Room of a pleinolijf

Ask yourself this: how do I want to be remembered ?


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Moving photo albums from Picasaweb / Google+ Photos to SkyDrive

This is probably the first thing that sparked my decision to leave Google for some (or all) of my online services, which are webmail, contacts, calendar, online photos, personal cloud, file hosting, and to a lesser extent, my search engine of choice.  Click on any of the links at the bottom of this post to read about my transition of each of them.

 

I used to be a convinced Picasaweb user.  This was mostly due to -at the time- the very large amount of free storage, low costs for additional storage, and an online interface that was better than the competition.  I remember being impressed by the speed at which full-screen photos were loaded when you flicked through an album.  I also loved the integration of EXIF data and geographical location information (effectively creating a map of where you’ve been).

This was then coupled to the (still) excellent Picasa desktop software, originally developed by Idealab’s Lifescape, from where you could upload your photos.  However, the way you could decide which albums and photos to sync was confusing to me.  I couldn’t get it to work just how I wanted.  Either I synced all and only starred photos, or I could activate a ‘web sync’ feature which wasn’t very transparant.  Then there was the option to explicitly create an album in Picasa, which you could then sync to the cloud.  Anyway, it all wasn’t very intuitive, and I didn’t like it.  It always felt like something that was slapped together and added on top of it.  But apart from that, the Picasaweb service and Picasa software was excellent, while none of the competition came close.  Of course, it helped that I was living in the Google ecosystem.

But with the arrival of Google+, slowly but surely Picasaweb was being eaten alive by it.  Google first decided to use Picasaweb as the storage hub for photos in Google+.  Next, it mirrored all albums in it’s social network, leaving you with two places where your photos were.  Then, when Google upgraded it’s Contacts pictures to high resolution, each time I updated a contact’s picture, a separate album was created in my Picasaweb photo album collection !  I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what this was about, at one point thinking to blame my switch from an Android to a Windows Phone smartphone.  So I asked the Internet, but the Internet didn’t know, leaving me to come up with an explanation of my own.
Before finally axing Picasaweb as it existed, Google redirected everyone to Google+ Photos, with an option to return to classic Picasaweb.  This option is now gone, and the picasaweb subdomain sends you to Google+ Photos.  R.I.P.  Apparently, you can still access the Picasaweb interface by using the following URL: https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/myphotos?noredirect=1

 

So there you are.  If you want to host your pictures with your favourite service provider, Google, you have no choice but to host them in Google’s social network.  In effect, Google now no longer has an online photo album service.  “Sure it does”, I hear you say, “it’s just called Google+ Photos”.  Fair enough, but I want a decoupled photo storage service.  If I wanted that to exist inside a social network, I’d use Facebook.  But I don’t, so Google cannot help me with that any longer.

Funny thing is, or to put salt in the wound, around the same time, the pricing plans for extra storage were changed as well.  From $5/year to $10/month for exactly the same product.  I’ll leave the math to you, but I can tell you that it’s more expensive.

Since in the meantime, I had switched from an Android phone to a Windows Phone one, and there was the prospect of moving my personal cloud and my file hosting/sharing service to SkyDrive, what better candidate than the latter ?  SkyDrive now offered decent performance at an attractive price point ($10/year).  It integrated three services into one (file hosting/sharing, personal document cloud (with office online editor!), and online photo albums), and has a straightforward synchronization.  It just feels right.

 

TL;DR: Going about this migration or transfer is actually pretty easy thanks to the Dropbox-style functionality of SkyDrive.  You share a photo album online, by simply copying the pictures in a separate folder under your Skydrive\Pictures folder.  It’s obviously a bit more work, as you have to manually select files (unless you upload all your snaps unfiltered, then it’s easy).
The good thing is, if you had web sync enabled for your photo albums in Picasa, your local files will have synched any descriptions you might have put with the online photos.  Very helpful (thank you, Google) if you have a lot of travel photos for example, which you annotated with all the places etc. which you undoubtedly have forgotten by now.  Unfortunately, you do lose all comments of course, as this was a feature of Picasaweb, and can’t be saved in the image’s EXIF data.  For me personally that wasn’t an issue with only a handful of comments.

 

Read my other posts about my online services switch from Google to Microsoft:

Moving webmail from Gmail to Outlook.com
Moving address book from Google Contacts to Microsoft People
Switching personal cloud service from Google Drive to SkyDrive
Moving file hosting service from Dropbox to SkyDrive
How Google is slowly losing me as a client to Microsoft
Switching search engines from Google to DuckDuckGo

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How Google is slowly losing me as a client to Microsoft

It all began when Google decided to axe their Reader service (switch reason #1). Google Reader is was regarded as the single go-to solution for an RSS aggregator.  It was The Little Google Service That Could, and everything it did, it did well.  An API used by countless of 3rd party services and mobile apps, fast, clean, integration with other services like Pocket, sharing to social media, etc.

Since I used Reader multiple times a day, and there initially wasn’t an awesome alternative around that had the same to offer, I was really displeased.  Especially since, in my view, together with Gmail, it was one of the irreplaceable cornerstones of Google’s application landscape.  Why are they discontinuing it ?  I’m pretty sure it has to do with money somewhere (as in not-generating-a-fortune money).  Removing iGoogle ?  That I understand.

Ever since this news was published, I have switched over to Feedly.  As long as Reader is still alive, they sync with it, and once it dies, they (promise to) switch over to a proprietary system called Normandy.  I’m cool with that, because Feedly has filled the Reader gap to the best extent of all the alternatives.

Then there is also the fact that I switched from an Android smartphone to a Windows Phone one in December 2012.  I changed partly because I simply wanted to try something fresh.  After having used Windows Phone 8 for a couple of weeks, I realised I wouldn’t want to go back to an Android experience (on a phone).  I still have an Android tablet to tinker around with, but I am of the opinion that WP8 is the superior smartphone platform today.

I use the Google services on my Windows Phone, most prominently Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Contacts, and to a lesser extent Google Drive.  I never really cared for SkyDrive, until I moved my pictures to it as a cause of switch reason #2: Picasaweb.

Picasaweb, the online photo album service of Google, I was always reasonably happy with.  I found it a bit unintuitive at times with the coupling to the Picasa desktop application with regards to online synchronization, but it offered good features and storage space.  But then Google decided to hide Picasa(web) in the background and annoyingly push for integration in Google+.  In fact, I think that annoyed me the most.  Yes, you could go back to the classic Picasaweb view, but I am sure it too will be axed in favor of Google pushing their social network down our throats. I don’t want my photo albums on a social network, only a selection of separate pictures.

So I gave SkyDrive a try, also because I though it would be handy to move my Dropbox files there, and end up with one integrated system for pictures, documents and files that are automatically synced, easily shared, and provide a good online interface to share photo albums.  As an extra, SkyDrive currently has roughly the same pricing as Google had until about a year ago: around $5/yr for 20 GB.  Switch reason #3: storage pricing.  Granted, my Google storage subscription plan is kept as an early adopter, but if I want to expand it, or I miss a payment, pricing will become $10/month for about the same. SkyDrive is unquestionably the cheapest at the moment.

In conclusion: so far I switched RSS reader, online file storage and online photos to Microsoft.  The integration on their mobile platform, interweaved with social media content, is awesome.  Google’s integration used to be awesome, but at least for me, it’s dwindling at a rapid speed (especially photos).  I still use Google Drive, but that I could also switch very easily to SkyDrive. YouTube I don’t care for much (Vimeo is a good alternative), and I already switched search engines long ago to DuckDuckGo.

Remains: mail, contacts and calendar.  The most difficult triplets to switch.  I have a huge history kept in Gmail, and my calendar and contacts are meticulously maintained.  An import of all my mails from Gmail to Outlook.com has already been completed, but for the moment Gmail is still ahead in terms of speed and options.  Labels I can map to Outlook categories, but that manual task is beyond my situation.  The fact that many logins are linked to my Google account helps them a bit as well.

But it won’t take much anti-user decisions on Google’s part to make me also switch those last remaining services over.  And why wouldn’t I, aside from the hassle ?  It would mean an even leaner integration on my phone, desktop and possible future Windows tablet.

I kind of just ‘had it’ with them, to be brutally honest, and I’m not alone.  It has actually come to a point where I trust the old Micro$oft more than Google.  Who knew ?

Update

Oh, I even forgot to mention what irritates me the most about the current Google policy.  The fact that they deliberately ignore the Windows Phone customers.  There are official Google apps on every platform (Apple and even Blackberry), but they obstinately refrain from releasing Windows Phone apps for Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Drive, etc…  I guess they are afraid of something.  This is nothing more than blocking a promising player in the mobile market.  And that is exactly the kind of egotistic behaviour that ticks me off, and drives me further away from them.  Remember your own slogan, Google: “Don’t be evil”.

 

Read my other posts about my online services switch from Google to Microsoft:

Moving webmail from Gmail to Outlook.com
Moving address book from Google Contacts to Microsoft People
Switching personal cloud service from Google Drive to SkyDrive
Moving file hosting service from Dropbox to SkyDrive
How Google is slowly losing me as a client to Microsoft
Switching search engines from Google to DuckDuckGo


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Lisbon album online & Google Picasa

I just uploaded the web album version of the collection of photos we took during our 3-nights citytrip to Lisbon (from 29th of March ’till the 1st of April). You can find it on my albums page (look at my blog’s header for clues!).

This time I used yet another hosting solution (as opposed to stuff like my webspaces at Telenet or Skynet, or my Live Space): Google’s Picasaweb [ picasaweb.google.com ]. I tried Picasa v1 some months ago, and liked it, but nothing more. But then I came across some blog post mentioning that you can now have 1GB of storage on Picasaweb. Well, that sure sounded interesting, especially since I didn’t know of online albums hosted by Google 🙂 So redownloaded the latest version of Picasa, and I have to say it. It really is all I was looking for:

  • free hosting
  • large space (1GB – and counting)
  • some social interaction (comments, etc…)
  • downloading of whole album at once, or file per file

Picasa 2 is what you use to upload your pictures, which is a big plus compared to all those online tools. And it comes with a bucketload of extra inventive, user-friendly features such as GeoCoding via Google Earth (again, all nicely integrated), generating collages, limited editing, printing to online services, posting to your blog, etc….

One word: bigupyagoogle !

Update: I uploaded some other albums I had scattered over the web to the Picasweb site. Since I have so much spare web space available, I’m likely to upload other pictures as well, which I wouldn’t have uploaded otherwise. I’ll mention it on my blog here when I do so.