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7 posts with the hacking topic:

Final assembly

23 September 2017
3 minutes
hacking Project: E-ink frame

This post continues the story about my e-ink calendar frame and concludes the rebuilding. This time I actually remembered to take some nice photographs!

All the parts

I dashed to the post office to pick up the finished models only to find that they hadn’t been dyed black; they were still white. I did consider working with them but they had dyed some of the smaller parts, so that would have been weird. 3DPRINTUK quickly sorted that out and a few days later I had them back in my hands and in the correct colour.

Expanding the holes with a dremel

I designed the holes for the screw inserts to be as tight as possible and they ended up being a little too tight. This is still better than them being too big as I could just use a Dremel to widen them slightly and then set to work.

Heating the inserts with a lighter let them melt into the plastic as I pushed them in. This set them enough that I could tighten a screw without them working their way out.

Heating the inserts

Pushing in the insertread more

Experience and re-printing

10 July 2017
3 minutes
hacking Project: E-ink frame

I’ve had the frame on my desk for a few months now and I’m delighted that it’s actually useful. I refer to it all the time. I’m embarrassingly proud that I made a thing that actually works. I make it to most meetings on time now!

I had some early issues with timezones (leading to me gatecrashing several meetings) due to Google’s .ics file being difficult to interpret. If my manager in Greece invited me to a meeting, the calendar event would be set for his timezone. I had made an attempt at converting these myself but timezones are hard and daylight savings set it all on fire. To get around this, and improve support for repeating and cancelled events, I switched to using Google’s API. Getting OAuth up and running took a little while but after that it was easy to replace the function that pulled from the .ics address with one that used their API. Now Google handles all those horrible timezones and recurring events.

There were also some issues with the frame’s design that I kept wanting to address. I was unhappy with how deep the bezel was, it’s 15mm and that creates a lot of shadow...
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Frame software

07 April 2017
4 minutes
hacking Project: E-ink frame

I had a frame, a box of other frames I didn’t want to talk about, some circuit boards, and a piece of expensive plastic to hold it all together. My next task was to make it all work.

It would have been possible to use the Pi’s IO pins to communicate directly with the screen but I was not confident I’d get that working. Instead, I ordered a USB interface (USB2TCM) sold by the manufacturer. This mounts as a USB flash drive and allows you to transfer a single file which the interface reads and communicates to the screen.

Raspbian is a Pi-friendly version of Debian. I’ve installed Apache, so I can have some user-facing settings and an easier time debugging, and PHP 7, which this will be written in. So I can work on this locally, quickly deploy it to the frame, and eventually share the code with others, I’ve built a simple settings page that allows the user to add calendars and API tokens. This also allows me to toggle the environment; the “demo” environment halts execution after the image is built and displays it in the browser rather than trying to send it to the frame.

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Attaching bits to the frame

05 April 2017
2 minutes
hacking Project: E-ink frame

Continuing my e-ink photo frame project, I now had a wooden frame. And two other frames I didn’t want to think about. Next up, I needed a way to attach everything together.

My initial plan was to use hardboard. It was from the back of a photo frame so seemed appropriate. I measured out what I’d need to cut in SketchUp:

Circuit board plan

(I had so much fun needlessly modelling small details on this project).

The hardboard, whilst strong, was ugly as all fuck and frayed when cut. I considered wood but the chances of me cutting it accurately were close to nil. I decided to treat myself and have my first foray into 3D printing - I already had everything measured precisely in SketchUp.

3D board model

The grey bit is the model to be printed. The translucent shape on the top left is the case I had bought for my Raspberry Pi. I added 5mm raised walls around the e-ink board, the adaptor, and the Pi. Those strengthening-tubes you see between the Pi and the adaptor? I thought they looked nice. Maybe they make it stronger too? I also added a...
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Making things out of wood

05 February 2017
3 minutes
hacking Project: E-ink frame

Continuing my project to build an e-ink photo frame calendar, my next step was to build the frame. This was comprised of two disasters and a compromise. I’m not very good at wood.

Disaster 1: DIY

I learnt how frame mouldings work and found a local art shop that would sell me a length. I built it in SketchUp and measured the model so I could be confident about the measurements. I then bought myself a mitre box so I could cut some beautiful 45° angles.

I have always struggled to saw straight but I thought the mitre box would be the solution to this. Surely it’s impossible to do anything but saw straight with a mitre box? It turns out, if you’re really bad at sawing things, it’s possible to saw through a mitre box. Once I had sawed new directions into all four 45° slots, I decided to power through and sand away the mistakes.

This almost worked. I had to do a lot of sanding but I eventually got the four pieces to fit together and look okay from the front. Unfortunately, I had done so much sanding that I lost a good few centimetres of...
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Planning the e-ink photo frame

02 February 2017
3 minutes
hacking Project: E-ink frame

I am not terribly organised and frequently discover I’m supposed to be in a meeting when either my phone starts beeping and flashing or - if I’ve left that somewhere - a friendly soul PMs me to ask where I am. I wanted to build an actual thing and thought I’d try and solve this problem at the same time.

I quickly thought of building something with a screen that can sit on my desk and display upcoming events. I had a Raspberry Pi sitting about and was confident I could figure out the code, I just needed a screen and something to hold it all together.

There are plenty of LCD screens available that would integrate easily with the Pi. There are even touch screens. My desk already holds two gargantuan monitors and I feared another backlit screen might make my eyes upset.

I settled on using e-ink: I don’t need back-lighting or colour, and I only want to display static content. If I could build this well, I could have something that didn’t look like a device at all.

The proper e-ink developer kits start around $1000. I looked into jail-breaking my Kindle and easing it out of the casing but my device is the Alcatraz of Kindles and its generation has yet to be broken out. I briefly fell in love with the giant Kindle DX, with a 9.7” display, but these were expensive to acquire and I’d probably have felt bad tearing it apart.

I eventually stumbled upon a company called Pervasive Displays, they were mentioned in a forum post about a tiny screen someone had included in a project. After further digging, I found a 7.4” 1-bit screen that I could get hold of for about $150.
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