January 01, 2009

God bless us, every one (and zero)

I love that Internet-enabled devices are becoming more and more common. I jumped on this trend this year and gave three different Internet devices as gifts: A Kindle, a Netflix-capable Blu-ray player, and a wireless digital picture frame. I was particularly happy with the wireless digital picture frame, because I've been waiting for one to come out for years now.

You see, a few years ago, we gave Amy's parents a Ceiva, which is a digital frame that downloads photos every day (via modem). It's worked out great, but Amy and I rarely remember to send photos to it. I've been searching for a more automated alternative ever since. I even tried building my own out of an old laptop, but I just ended up with a dead laptop and ridicule from my geek friends. This year I think I found my solution with Kodak's W1020 frame

It has wi-fi capability, so it can download photos from KodakGallery, Flickr, and (most importantly for me) custom RSS feeds. This means that with a little nerd wizardry, I could give this frame to my parents, and it would automatically grab photos from my siblings and me.

Note: The following section is out of date, as there is a much easier way now, described in the 12/01/2009 update below

To accomplish this nerdery, I relied heavily on Yahoo Pipes, a service which can combine several RSS feeds into one, and manipulate the data along the way. I combined my Flickr photos and my siblings photos from Facebook (via the Photos2RSS facebook app) into one feed. Along the way I filtered out portrait-oriented photos, since the frame displays landscape photos much better (though I was only able to apply this to the flickr photos, since Facebook doesn't provide dimensions).

Unfortunately, the frame didn't like the RSS feed from Yahoo Pipes, so I had to write a custom converter script in PHP, hosted on my site. But that only took an hour or so.

As a bonus to using Yahoo pipes, I can change which photos appear on the frame, without my parents having to do anything.

Amy also gave me one for Christmas, and I'm already loving it. I don't have to keep copying photos to an SD card too keep the photos fresh.

So I highly recommend this frame for any tech-oriented folks, particularly to give as a gift to those not-so-techy people in the family.


Update 12/01/09

One thing I didn't mention in my original post here is FrameChannel.com, a free website which sends photos to certain digital picture frames, including this one. I didn't like it initially, so I left it out of this writeup, but it look like they've made some major improvements over the last year. I really like it now. They've accomplished exactly what I was looking for: the ability to seemlessly merge several different photo sources. I no longer have to massage the feeds through Yahoo Pipes or my own personal scripts.

Now my family and I can deliver photos to the frame in all kinds of ways. For those that don't like putting their photos in a public place, FrameChannel.com provides an email address to send photos, so they don't have to be online anywhere. They also support Flickr, MobileMe (my family uses both of these), SmugMug, Facebook, and a host of other sites. They also support custom RSS if you don't use a site they directly support. I use this option to send photos from my Flickr account that I've tagged with certain keywords, since my parents probably don't want to see all my photos.

As an added bonuse, since framechannel.com is a website, that means that I can administer the whole thing for my parents without them having to touch the frame.

So basically, I highly recommend this frame, and FrameChannel.com. I've now purchased three (one for me, one for my parents, and one for Amy's parents), and I think they're great.

Posted by Kevin at January 1, 2009 05:39 PM

Thank god for RSS feeds. I stopped visiting this site months ago.

Posted by: jayboz at January 2, 2009 07:46 PM

Nice going with the picture frame. I've had my w1020 for a few months now and also have been using yahoo pipes. But after the last firmware update, it no longer likes the pipes feed. Would you mind telling me what you did to clean up the feed? Or could I get a copy of your script?


Posted by: Serge at February 7, 2009 04:26 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?