Google Wants Our Photos In The Cloud

image of a compact=Google currently has a deal going that offers a free Eye-Fi card when you lease 200GB of storage for them for a year. When I first saw it it seemed like a pretty good deal, and I hate to pass up a good deal. But it’s less of a deal if I don’t really need the space and won’t use the card. So that got me thinking about my options.

The space is split between Gmail and Picasa. I’m not even close to my Gmail limit and I’m not currently a Picasa user. In theory there’s also some unofficial hacks that allow the space to be used for file storage, like gDisk for the Mac. But I’m not willing to trust something Google may break at anytime so it’s not a consideration. What I’d be looking to use the disk for is to back up my photos. Right now I have just under 20GB of photos and it costs me less than $3/mth to keep them backed up offsite. So that’s $36/year, still shy of the $50.

But that assumes I could easily save everything up to Picasa and I found that wouldn’t be possible. The Picasa 3 desktop allows automatic syncing of it’s albums to albums on Picasa web albums. But this proved to be problematic and not a better solution than plain old backup via Jungle Disk. The deal-breakers were:

  • Picasa is limited to 1,000 albums with up to 1,000 photos in each album. This sounds like a lot but the 1,000 album limit is a deal breaker for me. I keep my files in a directory structure and the number of directories already exceed 1,000. I don’t want to do any drag or dropping to create new albums just for syncing since that’s prone to error. Sure, I have plenty of directories with one or two photos, but I don’t want to re-organize everything , I’m set in my ways.
  • Deleting entire albums from Picasa desktop did not delete the album from the web. Photos within albums deleted just fine. Deleting all pictures in a folder automatically deleted the folder so it’s not like I could keep the folder behind until it synced the deletions.
  • RAW image files were synced to the web as jpg’s so it wouldn’t be a true backup.

While a lot of people like Picasa, there was nothing that caught my attention and would compel me to use it. I’ll keep looking at it and may yet find some compelling feature, but for now I’d have a hard time justifying 200GB for Picasa. Realistically I’d be better off with a lower priced plan.

Then there’s the Eye-Fi card. If it was worth the cost then I could consider $50 for the card and the Google storage as the free product. The version offered is the Eye-Fi Home Video which has a list price of $69. I don’t find it online anywhere for a street price. The closest card is the Eye-Fi Share Video which sells for $73 at Amazon. If I had to guess I’d say the “catch” is that that since the Home Video card doesn’t typically include any online component the only online options are Picasa and YouTube. These are the only online services specifically mentioned in the offer. The Share Video allows sharing with more services. Other, more expensive, cards include geo tagging photos which would add a potentially useful feature.

I like the idea of being able to automatically load pictures from my camera to my PC automatically, but the Wi-Fi card doesn’t offer anything else that’s compelling to me.

So while the Google/Wi_fi offer does seem like a good deal I’m not yet convinced it’s worth $50 to me. I’m still intrigued by Picasa and the web album component so I’ll keep considering it.

I also decided to looks at some alternatives:

  • SmugMug offers online albums along with a “SmugVault” that can be used to store any type of file (such as RAW files) but it’s a subscription service and would cost more than what I have now.
  • The old standby Flickr is $25/yr for unlimited storage. Still, it’s not a good solution for backup. There are plenty off Flickr add-ins and plug-ins so I could probably find one to do syncing, but it still wouldn’t be a true backup.
  • I already use Windows Live Photo Gallery to organize my photos and like it. Plus there’s a free 25GB for online photo albums. But like the others, it’s lacking as a backup solution.

So, the bottom line is Jungle Disk remains the way I backup my photos. I’m really not surprised since it’s cheap and easy. Picasa still has my attention if I want to do some online albums and the Eye-Fi card would offer some convenience. But I’d probably want the version that does geo tagging (although I haven’t done any research to see how well it does that). I may spend the $50 bucks in a moment of weakness since it is a good deal, but for now I won’t be clicking the button to upgrade storage and order the card.

Google Adds IMAP to GMail

Google’s rolling out IMAP support to GMail. I’ve always been a fan of IMAP which allows accessing and managing email from multiple clients while keeping all the mail on the server until it’s actually deleted. Move it to a folder on once client and it moves on all. IMAP also supports an offline mode.

So it’s great to see IMAP coming to a free e-mail service.

The OS Quest Trail Log #9

I spent the week dabbling in new software. Pixelmator is out of beta and available now so I looked at that. Still reminds me a lot of Photoshop Elements, lots of palettes. The so-called HUDs are really just transparent palettes. Both are nice but Acorn has more than I currently know how to use and the price is great ($40) so I decided to go with Acorn. Pixelmator is $59. I suspect they may keep leapfrogging each other in terms of features and ease of use and I doubt either would have been a bad choice. Eval versions are available for both. Jon Whipple has a comparison of Acorn, Pixelmator, iPhoto and Graphic Converter.

Also in the area of images, I’ve been using Xee. Xee is an image viewer & browser for the Mac. Xee opens up a directory and can be used to quickly scroll through all the images in that directory. Xee can also do some limited file management, conversions and can do a slide show. Xee is a free (donation-ware) app.

I’ve been using the MailPlane beta for a little over a week and now that pricing is available I just bought a copy of this great program. MailPlane is a desktop app that integrates with GMail on the web. It doesn’t move the mailbox locally, simply provides great integration. You can manage multiple GMail accounts in MailPlane which is a huge benefit. MailPlane also brings Mac Keyboard shortcuts to GMail, iPhoto integration and general ease of use. MailPlane has special pricing until the beta ends. Beta invites are still available.

I’ve also been looking a Mac software to do screen captures and demos. The two that pop to the top of the list are IShowU ($29) by ShinyWhiteBox and SnapZ Pro X ($69) from Ambrosia Software. Even though SnapZ Pro is more expensive it made a more favorable first impression. it also has more features and is able to do screenshots and movies. There’s eval versions of each. The iShowU eval adds a watermark to the videos. The SnapZ Pro X demo was used to make the video used for the tip father down in this post.

I’m still really liking the new Apple Aluminum USB keyboard after a full week of use.

Software Updates

Panic Transmit 3.6.1 contains several bug fixes. See the release notes for details. I use Transit to do some backups via Automator scripts. I always know when there’s a update because when I check the Mac in the morning the update notification usually causes the automator script to throw up an error. I could turn off update checks but I’d prefer an error one night over missing an update notification. I usually just make a note and tell Transmit to ignore it then do the update when I get a chance. As with any program that uses the keychain you’ll have to confirm access the first time the updated program runs. So, if you use automator scripts be sure to run the app after upgrading (wouldn’t you want to test it anyway?).

As already mentioned in this blog, there were several updates from Apple that I installed earlier in the week.

Tips

I was using Vista recently and went to do a “Start” -> “Run” to execute a program. In Windows XP I use the run box for everything from opening drives to running programs. So this was a problem that needed to be solved. There’s two ways around this. Use the <Windows key>-<R> key combo to display the run box whenever it’s needed (<Command>-<R> on a Mac under Parallels or VMWare) or change the setting to always display it on the menu. Here’s a QuickTime video tip showing how to change the run box setting.

Links & News

Microsoft’s stealth update doesn’t seem to be problem free. Windows Secrets is reporting that Microsoft’s secret update causes problems when doing an XP repair.

Apple had a bit of a manufacturing problem and shipped some MacBooks and MacBook Pros without Journaling enabled. They’ve released an update to remedy the situation.

Microsoft Home Server released an update a few days ago. Home Server seems like a really cool product, but is anyone selling them yet? Does seem like it’ll be a hard sell – a PC that sits off in a closet or someplace that you don’t actually sit at an use.

LifeHacker faced off Parallels and VMWare for Mac virtualization software to see which their readers voted for. The completely unscientific results have Parallels ahead with 53.4% of the votes. Another Lifehacker poll pitted Mozy against Carbonite. Mozy is ahead with 55.2% of the vote at this point.

Ars Technica has a good summary of Microsoft Vista Ultimate Extras fiasco.

1Passwd is available for 20% off through iSlayer. 1Passwd is a Password manager for the Mac. I don’t use it but I love the stuff iSlayer does (for free). They get a cut when it’s purchased through them so I figured I’d pass it along.

Google Apps for My Domain – Part 1

the Google Apps LogoThis article is obsolete. Images and broken external links have been removed.

I’ve completed my move to Google Apps and now all my mail goes into my inbox there, one way or the the other. In Part 1 I’ll cover the domain setup and IMAP mail migration using the migration tool, while in part 2 I’ll cover the features that are available to all GMail users.

My reasons for moving to Google Apps were:

  • Sometimes they can be a bit creepy but I trust them as much as I trust any other ISP or mail provider.
  • I want to provide email to family members.
  • My current setup has my mail provided by Bluehost as part of my hosting service. This pretty much puts me in charge of the email server. I just don’t want to have to worry about backups and email problems. It was OK when I was the only one using it, but if I’m going to bring other’s on board it’s just a disaster waiting to happen.
  • EMail is not tied to an ISP.
  • GMail has the best spam filter I’ve ever used.

Google Apps includes Mail (including Talk & Calendar), Docs & Spreadsheets, Personal Start Page and Page Creator. There are two versions, free and Premium. Free allows 2GB for email and is ad supported. Premium allows 10GB for email and allows the ads to be turned off. Premium also has a 99.9% email uptime guarantee, along with mail migration tools and integration tools a business may look for. My only interest in Google Apps is for email.

I started with the free edition but quickly signed up for the 30 day Premium trial so that I can use the IMAP mail migration tools that’s included.

Domain Structure

The domain I use for email is my primary domain with my Bluehost account but there’s no website associated with it. While I *should* be able to use the same domain as the primary domain with Google Apps I decide to be cautious since I’ve never done this before. I registered a new domain with 1&1 and use it as the primary domain with Google Apps. The domains I’ll use are (not the real names):

myfamilyblue.com – this is primary domain with Bluehost and the domain I use with email. I want to use this domain for email addresses.

myfamilyga.com – this is a new domain I’ll register and use as the primary domain for Google Apps. This will be available for email addresses and deliver to the same mailboxes as the other domain, but I won’t hand out the domain name.

In addition, while I can change MX records myself with Bluehost I have to go through tech support to change CName records. With 1&1 I can change both MX and CName records. This means I can make changes myself without having to go through tech support. This will be less annoying to me and less annoying for them if I decide to undo changes.

For the subdomains I’ll want mail.myfamilyga.com to access mail but I’ll use the default URLs for the other tools. You don’t need to use subdomains since Google Apps will give you URLs but I wanted the sub-domain for easy access to the frequently used mail. I can setup redirection for the subdomains of myfamilyblue.com to redirect to the Google App URLs.

There are additional restrictions if you buy the domain from Google, such as not being able to cancel Google Apps for a year. I’ll use my own domain that’s already registered.

Setting Up the Domain

  1. I registered the new domain, myfamilyga.com, at 1&1 and waited for the DNS to replicate.
  2. Then I registered with Google Apps for Domains. I set up the first user during registration and this will is the admin ID.
  3. Google does create a test address so you can test email before changing your MX records. The address is displayed when you first set up Google Apps.
  4. I need to verify the domain with Google before the services will actually start working. Google provides a couple of ways to do this. Either copy a specific html file to the site or create a CName record. I went the CName record route since I wanted one anyway. Google provides instructions for various domain hosts and I used the ones they provided for 1&1. In the case of 1&1 I needed to create a sub-domain then go in and create a CName record for that sub-domain and point it to ghs.google.com. I didn’t have to wait for this to replicate before I could continue, although it does need to replicate before email can be fully used.

    Note: It’s a bit hidden in the help but Google also allows a MX record to verify domain registration. So if your mail system is ready to go you can just create the MX record. Remember, mail deliver will go to Google once the MX record is created so make sure all users are created if they have mailboxes on another server. My domain verification seemed slow so I created an MX record and then verification completed immediately. It may have been a coincidence.

  5. The next step is to set up the users which will also create the mailboxes. I already created a user name for myself while setting up Google Apps. So I set up nicknames for all the other mailboxes and forwarding addresses that I had set up on the old myfamilyblue.com.
  6. The next step is to change the MX records for the domain. As soon as the MX records are changed all the email will start going to GMail so you’ll want all the users set up before making the change. In my case I have a new domain so I changed the MX records immediately so they have time to replicate. The MX record information provided by Google is here. The setup may vary depending on your domain host. Just make sure the entries are in the order listed by Google and that the priorities go from higher to lower. My setup for 1and1 MX records is shown below (click for full screen).
  7. Since I wanted multiple domains reporting into Google Apps I went into the “Domain Settings” section, “Domain Names” tab and added the myfamilyblue.com domain as an alias. Then I went to Bluehost and changed the MX records. Here’s how to set up the MX records at Bluehost.
  8. Test mail delivery to the users that have been set up. It may take time for the MX records to take effect.

You can use this NSLOOKUP(kloth.net) tool to see if the CName and MX records have changed on your DNS server. Enter your domain in the domain field and enter the DNS server (from your hosting/DNS provider) in the server field, then select the record type from the dropdown list. If you registered a new domain in step 1 it may take time for the change to replicate through the internet. For the first 48 hours the query may show your DNS server has the correct information but the rest of the internet may not know that your domain info is on that server.

IMAP Mail Import

I registered for the free-trial of the premium version so I could use the IMAP migration tool. My Bluehost email was in IMAP mailboxes and was the bulk of my EMail.

The IMAP email migration tool is under the “Advanced Tools” tab (premium edition only). I set up the server connection to Bluehost. For server software I picked “Cyrus” (first choice for trial and error) no security and port 143. Some mail systems may require an “IMAP Path” such as “Inbox”. I told the wizard I’d specify a few accounts and then I entered the user id and logon information for the accounts to migrate. I was pulling everything into my one new GMail mailbox.

The migration took some time, about 45 minutes in my case, and is dependent on quantity and size. A progress bar displays the status or you can click into the details and see how many emails have been migrated. As the mail was pulled in the migration tool added two tags, one was the email address of the old mailbox and the other was the full folder path that the email was in. The tagging was an unexpected and nice bonus.

My AOL My eAddress mailboxes are also IMAP mailboxes. I tried the migration tool on them but always received errors soon after the migration began. I only had about 100 emails in those mailboxes and only a couple of folders. So after a few migration failures I went to plan B. The My eAddress mailboxes were already set up in Thunderbird so I created a new IMAP mailbox on Bluehost, added it to Thunderbird and dragged the AOL email to the new account. Then I used the IMAP import utility to pull it into GMail.

Summary

At this point I had GMail working in my own domain. I really don’t have an interest in the other Google App pieces.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • I have two domains. When I set up a user ID it gets one mailbox that is addressable with both domains. So ray -at- myfamilyblue.com and ray -at- myfamilyga.com deliver mail to the same user mailbox.
  • Nicknames can be set up for users. I consolidated all my myfamilyblue.com mailboxes and forwarding addresses into one GMail mailbox by setting up a nickname for each one.

In part 2 I’ll cover importing mail from POP accounts (such as my other GMail accounts) and consolidating all my email in this one mailbox. All things which are available with regular GMail accounts.