Project Idea: Eric’s Magic Window

This is a project idea that I have to turn a single board computer, LCD monitor, and a few other parts into a Magic Window. I’m hoping to actually work this idea and document it in this space, as I get parts/funding (funding is me saving up my fun money, I’m not looking for crowdsourcing). When it’s complete, I’ll probably share photos/video of the final product, system images, instructions, etc for anyone else looking to build one.

The Concept

Eric’s Magic Window is a framed LCD screen mounted to the wall. It looks sort of like a window. It is controlled by a remote control, and has the following operating modes:

1. The Digital Window – in this mode, it will stream one of several live camera feeds from around the world. In this mode, it will look most like a window. A number of live camera feeds are broadcast on sites such as earthcam.com.

2. The Digital Frame – in this mode, family photos are shown slow slideshow style from a photo collection, either stored locally or in the cloud.

3. The Digital Gallery – same as digital frame mode, except we see landscape photos and paintings instead of family photos.

4. The Wall Calendar – in this mode, you see a month view of Google Calendar.

5. Weather Center – The current weather report. Stretch: figures out current location from IP address.

Parts Needed

1. Single Board Computer (e.g. Imagine Tech Creator CI20, Raspberry Pi B+, Banana Pi M2, or BeagleBone Black)
2. SD or MicroSD for storage, 16+ GB
3. WiFi dongle if board doesn’t have it built it
4. Remote control + receiver of some sort, possibly a mini-keyboard or maybe just a basic remote
5. LCD display w/ HDMI connector in the neighborhood of 13″ – 17″ + HDMI cable
6. Hardware to mount LCD on the wall
7. clever way to attach the board out of site behind the monitor
8. Custom cut wooden frame
9. I need some solution that will save me from having a power cable hang down my wall.

The Plan

My plan is to get enough parts to develop this and to get the proof of concept working. I’ll then tweak it until I’m happy, and only then tackle the mounting, framing, etc.

Resources and Challenges

I’ve been working with Linux for 20 years now, including some systems administration experience. I’ve been a professional software developer for 16 years and currently work as a web developer on a LAMP/js stack. I have the skills needed to make all the software do what it needs to do.

The biggest challenges for me will be on the mounting/building side of the project. Luckily, that comes last, which will give me time to figure it out I hope. If the challenge of this part of the project looks like it’ll be too much, I’ll just put the monitor on top of one of our bookcases and punt on the wall mounting.

Summary

As soon as I have what I need to get started, I’ll start the project and start blogging a developer’s diary here. I’ll take this as an opportunity to provide review information from any computer hardware I use for the project. Follow me on Twitter at @ericwburns if you want to keep tabs on this.

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