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I have a Mac Mini server hosting a few folders of photos. I have an iPad on which I would like to view these photos. So far I have not found an elegant way to do so.

I'm open to using any combination of client / server solution but I do have some requirements:

  1. The pictures should be accessed directly from the server. No manual downloading or syncing back and forth.
  2. The client app on the iPad should be designed to work well with pictures. There are literally thousands of File browser / file manager / file viewer apps on the iPad supporting every protocol under the sun, however I haven't seen a single one that delivers a consistently good user experience when it comes to viewing photos, specifically:
    • Photos should be displayed in a thumbnail grid with reasonable speed
    • Going to the next and previous photos at a reasonable speed should not trigger a loading screen (ie. needs to be prefetched)
    • Large photos should not crash the app
  3. Client should be a native iPad app or webapp with touch support

These don't seem like unreasonable requirements for a photo viewing app, in fact they pretty much seem like pre-requisites for anything displaying photos but maddeningly nothing I've come across seems to do the job. Many great apps exist for online services like Picasa, Flickr, and the now defunct MobileMe gallery, however I'm not interested in hosting these photos in the cloud due to privacy, cost, speed, and storage space concerns. It also seems silly: Why do I have to put my pictures on the internet just to see them on my iPad?

In order to meet the points in requirement 2. above, I'm thinking I can't simply share these over FTP/SMB/WebDAV/etc. I would need something intelligent running server-side that can on-the-fly send over thumbnail-size and iPad resolution images.

To that, end DLNA seems like a good fit. I have found a pretty decent DLNA server for the Mac, but I've yet to come across a well-made DLNA client for iPad. I've tried so many, but they all seem more focused on video not photos. Every iPad DLNA client I've tested has failed the 3 points under requirement 2. :(

See comments below on which apps I have already tried.

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I have tried: Plex (fail: shows loading screen), Air Sharing (fail: no thumbnail, loading between pics), DLNA clients: SmartStor, MediaLink, iMediaControl, Woon, media:connect (all fail: no decent thumbnail gridview, crash on low memory) –  kLy Aug 1 '12 at 23:23
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This seems like something that could be accomplished well with a web server and appropriate use of some CSS and JavaScript. I'm not really a web developer, but I'd imagine there are some good libraries available for this purpose that would do what you want. –  robmathers Aug 2 '12 at 1:50
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