DIY picture frame better than store bought

[Daniel's] homemade digital picture frame looks great, it’s well-built, and it has a nice set of features. It’s not made from a broken laptop and he didn’t build it around a microcontroller. Instead, he saved a 19″ LCD monitor with a burnt out back light caused by the extremely common blown capacitor problem. Twenty dollars on eBay landed him a small industrial single board computer to drive the system.

The software end of things is a curious conglomeration but considering the hardware constraints [Daniel] made some great choices. He’s using MS-DOS along with LxPic for slide shows and Mplayer for video. The rest of the software gets him up on the home network and enables IR remote control via LIRC. All o this makes for a beautiful product (video after the break includes some Doom footage) and the package is pulling just 40W when in use.

Comments

  1. MrX says:

    MS-DOS? Seriously?

  2. Brennan says:

    OK, good for him that he just happened to have a single board computer laying around. But for anyone else trying to recreate this, SBC’s are not cheap, even on ebay.

  3. Thomas says:

    Yea why pirate ms dos when he could have atleast used freedos

  4. Zengar says:

    @Brennan: it says up there that Daniel didn’t have the SBC lying around, rather that he picked it up for $20 on Ebay.

  5. Zengar says:

    okay, that’ll teach me to trust the writeup, following the link, Daniel says that he had it just lying around. may bad, as well as Mike Szczys’

  6. Zengar says:

    And then reading further I realized that it was his first board that he just had lying around, but that the board in the final insallation was indeed bought for $20. I think I’ll shut up now.

  7. roswellaliens says:

    1) locate a broken aspire one with the extemely common blown power connector fault (dead short between pin and Gnd)
    2) repair connector by removing the shell, pins etc then if short still present cut the board down level with the Gnd edge pin and sand until clean.
    3) retest, if short gone solder wires to +V and Gnd pins where the fuse sits.
    4) install now-fixed board with drive, flash etc and screen, etc into picture frame.
    Simplez :-)

    I am currently working on a version of this where eight identical boards (512MB/250GB) sit in a shuttle case with a 19V 20A power supply to drive them.
    Cooling is relatively simple, the existing fans are preserved with a piece of metal to act as the heatsink and supports for the drives and GPUs with air blowing through the case from front to back.

  8. osgeld says:

    I just got a micro itx 1.6ghz atom board for <50$ on ebay so there is plenty of options out there

    aside from some repairs and some nice frame work, he basicly plugged a monitor in to a PC?

    mk, though it does look really nice

  9. tidux says:

    Can somebody explain how he’s running all of those programs at once on a single-tasking operating system?

  10. Haku says:

    Smashed screen Asus Eee’s and the ilk are a good source of PC mainboards for this kind of hack, they have memory/SSD/wifi already so there’s not a lot extra you need to add. Their low power consumption is welcome too.

    I’m looking forward to full colour e-ink displays becomming cheap and commonplace as they’d make ideal electronic picture frames because they should’t need power to hold an image.

  11. cmholm says:

    As Thomas pointed out, FreeDOS is out there, w/ TCP/IP support. To reduce power consumption further, I’d be tempted to *not* fix the tube back light, and go with the “LED LCD backlight replacement” hack.

    If one were willing to risk only a little more cash, considerable power savings could be realized with a (*cough*) suitable low cost micro-controller board mated to the “PICASO VGA/SVGA Graphics Controller” (3.0-3.6V @90mA) at Sparkfun.

  12. cmholm says:

    Re: the “saving” I mentioned… in this case, it’d be a watts v. coding hours trade-off.

  13. Franklyn says:

    what video after the break ?

  14. Osgeld says:

    @cmholm

    only if you like wasting your time on watching pixels draw, I have a DEC386 laptop which is doing 640×480 256 colors with IBM (ms) PC dos over a wifi bridge and has basic graphic internet

    that is a 32 bit 25mhz cpu with a meg of video ram and 4 meg of system ram … and its drag ass on even basic pages / images

    as stated above I snagged a netop board with a crappy but snappy Intel integrated (shit) video atom based pci express / sata / ddr2 for < 50 bucks from a "new pull" ebay buy it now deal, bang for the buck, and to get the job done, its silly IMO to seek lesser systems out for this type of function, when for minimally more you can do everything a modern pc is expected to

    I also snagged a 17 inch Piece Of Shit LCD screen last year for 20 bucks, yellow case and holes in the base, but it works out of the box, no repair no fuss

    not that I am not displeased with this project, but seriously, its a flat screen connected to a PC, running MS-DOS like its a big deal, CPM and DOS were the dominate OS system for the majority of years on the PC of choice, hell my dual core x86 amd runs friggin MS-DOS 6.22 to this date nativity, and there is a reason for that!

  15. cmholm says:

    @Osgeld

    Re: drawing speed, point well taken. I pay $0.35/kwh, so my power saving fantasies sometimes get the better of me.

  16. MoJo says:

    The problem with MS DOS is that the CPU never idles. It busy loops all the time. It doesn’t power down any of the hardware either.

    I don’t know if FreeDOS does that as well but if he switched to an OS with proper low power states he could probably get the power consumption down by 10W.

    I added a LDR to an LED clock I made so that it can sense when it’s dark and reduce the brightness of the display. This project could do something like that to turn the monitor off at night when no-one is going to look at it. It would extend the life of the screen too.

  17. Einomies says:

    I’d think you would turn off an LCD picture frame anyways as you turn off the lights in the house to sleep.

    That said, 40 Watts for a picture frame is LOTS. You could justify it if it was 4-5 Watts, but 40 is just stupid, since most of the time nobody is looking at the picture.

  18. MS3FGX says:

    JUST 40 watts? That is more than my server consumes at full load with both drives running, seems rather excessive for a picture frame. As others pointed out, looks like there are many missed opportunities for power saving here.

  19. Gibbo says:

    Lies!! theres no video after the break tut tut…

  20. mr-midnight says:

    I have to agree with Einomies. I have considered buying one and flash it with some Firmware hack. Having a hacked evo T20 consuming 6.5 watts I that has a thousand more options I decided that if I want a picture frame I will just convert the screen to one :)

    Aside from these considerations the frame looks great and definitely competes with the frames out there.

  21. Shadyman says:

    @cmholm:

    35c/kWh? Ouch!

  22. Daniel says:

    MoJo: Interesting that you think I could save 10W if the cpu would idle when the entire computer uses 4-5W. The rest is used by the monitor and the shitty laptop style power supply that uses about 8W even when unplugged from picture frame… And BTW LED’s don’t have THAT much higher lumen/W output than CCFL’s. I’d rather have the even light spread produced by ccfl’s.

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