Google’s ‘Picasa Web Albums’ Review

June 14, 2006

Google has just released its ‘Picasa Web Albums’ product. Picasa is, in Google’s own words:

Google’s free desktop photo management software. Picasa is a quick download that makes it easy for people to organize and edit their pictures using something that’s simple and clutter-free. It’s all about the photos.

Fair enough. It would seem that users have been requesting online photo sharing integration with Picasa so Google has come to the party. Check it out here. It’s currently only in Beta so it’s first come, first in. I decided to check it out for myself and see what it’s like and here are my impressions:

  • Storage
    250Mbs for a standard free account or $25 a year for roughly 6Gb. That’s pretty good value.
  • Interface
    It’s Web 2.0 so that should get those that care about that kind of thing happy. It’s cute and I like it more than Flickrs busy and confusing look.
  • Photo Sharing Ability
    In all honesty, it’s pretty basic… damn basic in fact. You can pretty much only upload photos, give them captions, rotate them, delete them and move between albums. Speaking of albums, you can create albums (or sets as Flickr calls it) but just like Flickr, you can’t do albums within an album. This for me is the biggest problem with Flickr (besides it’s interface for viewing photos which I don’t like) and Googles offering – Pbase has both products licked in this area in my opinion.

    Picasa Web Albums also don’t seem to display EXIF information – a must if this online photo sharing site is going to be taken serious by photo buffs.

So all up, it’s a good start but pretty simplistic in it’s offerings and photo managing/organising abilities. It is still in Beta (or TEST as Google calls it) so possibly these little issues will be ironed out in the future. Then again, maybe it isn’t aiming to take on Flickr, Pbase, Shutterfly etc and is just a basic way of uploading photos to the web – if so, it does that just fine.

But don’t take my word for it – check it out, Picasa Web Albums, yourself!

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Come On Socceroos!

June 13, 2006

Wow! What a game Australia had against Japan in the 2006 World Cup (soccer World Cup that is)!

I watched it live with my wife and after a dubious goal by Japan in the 26th minute, it looked like Australian goalie Schwarzer was impeded by a couple of Japanese players, things were looking pretty grim. While Australia dominated possession in the first and second halves, it seemed likely that Japan was going to hold on and win 1-0, upsetting our chances of advancement into the second round. That was until coach Guus Hiddink made two important substitutions – Tim Cahill and John Aloisi.

Cahill came on to score the equalising goal in the 84th minute (1-1) and followed that up by a beautiful kick that hit the left post and then flew into the net (2-1). The crowd erupted, the Australia portion of it anyway, as did our house and the rest of Australia I’m sure. Icing was then added to the cake with a great run and goal by striker Aloisi to finish it 3-1. These were to be Australia’s first goals ever scored at a World Cup and the first game ever won at a World Cup too – magnificent.

Soccer, or Football as the purists prefer to call it, isn’t really that big here in Australia but already predictions are that this will have a positive affect on the sport in the junior levels. While I personally prefer a game of Rugby Union (speaking of which, Australia spanked England 34-3 on Sunday night) to Soccer, I can’t deny that the World Cup is exciting to watch.

We still have to face Brazil, which will be a momentous task, and then Croatia. I predict us drawing with Brazil and defeating Croatia, resulting in the Socceroos heading into the second round! Come on Socceroos!

Anyone else watch this game or any other World Cup game and care to give their thoughts?

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155 Beats Per Minute

June 8, 2006

Had an obstetrician appointment tonight and my wife was hooked up to a doppler so we could hear the baby’s heart beat. Man, babys hearts beat fast!

Our obstetrician had a listen for a few seconds then made the following statement, “It’s a boy”. “Eh? We told you not to tell us”, I thought. “Has to be a boy, girls don’t have hearts do they?”, was his reply. I had a bit of a chuckle at this joke as did my wife.

Average BPM over 10 minutes or so was about 155, with a range from 140 to 170 BPM.

It’s getting close now, only 15 days and one item left to buy for the nursery (a chair)…

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Remote Access Tool – Teamviewer Review

June 6, 2006

As I’ve mentioned before, my primary role at my company is to develop form & web based applications. I prefer the speed of developing a form based application (i.e a windows application) over web apps, which I find can be slowed down by user interface issues. Debugging can also be harder in web apps and particularly so with the language I develop in; a java like, structured programming language but unfortunately not OO.

One place where web apps rule though is in trouble shooting and rolling out bug fixes. Because it’s a web site you can access it easily, to trouble shoot, and once a fix is made you simply roll it on the production system and Bob’s your uncle. This is from a hosted scenario (which is what we do).

But when it comes to form based applications, you just never know what a client is talking about when they call up for a support issue. Or perhaps you kind of know what they are saying but it makes no sense. It’s times like this that you need to be able to remote into your clients desktop and ‘see’ what it is they are talking about.

There are several tools for doing this and we use the majority of them: Microsoft Remote Desktop, Symantec pcAnywhere, VNC and even the odd Citrix client. The problem with these remote access apps is that they generally require a ‘host server’ application to be running on the end you wish to connect to, which needs to be configured and then their firewall might also need some configuration to forward certain ports etc. That’s fine for larger clients that have the necessary infrastructure in place, but some are just too small to do this or even know how to do this. Add to this the issue of dynamic IPs (so you never quite know what IP to connect to), software firewalls and general ‘user’ issues and it starts to get tricky and even annoying.

This is where TeamViewer, apparently developed by the same guys that made Tight VNC, comes into play. The host simply downloads an executable (TeamViewer Quick Support) that they run whenever a connection is to be made to them. No install, no wizards, no configuration, no nothing – just a single executable. The client, in this case me, then runs TeamViewer (which does need to be installed) and connects to the host. This is accomplished by entering in a ‘Partner ID’ code and then a ‘Session Password’ – both of these are supplied via the TeamViewer QS app. See this link for an example and the following screen shot (as seen by me):

Note: I’ve cleared certain information.

Ok, so far it’s pretty standard. But the beautiful part of it is this: no IPs, no firewall issues (it has it’s own ‘dyngate’ routing that bypasses firewall security somehow), file transfer ability, SSL security and a host interface so simple even my Gran would know how to use it. On top of this, it’s free! Yes, free… for the first 15 minutes (or 30 minutes if you register) of each connection and only for non-commerical usage. If you plan to use it commercially, you’ll have to giddy up some cash.

This little app really has been a time saver in helping us being able to ‘see’ our clients desktop without having to go through all the rigmarole of installing the above mentioned remoting tools.

So, if you have need for something similar – give TeamViewer a go, I think you’ll like it!


Update 24/07/2009: This post is over 3 years old and yet it still gets comments posted on it fairly regularly. It’s by far the most viewed post in this blog with an average of over 455 views a month for the past 3 years. Even though this blog is no longer active, I thought I should update it with regards to security concerns that have been raised in the comments. The update follows:

Teamviewer uses a “middle man” to enable it to bypass firewalls which saves the hassle of configuring your router/modem/firewall. Each side of a Teamviewer connection connects to this middle man, which is a Teamviewer server, and it handles the connection and routing of traffic between the two sides. The traffic is apparently encrypted, according to Teamviewers website, but any time you introduce a middle man, it raises potential security issues. If they are not encrypting the traffic, they could be snooping it etc. In the Trust No One world, this is not an ideal solution. So if security is a major concern for you, perhaps this is not the solution for you.

However, according to Teamviewer’s help manual, you can setup your own Teamviewer server. This means that everything is now routed through your own server (middle man) and you no longer need to worry about your traffic going through a third parties server. This is the best option if security is very important to you.

That said, I still feel that Teamviewer is one of the best free solutions for remote access and is fine for most instances. This post was originally posted from the view of offering support as thus this context needs to be taken into account.

People have also commented on Teamviewer taking over port 80 and not allowing Apache/IIS to use these ports. Stackoverflow has a post that apparently addresses this issue, check it here.

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T Minus 19 Days

June 5, 2006

Today is 19 days till our first child is born. Unbelievable! It seems like just yesterday that I made my wife do three pregnancy tests, yeh I didn’t trust the first two, and now we are into the actual birth month.

Lots of things have happened on the baby front. The weekend before last we had a baby shower (organised by my Mum, sister-in-law & family friend) which I hear was lots of fun. What is a baby shower? It’s a day to celebrate the imminent arrival of a baby during which games, food, talking and present giving are top of the agenda. We got some great gifts so the day was deemed a success, according to my rating system! I’ve got some pictures that I might eventually upload soon to my Pbase account.

On top of this we’ve brought; the convertible car seat, a set of drawers, rug for the nursery, a toy chest (well, it’s being brought today), a baby carrier, quilt set for the cot (for display purposes only), change table, clothes dryer etc. There’s a lot of things to buy! I’ve also finished a few little projects around the house that I’ve been staring at for years – handyman work is not my thing.

We’ve settled on a name for a boy and also a name for a girl (as mentioned in comments on one of my posts). I feel as if we are having a boy so I’ll be quite surprised if a girl pops out, but I don’t mind either way, so long as he/she is healthy. We’ve also been praying lots for the baby, our family & it’s future.

I’ve also set up a jabber account for my wife at home so we can IM each other, if need be, instead of using emails. This is the first time my wife has used an IM program so we’ll see how it goes – and yes, I’m not joking, it is the first time.

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Essential Photography Tools

June 1, 2006

There are several software tools that I believe are essential for a digital photographer these days. Chief amongst these are:

  • Cropping software: to ‘zoom’ in and get rid of unnecessary things in your photo
  • Image editing software: curves/levels correction, resizing, sharpening etc
  • Noise reduction software: removing ISO noise is great when you are pushing ISO 1600+
  • Online photo gallery: to share your photos with the world!

There is also conversion software that converts RAW files to TIFF/Jpeg etc files. Seeing as I don’t use RAW, I can’t really give any advice on a good raw converter. Anyway, Lets have a look at what I believe are the best tools for these tasks…

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PocketMod – A Paper Based PDA Review

June 1, 2006

Came across this website the other day which offers one the ability to 'create' a paper based PDA, or should that be PPA – Pocket Paper Assistant, from a sheet of A4/Letter paper. Via a series of folds & cuts, this sheet of paper is made into an eight page pocket sized booklet. Cool!

PocketMod is the website and it's based around a flash app that lets you select certain organiser/diary templates (daily/weekly/monthly/yearly view, to do list, lines, grids, formulas, games etc) an assign them to one of the eight pages in your pocket booklet.

Here's one I designed. I call it the 'Three Week Pocket Based Planner':

Like I said earlier, you print this out to an A4/Letter piece of paper (or whatever paper size you like) and then fold it based on the instructions on PocketMods website. Was a bit tricky at first but I managed to get it right.

It's actually a pretty cool little flash based app. At the end of the day though, it would be much easier to just buy a pocket diary and use that instead. Why? Well besides having to reprint your organiser/diary every week/fortnight etc and then folding it, an organiser/diary limited to eight pages isn't really of much practical use.

PS. Apparently this is 'old' news – if it is, I do apologise to all the techno fashionista.

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