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February 2009 Volume 11 , Issue 2 submit to us!

by Jim Whitaker -- Staff Writer [Email This Story]

Let's take the Ultech Digital Photo Frame Model DPH3080E for example.

A relative gifted us with this photo display device featuring 1GB of internal storage, an 8-inch display screen, the ability to play MP3 files -- through headphones no less -- a clock with an alarm, a calendar programmable through the year kingdom come and a set of operating instructions with fewer intelligible directions than a road atlas of Equatorial Guinea.

Now, I'm not one of these smug guys determined to prove that instructions that come with products are nothing more than job security for the people who write instructions that come with products. However, everybody knows that if a set of instructions has 125 steps you only need steps 87 through 91 to get the product to do everything you ever want from it. Maybe step 56, too. Or maybe whatever step it is that actually tells you how to turn the thing on and off.

I started reading the instructions. I don't expect Hemingway prose in instructions for a digital photo frame any more than you expect it in these columns. But if this user manual was a Word document, the spelling and grammar tool would give up and commit suicide after the first paragraph.

Scanning through the maze of verbiage, I came to the step I was looking for - loading photos from our PC into the internal memory, what the instructions called the NAND. Whatever the letters in "NAND" stand for, they form a four-letter word. Considering the state I was working myself into a four-letter word was sufficiently appropriate.

In fairness -- however that's defined these days -- the frame is generally user friendly. When you start it (step 1 believe it or not), icons appear on the display that even a casual PC user can eventually figure out with minimal help from the minimally helpful instructions  . . .  until you want to load into the blasted NAND.

I didn't possess the cable for loading directly from the Dell into the frame. Well, user manual, thanks for telling me sooner. So I ripped the SD card from my wife's digital camera, shoved it into the PC and spent a couple hours selecting and transferring 100 choice pictures of little Savannah through the precious stages of her 15 months onto the card.

I was ready to surmount the NAND. (Well, NAND does sound like something you'd climb just because it's in the way, doesn't it?)

Instructions to do so (sorta). Place the SD card into the frame's SD card slot. Choose the "Copy/Delete" function (I'd rather go to an "Eat/Watch a Show function). Then you "Navigate." Then you "Enter" (Now there's a dangerous prompt in any instructions). Then you look for a yellow box around your selection. Then you "Navigate" again. "Then you "Copy." Then you "Paste."

Done. I removed the SD card and selected the photo play function. "No loadable file found" popped up on the display and then went away to leave only the icons. I selected the photo play function. "No loadable file found."

"Hey," I told the frame, "the manual says if I followed the instructions, the photos would be loaded into the NAND."

The frame sat there with a dumb look on its display asking me "What's a NAND?"

I put my wife's SD card back into the frame SD card slot. The photos popped up and started playing. I removed the card. The photos evaporated. I reinserted the card. The photos popped up. I removed the card. The photos evaporated. The fickle frame loved the card, hated the NAND.

Technological misery loves company. So, after several attempts to solve the issue myself, I went on the internet to find a way out. I discovered the Ultech web site was gone. I found out many people who owned the frame were having the very same problem -- except this one guy who posted in a blog that you have to navigate to the folder in which photos were to be downloaded because the frame doesn't recognize the NAND (he, too, didn't know what "NAND" means).

I suspect this guy may be a professional instruction writer himself. He neglected to include in his posting exactly how you navigate to the folder.

Bother, bother, bother. But was I to give up on the Digital Photo Frame Model DPH3080E?

You can believe it.

Feeling almost apologetic for using up her time -- she didn't write the indecipherable instructions after all - I tried to explain to the customer service rep at the return desk everything that was wrong with this otherwise great gift.

She stood behind the counter with a blank look on her display asking me "What's a NAND?"

So I started all over again  . . . 

"Is it defective?" she broke in.

"Well, not really. You see  . . . "

"Is it defective? She asked again, this time with a not-so-subtle "please say 'yes'"" in her tone.

"You see  . . .  the instructions . . .  Yeah, that's it. It's defective."

We traded the Digital Photo Frame Model DPH3080E for some other stuff and left the store happy.

Three days later I returned to the store and retrieved my wife's SD card I had accidentally left in the Digital Photo Frame Model DPH3080E.

I kept the instructions for a souvenir.

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Features -- February 2009 -- Mid Month Issue

Jim Whitaker
-- Additional Work --