Photography Reference Sites

A tip for smugmug users – timeline

When I made the choice between smugmug and Phanfare one thing I found I missed was the ability to filter my pictures by year taken.  To my delight, smugmug added this feature shortly after I joined.  The feature is currently hidden and considered beta, but it works quite well – the only bug I’ve found is it got confused about a picture I stamped as being taken in 1959 (seems they weren’t expecting dates that old… shocker).

If you want a nifty timeline on your smugmug page, here’s how to do it:

  1. Go to (be sure to adjust the URL for your member name)
    This will take you to your homepage with the phototimeline module visible

  2. Click the “show” link

  3. Very important: click the “date taken” link
    If you don’t do this all your pictures in the timeline will be shown by date uploaded (which won’t be very interesting unless you’ve been a smugmug member for multiple years)

That’s it, now you have a nifty timeline on your homepage.


Oh dear… they’re back.

Trina posted the first installment of these two Chinese students lip synching “I want it that way” about a month ago… and Paula and I almost wet ourselves.

Well, if you were waiting for more, wait no longer… they’re back with their interpretation of “As long as you love me”.

Yeah… the guy is still playing doom in the background, oblivious.

And yeah, the first one is still better.

Hotmail Microsoft

Want to be part of Windows Live Mail?

I get this question a lot: “how do I get on the beta?”  I get it almost as much as “could you please send me an invite?”

Well, we’ve taken the human element out getting on the beta (and that’s good news for you).  Now, instead of prostrating yourself on every Windows Live Mail blog you can find, you can simply go to  On Windows Live Ideas you’ll find out how to get on the waiting list of the Windows Live Mail beta as well as several other cool betas we have in the works. 


A great toy for kids who don’t like imaginary stuff

Do your children like to wait in line and get hassled by disgruntled minimum-wage government employees?  The perfect toy has arrived just in time for this holiday season: the Playmobile security check-in play set.

This toy comes with an x-ray machine, metal detector, scanning wand, guards, a passenger and, of course, two guns.  Rookie traveler with Texas-sized belt-buckle, pocket knife, cell phone, nail clippers and briefcase (with laptop and boarding pass still inside) sold separately.

Hotmail Microsoft

Application-like spell checking… on the web?!?!?

I don’t think I can understate how cool this feature is:  spell check as you type.

Ever since I first saw this feature in Word I’ve been wanting it in every application I have (including DasBlog, you listening Omar? :)).  Well, now we finally have it in Windows Live Mail beta.  The way it works is pretty slick too, the client-side code on the browser actually starts handing words and groups of words up to the server to be checked for errors.  When errors are detected the misspellings are indicated on the client with familiar red squiggly lines. 

The best way to get a feeling for this is to see it in action.  Since we haven’t released the feature yet you can’t, unfortunately, try it out… but you can have Imran give you a demo. Check out the Video that Imran, Vikram, Brian and Zeek made, it gives a great run down of the design, development and testing of the feature.

For those of you on the beta and wondering when you’ll see this… I’m predicting you’ll see it before the year is up (but I don’t make any guarantees ;)).

Idle News

Alfred Anderson 1896 – 2005

The oft-romanticized Christmas truce of 1914 has lost its final witness.  Alfred Anderson was thought to be the last living veteran of the famed yule truce when German and British soldiers sang carols, exchanged gifts and, according to some reports, played a game of soccer.

Alfred Anderson was 109 years old.

British and German soldiers fraternize – Christmas 1914

I had no idea who this man was before today, but his association with the legendary truce makes me a bit sad at his passing.

From BBC News:

Prince Charles has paid tribute to Scotland’s oldest man and the country’s longest serving veteran of World War I, who has died at the age of 109.

Alfred Anderson, who served with the 5th Battalion the Black Watch, died in a nursing home in Angus.

Read the full BBC article

For those of you wanting to read a little more of the history of Christmas truces here is an very complete examination with excellent source documentation.  It is an excellent article, if slightly less romantic than the stories which come out at Christmas time.

Idle Music


Mercedes-Benz Mixed Tape 9 is out along with some other interesting news: MB is branching out from the music business into the spoken word.  Early December Mercedes will publish its first volume of text tracks for download.  Billed as “Challenging literature for mobile people, young authors read by well known voices” it should provide a bit of variety to your morning commute.  We can only hope the right type of people download these audio tracks… plenty of people in California have enough trouble driving as it is… throwing challenging literature into the mix could create a tremendous road hazard.

Mercedes-Benz text tracks, think of it as Mercedes-Benz Mixed Audio Books.

Addendum: Small print on the back of the cover for MBMT9 indicates that volume 10 will be available on 12/13/2005 at … mark your calendars.

Photography Sites

Picture sharing sites

Over a year ago I started trying to find a photo sharing site. Now, many moons later, I have finally narrowed down my search and chosen the perfect service… all three of them.

My criteria:

After years of running my own server off my DSL line at home I finally came to the realization that it would be cheaper to pay a web hosting service and my site would be tremendously faster.  Outsourcing had one big negative: I no longer had unlimited photo storage (and I love to upload photos). 

Here’s what I needed from a photo sharing service:

  • Unlimited storage – I will eventually have 100% of my digital pictures online for sharing and as a backup of my important memories.
  • Easy to use – I’d like to get my whole family using the same service… I don’t, however, want to be tech support for it.
  • Per-gallery security – I will have some pictures that I’ll want to lock down for privacy.

I also was hoping for the following features:

  • A custom domain – By putting pictures at I will never have to tell people where to go… even if I change providers.
  • Fully customizable UI – I don’t like having to have a site which looks “stock”.  
  • Comments – While I think most of my friends are too lazy to add comments to my pictures (heck, I’ll never add them to theirs), I want to post old family pictures and have my parents tell me who is in them.

The added bonus:

I harp on this a lot… BACK UP YOUR CRAP!!!!!

By picking a photosharing site with unlimited storage you are protecting yourself from the inevitable time when your computer will crash.  Think about it: you don’t have negatives anymore.  If your computer crashes, you will loose all your pictures.  That’s a terrible risk to take with your best memories.

The site:

Well, there isn’t just one site, there are three.  The one that will work best for you will depend upon your personality, preferences and, quite likely, your friends.  For ease of selection I have arbitrarily divided the world into three groups:

  1. The social crowd (teenagers, college students and Pablo)
  2. Your average person (my sister, for example)
  3. The power user (computer and photography geeks)

The best social site:

The coolest features in Flickr revolve around tagging and sharing of pictures.  You can add comments to friend’s pictures and even annotate specific regions of a picture (this is great for labeling people in a picture or pointing out that a friend’s fly is open).  A strong social bent makes this service perfect for the high school/college crowd, at $25 a year for unlimited pictures (upload bandwidth is throttled) Flickr is also the least expensive (so it won’t cut to deep into Pablo’s beer budget).

The best everyman site:

My absolute favorite feature of Phanfare is how quickly a gallery is uploaded and posted to your site.  The trick is they use the desktop application to resize the picture before it’s uploaded to the web site, and later they upload the full-sized image in the background.  Phanfare also has the best support for videos and the largest range of image formats.  For $50 a year you get unlimited storage and a fast, easy interface.

The best power-user site:

I love the annotation features in Flickr and the ease of use of Phanfare… but when push came to shove I really wanted to have more customization than either of the two other services offered.  Smugmug is also great for professional photographers as it allows users with a pro account to completely re-brand the site and charge for prints of their pictures.  Adding more wood to the fire was Smugmug’s exposed APIs that allow third-party developers to expand the Smugmug functionality.  There are three plans, all with unlimited storage: $39.95, $59.95 and $149.95 (note: use this coupon code and get $5 off – btqOt6mLHMm4Y).

Top Feature comparison:

Unlimited Storage Yes (metered upload) Yes Yes
Custom UI No Preset Templates Templates or CSS
Custom Domain No Yes Yes (for pro only)
Per-gallery password Yes (per picture) Yes Yes
Comments Yes No Yes
RSS feeds Yes Yes Yes
Video clip support No QuickTime, MPEG and AVI MPEG-1 only
Upload via e-mail Yes Yes Yes
Published API Yes No Yes
What’s special Annotating photos Uploads in the background Pros can sell pictures and set prices

  Editor’s choice for 2004 & 2005

Top rated site for 2005

Press/news Flickr Phanfare Smugmug
Yearly cost $24.95 $54.95 $39.95 to $149.95

But wait, there’s more:

If you go with either Flickr or Smugmug, be sure to go looking for software which uses the published APIs.  Omar has created some handy tools for Smugmug and there are also nifty tools for Flickr.

As a bonus, both Flickr and Smugmug support geotagged pictures… take note travelers, this is a killer feature.

My personal verdict:

What’d I pick?  I was torn between Phanfare and SmugmugPhanfare supports many more image and video formats but is just not as customizable as Smugmug.  I elected to miss out on the variety of file formats in favor of the customizability (it’s really all about looking good ;)).

Blog Tech Web Weird

GoogleBlogTag is sooooo last micro-minute

Bengt, Steve and I spent a bunch of time posturing to figure out who could get their blog to the top of the Google search results for a made up word.  It’s a page rank game, how “popular” is your web site?

Bah, kid stuff.  Real men (real capitalist men) care about money.  Here’s the acid test: How much is your blog worth?

My blog is worth $15,242.58.
How much is your blog worth?

Thanks Tom for the pointer!

Idle Photography

Great picture idea for grooms

When Dick and Trina got married they hired a really cool photographer, Craig Merrill, who 
   a) takes great photos 
   b) isn’t satisfied with producing “more of the same”

One of the Craig’s complaints is there are always a bunch of frilly, girly pictures of the bride, bride’s maids and the event.  There are no “guy” pictures of the event.  So, to balance out the pretty bride’s maid photos, Craig takes the groom and groom’s men to downtown San Francisco and takes pictures of the guys being “cool” (yeah, getting “cool” out of a bunch of computer geeks ain’t easy… he’s that good).   

Check out Craig’s website for more information.

Dick decided that he didn’t want to limit his guy photo shoot to just him and his best man and ushers but instead invited a bunch of his friends from in town.  I was flattered to have been invited to come be part of Dick’s extra-large Rat Pack.  I think the Chairman would have understood the entourage explosion, what with inflation and all.

Seeing as Dick shared the limelight with all of us I thought it only fitting to give him a more personalized picture of the event:

Now that’s a good-looking bunch of guys!