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Taking digital pictures these days is great — digital cameras are cheap and you don’t have to worry about exposing the film to bright sunlight. But how do you show off your digital pictures once you’ve taken them? You can send them by e-mail and/or post them on the Internet. But what do you do if someone walks into your office and wants to see your latest vacation pictures? Would they have to wait while you boot up your computer? Do you hand them a smudgy print-out of the picture that you made on your bubble-jet printer? Why not display them with a digital picture frame! Specifically, the DF-560 from Digi-Frame Inc. “SOMETHING FOR YOUR DESK …” The Digi-Frame DF-560 at first glance looks just like a regular picture frame — which is the whole idea. But instead of showing off just a single one of your latest Kodak moments on “glossy” paper, the Digi-Frame allows you to display a whole slew of your digital pictures in a slide-show format. Just about every digital camera on the market today will store your pictures on small memory cards called either SmartMedia ( http://www.howstuffworks.com/ flash-memory2.htm) or CompactFlash ( http://www.howstuffworks.com/ flash-memory3.htm). These two types of memory cards are slightly different in size. For this reason, the Digi-Frame has slots on the side of the frame to take either kind. To view your pictures on the Digi-Frame, all you have to do is take your memory card out of your camera, slip it into the appropriate slot on the Digi-Frame, and turn it on! The Digi-Frame will automatically start a slide show with the available pictures from your memory card. Your pictures are viewed in a 5.6 inch Active-Matrix color screen, which appears much like the screens on today’s laptop computers. Note the 5.6 inches are measured diagonally. The screen is roughly 4.5 by 3.5 inches, which isn’t too bad considering the regular picture from a drugstore photo lab is 6 by 4 inches. And the Digi-Frame will show your pictures in either “landscape” or “portrait” mode, depending upon the orientation of your picture and which way you set up the frame on your desk. CONTROL AT YOUR FINGERTIPS The Digi-Frame comes with some simple and very easy-to-use controls for your picture-viewing pleasure. Since the pictures are presented in a slide show, you have buttons for back, pause, and forward, so you can scroll through your pictures accordingly. There are also two “wheels” on the side of the Digi-Frame. One allows you to adjust the contrast of the screen. And if you click the other wheel, you’ll go into the Digi-Frame’s main menu. Digi-Frame Inc. does a great job of walking you through the menu options in the manual that accompanies the DF-560, so I won’t repeat their remarks. But I will mention some of the highlights. First, you can view all of your pictures as “thumbnails” and you have the ability to change the orientation of a picture, or to change the sequence of the pictures as they are shown in the slide show. The Digi-Frame’s menu also allows you to change your preferences for the “transitions” between pictures in the slide show. You can have your pictures “fade” in, “bounce” around the screen, or “dissolve” away into the next picture. Last, you can add special effects to your pictures, such as make them all black and white, or give them a sepia tone. You can even have your pictures appear as if you took them through an “infra-red scope” which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend — looking at a family member through what looks like a sniper rifle scope is not a heartwarming sight! SAY CHEESE! The Digi-Frame is even more functional due to the fact that you can hook it up to your computer. If you receive pictures of your new grandbaby through e-mail, you can send those pictures to the Digi-Frame through the “Digi-Link” cable that is supplied. It simply connects to the frame on one end and to your computer via a serial connector. Hopefully the newer models from Digi-Frame Inc. will incorporate USB connectivity, but for now you have wait a few extra minutes on transfers due to the speed of serial connections. Each Digi-Frame comes with some simple software used to transfer pictures. Updated versions of the software are also available at the Digi-Frame Web site. I like the software because it does not involve any kind of an installation. The software consists of only a very simple executable file that loads up instantly. Once you start the software, it automatically searches for a connected Digi-Frame. I had a little difficulty with this at first and couldn’t get my computer to recognize the frame I had connected. So I consulted Digi-Frame’s Web site and found that “synching” programs for PDAs can sometimes interfere with the communication ports associated with serial connections. Sure enough, I discovered my ActiveSync program was hogging the computing resources that the Digi-Frame needed. After I worked out that little disagreement, the Digi-Frame was found and the program worked like a charm! You can also use your computer to “fix-up” or “touch-up” your pictures, such as cropping or removing red-eye, before putting them on display through the Digi-Frame. A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND PIXELS In my humble opinion, this is definitely a “view” of the future. Who would want to look at a static picture frame after seeing one of these? But we do have a little further to go on the technology. The Digi-Frame DF-560 at the present only shows a screen resolution of 640 x 480, much smaller than today’s normal computer monitors. On the other hand, most computer monitors are close to 21 inches rather than 5.6 inches. I suspect that as everything else in the computer world, the technology will get cheaper and the resolutions will get better. Even now, Digi-Frame Inc. is currently taking orders for their 10.4 and 18 inch models which are due out this fall. Just to make a point that could easily be overlooked, the Digi-Frame does have to be plugged into an outlet as it does not use batteries. On the cosmetic side, Digi-Frame supplies interchangeable plastic decorative frames that you can snap onto the main part of the unit. I prefer the brushed aluminum myself, but you can choose the more conservative wood grain finish or go with the Mac-like gel blue color. Overall, I really like this digital picture frame and would probably have purchased one a long time ago if it were not for the price. But as I said, the technology is still working itself out and I can see one here on my desk in the not too distant future. PRODUCT: Digi-Frame DF-560 PRICE: I found it for between $500 and $600 MANUFACTURER: Digi-Frame Inc., Port Chester, N.Y. WEB SITE: http://www.digi-frame.com

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