The 100 best digital picture frames on amazon
The 100 best digital picture frames on amazon
The 100 best digital picture frames on amazon
The 100 best digital picture frames on amazon

A sim­ple way to auto­mat­i­cal­ly turn your dig­i­tal pic­ture frame on and off at fixed times


Unless you want your dig­i­tal pic­ture frame on dis­play 24/7, you will need to decide how you want to con­trol the dis­play pow­er. I will show you a few ways in my arti­cles, but the eas­i­est for begin­ners is clock-con­trolled pow­er man­age­ment.

The way to do this in Lin­ux is through the Cron Dae­mon which is a process that runs in the back­ground and trig­gers defined events at a spec­i­fied time as described in the crontab file.

In this arti­cle, I will explain to you how to set up the crontab and con­fig­ure wake and sleep com­mands for your dig­i­tal pic­ture frame. I will also show a Python script for dis­play pow­er man­age­ment.

A Clock­work Rasp­berry


To turn off a dig­i­tal pic­ture frame, you deac­ti­vate the dis­play. The com­put­er itself, the Rasp­berry Pi, is nev­er turned off.

Once turned off, there is no way of auto-awak­en­ing it as there is no bat­tery that pow­ers a real-time clock (RTC) on the small board. But since its pow­er con­sump­tion is only 2-3 Watts, it wouldn't make much dif­fer­ence on your util­i­ty bill any­way.

So when a Rasp­berry Pi is pow­ered on, it always checks if there is a trig­ger event, in our case, time. The table with the "wake-up" calls is kept in the crontab file.

To open the crontab, you type in a Ter­mi­nal win­dow

crontab -e

If you haven't used crontab -e before, you will be asked which edi­tor you would like to use. I rec­om­mend #2, the nano edi­tor.

A typ­i­cal line in the crontab script to trig­ger a time-based event will look some­thing like this:

00 07 * * 1-5 vcgencmd display_power 1

This turns on the dig­i­tal pic­ture frame screen every Mon­day to Fri­day at 7h00. The exact time syn­tax of the crontab is explained very well on the web­site, so I won't go into many details here.

Eight days a week

Here is an exam­ple of a script which assumes that from Mon­day to Fri­day dig­i­tal pic­ture frame should be turned on at 7h, and on week­ends at 8h. From Sun­day to Thurs­day bed­time is at 22h45 and from Fri­day to Sat­ur­day one hour lat­er.

# Turn off display Sunday - Thursday at 22h45
45 22 * * 0-4 vcgencmd display_power 0
# Turn off display Friday - Saturday at 23h45
45 23 * * 5,6 vcgencmd display_power 0
# Turn on screen Monday - Friday at 7h00
00 07 * * 1-5 vcgencmd display_power 1
# Turn on screen Saturday - Sunday at 8h00
00 08 * * 6,0 vcgencmd display_power 1

The com­mand to pow­er off the screen is

sudo vcgencmd display_power 0

and to pow­er on, you put a 1 instead of the 0, so

sudo vcgencmd display_power 1

Save the file with CTRL+O and exit with CTRL+X. You're done!

You can add as many time trig­gers as you like in the crontab.

Pow­er­ing down the mon­i­tor when not need­ed will save you elec­tric­i­ty (about 20 Watts) and may extend the lifes­pan of your mon­i­tor. Oth­ers pre­fer to leave the dis­play on to serve as a deter­rent to bur­glars or out of con­ve­nience, but that's up to your indi­vid­ual pref­er­ences.

The Python way to turn the dis­play on and off

If you need to change the dis­play sta­tus by invok­ing a Python script, this is what the code would look like for turn­ing it on:

# coding: utf8 #
import subprocess  # for command execution
def myfunction():
	CONTROL = "vcgencmd" # command to turn the screen on
	CONTROL_UNBLANK = [CONTROL, "display_power", "1"] # command to turn the screen on # command to turn the screen on

To turn the screen off, just replace the "1" with a "0".

50 ways to con­trol your dis­play

There are many oth­er meth­ods of auto­mat­i­cal­ly con­trol­ling the pow­er sta­tus of your dig­i­tal pic­ture frame dis­play.

At home, we have installed a pres­ence detec­tion sys­tem where the Rasp­berry Pi knows when a per­son is at home based on the wifi pres­ence of his/her iOS device; oth­ers have tin­kered with motion sen­sors which I don't think is so great. You can also geofence your home with your smart­phones and trig­ger an action through IFTTT.

I will write more about oth­er meth­ods in the future.