Try our simple balenaCloud starter project to set up a Raspberry Pi and LCD or monitor to display any webpage or web-based dashboard. We’re creatively calling it balenaDash! Follow along with our guide to get up and running in under 30 minutes.
- Hardware required
- Using WiFi Connect
- Controlling content
- Automate backlight switching
- Photo slideshow feature
This is the perfect introductory project to try out balenaCloud and see how everything works.
At the most basic level, this project allows you to display any webpage using a lightweight web browser. This means that you can build a device dedicated to showing anything that runs in a normal web browser, it will boot up and automatically start displaying what you choose.
Some examples of what you could use this for include:
- Instagram photo stream (based on hashtag or user)
- Data-centric dashboards using Grafana or Datadog
- Live digital photo frame feeding from Google Photos
- Display for services such as Flightradar24 or Flightaware
- Digital fishtank or jellyfish
- Streaming webcam display
- 24 hour live animated cat display
- Home automation dashboard
We’ve partnered with our friends at PiSupply to make it easy for you to get ahold of all the hardware you need to build this project in a single package. We’ve created two packages, one that includes everything you’ll need, and a second that includes everything apart from the display for if you’ve already got a monitor you want to use.
The list of items you’ll need is also included below:
- Raspberry Pi 3B/3B+ (Note: this project will not work with the Pi Zero or older devices with < 1GB RAM)
- 16GB Micro-SD Card (we recommend Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards)
- Display (any Raspberry Pi display will work for this project)
- Micro-USB cable
- Power supply
- Case (optional)
Setup and configuration
Use of balenaDash requires that you allocate more memory to the GPU. This is achieved by adding (or editing the existing) the Device configuration variable
RESIN_HOST_CONFIG_gpu_mem, for this project we recommend setting it to
Official Raspberry Pi 7-inch display
Depending on the orientation of the majority of your content or photos, you can choose to have the display in horizontal or vertical mode. On Fleet Configuration add a variable called
BALENA_HOST_CONFIG_display_lcd_rotate with value
2 for horizontal (180º rotation) or
1 for vertical (90º clockwise rotation). More details about the options for this are available on the Raspberry Pi site.
Using WiFi Connect
The balenaDash project includes wifi-connect which enables your device to operate as a WiFi access point and allow you to join a different WiFi network using captive portal functionality. Although you can specify a WiFi network to join when you first add your device and download the image from the balenaCloud dashboard, there may be situations where you need to change that.
WiFi Connect periodically tests for a functional internet connection, if nothing is found the device sets itself up as a WiFi access point named
balenaDash that you can join with a mobile device.
To use WiFi Connect you need to join the
balenaDash network and you should see a captive portal popup. If not, ensure that you remain connected to the
balenaDash network and visit the IP address of the device in a browser on port
80. For example
http://<ip of balenaDash device>. This will allow you to access WiFi Connect, perform a site survey and join a different WiFi network.
Loading a URL
To configure the URL displayed by webkit, set the
variable. If nothing is set, balenaDash will display the balenaOS logo on the screen.
Switching URLs quickly using your web browser or Slack
Your balenaDash device is also running a small webserver on port 8080. The screen will show the URL configured at
WPE_URL normally, but the webserver allows you to put other URLs on screen quickly and easily. If you tell balenaCloud to expose your device's public URL, then you can even control it with Slack (or
curl, or anything that can use webhooks). More details
Automate backlight switching
To use automatic backlight switching you’ll need to configure a few service variables for the scheduler service.
BACKLIGHT_ON=0 8 * * *
BACKLIGHT_OFF=0 23 * * *
Photo slideshow feature
One extra feature implemented on balenaDash is the ability to use it to display a photo slideshow. Out of the box you can use Google Photo Albums, Dropbox Photo Album and Apple Photos. The images are downloaded automatically and auto updated in case of changes.
The main objective of this project is to create a physical photo album that is easy to build, configure, and maintain. Once configured, there is nothing else you need to worry about. If you edit the album, add new or delete photos, as soon as the device restarts it will be updated with the last changes.
This is the perfect gift for family and friends. Give a smart photo album to your mother or grandmother so that they can keep up with your baby pictures, for example.
Google Photos Albums
Go to https://photos.google.com and select the album that you want to share.
Click in the share button, click in the
Create link button and copy the the url.
Dropbox Photo Albums
On the dropbox website, go to the folder that contains the photos and click on
Share Folder and then
Copy link. This will the URL you will need to add to balenaCloud.
Apple iCloud Photo Album
Create a photo album and copy the share url, similar to
Setting up the photo album
- On balenaCloud, go to Device variables D(x) and add the following:
|GALLERY_URL||Gallery URL for google photos, dropbox images, or apple photos|
|GALLERY_SLIDESHOW_DELAY||Slideshow delay in milliseconds||10000|
|GALLERY_EFFECT||Transition effects||fade, horizontal, vertical, kenburns, false||fade|
|CRON_SCHEDULE||Cron scheduler to reload images to get changes||0 */12 * * *|
|SHUFFLE_SLIDESHOW||Shiffle images to display randomly||true, false||false|
|RESIZE_WIDTH||* Resize image width or height (larger side) in pixels||1000px|
|COMPRESS_QUALITY||* Image compression||0 - 100||90|
* Only available for iCloud photos
Note that after some performance tests on the Raspberry Pi 2 & 3, the combination of
GALLERY_IMAGE_STYLE = contain and
GALLERY_EFFECT = fade or kenburns can make the transition effects choppy.