Tuesday, August 31, 2010

read.air : How to sort a "Vacances" worth of pictures on-the-go ?

This is the story of a pet project I called read.air.

So the holidays are nearing the end, and I am so happy that I am back to Tokyo for the hot days. When I say I am going to take 3 weeks off, people here dub it "vacances" (read: bakansu) because apparently French people are customary to long holidays, so much so that the name has been borrowed.

More alarmingly, my wife has been gone for 2 months with a borrowed SLR digital camera (thanks to the generous sponsor by the way). So this means that instead of having thousand of pictures piling up in the iphone camera roll, they are now piling up on SD cards. She took around 4 or 5 of these 4Gb cards and since she is experimenting with the camera a lot, there are many many blurry, over/under-exposed, or just failed pictures.

As convenient as the back panel LCD might be, it is not as efficient as handling them from a much more powerful touch device, however I hate it. Also, the designers of the iphone did a perfect job at crippling it as far as interoperation is concerned. So how do you read a SD card with an iphone ? You don't.
When I surveyed the electronic products market for such a thing, I found out that there were one or two products that could read an SD card and plug on the iphone connector on the bottom, but they relied on proprietary apps and also there was no review or preview video to be found. I am not going to buy without a try, and it was nowhere to be found in shops, online retail only, send money first. No way.

So another product I found out was the AirStash and I have to admit I had been thinking about something like this for months but never got "unlazy" enough to actually build it. In fact, I got the idea nagging at the back of my mind everyday when I was looking at the unused FONera router on my desk at the office. The Airstash price tag at 100$ was the carrot I needed because I knew that I did not want to pay this price, and also that my wife would make me buy one if "read.air" was not ready before she left...

Now one thing I didn't need in this AirStash was the harddisk. I just wanted a SD card-reader over WiFi that would be accessed by Web interface. This means no proprietary app, just plain old Safari.

So in the end, if you have a FON router (it is now an old model, also they used to be almost free at some point) all you need to do is buy a USB card reader, 4 regular batteries (I'm using eneloops from sanyo) and some wires and plugs. Overall much below 100$. Mission accomplished, yay !

Next time I will tell you about some custom software I wrote for read.air, which is based on OpenWRT.

NOTE: I will add a pic of the thingie whenever I find one or she comes back, whichever happens first.

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