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Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

DIY Digital Picture Frame (with LinuxMCE)

I am planning a LinuxMCE-based home automation and entertainment system. As well as all the fully multimedia units that will do voice, video and music, I wanted a rather simpler node on the network: a digital picture frame.

Using LinuxMCE for this is something of a ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’ approach, but it will allow me to control the frame over the network. And I figure I might as well keep one consistent software system across the whole house.

Having seen a few articles around the web and in Custom PC on the subject, I started digging around in my box(es) of spares for some parts. In the end I settled on an old and very battered Sony Vaio notebook. The battery was completely shot and the case was falling apart, so it was neither economical nor practical to keep using it as it was. But it worked OK and had a very slim case, so it seemed to make an ideal donor.

In the photo above you can see the semi-dismantled laptop alongside the frame it was to be mounted in. This is a 30x40cm Copenhagen oak frame from Habitat with matching cutout.

Once the laptop was dismantled and the screen separated from the body of the machine, the next step was to mount both on a piece of foam artboard. I chose this for its strength to weight ratio, and the ease of cutting. Double-sided adhesive foam strips were used to hold it all together.

In the final image above you can see the loading screen for Kubuntu running on the device. I installed this and LinuxMCE before I dismantled the laptop, but with a USB keyboard and PCMCIA-mounted CD drive, it’s pretty easy to muck around with the software even with the whole lot inside the frame.

Unfortunately the software is proving tricky at the moment. LinuxMCE remains a little fiddly, and with the slightly unusual hardware combo found in a Sony Vaio, it is refusing to play ball at the moment. Sure that can be solved though and I’ll put a post up about how I solved it when I do. I will also post a photo of the finished item — somehow I forgot to get a shot of that!

Tom Cheesewright