Waveshare’s Pi CM3 Laptop Arrives A Bit Too Late

The good news it that you can now buy a pretty decent laptop that’s based around the Raspberry Pi Compute Module (CM). The bad news is that it was conceived before anyone knew the interface was going to change for the new CM4, so it doesn’t have any of the features that would make it really interesting such as support for PCI-Express. Oh, and it costs $300.

Waveshare, the company that most of us know best as a purveyor of e-paper displays, also made some rather interesting design choices on their laptop. See that black pad under the keyboard? No, it’s not a trackpad. It’s just a decorative cover that you remove to access an LED matrix and GPIO connectors. Make no mistake, a laptop that features a GPIO breakout right on the front is definitely our jam. But the decision to install it in place of the trackpad, and then cover it with something that looks exactly like a trackpad, is honestly just bizarre. It might not be pretty, but the Pi 400 seemed to have solved this problem well enough without any confusion.

On the other hand, there seems to be a lot to like about this product. For one, it’s a very sleek machine that doesn’t have the boxy and somewhat juvenile look that seems so common in other commercial Pi laptops. We also like that Waveshare included a proper Ethernet jack, something that’s becoming increasingly rare even on “real” laptops. As [ETA PRIME] points out in the video after the break, the machine also has a crisp IPS display and a surprisingly responsive keyboard. Though the fact that it still has a “Windows” key borders on being offensive considering how much it costs.

But really, the biggest issue with this laptop is when it finally hit the market. If Waveshare had rushed this out when the CM3 was first introduced, it probably would have been a more impressive technical achievement. On the other hand, had they waited a bit longer they would have been able to design it around the far more capable CM4. As it stands, the product is stuck awkwardly in the middle.

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Color E-Ink Display Photo Frame Pranks [Mom]

As a general rule, it’s not nice to prank your mother. Moms have a way of exacting subtle revenge, generally in the form of guilt. That’s not to say it might not be worth the effort, especially when the prank is actually wrapped in a nice gesture, like this ever-changing e-paper family photo frame.

The idea the [CNLohr] had was made possible by a new generation of multicolor e-paper displays by Waveshare. The display [Charles] chose was a generous 5.65″ unit with a total of seven colors. A little hacking revealed an eighth color was possible, adding a little more depth to the images. The pictures need a little pre-processing first, of course — dithering to accommodate the limited palette — but look surprisingly good on the display. They have a sort of stylized look, as if they were printed on a textured paper with muted inks.

The prank idea was simple — present [Mrs. Lohr] with a cherished family photo to display, only to find out that it had changed to another photo overnight. The gaslighting attempt required a bit more hacking, including some neat tricks to keep the power consumption very low. It was also a bit of a squeeze to get it into a frame that was slim enough not to arouse suspicion. The video below details some of the challenges involved in this build.

In the end, [Mom] wasn’t tricked, but she still seemed pleased with the final product. These displays seem like they could be a lot of fun — perhaps a version of the very-slow-motion player but for color movies would be doable.

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E-Paper Display Shows Movies Very, Very Slowly

How much would you enjoy a movie that took months to finish? We suppose it would very much depend on the film; the current batch of films from the Star Wars franchise are quite long enough as they are, thanks very much. But a film like Casablanca or 2001: A Space Odyssey might be a very different experience when played on this ultra-slow-motion e-paper movie player.

The idea of displaying a single frame of a movie up for hours rather than milliseconds has captivated [Tom Whitwell] since he saw [Bryan Boyer]’s take on the concept. The hardware [Tom] used is similar: a Raspberry Pi, an SD card hat with a 64 GB card for the movies, and a Waveshare e-paper display, all of which fits nicely in an IKEA picture frame.

[Tom]’s software is a bit different, though; a Python program uses FFmpeg to fetch and dither frames from a movie at a configurable rate, to customize the viewing experience a little more than the original. Showing one frame every two minutes and then skipping four frames, it has taken him more than two months to watch Psycho. He reports that the shower scene was over in a day and a half — almost as much time as it took to film — while the scene showing [Marion Crane] driving through the desert took weeks to finish. We always wondered why [Hitch] spent so much time on that scene.

With the proper films loaded, we can see this being an interesting way to really study the structure and flow of a good film. It’s also a good way to cut your teeth on e-paper displays, which we’ve seen pop up in everything from weather stations to Linux terminals.

Hands On With A Batteryless E-Paper Display

E-paper displays are unusual in that power is only needed during a screen update. Once the display’s contents have been set, no power whatsoever is required to maintain the image. That’s pretty nifty. By making the display driver board communicate wirelessly over near-field communication (NFC) — which also provides a small amount of power — it is possible for this device to be both wireless and without any power source of its own. In a way, the technology required to do this has existed for some time, but the company Waveshare Electronics has recently made easy to use options available for sale. I ordered one of their 2.9 inch battery-less NFC displays to see how it acts.

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New Part Day: Battery-Less NFC E-Paper Display

Waveshare, known for e-ink components aimed at hobbyists among other cool parts, has recently released a very interesting addition to their product line. This is an enclosed e-ink display which gets updated over a wireless NFC connection. By that description, nothing head-turning, but the kicker is that there is no battery inside the device at all, as it harvests the energy needed from the wireless communication itself.

Just like wireless induction charging in certain smartphones, the communication waves involved in NFC can generate a small current when passing through a coil, located on this device’s PCB. Since microcontrollers and e-ink displays consume a very small amount of current compared to other components such as a backlit LCD or OLED display, this harvested passive energy is enough to allow the display to update. And because e-paper requires no power at all to retain its image, once the connection is ended, no further battery backup is needed.

The innovation here doesn’t come from Waveshare however, as in 2013 Intel had already demoed a very similar device to promising results. There’s some more details about the project, but it never left the proof of concept stage despite being awarded two best paper awards. We wonder why it hadn’t been made into a commercial product for 5 years, but we’re glad it’s finally here for us to tinker with it.

E-paper is notorious for having very low refresh rates when compared to more conventional screens, much more so when driven in this method, but there are ways to speed them up a bit. Nevertheless, even when used as designed, they’re perfectly suited for being used in clocks which are easy on the eyes without a glaring backlight.

[Thanks Steveww for the tip!]

Get Organized With This Raspberry Pi E-Ink Calendar

Like many hackers, we love e-ink. There’s something mesmerizing and decidedly futuristic about the way the images shift around and reconstitute themselves. Like something from Harry Potter, but that you can buy on Alibaba instead of from a shop in Diagon Alley. But as anyone who’s used the technology can tell you, the low refresh rate of an e-ink screen limits its potential applications. It works great for reading books, but beyond that its struggled to find its niche in a world of cheap LCDs.

But [Zonglin Li] has recently wrapped up a project which shows that e-ink has at least one more use case: personal calendars. You can get way with only updating the screen once a day so the refresh rate won’t matter, and the rest of the time it’s going to be static anyway so you might as well enjoy the energy savings of leaving the screen off. With a Raspberry Pi behind the scenes pulling data from the Internet, it can populate the calendar with everything from your personal schedule to when your favorite podcast drops.

In practice, [Zonglin] is actually updating the display every hour as he’s included the current weather conditions on the top left of the screen, but even still, this is a perfect application for the very unique properties of e-ink displays. The display is a 7.5 inch 640×384 model from Waveshare that retails for about $50 USD, so between the display, the Raspberry Pi, and something to put it all in (here, a picture frame) this is a pretty cheap build compared to some of the large format e-ink displays out there.

The software side is written in Python 3, and [Zonglin] has documented how others can easily plug in their own information so it can pull schedule data from Google Calendar and local conditions from Open Weather Map. The MIT licensed source code is also very well organized and commented, so this could serve as an excellent base if you’re looking to create a more comprehensive e-ink home information display.

If this seems a little too pedestrian for your tastes, you could always put together an e-ink movie player, a surprisingly functional Linux terminal, or a very slick ESP8266-based name tag. If you’ve got the better part of $1K USD and don’t know what to do with it, you could even get an e-ink license plate.

Raspberry Pi Jukebox Hits All The Right Notes

We (and by extension, you) have seen the Raspberry Pi crammed into nearly every piece of gear imaginable. Putting one inside a game console is so popular it’s bordering on a meme, and putting them into old stereos and other pieces of consumer electronics isn’t far behind. It’s always interesting to see how hackers graft the modern Raspberry Pi into the original hardware, but we’ll admit it can get a bit repetitive. So how about somebody scratch building an enclosure for their jukebox project?

[ComfortablyNumb] took the road less traveled when he created this very nice wooden Raspberry Pi enclosure in the shape of an eighth note. Stained and varnished and with a nice big touch screen in the middle to handle the controls, it’s an attractive and functional piece of home audio gear that we imagine most people would be happy to hang on their wall.

The process starts by printing out the desired shape on a piece of paper to use as guide, and then gluing together strips of wood to create the rough outline. Then the surface was thoroughly sanded to bring all of the strips of wood to the same level, and the final design was cut out. On the back of the note, [ComfortablyNumb] boxed out an area to hold the Waveshare seven-inch touch screen panel and the Raspberry Pi itself.

Having seen so many projects where the Pi is rather unceremoniously shoehorned into another device, it’s refreshing to see the results of a purpose-built enclosure. Since [ComfortablyNumb] was able to build the electronics compartment to his exact dimensions, the final result looks exceptionally clean and professional. Not a drop of hot glue to be seen. It also helps that this build only required the Pi and the display; as the device is meant to be plugged into an existing audio setup, there’s no onboard amplifier. The audiophiles out there might recoil in horror, but adding a dedicated digital to analog converter (DAC) would be easy enough to add if the stock audio on the Pi isn’t good enough for you.

The project is finished off with stain and several coats of varnish to get that deep and rich color. We don’t often find ourselves working with dead trees around these parts, but we’ve got to admit that the final product does look quite handsome. Certainly beats the LEGO cases many of our Pi projects live in.

If you’re looking for more wooden-encased Pi jukeboxes, you might enjoy this somewhat abstract magstripe-based take on the concept. Of course, we’ve also seen our fair share of actual jukeboxes receive a Raspberry infusion over the years.

[via /r/raspberry_pi]