Building a Raspberry Pi Photo Frame

First off, my inspiration and instructions came from this article Building a living photo frame with a Raspberry Pi and a motion detector. The author is more knowledgeable and the article is more in-depth than mine. See that article for specific configuration and for the actual contents of the python script to pull photos from flickr. I hope my post will help others by sharing my first time experiences with the pi and the issues/frustrations I encountered.

The shopping list

Purchased from Adafruit.

  • 1 x Raspberry Pi Model A 256MB RAM[ID:1344] = $29.95

  • 1 x RCA coupler - Male to Male[ID:951] = $1.50

  • 1 x Miniature WiFi (802.11b/g/n) Module: For Raspberry Pi and more[ID:814] = $11.95

  • 1 x NTSC/PAL (Television) TFT Display - 3.5" Diagonal[ID:913] = $44.95

  • 1 x PIR (motion) sensor[ID:189] = $9.95

  • 1 x 4GB SD card for Raspberry Pi preinstalled with Raspbian Wheezy[ID:1121] = $9.95

  • 1 x Micro USB cable - free - I used an old phone power charger to power the pi board

A total of about $120 after taxes. Expensive for a digital picture frame but relatively cheap after for a hobby.

[caption id="attachment_1541" align="alignright" width="225"]Raspberry pi Raspberry Pi[/caption]

My issues and frustrations

My WIFI dongle is finicky. It only works when I insert it half-way and it will often drop the connection. I knew when it was working by watching for the flashing blue light. When the light turns a solid blue light the connection no longer works. This was my must frustrating experience. I am unsure if the root of the issue is software, the dongle, or the actual pi. I hope to replace the dongle soon and also try some pi firmware upgrades.

A bluetooth keyboard and mouse did not work with the pi. The pi would miss key presses and stutter. The devices were running low on power and the bluetooth was a bad idea. The solution was to use a basic wired USB keyboard and mouse. I ended up picking up a basic USB splitter for about $12. After reading up it looks like there are a lot of advocates for USB hubs with independent power sources but I was hoping to keep not introduce a cumbersome USB hub.

Remoting into the pi from my mac was tricky at first. I needed to find the pi's ip address and in my case I needed to do this without having access to the pi. In the end I did this by logging into the remote administration web console for my wireless router. From there I could see a list of connected devices via the "DHCP Reservations" section. Once you have the ip it as a simple as opening the mac terminal and running [code]ssh pi@[/code] then entering the password.

The LDC screen was too small for dev work. After connecting everything and powering on the pi I realized that my 3.5 inch display was going to be too small to read anything. It was a bit anticlimactic and ended my development work for the day. Roadblocks that ended the days work were common. Be prepared to have to wait a few days for new parts or to research. I ended up connecting my pi directly to my TV in the living room via my really long HDMI cable. This made it readable but a bit hard and impractical for working on. Luckily, I only needed to use the TV until I could get the WIFI dongle setup. Once connected to the local network I could switch to controlling the pi via my mac laptop using SSH.

Getting familiar with UNIX. Some common commands I utilized:

  • sudo reboot
  • sudo halt
  • raspi-config - menu for setting common pi settings. It looks like a BIOS menu
  • startx - start the GUI. I ended up using the terminal more
  • df -h - check the disk space

Installing the dependent software to power the python script to download the flickr photos. Install pip a python package manager. We will need the flickrarpi and requests packages.

sudo python
# ready to install the packages
sudo pip install flickrapi
sudo pip install requests

Installing fbi - frame buffer imageviewer. This is the program that actually displays the slideshow. sudo apt-get install fbi Once fbi is running you can kill it by getting the pid with pidof fbi and then killing it by kill #pid where #pid is the process id.

Fully Operational!

The slideshow is operational now and pulling images directly from my flickr stream. I still have some work to do with a proper display and fixing my wifi issues but the project has been very satisfying. It was fun to make something tangible again. As I have been writing this post I have been quite distracted. Distracted by my new pi slideshow.

[caption id="attachment_1572" align="aligncenter" width="225"]Final Frame Final Frame[/caption]