AirPlay vs Large Digital Frame

We (as a family) have been looking for a large digital frame. My wife takes a lot of pictures (mostly kids and vacations) and showing them was always… less than optimal.

  • We have a few, small 7-8 inches, digital frames in the house – but we do not update them very often. Copying files around SD cards is just not fun enough;
  • The frames have a lot of options but we can never get the pictures to be shown long enough for our taste. That would be closer to 10 minutes and definitively not a 30 seconds slideshow;
  • The most common alternatives are to show pictures on the TV (we still have to get the pictures there) or sit in front of the computer (no file copying but not confortable for many people). We don’t do that unless we have friends or family visiting us;

So we wanted something larger with the right options – the kind of set and forget.

It turns out there are not many large digital frames out there. Most of them are using computer monitors with additonal hardware, sometime an (jailbroken) AppleTV. The biggest addition, to the common hardware, is the price markup on them.

Now in a totally, until recently, unrelated subject I’ve been a fan of the AppleTV for a while. However the sad truth is I don’t use my AppleTV. Why ? I can’t (yet?) create apps for it and bandwidth caps, which are almost universal in Canada, makes Netflix less attractive (and I have a dozen Netflix compatible devices anyway).

Does a large (e.g. 23 inch) monitor and an AppleTV makes everything fine ? Not quite.

  • We do not want to move pictures (to the cloud or a device). If it takes extra steps then it won’t be done regularly enough to make it useful. The files are already in the computer/network drives;
  • We want the picture to be shown for more than a few seconds. The only right predetermined time is the one we decide.

The AppleTV itself does not do that and, for various reasons, I did not want to jailbreak it. Thanksfully the AirPlay protocol was reverse engineered so it is possible to send pictures from a computer to an AppleTV. The device was not bought with this in mind, nor did I look for the AirPlay protocol only for this, but it turned out really easy (less than 100 C# lines) to make it work just like we wanted, which is:

  • Scan a directory (and subdirectories) for pictures;
  • Shows pictures randomly – but never twice before starting again (by re-scaning the directories);
  • Send pictures to the AppleTV and wait for X seconds before showing the next one, i.e. the program, not the device, control the delay between pictures.

Curious ? it’s in github 🙂


About spouliot

Xamarin Hacker, Mono Contributor, Open Source Enthusiast with strong interests in Code Analysis, Cryptography and Security. Presently working on MonoTouch, previous projects were Moonlight and libgdiplus and a lot of the cryptographic work done on Mono.
This entry was posted in airplay, appletv, mono. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to AirPlay vs Large Digital Frame

  1. Pingback: AirPlay vs iOS API | take a bit, get a byte

  2. Gokul says:

    Is it possible to send a video(with Audio) from pc to AppleTV?

    • spouliot says:

      There are a few products that do this. The link to the protocol is likely good enough to get you started (if you want to code it), however my code is unlikely yo be of any help in doing so.

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