For my home security system I wanted to be able to use my digital photo frame, running Kodi, to display a video feed of my front door whenever movement was detected. To do this I needed my security system, Blue Iris, to send a JSON command to Kodi which would open a script to display the front door feed.
Displaying The Camera Feed
To display the camera feed I found a Kodi addon called Security Cam Overlay. This allowed me to put in my camera’s IP address and password and it would display the camera’s feed, in the corner of the Kodi window.
Getting Kodi To Open The Addon When Motion Is Detected
After some research, I found that Kodi could be asked to open addons via its JSON interface. The code to open the addon went as follows:
When this was sent to the Kodi box, the addon opened and displayed the camera feed.
The second part was to get the security system, powered by Blue Iris, to send the JSON command when motion was detected. Luckily Blue Iris has an option to request from a web server when motion is detected. I placed the JSON command above into the web server address and the whole process became automated. Blue Iris would detect motion and request from the web server. This executed the JSON command to open the camera overlay addon in kodi, which in turn would display a camera feed of the front door.
A Small Problem
After the system had been working for a few hours a problem started to emerge. To ensure that the front door camera captures all movement, it is quite sensitive to motion. This led to the camera stream being displayed on the photo frame every time a car came down the street. Ideally I would only like the camera stream to be displayed when there is actually someone at the front door. I intend to create some sort of Raspberry Pi powered doorbell to address this problem in the future.
I had bought several digital photo frames over the recent years. I was never truly satisfied with any of them. With some, the GUI was hard to use, others the screen was not very good and some just stopped working completely.
After having my Raspberry Pi for a couple of months I realised that I could make my own digital photo frame, using a Raspberry Pi and a monitor of my choice. This would allow me to use an operating system that I liked and a monitor of my choice that was as big as I liked.
Choosing An Operating System
After a google search, I found massively complicated solutions that didn’t really suit my situation or level of expertise at this moment. I gave up for a few days.In the meantime I discovered Openelec an operating system for the Raspberry Pi (and many other devices) that I then used as a media centre on another Raspberry Pi. After discovering that I could set a slideshow as a screen saver, it gave me the idea to use Openelec on the Raspberry Pi and run the slideshow from the slideshow screensaver. After installing a test version on the Raspberry Pi I realised that having Openelec running on the Raspberry Pi would allow this device to do much more then just show photos. Using features built into the XBMC media centre, it could show the weather, play videos and much more.
Openelec can be downloaded as a disk image from the Raspberry Pi Foundations website or their own website. There is another option and that is to use the NOOBS installer that can also be downloaded from the Raspberry Pi foundations website. This installer will allow you to select Openelec from a list and the installer will download and install the operating system automatically.
For more detail on how to install the operating system see my other post Installing OS on Raspberry Pi.
Choosing A Monitor
The monitor is basically your own choice, however it will need a HDMI port to connect to the Pi. The size of my monitor was limited only by the size of the cupboard where it was going to go. After some research, taking into account my size limitation and efficiency, I decided to use a 27 Inch Dell, the S2740L.
Where To Put Your Photos
There are a few options about where to put your photos. The first option, and in my opinion the best option, is to put your photos on a external USB flash drive. This will allow easy transfer of files between your computer and the photoframe. It also allows the storage to increase with future demands.
Another option is to place the photos on the SD card itself. I found this to slow down the Pi slightly. This would also mean that if the storage needed to be updated a new SD card would be required and this would lead to you needing to reinstall the operating system and configure everything again.
The 3rd option is to keep your files on a network drive. This sounds like a good idea however in practice it caused a lot of network traffic and slowed down the whole process. This also led to the screensaver taking about 15 seconds to load.
Setting Up Openelec
After the operating system is installed, the next step is to set up the operating system to work less like a media centre and more like a digital photo frame. You will need a keyboard and/or mouse and have your Pi connected to your display.
Once Openelec has been installed you will be presented with the following screen. If you are using a different skin it may look a little different however the basic principles are the same.
Set Up Network (WIFI)
Note: This will require you to have a compatible USB WIFI adapter plugged into your Pi.
Firstly navigate to the programs section on the XBMC home screen. Click on the ‘programs’ menu
Once in the programs menu it will show you the list of add-ons that you have. One of them should be called OpenElec configuration. Click on this one.
A new window should open up in a few seconds that will display the OpenElec settings. Navigate to the connections menu on the side of the window. This should display a list of the WIFI connections available near you. Select your one by clicking on it.
A prompt will appear for you to type in your password.
Press Ok. You will then be taken back to the previous menu where you can see the status of your connection. If all goes well this should change to connected. After it is connected return to the home screen.
The first step is to set up the slideshow screen saver.
We are going to use the slideshow screensaver to display the photos for this photoframe.
To do this first move to the ‘system’ tab on the home screen and then go down to the ‘settings’ sub menu. This can be done with the mouse or arrow keys.
In the ‘settings’ menu go to the ‘appearance’ tab.
In this menu select the ‘screensaver’ tab
Once in this menu navigate to the menu ‘screensaver mode’ and click.
In this menu you want to navigate to the ‘Get More’ button.
Once in the ‘get more’ menu navigate through the list of add-ons until you find one called ‘Slideshow’. Click on the slideshow add-on.
Another window will open. ‘Click install’.
XBMC will now download the add-on and install it for you. After the add-on is installed you will be returned to the add-ons selection menu. There should be writing next to the slideshow add-on that states enabled.
Press escape. This will return you to the screensaver screen, select the screensaver mode again.
Once the screensaver options windows is open go down and select the slideshow add-on that you just installed.
You will be taken back to the main screen saver menu. You will notice that next to the ‘screen saver mode’ menu it will now say ‘slideshow’.
The next step is to select the settings menu on the same screen.
A new window will open. Under the basic tab you want to set the ‘source of slideshow images’ to “Image Folder”. Set the folder to the location of where your photos are stored. Under the ‘amount of seconds to display each image’ set the time in seconds that you want the pictured to be displayed for. Dim level should be set at 100%. You can set the effect to any setting you want, however I like the default Pan and Zoom. After being setup, mine looks like the picture below.
You can have a look at the additional and advanced menus however I didn’t need to change any of them. Click Ok when you are done. Note: If you don’t press ok your changes will not be saved.
In the main screensaver menu you can now select how long the machine is idle for before starting the screensaver. I have mine set to one minute.
You can now press ‘escape’ until you arrive back at the home menu again.
At this point you should have a working digital photo frame powered by the Raspberry Pi. Just wait 1 minute for the screensaver to start. If this is all you want then you can stop here however, there are many other features that you can enable to make this photo frame even better.
Another feature of my photoframe that can easily be configured is the ability to have the weather automatically displayed when the photo frame starts and when it is brought back from the screensaver.
From the home screen navigate to the ‘system’ tab and select the submenu ‘settings’.
Navigate to the ‘weather’ tab inside the settings menu
You will be presented with the following window. The default weather provider is “weather underground” which is quite good and covers a large amount of places. Others can be selected, expanding the capabilities of the weather feature, however this will be covered in another of my posts later. At the moment you want to navigate to the settings tab.
When you open this menu you will want to select the ‘enable’ button and then go down and click on location 1.
This will bring up a window with a place for you to enter your current city or at least a big city near you. For example, I am going to enter Sydney. Press ‘done’ on the side panel when you are finished.
Depending on your internet connection and how many results are returned, it may take a couple of seconds until the following window is displayed. Select the city that you want from the list. For this example I am going to select Sydney Australia.
You should be returned to the main “weather underground” settings screen and your location should be in the location 1 slot. If this is correct press Ok.
You can now press escape and return to the home screen. Select the weather tab to check that it works.
If everything is working the following screen should display the weather for your location and look something like the following picture.
Configuring Weather To Start By Default
After you have the weather working correctly it is now time to configure XBMC to automatically open the weather tab.
To do this first go to the ‘system’ tab on the home screen and then select the ‘settings’ sub menu.
Next select ‘appearance’ from the side menu.
Stay on the ‘skin’ tab and navigate to the menu called ‘startup window’. At the moment this will say home window.
Using the arrows change the item listed from ‘home window’ to ‘weather’.
Restart the Raspberry Pi. When the Raspberry Pi boots up again it will display the weather until it has sat idle for one minute (or however long you set) before automatically starting the slideshow. Viewing the weather again is as simple as moving the mouse or pressing a button on the keyboard.
After my photo frame was working correctly I removed the mouse and left the keyboard connected. The keyboard now lives in the drawer below the photo frame so that it is just a simple press of the space bar to bring up the weather. Below are some photos of the finished product.
This photo frame will be getting better when I have time to work on it and any improvements will be posted in this blog.
I bought my first Raspberry Pi about a year ago and since then I have used them for a variety of different tasks. However, before the Raspberry Pi is good for anything at all, it must have a operating system installed on the SD card. When I did this for the first time, the instructions were a bit sketchy and the installers were much harder to use. The good news is it is a lot easier now.
Choosing The Installer Or Image
The first step in this process is to download the installer or the operating system image. These are the two options that you have and either of them are will work, however the NOOBS installer will almost always be easier.
The NOOBS installer is useful for almost everything. It allows you to select from a list of operating systems. There are two types of the NOOBS installers. One has all the operating systems pre downloaded so that they can be installed without a network connection. The other is a light version that will download the operating systems using a network connection. Once selected, your operating systems will be installed. if you have chosen the light version, it will have to download your operating systems before they can be installed. In my opinion, this is the best option.
The second option is to image the SD card yourself. For this you will need to download the disk image and an imaging program. This should only be used if you are trying to install an operating system that the NOOBS installer does not offer.
There are countless operating systems for the Raspberry Pi. (A quick google search will reveal many) I have only ever needed to use two of the operating systems in any depth and therefore those are the only ones I can comment on.
Rasbian – The default operating system. This is what most Raspberry Pi projects are based around. It is best thought of as a lightweight debian operating system for the Raspberry Pi. It offers a normal linux command line and a very debian like looking desktop environment. This operating systems can also take advantage of the vast debian package library which can be accessed through the apt-get command.
OpenElec – Essentially XBMC for the Raspberry Pi. This is just a lightweight linux operating system that boots straight to XBMC. Once XBMC is running it also provides a graphical interface for configuring a network connection and any other features that would usually be configured by the operating system running XBMC on a regular computer.
Downloading NOOBS or OS Image
The NOOBS installer and the main operating system images (along with some good documentation) can be downloaded from the Raspberry Pi website. If possible, it is helpful to use the torrent downloads for the images because this will reduce the network traffic across the Raspberry Pi foundation servers. Simply click on the download link for whatever you want to download. Everything will come as a .zip. When the NOOBS installer is unzipped it will create a folder called NOOVS_lite_v1_3_4. Inside that folder will be the necessary files. When the operating system images are unzipped it will just leave behind the image.
Flashing The SD Card
The next step after everything has been downloaded is actually putting the NOOBS installer or the image on the SD card. First the NOOBS installer.
Insert the SD card into your computer
Format the SD card to ensure that there is nothing else on the card. This can be done using disk utility on a mac and windows explorer on a PC.
Simply drag and drop the files and folders from the NOOBS folder onto the SD card
Plug the SD card into raspberry pi and your done. (It really is that simple.)
Note: These steps are the same for both windows and Mac
Now for the operating system image For this step you are going to need some sort of disk imaging tool. I’m a Mac user however for this step I recommend using a windows machine because I have found no reliable way of doing this on a Mac. For windows I used Win 32 Disk Imager. Open Win 32 Disk Imager The computer will ask you to click yes as it has to run as administrator
Using the small select folder button select the disk image that you want to flash to the SD card.
Now select your SD card from the device drop down menu. Note: Make sure that it is the right device as everything on it is going to be deleted.
After these two are selected you are ready to hit write. Check one more time that the destination is correct. You don’t want to erase your a different device.
The disk imager will now “burn” the image file to the SD card Once this has finished you can eject the SD card and you are ready to put it into your raspberry pi and turn it on.
Installing On Raspberry Pi
Once the Raspberry Pi has been turned on you should see a multi coloured screen and then a screen with a raspberry in the middle of it similar to the following two pictures.
You will now be presented with a screen like the following. The picture of the SD card next to each operating systems means that it has already been downloaded and can be installed without a network connection. If you downloaded the lite NOOBS installer then there will be a different symbol next to the operating systems that the pi will have to download the operating systems installers once the installer is started.
You can now go through and select one or more operating systems to be installed by selecting the checkboxes on the left hand side of the operating system. For this example I am going to select Raspbian, OpenElec and Pidora. Click install when you have your operating systems selected.
You will be notified that any data on this SD card will be erased. Click yes.
You will now be presented with a series of screens starting with the following that will tell you a small about the operating systems you have selected. It will also tell you about the progress of your installation.
You will then be presented with a dialogue box that tells you that the Os(es) have been successfully installed.
After you click Ok you will be presented with a screen listing the operating systems installed on your SD card. Simply click on the one that you want to boot. You have now successfully installed an operating system on the SD card.
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