Analysis and rationality in a nonrational world

December 7, 2006

Google and the GTA-316 (or GIA-316) picture frame

Filed under: Blogging, Business — analysis @ 4:09 pm

(There is GTA-316 technical support information in this blog – really, there is. First, though, I do have to say nice things about the only people in the world who seem to distribute the digital picture frame in question – Google.)

Google is an interesting company. After single-handedly saving most of the enthusiast sites on the Internet, by making it possible for their publishers to take time off from work to bolster their sites – not to mention helping pay for the server bills on more active sites – through paying a fair advertising rate, they then thank their publishers, who are receiving ten to one hundred times as much money from Google as they would have from anyone pre-Adsense, with an annual holiday present.

Let’s make one thing clear. Before AdSense, Internet advertising was almost always awful. Some enthusiast sites had acquired ad contracts for banners from specific companies, but most relied on the agencies, who sold popups, popunders, sliders, and all sorts of other obnoxious ad forms for maybe a quarter to a dollar per thousand impressions. Some companies got away with paying pennies for their CPM (cost per thousand impressions). Sleaze pervaded the Web as webmasters were unable (financially or otherwise) to get rid of the many lottery and gambling sites, and many resorted to porn or semi-porn advertisers. Then AdSense came, offering about half of what they take in – we have no idea, really, what their take is. To put that into perspective, Goto/Overture was paying ONE CENT for each click into their search network, even as they had a MINIMUM five cent (later ten cent) per click rate, which often skyrocketed into dollars per click for even relatively obscure keywords. That is, they were paying between 1% and 20% of what they took in. Then they cancelled the program entirely for most web-sites because they weren’t making enough money!

A good web site can now earn well over twenty times what it did before AdSense. That means a webmaster can quit their day job or at least work part-time, or take a leave of absence now and then. It’s a HUGE difference for the Internet.

Google shows a good deal of grace. Even relatively small players get a present every year – a scarf, then a rather nice AM/FM radio (operated with AA batteries, and with a cute “put me on my side” switch, and a light show to boot), then an electronic kit (USB drive, portable Ethernet cord, USB light, USB hub, and some other goodies), and now, their least useful present, an oddly chosen digital photo frame.

What’s funny about the digital photo frame is how it contradicts itself and Google. The company is normally environmentally friendly to an unusual degree; packaging is almost purely recycled and recycleable, without the usual peanuts and foam. But the GTA-316 (that’s the reference on the front page; inside the instructions it’s a GIA-316) is in itself environmentally almost a disaster, at least partly because it’s such a lousy design. Reports of instantly-breaking units abound on the Web. It apparently can’t handle most JPG files. There’s no reference anywhere in the instructions or packaging to its maker or their web site, so you can’t get software upgrades, and you can’t install it if your computer won’t handle mini-CDs. The user’s guide is laughable English, probably translated using Google Translate – “For the first time to use GIA-316, please connect the unit to your computer thru the USB cable provided, then you will see two removable drive. … you will see four default Folders … Plesae (their word) move your picture to the Photo folder, your Mp3 music to MP3 folder, MP4 movie to Mp4 folder before your file can be play.” The unit’s power adapter declares, Warning! You may use a kind of plug only, and the others can’t be used.” Didn’t anyone at Google look at this thing before buying thousands of them?

Battery life is reportedly an hour or two; it has to be kept plugged in, with a DC adapter using a trickle of current that multiplied over all the recipients adds up to quite a large usage. Amusingly, the instructions say absolutely nothing about plugging it in; the two listed power options are USB cable and batteries!

Oh, and by the way – it doesn’t work on a Mac, at least, when you first plug it in, and advice elsewhere on the Net to use Microsoft Paint is hardly helpful to us. The mini-disc supplied doesn’t seem to load on Macs either – very unusual since normally we can read Windows only discs.

Using Parallels Workstation, I can read the disc and install the software. Apparently this thing is made by SunPlus. The software offers some sort of transcoding. A search of the SunPlus site yielded this informative display (why oh why do people insist on Windows?):

Active Server Pages ¿ù»~ ‘ASP 0126’


/search/index.asp, ¦C17

§ä¤£¨ì¥]§tÀÉ ‘../inc/entop.asp’¡C

Now, for the high points. First, Google sent me a present! If nothing else, I have this cool Europower adapter that should work in Asia as well, four AAA batteries, and a mini-USB cable. Also, as a picture frame, the thing – once you get it to show photos – is really quite nice. It also acts as a digital sound recorder, and can be expanded (they say) with an SD card. Once you find a PC to use it with, the thing does work as predicted, but DON’T try using it with a Mac under Parallels Workstation – it’ll just annoy you. Perhaps it’ll work under Boot Camp?

Google remains a class act, but I sure hope they think more about what they’re doing next year… oh, and by the way – I regret that I’m not nearly as good a class act. I didn’t send them anything.

Addendum on the GIA-316 digital photo frame:

I did get it to work, without any software. What it needed was a simple “real PC” running Windows. It will not apparently work on any non-Windows system, but Windows ME is just fine. Then all you do is open your photos in MS Paint and re-save them, then copy them into the device (or re-save them directly into the photos area of the device).

The supplied minidisc (do NOT use it in a slot loading CD drive!!!!) contains a transcoder utility that saves you from putting images into MS Paint and saving them. That’s all it does.

The audio recording facility I simply could not get to work at all, plugged in or not.

Well, their present from last year was good enough for TWO years!



  1. Ungrateful perhaps but true, the english is deplorable and it doesn’t seem to work with stragith jpegs.. and no instructions on file formats or anything else. Very ungoogle like actually.

    Comment by Stephen Mc Kenna — December 14, 2006 @ 10:18 pm

  2. I would just personally like to thank you for figuring out how exactly to work this damn thing. I received one as a “Christmas gift” from my work and as soon as I started trying to put pictures on it, I was ready to throw it out the window! But thanks to your advice, I got it working just fine.

    Comment by Stephanie — December 15, 2006 @ 3:19 am

  3. Has anyone worked out how to remove the annoying icons when displaying pictures? e.g. the “battery full” icon on the bottom right of the screen?

    Comment by Andy — December 15, 2006 @ 2:53 pm

  4. I haven’t seen those yet…

    Comment by Analysis — December 15, 2006 @ 3:01 pm

  5. Really, I wonder why, every picture of one I see on the web has the battery icon in the corner, e.g:

    If anyone figures out how to turn this off please let me know…

    Comment by Andy — December 15, 2006 @ 3:14 pm

  6. Ah – figured it out… You don’t get the battery icon if you power it from your USB port. Power it from the mains, or with batteries and it displays… oh Well, I somtimes wonder if there is any comapny in the world who tests their products!

    Comment by Andy — December 15, 2006 @ 3:36 pm

  7. Can someone tell me the price of the GTA-316? i share my website revenue with more one person.. and its only 1 GTA 😦

    Comment by Hugo — December 15, 2006 @ 5:05 pm

  8. I suspect you’ll find a LOT of them on ebay soon!

    Comment by analysis — December 15, 2006 @ 5:32 pm

  9. there is already 1 for 51$ i think.. however i wanted to know the real price

    Comment by Hugo — December 15, 2006 @ 6:19 pm

  10. $51? Seems rather steep.

    Comment by Analysis — December 15, 2006 @ 6:27 pm

  11. I can’t get this stupid thing to work. My coworker threw the manual away and I haven’t been able to figure it out. Do I have to use the transcoding tool? Does the file have to be a .jpg or a .pic? How do I turn the sound off??? AAAHHHHH!!!

    Comment by Jon S — December 15, 2006 @ 9:21 pm

  12. Jon, just plug the thing in via USB and drop “transcoded” JPG files into the images folder. Save them as JPG, not PIC. As for turning the sound off, I haven’t figured out how to turn it on yet!

    I don’t think this item is sold in the US – I think it’s only imported by Google. I am indeed surprised nobody seems to have examined it closely before shipping it! Their last giveaways were surprisingly high quality.

    Comment by Analysis — December 15, 2006 @ 9:47 pm

  13. transcoded jpg doesn’t work on my gia-316… do you have some info of which kind of jpg this gadget use? can you send me an image that work on your gia-316 so I can try on mine?

    Comment by pons — December 19, 2006 @ 9:33 am

  14. i am SO GLAD i found this blog entry! haha. i just received mine and have been cursing a blue streak over “FILE ERROR” when trying to view photos. holy crap!


    Comment by nick botulism — December 19, 2006 @ 7:25 pm

  15. Pons, if the transcoded JPG doesn’t work, try just opening in Paint and saving from Paint in JPG format. Try experimenting witih capital and lower case “jpg.”

    Comment by analysis — December 19, 2006 @ 7:30 pm

  16. crap. even with that utility i’m still getting a file error.

    and the file only converts one image at a time??

    and i’ve wasted way too much time on this silly thing. last year’s google gift was far more useful. this year has just resulted in HEADACHE for me

    Comment by nick botulism — December 19, 2006 @ 7:31 pm

  17. no luck with MS paint either.

    sorry to keep commenting. haha. but this is so frustrating, because, like you said, this is such an ungoogle-like product, and by being one of the most frustrating devices i’ve EVER used, CAUSING more headaches, it has left me with a really bad taste in my mouth…. big misstep on google’s part IMHO.

    what a waste of money and time for all involved.

    Comment by nick botulism — December 19, 2006 @ 7:38 pm

  18. I wonder if there are some JPGs it just doesn’t like… I was able to do it, but don’t want to waste the time in future!

    Comment by analysis — December 19, 2006 @ 9:56 pm

  19. You don’t need Windoze. It works fine under Linux. The trick is to mount the USB mass-storage drive as an “msdos” file system, not a “vfat” file system. Then just copy your pictures over and enjoy.

    Comment by David F. Skoll — December 20, 2006 @ 2:11 am

  20. Oh, and if you’re stuck with Windoze, you might be able to get rid of your “FILE ERROR” messages by making your filenames DOS-compatible. That is, up to 8 characters long, upper-case letters and numbers only, followed by .JPG (upper-case only).

    Comment by David F. Skoll — December 20, 2006 @ 2:13 am

  21. Hadn’t tried it with Linux. I only have Linux on my server. I guess it’d work on a Mac if you booted in single user mode…

    Comment by analysis — December 20, 2006 @ 12:25 pm

  22. This gift is a big joke from Google to people they hate i i just spent 30 minutes of my life figuring how to make photos to work. And all i have is “File Error” picture for my GOOGLE


    Comment by Alex B — December 20, 2006 @ 4:49 pm

  23. I think it’s brilliant. You have to plug in your SD card, then remove it and insert it into your PC, and copy the pics to the picture folder. The instructions are rubbish yeah, but WHO CARES? It’s not exactly hard to get working… AND do I care that it’s not packaged in a recycled box..NO! I’ll just make sure that I put the box in my recycle bin so it will get recycled.

    To record voice remove the SD card and go to the MP3 area in the menu and press the record button. Simple as that.

    For a freebie Xmas present I think Google have done great!

    Next year Google will have to send out a questionnaire first to find out which of their customers are thick…then they can have another scarf instead…

    Comment by DannyBoy — December 21, 2006 @ 1:25 am

  24. Some of us aren’t thick; some of us don’t use Windows. There IS a difference. Some of us think those who DO chose the platform of viruses and spyware might be a bit thick themselves.

    Comment by Dave — December 21, 2006 @ 2:55 am

  25. I have a lovely blue screen on the one they sent our business and XP doesnt recognise the USB port it comes up as unkown. i thought I had a duffer till I read this blog seems everyone has.

    Comment by chris d — December 21, 2006 @ 3:32 pm

  26. I received one – must have been for my adwords activities as my adsense earnings are diddly squat.

    Loaded an sd card with a separate usb card reader and then plugged this sd card it in to the picture frame. Works a treat and was a nice unexpected xmas present.

    Comment by Boiler — December 25, 2006 @ 4:14 pm

  27. I too am amazed that this thing has the Google name on it. There’s more bad English in the “manual”, if it can even be called that.

    I was able to get it working— sort of— on a Mac, without any additional help. (I could also read the mini-disc in a slot-loading drive, though it doesn’t have any Mac software on it.) I’m using Mac OS X, and it mounts the image viewer as a disk.

    The thing is, you can really only do one file operation with it each time you mount it. If you try to do another, it fails. Well, it doesn’t fail, it just never finishes. So you can copy a batch of pictures, but then if you want to do something else, such as copy an MP3 or delete something, I find you have to first unmount it, unplug it, replug it, and wait for it to remount.

    The other area where this really drops the ball is that you can view images, you can play MP3s, but you can’t do both at the same time. NO ONE is going to bother using this as a portable MP3 player. The thing *looks* too nice and too easily scratched.

    Then there’s also the fact that the options on it are a bare-bones minimum. No equalizer or MP3 navigation (short of rewind and fast forward), no options for randomizing the image display. It plays images in order, and that’s it.

    I’ll leave you with what the manual has to say about the unit’s “USB mode” preference:

    1. Press “>>” button to select “USB”.
    2. Press “||” to confirm, then this unit can be used as a USB disk to save all the data. “UPDATE” mode is just for software update status. System set “U-DISK” as default.

    Comment by tuxedobob — December 26, 2006 @ 11:22 pm

  28. One more thing: make sure pictures are “.jpg”. If they’re “.jpeg” the player apparently has no clue.

    Comment by tuxedobob — December 26, 2006 @ 11:27 pm

  29. I’ve been given one too. I can get the screen show to run from the SD Card, but only if it’s connected to theUSB port. I cant get it to do anything at all when on batteries or plugged into the mains alone. It won’t switch on even. Any ideas anyone?

    Comment by Chris Bisco — December 28, 2006 @ 11:15 pm

  30. My first impression was — “It’s cool!”. Once I tried it — it sucked! Half of the features don’t work (like you can’t set the time for slide show, and this magic “lock” feature which isn’t described in the so-called “manual’…. etc. etc….). Pictures from my Panasonic Lumix camera don’t work without spending 30 minutes on converting them…. hmmm… from jpg to jpg….

    I amazed Google people didn’t try it first before making a final decicion on which present to send.

    Comment by Andrew — February 5, 2007 @ 5:57 pm

  31. That’s a cheap chinese fake!

    Comment by Andrew — February 5, 2007 @ 5:59 pm

  32. Anyone know what kind of SD card I can use to extend the memory of this. I would like to run more images and/or mp3 or two?

    Comment by Jon eudy — February 5, 2007 @ 10:49 pm

  33. Any way to convert videos on linux? I dont want to install this sunplus software

    Comment by Amir — February 27, 2007 @ 8:12 am

  34. I bought the photo frame off ebayt from someone more fortunate than myself. Thanks to the above comments I avoided all the grief, powertoy iimageresized mu images onto the resident memory – got 100’s on there too – and had a very thoughtful valentine’s gift to give to the lady of my choice (like I have a list of them… not). So thanks to Google and thanks to the positive comments above. btw unfortunately eBuyer now sell a 7 inch ‘non-beta’ digital photoframe nearly half what I paid but thats the IT industry for yah.

    Comment by Pat Bell — February 28, 2007 @ 11:28 am

  35. Thing is definately a POS, even when fully functioning.

    Comment by Just Use It — June 7, 2007 @ 4:06 am

  36. totally bricked this item. no idea how was simply trying to add photos and it crashed now it wont turn on properly. but it is a very nice paperwieght so not all bad i guess…. 😦

    Comment by morgan — September 3, 2007 @ 3:49 pm

  37. Bought this digital picture frame on e-bay put pictures on it now it is froze up. I think that google needs to give me a replacement one for this piece of junk that they gave out.

    Comment by Tom — October 9, 2007 @ 3:49 am

  38. My Boss graciously gave me one Google sent… Yeah, it’s a little buggy, but a little playing around with it and I’m really impressed!

    I converted a FLV with Riva to MPG, then used the included transcoder to convert that over to an appropriate ASF file. Popped it on a 512MB SD card and voila! My free picture frame becomes a portable movie player!

    What impresses me most is the sound output from the headphone jack. The built in speaker works about as well as one would expect from a cheap device, but I was surprised when I plugged my headphones in how clean the sound was.

    The minor issues folks complain about are easily fixed just playing around with it. Find out what works and what doesn’t.

    If I have any complaints it’s that there’s no way to hang this “picture frame” from a wall.

    …and the USB plug is angled towards the headphone jack instead of the power jack. If USB is plugged in, you don’t need the power jack, but you might still want to plug speakers or headphones in. It DOES fit, but not without some coaxing.

    For a free toy, I’m impressed, despite the bugs.

    Comment by Doc — January 26, 2008 @ 3:22 am

  39. Glad I found this blog so I could see what the hell the issue was with the pictures erroring out. Anyway, for linux users out there, here’s the deal:

    Attach to the USB and mount with the following options as an msdos fs: rw,nosuid,nodev,uid=1000,fmask=0077,dmask=0077

    Then you can copy your files to the mounted volume using cp from the command line. The 8.3 character filenaming is automatic. If you want to be sure, you can create a temporary folder and do something like “for a in $(ls); do cp $a ${a//}; done” and copy the files over. As for the video, all you need to do there is transcode your video to asf format thusly: ffmpeg -i video.asf


    Comment by Sean — January 31, 2008 @ 3:24 am

  40. WP stripped out my code above on the filename substitutions while copying. For example, if your photos are all something like Photo_000456654.jpg, you could do something like cp $a ${a/Photo_00/} in the copying example to strip the leading characters. However you’re likely to be ok with the fs mounted as described and cp will do the rest.

    Comment by Sean — January 31, 2008 @ 3:28 am

  41. this is a test of intelligence

    we all fail

    Comment by zach wilson — October 11, 2008 @ 1:36 am

  42. I would like to know that can I expand memory in it. Do reply at the earliest please.

    Comment by Vijay — January 24, 2009 @ 10:55 am

  43. I’ve waited a bit before turning on this amazing device and when I did it I’ve got this message: “FILE ERROR”.
    Does anyone knows how to reset it and make it work?
    An italian client of Google

    Comment by luca — February 16, 2009 @ 8:27 pm

  44. Just chucked mine in the garbage after fiddling with it for an hour and a half. Google would have made a better impression not giving anything at all!

    Comment by John Hoge — March 19, 2009 @ 10:35 pm

  45. In case people face the blue screen problem, I posted a fix here:

    Comment by Maarten Hofman — November 16, 2009 @ 2:23 am


    Here’s the steps to make it work on a mac.

    1. Take the photos you want to use into iPhoto
    2. Export them as JPGs setting, quality medium, maximum dimension 440px
    2. I created a folder on my desktop called ‘temp’. I will assume this for later commands
    3. Make sure the file names are all of the format $$$$$$$$.jpg — exactly don’t make the file names shorter or longer and use any character for $
    4. Plug in the photo frame
    5. Open a terminal session (Applications->Utilities->Terminal)
    6. In the Terminal issue the command:
    cd /Volumes/Untitled/PHOTO
    7. Copy the photos with the following command:
    cp ~/Desktop/temp/* .
    8. Move out of the PHOTO directory:
    cd /
    9. Click on the eject button for the Untitled drive in Finder
    10. Unplug the photo frame
    11. Turn it off and back on again.
    Voila… all you lovely pix.

    Comment by Richard — February 8, 2010 @ 5:37 pm

    • You don’t actually need to use terminal or have exactly 8 characters in filenames. The crucial part of this post is to eject the drive, unplug it, and plug it in and restart. The foto frame recognizes my Mac jpg files but needs to be restarted. Here is the advice that worked for me, stripped to the essentials:

      1. Take the photos you want to use into iPhoto
      2. Export them as JPGs setting, quality medium, maximum dimension 440px
      2. I created a folder on my desktop called ‘temp’. I will assume this for later commands
      3. Make sure the file names are all of the format $$$$$$$$.jpg — don’t make the file names longer and use any character for $
      4. Plug in the photo frame. It will show upo as “Untitled” drive.
      5. Copy the jpeg files into the PHOTO directory on the Untitled drive
      6. Click on the eject button for the Untitled drive in Finder
      7. Unplug the photo frame
      8. Turn it off and back on again.

      Comment by Karel — February 20, 2010 @ 11:49 pm

  47. […] more from the original source: Google and the GTA-316 (or GIA-316) picture frame « Analysis and … Tags: Adsense, cable-provided, first, Guide, please-connect, the-first, thru-the, unit, […]

    Pingback by Google and the GTA-316 (or GIA-316) picture frame « Analysis and … | Geek Two: tech blog! — April 8, 2010 @ 3:17 am

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