Monday, August 04, 2008

Converting a laptop to a picture frame

I recently acquired (thanks dad) an old Dell Latitude CP laptop. This is a little 166MHz, 32 Mb RAM system, nothing fancy. But it does have a 12" 800x600 16mil color screen.

So, I set out to do what I've seen others do, convert the little guy into a digital picture frame.

Important points are in bold if you want to skip through with just highlights.

I found several sites, including this one ( that pointed to Damn Small Linux (from here on out referred to DSL) as the OS of choice.

I'd played with it, but to no depth, so I rolled up my sleeves, got out a ReWritable CD, and downloaded the ISO.

First things first. DSL-N is not DSL.
It is like it, but the steps online are not the same.

One of the links to download DSL led me to a site that also had DSL-N. It took me a while to realize that I did that and that was why the online steps did not work.

Scratch 2 days.

Now, with the correct version in hand I set out to set up my picture frame. Considering I didn't have a network/internet connection on the laptop yet, I was working off of CD swapping with my ReWritable. Note to self: start with Network setup FIRST!

I got a .deb package of feh, and image utility, and loaded it up, got some pictures on the lappy, and tried it out.

Only one image loaded. It was one I'd gotten off the web somewhere. None of the images from either of my cameras worked.

I tried another image viewer on the laptop, qiv. It at least gave me an error on a couple of the images... a particular package wasn't firing correctly.

I know linux has different versions of packages for images, so I set out to find one that would open my images.

I then realized that DSL was using a 2.4 kernel, not 2.6. (DSL-N uses 2.6) So, I had to be careful which packages I used so that they didn't require too much from the kernel.

Debian, from which DSL is based, has a nice collection of packages, and I found the Sarge versions worked the best with DSL.

I also thought I might try sound on my little box. My sound card is not supported by the OSS sound system. This laptop uses a Crystal 4237B audio chipset.

I read online that ALSA (included in the 2.6 kernel, but not the 2.4) handles this by default, or at least with a little coaxing. So, on to downloading packages, one at a time, to my drive, switching the drive over to the lappy, then realizing there were more packages I needed. (When I payed attention, I could get all the required packages at the same time as the package.)

Scratch 3 more days.

I finally decided to try a couple of things. I tried the DSL-N again, since it had the 2.6 kernel. This didn't like my usb drive. So I went back to DSL.

Starting a new week, with a fresh, yet empty, DSL install, I plan to do the following:

1) Get my PCMCIA WiFi card working first!!! (This will allow for easier package installation.)

2) Get feh to view ALL my images.

3) Get Alsa to use my soundcard.

4) Get DSL to use a media card reader. (It so-far hasn't used mine.)

That's the software side of things. Then I will look into putting the guts inside a picture frame of some sort.

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