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Stupid, stupid, stupid

10/31/07 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Whining, Reviews

Link: http://www.consumer.philips.com/consumer/en/ca/consumer/cc/_productid_7FF1M4_37_CA_CONSUMER/PhotoFrame+7FF1M4-37

A year or so ago, I bought a Philips PhotoFrame (7FF1M4/37 model) as a present for a relative. It was well received and was used daily with no problems. That made it a great success in my eyes.

Until tonight when I bricked it.

Some minor background for those unfamiliar with the digital photo frame. Basically it's a really simplified computer with a small LCD panel. It reads files from internal memory and displays them on the screen with some basic input in order to change some settings. In the case of Philip's implementation, all the photos have to be in JPEG format and are then resized to be the native resolution when added. Photos can be loaded via USB into the internal memory (about 16MB although not all is available) or by CompactFlash and SD card. For PC users the frame comes with an application that handles the mounting and picture loading. I use a Mac so the steps are slightly different; you copy the pictures onto the root when the frame is mounted as a USB storage device. When the USB connection is broken, the frame then moves those files, renaming them on the way, into its own storage area a bit further down the folder tree, presumably generating an index as it goes.

The request that caused the bricking today was simple: add some extra photos onto the slide show that had recently been taken at a family holiday. As the device was full from the last time I did this, I had to delete a few files already on it. I also needed to crop and rotate some of the photos to make them fit. Nothing here really out of the ordinary. However when I disconnected the USB from the frame, it went black and stayed there. After waiting five minutes, I turned it off and back on as that kind of behaviour is a little unusual. It then turned on (yay), listed the total number of files (yay), went to the default Philips logo screen (yay) and promptly stuck there (not yay). None of the buttons worked nor even the power switch. Connecting it to the USB (which has always forced a mount in the past) did nothing other than cause the host computer to register it as an unusable device. So I dug out the manual. Under the FAQs, it mentioned there was a little reset switch for this exact problem. I found it, found an appropriately small paper clip after much swearing, and reset it. It reset. And then went through the hanging process again. I tried resetting it while connected by USB (hung); to an SD card (hung); to a compactflash card (hung); pressing various buttons in various combinations (hung, hung, hung and a few more hungs.)

On Philips' website there was a vague comment about this kind of behaviour. Their solution? Update the firmware. Yeah, well, you can see my difficulty with applying that particular solution. Browsing the internet revealed nothing more than this problem isn't that rare and that so far no one has found a better solution than to send the unit back to Philips for warranty work. From where I sit right now, it's completely unsalvageable even though all the hardware appears to be working fine: it's just something in the filesystem check that's causing it to fail.

Previously if you'd asked me to recommend this unit, I would have said "Yes". It had its interface quirks but seemed solid enough. This behaviour on the other hand brings it right into the "not if you paid me, bub" category. No consumer unit should ever be able to fail in such a way that it cannot be reverted to its native state. Heck, if I lose the photos due to a factory reset, not a problem. At least then I can put it back into operation. But something that dies when I'm following the recommended process for maintaining it? Not good at all.

 

1 comment

Comment from: Adam [Member]  
Adam

‘Fraid so, although it was probably my editing of them to resolve the rotation issue on a couple of the portrait ones that eventually killed it.

11/04/07 @ 10:54
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