FotoShow

Iomega Fotoshow (tm) unofficial interesting tidbits page.

This is an unofficial page about the Iomega FotoShow (tm) device. These are my personal observations and opinions, I don't work for Iomega. FotoShow and Zip are trademarks of Iomega Corporation. I've used FS below to abbreviate FotoShow (tm). This isn't a review of the device, just some comments and interesting things.

Last updated December 29, 2000. This is version #5 of this page.

The three modes of operation

The manual is not entirely clear, but there are actually three different modes of operation for the FS.

1) Whenever the USB cable is plugged in, the FS acts like a regular USB 250MB Zip (tm) drive.  In this mode, none of the other features of the drive work. The card readers don't work, the remote does not work.

2) With the USB cable unplugged, and the internal software turned off (green light out on front pannel), the FS has only one operation; you can put a memory card in either the CF slot or the Smart Media slot and press the copy button on the front pannel. The drive will read the contents of your card, and put all of the .JPG files that it finds on the card onto the Zip disk. Your originals are not changed or resized. Each time you do this, the drive makes a new subdirectory to put your files in. If you press the button twice on the same card, it makes two directories and two copies. Any non-JPEG files that it finds (such as TIFF or TXT files) are placed in a subdirectory also. In this mode, your files are not "indexed" (see mode 3). There is no way to accidentally erase or change your original files in this mode (which is good!)

3) In the last mode, the drive is unplugged from the USB cable, and you use the remote to turn the FS software on. The green light will come on on the front of the drive. This mode is intended for use with a TV.

The first thing that the drive does when you turn it on in "mode 3" is to look for any new photos on the disk and index them. These could be from using "mode 2", above, or you might have copied some photos to a new subdirectory on the drive using your computer. The drive appears to look in all subdirectories, so you can create and name them whatever you like. If it finds any non-indexed photos, it creates an index for them (see "how does it work", below). It does not change the originals. The indexing is only done once. It does not matter what directory names are used, the FS will find any new photos by itself.

Note. The indexing process is very slow if you have large files (say Fine mode shots from a 3 Mpixel camera). It takes up to 20 seconds for each shot from a 3 Mpixel camera. Smaller shots are quicker.

Note. In this mode, the only way to change the originals is to go into the edit mode or the delete album mode. You don't really have to worry about changing the originals by accident.

How does it work?

The FS device keeps your original shots unchanged (unless you edit them). It makes three pieces of data when it indexes your shots.

1) A very oversharpened, color boosted 640x480 JPEG file. This file is what the FS actually shows on the screen.

2) A small JPEG file. This file is used as a thumbnail for the TV screen.

3) An XML file that describes the shots. This is a text based, HTML like language.

New shots are found and indexed automatically when the internal software is turned on (See mode 3 above)

Interesting tidbits about the FS

* The power supply is 24VDC at 700mA. The card cord appears to be unregulated (from the pictures). I strongly suspect that the FS contains a power regulator, and that it will run off any 12V to 24V source that can provide enough current. On December 18th I received my "free" 12V adapter cable. A quick check with the meter confirms that it is just straight through, so the Fotoshow runs right off the "12" volt car jack. Note that car voltages could go as high as 18V!

Interesting tidbit, I received an e-mail from a FotoShow owner (Paul P.) who confirms that his drive runs fine with a universal 12V power adapter from Radio Shack. The adapter is Radio Shack part number 273-1815. This is a high current adapter that can deliver 3 amps. Be sure to match the polarity properly if you try this! The FotoShow is center positive.

* Speed. The device is pretty fast switching between pictures on the screen because it is actually showing you the 640x480 reduced shots that it made. Doing anything with shots from a 3Mpixel camera is a 20 second operation though, indexing that shot or editing or zooming in on that shot will take that long. Smaller shots are faster. Copying shots from a CF card is pretty fast.

* Capacity. If you are going to put shots on the FS just for the purpose of just displaying them, there is no sense in putting on full sized shots, especially if your shots are large. This will just take up extra space on the drive. In testing, I can't see any quality improvement between shots that I resized over 800x600. There was a slight improvement giving the FS 800x600 shots vs. 640x640, but you could use 640x480 shots to get the most on the drive. The only reason to use larger shots would be if you want to be able to "zoom" in a lot, at the expense of a lot of storage.

* Trick the drive into displaying your own shots. You can substitute your own 640x480 shots for the ones that the FS makes itself when indexing and they will be displayed properly. You can do your own sharpening and color correction for the TV if you want to this way. At least it worked fine when I tired it! Paul P. reports that this did not work for him, so maybe there is more to it.

* The drive could ALMOST substitute as a card reader... but not quite. To use it to read off your shots, you have to unplug the USB cable, press the button to copy your shots, plug the cable back in. It is REALLY too bad that there isn't a slight change that would work like this... the copy button would work when the drive was attached with a USB cable. It would disconnect itself, copy your files, reconnect as a drive. It would make the FS an OK substitute for a real reader.

* PowerPoint. The FS does not really support PowerPoint as indicated in the manual. What is does support is saving your PP presentation out as JPEG slides and showing those. Very limited, and no sound.

* More later... PowerPoint (tm)... XML...

Zip 100 vs. Zip 250 disk speed.

The FotoShow manual indicates that Zip 100 disks are up to 10 times slower than Zip 250 disks. While this might be true in some cases, what the manual does not tell you is that the drive is only slower WRITING Zip 100 disks, not READING them. Once you have a Zip 100 disk made, it will play back as fast as a Zip 250 disk will. In fact, Iomega is running a promotion now where you get three Zip 100 disks with the drive.  I'm sure that Iomega would like to sell some Zip 250 disks since there aren't any third party sources for them, which may be why the dire warning about the Zip 100 disks appears in the manual.

Here is the actual test that I did, which involved copying 15867327 bytes of data in 21 files to and from the FotoShow in drive mode. I was careful to flush the disk cache each time by ejecting the disk between trials.

Copy 15 MB to Zip 250 disk:      33.7 seconds, or 470 KB/sec

Copy 15 MB from Zip 250 disk:  18.2 seconds, or 870 KB/sec

Copy 15 MB to Zip 100 disk:      109.7 seconds, or 145 KB/sec

Copy 15MB from Zip 100 disk:   18.8 seconds, or 843 KB/sec

You can see a couple things...

1) The drive is slower writing than reading.

2) The drive is the same speed reading Zip 100 or Zip 250 disks.

3) The drive is about 3X slower writing Zip 100 disks, but not really that bad.

My Fotoshow Broke!

December 29, 2000

My Fotoshow drive broke! One morning, it just would not spin up any more when I put a Zip disk in. I had used it only lightly. I called Iomega for an RMA, and was plesantly surprised. In spite of all of the Iomega bashing, the tech was actually informed, and knew what a Fotoshow was. He didn't make me go through a bunch of "well, reinstall Windows" stuff, and agreed that the drive was broken and gave me an RMA number right away. They take your credit card number, but don't charge you unless you don't return the old drive. He said that it would take 10 days. Well, next day, hey! the UPS guy (tm) is at the door with a brand new Fotoshow drive, the entire package. Less than 24hrs after I called. Is this a great country or what. The new drive works fine. Plus they sent a pre-paid UPS label to return the old drive. I just took the drive and power supply from the package and returned all the new stuff, no point in taking new cables when the old ones work fine. Now I hope that the return goes OK...