Jason Ball's TechBytes

Technology & Venture Capital. Early stage venture capital news mixed with personal views and comments

Migrating your Photos to Dropbox

I’ve recently migrated my entire photo collection to Dropbox, and thought I’d share my thoughts on the experience.

First, photos are such precious parts of our lives, if you don’t have a backup plan for yours, you should count on losing them.

Second, I’ve lived in an Apple world since 1998, and have used every version of iPhoto produced, and finally moved over to Aperture because my library had grown to big, and I’d bought a DSLR, so wanted something more “professional” and responsive. Moving to Aperture was a mistake, and moving backwards to iPhoto was painful. I was ready to leave Apple’s solutions behind.

Third, setting Apple issues aside, I set out to find out if it was possible to have one single unified photo album that’s accessible from all my devices (for editing, maintenance and sharing)? The answer to this one came in the form of Dropbox, thanks to a few changes earlier this year.

Dropbox now pulls all images from inside your dropbox into a single view, aptly named, “Photos”. Photo management abilities are currently minimal – you can make and share Albums- but that’s plenty when your photos have been locked on a hard drive for years. The key for me is having ALL my photos in a file structure that I can easily navigate and manage. Dropbox provides that – and they’re backed up/duplicated on multiple machines. My photo management and photo sharing are now one and the same – this is a huge simplification. And it’s online, so handy tools like IFTTT can play nicely.

One unexpected key thing did happen during this process – my photo collection was cut in half size wise. Aperture uses Preview Photos, which duplicates your entire collection… After getting rid of those and some other trimming, I ended up with a much smaller total libarary size (which means it can grow significantly before hitting my storage threshold on Dropbox).

There are two tutorials that I used for the process (and it IS a process- one that’s taken a long time to complete): MacStories and SimplicityBliss . If this looks like too much pain; fear not. The latest experimental builds of dropbox have direct iPhoto import functionality, so it will be a simple process, and ready for prime time soon- no betas and no tinkering around to get all your photos into Dropbox. Last year, Dropbox acquired Snapjoy, with a view towards offering more photo management tools- which are now starting to see the light of day.

Filed under: Software

If you can’t take it with you, it’s not yours

I picked up an Android device earlier in the year – I’ve been watching the platform and app ecosystem develop, and decided it was time to make the jump…

That’s a huge deal for me, the Apple Fan Boy, bought a non-Apple piece of hardware. Turns out, the hardware switch wasn’t as critical as the software switch. And I don’t mean the OS.

I stopped buying any content from Apple a long time ago. Sure, I used iBooks to test it out, but that’s all. No Apple content lived on my iPhone. When you buy digital content from Apple, you don’t actually own it, so getting your iTunes library, iBooks library, etc onto an Android device is a no go.

Having options (for portability) is very important; owning your data (or content) is more important. And, as we all know, if you can’t take something with you, it’s not yours…

In many ways, I now care less and less about owing content, and more about content portability, or more importantly accessibility. Cloud services like Spotify and We7 have made my music life so much easier. Password = Music. What could be easier?

Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader is all about accessibility (and circumnavigating the 30% Apple App Store tax). Via Amazon’s Cloud Reader, Password = Book Collection. On my iPhone, iPad, Android and Desktop. Easy.

Photos are slightly better than purchased content, but Apple still makes your life difficult. Photos on your photo roll in iOS will live there (mostly) thanks to restrictions by Apple. The new iCloud sync means they get backed up, but online access/sharing would be better. Password=Camera roll restore, which great, but… for Android, Lightbox is pioneering the way with an awesome “connected photo roll”. Lose your phone, log back in, and all your pictures are there.  And there’s a great online gallery where you can edit and share, so Password = Photos. Easy.

Everything else I use lives in the cloud anyway…  which I can get ubiquitous access to. The implication there is, data security will mean everything in the future. Both Google and Facebook (!!) will allow you to export and backup the data you’ve stored with them. Definitely a good alternative if you’re storing all your pictures and memories online.  Look for a future post  on data security-”it’s 4am, do you know where your data is?”.

Filed under: Android, Apple, iPhone, Mobile, Music, Software, Technology

Opera reinvents the web?

"Opera today (well, last week. I've been a little slow getting this post out) unveiled Opera Unite, a new technology that shakes up the old client-server computing model of the Web. Opera Unite turns any computer into both a client and a server, allowing it to interact with and serve content to other computers directly across the Web, without the need for third-party servers.

Opera Unite makes serving data as simple and easy as browsing the Web. For consumers, Opera Unite services give greater control of private data and make it easy to share data with any device equipped with a modern Web browser.


For Web developers, Opera Unite services are based on the same open Web standards as Web sites today. This dramatically simplifies the complexity of authoring cutting-edge Web services. With Opera Unite, creating a full Web service is now as easy as coding a Web page."
Full press release here.

Very interesting concept which I imagine Google will copy quickly, roll into Google Wave and Chrome…and leave in beta for 5 years. But they wouldn't be alone….

Nokia also has been working on making your phone into a server. I spent a lot of time last year looking into this space. It has some interesting implications on network usage and ease of use for photo sharing, etc… another problem that gets solved by having a local server is separation of data and application.

One of the problems with web apps is that the data and the application are intertwined. Separability of data and application was very clear in the desktop world- you could tote your word files with you anywhere… but with cloud apps, this is becoming much more difficult. (For example, have you tried to export your gmail messages?) As they say, if you can't take data with you, it's not yours… One of the benefits of having a "server" on your phone or laptop is that any pictures you take can still be accessed on Facebook, but you can host those on your own "server".  (And we all know Facebook is trying to build their own private version of the internet. If you believe things like that.)

The current problem with having a local server on your machine (any machine) is that you need to be a geek to make it work. Opera is moving this towards the masses, but it's still a Yahoo Pipes mass appeal. Google needs to make this dead easy to use – maybe that's part of what their doing with Wave…

Filed under: Internet, Software

Mozy (aka how not to backup your files)

I posted a great review of Mozy 12 months ago. I even used the word "snazzy".

I just cancelled my account with them. I absolutely DO NOT recommend their backup service. (Please be warned, a rant follows.)

<rant>

My MacBook Pro hard drive failed earlier this year and I needed to restore from my Mozy backup. After following their restore procedure, it became apparent that many, many GB of information were missing. 

I should have known this was coming, and hey to be fair it was beta, BUT they saw no problem in charging me full price during the beta period (I did request a refund, but was told I could "have an additional two months of their service").

Here are some fun email extracts from the saga:

26th June 2007

Sorry to be a pain, but is it normal that I've been waiting 24 hrs for an 8 byte doc to be made available for restore?

That puts a great fear in my heart of what would happen if I needed to restore 18GB….

2nd November 2007

I'm using the Mac client and am trying to restore my "documents" folder. The online archive suggests a file size of 700MB and 4,000 files. When I get the restore email, it is for 200MB and 700+ files.

I've tried twice now, and online it says its restoring less files but then the download is for far fewer files…

2nd February 2008

I haven't used mozy since the problems in november. I've downloaded RC1- it's has caused kernel panics, uses excessive memory (1GB) and has crashed on every attempted backup. I'm even running a fresh install of 10.5…

I really am a very unhappy customer having paid for this service- which was useless when it came to restoring my machine and your support was very sad too. I test lots of beta products and you really shouldn't be charging for this software.

Their answer:

"I always suggest that as the Mac client does work wonderfully for many users, myself included, but there are those times where it doesn't work so well.

I can extend your account by a couple months if you wish to continue using our service."

3rd Feb 2008 (This was after the crash!)

The problem isn't just with the mac client- it was server side. Of the 50+GB i had uploaded, when it came time to restore, only 30-odd GB was available. The restore files that I configured online and downloaded contained a fraction of the files they should have.

And here's the answer:

Good afternoon,

I took a look at the restore that only was able to recover 768 of 5937. It looks like a good chunk of those files are bundles or packages, which weren't supported until 0.9.0.0. I'm not sure why the others weren't able to be recovered. When that happens, we can do whatever we need to do to get the files back.

Except that they DID NOTHING to get them back for me! 


And 768 out of 5937!? That's only 12% of the files I had backed up. I went back and did a double check and virtually zero files were packages (50GB were photos and music- the whole reason for using a backup service).

I've now complained so many times, that I am blue in the face. I have also told them that I'm blogging this.

Please, if you use a Mac and love your files, do not use Mozy.
</Rant>

Filed under: Software

Smartsynch raises $20 Million (Jackson, Mississippi)

It's not everyday that my hometown shows up in VentureSource, so I had to repost this:
SMARTSYNCH (JACKSON, MS) RAISES $20 MILLION IN SERIES E
— Industry: Vertical Market Applications Software —


Credit Suisse Customized Fund Investment led a $20 million round of
series E financing for SmartSynch. Other round investors included Siemens Venture Capital, Beacon Group, and OPG Ventures, Innovation
Valley Partners, Endeavor Capital Management, GulfSouth Capital,
Southern Farm Bureau, and Battelle Ventures. SmartSynch provides
smart metering solutions to the energy and utility industry.

SmartSynch’s solutions provide utility companies and their customers with the unprecedented power to take control of their resource usage. SmartSynch’s core product delivers actionable intelligence from electricity meters via public wireless networks and the Internet.

Filed under: Software

The Next Web

Good post over at Genuine VC yesterday covering the History of the Web:

…a transition among three distinct phases of consumers’ primary activity online from receiving, to hunting, and now doing…

Receiving, Hunting, Doing is a good indication of what we’ve seen so far- and I think we’re going full circle to "Receiving" again- only this time from intelligent sources.

Two examples are Kwiry or Tripit. With Tripit, you email them your travel itneratry and they scour the web in the background and send you a nice package of maps, directions, thoughtful suggestions, etc.

I’ve posted many times about "intelligence inside" which lives in the same neighborhood as the Semantic Web:

…I also think there’s a huge opportunity to get to data sooner via the sensor revolution. When phones report location, when phones listen to ambient sound, when credit cards report spending patterns, when cars report their miles traveled, when we’re increasingly turning every device into a sensor for the global brain, there will be more and more sources of data to be mined…

All of which means the process is reversing: doing by machines, hunting by spiders and receiving by users- remix and repeat.

Filed under: Artificial Intelligence, Software, Technology

My new pet monster

MoshiI was given a Moshi Monster phone charm by our “secret santa” this year. I was pleased to see that Mind Candy (an Accel and Spark Ventures investment) was behind the charm and that it linked to a virtual pets style website. I’ve now registered and adopted a monster, my new, if somewhat despondent, moshi monster called Alpi:

Alpi

Moshi Monsters is kind of a Second Life for Kids with a tamagotchi thrown in… the puzzles they offer kids as edutainment are definitely cool -some of the brain teasers are very similar to nintendo’s Brain Training game. I haven’t spent long periods of time with my monster (and probably won’t), but I can see where kids could really get into this. The site has just launched, so traffic volumes are still relatively low, but they are growing. Only time will tell if this turns into a monster of an investment ;-)

Filed under: Software

The End of Email?

Email looks like it might be enjoying the end of its reign as the de facto killer app.

The post and graph below from Hitwise really brings home where the web is going. For the first time last month, UK Internet visits to social networks (blue line) overtook visits to web-based email services (orange line). As the chart below illustrates, Hitwise’s category of the top 25 social networks, which includes Facebook, Bebo and MySpace, accounted for 5.17% of all UK Internet visits, compared to 4.98% for Computers and Internet – Email Services, which includes Hotmail; Yahoo! Mail and Gmail, amongst others.

Social_networks_vs_email_2

Moving to the wireless web, one of the key reasons I’m looking forward to buying an iPhone tomorrow is not just the “appleberry” that will be with me at all times, it’s twitter, facebook, etc at my fingertips. Always on, all the time -

Filed under: Software

Tumblr Funding

Union Square Ventures announced blogged their investment in Tumblr yesterday.

I set up a Tumblr account in early summer and it’s been silently collecting all my posts from TechBytes, my posts from Twitter, delicious links and Flickr public photos. It does give a good “global” snapshot of my online activity- which is a good thing.

I’ve been grappling with posting something on Twitter and posting on TechBytes- but Tumblr captures both. Blogs are about conversations- microblogs are about communicating and community. I have to admit, Tumblr gets pretty close to blog nirvana- but;

I haven’t figured out if you can configure private messages and posts (for friends) alongside public info. Also if they can roll cocomment style comment tracking into the mix, they’re really off to the races…

Filed under: Software, Venture Capital

Intelligence Inside

I’m always on the look out for smart new apps that save me time.

Feeds2.0 is one of my stand-bys for RSS readers. It ranks incoming articles based on your previous reading patterns and tends to border on clairvoyance. Pretty amazing stuff.

That said, I’m up for trying new services. A few new ones I’ve come across this week are:
aiderss
feedhub
pipes
silobreaker (thanks Rob)

All of them are slightly different, but very useful. I’m trying out feedhub sent through Google Reader. We’ll see if their results can top Feeds 2.0. Pipes is just so hackable, it begs to be loved and silobreaker is a news-junkie’s best friend. Enjoy.

Filed under: Artificial Intelligence, Software, Technology

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