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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Second Look: Eye-Fi Explore Video 4GB - Wireless and Geotagging

In a recent post, I detailed my initial impression with the Eye-Fi Explore Video 4GB Wi-Fi and geotagging SD-Card. Eye-Fi makes a couple of other cards know as the Eye-Fi home and the Eye-Fi Share, which are slightly less feature-rich versions of the card I had.

Just as a quick review, the card has built-in Wi-Fi technology which allows it to grab the GPS location thanks to Skyhook, and also uploaded your pictures wirelessly either via a Wayport WiFi or other open or authorized wireless networks.

Now having completed a couple of trips with my Eye-Fi Explore Video 4GB, I feel like I am little more qualified to speak about my experiences out and about with the card. In some ways, it feels like two very different stories to tell. I'll start with the good and go from there.

First off, one of the trips I recently took with the family was to Disneyland for Mother's Day. I packed my camera and included the Eye-Fi Explore 4GB card as I have been considering it my primary card and just switch it out between my point and shoot and DSLR camera.

Frankly, I did not have super high expectations for geotagging success at Disneyland because I had no idea of what the WiFi coverage was there. However, I took a number of snapshots throughout the day, hoping that their GPS location would be captured by the Eye-Fi explore card.

When I arrived home, I turned on the camera and saw the pictures uploading from my Eye-Fi card to the network. After a few minutes, I was very pleasantly surprised that all the photos had a geotag associated with them. This was a great surprise, in fact -- below is a photo taken at the Dumbo ride at Disneyland, geotagged fairly accurately. Overall, a great experience with the Eye-Fi Explore card.

Eye-Fi Explore Video Geotag card identifies photos at Disneyland near the Dumbo ride with their correct GPS coordinates.

Then there is the other experience I had in Washington, DC which is on the complete other end of the spectrum, ending with a lot of disappointment. In fact, for one of the items below -- I submitted a technical support incident almost two weeks ago and have yet to receive any sort of response other than the automated acknowledgment that I will receive a reply within 1 business day. Which unfortunately, I have not. Here are the two issues I experienced...

First, I have found it impossible -- at least in the city of Washington, DC and anywhere else I have been for the Eye-Fi card to connect to either public or Wayport based Wi-Fi hotspots -- one of the main highlighted features of the cards. I've been to McDonalds, Starbucks, Hyatt Hotels, the Washington Dulles Airport (IAD) and at not one place has the card successfully either connected or uploaded photos from my camera or with it docked into the USB connection on my computer. Hugely disappointing given one of the features and reasons for the $99 cost was for this "Hotspot" access. But, it really has not worked for me anywhere other than home -- which I found most frustrating on the recent trip to DC.

The second, is there appears to be a bug or issue with uploading photos if you span days. For example, when I arrived back from the Washington, DC trip -- I started uploading the 250+ 12 megapixel pictures I took to my computer via the wireless at my home. Unfortunately with that volume, the upload went past midnight and I encountered a strange behavior. The Eye-Fi Manager software first split my upload "roll" as it is called midway through the upload and the outcome was pretty negative. All of my photos that were in the 2nd roll (~85 or so) were geotagged properly, but all of the pictures in the previous roll did not have geotags associated with them.

Update: After working with Eye-Fi, I've found this not to be the case. Please see the update here.

This is currently the item I have open with Eye-Fi support, and is critical from my perspective. I know now that I need to watch for this when I upload, but I really want to recover the geotags for those other 150 pictures -- and have not used the card since this occurrence for not wanting to eliminate the geotag information. I am hoping I hear back soon and will update when I can.

If I am to summarize where I am at with the Eye-Fi card, I would consider myself neutral at this point. The geotagging seems to work pretty well, assuming I can work around the upload issues. The wireless support thus far has been really disappointing, especially when I have been traveling. Something I will try a couple of more times -- in San Francisco in a couple of weeks and then Las Vegas -- to see if I can find something more reliable. Still, for $99 -- or about $95 more than Fry's Electronics had a Class 6 4GB SD Card in their advertisement -- Eye-Fi is a little on the expensive side if it does not deliver the expected experiences or outcomes. As convenient as it may be, it has not lived up so far -- I hope it improves as I continue to use it.

As a way of suggestion, there are a couple features that would really increase the value of this card that I would recommend (outside of some of the bugs with the Eye-Fi Manager, and spotty or non-existent Wayport working coverage). They are:

1) The fact that you cannot connect to networks that have any sort of splash screen type authentications. For example, with T-Mobile I have access to all T-Mobile hotspots in Airports due to my United Airless Red Carpet Club membership. If I can just use that screen or share with the system how to navigate it and enter the information, that would be a huge win and unlock tons of networks for me -- including many, many free ones that require a similar type of authentication.

2) The ability to join ad-hoc networks. If my Laptop has an internet connection, why not enable me to use Microsoft Networking and Internet Connection Sharing to give the WiFi card access to the Internet? This would be a great additional feature that would allow me to connect my Eye-Fi card for uploading wherever I go.

For now, I am implementing a temporary solution for this problem by going with a Mobile Router that I just purchased on eBay. My desire is to drop my Sprint Mobile PCS card for the EVDO network into the Linksys Router and setup both my laptop and the Eye-Fi card to connect so that I will never be without an upload connection. Still, this is rather bulky to add to my travel gear -- given I travel a couple of times a month. I wonder how airport security is going to like this....

3 comments:

Ziv said...

Ken,

Several comments:

1) As we've mentioned to you, after debugging the geo issue you've encountered -- you simply weren't around any Wi-Fi that we could pick up. If the card doesn't pick up the MAC addresses of Wi-Fi routers, it can't geotag. The roll-split was coincidental, as mentioned to you as well. So the geo works well, as long as you're around some sort of Wi-Fi.

2) Any McDonalds in the US should work. If you have one that doesn't, please report it, but also, please assure that the Wi-Fi at the moment, was working. If you set-up Notifications (SMS, tweets, email), you will know if the card is uploading, because you'll get notifications to your phone.

3) ad-hoc is supported, as of today. Please see our Pro card announcement. Raw is supported as well, and so is selective-upload (that's a free upgrade to any existing card)

4) Going mobile through an EVDO router is great. My favorite is the MiFi since it's tiny, and my other favorite is the CradlePoint CTR-350 or PHS-300. They're light, compact, and work extremely well.

I don't have experience with the Linksys router, but I wasn't aware that it's a mobile router. You need to plug it into power, right?

Ken Hanscom said...

Hi Ziv...I posted an update that details the issue as well, thanks for the follow-up.

On 3, that's awesome...will have to try it out this weekend.

And on 4, it's a Sprint Broadband router, where my Wireless AirCard plugs into it. Yes, it does still require power so it's not truly "mobile".

-Ken

Chris said...

Thanks for the review and info about geotagging with the eye-fi card. It was very helpful!