Kodak's Pulse: A digital knight in shining armour


Kodak Pulse - Alternate ShotI’ll tell you this for free: no good deed goes unpunished.

It started the way it often does. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy marries girl. Boy has children with girl. Boy is a hero for having given both sets of parents grandchildren.

But hero status is fleeting. It disappears altogether when the grandparents start to complain that they never get any photos of the children.

Digital photography has been a game changer. No more rolls of film. No more expensive processing fees. No more hoping that the shot you took worked out but not knowing for sure until days later. But along with digital photography comes digital distribution of the photos and not everyone is ready for that part of the revolution.

I used to get prints made all the time. But after a while it became a hassle. Since all of my photos are on my computer and can be seen any time I like, having prints seemed sort of old-fashioned. Creating prints just so my kids’ grandparents could have them was even less appealing to me.

I decided to use the technology as my shortcut. “Here’s the deal,” I told my folks and the in-laws. “I’ll email you all of the best photos I take and you can decide which ones to print.” I soon learned that people who talk of “doing the internet” are so technologically inept that asking them to master the steps involved in downloading an email attachment and taking it to the local photomat is akin to herding cats.

Eventually technology came to my rescue, or so I thought, in the form of the digital photoframe. “Brilliant!” I declared. A device that lets the grannies see photos of their precious angels and I don’t have to get prints made and they don’t have to get prints made and everyone is happy. Everyone is getting a digital frame for Christmas! All I have to do is show them how to transfer the photos from their PCs to their frames. All I have to do is… right.

Summer has come and gone 3 times since then and yet both grannies stare at the same photos of the kids that were on the frames when they received them.

“Why?” I asked my mother. “Is it really so hard to just transfer a few photos now and then?”

I received a somewhat pitying look in response.

Every visit to my mother-in-law’s I would sit down on the couch and stare at the digital frame. Its blank screen mocked me from its position beside all of the other frames – the ones with prints in them.

Fast forward another year. I stumble across Marc’s post about a new frame from Kodak called the Pulse. It’s small, black, and unlike all the other frames on the market that can play movies, music and even act as a second monitor for your computer, the Pulse only does one thing: display digital photos.

But the Pulse has one feature that all the others lack. A feature so well thought out, so simple in its execution, it’s worth more than a dozen of the other frames. The Pulse is the first digital frame that never has to be connected to a computer and can receive new photos directly via email.

It’s as though the engineers at Kodak understood my pain and had set out to deal with it.

After you buy a Kodak Pulse, you go through a one-time set up process which connects the frame to the internet over your Wi-Fi connection. You then register the frame with Kodak’s website and you get your choice of an email address. This is the email address that you or any of your friends and family can use to send photos to your frame.

If email is like, so last decade, and you are in the habit of using Facebook for your photo sharing, no problem. The Pulse can be configured to pull photos from a Facebook account.
You never need to transfer images by swapping out memory cards or messing around with USB cables, though both of those options still exist should you wish to use them, but why on earth would you?

The Pulse’s 7″ touchscreen lets you do some very basic tasks such as deleting an image you don’t like, and changing the slideshow settings. The rest of the frame’s advanced functions are accessed via the Kodak website. From there you can see all of the photos on the frame, upload more from your PC, or delete any you don’t want. You can also sort the photos by who sent them to you – a handy way to perform bulk image management.

Two areas that I would like to see improved in a future update:  Within the website management tool you can only see the uploaded photos as thumbnails – there’s no way to see the full image. Also, there is no way to change the order of images once they’re uploaded. While you can set the frame to display photos randomly or in order, without control over the order, it’s hard to create a “story” or timeline effect. I have a series of quotes from my son from the age he started speaking until now. I’ve turned them into individual images and I’d like to intersperse these with photos from the same time period. At the moment, that can’t be done, unless I delete all of the images on the frame and then re-upload them one at a time.

In a nod to energy conservation, the site gives you control over when the frame turns itself on and off, with the option of having it turn on when a new image is received.

The frame automatically checks for firmware updates and advises you when they should be installed – another example of how Kodak has evolved the digital frame into a true internet appliance.

At last, the grannies have the latest photos of the grandkids, the only person who had to touch a computer was me… and Hero status has once again been conferred on the boy.

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4 comments

  1. Marc Saltzman

    Great post, Simon! Glad you — and your family — are enjoying this underrated product!

    Cheers,

    Marc

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  2. J

    Wi-Fi, so simple yet so elegant of a solution to the achilles heel of digital photo frames. This is one of the single greatest implementations of that technology. I just purchased one of these and will be doing it again for every gift I give until everyone I know has one. Pffft, people said Kodak was dead! From the touch screen controls, internet setup, to the seamless facebook integration. This is one smart product and it’s really nice to see an old American company shift gears to exceed the technology currently coming from Asia.

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