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Graphics Software

Homemade Digital Picture Frames? 148

kato writes: "I've been searching for months for the right parts to make a digital picture frame for my wall. I'm not trying to mount an entire PC in a frame, so I think an old laptop would be overkill. I've heard about devices such as the Audrey made by 3COM, the AOL Touchpad made by Gateway, the Cieva picture frame, and a few others, but each has its faults. Some are impossible to find, some require a service, and some aren't yet "hacked." I'd like the price to be cheap (under $100), the picture to be about 10" diagonally, and to be able to connect to the device (modem or network). Now that the MIT flea market is over, I'm stuck trying to find the parts online. I'm leaning towards the AOL Touchpad, which runs Mobile Linux, but no one has posted any attempts on how to get rid of AOL. Anyone have any ideas or success stories?" An earlier question pointed out this site, but I suppose buying one would take all the fun out of it. You also need to watch out for "subscription to our service required" frames...
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Homemade Digital Picture Frames?

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  • by deceptakahn ( 525542 ) on Sunday November 11, 2001 @08:45AM (#2550567) Homepage Journal
    the product linked ins't helpful -- it costs $500 when our target is under $100. story research, la la la.
  • oh but it has been (Score:5, Informative)

    by jjshoe ( 410772 ) on Sunday November 11, 2001 @08:59AM (#2550575) Homepage
    the aol/gateway deal has been hacked
    and you can find instructions in the forums on

    more specificaly lt =&Order=&Session=
    • i have one (Score:1, Interesting)

      by halik ( 301618 )
      you can pick one from ebay for about 70 bucks. Frame wise all you need to do is get rid of the spekers and put some neat looking frame around the lcd. As for the or, download Midori linux from transmettas website. Now to get the pics you can use the HPNA or ehtnernet adapter thats built in on the touchpad.
  • by Matey-O ( 518004 )
    I never understood the draw for digital picture frames. When they're GIVING away photo quality printers with computer purchases and a full resolution printout amortises to about $2 a page, the only thing that DPF gives you is a wipe to another picture...and a power reuirement.

    Buy a $60 dollar printer, and when the cartridges dry up, pitch it. You're out less money, and the pictures work everywhere but in the dark. (Okay, TWO benefits to a digital picture frame.)

    Pick the right paper, and the photos will last a heckuva lot longer than the DPF will.
    • by trilucid ( 515316 ) <> on Sunday November 11, 2001 @09:09AM (#2550583) Homepage Journal

      Buy a $60 dollar printer, and when the cartridges dry up, pitch it. You're out less money, and the pictures work everywhere but in the dark. (Okay, TWO benefits to a digital picture frame.)

      Well, there's a few problems with that approach. Number one, ink cartidges ain't cheap (and could, after a while, add up to more than the cost of a device). Second, you lose the ability to cycle through pictures on the fly.

      I may just be a wierdo for thinking so, but a big advantage of the digital device would be the ability to incorporate it into some "instant room theming" system. Perhaps coding dynamic theming apps has just gone to my head, but I think it'd be cool.

      Besides, we already know how to click "File -> Print -> Ok", but the fun is in the hackery of something to suit our own purposes. I could buy pre-built Lego models too, but that wouldn't be very nifty.

      • Yeah, it's all about the hack, I know. But the current tech will give you a) a 5" picture frame at $500 that isn't very flat, or b) a room fill of picture theming for BillGatesMoney(tm).

        I've got the X10 stuff, I had the plans of setting the 'light mood', but it never happened. It's a great idea, but I ran out of time/interest in it.

        Until there's a color Gyricon [] type product, it's not going to be a very satisfying hack.
        • by trilucid ( 515316 ) <> on Sunday November 11, 2001 @09:30AM (#2550606) Homepage Journal

          You make a good point there. The price/performance ration isn't terribly good at the moment for this sort of thing in general.

          The Gyricon system looks extremely cool! Of course, I'd want the "paper" to be re-writable more than a few thousand times (to allow for fun stuff like streaming MPEG movies, so I wouldn't burn out my display in a few seconds ;) ). Xerox has a history of backing up their "promises" with proof, so I'll eagerly wait in antici... PAtion (sorry, gratuitous movie reference).

          Now, there is always the possibility of checking around with local hospital systems for "old hardware" that they're tossing out. A couple of years ago, I managed to secure two 21" monitors and a couple of decent PCs from a hospital that had decided the hardware was "obsolete". True, they really ought to have been giving the stuff away to charity of educational insititutions, but they were literally thowing the monitors in the dumpster. Now, I just need to carve up my wall with a saw...

      • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Sunday November 11, 2001 @09:33AM (#2550611)
        Second, you lose the ability to cycle through pictures on the fly.

        Well, you could put the pictures in page protectors, and then assemble a set in a three ring binder. Tape the binder to the wall, put all the pages at the top, and you'll cycle through the pictures. Adjusting the friction with some tape allows you to adjust the cycle speed. Benefits;

        1. No external electrical power requirements
        2. Puting pictures back to back in the page protectors allows 2 pics to be viewed at once.
        3. When a picture of your ex scrolls throw that you forgot to pull, you can throw a dart at it w/o worrying about breaking an expensive LCD screen.

        • Holy shit, now THAT'S a funny post :). Moderators, please mod parent up "+x funny".

          Tell ya what, I'll put up the venture capital for the "Super Animated Version" of the device you desribe. It'll come with 50,000 sheets of paper, and a rubber-band powered motor/release mechanism (environmentally friendly, like those little balsa wood planes you flew as a kid).

          I can see the $$$ rolling in now... :)

        • Or you could pay a high end photo place to make you slides, and put them in a cheap slide projector.
      • by Mike1024 ( 184871 ) on Sunday November 11, 2001 @11:58AM (#2550816)

        I may just be a wierdo for thinking so, but a big advantage of the digital device would be the ability to incorporate it into some "instant room theming" system.

        Yeah. You could have a touchscreen inside your front door, so if you bring a girl home, all your porn posters are replaced by tastful modern art. That'd be useful.

        Well, it would be useful if any /.ers ever had girls visiting thier homes.

        On a serious note, It'd be cool if you could hack your picture frames to show streaming media (some use Linux and ethernet, no?) then you could have a TV input card on a computer, and if you went to the kitchen to get a snack, you wouldn't have to miss the program.

    • The draw? Simple. I bought one as a Christmas gift for my parents. I upload pictures of my kids, and every few days they wake up to some new images. They don't need to think about it at all. They have a computer, but there's no way they'd ever get comfortable with the process of downloading an image and printing it, no matter how simple that seems.

      The Ceiva is an OK solution. I haven't found any hacks for it. Their service is nothing special, but functional.
    • IMO, the major benefit that a LCD has over a printer is the light-to-dark ration. Photographs and prints typically have a light-to-dark brightness ratio (contrast?) of 20-1. A CRT monitor ups this ratio to ~35-1. Look at an amateur's online photogallery. The pictures look good, especially outdoor pictures with skys. That is because a light area in a CRT display's picture actually is 'lighted'. Unfortunately, the 'dark' areas on a CRT monitor are also lit up so you still aren't getting the highest light-to-dark ration.

      An LCD display has 'lighted' light regions and the dark regions are actually dark (not lit from behind). This is the best of both worlds which is why LCDs have the highest light-to-dark ratio (250-1) and make for the best photo display terminals.

      Be very wary of cheaper LCDs. They tend to fade after a while.

      • Informative? well, yes - but utterly factually incorrect. Idiot poster + idiot moderation is a VERY bad combination.
        • Logical and factual omissions == bad under any circumstances. Please, since you seem to be an expert, share your knowledge and explain how the facts are wrong. Otherwise, most will assume you are the idiot.
      • Shouldn't a grammar nazi know the difference between a ratio and a ration? Anyways, his comment seems to be bunk. A high quality photograph or print can be both very reflective and very absorbant (light-wise).

        Besides, pictures look different on all of todays monitors because the colors and brightness of the phosphors (or LCD pixel) can vary a lot. I don't care to guess about the output of a cheap color printer, but I know that print shops can put out a much greater range of color than a computer screen.
        • Paper can be as reflective as it needs to be, but until it emits light, it won't be as bright as a CRT or LCD.

          The value that I used for the LCD does seem a bit high. I used a number from a website that disscusses this issue. It seems that typical LCDs have a light-to-dark ratio of ~120.

          • You can make it emit light...Here are a few ways:

            Burn it. (Con: doesn't last long. Somewhat uneven lighting)
            Coat it in cesium (Con: More of a greenish glow. Only glows at night, and then only for a short while)
            Make paper cloth out of steel wool, and run current through it. (Con: A bit reddish.) (Note: Works better if kept in vacuum.)
      • Got it reversed, you never have true black on an lcd because the backlight is always on and it can never block out all of it.
      • You nimrod, LCDs have NEVER had a better light-to-darkness ratio than CRTs.

        Compare the numbers here [] to the numbers here [] and be aware that on LCDs, contrast ratio comes at a premium price--there's no way you're going to get a $400 LCD with comparable contrast to a $100 CRT.

        And you're forgetting about color gamut entirely, which is just as important. LCDs have terrible color range compared to CRTs.

      • > IMO, the major benefit that a LCD has over a printer is the light-to-dark ration. Photographs and prints typically have a light-to-dark brightness ratio (contrast?) of 20-1. A CRT monitor ups this ratio to ~35-1. [LED has 250-1]

        So, what this comes down to is that if you're a normal person, and usually have the lights on at night, or are at home during the day, you use a photo printer and a picture frame to display your photos on the wall.

        If you're a geek, the lights are off and the shades are drawn even during the day, and you're usually only home at night anyways. So you go for the LCD or CRT to display your photos on the wall. Because an unlit surface is invisible in the dark.

        (The scary thing is that I'm not sure if this'll get a +1, Funny or a +1, Informative :-)

    • This sort of reminds me of the arguments seen against almost any new technology.

      Usually there is cost vs perceived benefit. Why would anyone want a computer, for example? and indeed, only people with a high end need for the advantadges would be early adopters.

      All you need is to go to someplace like [] to apreciate the costs of the machines vs the benefits. For many folks, the costs in money and learning curve were not sensible.

      Now the arguments of the media lasting long are valid, and I cannot imagine that these things are going to be cheap yet.

      The side effect of all of this is the walking into the loss of material over time as things get lost and purged. No more going through old drawers and finding childhood pictures long forgotten. A floppy disk found in a desert cave would be unreadle, unlike the Dead Sea Scrolls.

  • How about .... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dustpuppy ( 5260 )
    putting a second video card in your PC and connecting an old monitor (or a new LCD monitor for that matter) to it?

    Sure not quite what you were after, but you would get a large picture at a relatively low cost.

  • by neema ( 170845 ) on Sunday November 11, 2001 @09:15AM (#2550590) Homepage
    I just finished hacking my I-Opener that I bought on ebay (for 50 dollars) and I think it would be pretty plausible. Actually, I was thinking of surrounding the border with a frame and putting it up on the wall like a picture frame.
    • I just finished hacking my I-Opener that I bought on ebay (for 50 dollars) and I think it would be pretty plausible.

      My IOpener has a DSTN screen; if you're anywhere but dead center of it, it "sparkles". Hell even the corners sparkle when you're at dead-center. TFT doesn't have this problem and also has a very wide display angle.

      I've heard that the newer iopeners have TFT screens, which makes me jealous as hell. :-(

  • This doesn't answer the question at all, but what would be really cool is some kind of digital display that, once the display is set, doesn't require any power. You could plug it in to your computer, download a picture, then unplug it and put it on your desk, wall, whatever. I'd pay $100 for that!

    Is there any such technology out there that does this -- some kind of persistent, no- or low-power display?

    Yeah, for all you wise-akers out there, I know you can do the same thing with paper and a printer, but paper ceased to be cool about 2000 years ago.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Electronic Ink. I don't think it's out yet and for the moment it only does greyscale, but it is what you are were talking about it. It only requires power to change the display once it's changed it stays. 0, 23008,3336461,00.html
      • The company's url is:
      • I had the idea a few years ago to make a cheap wall display for pictures that I could change every once in a while.
        My idea was similar to those billboards you see that can display three different ads by use of triangular columns.
        My display was based on little physical triangular pixels that have each side painted red, yellow, or blue.
        These trixels would be free-spinning on vertical axels kind of like an abacus.
        Embedded in the point of each trixel would be a magnet.
        Behind the grid of trixels would be a relatively simple corresponding grid of electromagnets.
        By applying current in the correct manner it would spin the trixels to the appropriate color for each point.
        Once the picture is setup correctly, no more power is needed.
  • I'll admit upfront i can't come up with any solution that be less than $100. I'm interested if anybody can though.

    My suggesttion:

    Small form factor PC : the SV24 Cube or something like that.
    Wall Mounted LCD display : for the "digital picture frame" .
    Run whatever OS you want. (My preference is some distribution of Linux).
    Write some custom software that'll do whatever you want to make it act like a picture frame, ie. scan the cdrom whenver a cd is inserted, get all image files on the cdrom and display it on the LCD as a screenshow.
    Speakers of your choice : the box can double as a Ogg Vorbis / Mp3 player in the room.
    Wireless / Wired Ethernet : Pull new pictures directly from your home lan, the minute you load whatever new pictures you've taken on your digital cam onto your PC that you use to manipulate your photos on.
  • by torquil ( 228219 )
    Ok, when you buy these cheap LCD-devices. You are getting crappy DSTN displays, which you can't even view unless you are directly in front of them. Doesnt sound like a very good picture frame to me, so if you want a quality picture frame i think you are going to have to buy an active matrix display for it(ones below 15" can be had for under $150.) A DSTN on something you want people to look at around the room should at least be visible to them from more than 1 angle. Otherwise you are just a "stupid person with too much money and all these novelty toys that don't actually do anything". Just my opinion...
    • I bought a ceiva for my parents. The thing that made it attractive as the gift for them was specifically that thing which most slashdotters hate about it. The service, or more precisely, the way the service works--no end user interaction required.

      As for viewing angle and picture quality, I thought they were both more than satisfactory. Most of the time, when you are looking at a picture--not because you are passing it by on somebody's desk, but because you actually want to see the picture--you look at it fairly straight on.

      Exceptions would be if several people were looking at it at the same time, creating a small crowd around the picture. And this is a very reasonable thing to worry about. But I tried out the picture frame for a couple days before I sent it to my parents. I viewed it from different angles. Yeah, it did get dimmer and dimmer the more severe the angle, but it was still viewable and satisfactory at angles of 30-40 degrees.

      This isn't a projection of a newspaper or something, it's a picture. A picture of a dog is still recognizable, even if a little dimmer, at various viewing angles on the ceiva.

      I can just imagine some neurotic slashdotter checking out a ceiva at bestbuy or wherever. They'd hold a ceiva to a wall, and with their face pressed against the wall, complain in a muffled voice that the picture quality sucked at a 90 degree angle.

  • but what about some system where you pipe the image itself (not a digital representation thereof) directly over fiber optic cable to be rear projected onto a surface of your choosing?

    It seems to me this device would consist of a unit to first convert the signal from any generic PC video card to its "analog" image form, then boost the image amplification, and send it down the cable. The receiving unit would take the image coming in off the cable, perform any desired magnification or whatever, and project it onto a glass surface.

    I am not an optics expert AT ALL. It just seems like this might have some potential for looking into.

  • Wallpaper (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Graspee_Leemoor ( 302316 ) on Sunday November 11, 2001 @09:37AM (#2550622) Homepage Journal
    I have long been waiting for the day when I can have literally wall-to-wall lcd (or whatever flat display is in at the time).

    I think texture-mapping your walls would be a lot cooler than wallpapering them- and less messy too! How long would it be before there was a "wood-chip" module where you could scratch the chips off like people annoyingly do after you've painted it?

    Also I could mince around the room all day dragging my posters to different locations...

    Imagine! No more agonizing in the shop over which clock, calander etc to buy- just run the applet of your choice!

    Then there would be the /. interactive poster (if I could afford the million dollar subscription for it... ("Dude! Your poster's expired!")).

    Actually I think makers of posters, art prints etc. would start getting aggressive when they found the "mp3" effect was hitting them.

    Anyway, thanks for listening to my silly girlish fantasy, and now you can all reply with your lame jokes about "Windows for walls" (Any colour you like as long as it's blue....) etc.

    • I think you're right, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. I predict we're within 50 years of cheap, programmable fabric displays. Imagine large-scale flexible material that can be programmed to display any image, still or moving. You want a TV on that wall? Just hang a sheet of fabric up and away you go. In fact every wall would be covered in this instead of in wallpaper - just walk up to a wall, press it and up comes a menu. Select TiVO, outline the area you want to view on and you're watching any show you want.

      Imagine clothes made of this - they can look like anything you want. Any choice of color, texture or image. Forget those cheesy heat-sensitive tees that were popular for about a nanosecond ten years ago. Everyone could be a walking art show.

      Suddenly every environment is infintely mutable. You don't like the wallpaper? Change it. Have clouds floating across your walls. Play Quake N in true surround-vision in your den. Every surface is now a monitor.

      The combination of ever faster graphics processors, advanced in material science and a growing trend towards self-expression will get us there.
      • Brave New World, anyone? far as the "family on the wall" idea goes.
        • I think you're mixing up Brave New World with Farenheit 451 (unless BNW also had video walls -- all I remember are the "sensoriums", which were like big movie theaters, but for all your senses). In F451 they have "parlor walls", which were video walls on which bored housewives could imerse themselves in their soaps, occaisionally psuedo-interacting with the characters.
    • Also I could mince around the room all day dragging my posters to different locations...

      I expect my favorite part of this will be virtua posters hung off-kilter. It'll certainly be an advertising point; "Our resolution is so high you can actually tilt your pictures without any jagged lines! Your guests will never know you're not a collector!"

      And a thousand bucks says the 1st demo tilted poster will be an image of Natalie Portman.
    • by _ph1ux_ ( 216706 )
      great - just what we need plastered all over my enitre wall.
    • Everyone could be a walking art show.

      You mean everyone could be an animated walking billboard, right? :-) "Advertising supported apparel" would be about as appealing as the animated GIF banner, and ten times more annoying.

      I think I'd go insane if that fad lasted more than a microsecond. The only way to filter out the visual noise would be in the form of a retinal scanner that "blocks ads" in the real world by superimposing generic images. Hopefully this arrives first.

      But yeah, active surfaces would be nice for most other applications. I recall reading about some very cool applications of "pie-in-the-sky" nanotech derived "Programmable Paint" ...

      • >You mean everyone could be an animated walking billboard, right? :-

        That wouldn't be much different to now anyway....

        ...who was the marketing genius that managed to turn plastering their company's name all over a pice of clothing into a trendy fashion?...Making people pay...(and usualy pay a lot, willingly) do their advertising for them.....
    • Ben Bova did some thought about this in his book series, Moonbase. He called them Windowalls.
  • You could find an old PC somewhere with a color wideo card and hook it up to a small flat-panel monitor. That way you could ssh/scp in from outside to upload new pictures and change the current one. I don't know where you'd get a 10" plat-panel monitor though...
  • Stuck with a laptop (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    For that kind of money you can't even buy a raw LCD panel, probably not even used. Your best bet is to buy an old laptop. The old NEC versa laptops had reversible screens so you could flip the screen around and face it outwards making it fairly trivial to disguise the keyboard. You are really going to have a hard time beating an old laptop for price/performance. The only other thing I can think of in your price range would be a second video card and a small color TV or used RGB monitor and either one of those is going to be a challenge to disguise (if you are after that 'picture frame' look). The color TV is easier as you can use standard coax cable and off the shelf amplifiers for long cable runs. I suppose you could also use one of those wireless video devices but the quality on those things pretty much sucks, although at smaller screen sizes it may be ok.

    I have my Audrey working as a picture frame right now and its pretty good, I just have to figure out how to stop the thing from timeing out and shutting itself off!
  • by NeuroManson ( 214835 ) on Sunday November 11, 2001 @10:01AM (#2550647) Homepage
    Sometimes you can get those as cheap as $20 if you find one at a thrift store/surplus PC store... Upon analysis of my existing laptop (when I was fixing the display), it wouldbe fairly simply to remove the panel completely, replace the connector (which is basically a bundle of wires in shrinkwrap) with slightly longer cabling, and flip the display over so it faces away from the laptop when closed, add a mounting point on the back for hanging, and you've got a digital picture frame for less than $30 total... Install Windows 3.11 or Linux and you're good to go...
    • replace the connector (which is basically a bundle of wires in shrinkwrap) with slightly longer cabling

      LCD signal cable suffers horribly from attenuation, so the cable is slightly special and has a very limited maximum length. Last time I built an embedded system and needed a longer display cable than what was supplied, it cost about AU$330 for modulator boards and a 3m cable. Of course, I think AU$330 is about 37 US cents these days, so maybe that's not so bad.

      • replace the connector (which is basically a bundle of wires in shrinkwrap) with slightly longer cabling

        LCD signal cable suffers horribly from attenuation, so the cable is slightly special and has a very limited maximum length.

        Yes it does, but only a few inches is needed. Cretively hack the case and you will find you don't need to extend the cable at all. As a side note, the cable is not special, the drivers used to send the signals down it are of a low cost design. This means they can't send a clean signal for all that far of a distance.

      • So use a modified and rounded UDMA 66-100 cable, those are specially built for just that problem, just replace the connectors and remove the strands you don't need from the cable...
  • computers are basically free now, so the price
    is determined by the display. A CRT is ugly
    as hell, in my opinion, so you want an LCD. An
    obsolete laptop may still have a perfectly acceptable display (You wanted 10"). Look on ebay for
    laptops with missing CDROM or cracked case or
    other cosmetic problems. Then open it up, mount the display, and maybe fold the keyboard underneath. Wireless 802.11 card will make it a
    great web-ified picture frame.

    I use an old 486 75 Mhz thinkpad with 16 mB of RAM, hooked to
    a new 15" flat panel I bought explicitly as a picture frame. The advantage is that it contacts a web server in my house, which selects pictures and lets my friends upload new photos or send them as attachments by email, and they are displayed in our living room.

    The price of my system was $0 for the old laptop, and $500 for the beautiful display. But LCD panels
    are coming down in price. I didn't use the display on the laptop because its only 640x480, and
    doesn't have enough colors.

    • First off, outstanding job with that setup. I think that's a setup most of us would like to have in our pads.

      My only worry is the security of the whole thing. Consider the following scenarios:

      • Some luser keeps spamming your image email address, and you get these odd "background.gif" images popping up (MS Outcrud backgrounds).

      • Somebody discovers the CGI, or the image post email address, and kindly posts it to /. for you. You're forevermore haunted by the Goatse man popping up on your living room wall at inopportune moments.

      Note to moderators: yes, it was supposed to be funny :).

      • "Somebody discovers the CGI, or the image post email address, and kindly posts it to /. for you. You're forevermore haunted by the Goatse man popping up on your living room wall at inopportune moments."

        Reminds me so much of Tyler Derden.
  • it seems a bit of a pipe dream because the prices of LCD's seem quite high for you
    (although for a full monitor they ARE LOW buy now is my advice)

    I know that 1024x768 is about £300 (~$765 acording to pricewatch)

    BUT what about differant form factor how much do these cost and how about getting it from friendly electronics store (just bare screen no enclosure ) I dont know

    anyone have any clue ?


    john jones
    • If anyone finds out where I can get an odd-shaped LCD screen for cheap, I'd like to a neat little idea of my own.

      I've put together the plans I need to put an OGG player in my car, complete with 802.11b networking to my computer in my home for automatic music selection updates. I /was/ planning on taking a VFD I got from Comdex and placing it under my radio, with a cannibalized Sega Genisis controller for desert, but then I had another project idea:

      I wanted to put accelerometers in the front and back of my car, put digital meters on my electrical system, digitize my gas, speed, steering wheel position and engine temp readings, and record it all to my OGG player's hard drive...Great for proving to someone that, yes, my car does have a funny rattle when I turn my wheel to the left--anyway, I had a third idea:

      Why not simply replace my gauges on my dash (which half the time read zero regardless of the facts) with an LCD, and pipe all my user interface through that?

      Wish I had time. :)
  • Quick and Easy? (Score:5, Informative)

    by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Sunday November 11, 2001 @10:10AM (#2550660) Homepage
    Hmm... Hack a 99$ I-opener. Connect it as an ftp server, and have it ftp to a directory used by one of those ever popular picture-displaying screen savers. Mount the moniter on the wall, mount the box in a closet or with the rest fo the servers in your house, problem solved. (for I-opener info, visit

    If you get tired of cutting holes in the wall (and who doesn't?) there is a less geeky solution. Just buy one. Kensington has out a 640x480 7" solution that is in the 150 range. The USB connection won't let you remotely manage your photograph collection from a motel in kenya, but this will actually work and with minimal effort. ht ml (too lazy to html at this time of morning)
  • by pathwayX ( 453746 ) on Sunday November 11, 2001 @10:25AM (#2550678)
    This isn't 100% relevant to making a photo frame, but I also don't think it warrants an entire thread of its own. So here's a supplementary question from me: Has anyone successfully hacked a laptop's TFT screen for use with other devices?

    Id est, have you successfully 'ripped' the screen from the laptop and interfaced it with stuff like an ordinary VGA, something that outputs video, pictures, whatever?

    I'm trying to find more information on that. I have a couple of old laptops that can barely run X, and since I'm integrating a PC into my car, I thought it'd be nice to rip the TFT off of one and use it for in-car output. In the past, I've replaced some cabling connecting the laptop's on-board VGA card to the TFT screen and the entire system looked very weird to me. But I'm assuming it can be done, if the pinouts can be tracked down. Or I could be way off track :)

    If anybody with more experience on this could point me to the right direction, I'd appreciate it.

    • Take a look at
      for LCDs themselfs, and controllers to connect them to a PC.

      Beware, its not the easist thing in the world to do however.

      -- Jon
    • You wouldn't be able to hook a TFT directly to a standard VGA port because it's not just a matter of a different pinout. Any LCD screen that hooks up to VGA has some sort of converter built in. There are other styles of port that should work, though. I'm think XGA and DVA, but it's been about a year since I've dealt with one of those, and even then it was only indirectly, so I could have my TLAs messed up.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      As other posters have said, this depends on the controller that's attached to the LCD panel. The lowest-level interface you're likely to talk to will have a pixel clock, some number of pixel data lines (maybe analog, maybe digital), a row clock, and a frame sync input. Plus power and ground and possibly some random voltages for biasing stuff. You clock each pixel in; use the row clock to go to the next row; when you're done, use the frame sync to start over. Do this fifty times a second and you'll get a picture.

      As you can see, connecting this to a VGA output is more complex than just wiring the right LCD pin to the right VGA pin. You can probably use something like an AVR or fast PIC or a small CPLD to spit out an image from RAM, though (like this, for example []). Then you need some way for your host computer to put data into that RAM. RS232, ethernet, or USB would all be reasonably easy to do.

      If your panel has more controllerage attached, though, all bets are off --- it may be imitating a VGA monitor, it may be imitating an ISA video card, or it may be providing some private proprietary interface to whatever device it used to be attached to...

  • Cheap LCD sources (Score:4, Informative)

    by toral ( 267417 ) <> on Sunday November 11, 2001 @10:26AM (#2550680)
    eio [] has a few alternatives [] towards the bottom of the page (starting with the 5L-U4E). They range from $99 to $350 in with sizes 5", 6", and 12" available. Most of these accept an NTSC signal, so you could interface one with a cheap PC fairly easily. Unfortunately, all the color displays appear to be sold out right now. With a little bit of digging, you might be able to find another supplier of the same or similar products, or they might get more in stock sometime.

    Also, Lik-sang [] has both a 5" [] and 7" [] LCD display for $99 and $199 respectively. The 5" is a PS One display that accepts NTSC/PAL, and the 7" is a more standard NTSC/PAL display. The latter has additional features like an screen orientation flip (so you can mount it however you like), speakers, and a battery slot. This would probably be my choice for this type of project.

    Don't disregard the 3Com Audrey, however. You wouldn't even have to hack the thing to get it running as a picture frame. Just plug it into your network and use the browser to display the images from another server that is doing all the work. The browser has a full screen mode that is pretty well suited for this. I should know because one of mine was displaying a pr0n slideshow for a while :-). With a little bit of php/perl/asp/etc programming, you could make a very flexible (with respect to image size, delay between images, etc) solution that could behave exactly how you want.
  • Is there a good source out there for bare LCDs in small quantities? I've been able to find some at [],
    but in general it doesn't seem like the kind of thing you can find at your local Radio Shack. Ten inch TFT displays there run around $300 minimum, so I don't see bringing the whole project in under $100 as practical, unless you're planning to go directly to the manufacturers and order thousands of units.
    • I was able to pick up a crapload of LCD screens for 5 bucks a piece at a surplus store, mostly 12.1 and 14 inch displays.. The sheet that came from the manufacturer said they were bad, but I looked at the sheet and most said stuff like "one bad pixel" or "contrast not to standard" So I rummaged through them and bought all the ones I could. so I have 65 12.1 displays and about 5 14 inch displays, plus a handful of 10 inch ones sitting in my room!! I bought them with my rent check and now I need to know if they work. But to test them, I need a video card that costed more than the display.. So If anyone has anywhere they know of to get a cheap video card to test these things with, I would be willing to part with them..
  • by Anonymous Coward has great, moderately priced, subscription free frames of many sizes. I wrote the developer and he sent me his protocol specification [there's open for you]. also, i think they take either CF or smartmedia. and they look nice.
  • Audrey (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tolchz ( 19162 )
    1.) Buy Audrey
    2.) Open browser on audrey and point it to cgi-script on a box on network
    3.) Make Browser full screen
    4.) Have cgi script display an image, wait a few seconds and reload.
  • Get an Audrey... (Score:2, Informative)

    by proxeus ( 526778 )
    3Com's Audrey is about $80 from and, from what I've heard, are easily hacked. You can even get a ethernet adapter so that you could even send the pictures through your network.
  • Would it be possible to hook up a Laptop LCD screen to a regular video card. I know you probably need some controller card or one of those 200 dollar ISA video cards that support it. anyways is there a easy and cheap way to do that. I have a few laptop lcd screens around here and I would like to get some use out of them. especially i I can use them with my GEFORCE 2.
  • hey remember when the OLED Display technology just came out and everyone was wanting to buy like 6 foor screens for dirt cheap. will that still happen when they come out sometime next year. will they still be dirt cheap?
    • Yeah, they look nice and bright, and you can see them at any angle. Are full colour ones available yet? Maybe someone could hack their own monitor, or some sort of computer pad.

  • Kensington has US$79 for 5.7" diagonal screen; 320 X 240 resolution [] and US$149 for 7.4" diagonal screen, 640 X 480 resolution [].
    It says they're out of stock though, so I don't know if this deal is still available.
    • I know about this one. I bought one.

      For those who don't know about the site Techbargains.Com [] is a cornucopia of deals online. Do a search on Kensington, there's a code that knocks $39 off the price. If it's still valid, that is.
  • Check around for some of the older Planar PC's. You used to be able to find the 486 with integrated LCD $100-$200, and they make a wallmount specifically for it.

    They had an ISA slot and PCMCIA slot, so you could add an 802.11 adapter to stream data to it. They didn't have the greatest screen, but it might be ok. []
  • Cheap Ceiva (Score:3, Informative)

    by lambda80 ( 213884 ) on Sunday November 11, 2001 @12:20PM (#2550860)
    Buy a Ceiva for $99 after rebate [] and hack it or not.
    • We have done exactly this. My father gave a Ceiva to my grandfather. It's turned out to be marvelous! My grandfather is 100 yrs. old and has children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all over the world, who can upload pictures to it. Whenever I go to his house, there are always new pictures in it of people he cannot see as often as he likes.

      All of this quibbling about how the technology could be better or hacked can easily overshadow the fact that a Ceiva digital picture frame is perfectly adequate for its primary function straight out-of-the-box.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    GET AN I-OPENER. I ordered one after reading some slashdot about it, and it was about $140 + $80 for the hard drive, other mods. Right now their like $85 with HDD on e-bay. An i-opener is a full-fledged computer (internet device) minus HDD. Like, 32m ram, 233mhz, 12" screen, all in one. with a stand. but you could remove the stand and screw it into the wall if you want. Definitely the I-Opener is your best choice. I've got one, but it's not a frame yet. You might also try the Ricoh 1200S, or whatever, that's a 10.4" touchscreen (i got one of those too).
    Good luck,
  • Similar Idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Fisty ( 8619 )
    A couple of weeks ago, I had an idea similar to this. What I wanted was a device that had a 7" display that could act like a portable digital photo album.

    My girlfriend likes to take pictures. She's not keen on getting a digital camera because she doesn't want to have to look at the pictures with a computer (let's put the printer conversation aside).

    I figured that if she had a device that she could take with her, slide in a disc with the actual pictures on it, then she can browse the pictures away from her computer. So the theory is that she'd use her computer to compile albums on some form of disc (or something similar). These digital albums could then be taken and viewed using a portable device designed to input one of these discs, and display the photos on a 7" screen.

    These digital frames are 1/2 way there.
  • Other than eBay, I'm having trouble finding the Audrey. TigerDirect doesn't seem to have it on their site anymore. Anyone have any suggestions?
  • You may want to check out an ePods Internet Appliance []. The company went out of business, and their product is highly hackable. Coincidence?

    It is slow by today's computing standards but should serve as a digital picture frame just fine. You can put a 10Mb/s wireless card in it to pull the pictures off a network server or you can use a CompactFlash card. The CompactFlash card may be necessary because the ePods comes with little memory and runs at 256 colors by default. One of the hacks is to get it using 16-bit color, but it takes up most of the ePods' internal memory. New programs may need to be stored on the CompactFlash card.

    Here's the catch: It runs Windows CE, and to hack it, you need another Windows box to transfer the hacked files to it. I took mine to work and hacked it there. I didn't want to attempt getting Linux ported to it.

    It seems like there are a lot of downsides to using the ePods, and to overcome those downsides you have to spend some extra money beyond the cost of the ePods itself. I'm just trying to spread some info here. I'm going to give all this a shot, since I already have an ePods. :P
  • This is one of Sony's more "lifestyle concept" products (ie very expensive, although i thought it might be of interest.

    The cyberframe [] (link to Salon as i couldn't find it on the sony site) is a digital picture frame which can display pictures from a memory stick. The purpose was that you could take a picture with your memory stick camera and stick the pictures into the frame immediately.

    The downside is that is costs $900. A bit out of reach for practically everybody, but it apparently [] can do MPEGs and slide shows.

    I just hope you can get a cheap laptop system (from the other comments) which you can hook up to a wall that actually looks as aesthetically pleasing as this, as there's no point in having a beautiful picture if there are wires streaking everywhere.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11, 2001 @02:25PM (#2551166)
    For a course at my college [] a few years ago, a group of us decided to build a digital picture frame. We wanted to build something similar to what you are describing. I hope my experience can help.

    We built it from scratch -- no PC or handheld -- since we wanted it to be cheap, small, and portable. As the processor, we used a BasicX [] microcontroller. You program it in a language similar to BASIC -- very easy to pick up -- and it stores the code in EEPROM so that you can make changes at will. It also has a serial port (use a null-modem cable -- this is how you put the code on it) so you can use that for input/output when it is running independently to add/remove pictures, etc. The BasicX controller isn't the most stable thing in the world (nor the fastest) -- but it's great for quick + dirty development.

    We used a cheap, nondescript, color 6" LCD, but had major problems trying to get it to sync correctly. The documentation was too scarce -- make sure you get lots of current docs on your LCD of choice. Perhaps the speed limitations of the BasicX controller had something to do with it (I think the minimum instruction execution time is around 1 us -- more for serial port accessing).

    For storage, we tried to get a flash memory reader/writer, since the BasicX EEPROM was not sufficient. We wanted it to have lots of static memory that was also portable. (Perhaps not the greatest idea.) We couldn't find anything that was good for development purposes -- just end-user PC-compatible reader/writers. I recommend trying to find cheap, slow computer memory. This is possibly the most difficult part of the supplies -- finding static memory at a decent price.

    Pricing was as follows:
    BasicX Development Station: $140
    Used, generic, unknown color LCD: $300
    Flash memory reader/writer: $80
    32MB Flash card: $50 (it was a few years ago)
    Total: around $400

    We also wanted to use a USB controller for reading/writing to memory -- bad idea. It cost us a lot of time and money.

    Hope this helps,
  • First, I'd want a high resolution to view the photos that I've scanned in. Some of these hit 1600x1280 quite easily. It need not be in pixels, but I'd want to have the density like IBM's high-end panels
    Thin. I would want this to be no thicker than a regular picture in a frame.
    Connections should either be wireless networking with batteries, or physical connections in the rear coming up though the wall.
    Internal HD to store images. Some old IBM laptop.
    Integration into a smart house network - so it is possible to change from 'Dogs Playing Poker' to 'Water Lilies' when a date shows up. Also support for standard video signals (TV) would be nice.

    Humm... Too bad the bulbs in the LCD projectors don't last more than 200 hours, otherwise I'd suggest using one of those.
  • A couple of years ago, I upgraded my PowerBook, and had the old machine spare. It's a PowerBook 5300c - a decent CPU and TFT display, but rather low-end for development...

    So I took it out of its case, placed the motherboard on the back of the LCD, bought a cheap ($10) picture frame with a custom-cut border and put them together.

    At the time my house had Ethernet in the walls, so I punched a hole in the wall, and put the machine on my network. Power and net were hidden, and the machine worked great. I wrote a quick app that displayed images from my collection. A wonderful way to show digital photographs you've taken.

    Total cost was about $30 - I had no other use for the 5300. You could pick up a cheap laptop on eBay for $100-$200 if you don't have a spare. Bear in mind that displaying JPEGs is a very low-end task. All you really need is a decent TFT display and a network connection. Local hard disc is nice but not required.

    Great fun to do, too.

    I still have this working in my new house, but it now has an Airport card so I only need to wire in the power supply. This makes it easier to move it around and means I don't have to run Ethernet everywhere.
  • I was able to pick up a crapload of LCD screens for 5 bucks a piece at a surplus store, mostly 12.1 and 14 inch displays.. The sheet that came from the manufacturer said they were bad, but I looked at the sheet and most said stuff like "one bad pixel" or "contrast not to standard" So I rummaged through them and bought all the ones I could. so I have 65 12.1 displays and about 5 14 inch displays, plus a handful of 10 inch ones sitting in my room!! I bought them with my rent check and now I need to know if they work. But to test them, I need a video card that costed more than the display.. So If anyone has anywhere they know of to get a cheap video card to test these things with, I would be willing to part with them..
  • I'm suprised no one has mentioned the webplayer yet.. I picked up a couple in a co-op buy last winter and just now got around to hacking it (hows that for procrastination?) - You can pick them up at ubid or ebay for around $100 - There's a great webplayer hacking forum here [] and it's easy to hook up to a USB ethernet connection..
  • I've been thinking about the possibility of a having a cool looking computer pad like those ones on Enterprise, and I'm looking for a small display a bit bigger than your hand. And can you construct your own touch screen system for an LCD display? To get the best brightness I would probably need OLED.
  • velopment/productFeatures/oled.shtml
  • iFrame (Score:1, Troll)

    by Refrag ( 145266 )
    Apple needs to make a digital picture frame. They've gone completley LCD now (aside from the iMac), and everyone knows they are the king of product design. Just imagine a nice frame that can hang on your wall either in landscape or portrait mode (with intelligence), that uses an AirPort [] to display pictures off of your home LAN or its internal memory (8MB should be sufficient) (in case the fileserver goes down).
  • Thinkpad 560 = 16-bit TFT 800x600 color ultra-thin machine with an early Pentium and up to 40MB RAM using standard EDO SODIMMs.

    Easy... Get ahold of one, disconnect the hinges, flip, glue, encase the whole thing in a thin wooden box, get some solid state storage on the order of 128MB or so for the PCMCIA slot, set the BIOS to boot from it, cheap NE2k for the other PCMCIA slot, install minimal Linux+X+ftp server and a script to just cycle all of the images in the incoming ftp directory.

    Plug into network and power and hang on wall. 12.1" digital picture frame, total cost $100 or so, provided you get a good deal on the 560. I got mine for $150 but that was about a year ago now so depreciation is where I get the $100 figure... Beware that the backlights can fail from being on forever and ever and they're a pain to replace [tip -- if one blows on you, don't bother, just shop e-bay for a whole new 12.1" panel with backlight included, they're fairly cheap that way].

    Good luck.
  • by shokk ( 187512 ) <ernieoporto@yahoo.CHEETAHcom minus cat> on Sunday November 11, 2001 @11:01PM (#2552444) Homepage Journal

    I have an Audrey that I picked up off EBay for $80. With the hacks from the Audrey Hacking [] site, it has been updated to the latest firmware. Using the pictureframe module from Misterhouse [] I not only have X10 control of my house accessible from the Audrey, but also as a digital pictureframe when idle. The Audrey also has a high Spouse Acceptibility Factor and looks great when you put three or four around the house. Get the additional supported 3Com 3C19250 USB Ethernet adaptor if you have broadband and it works great as an instant-on fast internet appliance.

  • Aren't we forgeting something here?

    LCD's realy suck when you are not standing right
    in front of them. this means whatever you hang on the wall will look realy bad from all other angles.

    - Ron.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel