My home computer desk hosts a snarl of USB cables for the various cameras, MP3 players and other peripherals I’ve bought over the years.
All-in-one memory-card readers help me get around this tangled mess, but I’ve been longing for the day when my digital photos would just magically appear on my hard drive.
With the $99 Eye-Fi card, that day has finally arrived.
The card looks just like a standard 2-gigabyte SD card, but its embedded Wi-Fi circuitry allows it to wirelessly connect to a router and upload pictures to a computer or Internet sharing site — without my having to stop what I was doing.
Taking pictures is no different than with a standard SD card, and I noticed no added delay between shutter snaps.
Setup is easy. Just insert the Eye-Fi into the provided USB card reader and plug it into an available port. Once the preloaded Eye-Fi Manager software transfers from the card to the computer, it’s time to choose a wireless network and, if required, a network password.
If a wireless network requires a user name in addition to a password — which is common at a public Wi-Fi hotspot or on a secure corporate network — you’re out of luck. The software wants only a WEP or WPA encryption key.
That’s a shame, as I’d love to use this card to instantly transfer the photos I take for stories when I return to my desk.
But the Eye-Fi works great on what it was designed for — the wireless home network — and for transmitting pictures from inside the house and nearby. Elsewhere, it functions like any other memory card.
The software lets you choose a hard drive folder to store your photos, but you can also have them appear on a growing list of Internet-based photo sharing sites including Facebook, Shutterfly and Picasa, and online retailers such as RitzPix, Costco and Wal-Mart.
To begin moving photos, make sure the Eye-Fi Manager software is running and turn on the camera within a reasonable distance from your router.
While my laptop computer considers itself in range of my router anywhere in my house, the Eye-Fi card wants to be either in the same room or one room away. A longer tether would be nice, but considering that the entire card is about a square inch, the shorter range is understandable.
Once the Eye-Fi card syncs with the router, photos automatically upload.
Some cameras interpret this period as inactivity so you may need to adjust your camera’s power settings so it doesn’t shut off during a transfer, which with my Nikon and cable Internet connection took about 6 seconds a photo.
Web site user names and passwords are stored on the card so pictures can upload to the Web — if that’s the option you choose — even when your computer is turned off. The Eye-Fi software also can automatically resize pictures to meet a Web site’s requirements.
The Eye-Fi costs considerably more than a standard 2 gigabyte memory card, but the extra $70 or $75 is reasonable for cutting all those ties that bind. If they could make it work with Wi-Fi hotspots and corporate networks, it’d be even better.