Digital Frame

Home made digital "Frame"

Have you ever seen one of those expensive digital "frames". Sony makes one, for example, that sells for about $1000. I decided to "make" my own. This has the advantage of having a larger screen, being programmable, and accepting a CD for much more storage of pictures.

Picture

What this thing is is an old Ricoh G-1200S pentop computer. I paid $131 for it with no hard drive. I already had a small type III PCMCIA drive of the right type for it.  The machine has two things that make it good for displaying photos; a CDROM drive and a 640x480 display that will show 65000 colors. Resized all of my digital photos (about 12500 of them as of this writing) to 640x480, and put them on one CDROM. I'm running slideshow software, a new picture displays every 5 seconds. It takes about half a day to cycle through them all. The screen is touch sensitive and you can see a custom keyboard that I designed in the lower corner to operate the software (Vueprint).

The Details.

The Machine:

If you are thinking of making your own "viewer", I can't really recommend the Ricoh for several reasons. Sure, it works great when you get it done, but because of some problems with the hardware, and no proper Windows 95 drivers, it is a real task to get it working. The G-1200S is a 486/50, and has just 8MB of RAM. The real probem is that it uses a type III hard drive, and only certain drives are supported by the BIOS. Here is a page about the G-1200S. Any other machine could be used though, the display is the most important part.  There is no reason that you can't use any old laptop that has a color display. With the pictures pre-sized to your screen size, even an old 486 can display the shots rapidly enough.  Do a deja-news search on comp.sys.pen for the G-1200S before you decide to use one.

Re-sizing the pictures.

Moving and resizing 12500 shots took a lot of effort. Most Windows software will choke on that many files. PhotoPaint 9 or Photoshop could be programmed to automate the resize, but would take days to convert that many files due to the overhead. I wrote a batch file to collect all the shots in one directory and take care of any name conflicts under DOS. Then I used a DOS batch utility that comes with the excellent XNview viewer to convert the files. I tried to find a Windows program that would batch convert that many files but could not. The process took about 12 hrs on my 450MHz machine. I adjusted the JPEG compression to fit all the files on the CD.

Making the CD:

Making a CD with that many small files on it proves to be a problem also. Even at only 1X, the seek time for your hard drive with that many small files means data overrun. I had to have the software pre-create and burn the data in tracks.

Improvements:

The system begs for improvements. I didn't deal with photos that need to be rotated, for example, because there were too many to look at all at once. I may write some more flexable slide viewing software.

Conclusion:

For the money, this is a fun project. You could really use any old laptop, especially if it has a CD drive. You will learn a lot about your CD bruner and burning software when you make the disk. The screen quality is paramount in selecting a machine, the small viewer frames are only 320x240 generally, but they use TFT screens which look better.