Waiting For the Smart Watch

Posted: February 5th, 2013 | Author: | Tags: , , , | No Comments »


I ordered a pebble watch when it was looking for backers last year. I’ve waited patiently for 8 month, and any day now the watch should be sent. I can’t have google glasses yet, but the watch is a step in the right direction!

Photosharing Site Dilemma: Picasa Web vs Flickr vs Gallery2

Posted: November 3rd, 2012 | Author: | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Stack o' Polaroids.

Note: A couple of years ago I wrote this post, but never got around to publishing it on time. I guess it’s better late than never.

Over the years I’ve amassed a lot of digital photos, and I’ve resisted putting them online for various reasons. Since facebook came out and sharing photos online became very popular I have seen the usefulness of it. Until now I’d put a zip file of the latest event on the site and send a link to my friends, and they would do a similar thing. I’m very protective of my photos and don’t want them to be in the hands of facebook – especially since there are reports and discussions about privacy there. With recent introduction of face recognition technology in Picasa, Flickr, and even iPhoto, sifting through tons of photos is now much much easier.

In deciding to put my photos online, I’m going to evaluate three options: Picasa Web, Flickr and the open source photo sharing tool Gallery2.

I’m going to compare the tools above in a few categories that I think will be the most useful for me:

  • Client-side software: what you end up spending most of your time in. Editing the photos and preparing them for upload. Most offer direct upload capabilities.
  • Access control on the web site: How fine-grained the control of the albums are. Who you can share with and if they can leave comments, etc.
  • Integration with wordpress: Considering that I use wordpress, ability to embed photos from the service directly is also important.
  • Cost: finally, the cost of the photo storage.

Picasa Web

Google’s photo sharing service has been around for a while and as they bring more and more products online, they continue to integrate it. Buzz, Profiles, and now Google+ all work very well with Picasa.

The Picasa desktop software on the Mac is a very capable app that easily indexes images and can import directly from cameras. In addition, the tool allows for easy uploads to your online account with a few steps to set it up.

Control of who can see them is pretty fine-grained. You can control from groups of people, to individuals, to people who have the link. In this category, Picasa covers what my typical uses for a photo sharing site are.

There quite a few plugins that allow for embedding of photos, or creating a photo gallery from your Picasa account. My favourite is this one.

When it comes to cost, Google offers a shared space upgrade and as of this writing 20GB costs $5.00/year. That means you get 20GB between Gmail, Picasa Web, and Docs. What’s not clear is how this works with the included free space that you get with Gmail, Docs, etc.


Flickr has been the leader in online photos for a long time, and it’s still one of the best out there. Because of that many platforms have included support as part of Operating System. On the Mac, that comes in the form of iPhoto. You can directly upload to your Flickr account from iPhoto, and photo editing can be done in iPhoto, or Aperture, or any other app.

Flickr offers an interesting model for controlling access to your photos. People can be divided into 4 categories of: friends, family, contacts, and public. This means if you want to share photos between people that don’t fit into those categories you’ll have to send them private links.

Another strong point of Flickr is the variety of plugins available for WordPress integration. This makes photos show up on the site very beautifully and follow the theme and styling very closely.

Flickr offers a Pro account which included unlimited storage for $24.95/year and statistics for your photos. The added bonus of stats is a very good feature and can be useful at times.


A while back I used to run a copy of Gallery2 on the site, and was hosting my own photos there. Gallery is a piece of open source software that allows you to run a very full-featured picture gallery on your site. It requires PHP, MySQL, and a webserver.

Access to the various galleries can be highly controlled. Users can be created on the site, or galleries can be left open to the public. The only issue with Gallery is that fact that you’ll have to manage yet another site, and things can get tricky if you want to customize the theme.

There are a number of plugins available for wordpress, but what I found is that they don’t perform as nicely as I’d like and responsiveness is an issue.

Finally, there are many plugins for various applications that can upload to Gallery including an iPhoto plugin. The official application is called Gallery Remote.

The Verdict

Tool Software Web site WordPress integration
Picasa Yes Hosted (now as Google+) Yes
Flickr Yes Hosted Yes
Gallery Yes Self-hosted Yes

Thinking About the Internet (TVO Search Engine)

Posted: October 25th, 2011 | Author: | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Search Engine has been one of my favourite podcasts (since back in its CBC days). I like the new videos highlighting their guests. If you’re reading this, you should also have a listen to an episode of the show: here

Review of Flip UltraHD

Posted: April 14th, 2010 | Author: | Tags: , , | No Comments »

A couple of weeks ago, I was heading on a trip and wanted to bring along a nice video recorder. Having heard of pocket size flash-based video cameras like the Kodak Zi8 and the various Flip products, I decided to give the Flip UltraHD a try.

Note: Before we go on, I forgot to take any photos of the actual device but there are enough reviews online that there’s no real los (here, here and here).

The device itself is twice as thick as an iPhone, and nearly the same in other dimensions. Usability was simple, a big red button that starts and stops the recording, and some navigation for reviewing your videos. What I found really impressive was the actual quality of the video. The video was crisp, and it recorded decent enough audio (in the direction the camera is pointing). The big drawback was the shaky quality of the videos when you record while walking. That, along with the small viewing angle – which meant I had to be at least a few meters away from subjects to get them fully in the frame – are the two drawbacks of this device for me.

Here are two sample videos I took with the Flip, and you can judge for yourself. First video is taken indoors to show how the camera works in low light, it is not HD. The second video was shot outside with good lighting but it was taken while walking and you can see the shakiness of the image. (To see the HD version click on the link to go to Vimeo)

Flip Ultra HD – Indoors from khosrow on Vimeo.

Flip Ultra HD – Outside from khosrow on Vimeo.

Overall, I would get this camera for doing quick shoots and things that one would normally use a cellphone or point and shoot camera for. For longer videos, I would look to other more advanced cameras.

Office Communicator and Linux

Posted: October 29th, 2009 | Author: | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

As with most things in tech, large companies catch on to the power of instant messaging late. Where I work is no exception. They rolled out Microsoft Office Communicator a couple of months ago (as a side note, that is a horrible landing page) and made much of the new and improved power of communication between employees. It’s a great thing that I can finally communicate using instant messaging, but the proprietary software threw a monkey in my desktop setup. After some research I found out how to get my desktop to connect to the Office Communicator server: Pidgin and SIPE.

First, I needed to install Pidgin

sudo apt-get install pidgin

Then, I installed the TLS plugin for Pidgin

sudo apt-get install pidgin-encryption

Now, the important piece of the puzzle was SIPE, which is needed to connect to proprietary server. I initially tried the usual

sudo apt-get install pidgin-sipe

But the version of SIPE available for jaunty was version 1.2-1 and it didn’t work. So, I went with the old school way of compiling my own binary. I got the code from here and followed the simple instructions on the same site. They are as follows:

tar -zxvf pidgin-sipe-1.7.0.tar.gz
cd pidgin-sipe-1.7.0
./configure --prefix=/usr/
sudo make install

Once installed, I started up Pidgin and after entering the necessary info connected successfully. You can see the detailed info of what I entered in the pictures below.
pidgin and ocs
pidgin and ocs