tag:www.william-porter.com,2013:/posts Parturiunt Montes 2018-02-25T00:26:20Z William Porter tag:www.william-porter.com,2013:Post/1250548 2018-02-21T05:00:00Z 2018-02-25T00:26:20Z Maybe I should stay with Google? Nah....

The other day I almost decided to stick with Google after all. Then I came to my senses.


Doubts? I had a few

When I stepped away from Google six months ago, I was in the middle of the annual contracts on both of my G Suite accounts (personal and work). As I explained in an earlier post ("How do I replace thee?"), I had no trouble finding very good replacements for the services I was paying Google for. Posthaven has turned out to be a great blogging platform, especially for the kind of thing I do. And ProtonMail for email has been a delight. Nevertheless, last week I started to wonder if abandoning Google isn't a mistake. It's not that I began to think I was wrong about the malign aspects of Google's influence. But the G Suite accounts provide a lot of services, some of them are good (especially Documents) and they are pretty inexpensive. I already quit Google once, two years ago, and then ended up coming back after I'd deleted my old accounts. Not the way to do it. And my accounts are set to renew (and charge my credit cards) in the next month, so it's decision time.

Sunday (two days ago) I reconnected my Google work account to my email, by editing the pertinent DNS records at Hover. Hover is fabulous and makes domain management as easy as possible (unlike, say, GoDaddy). And creating MX records is easy. The problem is that there are a couple other little tasks that need to be done, including verifying domain ownership. Should be easy, but wasn't. In fact, dealing with Google's help-system hell was a bit like trying to do my income taxes. You can get a glimpse of what I'm talking about here.

https://support.google.com/a/answer/6248925?hl=en

Hardly a sentence without a conditional clause and/or a link to another web page. At one point I had about a dozen pages open, some of them duplicates.

I did switch email for work back to Google, and used it all day yesterday. But last night when I started to switch my personal email out of ProtonMail and back over to Google, in the middle of the process, I realized that this was nuts. The Google accounts might be cheap, but I'd lost several billable hours fooling around with Google's absurdly complex instructions. This has always been Google's weakness. Getting help is a nightmare.


Back to the future

So I undid everything and went back to ProtonMail. This meant setting up ProtonMail again, more or less from scratch. Took me about fifteen minutes to do both accounts, and there was never a moment in the process when I wasn't confident about what I was supposed to do. One of the things that was a problem at Google is the fact that, in both of my Google accounts, I needed to use multiple email addresses. Setting this up in ProtonMail was simplicity itself. 

So I balked for a day, but I'm once again resolved and will be deleting my Google accounts permanently in the next week or two. I have already downloaded everything and archived it. I'm not sure what I'm doing to miss. Not much.


And the gold medal goes to ProtonMail

Of all the services provided in the G Suite, the most important to me by far is email. Email is a lot harder than you might think. Managing the servers is hard, but it's also very hard to build a great app. It's even harder when you're trying to tie email in with a full menu of other services. Dropbox tried and gave up on it. Apple, Yahoo and Microsoft keep trying but they don't do it well. Among the Giants, only Google does a decent job. That might explain why more people use Google for mail than any other service (20-25% of the users in the world!).

But of all the dedicated email services I've tried and used, ProtonMail is hands down the best. For starters, I'm pretty sure the Swiss gnomes who run ProtonMail are not reading my email. The web app too is very good, more modern than Gmail and less busy than Inbox, and the iOS app is good too. Finally, ProtonMail provides platinum standard security. Great security has benefits even for people who have nothing to hide (like me): it prevents your email from being hijacked or spoofed. ProtonMail isn't used as a gateway to other apps which also makes it a less tempting target.

You can get a free account from ProtonMail, and if you do sign up, tell 'em I sent you!

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William Porter
tag:www.william-porter.com,2013:Post/1242819 2018-02-04T22:22:46Z 2018-02-04T22:24:19Z How to organize the tools in DxO PhotoLab (or Optics Pro)
The subject of this post is worded the way it is to help the search engines. In fact, I am not going to tell you how to organize your tools. I'm just going to describe how I organize mine.

I think this question is worth talking about because DxO's photo editing apps by default scatter tools all over the place and getting a handle on these tools can be very confusing. I've been using DxO's editors for a long time, but I remember still how confusing the tools were to me when I first got started. I think the best way to understand the user interface in these apps — I am referring to the older Optics Pro and the newer PhotoLab, which has a nearly identical user interface — is simply to accept that you need to tinker with the palettes and the panels until you have the tools you want, placed where you want them.


Overview

Generally I work with keyboard shortcuts, or the tools in the toolbar (crop, local adjustments etc), or with the panels on the right. On the right I try to leave one and only one palette expanded at a time. This means I have to click once to collapse (close) a panel, then click again to expand (open) the panel I want to use next. I wish that PhotoLab had the feature Lightroom has to automatically show only 1 palette at a time!

The panels on the left are ones I don’t use much, with exception of Vignetting. I put that in the ‘Frame’ panel that I created, where I also put horizon and crop. I generally use horizon and crop from the toolbar, and so I would like not to have those tools confusing me over on the right; and vignetting seems to belong with them as much as anything else so that’s where I put it.

Note that I’m talking here just about ‘Customize’ mode. You can’t edit things much in ‘Organize’ mode. You can’t even really organize in Organize mode. PhotoLab isn’t an asset management app.

I want to emphasize that there’s no right way to do this. Whatever works for you is what you should do. One of the advantages of my approach is that it is pretty similar to the arrangement of the tools in Lightroom CC. Now I find the tools in Lightroom to be very logically and sensibly arranged, so I think my preferred arrangement of tools in PhotoLab is logical and sensible, as well. But even Lightroom's user interface were not as logically or sensibly arranged as it is, there would be some value (for me) in having tools in Lightroom CC and PhotoLab setup more or less the same way, in order to tax my brain as little as possible.

One last point: PhotoLab supports “Workspaces”. Might be a good idea for some users. I’ve never made use of them. Instead of creating my own personal workspace, I just edit the DxO default.

With those prelims out of the way, here is how I have PhotoLab configured.


On the right side of the screen

On the right side of the screen I have these palettes with these panels in this order:


HISTOGRAM

- Histogram (which I generally do NOT leave visible)



EXPOSURE

- Exposure Compensation

- Smart Lighting

- Selective Tone

- Tone Curve



COLOR

- White Balance

- Color Accentuation

- Hue / Saturation / Lightness

- Color Rendering

- Style & Toning



DETAIL

- Noise Reduction

- Contrast

- Unsharp Mask

- Repair

- Moiré

- Red Eye



LENS

- Focal Length

- Focusing Distance

- Distortion

- Chromatic Aberration

- Lens Sharpness



DXO VIEWPOINT

- Perspective

- Volume Deformation

- Miniature Effect



FILM PACK

- Here are placed all the Film Pack modules. There are quite a few of them and I do use them sometimes but I have never quite sorted them out. Truth is, if I'm going to touch these modules, I actually prefer to do it in the Film Pack app itself, which has a much more attractive user interface.



Left side of the screen

On the left side I have


MOVE/ZOOM

- the Move/Zoom tool (which stays visible all the time)



EXIF

- the EXIF editor (also visible all the time)



FRAME

- Horizon

- Crop

- Vignetting



PRESET EDITOR

- the Presets tool



Final word

And that's all I have to say about that!


I must admit that, since I started using Lightroom CC, I'm using PhotoLab somewhat less than I used to. This is partly because Lightroom CC doesn't play well with other apps, and I hope that changes very soon. But it's also partly because Lightroom CC includes lens corrections for most of the lenses I use and because I find its editing tools about as effective as those in PhotoLab or Optics Pro. I wish that Lightroom CC had a microcontrast slider, but to be honest, when I work in DxO PhotoLab now, I miss more things from Lightroom CC than I miss from PhotoLab when I work in Lightroom CC. I could be very happy doing all my editing in PhotoLab, which has a brilliant editor, especially now that we have local adjustment tools (available only from the toolbar). But as I said above, PhotoLab makes no effort to be an asset management tool at all, and I need that almost more than I need an editor.

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William Porter
tag:www.william-porter.com,2013:Post/1238393 2018-01-26T18:43:53Z 2018-01-27T06:35:12Z What's the best photo management system for me?

There are a large number of excellent photo editors and/or raw converters available these days, and a smaller but still not insignificant number of digital asset management apps with greater or lesser capabilities. To sort this out, I have to decide what are my own personal requirements. I am publishing this because I think my requirements may be similar to those of many other serious but not full-time photographers.


So what do I require from the system I entrust my photos to?


1, Backup or “drive independence”

My photo files must be safe. Basically that means “reliably backed up.” I want the files to be proof against drive failure, home burglary and/or tornadoes.

This first requirement is important mostly for the options it eliminates. Reliable backup must include off-site backup. But that doesn’t require iCloud Photo Library or Adobe’s storage. It could mean storing master files in Dropbox, or it could even mean using an ordinary cloud backup service (although that’s an extra cost). But it probably means that I cannot put the master files on a separate portable hard drive, because the failure rate for portable drives is not zero, and they aren’t constantly backed up unless they’re constantly connected to a computer — and if you’re moving a hard drive from one computer to another as needed, it will NOT always be connected.


2, Device independence

I’d like access to my photos NOT to be dependent on a single, particular computer. In other words, I want to be able to access my master photos from my desktop computer (iMac) and one or both of my laptops (MacBook Pro and Dell XPS 15). I’d also like to be access and edit photos on my iPhone. Clearly, I need some sort of cloud-based storage for these files.

This requirement is similar but not identical to the preceding one (“drive independence”). 


3, Optimized storage

If I store my files in the cloud, clearly, the cloud storage system needs to have a way of optimizing file size, since my MacBook Pro and iPhone that don’t have nearly enough disk capacity to store full-size copies of all my files. That means iCloud Photo Library, or Adobe Lightroom CC, or perhaps Dropbox with "optimized storage" enabled.

I’ve now eliminated Lightroom Classic CC, because it doesn’t come with a storage plan and if the files are stored in Dropbox, I don’t think Lightroom Classic will sync the libraries. This leaves me with a choice between Photos and Lightroom CC (2018).

Apple uses a complex "smart" system to figure out how much to download to my smaller devices. If I want to edit a file on my MacBook Pro and if that master file isn't already on the MBP's hard drive, Photos will download a copy of the master file. This system seems to work well but I have little control over it. I do like knowing that, since I have selected "Download originals to this Mac" in Photos on the iMac, my master copies are available to me, even if (say) iCloud suffers a catastrophic collapse. I like knowing also that I'm backing up my originals using Time Machine.

Lightroom CC's approach is a more flexible. All of your photos will be uploaded to the Adobe cloud, and apparently Adobe regards the files in the cloud as the masters. But you have the option to store local copies of files, so it looks as if I could set things up with Lightroom CC pretty much the way I have them setup with Photos and iCloud Photo Library, but perhaps with more options. Lightroom CC for example gives me the option to leave the master in the cloud or keep a local copy globally but also on a photo by photo basis. In other words, I can easily tell Lightroom CC on my iMac (with its large hard drive) to save local copies of everything, but override that setting for individual photos that I don't want to delete but wouldn't mind losing if the cloud were to fail. For this reason I like Adobe's approach better. Of course, it simply can't be that easy: Storage in iCloud is a little cheaper than storage from Adobe.


4, Good tools for finding photos

The software I use to access, organize, search and manage my photos should allow me to edit important bits of metadata (like keywords, ratings, descriptions and ideally faces, too) and also allow me to find photos on these criteria or others that I think of. Be nice if the software supported mapping, face detection, finding by camera and/or lens, etc. but those are not essential. Do need to be able to create collections or albums. Note that I use the word “software” rather than app here because I am at least in theory open to the idea of using the computer's own file management tools (i.e., the macOS Finder). But I doubt that would be a good solution.

Apple Photos does a pretty good job, although not nearly as good as Lightroom Classic does. Lightroom CC works somewhat differently but in many respects I think it has more powerful finding and filtering features. Apple has face detection, which Lightroom CC lacks; but Lightroom CC goes way beyond that and can identify locations and elements in photos. For example, even if you've never keyworded a single image with the word "dog", Lightroom CC can find photos with dogs in them.

ON1 Photo RAW has pretty good library management tools and might be a good solution for someone willing to store files locally, but it’s not really setup to meet my requirements 1, 2 and 3 above.


5, Good tools for reviewing and rating images

The DAM app should make it easy for me to review and rate the photos from a shoot quickly. "Easy" means this all has to be done from the keyboard. Evaluating images sometimes means I have to compare two very similar images to see which is better, and it would be very useful if the app I select would allow me to compare similar photos side-by-side.

Annoyingly, neither Lightroom CC nor Apple Photos currently supports side-by-side comparison of images. ON1 Photo Raw 2018 does, but I’ve already disqualified it as my DAM solution. 

But in other respects, Lightroom CC's rating, selecting and keywording tools are clearly better. Photos does not have a number rating system or a "pick" button or labels and keywording images involves clicking in the info panel with your pointing device. I sometimes think Apple is interested only in people who take a million photos with their iPhone and never edit, organize or delete any of them.


6, Cooperation with third-party editing apps

I’d like to be free to edit my photos in several different apps (DxO Photo Lab, ON1 Photo Raw 2018, Luminar 2018). But ideally I’d like the DAM software to have some photo editing tools as well, partly because a quick edit in the same app I use to access my photos is often all I need, and partly because a quick edit is sometimes required to decide if a photo is worth keeping or not.

Photos does a very good job at this, partly because it’s built into the OS, partly because it supports extensions, and partly because it's popular enough to attact attention from third party editors. Lightroom CC on the other hand fails miserably in this category. As of late January 2018, Lightroom CC does not support editing in other apps at all. I'm stunned. Lightroom Classic CC — the old app — was quite good in this respect. 


7, System reliability (trustworthiness, longevity)

When I say "system reliability," I don't mean that I want the system to have low down time or no bugs. That goes without saying. What I do mean is that I want the system I entrust my photos to, to be worthy of that trust, and to allow me to hope that it will be around for a long time.

Ideally, whatever system I set up in 2018 will keep working for the rest of my life or at least until I get tired of playing around with my photos, whichever comes first. I don’t mean “working on the same computer without updates.” But I mean, if I commit to an app today, I’d like to be reasonably confident that it’ll be alive and actively supported in, say, five years. (Nobody can see twenty years into the future with this technology.)

Unfortunately, I’m not sure I trust Apple in this way. I still do not know why Apple canceled Aperture. At one point it was arguably the best raw workflow app in the world. But apparently there were not enough serious photographers using Macs and Aperture to keep Apple interested. In my view, the cancelation of Aperture was a betrayal of its customers, plain and simple.

Adobe on the other has always catered to serious photographers. So here, strong point in favor of Lightroom CC.


8, Support for sharing, printing, exporting

Not sure where to stick this in the list, but I guess I'd be willing to pay a few dollars more for good output options, so I'm placing it just above "Affordability" (the next requirement). Even if the DAM software doesn’t support sharing with Flickr or printing (think, the free version of Adobe Bridge), this can be done from my third-party editing apps and/or via the operating system. It’s useful to me to be able to click the “Publish on Flickr” or “Share via Messages” button in Photos, but not as important as the requirements above.


9, Affordability

I should perhaps add that cost is an issue for me. Apple Photos is free with the macOS, and I get 2TB of iCloud Library storage for about the same price I'll pay to use Lightroom CC with 1TB of storage. But 1TB of storage for my photos will probably work for me for a while. I need to delete a lot of images anyway. So affordability is a tie between Lightroom CC and Photos. The affordability requirement mainly means I'm not considering switching (say) to Capture One Pro and Media Pro SE, while storing images on a large Dropbox account.


10, File format support (specifically HEIF)

As of January 2018, Lightroom CC on my computer does not support the HEIF file format that the newer iPhones provide as an alternative to JPEG for image files. HEIF is not an Apple format but it strikes me as a good idea, my iPhone 7 Plus can use it, and Photos supports this format. Hard to tell if it will survive, but since I'm using it on my iPhone, it's nice that Photos supports it. On the other hand, if I decide to convert to Lightroom CC, I'll just turn HEIF off in my phone and that will be that.

I am happy that Lightroom CC supports .MTS video files.

For other file formats, Apple seems to update its support for raw files about as quickly as Adobe does. My cameras are all supported.


11, Editing in the cloud

Now we're in deep water indeed. But this is a topic about which I have strong feelings. 

Adobe Lightroom CC has been designed to allow editing in your web browser, if you wish to do that. And the app in your browser has all the functions that the native app on your hard drive has. This probably goes most of the way to explaining why Lightroom CC does not have quite all the functions available in its predecessor, now-called Lightroom Classic CC. With the new Lightroom CC, you can access and edit your files even if you do not have access to any of your own devices. 

With Apple Photos? While I can view my photos at iCloud.com, I cannot do anything with them. I can't even edit metadata.

This is not an oversight. Apple's main products are the Mac and the iPhone, both of which are closed platforms. To run macOS or iOS you need to buy a Mac or an iPhone. Apple's willing to use servers to sync files between users of its own devices, but it is not keen to provide access to that syncing cloud service on devices other than Macs or iPhones. Why? Because Apple is not really a software company, it's a hardware company. Apple doesn't want more people using Photos, they want to get more people buying Macs and iPhones, iPhones especially, since they are where the profits are these days.

This is why Apple will not allow its wholly-owned subsidiary FileMaker to build FileMaker Go for Android. It's a massively obvious idea, with a huge potential market, but it would mean that FileMaker users (who already can work on PCs running Windows) would now be able to continue using their Android phones, too.

This short-sighted, self-interested view is also the reason that Dropbox is so superior to iCloud Drive. Dropbox is platform agnostic so you can get to your files from any device. And it has a terrific user interface. iCloud, on the other hand is really intended only to work with Apple devices.

It's hard to argue with Apple's financial decisions, but I don't care about that: I'm not an investor in the company. The right decision here is the one that works best for me. As it happens, precisely because cloud-based apps work so well for users, I believe that software in the cloud is the future for nearly everything. Apple doesn't realize it but Google has already won this battle, and Adobe here is following Google's lead.


12, Image editing tools

Last on the list for a reason. Yes, I would like my DAM software to support some kind of editing. Sometimes I need a quick adjustment to exposure or contrast to tell if an image can be saved or not. Adobe Bridge + Camera Raw might do the trick. And of course if the DAM app's image editing tools are really good, well, that's great.

But this is last on my list because of requirement 6 above: “cooperation with third-party editors”. I am willing to do my important editing in DxO Photo Lab or Luminar or ON1 Photo RAW, if I have to. Not sure whether I’ll keep all of them forever, but they are all excellent. I'm still making up my mind about ON1 Photo RAW 2018 and Luminar, but I am pretty sure I'll stick with DxO Photo Lab forever.

And notice that this requirement comes after requirement eleven ("editing in the cloud"). It looks to me like, as of January 2018, Lightroom CC is at least as capable an editor as Photos in High Sierra. Photos hasn't quite evolved back to the app that Aperture was, but it has gotten better every year. Lightroom required some devolution in order to work as a cloud app; that's why Lightroom CC is less capable in some key respects than its older sibling now called Lightroom Classic CC. If I select Lightroom CC, I'm going to continue to edit in DxO Photo Lab but I'll have to go to a little more trouble. Given how good Lightroom CC's tools are, perhaps I would stay in Lightroom more than I stay in Photos.


*


So what is the best photo management app for me?

It’s pretty clear there are only two choices that more or less answer all the requirements above: Adobe Lightroom CC or Apple Photos. 


While Photos meets my first three requirements (safety or drive independence, device independence, and optimized storage), it does not answer requirements four (good tools for finding images) or five (good tools for rating and selecting images) as well as Lightroom CC. Photos definitely doesn't do as well with requirement seven (long-term system reliability). Given Apple's tendency over the last forty years to abandon projects, I simply don't trust it. Photos does provide good support for third-party editors and for output (printing and sharing with services like Facebook and others). But requirement eleven (cloud editing) puts Apple on the wrong side of the future.

It took me close to a month to get all of my files into Apple Photos on my iMac and then uploaded them all to iCloud. The thought of downloading everything again and then uploading it all to Adobe's servers gives me a big headache. But that's the way I'm leaning at the moment.

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William Porter
tag:www.william-porter.com,2013:Post/1231105 2018-01-12T20:55:25Z 2018-01-12T20:55:25Z Assange on Google

It's about two years old now, but I just discovered this long essay by Julian Assange on Google:


Google is not what you think


My complaints about Google are comparatively mild. I'm concerned that Google is not good for me. Assange makes a good case that Google is not good for the world. 

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William Porter
tag:www.william-porter.com,2013:Post/1201218 2017-10-26T21:11:46Z 2017-10-26T21:11:46Z DxO to the rescue!

I have mentioned here that I'm cutting my numerous ties with Google in every way possible. As it happens, I'm also dumping Adobe. Two days ago, I finally canceled my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. So I'll no longer have Lightroom or Photoshop in my toolbox. I never used Photoshop much, and to be honest, although once upon a time I was very fond of Lightroom (mainly when I was shooting hundreds of portaits over at the Dallas Arboretum and had thousands of photos to process in a hurry), the truth is, in the last two years, I haven't used Lightroom much either. It's clear that I won't Adobe much. 

Less clear is what will become my go-to photo processing app. 

ON1 Photo Raw has some terrific features but it's often more trouble to use than it's worth. I like a couple of things about Luminar but it just doesn't click with me. And I keep going back to DxO Optics Pro; wrote a piece a year or two ago entitled "Why I keep DxO Optics Pro in my toolbox." OpticsPro is a great raw file converter and its automatic lens corrections are without equal. The biggest problem with Optics Pro is that it lacks localized corrections.

Not any longer, it doesn't. Well, DxO Optics Pro is now old news, having been replaced by DxO PhotoLab. And PhotoLab (finally) has a powerful localized adjustment tool, plus a tool for graduated adjustments. The localized adjustments in PhotoLab are a result of DxO buying the Nik Collection from Google. That's a brilliant move. The Nik Collection of apps (including Silver Efex Pro, my all-time favorite black and white processing app!) is nerdy in some of the same ways that DxO's software is. They're perfect for each other.

I am hoping to publish a review of DxO PhotoLab soon and will mention it here when it goes live.

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William Porter
tag:www.william-porter.com,2013:Post/1198451 2017-10-16T20:00:00Z 2017-10-16T20:00:04Z How can I replace thee? Let me count the ways

As I mentioned the other day, I've been aware for a good while the Google owns me. There are lots of other reasons to dump Google, but the one that is most urgent to me is the fact that I have been depending on them for about seventy-five percent of what I do with my computer.

So when I decided that I had to escape from Google, of course, that meant I had to find a way to replace all of the services that I've been getting from Google. A couple years ago when I tried this, I found it harder than I expected. This time, to my surprise, it's been easy. Well, not exactly easy, but definitely doable. Here are some notes on the process.


Getting my data out of Google's clutches

The process of dumping Google was simple and logical. 

First, I found and started using replacement services for the key things I did in Google. I identify those replacements below.  

Then I simply stopped using Google.

Finally after a week or more, I used Google's tools to download all of my data: email, contacts, calendar data, photos, documents, notes, bookmarks, and more. I will give Google credit for one thing: It is indeed possible to download all of your data. It's not easy, but it's possible. (I should perhaps add here, for those of you who might try this on your own, if you're going to delete your Google account sooner or later, make sure that you have well backed up all that data that you downloaded!)

Here is a list of the most important services that I've gotten from Google, along with the service I'm switching to.


1. I have replaced Gmail with Protonmail

I started using Protonmail full-time for all my email several months ago. The Protonmail web application's UI is attractive and brilliantly usable. I have only one serious complaint about Protonmail: no undo-send feature (yet). Otherwise, I don't miss Gmail (or Inbox, which I'd been using mainly in the last year or more) at all.

Protonmail is secure and private in ways Google doesn't even want to be. My email is encrypted end-to-end, and it's easy for me to send password-protected emails for an extra level of security. (If you want to try Protonmail, please use me as a reference. I think we might both get a small break if you do.) With Protonmail (even with the free account) I never see those creepy ads that Google shows you after you mention something that might tie in with one of its "sponsors". I mainly get my email on a computer but Protonmail has an excellent iPhone app, too.

The big problem created when you want to change email services isn't finding a new one. The big problem is what to do with your old email. Some services will allow you to import email, but many don't, or make it hard enough that it's not possible as a matter of practicality. I imported my old Google email messages into Apple Mail. I hate Apple Mail but I use it now only as a tool for searching old email messages. And truth is, I don't have to do that often.

Note: Back in spring 2015, I wrote a long article entitled, "Searched for something better than Gmail. Didn't find it." You don't have to read it. The title says it all. But that was then and this is now. I definitely think Protonmail is better than Gmail now, in the ways that matter most to me.


2. I have replaced Blogger with Posthaven

This one was a bit tricky. I'm not a full-time writer, certainly not a full-time blogger. So I don't need a blogging platform that's designed for commerce. I want something that is easy to use, pleasant to write in, and that publishes my articles in a clean and attractive format. Doesn't sound like a lot to ask, right? Well, you'd be surprised how very few platforms actually met my requirements.

I had been using Google's Blogger. For years I have felt that Google did not have its heart in Blogger the way it had its heart in other projects like email, documents, or stalking its customers on the Web. I've used WordPress.com occasionally but I don't care for its limitations. The real power with Wordpress comes when you get the software and run it on your own server, and I simply don't want to do that. So I had to look father afield. In the end, after I'd tried out more than a dozen blogging platforms, Posthaven was the easy winner.

From a design perspective, Posthaven is not as sexy as Wordpress. Only a handful of ready-made themes. Posthaven does allow you to create your own themes and fifteen years ago when I was doing web development and working with CSS regularly, I might have accepted the challenge. But I don't want to work that hard now. So I've accepted Posthaven's limitations here and try to view this limited menu of visual options as a blessing, which it truly is. One of the problems I had with Wordpress was that I was tempted to try every new template that appeared.

Good display of images is important to me and Posthaven handles images just fine. But my blogging is and has always been mostly text. Posthaven handles the kind of writing I do much better than, say, Tumblr. I'd be a little happier with Posthaven if it supported Markdown, but otherwise, Posthaven is terrific. It promises to be here "forever". That's good enough for me. I plan to stick with it.


3. I'm replacing Google Photos with Flickr and ImageShack

I've used Flickr for about as long as I had used Gmail, and although I had a lot of photos in Google Photos, the truth is, this isn't such a big deal. Flickr is vastly superior to Google Photos. It displays my photos beautifully, allows me to control access to my photos and my copyright, and equally important, provides a social environment where I can share my best pictures with others in a variety of interest groups. I'll have to figure out what photos that I'd like to display online are missing from Flickr and upload them there, but dropping Google Photos isn't such a big deal.

ImageShack on the other hand is something new for me. I'm liking it so far. Not sure how I'll end up using it. I do think I'll be storing there images that I use in blog articles. 


4. Moving my word processing to Dropbox Paper (among others)

I stopped needing Microsoft Word years ago. Even editors at the publications I was writing for started using Google Documents. It's a good app, but I am finding Paper, the writing and editing app from Dropbox, meets all my needs beautifully. If I need anything fancier, I can crank up Pages.


5. I'm replacing Google Voice with Skype

This one was easy. I have used Google Voice for business for a couple of years. Before that I'd used Skype. Skype has gotten better, and Google Voice hasn't. There are other VOIP services that sound excellent and I might end up with one of those if I'm not happy with Skype. But I'm familiar with it and it seems to be all I need for now. I won't miss Google Voice. 


6. I'm replacing Google Calendar with my own Works & Days app

This hasn't been a problem at all, since it's been a year or two since I made much use of Google Calendar. I've now moved to my own app for calendar and task management. My app interfaces with macOS Reminders, so I can quickly set up reminders as I need to.


7. I was already using DuckDuckGo for search, for the last couple of years

Of course, I don't use Google for web searching and you shouldn't either, unless for some odd reason you like the idea that Google is tracking your every move. I've also made a personal effort not to use "Google" as a verb meaning "search the Internet."


8. I've dumped Chrome for Safari, Opera and (in Windows 10) Edge

I don't use Chrome now either. Since I updated the other day to macOS X v10.13 "High Sierra", Apple's Safari appears to be the best browser for macOS, and in Windows, I have started using Microsoft Edge as my default since they recently started supporting 1Password. But I keep Opera in the mix, too, especially for the built-in VPN. I used to have very high hopes for Brave, but after a year and a half, it's still not quite ready for prime time, so I use it now and then, but I cannot see it becoming my default browser.


*


I don't think I'm saving money, indeed, it's possible that I'm spending a little more now than I was when everything was included in my $5/month Google account. But I'm now able to pick the app I want for each of my needs. I'm in charge of my own data once again. It's very liberating.

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William Porter
tag:www.william-porter.com,2013:Post/1198131 2017-10-13T19:58:06Z 2017-10-14T18:19:40Z Breaking up is hard to do
At lunch today, I watched a few minutes of an old Seinfeld episode in which George and Elaine are both trying to break up with their current partners. Elaine discovers that the secret her new boyfriend is hiding from her isn't that he has a wife (although he does) but the more embarrassing — and from Elaine's view, the more disqualifying — secret that he is poor. When she learns the truth, she buys her way out of the relationship. Things are trickier for George. The prototypical nebbish, he tells his girlfriend he's breaking up with her and she says no. As he explains it to Jerry, “My arguments in favor of breaking up didn’t persuade her beyond a reasonable doubt.” So George takes up with a woman from his office — someone he doesn’t like but who he thinks likes him — hoping that when the first girlfriend discovers his infidelity, she will get angry and leave him. Instead, he ends up with two girlfriends. 

As the song says, breaking up is hard to do.

My story's not as amusing as George's or Elaine's, but there are similarities. I've been partnered, technologically speaking, with Google for a very long time. In the last couple of years, though, I've started to realize that Google owns me, and this makes me very uncomfortable. For me, Google hasn’t just been email: it’s been word processing and spreadsheets; blogging; photos; social networking; contacts; calendar; notes; bookmarks; file storage; video; and more. And all that for not one but both of my primary domains, my personal domain and my work domain.

I’ve also come to regard Google as — well, I’ll pull my punch here and just say that Google is not a force for good in the world. Certainly not as big a source for good as Google imagines it is. Google’s power is nearly absolute, and it is corrupting the world in a lot of ways.

So I want out. I tried to do this two years ago and it was just too difficult. But this time I'm completely serious.

I keep waiting for my computer to start talking to me. “I’m sorry, Dave, but I’m afraid I can’t do that.” But so far, it looks like I might actually make it out of here alive. If I do, I’ll have more to say in later posts. And yes, if I knew how to link to just this clip without using a service owned by Google, I'd do it!


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William Porter
tag:www.william-porter.com,2013:Post/1192399 2017-09-19T20:36:07Z 2017-09-19T20:51:24Z Where have you been all my life?

As part of the ongoing 'Purge Google from my life' project I have been looking for a new blogging platform. Even if Blogger weren't owned by Google, I'd want to dump it, because it hasn't been very good for a long time. So I've been trying out blog services and I've reached a few conclusions.


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William Porter