Software apps and online services
Following my previous project to build a smart screen using my old iPad, I have decided to take this smart screen idea to the next level and use an old PC monitor (not so old as it has HDMI input) as a smart screen.
My main motivation behind this project is to build a smart digital picture frame that can display all my pictures taken with my iPhone. Since the picture resolution is so good I thought my photos will be best served with a 23” LCD screen which has full HD (1920x1080) resolution. This for sure looks better than displaying photos on a tablet with a much smaller screen.Step 1:
Buy an Amazon Fire TV stick and connect it to the monitor via HDMI. Yes it means that your monitor needs to have an HDMI input, you may have success with a monitor with DVI input only (you will need an HDMI to DVI adapter as the Fire TV has only HDMI output) but I have not tested this configuration. The Fire TV stick is cheap and provides all I need in a simple to use and manage package. My monitor has an audio out, so I have connected a small Creative Labs speaker to the monitor in case I will need some basic sound.
Amazon Fire TV requires first time setup (i.e. login with your Amazon account). Once you have it configured, install the WhizScreen app on the Fire TV. For some reason you cannot search for new apps on the Fire TV UI itself so you have to go to Amazon's app store on the web and search and install new apps from there (it took me some time to figure this out). Here is the link to the WhizScreen app on Amazon web store (I hope it will save you some time). You can install the app directly from the web (make sure that the "Deliver to" option is pointing to your Fire TV device name). Once installed you will see the WhizScreen app on the big screen:
Visit the WhizScreen website (on your PC) and setup your "picture show" source. Go to app.whizscreen.com and login with your username (if you don't have one you can signup from this link also), make sure to select "take me to settings page" from the drop down menu. Click the "settings" tab. Use the "pictures page" pane to connect your Dropbox account. Once your Dropbox account is connected a new WhizScreen folder will be created in your Dropbox account, you have to copy all your photos to this new Dropbox folder. All pictures in this newly created folder will be shown by WhizScreen on your monitor.
Using the Fire remote run the newly installed WhizScreen app, login and enjoy your photos on the big screen (sorry but I did not use my family pictures in the following screenshots).
I have an Amazon Dot in the same room as my new large screen picture frame. Previously I have added the "whiz screen" Alexa skill to my Alexa account so now I can use my Dot to send commands to my big screen.
I can say "Alexa, ask WhizScreen to pause" which will stop the photos from changing (in case I want to see a specific photo and I don't want WhizScreen to change to the next photo). I can resume the "show" by saying "Alexa, ask WhizScreen to resume".
Since I have a huge amount of pictures and I rarely have the time to remove all pictures that I don't want to see on my picture frame, I say "Alexa, ask WhizScreen to dislike" which will "dislike" a specific picture which as a result will not be shown again.
Last but not least, from time to time I found myself switching to different pages, for example, "Alexa ask WhizScreen to switch to news page" will show me the the news:
The clock page can also be useful:
I hope you will find this post useful, I was looking for a big screen picture frame solution for some time and I did not want to invest the time and effort in building a raspberry-pi type of solution as for me simplicity is a key. The cost and ease of use of the Amazon Fire TV stick convinced me that this is the right solution for me. For transparency, I have friends working at WhizScreen (they have helped me with this setup).