but the manual explains how to drive the LCD, and that with a lowly CPLD. I can imagine that a complete LCD controller for a modern panel would be not out of reach [opencores.org], to follow your link. This was tested on Altera, though, not on anything Xilinx. In previous life I experimented with some chip-on-glass embedded LCD controllers, they worked fine for my needs (wristwatch-sized computer.)

      And now strange, I also would not mind putting together something

    • It would be even easier to skip the SVGA or DVI part and go directly to LVDS, which is the native protocol for LCD screens. It would also be a lot cheaper, since when you buy an LCD Monitor you pay for the panel AND the DVI/VGA to LVDS converter. Doing a direct LVDS connection would also save you more money since you could simply get a used laptop panel, some of which go for $25 US on eBay.
  • by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @12:55AM (#11189469)
    1. Modification For Direct Power +2
    2. IR Controller made with a PIC +8
    3. Powered By Windows -9

    Total 1 Point on the coolnes factor

    Tech Note: 1 additional point could be gained
    farily easily with the addition of a blue led.
  • the RF12F675 makes a nice transmitter.
  • My crazy Uncle Tony built a dynamic picture frame. It was way cooler than these fancy lcd dealies you're hearing about these days. He printed out a bunch of pictures on one of those old sk00l dot matrix printers that used the paper sheets with the holes on the sides, that you had to rip off after it printed; you know what I'm talking about. Anyways, he printed a bunch of pictures on a long sheet. Then he put em in his dynamic picture frame, which allowed you to switch pictures using a crank that rolled
  • Electronic paper, if we can ever get it into high quality, and I do mean high quality, that would be pretty cool for digital picture frames. But I'm assuming electronic paper uses less electricity than a monitor does. Correct me if I'm wrong.
  • I did a very similar project. I hacked a laptop so I could fold it around back to back with the screen facing outward and the keyboard facing the wall and put it all into a frame. It has a wireless pcmcia card to control it remotely (changing the slide show). I use "anyplace control" for this, a cheaper alternative to PC Anywhere. The only wire is run through a small hole in the wall concealed behind the "picture" which exits at the baseboard and leads to the power supply hidden behind some furniture.
  • I'd love something like this, but I'm far too busy/lazy to build my own. A business opportunity for someone, perchance?
  • This sounds like an interesting (if redundant :P) project to muck around with. I just have a few points.
    • What about the noise from the fan? My old laptop is as loud as hell, even when I'm not running anything
    • It glows! I don't really want to have to turn off my picture frame, a passive LCD, or a jury rigged backlight dimmer/switch might improve the idea.
    • Resolution. I like to view my pictures as prints, mainly because of the extra detail you get. 72x72 resolution isn't exactly my idea of high quality. I l
  • And to think that someone spent large sums of money and took many months to make things like this (and failed [storybox.com], ceding the business to competitors [ceiva.com])!

    Personally, I liked the Temple of the Monkey God [washington.edu].

  • A few years ago I bought up some of those Virgin WebPlayers [dougpile.com] and I-Openers [adamlotz.com] from eBay and other places, and proceeded to hack into them with the instructions provided.

    The WebPlayer I'm using in the living room has Windows 95 on it reduced down using LitePC [litepc.com], and has Opera [opera.com] running as a web client. Also installed is Identafone, a piece of software that will display caller-id information on the screen. Add a cheap USB network adapter, plug in the phone line to the modem, and fire up the web browser to bring up
  • I built a simple powerframe. Works pretty well - good enough to impress friends.

    Powerframe (Powerbook 5300c) [jaxed.com]
  • This link was posted to the freevo-users list in October:

    http://chrismetcalf.net/blog/archives/2004/10/16/d igital-picture-frame/ [chrismetcalf.net]

    That also uses an old laptop.
  • I've created a site with a bunch of resources for making Digital Picture Frame. http://www.likelysoft.com/hacks/pictureframes.shtm l [likelysoft.com] You can visit and check out the resources or submit your own project if you'd like. -vivacharlietuna

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