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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Protect your online privacy (updated)

If you haven’t yet heard of PRISM, here’s the gist.  The NSA (National Security Agency) of the United States of America has been watching everyone on the Internet in the USA, and asking (and getting!) collaboration from national governments all over the world in disclosing private information about your person.  Those are clear violations of our basic rights to freedom and privacy.

In light of the recent PRISM reveal, there are several things you can do to help safeguard a free and open Internet.  First off, go and sign this petition: https://www.stopwatching.us

Next up, a good idea is to have an overview of what information you publish on the big, bad interwebz. Personally, I use MyPermissions, which gives you an overview of which services see which information about you.  Very helpful if you, like me, try out many new services and sites on the web, which you may stop using after a while.

Finally, there is this web site that offers a list of privacy-safe alternatives to all sorts of popular online services and applications.

http://prism-break.org/ 

How brilliant is that name ? PRETTY FF-ING BRILLIANT, THAT’S HOW.

Now go and protect yourself !   Go !  Shoo !

 

 

Update 20 Aug. 2013: Now this is unexpected.  Some two weeks after this post was published, I received an e-mail from a certain Mr. Sheldon Whitehouse, a US Senator.  After verifying it wasn’t a spam message, it appears to be in response to this post.  I wouldn’t know why else he (or his secretary) would send me the following message.

Whitehouse

What’s a bit annoying, is the part where I put the second marking.  It contains my street address.  The most recent one, even, since we moved house last year.  To my knowledge, the only place I put my home address is on Facebook, where I mark it private to everyone except my close friends.  That is it.  I don’t think you will find it online if you are not connected to me directly.  It is not listed in the national phone book directory, nor do I provide it to any website, except online shops, for obvious reasons.

It’s funny then, that I receive this e-mail from a political figure, in the USA, unsollicited, talking about respect for people’s (online) privacy, while at the same time my private home address is disclosed in it.

I sent a reply today asking for an explanation.  Let’s see if it’s the typical, patronizing political communication, or if Mr. Whitehouse is a sincere man working for and close to the people like he should.

To be continued ?


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How changing my blog’s address was a bad idea, and a reflection on blogs vs social media

I changed my blog’s name (and corresponding URL) around september 2012, because I had come up with a half-decent alias to use globally (on Twitter, this blog, handles in games, on forums, etc…). pleinolijf is an anagram of my real name, and it’s a word that ‘could’ exist in my native language, as in it’s linguistically correct; it’s a concatenation of two existing words.

Anyway, I wanted to change as many logins and usernames as possible so as to have a uniform, global name to use with online services, including my WordPress blog.

I only noticed this a few days back, as I haven’t been very actively blogging since the beginning of 2009. Up until then, my blog was averaging about 2,000 visitors a day, even when quasi no new content had been added over the three-year timespan from then up until now. When I checked my stats again after cobwebs had gathered over them, I noticed a huge drop in visitors all of a sudden. The drop occurred mid-way September 2012, which is around the time I changed the blog’s name (and URL) I think. I obviously hadn’t thought it through, because the change of address meant that all the links that pointed to posts of mine now effectively went nowhere. So my posts before Sept. 2012 were no longer getting any hits. The average visit count for my blog in total was one a day. ONE.

Oops.

Oops.

Now, I could change the address back to the former, but since I don’t generate any money with my blog, I honestly can’t be bothered. To me, it’s important that my user logins and urls are consistent (with the new pseudonym I created).

The good news however, is that I am inclined to create new content and use my blog again to do this. I think the drop of activity had come from the popularity of Facebook over the years. Especially for short posts (sharing a clip on YouTube, posting a link to interesting stuff, …), social media are a better platform. It’s just that I notice I am slowly but surely beginning to be more inclined to really create content, instead of only sharing links.

The latter is ideal for Facebook and Twitter, but the former is what blogs were made for. I hope this feeling persists and that new posts with proper content created by me will start (and keep) appearing here, and with that, the visitor counter going back up.


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Suggest Friends on Facebook – also for ‘Senior’ Users

If you’re not yet on Facebook, either go register yourself, or stop reading now.

As some of you might know, you can suggest friends to other Facebook users. For instance, when a good friend you know joins Facebook after you invited him/her, Facebook automatically tries to help the new user get more connections. There will be a link under their profile picture saying “Suggest Friends for <friend’s name>”.
But, when you happen to ‘discover’ a friend, that has been on Facebook for some time, and has several friends, Facebook does not offer you this kind of action to perform.

I actually needed this for a friend I found by just searching for his name. He used an e-mail alias when registering for Facebook, so I didn’t find him by importing my webmail contacts. This friend and I have a lot of friends in common, but somehow he never added any of them. So, obviously, I wanted to suggest all those friends to him. I looked around and searched, but was unable to find anything of the kind in all the menus and links on Facebook.
Googled a bit, and found out that indeed, Facebook doesn’t offer the friends suggest option on profiles of people that have been registered for some time (no idea what that timespan is though).

So I did some snooping of my own and found that you can simply use the address of someone’s profile (in the style of http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1065010701) and type &suggestfriends directly behind it and press enter. Now the profile will show up again, but with the suggest friends box on top of it.

Suggest friends for Filip Lejon [ facebook.com ]

Update: I don’t know if this option was available earlier, but in any case, you can now suggest friends for anyone, by clicking a small link all the way at the bottom of someone’s profile page. Noticed that after I wrote this post. Makes it just a bit easier 😉

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1 Comment

digsby

With all the fancy (and sometimes useless) online social applications and tools, it is becoming more and more cumbersome to just even quickly check up on things. Check your friends’ photo’s in Flickr, see their Facebook updates, see if you got mail, etc…

How many of us that are proficient on the web only have one (1) e-mail address? Congratulations, you’re a minority! You’re usually on Hotmail, because you need the MSN network for all your friends, you of course have a Gmail account coz that’s the best webmail service, you have a Yahoo account for Flickr, etc…

On top of that, you like to chat, and very often via several protocols: MSN, Google Talk or Jabber for the more professional environment, specialized groups on IRC, …

Surely you have experienced first-hand that keeping track of all these things takes a lot of time, and is not very exciting to do (visit the site, log in, check status, log out, NEXT, …). Wouldn’t it be great to just have one application (preferably installed on your local machine, so it’s fast), where you can do all of that? OF COURSE IT WOULD ! Unless you get payed to check all your private stuff at work; in that case, surf along.

I recently came across a small application called digsby, which is still being developed (currently in private beta) and tries to deliver all of the above. I tried it out already, and it does look very promising.
If you’re still reading, you’re probably interested. In that case, I suggest you click the link down below, and send them an e-mail to get an invite code, so you can try for yourself. They go more into detail on their homepage, so do like clickety clickety right away…

digsby [ digsby.com ]

Oh, by the way: I’m writing this post from within the latest installation of the Flock web browser. Never heard of it? Congratulations, you’re not (yet) a minority. But it does look like the combination Flock + digsby could work wonders for one’s busy online social life.

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