Solar E-Ink Weather Station Works On Dark Days, Too

One way to get through the winter doldrums is to take notice of the minuscule positive changes in weather as spring approaches. Although much of the US is experiencing a particularly warm month, that’s not the case in Germany where [rsappiawf] resides. Even so, they are having a good time charting the weather on their new solar-powered E-ink weather station.

And in spite of the dark winter days, the device has been delivering weather updates for over a week on solar power alone. The brains of this operation is an ESP32 S3 Mini, which [rsappiawf] operated on a little bit. For starters, they removed the integrated RGB LED in order to save precious milliamps. Then they upgraded the voltage regulator to a TPS73733DCQR.

[rsappiawf] also has a TPL5110 power timer breakout module in the mix, which saves even more power by only turning on every once in a while according to the potentiometer setting, and only then turning on the project’s power. Check out the brief demo after the break, including the cool sliding action into the 3D-printed holder.

There’s a lot you can do to lower power consumption in a project like this. Here’s one that will go 60 days on a charge.

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Memory Box Shows Photos Based On Fingerprint

With his young son’s birthday coming up in a few weeks, [Mike Buss] wanted to build him something fun that the boy could hold on to all his life. After doing some sketching, [Mike] arrived at the idea to make a memory box uses a fingerprint scanner to show different pictures based on the fingerprint.

[Mike] started by rendering the box in Blender and then cutting a sizable hole in the lid for the E-ink screen. That’s around the time the first problem came up — there were weird vertical lines in the display. Sure enough, that screen was broken. Then he added the SD card reader, but the SD card wouldn’t work, and was heating up besides. Finally, the fingerprint scanner was causing issues, but it turned out that the power supply was at fault.

After all of that, [Mike] switched from an ESP32 to a Raspi Zero W to simplify the whole process of finding a photo tagged with the person’s fingerprint. [Mike] added a Python script that listens for new memories over Wi-Fi. A memory in this case consists of a picture, a description, a list of people tagged in the picture, and some additional metadata.

One important lesson [Mike] learned was that of balancing planning vs. just taking action. If he had taken the time to consider the complexity of the tagged-photo retrieval system, he would have arrived at an SBC solution much sooner. Be sure to check out the build video after the break.

You can have all sorts of fun with fingerprint scanners, like this one that opens a secret bookcase door.

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Zerowriter Promises Zero Distractions While Writing

As great as full-blown desktop computers may be for web surfing, gaming, and what have you, they are theaters of distraction when it comes time to write. And while there are machines out there purpose-built for writing, the price tags run awfully high for what they are, which is essentially a microprocessor handling a keyboard and an E-ink display.

So, why not build one yourself, then? That’s the idea behind the Zerowriter, which, as you may have guessed, is based on the Raspberry Pi Zero. The Zero 2 W to be exact: [zerowriter]  says that the extra power over the original Zero is quite useful.

In addition, there’s a 4.2″ Waveshare E-ink display and the Vortex Core 40% keyboard inside the 3D-printed enclosure. The design is based on the Penkesu computer, although in the Zerowriter, the Pi sits behind the screen instead of underneath the keyboard. [zerowriter] built an application on top of the Waveshare demo program that’s easy to use and modify.

The price tag for this build comes in around $200, which is a fraction of similar commercial products. Most of the cost is in this particular keyboard, although 40%s are, broadly speaking, not cheap. We would love to see someone make a keyboard for this.

Looking to make something a bit bigger? Be sure to check out the MUSE.

Building A WiFi Picture Frame With An EInk Display

LCD photo frames never really caught on — by emitting light, they didn’t seamlessly blend in with a home’s decor in the way printed photos do. [Sprite_tm] decided to see if a color e-Ink screen could do any better, and whipped up a WiFi-enabled photo frame using a Waveshare display.

The part in question is a 5.65-inch display with 640 x 448 resolution, and is capable of displaying seven colors. It’s not designed to display photorealistic images, so much as display simple graphics with block colors. However, with some dithering, [Sprite_tm] suspected it might do an okay job. An algorithm that uses Floyd-Steinberg diffusion and the CIEDE2000 color space takes regular RGB images and breaks them down into dithered images that are displayed using the screen’s 7 available colors.

The build relies on an ESP32-C3, which drives the display and fetches new images daily over WiFi. Thanks to the e-Ink screen, which uses zero power when not updating, the whole setup runs off two AA batteries and a Natlinear LN2266 boost converter.

There are some limitations; the screen’s color space is altogether quite limited, and images don’t look very high-fidelity in such low resolution. However, it does an able job of displaying photos for a device that was never designed to do so. It looks rather handsome all wrapped up as a 3D printed picture frame, and [Sprite_tm]’s monkey test photos are very cute.

Files are on GitHub for those that wish to roll their own. We’ve seen similar works before, like this e-Ink wall-hanging newspaper display that keeps up with the times. If you’ve got your own neat e-ink build, hit us up on the tipsline!

A wall mounted picture frame with an e-ink newspaper displayed.

A Wall Mounted Newspaper That’s Extra

E-Ink displays are becoming more ubiquitous and with their low power draw, high contrast and hackability, we see many projects use them in framed wall art, informational readouts and newspaper displays. [Sho] uses this idea to create a wall mounted newspaper packed full of features.

The back of a picture frame with the electronics for an e-ink newspaper display.

[Sho] describes using a 13.3 inch ED133UT2 1600×1200 E-Ink display with an ITE IT8951 electronic paper display (EPD) driver, controlled by an ESP32. An RV-3028-C7 real time clock (RTC) is used to keep time and to wake up the ESP32 and other devices for daily refreshes. A 3.7V 1100mAh LiPo battery provides power through an MT3608 boost converter module to provide the 5V needed, with the E-Ink display driver further isolated from the power behind a KY-019 5V relay module to avoid unnecessary power draw when not needed.

The backend software uses the OpenWeatherMap API to get daily weather reports and scrapes news websites which are then fed through an OpenAI ChatGPT API to provide summaries. [Sho] reports that text is formatted using a combination of LuaTeX, Ghostscript, ImageMagick and other scripts to format the eventual displayed graphics, including newspaper texture and randomely placed coffee stain effects.

Be sure to check out [Sho]’s project page for some more details. E-Ink displays are still a bit pricey but the effect is hard to beat and they make great options for projects like infinite generative landscapes or low power weather stations.

A weather station with an E-ink display

Low Power Challenge: Weather Station Runs For Months Thanks To E-Ink Display

Having a device in your living room that shows weather information is convenient, and building one of those is a great project if you enjoy tinkering with microcontrollers and environmental sensors. It’s also a great way to learn about low-power design, as [x-labz] demonstrated with their e-ink weather station which works for no less than 60 days on a single battery charge. It has a clear display that shows the local temperature and humidity, as well as the weather forecast for the day.

The display is a 4.2″ e-paper module with a resolution of 400 x 300 pixels. It uses just 26 mW of power for a few seconds while it updates its image, and basically zero watts when showing a static picture. It’s driven by a tiny ESP32C3 processor board, which downloads the weather forecast from every two hours. The indoor climate is measured by an SHT-21 temperature and humidity sensor mounted behind the display, while the outdoor data is gathered by a WiFi-connected sensor installed on [x-labz]’s balcony.

The inside of an e-ink powered weather stationThe key to achieving low power usage here is to keep the ESP32 in sleep mode as much as possible. The CPU briefly wakes up once every five minutes to read out the indoor sensor and once every fifteen minutes to gather data from outside, using the relatively power-hungry WiFi module.

To further reduce power consumption, the CPU core is driven at the lowest possible clock speed at all times: 10 MHz when reading the indoor sensor, and 80 MHz when using the WiFi connection. All of this helps ensure that just one 600 mAh lithium battery can keep everything running for those 60 days.

E-ink displays are perfect for text and simple graphics that don’t change too often, which is why they’re very popular in weather stations. With a bit of tweaking though, LCDs can also be optimized for low power.

PCB mounted on 3D-printed holder, debug pins attached to Pi Pico on a breadboard. The battery is in the background, disconnected

Reverse Engineering E-Ink Price Tags

E-ink displays are great, but working with them can still be a bit tricky if you aren’t an OEM. [Jasper Devreker] got his hands on three e-ink shelf displays to reverse engineer.

After cracking the tag open, [Devreker] found a CC2510 microcontroller running the show. While the spec sheet shows a debug mode, this particular device has been debug locked making reading the device’s code problematic. Undaunted, he removed the decoupling capacitor from the DCOUPL pin and placed a MOSFET between it and the ground pin to perform a voltage glitch attack.

A Pi Pico was used to operate the MOSFET over PIO with the chip overclocked to 250 MHz to increase the precision and duration of the glitch. After some testing, a successful glitch pathway was found, but with only a 5% success rate. With two successive glitches in a row needed to read out a byte from the device, the process is not a fast one. Data pulled so far has shown to be valid code when fed into Ghidra, and this project page is being updated as progress continues.

If you want to delve further into hacking e-ink price tags, checkout this deep dive on the topic or this Universal E-paper Sniffer.