FrameChannel shutting down — time to break out WireShark!

And it was going to be such a nice day…

I received this rather sad message this morning:

FrameChannel Users –

Due to challenges with the economy and our company’s financial situation we’ve been forced to make a tough decision and will be shutting down the FrameChannel service this month.

We have provided a mechanism for you to download any of your photos that are hosted with us in the My Photos channel or that have been emailed to your device via the My Friend’s Photos feature.

You may log into your account at www.framechannel.com to download your photos, but the service will soon stop delivering content to your devices. To download your photos, log into your FrameChannel account, click the Download My Photos tab, and follow the instructions there.

For those of you using your devices for commercial applications, you may wish to take a look at the SignChannel service. That service is owned an operated by Scala, Inc., a worldwide leader in digital signage. For more information, please visit www.signchannel.com or email info@signchannel.com

We thank you for your support of the FrameChannel service.

-The FrameChannel Team

FrameChannel logoI’m the proud owner of a Kodak EasyShare W820 WiFi enabled digital photo frame for several years. One of it’s most compelling features was the intergration with FrameChannel. FrameChannel is (was) an online service that allows(ed) you to manage what was displayed on the photoframe. It provided several pre-packaged feeds for weather displays, stock information, news, traffic conditions, Facebook photos, Twitter and most importantly for me, Flickr integration.

My frame would automatically download the latest additions to my Flickr photostream and display them. This was a GREAT feature and very popular among my family and house guests.

It has always been a free service (albeit with the occasional ad for FrameChannel services on other platforms); I assumed that Kodak had paid them a fee per frame to operate the service. I could make a lot of guesses about the terms of such an agreement but I’ll leave that for another day.

One thing I don’t yet grasp is why I wasn’t offered the option to pay for the service? Is shutdown the only option?

I’m searching for a contact within Thinking Screen Media (operators of FrameChannel) to propose that they open-source the software that runs the service. This would allow other to build/operate replacements so that their frames will not go dark. If you, dear read, should know anyone within the company, please drop me a line.

In the meantime… Break out WireShark!
As some of you will know WireShark is a fantastic tool for analyzing network (LAN) data. It will capture and decode the data as it flies by allow one to see exactly what is going on. In this case, it is useful for determining the protocol used by the frame to communicate with FrameChannel. With this information in hand it should be possible to create a work-alike backend so that I may continue to enjoy my WiFi enabled photo frame.

I’ll post what I discover along the way.

31 thoughts on “FrameChannel shutting down — time to break out WireShark!”

  1. Hi — that would be awesome!
    Without frame channel, the four Kodak Easyshare frames that I own are essentially useless and I’m very disappointed in FC demise without any consumer choice or interaction.

    Please do keep us posted.

    Peter.

  2. Bad news indeed. I was very surprised by that email as well. At the moment I am controlling 3 family frames + my own with Picasa through Framechannel. Works super!!

    Really hope there’s a solution ahead…

  3. I would love to be able to hack this frame. I may have gotten a deal on it refurb, but I’m still miffed that all of a sudden it’s a heck of a lot less useful.

    I was streaming from MobileMe, Flickr, Facebook… now I have to store photos locally or use Picasa?!?

    Any info you find on hacking this frame or the open source option would be great. I’ll keep an eye out on this post!

  4. Kodak frames are not the only ones affected, I have a Toshiba one that just lost almost its entire value.

    However I played with a Kodak in the past and – aside from the terrible interface – I remember that it had an RSS feed display option. If so you lucky people can at least use Yahoo Pipes to provide some of the FrameChannel functionality to your frames, while I’m stuck with this one…

  5. yes, sad news, indeed.

    Do other wifi frames not have an RSS feed option? I’m grateful that the Kodak frame has the RSS option. I’ve used it sometimes. If you have an RSS option, you could create another service. FrameChannel was just basically an RSS feed aggregator, along with some pre-made content you could add.

    Can’t say I’m happy about the shutdown, though. That’s two Kodak frames that are less useful. I was thinking of getting more because we love them so much.

    They’re touting sign channel, so I imagine that product might work with FrameChannel. I haven’t tried contacting them yet. They don’t list anything about pricing on their web site. My guess is that Sign Channel and FrameChannel do very similar things and that Thinking Media sold off that part of their business and the acquirer didn’t want to keep the non-revenue generating business going.

  6. I use it on my D-Link DSM 210 with Facebook and my own feed from my Coppermine gallery, so I’d like another solution too!

  7. Chalk me up as another disappointed customer. I used these for my family as I could manage them remotely and bring my elder family members into the connected age. My grandparents loved the fact that they had a constant feed of new photos of all their grandkids via facebook. I would love to see a self hosted option on this as well, however if anyone can point me in the direction of some good RSS feed tools which would emulate the framechannel function I would be very interested.

  8. @Kodak User: I think you’ve pretty much nailed it. It seems that Scala bought (errr… ‘strategic investment’) the commercial facing segment to augment their growing digital signage business. I do a bit of work with digital signage networks in my DayJob; it is certainly a very fast growing market.

    Yes, you are correct that the Kodak frames (others too I’m sure) have RSS feed options. While that may work for the advanced user the typical consumer will be lost. For any replacement to be successful it has to be transparent. The key element of this transparency will be redirecting the hardwired FrameChannel URL (rss.framechannel.com) used by the frames to download content.

    The document released yesterday by FrameChannel (see my post) gives enough detail for someone to build a basic replacement. However, unless Thinking Screen Media agree to redirect that URL it will be only the technology savvy that could benefit.

  9. @toshiba_user: Yes, the Kodak frames (at least the W820 that I own) do have an option for RSS feeds. However, I don’t see this as a viable alternative for the mass market consumer — it’s just too geeky.

    Frankly, I feel that the frame manufacturers carry more than a little of the culpability here — How is it that they did not include provisions for long-term support of the service within the deals they forged with FrameChannel?

  10. @ian: FrameChannel have released some documentation that can enable others to develop a similar service. I’m also talking with them about releasing their software as open-source so that others could continue the service.

  11. @Nate: FrameChannel did release some documentation that would be of use to those that wish to build their own feeds. You can find it on my post here.

    As for others building a service that is publicly available — stay tuned. 😉

  12. How great that someone else had the same thought as I did! My mom loves her FrameChannel frame so I emailed them and got the integration guide as well. I was planning to just implement something on our home network that the FrameChannel DNS could be rerouted to, but if you have bigger plans, I’d love to help out! Please get in touch if there’s anything I can do 🙂

  13. Yeah. I’m a bit disappointed here too. I’ve set my folks up with the ability to merge pics from all us kids across multiple platforms. I don’t think the my mother could figure out how to change rss feeds at all. I would have gladly paid a subscription service to framechannel. I’m really surprised they just shut it down.

  14. What do you expect from a free service? Try ceiva.com. I use CEIVA for my parents. They’ve been around 10 years.

  15. I’m very discussed with the entire thing. I’ve really enjoyed my Kodak W1020 frame. It’s basically a center piece on a picture wall collage in our dining room and we’ve enjoyed watching while at the dinner table. It usually sparks a conversation about one thing or another. I feel like my money has just been wasted. Of course the firmware and software hasn’t been updated for this unit since June 2009 and the software seems to be flakey on my Windows 7 PC (which isn’t supported either). I know that technology changes, but I didn’t feel that this unit had reached its end of life yet either. It’s BAIRLY 2yrs old! The guy at Kodak could only tell me that I could still put pictures a memory card and use it that way. 🙁 Really? Is that what I bought? A regular plain Jane digital picture frame? I feel like I bought an Audi and it was just turned in to a VW. If anyone can figure out a way for us to continue to enjoy our pictures frames in the way they were meant to be enjoyed, please let us know.

    Hal, I agree – I believe that I would have paid a small subscription fee just to keep it up and running. Come on FrameChannel – this is ridicules!!

  16. @Hal: I’m trying to convince FrameChannel to release that URL (rss.framechannel.com) so that folks, like your parents, can continue to enjoy the frames they’ve come to love without first obtaining an Computer Science degree.

  17. @Photoguy: You are correct about Cevia providing a similar service. However, you must buy the frame from them and buy a $7.00/month service.

    Unless I am mistaken I see no option for converting existing frames to use the Cevia service.

  18. @Kodak User: As far I could see on my Toshiba frame (and I just checked the manual again) there is no RSS feed option, only FrameChannel and Picasa. I remember I was very upset about this when I started using it, after configuring a Kodak frame as a present for my mom.

    @Nate, @Ben Englert, @Hal (GT), @Averial and maybe others: yes, that was the *only* reason I (and probably many others) bought a FrameChannel enabled device in the first place. With FrameChannel gone I have a difficult time explaining to my mom why her beloved frame is suddenly useless and why I can’t “fix” it remotely from across the world…

    @Averial: while I completely share your frustration please don’t take it out to the regular shop employees – they have absolutely nothing to be blamed for here, they’re just offering their humble ideas on how to make the best of the frames in this new situation.

    @streamingmeemee: I agree that any replacement has to be “transparent” for the average user to be able to handle it but right now trust me I’d settle even for a quick “geeky” workaround. After all I accepted a looooong time ago that I’m just a geek 🙂

    “redirecting the hardwired FrameChannel URL (rss.framechannel.com) used by the frames to download content” – if all that’s needed is to redirect this hostname to another IP address I may actually have a quick workaround for it (messing with the DNS replies in my linux-powered wireless router). I’ll certainly look into this over the week-end! If this is all that’s needed I may actually stand a good chance of bringing the frame back to life. I’ll need Yahoo Pipes and probably a dynamic DNS service with URL rewriting options as well – both free services at the moment, I wonder how long they’ll be around, too…

    Thanks for sharing with us the FrameChannel Certification Checklist – it should be really useful to figure out what needs to be done to replace their service! Kudos to them for sharing this!

    Regarding the culpability the frame manufacturers may or may not have… while I thought about that too and I agree with you when you say “Frankly, I feel that the frame manufacturers carry more than a little of the culpability here” I just checked the user manual for my frame and it clearly states: “Term and availability of the online service may subject to change without prior notice” (no “be” in “may be subject” – Japanese English). I’d very much like them to put out a new firmware version with RSS support to allow us to continue using the frames. They could clearly do this, it’s just a matter of putting pressure on them.

  19. Ha! Reading trough the FrameChannel Certification Checklist I found things that Toshiba did not pay attention to… I wonder how the other frame manufacturers fared, especially the recommendations to use non-sequential, hard to guess values for FRAMEID and to protect the SECURITYKEY… 😀

    I also wished I had a saved tcpdump of the frame communicating with FrameChannel so I could explore the structure of the RSS feed they delivered…

  20. @toshiba_user: Yes, a simple entry in your local DNS server should be all that is necessary to get your frame talking to a replacement service. It (the new service) will still have to be configured to feed it the correct ‘stuff’ of course. 😉

  21. It doesn’t appear the w820 accepts ‘normal’ rss feeds. I think it can only display images not html etc.. which is why framechannel would convert everything to an image file.

  22. I’ve got a crude php based system up that will put the rss feeds you want to watch in a database and then create a rss feed that works as rss photo feed for the w820 which combines all the feeds you want to watch to separate images.. It’s really simple now just text headlines mined off the feeds chosen. Then I can run a cron job to update per a set interval… still a long ways to go..
    demo feed:
    http://www.clearstarinternational.com/rss2.xml

  23. Disappointed just like everyone else. Loved the fact my frame updated from my Facebook photos…can’t get Picasa to work either on my W820.

  24. Anyone look at the Camnex eFrame? Framechannel was the ONLY reason I bought it for my father. Familiar story, eh?

  25. The Frame Channel HD was the best channel on our dish network. It was always on our TV and I will miss it more than you know. We received a lot of comments on the pictures and no one believed it was a channel provided by Shaw Direct. So thank you for the years you were able to provide us awesome pictures from far away places and I hope we get to see your channel back again someday.

  26. Hi, did you ever find a solution that you can share with us? I have a frame like this and would still like to use it.

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