Home Board

Okay, “Home Board” is a dumb name, but I don’t know what else to call it.  Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about this cool thing I built.

This is a 7.5″ e-ink display mounted inside a picture frame.  It’s hooked up to a Raspberry Pi and updates the weather and calendar information every 15 minutes.  During “special events” it displays an additional celebration message (see example below).

This is a product I’ve wanted for a long time, but no one made such a thing as far as I could find.  So I finally decided to make it myself.

As you can see, the back is a bit of a mess; but it’s all attached, so you only have to run the power cord.

It would be cleaner if I were using a newer Raspberry Pi. The display comes with a “hat” (zip-tied to the frame stand in this picture) that fits directly on the GPIO pins of the newer Raspberry Pi.  It doesn’t fit on the version 1 (which I’m using here), so I had to use the provided multi-colored wires and connect the pins myself.

Also, the newer RPis use microSD cards that don’t hang over the edge of the case (behind the power connectors).  And they have built-in Wi-Fi so there’d be no additional dongle (the blue glow at the bottom).

The 7.5″ screen was the largest e-ink display I could find.  Someone used to make a 10.2″ one, but it appears to be discontinued.  The refresh rate is terrible (about 15 seconds to change images, with lots of flashing throughout).  But for my purposes that’s fine.  I’m only updating it every 15 minutes.

Here’s a sample image of a birthday display:

I wanted a e-ink display for 2 reasons.  The first is that it doesn’t glow, so being on all night isn’t annoying. And the second is that it’s super low power.  Power is only needed while updating the display.  It pulls its power from the Raspberry Pi, which, at full draw, maxes out at ~2 watts.  Which means, assuming some loss in the power adapter, is less than $5 a year (I’m pretty sure I did that math right).

It’s awesome.

Parts

  1. Waveshare 7.5 inch e-ink 3-color display with Raspberry Pi connector.
  2. Raspberry Pi with case and power supply (I’m using a version 1, but the display works with 1, 2, or 3).
  3. 5×7″ Picture frame
  4. Some miscellaneous mounting hardware to attach Pi to back of frame

The total cost of hardware is about $125 (display, RPi, SD card, case, power supply, cord, frame, mounting hardware).

Software

  1. Weather Underground API (low-volume developer key is free)
  2. Google Calendar Python API
  3. Waveshare driver to interact with the display (included in my code, below)
  4. My custom written Python application that pulls the data together, generates the image, and sends it to the display.

Titan II Crafting

wpid-wp-1412807286883.jpegI bought the piece of airframe aluminum from the Titan II Museum during our drive back from Texas, but it just came by itself in a little bag.  So I made a little display for it out of some mat board.  Then I laid out the graphics to go around it, printed it out, and glued it on.  It came out fairly well, a little rough around the edges, but I’m happy with it.

The general idea matches the commemorative coin I have from the space shuttle launch we watched.

Here they are together:

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Advent Chain/Tree Thingummy

I  had a brilliant idea yesterday! At least, I think so. I’ve been trying to think of something countdown-y to do with Heather to get ready for Christmas. But she’s just not old enough yet for a lot of the stuff I found. I liked the idea of a chain to count down to Christmas, but it needed something more. Here’s what I came up with:

I took 4 sheets of scrapbooking paper and drew a Christmas tree on them (freehand, y’all!):

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Then I cut the papers into 24 strips…

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…and made a chain.

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We have nowhere cool to hang said chain, so it’s currently on the end of a curtain rod:

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Then I got a piece of posterboard and put it on the wall. Each evening, we’ll take one link off the chain and glue it to the posterboard. As we count down the days to Christmas, we’ll be re-building our Christmas tree.

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When it’s done, I think we’ll let Heather color it. You know she loves to color.