• Letting the Sound Out (and In!)

    Tim Wilkinson12/01/2019 at 06:04 0 comments

    For unnecessary aesthetic reasons, I want the frame to be flush with the wall; I think it looks neater. This introduces the problem of letting the sound out. The Fire has two speakers which, once in the frame, are facing down. With the box against the wall, the sounds is somewhat muffled.

    Plan 1 was to drill some holes in the bottom of the frame. This seemed like a good idea as the holes are essentially hidden. The frame is mounted below eye level so the bottom is usually unobserved, and the holes are under the speakers on the tablet.

    This turned out to be remarkably ineffective. It helped a bit, but really not as much as I'd hoped. 

    It also didn't solve the second problem which was getting sound into the frame; the Fire needs to hear what you say - it's Alexa after all. The microphone is on the left side of the tablet and I wasn't going to drill a hole in the frame there as it would look ugly. And while you could speak to Alexa with the frame against the wall, you had to raise you voice which felt unnatural.

    Plan 2 was to abandon the flush wall design. I added some rubber feet to the corners of the frame to give a little gap between the wall and the frame; probably only 2mm, but enough to greatly boost the sound coming out.

    Now, with a sound gap at the back of the frame, I added a little "listening cup" over the microphone to increase the volume of the sound it gathered (imagine cupping you hand over your ear). This improve the microphone's sensitivity and I can now speak to Alexa at a normal volume.

    The listening cup is attached to the corner piece D, which places and keeps it in exactly the right spot (the 3D printer files are attached to the project).

  • Mounting the Fire

    Tim Wilkinson11/23/2019 at 02:50 0 comments

    Frame. Mat. Now it's time to mount the Fire ... and this time without the hot glue.

    Obviously 3D printed mounting pieces are the way to go here. Each piece holds a corner of the fire, pressing it up against the mat, keeping it the correct distance from the sides of the frame, and being kept in place once the frame back is re-attached. This means that each corner pieces is slightly different so everything lines up "just so" while avoiding buttons and speakers on the Fire itself.

    The above photo shows the Fire held in place, with a USB power cable running from the side and out the bottom of the frame. Notice the cut in the frame to allow the power cable out.

    This is a testament to my poor woodworking skills. I drilled a hole then used a Dremel to cut down to the hole from the edge. The result was decidedly "meh" but fortunately it won't be particularly visible once the frame in on the wall. Still, I'd like to know the "proper" way to do this.

  • Framing and Matting

    Tim Wilkinson11/21/2019 at 22:11 0 comments

    An Amazon Fire HD 8 Tablet is 7.6in by 4.5in which is not a standard picture frame size. The two closest sizes are 6x8 and 8x10; and 8x10 was the smallest canvas frame I could find. In either case, it is necessary to mat the tablet's screen to make it look good in the frame.

    Unfortunately, the tablet's screen size is 6.8x4.2 inches which doesn't match standard mats. I had to have one cut at a local framing store. Custom mats turn out to be a bit pricy; it cost $20 which is a significant cost for a bit of cardboard. I could have made one by hand by cutting a hole in a piece of card, but it looks better with one done professionally with the appropriate tools. Alternatively, if you're less impatient than I, you can buy these for $2 at various places on the Internet.

  • Starting at Version 2: Canvas Frames

    Tim Wilkinson11/20/2019 at 22:24 0 comments

    This is the second version of this small Alexa picture frame I've built. Version 1 was built around a traditional picture frame, with similar external dimension, but with a frame depth of only 20mm. As the Fire tablet is 10mm, the Mat 1.5mm, and the frame inset 8mm; once that's all sandwiched together, it's not possible to attach the back of the frame anymore! Version 1 used quite a lot of hot glue - not ideal.

    And then I stumbled across Shadow Box Frames and Canvas Frames. These are designed for mounting collections of things, or canvas paintings, are much deeper than traditional frames, and ideal for this build. The one I've chosen to use comes from my local arts and crafts store (https://www.dickblick.com/items/18858-7908/) but Amazon has a bunch of options too.

    And I suppose this demonstrates a problems I come across often; there are things I can buy to solve problems I have but I don't know these things exist or what they're called. And that's one of the reasons I enjoy reading random builds on this website so much; it helps me discover these things for next time.