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

How to con­fig­ure the soft­ware for your dig­i­tal pic­ture frame in 60 min­utes

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In this arti­cle, I will describe in detail how to set up your Rasp­berry Pi as a plat­form for your dig­i­tal pic­ture frame.

To fol­low my instruc­tions, you do not need any knowl­edge of the Rasp­berry Pi or Lin­ux. Also, you do not require a com­put­er mon­i­tor, a key­board or a mouse con­nect­ed to your Rasp­berry Pi.

At the end of this post, you will have the oper­at­ing sys­tem Rasp­bian Buster installed on your Rasp­berry Pi, your file shar­ing and WiFi con­nec­tion work­ing and a few oth­er use­ful things are tak­en care of.

Required hard­ware

You need four parts at this stage:

A Rasp­berry Pi 4 Mod­el B mini­com­put­er

This mod­el was launched in June 2019 and is ide­al for a dig­i­tal pic­ture frame.

The most sig­nif­i­cant advan­tage com­pared to pre­vi­ous mod­els is that this board comes with 4K HDMI out­put, up to 4 GB in mem­o­ry and USB 3.0.

The Rasp­berry Pi 4 Mod­el B

In the past, I have also built dig­i­tal pic­ture frames with the Rasp­berry Pi 3 Mod­el B+ and the Pi 2 Mod­el B, and it worked just as well. The dif­fer­ence that I like about the Pi4 is the 4K HDMI out­put.

As the lat­est Rasp­berry Pi 4 Mod­el B is real­ly afford­able, I would rec­om­mend get­ting this mod­el even if you have an old one lying around.

A Case for your Rasp­berry Pi

When you shop for your Rasp­berry Pi, you will be no doubt prompt­ed to a selec­tion of cas­es.

Make sure that you get one that is com­pat­i­ble with the Rasp­berry Pi 4. Although the out­er phys­i­cal dimen­sions between the Mod­els 4 and 3 have not changed, USB and Eth­er­net port have changed place.

You do not need a fan­cy case, nor a case with a heatsink. Run­ning the dig­i­tal pic­ture frame appli­ca­tion will not cause your com­put­er to become over­ly hot, mine is usu­al­ly run­ning at 65 °C (149 °F) which is a per­fect­ly fine oper­at­ing tem­per­a­ture for the Rasp­berry Pi.

What you should watch out for is that you can eas­i­ly take out your Rasp­berry Pi from its case even when you have glued the case to the back of the mon­i­tor; this is cru­cial should you need to change the SD card at one point.

My pre­ferred choice is this offi­cial Rasp­berry Pi 4 case in raspberry/white col­or or in black/grey. They are easy to han­dle, very slim and a good bar­gain.

A micro SD card

The crit­i­cal thing to con­sid­er when you shop for a micro SD card is not the speed but dura­bil­i­ty.

Speed is vital for an SD card in a high-per­­for­­mance cam­era where you want to write new images to the card quick­ly; it is not so impor­tant for a dig­i­tal pic­ture frame use case.

But unlike a cam­era, a dig­i­tal pic­ture frame is typ­i­cal­ly pow­ered on 24 hours a day and will exe­cute many read/write cycles, and this is what will deter­mine the life expectan­cy. There are spe­cial Endurance SD cards that allow for many read/write cycles which makes your card a lot more reli­able.

Also, the GB size will help to improve the reli­a­bil­i­ty of your SD card. If your SD is always close to max­i­mum capac­i­ty, there is a high­er degree of wear of the mem­o­ry sec­tors as there is less free space avail­able.

Although you only need about 1.5 GB of space for about 1,000 images (for­mat­ted at 1920 x 1200 px in high­est jpg qual­i­ty) in your fold­er plus about 4 GB for the oper­at­ing sys­tem and oth­er appli­ca­tions, I would rec­om­mend pick­ing a 32 GB microSD card.

They are only a lit­tle bit more expen­sive than a 16 GB card but will give you peace of mind over the life­time of your dig­i­tal pic­ture frame.

I have had good expe­ri­ences with High Endurance Cards made by San­disk (32 GB High Endurance), but I am sure that oth­er qual­i­ty man­u­fac­tur­ers like Sam­sung (32 GB, PRO Endurance) and Tran­scend (32 GB, High Endurance) are just as good.

Note: Make sure you buy a micro SD card, not the reg­u­lar SD cards that you use for cam­eras. The micro SD card will come with an adapter so that you can use it in a stan­dard SD card read­er which is essen­tial for the instal­la­tion of the oper­at­ing sys­tem. For the Rasp­berry Pi, you won't need the adapter any­more.

A pow­er sup­ply

Two things that are impor­tant here: Enough pow­er and a slim form fac­tor that fits nice­ly behind the screen.

Let's start with pow­er: The Rasp­berry Pi 4 Mod­el B requires a pow­er sup­ply of 5 V and a min­i­mum of 3A. Don't get a weak­er one than 3A. You may end up with all kinds of issues that seem unex­plain­able, but in the end, it's because of a pow­er sup­ply that is not up to the task.

The slim form fac­tor is cru­cial because we must always keep in mind that there isn't too much space behind the mon­i­tor and the wall. So pick one which has enough pow­er but it still small.

This is all the hard­ware that we need for the mini­com­put­er pow­er­ing your dig­i­tal pic­ture frame. I will assume that you have access to a reg­u­lar desk­top or lap­top com­put­er with either Microsoft Win­dows, macOS or Lin­ux includ­ing an SD card slot or exter­nal read­er.

Instal­la­tion of Rasp­bian Buster

Now that we have all the hard­ware com­po­nents togeth­er let's breathe some life into these elec­tron­ics. You will need about one hour for these steps if you are doing it for the first time.

The Rasp­berry Pi runs on many oper­at­ing sys­tems like sev­er­al Lin­ux dialects, but also a vari­ant of Microsoft Win­dows 10 (IoT Core).

For the dig­i­tal pic­ture frame, we will use Rasp­bian, the offi­cial oper­at­ing sys­tem for all mod­els of the Rasp­berry Pi. It's free to use and easy to install.

Use your reg­u­lar desktop/laptop com­put­er for the fol­low­ing steps:

Down­load the Rasp­berry Pi oper­at­ing sys­tem

Go to https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/ and click on Rasp­bian.

You will see three vari­ants; find "Rasp­bian Buster with desk­top" and "Down­load ZIP."

All you need is Rasp­bian Buster

The ZIP file is about 1 GB in size, so depend­ing on your inter­net con­nec­tion, enjoy a cup of cof­fee while you wait.

Unzip the file.

Down­load Etch­er

Go to https://www.balena.io/etcher/, down­load and install the Etch­er 64-bit installer for your oper­at­ing sys­tem. Etch­er (also known as "bale­naEtch­er") is a soft­ware util­i­ty to flash the Rasp­bian image which you just down­loaded to your SD card.

Put your micro SD card in the SD card adapter (unless you have a micro SD card read­er; in this case, you don't need the adapter).

Flash image onto the micro SD card

Launch Etch­er, select the image, point to your SD card and hit "Flash."; this takes about 3 min­utes.

Fun­ni­ly enough, at the time of my record­ing, Etch­er was adver­tis­ing a dig­i­tal pic­ture frame as an ide­al appli­ca­tion for a Rasp­berry Pi. I couldn't agree more. (You will find the best instruc­tions on this web­site!)

When Etch­er fin­ish­es, your SD card will be unmount­ed ("soft eject"). Take out your SD adapter from your card read­er and rein­sert it. This way, it will be mount­ed again.

Adding the infor­ma­tion about your WiFi net­work

In macOS or Lin­ux, launch the Ter­mi­nal appli­ca­tion that comes with your oper­at­ing sys­tem. For Microsoft Win­dows, you will have to down­load and install the free PuT­TY app (or use the new Microsoft Ter­mi­nal app.)

Here are the steps using the Ter­mi­nal app on a Mac or Lin­ux com­put­er. For Microsoft Win­dows and PuT­TY, it should work in the same way.

cd /Volumes/boot
touch ssh
nano wpa_supplicant.conf

An edi­tor will open. Copy the fol­low­ing text and paste it into the edi­tor win­dow.

Enter your coun­try code, your cor­rect SSID (WiFi sta­tion name) and your pass­word.

The Coun­try Code is the ISO/IEC alpha2 code for the coun­try in which you are using your Rasp­berry Pi. Exam­ples are

  • US (Unit­ed States)
  • GB (Unit­ed King­dom)
  • DE (Ger­many)
  • FR (France)

You will find the full list under the link above.

ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev
update_config=1
country=US
network={
ssid="yourssid"
psk="yourpassword"
key_mgmt=WPA-PSK
}

Press CTRL-O to save the con­tent and CTRL-X to exit the edi­tor. Close the Ter­mi­nal app and eject your SD card.

Start­ing up the Rasp­berry Pi for the first time

Take the microSD card out of the adapter and insert it in the Rasp­berry Pi like this:

This is what it looks like

Con­nect the pow­er sup­ply to the Rasp­berry Pi; it will boot up auto­mat­i­cal­ly. There is no on/off switch on a Rasp­berry Pi. You do not con­nect need to con­nect your dis­play mon­i­tor to the Rasp­berry Pi at this stage.

Find­ing the IP address of your Rasp­berry Pi on your WiFi net­work

When your Rasp­berry Pi con­nects to your WiFi net­work, your router will give it an IP num­ber. We need this IP num­ber to access it remote­ly.

Look up the list of con­nect­ed clients in your router set­tings and find "rasp­ber­rypi." Next to it should be an IP num­ber like this:

Open Ter­mi­nal again (for Microsoft Win­dows use Put­ty) and con­nect to your Rasp­berry Pi with the IP num­ber that you found (exam­ple: pi@192.168.178.46):

ssh pi@your-ip-address

Enter the default pass­word "rasp­berry" (with­out brack­ets)

You have now con­nect­ed to your Rasp­berry Pi. Next, let's do some house­work.

Installing sys­tem updates and basic con­fig­u­ra­tion

It is always a good idea to run a sys­tem update on a fresh sys­tem.

In Ter­mi­nal enter

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y

This will take some time.

Once this is fin­ished, open the con­fig­u­ra­tion util­i­ty

sudo raspi-config

Make the fol­low­ing changes:

  • Under 1: Change User Pass­word
  • Under 2: Net­work Options - N1: Host­name: Change to the name that you want to for Rasp­berry Pi on the net­work. The default set­ting is "Rasp­ber­ryPi". Feel free to change it to what­ev­er you like.
  • Under 3: Boot Options - B1 Desktop/CLI: Choose B2 Con­sole Autolo­gin
  • Under 3: Boot Options: Wait for Net­work at Boot: Yes
  • Under 4: Local­i­sa­tion Options: Choose I2 and set your time­zone.

Go Back and fin­ish. It will ask you to reboot.

Wait two min­utes for the reboot and con­nect again to the Rasp­berry Pi with

ssh pi@your-ip-address

Installing net­work set­tings

We are now installing a file-shar­ing soft­ware that works for Microsoft Win­dows, Mac and Lin­ux machines using the SMB (SAMBA) net­work pro­to­col. This allows you to access your Rasp­berry Pi on your net­work to add images and pro­gram files eas­i­ly remote­ly.

In Ter­mi­nal enter

sudo apt install samba -y

When this win­dow comes up, choose "No".

Now, install a user

sudo smbpasswd -a pi

(where "pi" is your user­name, feel free to change it as you like)

Set a pass­word and con­firm it. Don't for­get your pass­word!

We need to make a change in the SAMBA con­fig file

sudo nano /etc/samba/smb.conf

Scroll down to the last sec­tion called "===Share Def­i­n­i­tions==="

In the first sec­tion called "homes" make the fol­low­ing three changes ("no", "0777", "0777"):

By default, the home directories are exported read-only. Change the
\# next parameter to 'no' if you want to be able to write to them.
read only = no
\# File creation mask is set to 0700 for security reasons. If you want to
\# create files with group=rw permissions, set next parameter to 0775.
create mask = 0777
\# Directory creation mask is set to 0700 for security reasons. If you want to
\# create dirs. with group=rw permissions, set next parameter to 0775.
directory mask = 0777

Hit CTRL + O to write the file to disk and then CTRL + X to exit the edi­tor.

Final­ly, restart SAMBA:

sudo /etc/init.d/smbd restart

You should now see the name of your Rasp­berry Pi in your net­work. Con­nect to it using your user­name "pi" (in our exam­ple) and your pass­word.

When­ev­er you reboot your Rasp­berry Pi, file shar­ing will auto­mat­i­cal­ly start.

Stop the screen from going blank

By default, the screen will go blank when there is no key­board or mouse move­ment detect­ed. As we don't even have a key­board or a mouse for the Rasp­berry Pi, this would be awk­ward.

So let's dis­able the auto­mat­ic screen saver.

In Ter­mi­nal enter

sudo nano /etc/xdg/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart

After the edi­tor opens, change the con­tent to this:

@lxpanel --profile LXDE-pi
@pcmanfm --desktop --profile LXDE-pi
@xset s off
@xset -dpms
@xset s noblank

Hit CTRL + O to write the file to disk and then CTRL + X to exit the edi­tor.

Con­clu­sion

Con­grat­u­la­tions! You have suc­cess­ful­ly set up your Rasp­berry Pi as a plat­form for your dig­i­tal pic­ture frame.

Now read the arti­cle "How I added cross­fad­ing slide tran­si­tions to my dig­i­tal pic­ture frame using Pi3D" to install the slide show soft­ware and you're done!