I admit it: I'm a total geek. I love electronics, programming, 3D art, vintage Apple hardware, and whisky. I'm always juggling half a dozen projects. I also enjoy documenting it all: my successes, my failures, my experiences... and everything geeky along the way.

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Digital Photo Frame 1.0 | Kevin Rye.net - Main

Kevin Rye

Geek Extraordinaire. Yeh, I said it.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

I wanted to make a digital photo frame from an old laptop. I’ve had various laptops over the years that I’ve found in the garbage. I kept them for a while, but eventually they all ended up in the garbage for various reasons. Mostly due to the fact that they were so old, that the hard drives and RAM would not support any OS or applications that would make them the least bit useful. Now that I think back, they all could run a screensaver! For a digital photo frame, thats all you need: an OS, images and a screensaver. I needed to get my hands on another old laptop.

I told the IT guy at work about my idea for a digital photo frame. I asked him if he had any old laptops destined for the garbage that he wouldn’t mind giving up. Much to my delight, he presented to me a hefty stack of 6 Dell Inspiron and Latitude laptops.

They had all been totally gutted. No batteries, hard drives, or optical drives. Four had the memory pulled. Two of the laptops were Pentium 4’s clocked at 2.2 GHz and 2.0 GHz. The rest were Pentium III’s from the 850-1000 MHz range. They all took a mix of DDR and SDRAM memory. Lucky for me, two laptops still had memory; a 128M DDR stick from the P4’s and 512M of SDRAM from the PIII’s. Good thing too, I don’t have any spare laptop memory.

The first step was to sort the good from the bad. With a nice mix of defects, surely there’s enough to make at least one working machine. A few powered on, but wouldn’t POST. Some had cracked LCDs. One was dead as a door nail.

Just as I had suspected, after ripping them to pieces and playing a little Dr. Frankenstein, I managed to salvage two machines. Both of which were Pentium 4’s. Sweet! Time to get my build on.

Here’s the work flow:

Thanks IT!

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Divide and conquer. Sort out the good from the bad.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

This rebuilt 15” Inspiron 4150 P4 2.2GHz works like a charm.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Get a “shadow box” for the laptop guts.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Remove guts from the laptop enclosure.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Test and make sure everything still works.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Cut a mat for the 15” LCD and trim with balsa wood to hold the LCD centered in the window.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Add braces to keep LCD flush against the glass.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Looks good.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Glue wooden stand offs on the back of the motherboard to keep it off the LCD.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Add more braces to keep the motherboard in place.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Drop it in the box.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

LCD and motherboard held in place.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Cut a wooden back and drill holes for the 4 corners.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Cut out holes for the case fan and I/O panel.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Paint it white.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Solder a USB connector to a standard 80 mm PC fan.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Mount the fan and grill.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Cut out an I/O panel.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Wire up a home-brew power connector for the I/O panel.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Wire up an audio pass-through cable for the I/O panel.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Wire up a PS/2 pass-through cable for the I/O panel.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

This is the daughter board from the laptop that holds the power switch.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

I soldered wires to the back of the board that are connected to the on/off switch and ran them to my own switch.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

I screwed the daughter board back onto the motherboard and fed the new wires out to the I/O panel.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Paint and attach the I/O panel

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Wire it up with the power cable, USB hub, ethernet pass-through, audio out, and PS/2 adapters. I have the case fan plugged into the USB hub.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

All done. Thats a full-up I/O panel.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

Screw on the back and connect all the pass-through cables.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

I then plugged in a keyboard, mouse, USB thumb drive with images, and dragged them over to my Pictures folder and set the screensaver to a slideshow.

Digital Photo Frame 1.0

After 1 minutes, it’ll scroll through my images. Complete!!

Digital Photo Frame 1.0