Retro TV Shows Off Family Memories With Raspberry Pi

Fascinated by the look and feel of vintage electronics, [Democracity] decided to turn an old Sony Micro TV into a digital picture frame that would cycle through old family photos in style. You’d think the modern IPS widescreen display would stick out like a sore thumb, but thanks to the clever application of a 1/16″ black acrylic bezel and the original glass still installed in the front panel, the new hardware blends in exceptionally well.

Driving the new display is a Raspberry Pi 4, which might sound overkill, but considering the front-end is being provided by DAKboard through Chromium, we can understand the desire for some extra horsepower and RAM. If it were us we’d probably have gone with a less powerful board and a few Python scripts, and of course there are a few turn-key open source solutions out there, though we’ll admit that this is probably faster and easier to setup.

[Democracity] provides some general information on how he took apart the TV and grafted in the new gear, but of course the exact steps will vary a bit depending on which old TV you end up sending to the big parts bin in the sky. We did like that he made sure to keep all the mechanisms for the buttons and knobs intact, so even if they don’t do anything, you can still fiddle around with them.

Otherwise, his steps for setting up a headless Chromium instance are probably more widely applicable. As are the tips about setting up this particular LCD module and getting the display rotated into the proper orientation. If you just follow along for that part of the guide, you can spin up your own stand-alone Raspberry Pi DAKboard endpoint to take the service for a test drive.

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to hear that this isn’t the first time [Democracity] has upgraded a piece of vintage hardware. Back in 2017, we covered this gorgeous art deco speaker that he outfitted with RGB LEDs and an Amazon Echo Dot. As with the previous post, it’s likely some commenters will be upset that a vintage piece of gear has been gutted for this project. But we’d counter that by saying his family is going to get a lot more enjoyment out of this beautiful piece of hardware now than they would have if it was still collecting dust in a closet.

FreeBSD Experiment Rethinks The OS Install

While the medium may have evolved from floppy disks to DVDs and USB flash drives, the overall process of installing an operating system onto a desktop computer has been more or less the same since the 1980s. In a broad sense you could say most OS installers require more clicking than typing these days, but on the whole, not a lot has really changed. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

Among the long list of projects detailed in FreeBSD’s April to June 2021 Status Report is a brief update on an experimental installer developed by [Yang Zhong]. In an effort to make the installation of FreeBSD a bit more user friendly, the new installer does away with the classic terminal interface and fully embraces the modern web-centric design paradigm. Once the user has booted into the live OS, they simply need to point the browser to the loopback address at any time to access the installer’s GUI.

Now that alone wouldn’t be particularly groundbreaking. After all, Google has implemented an entire operating system with web frameworks in Chrome OS, so is making the installer a web app really that much of a stretch? But what makes [Yang]’s installer so interesting is that the web interface isn’t limited to just the local machine, it can be accessed by any browser on the network.

That means you can put the install disc for FreeBSD into a headless machine on your network, and use the browser on your laptop or even smartphone to access the installer. The Graybeards will point out that savvy users have always been able to access the text installer from another computer over SSH, but even the most staunch Luddite has to admit that simply opening a browser on whatever device you have handy and pointing it to the target machine’s IP address is a big usability improvement.

While the software appears complete enough to get through a basic installation, we should remind readers these are still early days. There’s currently no authentication in place, so once you’re booted into the live environment, anyone on the network can format your drives and start the install process.

Some sections of the GUI aren’t fully functional either, with the occasional note from [Yang] popping up to explain what does and doesn’t work. For example, the manual network configuration panel currently only works with WiFi interfaces, as that’s all he personally has to test with. Quite a modern installer, indeed.

Some would argue that part of what makes alternative operating systems like Linux and BSD appealing is the fact that they can happily run on older hardware, so we imagine the idea of an installer using a memory-hungry web browser to present its interface won’t go over well with many users. In our testing, the experimental installer ISO won’t even boot unless it detected at least 4 GB of RAM onboard. But it’s certainly an interesting experiment, and something to keep an eye on as it matures.

[Thanks to Michael for the tip.]

Motorized Camera Slider Gives Your Shots Style

We’ve all seen those smooth panning shots, which combined with some public domain beats, are a hallmark of the modern YouTube tech video. Recreating that style in your own productions is as easy as pointing your browser to Amazon and picking up a motorized camera slider, so long as you don’t mind parting with a few hundred bucks, anyway. But [Paweł Spychalski] had a better idea. He decided to build his own camera slider and make it an open source project so others could spin up their own versions.

His design uses many components that have become popular and affordable thanks to the desktop 3D printer explosion, such as 2020 aluminum extrusion, LM8UU linear bearings, an 8 mm lead screw, and a NEMA 17 stepper motor. In fact, if you’ve got a broken 3D printer that you don’t know what to do with, stripping it for parts would get you a long way towards completing the BOM for this project.

To control the slider, [Paweł] is using an ESP32 and TMC2209 “StepStick” driver connected to an OLED display and a few buttons. As designed, a smartphone connected to a simple web page hosted by the ESP32 is the primary method of controlling the camera, but the buttons and display on the slider itself gives you a physical backup should you need it.

If you need something a bit more advanced than a linear slider, we’ve seen some impressive DIY motion rigs that can spin the camera around the target and produce some very professional looking shots.

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ESP8266 Adds Web Control To Old Home Theater

There was a time when you could hold onto a TV or A/V receiver for the better part of the decade and not feel as though you were missing out on the latest and greatest features. But today you’re lucky to get three years out of a “smart” TV before it’s either supplanted by a vastly improved version, or falls victim to some weird issue that (surprise, surprise) means you need to buy a new one.

A simple touch interface hosted on the ESP8266

Not content with the status quo of planned obsolescence, [aamarioneta] recently set out to add a sprinkling of modern convenience to a circa 2008 Denon AVR 2308 home theater receiver. Like any good A/V receiver, the AVR 2308 features a dizzying array of ports on the back panel, one of which happens to be for an external infrared receiver. This turned out to be the perfect place to jack in an ESP8266, earning this 12 year old receiver an honorary membership into the Internet of Things.

The interesting thing about this hack is that there’s actually no IR involved. Sure, the code could be used to drive an IR LED attached to the ESP8266’s GPIO pins, and the AVR 2308 would respond as if the original remote was being used; but where’s the fun in that? Thanks to the receiver port, they’re able to inject the IR codes directly into the device. It’s the same protocol, just without the photons.

With a simple web-interface running on the ESP8266, they can control the AVR 2308 from a smartphone’s browser anywhere in the house. From here it would only take a few more lines of code to tie it into an existing home automation system or add in support for Alexa voice control.

We love seeing projects that add modern features to older hardware, as that’s one less piece of gear sent to an early grave because its owner felt they were behind the curve. It’s getting a bit unfriendly out there for consumers, and anything that puts the power back into the owner’s hands is a step in the right direction.

Start Your Day With The Mountain That Rises

Like many of us, [Zach Archer] enjoys the comfort of his darkened room so much that he has trouble getting up and facing the day. To make things a little easier for himself, he decided to put together a custom alarm clock that would fill his mornings with the glorious glow of LEDs; and since he finds the mountains an inspirational sight he decided to wrap the whole thing up in a 3D printed enclosure that resembles snow capped peaks.

But even Bob Ross himself couldn’t have imagined a snowy mountain range that featured an integrated e-ink screen. The big 4.2″ panel is connected to a custom designed PCB by [romkey], which was graciously donated for this project. An ESP32 runs the show, providing a convenient web interface to control not only the clock, but various aspects of the mountain’s internal LEDs such as fade in time and total duration.

[Zach] says he originally printed the mountains in PLA, but the heat generated by the LEDs eventually started to cause things to warp. Switching over to translucent PETG not only solved the heat problem, but made for a very effective LED diffuser. Rather than complex animation patterns, he’s found that smoothly transitioning between different shades of blue and green seems to work best for him in the mornings.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen somebody use LEDs to get them out of bed in the morning, but we do appreciate the aesthetic that [Zach] has achieved here between the design of the mountains and the impressive artwork on the e-ink display. Then again, we’re also quite partial to this version that looks like a warp core, so our tastes do run the gamut.

A Web API For Your Pi

There are many ways to attach a project to the Internet, and a plethora of Internet-based services that can handle talking to hardware. But probably the most ubiquitous of Internet protocols for the average Joe or Jane is the web browser, and one of the most accessible of programming environments lies within it. If only somebody with a bit of HTML and Javascript could reach a GPIO pin on their Raspberry Pi!

If that’s your wish, then help could be at hand in the form of [Victor Ribeiro]’s RPiAPI. As its name suggests, it’s an API for your Raspberry Pi, and in particular it provides a simple web-accessible endpoint wrapper for the Pi’s GPIO library from which its expansion port pins can be accessed. By crafting a simple path on the address of the Pi’s web server each pin can be read or written to, which while it’s neither the fastest or most accomplished hardware interface for the platform, could make it one of the easiest to access.

Security comes courtesy of Apache password protected directories via .htaccess files, so users would be well-advised to consider the implications of connecting this to a public IP address very carefully. But for non experts in security it still has the potential to make a very useful tool in the armoury of ways to control hardware from the little single board computer. It’s not the first try at this idea as we’ve seen a PHP example early in the Pi’s lifetime as well as one relying upon MySQL, but it does seem to be a simpler option than the others.

This Word Clock Has Dirty Alphanumeric Mouth

Clocks which use words to tell the time in place of numbers are an increasingly popular hacker project, but we have to admit that before seeing this gorgeous clock from [Mitch Feig], we didn’t realize how badly we wanted to see one that could curse like a sailor.

But don’t worry, the WordClock-1 knows more than just the bad words. Rather than using an array of illuminated letters as we’ve seen in previous clocks, this one uses six alphanumeric LED displays. So not only can it display the time expressed with words and numbers, but it can show pretty much any other text you might have in mind.

[Mitch] is partial to having his clock toss a swear word on the display every few seconds, but perhaps you’d rather have it show some Klingon vocabulary to help you brush up. The lack of extended characters does limit its language capabilities somewhat, but it still manages to include Spanish, Italian, French, and Croatian libraries.

The ESP32 powered clock comes as a kit, and [Mitch] has provided some very thorough documentation that should make assembling it fairly straightforward as long as you don’t mind tackling a few SMD components. Additional word databases are stored on an SD card, and you can easily add your own or edit the existing ones with nothing more exotic than a text editor. The clock itself is configured via a web interface, and includes features like RGB LED effects and support for pulling the time down from an external GPS receiver.

Of course, if you’re content with what we can apparently now refer to as “old style” word clocks, we’ve seen plenty of projects which should serve as inspiration for anyone looking to roll their own textual timepiece.

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