Towards a Digital Photo Frame - monday 2006-10-02 1419 last modified 2006-10-02 2114
Categories: Nerdy, Photography
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All this boring technical talk about remastering Linux via my Mac does have a more broadly interesting goal: making a digital photo frame out of a mostly-dead laptop. My Vaio temporarily died while I was writing my master's thesis. It was a hard disk failure, but I found over time there were a number of problems with the machine, including faulty memory and a bad disk controller which, in the end, completely died, leaving me with a laptop with no possibility of disk storage. I left it untouched for three years.

Then one day I decided I could turn it into a digital frame. By booting from an alternate drive, I could use main memory to run the operating system and grab photos from the network. I eagerly stripped a bunch of parts off the laptop and started to look into ways to make the software component work. Then I stopped for a year. For some reason it looked daunting back then.

Then I finally restarted the effort a couple weeks ago. It's nice to see that there's substantially more and better information out there on the topic. I didn't want to follow through on totally gutting the machine until I knew the software would work. Lo and behold, it's much easier a year later to report that it does.

After installing feh and unclutter as detailed on Adam Franco's page about making digital frames and modifying the broken parts of the script (don't turn xinit into a background process, it dies; make sure a correct .xserverrc is included in whatever your init script considers HOME; feh expects an intelligent version of wget and segfaults with the crippled version in DSL; turn off the screen saver with xset s off), I added my own contribution of simple HTTP-based protocol for slideshows. The architecture does rely on rendezvous points, like where to get the initial list of available slideshows, but it works.

I need to make a few fixes that became evident after running on a read-only operating system, and I'll need to find a batch operation that both fixes the aspect ratio of all the photos I bundled into the CD to be 4:3 and changes the brightness, contrast, and saturation so Mac-originating photos won't look so terribly flat and colorless in Linux. It's probably a gamma and cropping adjustment; I'll get to it eventually.

The major parts of this phase are over. On to the next phase, to find a shadowbox frame and continue the disassembly and reassembly process.

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