georges' blog

March 28, 2008

Renting Movies at iTunes

Filed under: Technology — kendall @ 11:17 pm

I’m not going to say yet that I’m addicted to renting movies at iTunes, but we’ve done it three times in about a week and I just have to say, “I like it.” I’m sure we’ll slow down, like immediately, but it really is a convenient way to rent quality films just as soon as they are out and you don’t even have to leave the house. As I said in an earlier post, being able to watch while it is downloading is choice. My experience is that after about a hour of lead time, the remainder downloads concurrently with watching. But, also, I was able to just grab a flick that I knew I wanted to watch though I didn’t know how soon. You have a month to watch, so you can load up a couple of flicks no problem.

So, I’m not a junkie, but am converted and a satisfied customer.

March 22, 2008

On-demand video is the way of the future revisited.

Filed under: Technology — kendall @ 12:46 am

I guess it was at MacWord 2008 that Steve Jobs announced that Apple would start renting movies through iTunes. Well, a few nights ago, Claudia and I rented our first film through the iTunes store. We rented Michael Clayton. It was a decent film, but not one we would necessarily want in our personal library. So, it was a perfect occasion for renting. However, our local video stores are a bit slow to acquire new releases. So, iTunes came to our rescue and overall, it was a good renting and viewing experience. We live halfway around the world, but the download was still only about two and a half hours–1.5 GB. iTunes let’s you start watching while it’s still downloading. So, after about two-thirds was downloaded, we started watching and the download finished before the movie did, so our viewing was not interrupted. We’ve done the same with LOST which we purchase through the iTunes store as well so we’re used to this routine. We aren’t used to broadband performance in the States, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some people stateside are able to purchase and start viewing immediately or nearly immediately. But I would expect that just about anyone could purchase a movie rental before dinner and by the time the kid’s are tucked in, enough or all of the movie would be downloaded and mom and dad could settle in for a little home theater. Anyhow, Apple gets my thumbs up for putting together an on-demand video paradigm that just works.

Another service to keep your eye on is hulu.com. These guys are offering commercial TV for free on-demand. There are commercials, but you’ll get fewer commercial-minutes than broadcast television. Unfortunately, these guys aren’t allowing viewing from overseas, but we’ll see if I can’t figure out a way around that!

I said on-demand video was the way of the future and I’m sure there is more to come.

Desktop Blogging Apps

Filed under: Technology — kendall @ 12:21 am

I like the freedom to edit my blog, basically any where I am by jumping on any computer with an Internet connection and logging into the admin interface at georges.nu/blog. This is particularly nice on any Mac machine which spell checks for you in any browser by default. However, on my own machines, I’ve gotten into the habit of using desktop blogging software. I like the convenience. It’s faster. You’ve got spell check. You’ve got other admin features. You can save local copies to work offline. Anyhow, I just like it. It feels right. On my Windows machines, for this purpose, I use (this may come as a surprise) Microsoft Word 2007. The blogging features work nicely. And since we all have spent a lot of time in Word, it is comfortable. You’ve got all the language tools you need: spell check, grammar check, and thesaurus. I need all the help I can get. At one point (before Office 2007 came out) it seemed like I often found myself editing in Word and then copying over to the browser interface anyhow. Now to be able to simply post when I’m finished is a great little time saver. The thing is, I just got a new MacBook Air, which has become my main portable. I’ve got both Office 2008 and iWork. But Word 2008 for Mac doesn’t have the blogging facilities of Word 2007 for Windows. If I was a conspiracy theorist, I would see here a deliberate effort by Microsoft to cripple their Mac offering to undermine their competitor, Apple. It is rather inexplicable. I generally find that the Mac products from Microsoft are classier and “funner” than their Windows counterparts. Anyhow, since Word 2008 doesn’t have the blogging facility, where does that leave me for a desktop blogging app for Mac? Well, there are a lot of voices out there. It is hard to tell who is out front, but I’m placing my bets on ecto. It has a feature rich editor. All the admin functions you need. And it is priced better than its main competition. I’ve drafted this post using ecto. We’ll se how it goes.

March 7, 2008

News Flash: Phanfare Sucks

Filed under: Technology — kendall @ 10:30 pm

The information in this post is no longer accurate. Phanfare has back-peddled on many of the lame changes they had made. I for one am very pleased about that and say as much in a follow-on post here.

I got this email today saying “Congratulations! Your Phanfare account has been upgraded.” Phanfare is guilty of misusing both the words “congratulations” and “upgraded.” Instead it should have said, “Aha! We got you. You thought we were friends. You didn’t see this coming, but we just [expletive removed] you royal! Ha, ha, ha, ha!”

Just wanted to go public on this one. Phanfare sucks. They’ve turned their backs on their loyal (and very happy) customers in order to try to grab a slice of the social networking and photo printing pie. I was one of those very happy Phanfare customers. Their ease of use was truly second to none. This was a choice feature. I wanted something that Claudia could use easily. It is important that managing your galleries is easy, so you keep them up to date. Phanfare’s client was a pleasure to use. It allowed you to edit galleries, descriptions, captions, everything while the pictures upload in the background. If you made changes on the fly. No problem, the client kept track of it. If you disconnected. It finished next time you’re connected. I wanted my galleries to be ad-free and require no login. They had it. I wanted unlimited storage and user access to my hi-res, full-sized originals. Check. If I wanted to use a custom URL, like photos.georges.nu, I could. Their only weaknesses were that their themes were a bit limited and thumbnails were cropped to a square. Other than that I was really content. I was also committed. I bought the $300 lifetime membership. Pricey, but it was supposed to be a lifetime. Little did know they’d pull the rug off from under me in less than a year.

Now they are requiring that your visitors also get free Phanfare accounts. They’ll need to sign in in order to view your galleries. You’ll be able to see their pictures as well, and keep up-to-date with any activity in their accounts. But this is not how I use my account. This is not how I ever intend to use my account. I’m not interested in trying to get all my friends and family on this service! I just want them to view my pictures!

Well, I’m done with Phanfare. I used to love ’em. Now I hate ’em. They betrayed me. I’m going to have to spend who knows how many hours getting my pictures moved over to a new service. I didn’t want any of my regular visitors to get sucked into Phanfare’s new scam, so I tried to move quickly. I got my smugmug account set up and a couple of my most recent galleries moved over. And I got my links at my website updated. All in less than 24 hours after receiving the bad news. Unfortunately, I wasn’t faster than my mom. She tried to check out our gallery today and was greeted with the “You must sign in to view this gallery” notice. So, she’s one of the new Phanfare 2.0 users. So Phanfare’s user stats are skyrocketing, but I predict it will amount to nothing. They’ll have 99% inactive accounts. What good is that?

Anyhow about smugmug. It has most of the features I want. And the price is essentially the same as Phanfare, only they don’t offer a lifetime membership. They have more themes and more customization. That’s good. But their user interface is not as great as Phanfare. Also you don’t get the custom URL unless you buy the $149 per year pro account. I’m not willing to pay $80 per year for that feature. You get a lot more features with the pro account, of course, but that’s really the only one I’m interested in.

Other disgruntled Phanfare users out there? You might also give zoto.com a look. They have a lot of the same basic features as Phanfare, but the price is a lot more affordable–$19.95 per year. Again, like smugmug, their client is not anywhere as cool as Phanfare, but what can you do?

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