Monday, January 4, 2010

Connectify and the Eye-Fi

I recently had a “chocolate and peanut butter” moment about the power of Connectify and the Wi-Fi Personal Area Network.

If you’re not familiar with the Eye-Fi card, it's a SD memory card with a built in Wi-Fi radio.  As you take pictures with your camera, it automatically connects to your WiFi network and uploads the pictures to either your PC or an online photo-sharing site.   Your camera does not need to be aware of the Eye-Fi or network at all: it’s just saving pictures to an SD card, the same as always.

A truly neat device for anyone who is into photography… except that it needs to be bound to your WiFi network. Since it’s just an SD card with no user interface, to change networks when you go from place to place it needs to be connected to your PC to change settings.  Also, because it doesn’t have a browser, it can’t navigate through the splash screens and captive portals of a hotel or coffee shop Wi-Fi network. And of course it can’t use a wireless Internet card from carriers like Verizon, so it’s really only useful in your home.

Connectify fixes that however.  Setup a Connectify network on your laptop, and bind the Eye-Fi to that network.  Now, wherever you go, if the Eye-Fi can reach your laptop, it can transfer the pictures:

 You connect straight to your PC, it can drop pictures right into your Pictures directory with no Internet sharing at all.  Right now I’m snapping shots from my Canon SD1200, and they are simply appearing in my Picasa Photo Collection, seconds later.  No cables, no import, no syncing - I just snap photos and seconds later there it is in my collection.  It’s more than just easy, it’s actually fun.  It’s likely that at my next party, there will be a projector to show photos as they are taken in real-time by a camera passed around the room (which, depending on the party, could be pretty scandalous).

If you’re trying to get them onto the Internet (say Flickr or MobileMe) it can use your laptop’s Internet connection, even if it’s isn’t one that an Eye-Fi normally knows how to use. At a coffee shop,  just navigate through their splash screen on your laptop’s browser, and then it’s done, the Eye-Fi will be on the Internet.  You can even transfer them via a tethered cellphone or a wireless Internet card.

To the Eye-Fi, nothing changed: it’s just getting on the same Wi-Fi hotspot that it was originally bound to, and it doesn’t notice if it moves, or if your connection to the Internet changes, its connection didn’t change at all.