The woodwork was mostly done with a router, a table saw and a drill press. This was my first router project ever, and since I liked the outcome I am documenting this with lots of detail.
The electronic aspect of the digital picture frame was realized with a raspberry pi and a monitor. Tutorials for many similar frames, such as this one, this one, this one, this one, or this one are available at instructables or other sites in the net. I specifically got inspired by this one which, to my knowledge, was the first digital picture frame that frequently downloaded new pictures. In that case every night, all the pictures from an artsy fartsy website. I adapted this idea. My digital frame downloads every night a predetermined amount of family pictures from my ssh server and displays them during the day. The main idea behind this is to build more of these frames and give them as presents to my and my wife's parents, sisters, and brothers. The way the frames are set up, everybody sees the same pictures at the same day, a family uniting picture viewing experience in my case across thousands of miles, state lines, country lines, and continents.
Since this was also my first raspberry pi project I found the instructions of this website to be a good knowledge base to get a kick start for most of the software challenges. That was great for me since I have limited programming experience.
Big thanks to my buddy who wrote the python random picture selection software for me. You rock. I couldn't have done that without you.
Again, due to the amount of sources out there I am not getting into the details of the software and the raspberry pi setup in this instructable. If there is a large interest expressed in the comments I will consider adding a sequel instructable that addresses these topics in the near future.
Note that the digital picture frame is operated with three buttons: one (red) toggle button, and two push buttons (black and red). As mentioned before, the raspberry pi downloads new pictures to the picture frame every night. These pictures will be displayed the next day. Therefore, during regular nights the computer remains running but the monitor can be switched off or on with the black push button. All electronic components of the frame can be powered down as well. This is useful for vacations or other extended periods of days that the frame will not be looked at. Shutting down the frame is a two step process. The red push button triggers execution of a software that safely shuts down the computer. This has to be done first and is necessary to avoid potential damage to the memory card. Subsequently the red toggle switch is operated. The toggle switch powers down the entire hardware including the monitor and the power supply of the raspberry pi. When the frame is powered down, obviously no pictures are downloaded to the raspberry pi any more and the frame will not consume any power. In this state it can be unplugged and moved as desired. The red toggle switch is also used to start up the raspberry pi and the rest of the frame.
All in all, it was my goal to build something that was technically challenging, aesthetic to look at (maybe even a conversational piece), unifies family, and has the potential to deliver a “wow” effect. With respect to my own expectations, I succeeded on all levels, but judge yourself and let me know if you liked it.