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I'm leaving this here for others that may be looking for this.

IT CAN'T BE DONE

You need an ASIC (Applicaiton-Specific Integrated Circuit) to drive the display.

IT CAN BE DONE - read the comments below!

================

What I need to know is where to start doing research in how to render stuff on a replacement Kindle (preferably a paperwhite) screen.

What I want to achieve: Make a rather expensive bed-side alarm clock.

What will make it unique: It'll have a nice big e-ink display screen

Why?
2 reasons.
1: Right now I use my cellphone as an alarm clock and I think that having that next to my bed is keeping me awake at night, so I want to move my cellphone out of the bedroom completely. This means that I need another alarm clock next to my bed.
2: I sleep in total pitch-black darkness. Even a very dim LED bugs me and will keep me from falling asleep.

So the idea, is to hook up a Pi to a new replacement Kindle screen so that there's no light. But it'd be nice to be able to touch the screen and the back-light will come on for a few seconds and then go off again so that I can see the time if I want to.

The question is: Where should I start figuring out how to insert tab A (Kindle Screen) into slot B (Raspberry Pi) and then get them to start talking to each other.

I've found people that have turned a working Kindle into a WiFi Pi terminal. But I don't want to (1) buy a whole new kindle to just be a bed-side alarm clock and (2) I don't want to void warranties by rooting any devices just to do so.

Also, I've looked at the PaPiRus, but it's way too small, even the big 2.7" one. I want something chunkier.

  • How do you plan to talk to the Kindle screen? I'm not familiar with its physical/hardware/software interface to the outside world. – joan Jan 6 '17 at 13:30
  • @joan I see in all the pictures of E-ink displays that they have some sort of ribbon data input. So I Imagine that I'd have to use that, to somehow either connect directly to the DisplayDSI or the GPIO or somehow to the HDMI. Or maybe even USB. I have no idea. That's why I'm asking for help in getting started with this :-) – Jim Jan 6 '17 at 13:35
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    So you need to find the electrical and software specifications for the signals needed to drive that ribbon cable. Unless you can find those details or details of another device which can talk to that ribbon cable you will get no further forward. – joan Jan 6 '17 at 13:41
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I am not sure why people are being so negative. There are at least two people out there who have worked out how to drive these screens.

http://essentialscrap.com/eink/

https://www.circuitvalley.com/2017/03/kindle-e-ink-eink-driver-microcontroller-project-msp430-low-power-display-epaper.html

The only thing is that the Pi may not be able to deliver the timings needed for controlling the device so you may need a microcontroller in between.

Given how long this information has been available, I'm fairly surprised we haven't seen modules for sale for this already.

  • So in essence what you're saying is that it's possible, but it may not work on a Pi. And with that you're still surprised there aren't any ready-made modules available? Also keep in mind that this is probably a marginal market, especially since there are also ready-made eink displays with controller available. – Dirk Sep 10 '18 at 18:57
  • Not hugely shocked but just mildly surprised. One of the videos I linked to is from several years ago and yes, it is a marginal market but there are many modules available for fairly niche hobby uses out there. It needn't be a Pi specific device but just some kind of serial to kindle-screen device or something. – Rich Sep 10 '18 at 22:31
  • People are negative (though I'd rather say skeptical) because such questions can only be answered when someone does the actual work, and there's no way to know if that will ever happen. I mean, your links are just for the Kindle, so what about Nook/Yota phone/etc screens? – Dmitry Grigoryev Sep 2 at 12:46
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Nope.

This is effectively identical to the many questions that pop up on reusing screens from phones, tablets and anything else with pixels. Without access to detailed information, parts specifications and Pi-appropriate driver software from Amazon (none of which exists in the public domain) there's no way you're going to be able to interface a Pi with the Kindle screen. The best you can hope for is to send signals from a Pi to a whole Kindle, per the existing projects you mention in your question.

  • I just came across a post on the raspberrypi.org forums that basically said this. Most (if not all) e-ink displays would need an ASIC to be used. – Jim Jan 6 '17 at 13:49
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    It would be great if it were easy (so. many. screens.), but you're heading in the general direction of 'need to write my own driver code' territory. Takes an unusual human to persist with screen shenanigans past that point. – goobering Jan 6 '17 at 13:53
  • You're totally right, I'm somewhat unusual, but not THAT unusual! Original question edited. – Jim Jan 6 '17 at 13:55
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The issue is not so much in the hardware you may need (you mention ASIC), but rather in the absence of spec/schematic for display modules used in commercial products. They might as well be using the same interface as Raspberry pi (DSI, SPI), but you won't know that, and the pinout will certainly be different. Reverse-engineering is simply not viable in terms of time, equipment and effort needed for such little gain.

There certainly are bigger e-ink displays than 2.7" (here's one measuring 4.5"), and there's no technical limitation on SPI displays you can connect to the RPi. The only thing you need is enough dedication to write a framebuffer driver for a display, if it isn't marketed as RPi-compatible.

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You won't be able to re-use the kindle display, but you could use something like this:

http://www.pervasivedisplays.com/kits/mpicosys102

This is a relatively inexpensive e-paper display with a controller board that identifies itself as a usb-mass storage system. You upload images and the controller board takes care of displaying them.

  • We're trying a new policy with regard to informationless link-only answers here. If this post is not edited to contain information that can stand as an answer, however minimal, in 48 hours it will be converted to Community Wiki to simplify having it corrected by the community. – Ghanima Feb 1 '17 at 17:36
  • I love the look of that, do you have any experince with it? – Jim Feb 4 '17 at 15:11
  • I do not, but if it works as advertised, I want one! – chasm Mar 8 '17 at 16:07
  • Just a heads up on those displays: their refresh time is a minimum of 35 seconds. ---- Image 1 ----> screen goes blank (white) ----> lots of flickering ----> a minimum of 35 seconds passes (the example I saw was 42 seconds) ----> Image 2 – Jim Jan 21 at 12:29
  • Almost a minute to change the screen? Might be good for something still, but it makes these useless for what I wanted. – chasm Jan 21 at 15:00
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There is this page at Raspberry Pi, evidently they've thought of doing it. https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/hardware/raspberrypi/dpi/README.md

It's done at a GPU level, no serial stuff involved.

So it comes down to finding a display with enough information. Once you're sure of the logic levels some of it could be explored or confirmed by touching wires to places to see what happens. Then again, can you tell if you're seeing a 2^4 or a 2^5 colorwise? The Pi can do 24 bit color over DPI it seems but that's a lot of wires to guess at. If you can find documentation for the display you're trying to connect it would save time and frustration.

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If you want an expensive alarm, try using 640x384, 7.5inch E-Ink display HAT for Raspberry Pi https://www.waveshare.com/7.5inch-e-paper-hat.htm

Or KindleBerry Pi - http://ponnuki.net/2012/09/kindleberry-pi/

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Just jailbreak it, get root, set up a daemon, or hijack the existing one that handles the screensavers, have the pi put up the picture and maybe set up a poller to look for a dif. If one is detected on the image file, then execute the display refresh routine.

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