photOS version 1.0 - a place for your phone to rest


A few years ago I wrote a collection of scripts for Debian/Ubuntu to make digital photo frames of outdated laptops. Lots of people have done this. What made photOS v.1 special was the idea that it was a place for your phone to rest. Meaning recharge, dump photos, and display photos on the big screen. All by just plugging in the power cable.

Splash screen from photOS.


PhotOS was conceived and designed together with littlegreenfruit, a student of industrial design at that time. I made the software, and he built a “Home Book”, a machine made for photOS. It was made using a laptop from the trash (if I remember correctly), put inside a structure of bent wood. It had a small tray to put your phones on, and retractable, textile cables (microUSB, usb and iPod connectors).

The homebook, here (mis)used as a desktop replacement.


  • A udev rule recognized media devices and started an import script. After import, these photos was displayed.
  • When no recent images existed, all images collected where displayed.
  • At night time it displayed an animated logo of a security firm, to look like an advanced alarm system, as it was visible from outside a house entrance.
  • Everything was written in bash. I see no reason to publish the code, as v.2 is now published. See bottom of this post.

Then dropbox came along

People are bad at plugging in their phone, so dropbox (and similar file syncing) made it easier to dump photos from phones. Also iPhone 4 and newer wouldn’t allow linux to pull images. So PhotOS moved to just sync dropbox and display that. Screens got better and cheaper. And the raspberry pi made it possible to build smaller and fanless.

Version 2.0

Will come in a separate post.