Automating Framebuffer Digital Photo Frame

dpf6We have seen in my previous post how I setup the DPF to work against the framebuffer. Now it was time to automate things a bit.

Task List:

  • Autologin on Startup
  • Start gnu screen on Boot
  • Uploading New Images
  • Screen On/Off Timer
  • Reboot Timer
  • Shutdown Timer
  • Unique names/shuffle for file list
  • Cycle Colour Change for Clock ?

Autologin on Startup

This is fairly straight-forward, requiring the editing of one file:

To auto login user “dpf” on first console terminal (tty1) edit file /etc/init/tty1.conf and replace last line:

with this:

Reboot and enjoy 😉

Start gnu screen on Boot

The answer for this one was found over on

and add this to the bottom

Uploading New Images

I’m not going to automate this I’ll just use scp to upload or ssh in if I need to have a clear out.

I am fitting a PCMCIA network card which will automatically connect with my wireless network (WPA2 secured)

Screen On/Off Timer

I have also added the following in ~/.profile

This stops the terminal screen from blanking. These codes will not work in gnu screen for me. But to actually turn off the display, for example, overnight, I would normally use xrandr, but the clue is there in the “x”, so I could to use vbetool to do the job. This will require sudo to work, so I could cheat and feed it the password with sudo -S as follows:


Running the on and the off command ensures I have only to arrow up twice and press enter to get the display back on 🙂

I will could pop these commands into a crontab to turn off the display overnight and to turn it on again in the morning.

Reboot Timer

You never know, the machine might be grateful of a reboot, even once a week, just to get itself together. Again for the crontab:

Shutdown Timerdpf4

My laptop has a startup timer in the bios. I will use this to startup @ 0600 hours everyday. Therefore I will set that for the morning, and then use the crontab to shut it down overnight:

The crontab command looks like this:

(I am a night bird so this shuts down the laptop at 0130 hours each night)

To access cron simply type:

in a terminal.

Unique names/shuffle for file list

I covered this in the previous post, using a small script to sha1sum the filename. This is fine unless i have identical filenames. Therefore I added a bit more randomness into the script by adding a multiple of two random numbers to the filename before the sha1sum.

Again this went into ~/.profile just above the call to run gnu screen. I put in a 5 second sleep just to give everything a chance to finish properly.

Revised script (gives a long but unique name):

Cycle Colour Change for Clock ?

I’ve not implemented this one, but can be easily done by running a small script that restarts screen and alternative .screenrc’s with a different colour choice.

There you go, a fully automated cli / framebuffer solution for a digital display frame 🙂


mplayer doesn’t always play nice, and can crash unexpectedly, but in a good way by leaving an image on the screen. In order to remedy this I had to come up with a crontab job to regularly check that mplayer was still running. I used “top” with “grep” to discern whether mplayer was running (R) or sleeping (S). Had to run top every second for @ 3 minutes in order to “catch” an “R”. Then as it was running in a script from a crontab job, had to find a way to exit screen and restart the main script. This was achieved with a screen -X quit command and by using openvt to run the main script. The crontab job was set to run every 10 minutes.

4 thoughts on “Automating Framebuffer Digital Photo Frame

  1. Pingback: Digital Picture Frame & Clock on the Framebuffer! | METRIC RAT

  2. Hmmm, I have been getting artifacts and screen disarray (!) when mplayer does it’s -loop 0 thing, so have adjusted the fps to only show each photo once in the 18 hour period the laptop is on. At present, until I load it up with a few more images, this is every 480 seconds or for mplayer fps=0.00208 😉

  3. A bit more on the issue above. I wrote a small script to replace the mplayer line in .screenrc. What the script does is count the number of files in ~/Pictures, then it works out how long each image should be displayed, so that in a day you only see each picture once. The script has a single parameter, the number of hours the machine will be on for.

    So, .screenrc changes from:


    The contents of are as follows:

    This gets me over the graphical glitches and artifacts I was getting from the -loop 0 code

  4. Another update. in order to make “sshing” into the DPF easier I have created an alternate screenrc file. screen is able to call different files for configuration from the command line. I therefore needed to replace the call for screen in ~/.profile with a small read script that allows for user input for 5 seconds before running the DPF. In fact, I have shifted all the commands out of ~/.profile and run them from this script. Much better 🙂

    Here is the interactive script:

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