A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had purchased an Eye-Fi Pro X2 WiFi SD card for my camera. I have always wanted one of these, but could not bring myself to pay the going rate for the Pro version (required for raw support). When I saw refurbished Eye-Fi cards being offered on Woot.com for about half price of MSRP, I had to go for it. In this article I will discuss my experience with the Eye-Fi card, setting it up to work with Windows Home Server and an iPad, and some of the limitations and features of the device.
What is Eye-Fi?
The Eye-Fi card is a SD card with built-in WiFi so you can wirelessly transfer pictures from your camera without removing the card. If you frequently forget to put the memory card back in your camera, you like to send pictures to multiple destinations, or you just get annoyed by constantly taking the card out of the camera, this idea can be very appealing. But is it really as convenient as it sounds? After spending a couple of weeks with the Eye-Fi, I can answer that as… yes and no. It’s certainly more convenient and oh-so-magical when it works, but the software has some frustrating limitations and infuriating quirks which hinder the overall experience. I will say, though, that once I adjusted my expectations to the reality of how this thing works, I am pretty pleased with it. My husband–not so much.
The Eye-Fi card comes with its own USB SD card reader (adapter) which allows it to communicate with the Eye-Fi servers–and the Eye-Fi Center software, which needs to be installed on your computer. After the initial setup, you probably won’t need to use the adapter again, but it can be used as a regular SD to USB adapter for transferring pictures the standard way, or for other purposes. Just don’t toss it in the trash or lose it, because you may need it again to change settings in the Eye-Fi Center software.
Eye-Fi Center Software
Eye-Fi Center software is required, and is compatible with Windows XP and later and Macintosh OS-X 10.5 or later. I installed it without issues on Windows 7 and on Windows Home Server v1. You are also required to set up an account with Eye-Fi. Eye-Fi uses the account to store some of the settings for your card, and provides free online storage for your photos for seven days. You can opt out of the online storage, or you can choose to extend the online storage with an optional paid premium subscription, but either way you do need to set up an Eye-Fi account.
I initially installed the Eye-Fi Center software on my Windows 7 desktop and set it up to transfer the photos to a folder I created under my system pictures folder. I snapped a few JPEG photos, and they were on my computer within seconds. I was giddy!
Eye-Fi and Windows Home Server
Next, I decided to install Eye-Fi Center on my Windows Home Server, since that computer is accessible to all my computers and provides automatic duplication in case of disk failure. Because this is a server machine running a server version of Windows, I had to take a few extra steps with this installation. First, I created my delivery folders on the Photos share and on the Videos share. Eye-Fi can deliver JPEG photos, raw camera files, and videos, sending each type to a separate folder–as long as they are all on the same computer.
I plugged the Eye-Fi adapter with card into the front port of my HP MediaSmart Server and ran the installation through a remote desktop connection. No problem there. Because Eye-Fi Center runs under a user account instead of as a service, I also had to create a scheduled task to run the software every time the server restarts. This was done under the Control Panel > Scheduled Tasks menu option.
When pointing the Eye-Fi Center to the delivery folders on the server, I wasn’t able to point to a network share, so I had to use the local path for the shares. Under Windows Home Server v1, this is typically D:\shares\Photos, D:\shares\Videos, and so on. When I did this, a confirmation dialog popped up, saying that my desktop computer would no longer be the destination for photos and that the server would become the new destination. This is precisely what I wanted, so I didn’t think much of it and approved the message. Once that was set up, I snapped a few more pictures, left the camera powered on, and in a few seconds they appeared in the shared folders I had designated. Perfect!
By default, Eye-Fi creates a folder for each day within the destination folder. You can disable this, or customize the folder name to use a custom date format.
Eye-Fi is a Power Hog
One note about camera power… Yes, the Eye-Fi card requires your camera to be powered on in order to transfer pictures. This, in addition to the extra power draw for WiFi, means that your camera’s battery will be depleted more quickly. If you use rechargeable batteries in your camera, this is not a big deal–you just want to make sure you have enough spare batteries when you won’t be near a power source, and that you keep your batteries charged up regularly.
Eye-Fi and the iPad
So now that I had the Eye-Fi transferring to my server like I wanted, it was time to set up the iPad. In my ideal scenario, I wanted to have all JPEG photos sent to my iPad, and also have JPEG, raw, and video files sent to my server. I went to the app store and installed the free Eye-Fi app, and followed the setup instructions.
I guess I should have been expecting it, but I was really thrown for a loop when it warned me that switching my transfer destination to the iPad would disable my server as the destination. I was further frustrated to learn that JPEG, raw, and video files cannot be sent to separate destinations. It took me a while to figure this out, but as it turns out, you can have things sent to a computer and a mobile device like iPad, but you have to send it through the mobile device first, and then the mobile device passes it on to the computer.
On the next page, I discuss the many limitations of Eye-Fi…