So here it is, the third (and hopefully last) instalment: The Eee PC Digital Picture Frame aka The Eee PF.
I’ve divided it up in four sections, for easy digesting ;) All pictures can be enlarged, and the complete set of pictures can be found in the gallery.
Part 1: Disassembling the Eee PC
It starts off with an Asus Eee PC 701 2G, which is perfectly small, yet cheap enough to destroy in the name of science.
Push the three tabs at the top of the keyboard in and lift the keyboard up to reveal the keyboard connector at the bottom of the keyboard. Using a small flat screwdriver, push the two locks open and remove the keyboard completely. Next to the keyboard connector is the touchpad connector which should be disconnected as well.
With the keyboard removed, the bottom half of the case is next. Remove the nine screws as indicated in the pictures. Turn the Eee PC over and remove the six remaining screws. For good measure, also remove the battery by sliding the two latches outwards, and slide the battery out. Flip the Mini over again and open the lid again. Using a plastic wedge (or your finger nails if you have them), pry the case open using some gentle force along the sides. Be patient at this point as the plastic latches inside the case, are fragile and will snap if you exercise too much force.
Now we just need to remove the motherboard. Disconnect the speaker and display connectors. There are two latches holding it in place, located at the bottom edge of the PCB. Lift the motherboard up at the right hand side and then pull it out up and sideways.
Time to separate the LCD from the bezel. Six screws are hidden underneath the plastic covers which are stickied in place. Use a plastic wedge along the side of the bezel but be very careful, it is very fragile. Take your time and be gentle. Just four screws and four sticky metal tape strips to remove before you can lift the LCD clean out.
Voilà, the Eee PC naked! Now we are ready for some serious modding ;)
Part 2: Mounting the LCD
Whatever you do, make sure you buy a frame and mount which have a high WAF since it needs to live in the living room. You don’t want to find yourself building something like this and then SWMBO tossing it in the bin because is clashes with the design ;) Take the mount and measure the dimensions of the LCD and frame and carefully cut it to size. As usual; measure twice, cut once :)
The LCD driver board sits neatly underneath the LCD, but when you mount the display into the frame, it doesn’t fit. Cutting away a bit of the frame allows it to be sunken into it and sit flush with the frame. Some double sided tape holds the mount in place.
On to the motherboard. This needs to be mounted with enough clearance above the LCD so that heat can escape and to do this I made my own spacers using normal motherboard spacers which I had plenty of from my PC building days. The screw holes on the Eee PC are tiny, so cut away at the top of the spacers to make them small enough to fit. Looks rather neat, eh?
Part 3: Building the frame
Before we create the frame, we need to think about an alternative heat sink. Normally, the bottom of the keyboard would dissipate the heat, so after doing some testing, I settled on an Akasa Southbridge cooler and some tiny Maplin heat sinks. Tests showed that the temps remained nicely around the 50ºC mark, which will rise to about 65ºC once the back cover will be on. Well within the limits :)
Using some 4mm Pine Stripwood cut to length, mark out all the ports and crevices that need to be carefully removed from the frame to allow access once everything is closed up again.
Here’s a quick mock up of how it all will fit together once we’ve painted the frame and glued it to the photo frame’s back.
Because the power switch would be covered up when the back is glued on, we need to move the switch’s function to somewhere more convenient. Reading this blog post over at Infinity Squared on an external power switch, I decided to go for the smallest I could find at Maplin. My soldering is definitely not the best, so a bit of heat shrink camouflages most of it ;)
I also wanted to have some sort of visual indication that the frame is on or off (other than the tell-tale display ;)). But how to get the minuscule surface mounted LEDs displayed through the frame? I had seen something previously, where light was transported using a small transparent acrylic tube. And when I was killing some time wandering around my local Tesco, I found my 48p answer… translucent golf markers! Remove the heads, drill a few holes and Bob is a relative.
Almost there. Using some left over black paint, paint all the sides and make sure that once assembled, all the small blemishes are hidden. Well, most of them ;)
Ready for assembly! Some glue, some patience and some skilful balancing of weighty items on top of the corners and all that is left to do is add the back cover.
Part 4: Finishing touches
A sheet of hardboard has been cut to be the approximate size and then using patience and lots of sanding made to fit exactly. The space at the bottom of the frame is perfect for the speakers, so using a small drill, create lots of small holes where the sound can penetrate through. It won’t be high fidelity, but it’s good enough for announcements. At the top of the frame, the microphone has been mounted, so we may be able to support voice commands in the future! A quick lick of paint finishes it off.
We’re re-using the stand from the picture frame, but instead of hammering it in the backboard, we have to glue it. I’ve used Araldite, which should create a long lasting strong bond.
And that is it! I’m quite pleased with the result, and even SWMBO commented on how nicely it looks in the living room… result!
As a final note, I haven’t mentioned at all what software the frame is running, so before you bombard me with questions, I better list them here ;)
The OS is a standard Ubuntu 8.10 Desktop, with /usr compressed with squashfs/unionfs so it can fit on the 2GB SSD. After booting, it starts Firefox on my homepage, a PHP/Ajax/MySQL slideshow script which displays the pictures, weather and clock. The mousepointer is hidden using a small utility called Unclutter and the display is automatically switched off at night using
sudo vbetool dpms offand switched on again in the morning using
sudo vbetool dpms on. It’s still all a bit rough round the edges, but for now it works :)