Switching to Flickr

It wasn’t long ago I was waxing lyrical about Picasa and Picasaweb. Not to be accused of sticking to my guns though, I’ve switched to Flickr, and there’s a few reasons why.

Firstly, I’ve decided to give iPhoto another go. Although I have Picasa running on Windows XP under Parallels on my iMac, it’s nice to just use an OS X application. Also, a lot of my worries with using iPhoto have gone away now I’ve tried it on a ‘real’ machine (I need to post a rantette about my Mac Mini another time…) Picasaweb does have an iPhoto exporter, but it’s not the same tight integration it has with the main Picasa application.

Flickr’s integration with iPhoto isn’t any better than Picasa’s (in fact, you have to pay for the 3rd party FlicktExport utility if you choose to use it (which I did)), but since I was changing one part of my photo solution, it was worth looking at all of it at the same time.

The big plusses for me about Flickr are really 2 things – the community and the new capacity / bandwidth limits for ‘pro’ users.

The community aspects are great because I can see what my friends & family are up to, provide feedback, and they can do the same. This is good for me as I experiment with my still new digital SLR. Flickr provides some great web feeds that I use to keep track of what’s going on.

The new capacity / bandwidth limits are also compelling – unlimited on both counts. This allows me to upload the full size images for all the photos I really care about keeping, and at the same time share those full size images with anyone that cares.

Flickr’s still not perfect though. The slideshow behaviour is pitifully poor, and was almost a show-stopper for me. They really need to sort that out. Also, the UI I think could do with a few tweaks to make it as usable as the Picasaweb interface.

Now I just have the task of going through all my photos, finding the ones I care about, cleaning them up, collating them into sets, and uploading them – that’s a fair size project to keep me occupied in the new year.

Resharper – The #1 must-have Visual Studio plugin

I’ve been using Resharper for a while now, in fact ever since it has its first public EAP. At the time it came like a breath of fresh air. I’d been used to using Jetbrains’ other development productivity tool, IntelliJ IDEA, as a Java coder and the single most painful thing about .NET coding at that time was the lack of a decent automated refactoring tool and code navigator. Resharper went a big step to filling this gap.

3 years on or so and I still think Resharper is the number 1 must-have Visual Studio plugin. If you are writing for C# for a living, I believe it pays for itself within days. It doesn’t just help by making coding faster, it allows you to actually code in a different way by allowing easy traversal of delegation trees; encouraging simple, quick, automated refactorings across your entire source tree; and a whole lot more besides.

Resharper version 2 had a few speed bumps for some people, but version 2.5 is out now and apparently goes towards fixing those problems (I’ve managed to keep the solutions I’ve been working on this year lean and nimble, so haven’t had these problems, but I know many people have.) If you’re a C# coder and have never tried Resharper I can’t recommend it enough.

Rediscovering Web Feeds with Google Reader

Back in the Good Old Days (2002) there weren’t all that many blogs around. I had one, Joe had one, and there were about 5 – 10 others I cared about reading. It was easy to keep up to date with these by just visiting the web pages now and then.

Very quickly though it became a bandwagon, and World + Dog were blogging, and lo a lot of interesting (and even more very uninteresting) content was put on this little thing I like to sometimes refer to as “t’interweb” (but only when I’m feeling northern.) It was hard to keep up with all of these sites, but thankfully RSS feeds and aggregators arrived to give a useful view into your personal web-wide-world.

Web feed aggregators (as I feel they ought to be called ever since Atom got in on the act) come in 2 flavours – desktop and web-based. Desktop aggregators typically win on usability (for a long time I used Omea Reader), wheras web-based apps win on not being tied to being installed on any one machine. Until recently, I hadn’t like the web-based aggregators I’d tried (Bloglines is one of the most popular), but Omea’s non-distributability caused me to give up on it, and web feeds in general for about a year.

I’ve recently got back into feeds though, thanks to yet another Google service – Google Reader. This to me offers a far better user experience than any of the other free web-based aggregators, and of course I can use it from any machine and still keep the state of what items I’ve read. I only came to Google Reader about a month ago, and I understand it has had a major overhaul this year so if you tried it a while a go and didn’t like it, it might be worth giving it another go.

Google Reader is not completely perfect. Apart from anything else, I feel it ought to be integrated with GMail (and Google Groups ideally), and it could do with some search functionality. It is a ‘proper’ Web 2.0 app (*ahem*) in that it also has social networking / sharing features, and like those in del.icio.us I mostly ignore them.

Of course, one of these days I’m going to end up with an hour-and-a-half long commute again and all of these web-based apps are going to bite me in the rear-end, but until then they’re doing me very well, thankyouverymuch.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go and listen to some more kittens.

Del.icio.us bookmarks Firefox plugin : centralized bookmark management

I’ve always found bookmarks in web browsers a little frustrating. I use quite a few different machines, and bookmarks, out of the box, are not shared across them. This leads to me inevitably wanting to remember a bookmark on one machine when it’s stored on another.

Del.icio.us is an interesting little experiment in social networking and bookmarking, but I’ve always found it a little frustrating. Having to load up the del.icio.us page whenever I want to create a bookmark is too much of a context-switch, so I’ve never really bothered with it.

Both of these frustrations are now solved for me with the new Del.icio.us bookmarks Firefox extension. This Firefox plugin replaces the default bookmark behaviour in Firefox with that of using your own Del.icio.us bookmarks instead. Install it on 2 machines et voila – centralized bookmark management. I’m now using this for all my bookmarks, including ones I only use for internal sites at work. For these links I just tag them ‘work:internal’ and don’t share them. I add this tag to my ‘favourite tags’ for quick reference.

Since the extension replaces the normal bookmark behaviour completely, adding a new bookmark is as simple as ‘Ctrl+D’ (sorry, Apple-D, still getting used to thinking in Applespeak,) so the context switch of using del.icio.us is also gone.

Yahoo own del.icio.us now, so I’m pretty confident my bookmarks will be around a while. The only shock is that I’m using a Yahoo, rather than Google, service for a change.

I’m not particularly using the ‘shared bookmarks’ feature yet, I’m really just using it for my own use at the moment, but I’ll see how things go.

If you’re so inclined you can browse my bookmarks at http://del.icio.us/mike.b.roberts/ or grab my bookmark feed at http://del.icio.us/rss/mike.b.roberts/

Fixing Firefox 2 instabilities under OS X (in a nasty, hacky, way)

I’ve been running Firefox 2 on my main Mac OS X machine since it was released, and ever since then it’s been annoying me by freezing up. The timings of such freezes are completely non-nondeterministic, sometimes it hangs before it’s even finished loading all the tabs from the last session (which normally is a lovely feature of Firefox 2, by the way.)

I’ve been keeping an eye out for bug-fixes, but none have happened so yesterday I trawled once again on Google. The only thing I could find was the suggestion to completely remove Firefox, including all localizations (plugins, etc.), from my machine, and re-install. I’ve done that, and so far so good. It seems there’s a problem with Firefox 2 installs that are upgrades from previous versions (I was running 1.5, and the 2.0 release candidates before.)

It’s a bit of a nasty hack, and I haven’t had this problem on my Windows installs of Firefox 2. It’s not too much of a problem for me though since I don’t store bookmarks locally, but more on that in my next post…