Archive for the ‘Cameras’ Category

Eye-Fi Cards in the Enterprise

May 8, 2013

The concept of the Eye-Fi SD card is really cool: It’s an SD card for your digital camera that has wireless connectivity/uploading capabilities built-in. So you take a picture and your card will upload the picture automatically to your computer without having to connect the camera or manually copy pictures from the card. The concept is fabulous, but the implementation leaves a few things to be desired.

Now imagine how useful this would be in a school? Have all your cameras equipped with Eye-Fi cards and have them transfer pictures to a central server that everyone has access to for storage. It sounds like the greatest idea ever, until you try to implement it.

I did this back in the fall and while it functions, it’s really dirty and I still can’t believe they make it as difficult as it is to accomplish this. I used the word enterprise in the title to mean using the cards not as a consumer. I have one of these cards at home for personal use, it works fine with the software that ships with it.

At school I currently have 14 Eye-Fi cards in the wild. To avoid the maintenance nightmare of setting up the Eye-Fi Center software on each teacher’s computer, I wanted to run a centralized Eye-Fi “server”. I’m a Linux guy, so that’s the first thing I thought of, but no, there is no Linux version of the software. Someone hacked together a python script a few years ago that had similar functionality but it didn’t work in our multiple-VLAN environment. So not only did I have to burn a license for a Windows server for this, the cards have to be activated on the machine running the Eye-Fi Center software, so I had to setup a physical machine for this because the version of VMWare we use for virtualization doesn’t have USB pass-through. So instead of being totally free and using practically no resources, I have to use a Windows license, keep hardware running, use more electricity and add more carbon dioxide and noise to my office. And if that weren’t enough, the Eye-Fi Center software installs and runs per-user, so I couldn’t run it as a service in the background, I have to login to the machine to have the helper software start and then leave myself logged in under a remote desktop session! It does actually run if you start it as a service, it just doesn’t transfer any pictures that way. And when Windows Update reboots the machine pictures stop transferring because I’m not logged in anymore. It’s very frustrating, finicky and requires way too much attention; but of course the users are all happily oblivious to this.

I’m absolutely astounded how difficult they make it working with these cards when you’re not a cookie-cutter consumer. All it would take is a few tweaks to the Eye-Fi Center software to make it start and run as a service. A Linux version would also be greatly appreciated. And then add an option in the settings to specify the destination IP address of the computer running the Eye-Fi Center software. Those couple changes would make using and managing this product infinitely easier. The fact that there are no competing products doesn’t help the situation either. If another company came out with a similar product I would switch in a heartbeat, but for now I’m stuck with Eye-Fi.

As of this writing my Eye-Fi server has transferred 9074 pictures.