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Getting Framed

This may destroy whatever image you had of me as some techno-geek early adopter (really, I'm not), but the only way I've put digital photos on display has been paper. I order up a print of a shot, and when it arrives in the mail, I get it framed and park it on a shelf or table.

(When I bought my last printer, I had delusions of using that to crank out my own 8-by-10s. Somehow, that's never happened.)

But I've seen how popular digital picture frames have been in stores, and I've seen how many questions I've gotten about them in my Web chats, reader e-mail and comments on this blog. So for today's column, I explored this other way of showing off photos.

As you can see, I wasn't too impressed. All of the four frames I tried--Ceiva Logic's 8-inch Ceiva Life, Kodak's EX811, Smartparts' SPX12 and Westinghouse Digital's DPF-1021--exhibited a variety of usability problems, some more irksome than others. I just couldn't get away from the sense that the designers of these gadgets were much better at procuring LCD screens in bulk than at human interface design.

In other words, we're a long way from having the iPod of digital picture frames.

Given a choice of just the four frames I tried, however, I'd get the Kodak. In addition to having the best--if still flawed--networking and multimedia features, it also had the advantage of using the least power (7 watts when on, against 12 for the Ceiva and Westinghouse frames and 16 for the Smartparts unit).

The other guidance I can offer beyond what went in the review: If you use xD-Picture Cards for your photo storage, don't get the Ceiva, since it doesn't include a slot for that kind of card. (Of course, if Fuji and Olympus would finally give up on this pointless format altogether, future customers would be spared this problem entirely.)

And now I'll turn it over to you all: If you use a digital picture frame, how do you like it?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  March 27, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Pictures  
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Comments

Hi. My husband and I purchased a 7 inch Pandigital digital picture frame last summer after our wedding. It states that it has 128 MB of internal memory and you can copy your photos, videos, MP3s direcftly from your memory card, digital camera or PC. WE LOVE IT. It is holding all of the puctures taken at our wedding (684) and we play them randomly. I found it on sale at Macy's for I think around $79.00.

Posted by: Benita | March 27, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

We bought a Smartparts picture frame and the interface is as terrible as described. It's as if we slipped backward a decade or so in terms of user interfaces.

Rob nailed it: if you just pop in a memory card or USB key then everything is fine. Connecting to a PC or pairing different music with different sets of music simply didn't work.

Posted by: Josey23 | March 27, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

BEWARE (if there is any substance to this article)

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/02/15/BU47V0VOH.DTL&type=tech

Virus from China the gift that keeps on giving
Deborah Gage, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, February 15, 2008

An insidious computer virus recently discovered on digital photo frames has been identified as a powerful new Trojan Horse from China that collects passwords for online games - and its designers might have larger targets in mind.

"It is a nasty worm that has a great deal of intelligence," said Brian Grayek, who heads product development at Computer Associates, a security vendor that analyzed the Trojan Horse.
The virus, which Computer Associates calls Mocmex, recognizes and blocks antivirus protection from more than 100 security vendors, as well as the security and firewall built into Microsoft Windows. It downloads files from remote locations and hides files, which it names randomly, on any PC it infects, making itself very difficult to remove. It spreads by hiding itself on photo frames and any other portable storage device that happens to be plugged into an infected PC.

The authors of the new Trojan Horse are well-funded professionals whose malware has "specific designs to capture something and not leave traces," Grayek said. "This would be a nuclear bomb" of malware.
By studying how the code is constructed and how it's propagated, Computer Associates has traced the Trojan to a specific group in China, Grayek said. He would not name the group.
...snip ...

Posted by: Steve Goldstein | March 27, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

BEWARE (should the information below prove accurate):

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/02/15/BU47V0VOH.DTL&type=tech


Virus from China the gift that keeps on giving
Deborah Gage, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, February 15, 2008


An insidious computer virus recently discovered on digital photo frames has been identified as a powerful new Trojan Horse from China that collects passwords for online games - and its designers might have larger targets in mind.

"It is a nasty worm that has a great deal of intelligence," said Brian Grayek, who heads product development at Computer Associates, a security vendor that analyzed the Trojan Horse.

The virus, which Computer Associates calls Mocmex, recognizes and blocks antivirus protection from more than 100 security vendors, as well as the security and firewall built into Microsoft Windows. It downloads files from remote locations and hides files, which it names randomly, on any PC it infects, making itself very difficult to remove. It spreads by hiding itself on photo frames and any other portable storage device that happens to be plugged into an infected PC.

The authors of the new Trojan Horse are well-funded professionals whose malware has "specific designs to capture something and not leave traces," Grayek said. "This would be a nuclear bomb" of malware.

By studying how the code is constructed and how it's propagated, Computer Associates has traced the Trojan to a specific group in China, Grayek said. He would not name the group.

=== snip ===

Posted by: Steve Goldstein (VA) | March 27, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I purchased a Kodak for my father-in-law at Christmastime after reading many reviews. Yes, it is very easy to use. Moving photos off its hard drive is a little tedious, but user-friendly. Putting new photos on with a memory stick is NOT as easy as connecting with the USB connector and getting photos off Easy Share. If you already use the Kodak software, it is seamless. Otherwise....kind of tedious in the commands, but they can be figured out.

One thing I really HATE about the frame -- the flimsy stand for it. What a piece of junk -- I am surprised at how many times the entire frame gets bumped onto the floor!

Posted by: rjrjj | March 27, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse

My mother is 95 years old and has little of her short term memory left. We struggled to find a Christmas present for her but remembered how much she liked looking through the photographs of the various parts and members of the family. I did a little research and ended up buying a Phillips (7FF2) with a 7 inch diag. screen. It takes a variety of memory cards and its simplicity was perfect. We've got about 10,000 images saved over about ten years with some scanned images going back trough the ages. We loaded up a 128 MB memory stick, set the unit to play every day from 3-6 and what a treat. Every week when we go to visit we add some new images, delete some old ones and she's got a never ending show that stimulates her memory, brings the family close to her every day and most of all...makes her smile.

Posted by: Andrew | March 27, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

My mother is 95 years old and has little of her short term memory left. We struggled to find a Christmas present for her but remembered how much she liked looking through the photographs of the various parts and members of the family. I did a little research and ended up buying a Phillips (7FF2) with a 7 inch diag. screen. It takes a variety of memory cards and its simplicity was perfect. We've got about 10,000 images saved over about ten years with some scanned images going back trough the ages. We loaded up a 128 MB memory stick, set the unit to play every day from 3-6 and what a treat. Every week when we go to visit we add some new images, delete some old ones and she's got a never ending show that stimulates her memory, brings the family close to her every day and most of all...makes her smile.

Posted by: Andrew | March 27, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

GO OUT & GET A DIGITAL FRAME:
I just bought 2 digital frames from Target like 3 days ago for about ~$79 each. It was like the Target brand, T something. It was not Tao, but it began with the letter T. I bought them because I had over 700 pics from my sisters wedding and my parents wanted to see them. Being that they are not that technologically savvy, the frame saved me time. I told them to turn it on and press enter, thats it. NOw my parents can see their pics whenever they want to. Not only that, but they can take the frame with them and show all their friends. Downloading photos onto the USB is SO easy. The trick is this: You need to buy a 2 in 1 SD chip - the kind that goes into the camera as a SD but can also have its cap pulled off so that it works as a USB as well. I got this from Target for less than 20. So i edit my photos when the chip is plugged in as a USB and then I plug it into the frame as a SD CHip..simple. Never put your master copy chip into the frame. Buy an empty chip , copy your photos onto it, and use that for the frame. This way, if your parents lose the frame, you wont care because you have another copy of the memory chip.
I do wish that I could pause a pic, and go forward and backward as I please. Perhaps the remote will allow me to do that- it comes with a remote. But I think the arrows on the frame should have allowed that, instead they reposition the photo.
ALSO, I wish the frames were battery operated so that I could hang it up nicely. I think digital frames will eventually have wireless plugs, where the frame will be posted on the wall, and the outlet will be plugges in, as a wireless unit, hence, there will be no cord.
But at the end of the day, I think everyone should have a digital frame. I will be sending one to Africa so that all of my relatives can see the photos as well, I will simply buy an adapter. Its way cheaper than having to print 600+ photos. I will print some photos, but only the extreme ones. I can take the frame to work, church, school, overseas, and never worry about people stealing the photos or getting their fingerprints on it.
I think digital frames will become an educational tool, for teachers and study abroad programs. Its like a mini tv that you, the user, control. You could use it to take pics of patients (if you were a doctor), pictures of flowers (botanist), etc. Its a tool that allows the less technologucally savvy people to interact with the finest and simplest technology.
Not everyone in the world has a Tv/computer, but most people have an electricity outlet, and thats the only thing needed for a digital frame. I remember that there used to be a music video or something of that nature where the photos were moving in the frame, it was the coolest thing ever, and now we have it.
So go out , everyone, and buy a digital frame. And like I said, edit the photos in Windows Picture manager, you can make your photos black and white, change the color, crop it, etc. Then resave it onto your chip and plug it into the frame.
Its a great gift for all people of all ages: college students, grandparents, you name it. -A Ansong, Woodbridge,VA

Posted by: A.G Ansong | March 28, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

A few years ago, I got my nursing-home-bound mom a Ceiva. Overall it's been a great thing because all of us 'kids' (including two who live overseas) can upload photos which my mom can see the next day, automatically. This is much better for this situation than the 'sneakernet' approach which someone described using the SD card.

The main problems with Ceivas are, or course, the monthly fee, and the screen which has grown rather dim over time. A larger screen would also be nice.

As for myself (for my home), I would like a Wifi frame with decent resolution, preferably around $100. There are a few Wifi frames, but they're more like $200+.

Posted by: Jonathan Epstein | March 28, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I just recently purchased a Chumby ($187), which is a very small (alarm clock sized) system which uses a stripped down version of Linux. It's like a super-duper alarm clock that can display any number of things using "widgets" from the Chumby site, including some items to show pictures (directly or from Picassa, Flickr, etc). You can also get RSS feeds, news, weather, internet radio, and a lot of other stuff.

I really like it.

Posted by: Colin Seftor | March 28, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I also like the Pandigital. At first I was wary because I'd never heard of them, but it is very bright and sharp. It is a little tedious moving pics off of the flash card and into the frame though, so it's probably better to have a spare card to leave in there all the time.

Posted by: Steven | March 28, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Sony has new camera coming soon thats 24 megapixels. 16 megapixels has been standard for reproducing 35 mm film digitally, so 24 mp is Topper.

Virus/root kit thing is true about frames & slightly hard to use may be protection thing, hard to undo, in effect?

Well it will be quite frame that can display 4mp x 6 mp, making size possibilites very large. Non the less, any frame with hundreds of pictures rolling out all day long sounds like nice gift, even for self.

Signed:PHYSICIAN THOMAS STEWART VON DRASHEK M.D.

Posted by: thomasxstewart | March 28, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

In November, 2007, I purchased Westinghouse Digital's DPF-0802, which is a predecessor or sibling to the one Rob reviewed. Very nice images at 800x600, but among its shortcomings (besides the ones Rob mentioned for the -1021):

- If you plug in a USB flash drive on the backside instead of a memory stick, it protrudes beyond the frame edge in an ugly way.

- With much effort, you can rotate a photo, but then the unit doesn't remember that, so the effort is wasted. A workaround: have two separate memory cards for vertical and horizontal photos, just plug in one at a time, and rotate the frame physically as appropriate.

Posted by: Geep | March 28, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

My Son gave my Wife one of these devices along with Umpteen pixs of our G Children. It is brought out of hiding when he visits with new pics & is replaced to its hiding place on his departure..Like a Photo Album laying on a coffee table that is seldom viewed, it too is viewed only on special, infrequent occasions..A novel but impractical device which will die an early death..TJH

Posted by: Thomas Hegerich | March 29, 2008 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Last Summer I purchased a digital picture frame from Kohl's for my Father. I was disappointed to find that the aspect ratio was incorrect. All the pictures were squashed, as if I'd stretched a standard TV picture to fill an HD screen. to correct this I had to stretch all the pictures vertically by 20%.

Posted by: Dan H | March 30, 2008 7:02 PM | Report abuse

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