PowerBook 3400 Pictureframe

3400 frame - finished 1

After seeing projects like the Duo Digital Frame and others online, I thought I'd try my hand at it. Instead of hunting down a Duo or Powerbook 100 for a 4x6'' frame, I decided to go for an 8x10'' size (or 800x600 resolution) to display my travel photos. I have, or had, a PowerBook 3400c that had been surplussed from work due to a dead CD ROM drive, the replacement cost of which is about the same as buying another used 3400. The trackpad button also had some issues, but otherwise, the 3400 was in pretty good repair - no spots on the screen, for one thing.

And so it began, as most of these project do, with disassembly. As with every Mac model, Apple provides assembly and repair instructions for the 3400 here. Don't lose that Torx #6.

Once the 'book was apart - completely apart - I set aside all the parts I didn't need, everything but the motherboard, power supply, RAM, hard drive and LCD. If anybody needs a 3400 keyboard, trackpad, bezel, case, speakers... call me Smile

3400 frame - leftovers

update: In a recent overhaul of the 3400 frame, I put the speakers back in, so I can now, potentially, have the tiny little speakers sound off alarms or something. I don't have any real use for putting them in, but I thought I'd find something eventually.

With all that taken out, I needed to be sure the PowerBook still worked for what I wanted to do with it. So i hooked everything that was left back together (on the coffee table in my living room) and fired it up. With thoughts to making the frame wireless, I popped in a WaveLAN Silver PC card and configured it so I could control the 3400 from my iBook via AirPort with Timbuktu, load new photos onto it, etc. It's a lot easier this way than trying to hook up a keyboard and mouse to the ADB port which, at this point in the build, I couldn't be sure was going to be accessible.

update: if you look at the detail you can see where the ADB port is, next to the AC power in the upper right. it's accessible when the lid is opened, and comes in handy for soft reboots and making occasional tweaks.

3400 frame - before

At this point, I also wrote an AppleScript to manage the tasks of 1) randomizing the photos to be displayed, 2) copying the photos to a RAM disk, as I could never get the contents of the RAM disk to be saved between boots, and 3) kicking off the slideshow. At first, I had intended to use JPEGView set to display the photos at random, fade between, etc. But I noticed one problem with JPEGView: the cursor! So I poked around amongst my old utilities and dug up KPT QuickShow, which does slideshows with configurable fades and delays, but doesn't do random, hence that step in the AppleScript. The JPEGs and slideshow software are on a RAM disk, so the hard drive can spin down and the frame can run almost silent.

3400 frame - back

update: Instead of a RAM disk, I've updated the script to copy images to a 16 meg PCMCIA flash memory card that acts as a little hard drive, just big enough to hold about 25 photos. The advantage of this, in addition to being flash and thus maintaining its contents between reboots, and the continued silent operation of the pictureframe, is that the limited RAM of the powerbook can be used for the system and slideshow program. cutting into the RAM for the RAM disk posed too many problems (a memory leak somewhere, the setting reverting every time power was cut out). It also comes in handy to shuttle files to and from the machine, now that the waveLAN card is being put to use elsewhere, in one of my Newton MessagePad 2100s.

update again: I've posted my applescript in my blog. share and enjoy.

Then came the woodwork. Quarter-inch poplar (probably my favorite material to work with) was cut, sanded, stained, burnished, and attached with hot glue and some scrap quarter-round for strructure. (Remember, measure twice; cut once.) I lay the screen into the frame and attached it with double-sided tape, then built the rest on top of that with a combination of double-sided tape and white masking tape.

3400 frame - top

I left the top panel of the frame free so the necessary ports on the motherboard could still be accessed. You can see the AC power plug, the ADB port, and PCMCIA slots. The wireless card is removed during normal operation so I can use it elsewhere, but its a simple matter to pop it in and update the scripts or upload photos. On the far right in this shot, you can see where the hard drive is mounted.

3400 frame - power button detail 3400 frame - power button detail 2 3400 frame - cable detail

I took some pains to get the little details on the outside of the frame to look right, despite the mess that's on the inside. For one, I needed a way to power up the 3400 without a keyboard and without taking half the frame off. So I drilled a small hole in the frame opposite the reset button on the motherboard and inserted a... um.. well, it's a chopstick from some carryout Chinese food. I didn't have any dowel on hand, and the chopstick tapers perfectly to hit the button on the motherboard. I also cut a notch in the frame to thread the power cable through, so the frame can sit flush to the wall it's hanging on.

The final result is a nice addition to my living room, and leaves a lot of room for improvement. For one, I'd like to keep the wireless card in place, and put together an applescript to grab images off my network, rather than having to pre-load them onto the hard drive myself. There's also the possibility of using it to display things like the weather map or scrolling headlines, but showing off my vacation photos is enough for now. Maybe I'll use the PowerBook 190 I've got in the closet for the other stuff, once I find a power supply for it.

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Prior to reading your very informative howto, I attempted the same project myself. My progress was stalled; however, by the computer failing to power on again. I have disassembled and reassembled many times very carefully to no avail. Is there a hardware reset switch or something that I am missing?

I have the same laptop that I would like to duplicate it. Would you be willing to share the Applescript and the image application you are using .


The script should be fairly simple but it would be best for you to write one of your own (if you know how) or to record the copy action from within applescript so that you can "hard code" in the paths to your ram disk and to the folder containing your images. Otherwise you'll have to select the folders on startup which kind of defeats the purpose of the script.

Also, I would suggest that if you have resedit or resourceror that you use Graphic Converter for your slideshow. It has fades and delays and all sorts of effects including randomization. It does suffer from the problem of the cursor but you can edit it's crsr resource and make the cursor a single dot that will not be seen (I've lost it myself even when I was running it around the screen trying to find it)

Heck, I'm all set for this thing except that I don't have a 3400 Sad I keep looking on eBay for one that's at a really low price due to scratches, missing keyboard keys, bad trackpad or whatever but for some reason people think those units won't sell Sad

a good additional hack would be to run Audion for Mac OS 9 or iTunes 2.0 and place concealed speakers behind the frame. You'll have a picture frame and music player at the same time.

Very, very nice.

I just got my hands on a Powerbook 5300cs. I want to make it a slideshow but I don't want to play around with software too much (there's no ethernet, usb, or cd-rom for me to put pictures on it). I've seen a project elsewhere where someone hooked up a Playstation LCD screen to a SanDisk digital picture viewer (using a Sony memory stick), and I though it'd be nice to do something similar.

I want to put the picture viewer in the Powerbook case and then just hang it on my wall stripped of most of its guts...does anyone have any ideas how I could hook up a composite cable or s-video to the LCD screen? The Powerbook has an s-video port but I imagine it requires the laptop to be running. Do you think I could just strip down an RCA cable and splice/solder to the LCD screen?

Any help is appreciated, as I don't want to tear apart the comp before having a good idea what I'm getting into.