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ATPM 6.09
September 2000


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Preview: Kodak Smart Picture Frame

by Daniel Chvatik,


Developer: Weave Innovations


Price: $349 (includes six months of premium service)

Requirements: Mac with Internet connection, Netscape 4 or later or Internet Explorer 5 or later.

Computer technology keeps creeping into our lives. Computers used to be simply tools for work, and many people were happy to enter a computer-free environment after the work was done. Staring at a flickering screen for several hours a day is quite enough for them. But as speed, bandwidth, and memory capacity keep increasing, computers and the associated technologies are no longer restricted to the workplace. The emergence of MP3s is one example. Although the MP3 standard started more or less as a pure computer-side compression scheme, MP3 players are now a common item outside of the office. Similarly, Apple’s iMovie takes an activity that was previously separated from the digital world entirely, and literally brings it to your desktop.

Pictures were similarly “digitized.” And while digital cameras used to be a geek toy or restricted to professional use, they are quickly becoming an everyday item. For some people, they have entirely displaced traditional film cameras. But such computerization has its growing pains. Like MP3s, which in the beginning were not good for much else but listening on mediocre computer speakers, digital pictures were mostly restricted to the digital canvas on your computer screen. Yet, as often happens when such “advances” hit mainstream computing, people miss some features of the “traditional” technology—in this case of the simple feel of a photograph. A digital picture is nice, but it just doesn’t have the texture of a freshly developed piece of photographic paper, nor its gloss. You can’t put a digital picture into a “real” photo album or give it centerpiece status in a picture frame. And you can’t really show it to your computer-less grandparents unless you carry your laptop with you to the next family reunion.

Improvements in printer technology, which now give us a wide choice of photo-quality printers, have removed some of those drawbacks, but at the cost of the convenience and speed that are at the core of digital pictures. What good are digital pictures if you have to print all of them out again, converting them back to the analog format that we tried to avoid in the first place?

• • •

Weave Innovations’ Kodak Smart Picture Frame and StoryBox Network picture exchange service attack just this issue. By combining the more traditional feel of a (digital) picture frame with the vast modern information handling capacities of the Internet, their product promises to combine the best of both worlds on its 6.4 inch color LCD. Weave Innovations was kind enough to provide ATPM with some pre-production units for preview purposes. The units gave us a glimpse at the future of digital imaging. However, some technical glitches in the beta units prevented us from taking them through a full review. Instead, we will share our thoughts with you now, and hopefully follow up with a full review of the customer units in our next issue.


You may already have seen digital photo frames in stores by now. Sony’s play on the theme is modern and high-tech looking. Weave Innovations decided on a more traditional, wooden look. While Sony’s picture frame accepts only their proprietary memory stick, the Kodak Smart Picture Frame—which will be distributed by Kodak later this year—accepts both CompactFlash cards and an “online” connection through your familiar phone line. The phone line serves as the primary means of connecting the outside world to your picture frame. When you setup the frame, you have to register at the StoryBox Network Web site. The frame dials a free 800 number, confirms it is properly registered, and then finds the best local phone number for future connections. Through the Web site, you can upload your own pictures to the frame; send and receive greeting cards; share pictures with others; and even set news, weather, sports and similar “channel” content to be loaded into your frame.


The Web site lets you set up a contact database and allow others (like your kids, your parents, or your significant other on the road) to send their pictures directly to your frame. Imagine the glow on mom’s face if her kid in college sends a weekly picture to her frame. Certainly, you could simply e-mail the images, but it’s less personal and not everyone has e-mail access. In this way, a frame may be a wonderful gift for a technologically challenged family member (just make sure you set it up for him), but even hard-core technophiles may enjoy this little gadget. I, personally, spend a lot of time—professionally and personally—on the Net, but I would appreciate it if I could shift some of that use away from the computer, because I can’t even recall the last time I sat down in my living room. The addition of informational content channels allows you to take a break from the screen and get your dose of information overload in a different way.

The frame itself can rotate images, and you can share pictures among several frames. Instead of showing a single static picture, you can have all of the images displayed in a slide show fashion. Who knows, maybe future versions will even support simple movie-playback, allowing your friends and relatives to send over a little iMovie of the last vacation!

Not everything is rosy though. Support for the less technical among us may leave power users without the tweaks they want. I wish the frame could bypass my slow phone line and get its content through my DSL connection via the Ethernet LAN. Of course, I am part of a small, but growing minority with faster network connections. Alternatively, a direct USB connection to the frame to upload pictures would be nice. In any case, you can forget about watching movies in future frames if the bandwidth issue isn’t addressed. Also, to use the frame efficiently with Web sharing and channels, you are required to buy a subscription, starting at $4.95, and ramping steeply upwards depending on how many channels and updates per month you want to purchase. At least those with cravings for real paper can have the photos printed and sent home by Kodak.

• • •

Like MP3 players, digital picture distribution via more traditional means will become more common in the next years. Besides simply presenting the images, they will make sharing of images and information easier than ever. I can’t wait to see more of the future.

Reader Comments (12)

Jim Evans · April 25, 2001 - 13:36 EST #1
Kodak Smart Picture Frame: Just received this as gift. We are on AOL 6.0. Do you see any problem? Thanks. Jim
Daniel Chvatik (ATPM Staff) · May 6, 2001 - 19:07 EST #2
A good question that I can't answer. Try the customer support page. I hope that helps.
anonymous · January 16, 2002 - 20:50 EST #3
The product has been discontinued and nobody is letting us know. There is no more support, no web-enabled "Storybox Network" and no more frames available to connect to. Kodak SUCKS!!!!!
Andrew Gurudata · April 9, 2002 - 13:07 EST #4
Hi ho,

If you bought a frame and would like to use it without the network connection (i.e. just from the compact flash card), Kodak can send you a firmware upgrade to do this. Contact me for more details.

Denise White · December 20, 2002 - 18:19 EST #5
Kodak Smart Picture Frame is awesome. You don't need the network connection to enjoy it. If anyone out there has one, doesn't like it, and is interested in selling it to me, please let me know. I know a lot of people who want one but can't find it anymore. Thank you.
Matt Brucell · November 12, 2005 - 16:03 EST #6
Is there a way to get the frame to just play the 38 or so pictures I put on it and just forget about the Storybox Network? Don't need to share - just want to display without all of the "Need to Connect" pop-ups that inteupt my slideshow. There is nothing left to connect to. Thanks.
mary lou · February 12, 2007 - 15:43 EST #7
tell me more about the firmware upgrade for the kodak picture frame, do like it but one drawback, how come it can't be saved from the memory card to frame? not possible? i have a special briefcase for bth the camera and picture frame. now i would like to purchase at least a 2.0 memory card i see they already have 4.0 out there, wow.
ATPM Staff · February 13, 2007 - 00:21 EST #8
Mary Lou (and others) - there's probably very little anyone on ATPM staff can tell about this product. The review author who wrote about this picture frame is not part of the ATPM staff any longer. The best suggestion we can likely make is that you either call Kodak or try to locate a user forum that is better-geared for photography and photo display accessories instead of our web site which covers general topics about the Macintosh computing experience.
Mary Lou · February 15, 2007 - 07:08 EST #9
Thank you for your comments re my question. Actually I also have a MAC too, but need to upgrade it. what's the latest out there on the mac? haven't been using it since I got windows XP but Mac is so much better and want to go back to it.
thanks again,
Mary Lou
ATPM Staff · February 15, 2007 - 10:08 EST #10
Mary Lou - and what's nice is, if you have a full version of Windows XP (not an OEM version), you can install it and run Windows instead of OS X when you need to since the Macs are now using Intel-based chips.

You can check Apple's hardware page for the latest equipment. Essentially now, their computer lineup is as follows:

iMac (consumer desktop)
MacBook (consumer laptop)
Mac Pro (high end desktop)
MacBook Pro (high end laptop)
Mac mini (omnibus use, often good for integrating with a home media system or for those looking for an inexpensive Mac)
Jim Bouley · March 19, 2007 - 22:12 EST #11
Is it possible to buy a new plug for a kodak story box?
ATPM Staff · March 19, 2007 - 23:25 EST #12
Jim - are you referring to the electrical plug? Did it become damaged? Have you asked the manufacturer for help? The link is at the top of the review on this page. Alternatively, anyone handy with a soldering iron and skilled with protectively wrapping wires can pick up electrical connectors from a hobby shop and splice it onto the end of a damaged power cable.

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