Geek Box

When Bill Gates moved into his high-tech dwelling a few years ago, one of the household fixtures that received lots of attention was the picture frame that allowed the staff (do you really think Bill does it himself?) to electronically rotate photos and digital reproductions of artwork. Courtesy of the Ceiva Digital Picture Frame ($199, plus a one-year subscription for $49.95), you may be one step closer to living the life of a multibillionaire. The 8- by 10-inch frame is simple enough: It plugs into the wall and a phone jack and has but two buttons to push. After the initial setup, however, its simplicity becomes something of a curse. The current model doesn’t allow for a direct connection to either a computer or a digital camera. Instead, photos must be uploaded to the frame through Ceiva’s Web site (; the site, unfortunately, isn’t terribly intuitive, making the promise of sharing photos with distant, less tech-savvy relatives a little shaky. The cost of the required subscription service may also be daunting. The subscription gives users access to “channels” featuring weather, horoscopes, and TV schedules, but I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t simply use your computer (or cell phone or personal organizer) for these activities. The essential purpose of the frame is to view digital photos—period. Future versions will hopefully focus on making this as easy as possible and leave aside the extraneous functions.—Paul Fontana