Digital signage: Use Raspberry Pi and Screenly OSE

Quick Summary:  The following how-to will allow you to wirelessly manage and display content from webpages, images, and/or videos (with some formatting constraints) on any 1080p television.  This is similar to the kind of digital signage to the menus you see in any major fast-food restaurant chain you enter today.  Why use Screenly and a Pi to accomplish this?  The solution is fairly easy to manage (as long as you don’t have dozens of TVs displaying the same content) and extremely inexpensive.  Less than $100 in parts, 2 hours of your time (thanks to these instructions), and no subscription fees.

Update: After great initial success, in extended testing the nano Wi-Fi dongle that came with the Pi from “ModMiPi” has proven unreliable, even with a powered USB hub. It may work better for you. However, I’m currently using this Edimax dongle, which is highly recommended, and it is working great, even without a powered hub. Alternatively, a solution like this might work: Netgear WNCE2001.

8 Easy steps:

  1. Buy a 1080P TV.  It MUST be 1080p for this to work.
  2. Buy a Raspberry Pi, or a kit like this one, which includes all the hardware you need (buy a HDMI cable) and a powered USB hub (It is recommended that you plug the Wi-Fi dongle into a powered hub in order to avoid potential flakiness due to insufficient power).
  3. Download the current Screenly OS image here
  4. Use your computer to write the image to the micro SD card: Instructions for Win/Mac/Linux
  5. Put the micro SD in the Pi, connect the Ethernet, HDMI, USB hub and Wi-Fi dongle (optional), and lastly the power.  The Pi should boot and display the IP address of the ethernet adapter.  Take note of this address.
    • I have used a USB cable from the Pi to the TV with success.  However, this probably isn’t recommended, for multiple reasons:
      1. Insufficient power from the TV USB port for reliable operation
      2. The Pi will turn off whenever the TV turns off, increasing wear and tear on the file system
      3. You have to wait for the Pi to boot every time the TV turns on.
  6. Optional: Configure Wi-FI
    1. Connect to the Pi via ssh. On a Mac or Linux use the command "ssh pi@x.x.x.x [enter]", and enter password “raspberry”
    2. Use an editor like nano or vi (both included in the image) to modify /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf so that it contains the following text (you may have to modify key_mgmt, pairwise, and group settings if not using WPA2, otherwise this should work fine as-is).  Use sudo to operate as root, e.g. “sudo nano /etc/wpa…”:
      ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev
         ssid="Your SSID"
         pairwise=CCMP TKIP
         group=CCMP TKIP
         psk="Your password"
    3. Modify /etc/network/interfaces (again, as root) so that it contains the following text (this will configure the Wi-Fi to use DHCP):
      auto lo
      iface lo inet loopback
      iface eth0 inet dhcp
      # allow-hotplug wlan0
      iface wlan0 inet manual
      wpa-roam /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf
      iface default inet dhcp
    4. Modify /etc/rc.local (again, as root) by adding the following line above “#Print the IP address” (so that Wi-Fi will start after reboot):
      ifup wlan0
    5. Type "sudo reboot [enter]" to restart the Pi, and disconnect the ethernet cable.  It should reboot and display an IP address as before.  You are now connected via WiFi.
  7. Connect to the new IP address from your browser using the URL: http://x.x.x.x:8080
  8. The UI is fairly simple, and should require no further explanation!

Update: If you get a black border around the image, try disabling overscan. Using SSH, connect to the Pi again, and edit the /boot/config.txt file. Remove the # before the disable_overscan=1 command to uncomment and activate the command

For more info:


~ by Jay P Morgan on December 29, 2014.

2 Responses to “Digital signage: Use Raspberry Pi and Screenly OSE”

  1. my wifi dongle doesnt blink

    • Verify that the dongle is working. Does it work in another system? Try connecting the pi to ac power rather than the USB port on the TV. Your TV may not provide sufficient power.

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