A Cheap, Elegant, Digital Picture Frame

Bob Thibadeau
Another Saturday Afternoon Project ...

Digital Frames hang on the wall and pace through pictures and videos.  They are a great idea. 

 Unfortunately, when you get down to the nuts and bolts of digital frame technology to date, it is disappointing.  This led me to make a small project of a digital frame that costs less than two dollars. Perusing the web, here are the problems with current digital frame technology:




My Solution?  Most laptops will open completely up and lay nearly flat. They are already capable of making interesting  wall hangings.  

The question, then, was how do you mount a laptop to the wall and not waste much time or money doing it?  The following project took about fifteen minutes in the hardware store, thirty minutes the first time, and about ten minutes for each new frame after that.  I have two up, now.  I started at 10AM driving to the hardware store, and it is now 1PM...and I had lunch, designed and built two frames, and did this web site, too.  

In deciding the best laptop digital picture frame mounting technology, I wanted a technology that:

  1. Allows me to mount laptops of many different sizes and ages.  
  2. Is really cheap and easy to get parts.
  3. Looks good to me (for my study).

The solution is a wire hanger made of four lengths of steel wire and a couple of bolts.  Works fine.  It looks good because the frame can barely be seen.

A Non-Destructive Laptop Digital Picture Frame

This cost a couple of dollars a retail hardware store.  I found some 13" 1/8" wire stakes in the garden department at a nickel each (laptops are about 12 inches across and 9-10 inches tall for each section), and two bolts and washers at about thirty cents, a couple of cable ties, so the real cost was fifty cents per laptop.  This seemed like a reasonable expense to get a laptop on the wall.

Here is the basic design (tools: round nose pliers with a wire cutter and a screwdriver):

$0.50 Laptop Digital Picture Frame Mount Bracket

The bolt works because it uses one washer and one "finish washer."  The finish washer, under pressure from the bolt and the wire, fits around the wire very tightly.  The cable tie insures that the two hangers (note they are independent) are tied to the cross member.  The result is a digital frame mounting bracket that is very stable and easily malleable to fit pretty much any laptop configuration (just use the pliers to bend the wire to fit -- you may mount the laptop to keep the mounting wires pretty invisible).   Here is the detail of the bolt and cable tie.

Finally, if you are lucky enough to have XP on the spare laptop, a slide show viewer is available as an option on display-screensaver. Powerpoint automates. There is a lot of freeware and shareware if you don't have XP or some other appropriate software already.  I like this one from the original Chairman of Autodesk: http://www.fourmilab.ch/slidescr/ .

If you don't like seeing the keyboard, a bit of cloth makes a drape while giving ready access to the keyboard in case (or when) the laptop stalls or crashes.  I had to find some old cloth to get an idea about how this would look (see below).  The cloth also makes the necessary electric cord not as obstrusive, while allowing lots of ventilation for the circuits.  Of course a good cut of cloth, properly hemmed and draped, would be a few dollars more.

Another cheap way to mount a laptop, that would hide cord and keyboard would be to cut a hole in the wall near a wall outlet. and set the laptop into the wall with the display peeking out. The cost would be sheet rock supplies to clean up the appearance of the cut and the wiring hole, and a piece of wood across the 16" studs to be the base behind the wall for the laptop to stand on. The keyboard would be hidden behind the wall.  Of course, this would deny as easy access to the keyboard or the laptop as a backup because the power wiring would be behind the wall, too.

Saving so much money on the display makes a $40  wireless card an option, so I change the content from the comfort of my chair.  Hubble pictures are great. I also like  pages of old books, paintings, etc, www.antiquebooks.net.

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