Monday, 23 February 2009

Field Photos in the Kitchen

The idea behind developing the solar powered wireless camera and putting it in the field was to put the photo's it sent on display in the kitchen, to bring the field alive for the family, and remind us that we had it!

Having got the camera up and running successfully, attention turned to the second part of the plan. What I wanted to do was display the photos in some kind of a digital photo frame, that would automatically keep itself up-to-date, so we could always glance at the latest picture without any hassles.

I wasn't starting from the beginning here, as I'd already had a (long-since abandoned) system based around an old Mac Mini, a tiny 7" Lilliput screen and a wooden picture frame, which my friend Richard had neatly carved out to take the screen. This was originally used as a media station to control and play music, but was more trouble that it was worth. Anyway, it seemed like these were the right parts to build a nice tidy picture frame from, with the Mac Mini hidden away, and the little screen on a shelf showing the photos.

A fair bit of Googling and some hackery led to a nice php script to pull the latest picture from my Flickr account, and I worked it up to reload every 10 minutes, so it was pretty up-to-date. I found PlainView a really nice (and free) full-screen web browser for the Mac too, which meant I didn't have to have all the menu's showing - making this look really just like a photo frame!

In reality, just having a photo on a screen seemed a bit dull, so it was back to the hackery to put a "news feed" on the bottom of the screen, underneath the photo. This has worked out really well. We now have a php script which loads up a bunch of rss feeds every 10 minutes (BBC News, Weather, Sport) and then a little piece of javascript which scrolls through the feeds - with a lovely fade out effect.

The system has been up and running on a shelf in the kitchen for a week or so now (though I still need to hide the keyboard-less and mouse-less Mac Mini and tuck the wires away). It has worked out really well. We glance at it often, and see some fantastic blue skies and sunsets, and being able to check the news on the bottom of the screen is a real plus.

Another bonus is that this formerly redundant Mac Mini now properly syncs with iTunes on my Laptop, collecting new music I've bought or downloaded and I can use Apple's FrontRow music software to pick tunes and pipe them through the kitchen stereo - just like I'd previously wanted to do with my old audio system.

The Kitchen Information System is very much alive!

1 comment:

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