Making the eFrame more interesting

In my last post I gave my first impressions of the BT eFrame1000 – a wifi equipped digital photo frame, and I hinted that I’d started to investigate how to exploit a feature that’s intended for streaming Flickr photo albums so that I could view information from other sites. So far, I’ve had some success at cajoling the frame into displaying pictures from sites other than Flickr, and showing news and weather updates. Here’s how…

p3300119-small

Background

The eFrame 1000 has a feature that can be configured (via the Windows PC software) with URLs for Flickr photo albums. Once configured, you can go to the frame and select Photos > Flickr > [Album Name] to stream the photos in that album directly from Flickr over your wireless network without needing a computer to be switched on. All references to this feature on the frame, the PC software and in the documentation specifically refer to Flickr and Flickr only (I suspect that’s because Yahoo! (who own Flickr) have a partnership with BT who make the frame and the two companies co-brand some of their broadband products). This feature works because each public album/stream/group on flickr has an RSS url that users can subscribe to in order to see the 20 most recent uploads.

Non-Flickr feeds

A flickr RSS feed contains a link to each image (and a smaller thumbnail version). It turns out that although it’s not a documented feature, you can configure the frame to use any RSS feed that’s in the correct format and the frame won’t care that it isn’t coming from flickr.com. Be warned though, you can’t just take a regular RSS news feed, it has to be a feed where every item contains an embedded image in the same format used by Flickr e.g:
[code lang="xml"]
type="image/jpeg"
height="1920"
width="2560"/>
height="75"
width="75" />

[/code]
I haven’t yet determined whether the media:thumbnail tag is used.

Frame Channel

The best site so far has been FrameChannel.com. This is a service designed for wifi picture frames whereby a user creates their own channel by subscribing to “widgets”. It’s intended for framechannel specific frames that will make full use of their API to control slideshow speed, transitions, order etc, but they also provide an RSS feed in a format that works with the eFrame. So, if you subscribe to a weather report, you configure the widget on the frame channel website with your location and then the RSS feed for you channel will contain an image that is created by the weather widget to show your local forecast. Similarly the reuters news widget will generate an image in the feed containing a brief headline and associated picture. The RSS feed is a little hidden away so here’s how you find it: Sign in to your framechannel account. Configure your channel. Go to “My Account”. Copy the feed url that appears just below the tab bar into your browsers address bar and load the feed. Then drag the url from your address bar into the flickr feed url box in the eFrame software and click “Update”¬† – that will download the configuration to your frame. Then in future on your frame you can go to Photos > Flickr¬† and you’ll see an album named something like “FrameChannel content for…”.

Other sites

I’ve had some success at finding other sites that work with the eFrame. I’ll keep the list below up-to-date as I find others.

Site Works? Notes
Flickr

Yes

FrameChannel

Yes

Picasa

No

Feeds for individual albums appear to be the correct format so not sure why the PC software doesn’t accept it
SmugMug

No

PC software accepts the feed, but the frame hangs when I try to view it.
Webshots

Yes

Tested with the “news” category

Tick/Cross images from FamFamFam Silk library.

Potential Gotchas

I had a few issues with the PC software for the eFrame in that when I tried to load a feed that it didn’t like, it then subsequently failed to accept any other feeds (even valid ones) and just failed silently without any error message. I had to shutdown the sofware (from the system tray) and restart before it would start accepting new feeds again.

17 Comments to “Making the eFrame more interesting”

  1. Carl Partridge 8 April 2009 at 4:14 pm #

    To get around the problem of Picasaweb RSS feeds not working, you can simply stream them via Framechannel, using the steps that you outline above.

    It seems to work fine, although the Framechannel feed only includes five (random) pictures each time from the Picasaweb album(s) of your choice. This means that if you choose the ‘slideshow’ menu on the eFrame, the same five pictures loop around endlessly.

    To workaround this, navigate to Photos -> Flickr TM -> [Album Name] and begin the slideshow by selecting the first image, instead. In this case, the eFrame seems to refresh the feed each time it comes to the end, so the overall effect is one of a random selection of photos from your entire Picasaweb library.

    I have documented more, and linked back to your blog at:
    http://nonsenseinbasic.blogspot.com/2009/04/eframe-1000-and-picasaweb-now-working.html

    This is also an ideal opportunity to scrounge a link back to my new blog!

    Carl

  2. James Field 8 April 2009 at 8:44 pm #

    I’ve just got a frame too and have tried to get the Framechannel service running – trouble is I don’t get an Activation code – did this work for you?

    I just the Welcome slide and then an endless stream of arty flower shots – not my custom RSS feed!

    Any ideas?

  3. Gary Richards 12 April 2009 at 11:02 am #

    Hi,

    Do you have any idea if this frame works with the facebook photo album RSS feeds?

    Thanks

    Gary

  4. tdroza 12 April 2009 at 6:12 pm #

    @James: I signed up with Framechannel a long time ago (before I got my frame) and I can’t remember what happened with the activation code, sorry. The first time I added the framechannel feed to the frame I got the same problem as you though – you’ve got the anonymous demo feed instead of your personal feed. When this happened to me I thought there was a problem with the feed so I took a copy of the feed and started editing some of the fields. Eventually though it just started working and I’m not sure what I did so the best I can suggest is that you remove the feed from the software (and make sure it gets removed from the frame too) and then re-add it.

    @Gary: I don’t know but I’ll try it out if you can remind me how to find the RSS feed for a photo album on Facebook. Either they’ve moved/removed the feed or it’s well hidden because I’ve just had a look and can’t find it – I don’t know why they can’t use the standard RSS icon in the browser address bar like everyone else!

  5. James Field 14 April 2009 at 7:39 am #

    Tom,
    thanks – I’ll just wait then :) I have also had some feedback from Framechannel who are looking into the frame.

    I’ll fire up the frame again soon and have another try – it also seemed a little flaky remembering it’s settings. Have you had any luck exploring the cached rss files the PC application puts onto the device for local network resources, RSS and wireless settings?

    James

  6. Sean 15 April 2009 at 12:16 pm #

    @James Field

    Ignore the Activation code bit from the FrameChannel website its not needed.

    Make sure your RSS feed is correct in a web browser. Also I had problems in that when I tried to copy the URL for the RSS by dragging it into the BT software it seemed to append a bit on the end which was causing the problem. I think it depended on where I dragged the RSS URL from – it worked from the FrameChannel My Accounts page (if I remember).

    It should be in the format off:
    http://rss.framechannel.com/user=myusername/pin=mypin

    Where myusername is your username
    and mypin is the pin you setup.
    Make sure nothing else is appended on the end of the URL in the BT software, this caused me a problem initially.

  7. James Field 16 April 2009 at 7:44 am #

    Thanks – I definitely have an extra bit on the end (RSS=200 or similar) – I’ll give this a try tonight to see if I can get beyond the default framechannel feed. Not sure how I can manipulate the BTeframe PC sotware though as this seems to do some RSS processing – it doesn’t just past it into the appropriate field. I may be able to edit the file that it pushes onto the frame though (I can see these when I mount the frame on my Mac – presumeably using these as the pointers for internet access as well as local network access).

    Thanks

    James

  8. James Field 17 April 2009 at 11:49 am #

    I’m still having no luck getting beyond the default feed from framechannel. Perhaps framechannel need to enable my account (hence the activation code) to switch to my personal feed – I’ve emailed them again. Although the feed works fine in Firefox.

    Is the frame’s mechanism for requesting feeds causing the problem perhaps? Or perhaps the parsing mechanism from the PC client software is messing things up.

    I’ll take another look at the local config files that the PC client pushes onto the frame and see what they telling the frame to actually look for (local shares, RSS feeds etc..)

  9. Sean 17 April 2009 at 4:46 pm #

    @James

    I had the same problem when I tried to add the Framechannel feed (I kept getting the RSS=200 bit on the name of the URL). This is your problem. If you paste the URL into a browser with that bit on the end you just get the default channel.

    I Think I got round this by dragging the RSS symbol from a different part of the FramChannel page. It then added the URL withou tthe extra bit on the end and all was fine then. Of fourse it would be better if you could just edit the URL in the BT Client but it doesnt seem to allow that (even looked in the registry to see if I could see if it stored the feeds in there – but couldnt see it anywhere).

  10. tdroza 17 April 2009 at 6:47 pm #

    I think Sean’s on to something here – don’t just drag the RSS link from the framechannel account page into the BT software. Drag it to your browser’s address bar first so that your browser loads the feed. Verify that the content is your personal feed (modify the url if necessary to remove the RSS=200 but), then drag the url from your browser address bar into the BT software.

    Also, I notice today the the framechannel site has had a bit of a redesign and it looks like you might have to cut & paste the url into your browser now anyway.

    Has anyone managed to get multiple framechannel feeds (without creating more than one framechannel account)? E.g. I’d like one feed for new and weather and another feed for facebook etc so they appear as separate menu items on the frame rather than all mixed together in the same feed.

  11. James Field 18 April 2009 at 3:07 pm #

    Thanks – I’ve also think I have finally cracked it! (just the continual connection problems to my wifi seem to be a problem!) I had to highlight the RSS feed in the account section of the Framechannel service and then drag this text into the BT frame application – it then picked up my account! taking it from the browser URL bar didn’t work (in IE 6, Firefox & Safari) each time

    I also heard back from Framechannel again they said, regarding the BT eframe 1000 “We have contacted this company though and hope to start working with them for certification.” But I’m not too helpful as BT are now dumping their stock and haven’t done any software updates to either the client or PC app since selling the product. (also they have the Flickr connection via their Yahoo alliance)

    Thanks all!

  12. Gary Richards 28 April 2009 at 7:04 am #

    @tdroza: Sorry for the slow response… I can’t seem to find them on facebook anymore either, i’m sure they used to exist… Silly facebook :(

  13. Gary Richards 8 May 2009 at 6:08 pm #

    There’s almost a way to do it. It does involve adding one of the facebook apps and then allowing it access to your profile data when you’re not online though! The app is: http://apps.facebook.com/photofeeds/

    Any feedback would be much appreciated. Although if it works i’m not sur ehow i’m going to be able to get one of these frames in less than a week now!

  14. Martin Taylor 18 July 2009 at 3:00 pm #

    Thanks for your info folks, with that I managed to get framechannel working.
    My ultimate aim is to get my remote PVR server status displayed on the frame. I’m currently doing this by using autoit to make a screen dump and then emailing that to framechannel. This is messy and is additive ending up with lots of screendumps on framechannel.
    All I really want is to be able to display an image from a local server, refreshed regularly….. They don’t make it easy….

  15. Colin Cliff 20 September 2009 at 5:46 pm #

    Has anyone managed to get the frame channel feed working with the latest frame channel website update

    my current Frame Channel RSS feed is in this format which the BT software doesnt accept http://rss.framechannel.com//user=******/PIN=****

  16. Colin Cliff 20 September 2009 at 5:47 pm #

    I have answered my own question. i copied the link into a word document and the dragged it into the BT software. Worked first time!

  17. tdroza 14 December 2010 at 4:09 pm #

    Not sure: I thought the 20 picture limit as due to Flickr only returning 20 images in their RSS feeds. Are you saying that your framechannel feed contains more than 20pics but the frame only shows the first 20?


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