Hack a digital picture frame
November 14, 2007 5:25 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to hack a digital picture frame, e.g. to show a running clock instead of an image?
posted by mitocan to Technology (14 answers total)
What model of picture frame?
posted by PowerCat at 5:26 AM on November 14, 2007

Does the clock need to be accurate? Does the picture frame support animated Gifs?
posted by crewshell at 5:28 AM on November 14, 2007

Response by poster: PowerCat: Any model up to 100$ would do.
posted by mitocan at 5:29 AM on November 14, 2007

Response by poster: Crewshell: The clock was just an example. The frame might support animated gifs, but I need a solution that works for several years without stop.
posted by mitocan at 5:32 AM on November 14, 2007

Of course, it is possible. If using still images you would need 720 of them for each minute. It would be a simple matter of hooking it up to a computer and writing a script to display each successive image when the computer clock advanced a minute. Of course you have to know what you are doing. Check out Makezine.
posted by JJ86 at 5:49 AM on November 14, 2007

For $200, you can get a Chumby and chuck pretty much anything you can think of in it, including a clock checking the US Naval Observatory Master Clock Time if you wish.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:51 AM on November 14, 2007

The Philips AJL308/37 is exactly what you're looking for, methinks. It's basically a digital frame with a bunch of neat widgets ala Mac's Dashboard. Can show photos with a cool Polaroid look, clock, calendar, music, etc... And it's only $129, to boot!

On Engadget
On Philips.com

I know this isn't a homebrew/hack one like you wanted, but it's still pretty dang sweet.
posted by sprocket87 at 6:48 AM on November 14, 2007

Response by poster: Guys, The clock was just an example. Another example would be: It should show me the lunar phase.
posted by mitocan at 6:53 AM on November 14, 2007

This is the problem that Windows Sideshow was designed to solve. MSDN link. Unfortunately, this Sideshow-enabled picture frame is $200. Maybe there is another Sideshow-enabled device that's in your price range, look around.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:06 AM on November 14, 2007

The problem with a clock, or lunar phase, or terran phase, or anything like that is staying accurate over long periods of time. The crystals they use in things like that are nothing like accurate enough; it'll drift.

If you don't mind if the clock/whatever gains or loses 10 minutes per day, it's a different matter. But over a period of weeks, it could end up off by hours.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:09 AM on November 14, 2007

Anything can be hacked, it just depends on how much trouble you want to go to. What you're talking about entails making a single-purpose computer perform functions outside the scope of its design. There's several ways to get there:

1) Find a way to "fake it" & make it look like it's doing what you want, like JJ86 laid out.

2) Find a way to turn your single-purpose computer into a general-purpose system, load a general purpose OS like Linux on it & run a program under that.

3) Overwrite or otherwise replace the core code that runs the frame with a custom program that does what you want instead of showing pictures.

4) Extend or modify the hardware so you can do 2 or 3.

I took a quick spin through Google & couldn't find anybody digging into hacking commercial digital frames, which means you're going to have to start from scratch. It looks to me like you're probably going to have to alter the parameters on your vision.
posted by scalefree at 2:29 PM on November 14, 2007

Seconding the Chumby. Shy of making your own photo frame and software - that's the route you wanna go.

If you literally just wanted a digital photo frame that shows a clock - you could make a 12-hour MPEG movie of a moving clock. Set the photo frame to repeat and voila!
posted by revmitcz at 8:19 PM on November 14, 2007

i did this with 86,400 bmps showing every second of the day. Set them to slideshow in order changing every second. instant clock!
posted by daveyt at 6:55 AM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

How big do you want/need it to be?
I saw the Palm TX on sale at my local Best Buy for $199 yesterday. It has a 4-inch-diagonal full-color display at 320x480-pixel resolution.
I'd rather have such a multi-purpose device than a limited-use device any day. But if you want something bigger, then you may have to hack. Something else that occurred to me is a "WebPlayer" or other orphaned computing device. I have one in my closet somewhere...
posted by markhu at 3:56 PM on December 11, 2007

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