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Showcase Your Digital Photos

Here are four ways to transform your TV and bring family picture night back to your living room.

With the advent of new digital cameras, I find I'm taking more pictures -- a lot more. And I'll bet you are, too.

Five years ago I used to budget my shots to save film. Now I can shoot pictures faster than Rambo shoots bad guys.

OK, so what's the problem? Well, having all these pictures is nice, but how the heck do I view them all or show them to my friends? They look pretty good on a PC, but who wants to crowd around a computer to view pictures? I sure don't, especially after spending every working day looking at a PC. And I'd go broke printing them all on my photo printer.

And if there's one thing we're about in

The Millionaire Zone

, it's not going broke. So what to do, then, with all these memories?

Wouldn't it be pleasant to watch them on your nice, new high-definition living room TV, in the comfort of that plush leather sectional, with some cool sound added for effect? Like the good old days, when you curled up on a Saturday night with your family to look at those vacation slides? Sure it would. But how can you do this?

As it turns out, bringing photos into your living room isn't really all that difficult. The choices depend on what you have, what you want to buy and how your pictures are currently stored.

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In the worst-case scenario, you've got shoe boxes or albums full of paper photos. You've wanted to archive them anyway. If so, you've got a choice -- spend hours scanning them yourself or send them off to a scanning service. Unless you have a large number of art-quality photos, you're probably better off just scanning the ones you'll want to share and saving the rest in an archival box.

Click here for the video version of this story from Jennifer Openshaw.

For images already in digital format, here are four options, starting with the simplest.

  • Burn a CD. If you have a PC with a CD writer, a TV and DVD player, you can simply burn a CD with the images you want and drop it into the DVD player. Most players made in the last five years support a simple file system allowing you to view burned CDs.There are some restrictions, however. The files must be saved in .jpg format and the file names cannot be longer than eight characters. And, there's no music. OK, so it isn't perfect, but it's a plan if you don't want to buy any new hardware or software.
  • Slide-show software. Add a software package like the Easy Media Creator Suite from Roxio (SNIC) for about $80, and you can create slide shows with transitions, subtitles and other cinema-style features. The resulting CD/DVD can be played on any DVD player. This is an especially nice solution for viewing themed collections such as a special trip or children's sports events.
  • Photo storage vault. New to the market are dedicated video drives like Sony's (SNE) - Get SONY GROUP CORPORATION SPONSORED ADR Report HDPS-L1, available for $300. With 80GB in storage, you can store and organize your pictures and use USB and flash memory slots to load them easily. It plugs into your TV and supports HD television. You can even use it as an external PC backup drive for your data.
  • PC video server. Hook up a living room PC to your TV or home entertainment system, and now you have what's known as a video server. Preconfigured video servers, built around Microsoft's (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) Report Windows Media Center Edition, have become very popular recently and are available for as little as $800.Now, for you more technical types with an old PC lying around collecting dust, you can make your own video server for almost nothing. Just add an inexpensive video card (about $20) with an S-video output and connect it to your TV. Even better, install a $20 wireless network card to view anything on your home network.Don't stop there -- you can add a wireless keyboard from a company like Logitech (LOGI) - Get Logitech International S.A. Report to surf your system and home network for images from the comfort of your couch. And you can also store your favorite movies (Rambo or otherwise) on your new living-room unit.

Your own video server for $40 and an old PC: How's that for a bargain? And it doesn't stop there. The (free) family slide night has come back to life in The Millionaire Zone. Just don't forget to edit those shots -- the family probably won't want to sit through everything.

Jennifer Openshaw, a passionate advocate for helping Americans improve their finances and build their personal fortunes, is CEO of

The Millionaire Zone and America Online's personal finance editor. In addition to appearing regularly on TV shows such as "Oprah" and "Good Morning America" and on CNN, Openshaw is host of ABC Radio's "Winning Advice" and serves as an adviser to some of America's top corporations. Her new book,

"The Millionaire Zone," hit bookstores in April 2007.