I have to say, I really enjoyed reading Mark Pilgrim’s post on the roots of Sesame Street (and the reason for the oft-discussed disclaimer on the recently-released DVDs of the first ten years’ worth of episodes).

eye-fi card and adapter

In part inspired by Anil’s recent series of unsolicited testimonials, and in part as a result of receiving some really interesting gifts this holiday season, I’ve decided to try to get my shit together enough to post a few short unsolicited reviews over the next few days. (Note that these are reviews, and not necessarily testimonials, since at least one of them ain’t gonna be all that glowing.) And that leads to part one, my review of the Eye-Fi wireless memory card.

First, I should explain what the Eye-Fi is (since telling my family about it over the past few days taught me that this puppy is amazing enough to defy belief for some people). Simply put, the Eye-Fi is a 2 gigabyte memory card for your camera that has a wireless network adapter built into it. (Specifically, it’s a Secure Digital, or SD, card.) You use the card the same way you’d use any memory card in your camera; when you shoot your photos, they’re stored on the card, nothing special there. What is special is that after you take your photos, the card uses its built-in wireless capabilities to send the photos you take to your computer and any of a number of online photo sharing services, all automatically. Seriously, people — it’s like magic, all for the paltry price of $99 at Amazon.

So, now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at the user experience from the moment of unwrapping. The Eye-Fi box itself is pretty clever, with a little pull-tab on the right that causes the left side of the box to slide open and reveal the card and its USB adapter. Starting to use the Eye-Fi involves plugging the card into the USB adapter, plugging the adapter into any USB port on your computer (PC and Mac are both natively supported), and then installing the Eye-Fi Manager software that’s preloaded on the card. (Of course, the versions of the software on my card were older than the current versions available on the company’s website, but the software was smart enough to update itself without any hassle.) From there, the Eye-Fi Manager software launched a clever web-based configuration utility that had me select my wireless network and then select whichever of the supported online services I wanted to use. All in all, it took under five minutes to have the card ready to use.

Since the Eye-Fi is an SD card, I anticipated that I’d have one issue with it up front: our preferred digital camera, the Canon Digital Rebel XT, uses CompactFlash cards. I had read online that CompactFlash-to-SD adapters work fine with the Eye-Fi, though, so this was an easily-surmountable issue. After plugging the card in, our camera wanted me to format the card before it would write photos to it — but the Eye-Fi doesn’t mind being formatted at all, so this too wasn’t really an issue so much as an additional step I needed to take before being able to take pictures. Finally, the folks at Eye-Fi recommend making a change to your camera’s auto-power-off settings — because after all, the card draws power from your camera, and if your camera goes to sleep pretty quickly after you shoot a photo, the card won’t have the power it needs to wirelessly send your photos into the ether. The instructions for our camera weren’t on the Eye-Fi site, but finding the right setting was pretty easy, and under ten minutes from opening the box, my first photo was uploaded and available to me on Flickr. (Note that I set the Eye-Fi to upload all its photos to Flickr as private images, an available feature that I think is pretty much mandatory for a device that automatically uploads every image I take!)

Overall, my assessment of the Eye-Fi is that it’s an amazing and groundbreaking product that belongs in the arsenal of anyone who takes more than a handful of digital photos a week. And for people like us — people who frequently let dozens of photos sit on the camera’s memory card because we’re slightly too busy or lazy to find the card adapter, plug it into our computers, and do the dance of uploading the images online — this thing is a total dream. I’m impressed with the entire user experience, from the packaging to the setup to the nearly invisible functionality (and for those who know me well, you’ll know how rare it is for me to have nothing to fault in the user experience of a new gadget!).

My unsolicited opinion: Charlie Wilson’s War is a pretty damn good movie. After loving the book, Shannon and a friend convinced me to give it (the book) a try, and I thought it was a fine read; a few months ago, we were both pretty excited to see a preview for the movie, not having had any clue that the project was in the works. We had the usual fear that translating a 560-page book into a 90-minute film wouldn’t go so well, but all things said, Aaron Sorkin did a really good job, and tonight we all left the movie satisfied.

BlackBerry and Google Calendar users, you may now rejoice. (Well, I say that after seeing that the new sync app merely exists — we’ll see how I feel after I use it a bit.)