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This page loosely details the creation of a photoframe that receives Skype calls with no user interaction required. This work was done with my friend and web host Mike.

What and Why

Mike was planning to move to NZ, away from his family, when he devised this project. The intention being that he, and his children would be able to talk to his nan after the move.

Usually, there wouldn't be a requirement for a custom built photoframe, as Skype is available on normal computers. However, she has never used a computer in her life and, being of the age to have great grandchildren, wasn't about to start. Something slightly different was required, the simplest solution from a usability point of view being, roughly speaking, a videophone.

A secondary purpose was devised, so that while being used for Skype Mike's nan would be able to see pictures rather than a blank screen. When not in a call it would act as a photoframe, showing up to date pictures of the family. The pictures are uploaded by the family via FTP. This was the inspiration for the shape and design of the photoframe.


Mike procured an old and unwanted laptop and away we went.

I usually use Gentoo Linux for customization tasks since it allows very deep customization and package minimization. However there was plenty of space and the customizations were almost entirely in user .conf files. Therefore I decided to base the system around Arch Linux, since it installs quickly, is reasonably configurable and has a good wiki.

It needed to do the following: boot to rolling picture slideshow, wait for a call, ring then auto answer the call, fullscreen the video, at the end of the call return to the slideshow.

The hardware was handled by Mike and his brother, I was just in for the software side. 2012