SmugMug Totally Rocks!

smugmug_logoOkay, I just spent a few minutes dissing Google for their lame implementation of a Calendar App. Now to something that doesn’t suck: SmugMug‘s incredible photo sharing site. For years, I’ve been trying to find a way to take my pro and not-so-pro images from my own archive to a more publicly accessible format. Mostly, I’ve cranked out slideshows or galleries with tools like Slideshow Pro for Joomla or from within Lightroom with various 3rd party widgets. And while it worked, it didn’t work well at all. it was cumbersome and gave very mixed results, particularly when it came time to disseminate images widely.

So I finally decided that the way to go might be one of the online outfits. Yes, I’ve known about Picassa and Flikr and all the others for years, but the one that leapt out at me early on was SmugMug. It seemed really friendly, somehow, professional yet unpretentious, efficient yet fun. After a recent trip to Europe, I opened up an account and starting playing around. I was blown away by the whole thing — it’s by far the best application I’ve seen in a long, long time. Add to that Jeffrey Friedl’s totally amazing Adobe Lightroom plugin that makes it ridiculously easy to move images from your archive to the web with granular control, and you’ve got a winning package. No, SmugMug is not free. Nor is Jeff’s widget. But, really. They are *so* worth the price of admission if you do anything even remotely serious with images. If you’ve just got a couple of snaps to drop on friends now and then? Don’t bother, obviously. Go with Facebook or one of the big freebie sites. But for the real deal, SmugMug is the best deal. Thanks, guys.

Google Calendar — feh…

Wrong_CalendarSo, I’ve been migrating to Google Calendar over the course of the past couple of months, particularly for use in connection with my work running part of the Ford Sayre Nordic Racing program here in my neck of the woods. Now, I’ve been a Google fan since waay back when, but lately I’ve been less than impressed. First of all, their disaster of a login system is putting me off big time (I’ve got a domain account, a separate gmail account, a regular google apps account — and no way of consolidating them, so I spend forever logging in and out and up and down in order to get anything done. It’s ridiculous that Google can’t find a way to help user consolidate this stuff, so we have one master login with access to all our Google toys).

And then there are the quirks within apps like the calendar. Hey, it’s a great tool — and it’s free, so you can’t really knock it. But, seriously. I enter an event and fill in the description field — and then I discover that there’s absolutely no way in hell of displaying the info in the description field anywhere? I mean, WTF? Apparently, that field can only be printed out on an agenda or something irrelevant like that. But, c’mon, this is pathetic, Google. And what’s really pathetic is the fact that users have been begging for this obvious feature for well over a year now, with no — absolutely no — response from the Google developers. Posting after posting on the official Google calendar help forum with no response at all.

At this point, I’m tempted to find a workaround, but it’s really irritating — and a discredit to the Google reputation as a provider of near flawless services — that the calendar app is out there with such an obvious shortcoming. At very best a C+ for this effort, Google. Next time, show your work and do it right.

Take a Quiz… No, Wait. Don’t.

copyright_symbol.gifWTF? I know that RIAA and all the other bloodsuckers out there would like our kids to worship at the alters of © and ™ daily, thanking the Powers that Be for crappy content at outrageous prices. But this quiz — supposedly intended to “educate” kids about do’s and don’ts in the world of rights management — is phenomenally misleading.

Take the question: “It’s OK to copy content from the Internet for your own personal use.” The answer, according to the Business Software Alliance, is FALSE:

It is illegal to copy any part of a copyrighted work without the copyright holder’s permission, whether you plan to keep the copy to yourself or distribute it to others. The only exception is “fair use,” which permits copying a limited amount of a copyrighted work without the copyright holder’s permission for purposes such as scholarship and research. U.S. copyright law also contains specific provisions regarding archival copies of copyrighted works that you have purchased and temporary copies of copyrighted works that have been broadcast.

Have they never heard of public domain content — like Project Gutenberg or the millions of pages of content posted with a Creative Commons designation? I know, I know: to the lawyers at the BSA, the whole concept of Open Source and public domain is like Kryptonite: scary, dangerous stuff that undermines their very reason for being. The only exeception is “fair use”? Really: get your facts straight before you wag your big finger in our faces, will you?

Oh, or this gem: “It’s OK to trade copies of music, films, and software through a file-sharing network?” Guess what? According to the BSA the answer is FALSE. But, really now, doesn’t it very much depend on the explicit copyright status of the item shared? I mean, even though these bastards would like to get a cut every time we breathe, sharing per se isn’t illegal yet, is it now?

My local school has decided that a link to this crap is warranted; at least they also provide a link to the much more useful Creative Commons.

Update (11/5/09): seriously, the lawyers, lobbyists and other idiots (but I repeat myself) who are working on this stuff are completely delusional. Apparently, I can  now be sent to jail for ripping a CD to my computer so I don’t have to schlep around the damn thing to hear the songs I bought?!? Meanwhile, Sir Change-a-Lot and his administration have refused to publicize their plans for overhaul of copyright legislation on the basis of “national security” — what, the North Koreans are going to flood us with counterfeit DVDs if they find out what our goons are planning?