For years when we were selling Macs at Apple, our mantra was that "Macintoshes just work." It was an easy thing to say for much of Apple's history. There were a few times that Apple shipped products that weren't deserving of the Apple label, but by the late nineties Apple definitely had its mojo back.
I have slowly been working towards this conclusion and it is painful one. There is a lot of stuff on the Mac that no longer just works. I have tried really hard to like Apple's Mountain Lion operating system. The weekend before Thanksgiving 2012, I came to the conclusion that Apple is trying to do way too much stuff with the result that Macintosh software is not getting proper attention.
I'll be expanding further on this in later articles, but I will offer up a few examples. I would love to hear what others think.
My first issue is Photostream. I have complained a lot about Photostream being designed by an engineer who only shares a few photos from his phone and who cannot imagine someone taking one thousand pictures a day. The problem is worse now.
I had Photostream going when I first installed Mountain Lion but I quickly turned it off. I didn't want hundreds of photos daily pushed to my Windows laptop. This weekend I read that I could chose to share just certain photos with others so I decided to give Photostream another try.
I have to admit making Photostream work was like beating my head against the wall. Eventually I did a Google search for "photostream keeps turning off" and saw that I was not alone in having Photostream problems. I finally found this comprehensive set of steps to fix the problem. I tried them without any luck. Actually I tried the steps multiple times.
I keep getting a message to sign into my iCloud account. I have already done that and I have checked that the email addresses all match. I'm sure there is a solution, I can't figure it out, and I am to the point of not being sure whether or not I care if Photostream ever works.
The one thing that I know is that I spent more time trying to get Photostream to work that evening than I have spent on uploading thousands of photos to my Picasa web albums accounts which have never given me a single problem.
By the same token, my Drop Box account works perfectly as does my Microsoft Skydrive. Neither have ever been a problem.
I find it amusing that I can see my Google Drive, Dropbox, and SkyDrive when I click on the finder in Mac OS X Mountain Lion. However, I don't see my iCloud there. I guess it is supposed to be so seamless that it is invisible.
For years I have complained that Apple's problem is that it tries to tie data to a specific piece of hardware. If you ever used iWeb, you know the difficulties involved in working on a single website from multiple machines. I still am trying to figure out how to get my music off my original iPod which seems to be married to a Mac that has long ago expired. I suspect my Photostream problem might be related to having to switch my iMac to an external boot drive since my internal drive died, but I don't know how to fix it.
Photostream is not the only problem. I got a comment on my recent post, Is Apple a Prisoner of its Design Decisions? regarding my complaint on the disappearance of the email option on the file menu of Preview. The comment brought to my attention the system wide addition of a "share button." There is now a little share button on Preview. Unfortunately, it is no longer on the file menu where it has been for a while.
However, the system wide share seems to have been implemented in enough different ways to make one wonder what they were drinking out in Cupertino.
If you go to any of the current iWorks 09 Apps including Pages, you won't find a working share button. The apps have been rumored to be in line for an update, but I guess getting the small iPad out is more important or at least more profitable.
I was beginning think the intention to be consistent could be there until I looked at "share" in Safari. Instead of being a little button, "share" is in the file menu where it used to be in Preview. Then I had the thought that maybe iPhoto would have "share" implemented in the file menu like Safari. It was there years ago. Of course I was wrong. The iPhoto share buttom with menu is on the bottom on the far right corner. I'm pretty sure including "Order Prints" in the share menu is just another way to make money.
I would never expect Apple to have a share to Picasa web albums since Google is their competition and they would rather cut their nose off than make it easier to use another company's products. That in itself is amazing since that used to be one of the main things that Apple did. Our system and software engineers were famous for making Apple stuff fit with other products. I gave up paying for the little extension that made it easy to share photos from iPhoto to Picasa web albums. It seemed to get turned off with every iPhoto update.
Of course indecision on how to handle "share" and "export" is nothing new, I first wrote about Apple's indecision on the commands in 2005.
Apple is certainly not the only company to play around with the share command. Google's decision to force the sharing of photo albums through Google+ if you have a Google+ account is not one of my favorite decisions. However, it was easy to create a work around by have a second "free" Picasa web albums account which isn't tied to a Google+ account.
I know Apple's focus is on iPhones and iPads, but they have enough money to make Macs work right. We certainly pay enough for our Macs to work nearly perfectly. Mac software apparently is just not a priority. Why do we still have Pages, Numbers, and Keynote with non-functional share buttons? When it comes to user interface, Apple used to be the standard that others hoped to emulate. I think Mountain Lion might have changed that forever.
Folks love to complain about Microsoft apps, but it you use their apps on Windows, you get a pretty consistent interface for sending things to others. It is hard for me to admit this, but right now things just work on my Lenovo laptop running Windows 7. Things don't just work on my iMac running Mountain Lion. The loss of productivity from the bone-headed move to remove "Save As" along with Apple's refusal to be even in the same ball park as other hardware companies on prices just might be enough to get me off the Mac platform.
I'll be interested to see if Microsoft has gone forward or backward on Windows 8. When I give it a try, it will be on a new machine because I really like having one machine where things just work and I don't plan to mess with my Lenovo.
I'm looking forward to some peace and quiet and perhaps some good weather during the holidays here on the Southern Outer Banks. I definitely won't be wasting any more time trying to use Photostream. Still Apple technology is still very important to me even if some folks have a hard time understanding that.
My history with the Macintosh goes back to the introduction of the Macintosh. The Macintosh held such an important place in my life that I have managed to keep some first edition magazines announcing the Mac.
Yet here I am in November 2012 sitting at my October 2010 I5 iMac contemplating buying a new Windows 8 computer to completely shake up my computing paradigm.
I am thinking of jumping ship frankly because I think Apple worships far too much at the altar of design instead of functionality. I also believe there is no one with any sense left at the rudder when it comes to user interface decisions at Apple. And for icing on the cake, I don't believe the price Apple charges is justified based on my recent experience with Apple products.
For years I have operated on the theory that the safest computing involves doing my work on mulitple computers. While I worked at Apple, I often used my company supplied laptop with a desktop that I purchased. After leaving Apple in 2004, I bought my own Mac laptop and late that year a dual G5 desktop.
During the eight years since leaving Apple, for one reason or the other I have added Windows and Linux to my operating system world. Early this summer the MacBook I purchased in the summer of 2006 died in spite of a hard drive transplant. I moved to relying on my Lenovo I7 Windows 7 laptop and my iMac as my main two systems.
Unfortunately I quickly started having troubles with my iMac this summer. I ran it off an external hard drive for a while and eventually reformatted the internal hard drive and installed Mountain Lion. While I am not a big Mountain Lion fan, I thought that I was going to be okay until I started having hard drive problems once again the last week of October 2012.
It was only then that I started contemplating changing the internal hard drive in my iMac. I have replaced lots of drives in Macs over the years including a number in PowerBooks and some in other versions of iMacs. When I bought my Intel iMac, I paid no attention to serviceability since it had a drive with a terrabyte of storage. Other than the drive on my recent MacBook, I have only replaced drives for additional storage.
With all the cloud storage that I'm using I figured the terrabyte of storage on the iMac would be plenty so I didn't worry about replacing it. On top of that the iMac was not my first choice machine. I didn't really have another Mac choice. I would have preferred a tower, but there were no Apple towers in the same price range of the dual G5 that I bought in 2004 so I bought an iMac and hoped for the best.
As I started having problems with my iMac, an Apple system engineer that I know told me that replacing the drive in one of the new iMacs is very difficult. When I started investigating and found this video of pulling the front bezel and LCD to change the hard drive, I was amazed. It is a little like learning that you've bought a car and finding out that you have to pull the windshield in order to change the battery.
While Apple pioneered the All-One-Computer, most manufacturers make one now. However when I investigated recent systems by HP and Sony, I found that you access their hard drives from the back. The HP system seems to have a particularly easy way of replacing the hard drive. I have not been able to determine if the new SpectreONE AIO by HP suffers from the same design problem on hard drive servicing as the iMac which it appears to have cloned.
I'm sure that Steve Jobs did not want any panels opening on the back of the iMac, but to be honest, it is pretty stupid to build a computer which requires you to pull the most fragile component in order to service something like a hard drive. Just because other manufacturers might follow Apple doesn't mean it is the right thing for consumers.
Since I got my iMac, I have been very concerned that it produces a lot of heat. Given that, I was not surprised to find out that there is a sensor on the iMac drive which will shut it down if it gets too hot. I've never seen that on anything but 1U servers. It makes me wonder if the design of the iMac is a poor one and that hard drives in the machine will be prone to failure.
I didn't buy my iMac because it was stylish. I bought it because it was the least expensive way that I could continue to use a Mac with a DVD and a SD slot. In retrospect, I was too trusting of Apple's engineers and too willing to accept what Apple wanted me to buy. In fact I ended up buying the huge 27" screen because that was the only way at the time that I could get an I5 processor.
I would have preferred to have purchased an inexpensive Apple tower with a couple of drive bays. Apple has ignored the market for a product like that and forced us to choose between the MacMini, the iMac, and the very expensive Mac towers.
While the inaccessibility of the hard drive is a major flaw on the iMac, the proximity of the SD slot to the DVD drive is also a major design flaw. Of course Apple just fixed that by eliminating the DVD drive and moving the SD slot to the back of the computer. Does anyone seriously believe that having a SD slot behind a 27" monitor is convenient?
Beyond these hardware design issues, I am convinced that Apple has forgotten what made the Mac great. I have used Macs because they made my computing life easier. Increasingly I find that not to be the case. I think Apple's decision to mess with the "Save As" command might go down as one of the dummer decisions in the history of computing. As a writer, I cannot imagine what they were thinking. I am still smarting from the more recent versions of iPhoto abandoning the elegant return to the library command of the "Escape" key. Now I have to hit a button with my mouse.
Perhaps the final proof for me in Apple's quest to make their user interface less useful is the change that they have made to their Preview app when opening a PDF. If you remember from Mac OS X Lion, you could easily mail a PDF from the menu. If you have migrated to Mac OS X Mountain Lion, you will find that the option to mail a PDF from the menu has disappeared. Unfortunately mailing a PDF directly was one of my favorite Apple shortcuts.
Adding to the insult is that one of my favorite apps, Pixelmator, has obviously "downgraded" their app by replacing the "Save As" command. If has gotten to the point that I am afraid to upgrade apps because "Save As" will disappear.
I'm not sure if Windows 8 or Linux will be the answer, but I am increasingly convinced that Apple will not be part of the solution. Certainly my very positive experience with Windows 7 has given me the confidence to give Microsoft a shot at my desktop.
For more on my perspective on Apple, check out my book, The Pomme Company.
If you are looking for perspective on my recent comments on Tim Cook, try my post, Sometimes words get twisted or the post that I did on April 27, 2012, Tim Cook, the right person for Apple's evolution?. The last six months don't give me a lot of confidence in Apple's direction.
If you have ever wondered what it would be like to work at Apple in sales, my book, the Pomme Company, is a good place to start. Actually some current and former Apple employees think my book should be required reading for people hoping to work at Apple. My long history with Apple gives me a rather unique perspective.
There is no question that Apple is now a computer electronics powerhouse. Questions have been asked about the labor practices of Chinese companies used by Apple and other electronics companies. However, few people have thought to look stateside at the business culture within Apple. It is actually not a very pretty picture.
That Apple has risen to the top is unquestionable. Whether Apple will stay in its current position is more of an open question especially to those of us who have lived inside the world of Cupertino.
Creating great products is one thing. Building a sustainable business culture that can continue to turn out great products is another thing. Just ask Sony how difficult that is.
I would argue there are plenty of signs that the Apple of today is not the Apple of a few years ago. I continue to be frustrated by Apple's user interface changes. I thoroughly dislike the "Save as" changes implemented in Mountain Lion. The dumbing down of iPhoto is a depressing subject for me. While I am not an iPhone user, I can understand the frustration of paying a premium price for something, and then finding out that you don't have a wonderful experience with an app like maps on the iPhone.
In October of 2012, I purchased an I5 iMac. I watched as it suffered through "Slow Snow Leopard" problem and then as I finally had to move all the data from the drive and format it. It was the first time in 28 years of using Macs that I have had to move my data and reformat a drive. I've had to reinstall system software plenty of times, but I have never had an Apple operating system destroy my drive.
There is no question in my mind that Windows 7 is more consistent and reliable than Apple's current operating system. I use Mountain Lion on my iMac and Windows 7 on my Lenovo laptop on a daily basis. Windows 7 just runs better. If I could get Fetch, Coda, and RapidWeaver on Windows, I would likely abandon the Mac platform in spite of my long history with Apple products dating backing thirty years to 1982.
As I state in my book, Apple likely no longer has sophisticated users on their radar. They are now more interested in casual consumer users. Demanding users who expect a consistent user interface which enhances their productivity are on the back burner at Apple. I challenge anyone to use an old version of iPhoto and tell me that the current version works as well.
Just the fact that you can no longer hit the escape key to move back to the full library is a huge disadvantage. As ugly as the Picasa user interface is, it works far better than iPhoto.
Then there is Apple's multiple attempts to figure out the cloud. Certainly if you want to selectively share photos from your computer, Apple's cloud solution is not even on the radar when it comes to the best ways to do it. Picasa web albums, Dropbox, and even Microsoft's Skydrive with Portfolio work far better than iCloud.
That Apple's popularity is at its peak when the quality of some of its products is suspect is a function of our society. People want to be cool and Apple's products have the image of cool. Certainly the Apple iPhone redefined the world of the smart-phone.
Clearly though if maps are important to you as they are to me, an Apple iPhone is no longer the best choice.
However, the question that remains unanswered is whether or not the unsustainable Apple business culture is at the root of these Apple products which have lost their luster.
At the end of my book I mention that my next computer product might be Microsoft's new Surface product. An interesting side note to this is that one of the Surface engineers used to work as a student rep for us at Va. Tech. I think my team paid for his airfare to California while he was an intern at Apple.
He got offered a job at Apple and another one at Microsoft. He took the job at Microsoft because he was unimpressed with the culture inside of Apple. I know from talking to him that he still believes that he made the right decision.
While I did not end up buying a Microsoft Surface, I did end up with a Lenovo Yoga, a Lenovo Desktop and a token Mac, a Mac mini. I think Lenovo works harder at meeting its customers needs than Apple does.
I am rarely surprised about what comes out of Apple, but this caught even me a little off guard. Some of you know that I have a long history with Apple . I have seen things that I still have a hard time believing. However, my recent experience with Apple's unreal world is a reminder of just how weird things can get for you if your paycheck comes from the folks in Cupertino.
In October of 2001, I was named manager of the year for my team's outstanding performance in the federal market. A friend took a picture of my team at the awards banquet. I have always treasured the picture and been very proud of our accomplishment since we were covering the worlds largest IT market with a handful of people.
I wanted to include the picture in my book and took the time to ask each person in the picture for their permission to be in the book. It wasn't a controversial photo. No one was nude or holding a Windows PC. Much to my surprise three of the five current Apple employees declined to be in the photo. I edited the image so they are unrecognizable.
One person admitted to being afraid of the consequences of being in the photo, and I respect that. Two came up with excuses that were plain laughable.
You can try to appreciate the situation by working through this. For a moment imagine worrying about being in a photo taken eleven years ago when your team was the tops at Apple. Then think about worrying about the photo being in a book that you didn't write and which you haven't even seen but which is basically a historical account of someone else's career in the fictional Pomme Company. Then remember that none of these employees are even named in the book.
If you have that scenario in your mind, you now know just how much control Apple exercises over its people. The whole episode reminds me a little of the "Minority Report."
When a former manager of mine who is in the picture heard about the incident he asked, "What is the story with these people? Are they in a witness protection program?"
He has been gone from Apple for almost ten years, and I exited a little over eight years ago. We have both returned to a normal world where you aren't afraid to open a box of literature before a keynote speech. I don't miss folks worrying about someone from the press tricking them into answering a question.
The culture of fear runs deep in Apple sale's division. If you want to know about life at Apple in sales, you can now read my newly published book, "The Pomme Company."
Some friends have said my book should be required reading for people wanting to join Apple's sales force.
The book has taken a little over a year and was interrupted by a note from Apple's legal folks warning me to adhere to my non-disclosures. That is actually easy to do since most of us at Apple heard no secrets. The joke used to be that when we wanted to find out what Apple was about to announce we would check out MacSurfer.
My book is about my somewhat amazing journey. I went from running a cattle operation in eastern Canada to being the director of federal sales for Apple. The journey actually started just after we dispersed our cattle and I started selling Apple II+s for a small company in Fredericton, New Brunswick. It ended with me as director of federal sales sitting on Capitol Hill with Avie Tevanian in a cyber security hearing.
My career at Apple transformed my life and that of my family. I'll be interested to hear what people think of the book which is priced at $5.99. It has lots of pictures of historical interest to people interested in Apple.
Most of all if you want a peak at the Apple culture that I saw, my book will be a cure for your curiousity.
I have enjoyed watching the launch of the new iPhone 5, but I am still happy with my Android powered LG Spectrum and the Kindle Fire my children gave me last fall. I am waiting for some Apple products to excite all of us who built our digital lives around Apple solutions.
With all the media coverage around the iPhone 5 announcement, I especially enjoyed the Jimmy Kimmel segment where some supposed iPhone users couldn't tell the difference between the iPhone 4S they were being shown and the new iPhone 5. However, perhaps that is a cheap shot. I'm not sure I could tell you the difference between my latest LG Smartphone and whatever new product LG has announced.
Beyond being the butt of a few jokes on late night comedy shows, there are some serious problems with Apple.
It is easy to ignore the issues if you just measure the company by their unbelievable stock price. Before I go further let me say that I still believe that Apple makes great hardware products, and perhaps the latest iPhone and iPad are among the best they have ever made.
The question for me comes down to this, can the Apple of today follow through with its direction without paying better attention to its computer and software roots?
If you are new to Applepeels and want some perspective on me before reading more, try this link to my Apple history.
Perhaps the most worrisome issue for me, is the health of Mac OSX. Having only recently taken the step to go to Lion, I still haven't upgraded to Mountain Lion. I normally don't jump on an Apple first release, and I was actually hoping that Apple would announce a new Mac Mini by this time. If that had happened I could take the step to Mountain Lion with new hardware.
Lion has been a mixed experience for me. Perhaps you need an iOS device to really see its benefits, but I get the distinct feeling that there are now far too many ways to do the same thing on OS X. I believe that some of the simplistic beauty of OSX has been lost as a layer of complexity has been added.
While I am worried about OSX, I am downright depressed about iPhoto. I was at Apple when Steve was focused on the release of iPhoto. It was a revolutionary program at the time, and it had the full attention of Steve.
I'm pretty sure that Steve would not be happy with the current user interface on iPhoto. One of the great things about the original version of iPhoto was the ease with which you could create a web album for your friends to see. In the latest version of iPhoto on the Mac we are stuck with photostream which seems to be an all or nothing solution unless you want to use Flickr or Facebook.
As a photographer who sometimes takes a thousand pictures in a day. I want to be able to quickly sort through the pictures, select the good ones, make some adjustments, put copies of the ones I like in cloud storage, and then create web albums of ones that I plan to show to more than a few people. That process used to be very simple with a Mac. That is no longer the case.
I now do my initial photo sorting and tune-ups on a Windows 7 laptop because it is easier with Picasa than it is with iPhoto. In a number of areas where iPhoto was ahead of Picasa, Apple has managed to dumb down recent versions of iPhoto. While this was happening Google actually made Picasa better and more efficient. While I have Picasa on the Mac, I have hung with iPhoto hoping it would get better.
While Picasa might not look as glitzy as iPhoto, you will get more work done with Picasa. On top of that Picasa easily puts one or dozens of photos on the web with easily controllable access. I haven't tried to find the extra cost plug-in that I purchased for my previous versions of iPhoto so I could directly load photos into Picasa web albums from iPhoto. Likely the reason is that I resent paying for something that should be there.It really is a final straw for me that in iPhoto Apple has built-in Flickr and Facebook support but has ignored Picasa web albums. I know they are doing this to spite Google, but users are the ones who suffer and Apple offers no solution of its own comparable to Picasa web albums.
An even bigger problem is that Apple seems to have fallen into the old trap of if it wasn't invented at Apple, it can't be good. The recent ditching of Google maps is just not something that will work out well for Apple over the long term.
I have no question that Apple has the money to create a great map solution, but I seriously doubt Apple has the management culture and the persistence to stick with their own mapping solution until it is a great product. It is not in Apple's DNA to incrementally upgrade software or a backend solution until it is a really solid product.
If you don't believe me, just think back to the original .Mac product and all its many iterations including iCloud which was going to change everything.
Actually it has changed everything, just not for the better.
Compare Apple's cloud solution with GoogleDrive, SkyDrive, or DropBox, and it looks like making a home grown solution isn't necessarily the best path for Apple.
Apple has a history of alienating partners and having to go it on their own. Maps is just a symptom of that problem. As an Apple employee once told me, you can't say the word "partner" and Apple in the same sentence. Let's hope that Apple makes nice with Microsoft so they don't pull the plug on Office for the Mac.
Even if Maps is a good idea, many good Apple ideas have withered on the vine for lack of attention. Does anyone remember eWorld, Apple's online world that was going to be better than AOL?And if that comparison doesn't ring true, just look at the history of Apple branded or backed word processors for the Mac and compare that to Microsoft which does have a history of banging its head against the wall and showering money on a project until they either succeed (Word & XBox) or fail (Zune).
Remember back to the introduction of the original Mac. It came with MacWrite. It wasn't long after the introduction of the Mac that Microsoft came out with Word. MacWrite after the Claris spinoff eventually became MacWrite Pro.
Then came ClarisWorks which eventually became AppleWorks before disappearing completely. Now we have Pages which will eventually languish like the rest of Apple's word processors. Word is still around.
The lack of a culture built around incrementally improving products as opposed to ditching them is a huge challenge in the technology world. While Apple might have mastered it with the iPhone, they have a number of other products begging for updates.
Beyond this I believe the biggest problem that Apple has is the wall that the company throws up between the company and its customers.
While Microsoft and other companies are working hard to listen to customers, Apple is busy listening to itself. If you are going to incrementally improve something like a map solution, you need a close working relationship with your users. I have sent Google a few notes over the years about problems that I have found on their maps. While I have never heard back from them, every problem that I found has been resolved.
I'm not sure Apple knows how to act similarly. Perhaps if Apple could develop a strategy to start reaching out to customers in a company supported blog, it might be a first step, but unfortunately the company's DNA would have to change before they started blogging.
As long as Apple can keep iPhones and iPads flying out the door, perhaps all these issues are irrelevant. But I do believe that Apple's OSX software is a strategic product and deserves serious attention that it is not getting.
If Apple does hit a blip, and it likely will, I suspect many of the customers who came to Apple's rescue in the past will be gone. It remains to be seen whether current iPhone and iPad customers will be as loyal or just jump ship for the next shiny trinket.
Just a few updates and I'm off to bed.
We spent a good part of the summer doing our final move from our house in Roanoke, Virginia. We have bid Roanoke adieu, and we will no longer be making our once a month trip from the coast to the mountain.
We are very happy to be living here by our inlet. The peace that I find in the wildness along the Southern Outer Banks has pretty well mended the nerve ends that were seared by Apple's winner take all culture.
If the fishing doesn't require my full attention this fall and if I don't fall under the spell of the area's blue skies, I hope to finally get the book about my Apple career published. It has been a bigger challenge than I thought it would be.
Whatever you thought of MobileMe, it did offer one solution for sharing photos on the web. With iCloud Apple has effectively gotten out of the photo sharing business.
The one good thing about iCloud is that you won't have to worry about losing your albums because there are none. I guess it is also a little harder to think of Apple as "the hub of your digital life."
Fortunately there are many other solutions besides Apple. I don't pretend to know them all. However, I do come at this from the perspective of someone who started using the original .Mac service from the beginning so I feel the pain of those who have lost MobileMe albums or web sites.
I had my own interesting experiences in migrating to iCloud.
That said, years ago after the first change of architecture in Apple's online storage which resulted in many of my albums being forcibly retired, I became worried. I started actively investigating alternatives. Early on my good friend Stephen @batess turned me on to Picasa Web Albums while I was experimenting with Flickr.
Picasa Web Albums has over time become my default option for storing my photos on the web. I have never regretted the trust that I put in the platform.
There are plenty of "Cloud" storage options out there, and I use several of them. Many are free and most have storage upgrades that are much cheaper than Apple was after the heyday of free .Mac accounts ended.
I hope to discuss a few of these alternatives and make it clear that even if Apple decides to have a way to store photos in their "Cloud," I would likely not bite on the offer a third time.
Just to be completely clear, Photostream is only a solution for sharing a small number of photos between compatible devices. A compatible devices rules out an older Mac but does include a Windows 7 device.
For several years, in addition to hanging onto to my MobileMe Galleries, I have extensively used slide shows on my various websites. Flickr, and Picasa Web Albums have also been in the mix. There is no perfect solution, and the simple thing is to try a few things and see what works best for you. Of course that depends somewhat on your computing environment.
My computing world includes an I5 iMac, an I7 Lenovo laptop running Windows 7, an old Dell Pentium 3 running Ubuntu, and a couple of older Macs including my trusted Dual G5 system which I purchased almost eight years ago. I am running the I5 Mac in a dual boot situation. I have Lion running on an external hard drive and Snow Leopard running on the internal drive. For my reasons behind that, you can see my post, The Mysteries of Apple, MobileMe, & iCloud.
I have both iPhoto and Picasa running on my I5 iMac. For more information on my reasons for that check my post, The saga of Apple's iPhoto and Google's Picasa with some tests.
However, in my workflow, usually the first place that a photo meets a computer is my Windows laptop since I no longer have a functioning Mac laptop. The windows laptop stays on our kitchen table, and when I come in from my early morning walk and finish my coffee, I often upload my photos to Picasa on the Lenovo. By the same token when I come in after a five mile beach walk, the photos usually go first into Picasa.
Picasa, while it is not as pretty as iPhoto, does a lot of things and does them quickly. While the iPhoto user interface has become slower to use, Picasa's has become faster and more versatile.
It is not unusual for me to run through three or four hundred photos and pick out the best ones in Picasa and do some basic adjustments for light and post them in an album on the web like this Hammock's Beach Album on Picasa Web Albums.
I sometimes will export individual photos or several photos to either DropBox or GoogleDrive. It is easy then for me to find the best photos when I go up to my office and sit down at my Mac. I also usually upload all my photos to iPhoto and run Picasa on the I5 iMac often enough to let it include all the photos that I have uploaded to iPhoto.
The other day when I was talking to another photographer who had lost his MobileMe albums, I created similar examples of the same Hammocks Beach photos on Microsoft's SkyDrive and on flickr. Clicking on the links will take you to the albums.
When I export individual photos, I usually want to use them somewhere besides an album. An example would be the photo in the post, Life without Walls, on my Crystal Coast Life website. The photo came from that same set taken at Hammocks Beach. I currently use Pixelmator for anything that I can't do in Picasa or iPhoto. Of course I also post photos to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.
Sometimes, I want to make a self contained photo album and post it on my own website. I have traditionally used ShutterBug, a Mac based piece of software to do that. An example of a Shutterbug site would be this one that I created to sell stuff from our Roanoke, VA house which has just gone under contract.
I attempted to create a Shutterbug site for the Hammocks Beach photos, but I ran into an incompatibility between my old dual G5, iPhoto, and Shutterbug. Shutterbug could not see the iPhoto albums so it had nothing to work with in creating a slide show. Shutterbug is a good product and certainly should not be judged on how it works on an eight year old Mac. I'm certain that I would have had no troubles on my iMac with more recent software.
With my inability to create the Shutterbug beach site, I decided to look for a free solution that would work on Windows and Macs. I found VisualLightBox. I downloaded the Windows version, and in two or three minutes created and uploaded this online album of the Hammocks Beach photos. It was extremely straight forward, but to use VisualLightBox you have to manage your own website and understand a little about folders on websites.
As I get ready to make recommendations, two other factors are important in my digital life. I have an Android phone, the LG Spectrum, and I have one of the original Kindle Fires. I am no expert in iPhones or iPads, so make sure you run some tests of your own if those products are important to you.
First off the best and most complete solution is the one from Google. Picasa Web Albums has been a reliable photo partner for years. It has never let me down like .Mac and MobileMe. The photos that I put there years ago are still there. It is easy to share individual photos or whole albums. Picasa web albums are well integrated into Picasa and with a third party plug-in it is also easy to upload from iPhoto.
Google has over the last year made some changes in their effort to promote Google+. If you have a Google+ profile attached to your Picasa Web Albums identity, Google pushes you to create the Google+ album first, and then an automatic duplicate one is created in Picasa web albums.
I actually find that a little inconvenient so I have two Google identities, one with a Google+ profile and the other without one. When I upload photos using my identity without the Google+ profile, they go directly to my Picasa web albums account tied to that identity. I like it better that way though I am warming to the way things are shared in Google+.
With an Android phone, both of my Picasa web albums accounts sync to my phone. Of course I can log into either of the accounts using the browser on my Kindle Fire.
However that seems a little inelegant to me so I have recently discovered a new piece of software called Portfolio for Windows Skydrive. The company, Snapwood Apps, makes a number of photo apps for different sharing services.
What Portfolio for Skydrive does is turn a folder of photos in a slide show when I run the app on my Android device. It works great and I love it. I wish they would do one for Google Drive. The limitation is that the slide show is driven by the app on your device so you can't share it.
However, having said that I think Windows Sky Drive has some of the best sharing controls that I have seen.
So if you don't have a home for your photos on the web, there are plenty of options and several more that I haven't discussed. The one option not there is a solution from Apple.
In this world of everything being online, Apple's absence is a major mistake in my opinion, but I suspect it all goes back to Apple not understanding what a "Cloud" really does.
I actually think Apple would have a far better understanding of what is needed if the company got a little more involved in social media, but that is a post for another day.
If you get a chance, stop by my View from the Mountain blog, and check on my latest post, The Three Kinds of People in the World. There is not much doubt where Steve would have fit in my categories.
Five years ago I wrote an article in which I said the following.
"Certainly if I considered the .Mac experience to be the best measure of Apple's web understanding, I would have to give Apple a failing grade. There is no way around it, .Mac is not worth what many of us pay for it."
It is hard to believe that five years later Apple could decide to make its new iCloud service free, and iCloud might even be less useful than .Mac or MobileMe.
When I read the Register's article, "Sacrifice Another Goat, iCloud is Apple's biggest failure...," I could only nod my head in aggreement.
"Apple's cloud services continue to be more than a blemish on the company's reputation. They are a serious black hole."
I am not really surprised that Apple hasn't figured out the cloud because Apple has never understood that to really be a web player you have to free the data from the device.
All you have to is look at the way iWeb was built. It tried its best to tie the website to a particular Mac. Using iWeb to build a website on multiple Macs required jumping through hoops and moving huge files around by thumbdrives.
The shame of Apple's failures in the cloud is that when it came to many things about the web, Apple was a leader. There was no easier way to put photos on the web than the original iPhoto.
Unfortunately that is no longer the case. Adding photos to your Picasa web albums, Google drive, Dropbox or your Microsoft Skydrive is much easier than fooling around with your photostream. If you take a hundred photos and want to put some of the best of them on the web, it is easy to do with any of the products besides Apple's iCloud.
Interestingly ever since I bought my original Droid in 2010, all the photos that I have chosen to be on the web have been automatically been synced to my phone, the web, and any computer that I choose. In fact even with a couple of Gmail accounts to my name, things have worked perfectly with my contacts and mail. I haven't had a glitch in over two years. I can use Gmail as a web client or with Apple mail, Postbox, or Thunderbird. It doesn't matter.
With Google's services I have access to my contacts, email, and photos from Windows, Linux, Lion, and all my older Macs.
With iCloud, my older Macs are completely shut out from iCloud unless I use Safari. Interestingly my former MobileMe accounts work fine in Postbox and Thunderbird on Windows 7. More importantly all the photos that I put on Picasa web albums and Flickr are still there instead of mysteriously appearing unannounced in my most recent iPhoto library and disappearing from the web.
I believe that unless Apple can figure out the cloud, the great products may not matter. With the frustrations that I have had with Apple's software, I am less inclined to try the company's new hardware.
Recent tests that show the Nexus 7 tablet besting the iPad just confirm my recent unfortunate experience with Apple hardware which has a long tradition of being the best. Since 2004, I have purchased five Windows laptops and two Mac laptops. All of my Windows laptops except one which someone sat on are still running. Neither of my Mac laptops are functional. It is a small sample, but it has to influence my personal decision on hardware purchases especially since the two Mac laptops cost almost as much as the five Windows laptops.
The iMac that I purchased in October 2010 has also been problematic. I am now running it off an external drive with Lion after having serious problems with slow Snow Leopard. We have three Windows 7 laptops that have been models of software stability and reliability. I don't say that to slam Apple but to convey my personal experience which has shaken my faith in Apple hardware and software.
When you add Apple lack's of understanding of the web, poor implementation of iCloud, and software problems, it makes you wonder if Apple is on the right track.
I remain hopeful, but seriously how many years is it going to take Apple to figure out the web?
Fortunately Apple's issues tend to fade in importance when I get out on the water in my kayak or have a blue water morning in our skiff, but those are advantages of life by the river in the summer. It works better for me than living in a metropolitan area where an Apple Store is always tempting you.
By the way this is the 400th post that I have written for Applepeels. Only a handful of them are still online, but the book is coming this summer. If you have ever wondered what it was like to spend nearly twenty years at Apple, you will be able to read my story soon.
It was the spring of 1994, just before things really started to get interesting at Apple. I called my higher education team together for a spring meeting at Mountain Lake Resort not too far from Blacksburg, Virginia.
We were planning for back to school at universities and colleges from Maryland all the way through North Carolina. It was still in the days when college students could get a real deal by buying their computers on campus.
As an Apple manager, I never bought into the idea that Apple reps should focus on marketing by brochure. I believed that my people needed to know what they were selling so I always managed to set aside some dollars for demo equipment.
That spring, I ordered Quicktake 100 cameras for my team. They had revolted when I had suggested an overnight camping trip and a hike on part of the Appalachian Trail as a prelude to our meeting. We settled on a digital scanvenger hunt around the trail at Mountain Lake. It gave them a chance to get familiar with their Quicktake cameras.
The first Quicktake was actually manufactured by Kodak. It was a revolution in its day. I can remember using both the Quicktake and Kodak's earlier Photo CD product. My oldest daughter did a Hypercard project for a high school science project, and we had a Photo CD created.
In a little over three years, Steve Jobs would be back at Apple. Apple would focus on just computers. Cameras, scanners, printers, and even the Newton would disappear from the product lineup
For a time I thought Apple had made a mistake in abandoning cameras, but within a few years, it was clear that to win in the digital camera business took a focus that Apple didn't have if you will pardon the pun.
Apple's next great contribution to the world of photography would be iPhoto which was released in January 2002.
Like most folks I have a history with Kodak cameras and film. We even used Kodak disc film and some of their multi-format cameras. When I was in college in the sixties, I actually had a Kodak SLR camera that I carried with me on a trip to Alaska. It didn't have interchangeable lenses so in 1969/70 I switched to Nikon which is the camera line that I still use the most.
As someone who sometimes takes a thousand pictures a day and still sells a few prints, I am a dedicated camera user and not particularly interested in the cameras in devices like the iPhone. I am certain you can take great pictures with them, but they don't meet my needs.
Apple has been a company that has been able to re-invent its business a number of times. There are myriads of reasons why Apple and Kodak are different companies on completely different trajectories.
I am also not sure if the world of digital photography would be much better if Apple had gotten serious about the camera market. However, I do think Apple deserves some credit for helping create the bridge between the world of photography and computers.
I know that I have a very rich history of digital images which I probably wouldn't have except for the Quicktake, iPhoto, and actually the Apple OneScanner and its Ofoto scanning program. All of these gave me an early start in the digital world and likely a path away from Kodak.
While I can live with Apple not being my digital camera supplier or the source of my scanner and its VueScan software, I certainly do miss Apple in my world of printers. Actually I can live without Apple in the world of laser printers, but I certainly do miss Apple's genius in the world of color printers.
I keep floating between Epson, Cannon, and HP color printers, but none have the magic of Apple or even work much better with Apple's OSX than they do with Windows 7, but that is fodder for a post another day.
Aside from complaining about the death of common courtesy, that is it from the Crystal Coast where winter never stays very long, but we are enjoying some brief winter beach time. If you are using Safari for your browser, you can check out my belted Kingfisher movie.
Perhaps he had a comment on being photographed about three quarters of the way through the move. The movie was done with a Nikon Coolpix 500. I might have some comments soon on the pain of movies and browsers in 2012.
To start I want to get off the plate my perennial wishes for Apple that I know will never happen.
The first is for a nice $1,000 mini-tower that has room for a couple of hard drives and an optical drive. All it needs is an I5 processor but an I7 would be a nice option. It doesn't have to be designed to survive a nuclear holocaust like the current Mac Pro. Just a simple elegant case will do. I don't need to elaborate on the specs since this does not appear to be anywhere on Apple's radar.
The second wish that I know will never come about is a reasonably priced 15" laptop. I don't expect Apple to compete with low cost laptops but it sure would be nice to be able to get a 15" laptop from Apple for only 50% more than the competition instead of more than double the cost.
My third never-going-to-happen perennial wish is that Apple would establish real communication with customers. While I know that customers can be a pain in the rear when you are the most successful company in the world, I really think both customers and Apple would gain from having a dialogue instead of mostly one way communication.
I have no idea whether or not my last wish from previous years has been fixed since I still haven't figured out how to access iCloud without spending money for an upgrade that I don't want or becoming best buddies with someone using Mac OS X Lion. The holidays did not help in this respect since my adult children gave me a Kindle Fire for Christmas.
Now that my old wishes are out of the way, what do I really hope for Apple in 2012.
Well the first thing that I would like to see Apple do is to focus on making things work really well instead of adding things that might be of questionable value. Changes to iPhoto are what I have complained about the most but there might be significant issues in OS X Lion.
While I wish I had hands on experience with OS X Lion, I don't. What I have heard from my valued testers has not been very positive and has kept me from installing it on my I5 iMac. This recent article in Slate confirmed what my tester-friends have been telling me, that Apple perhaps has stretched a little far with Lion. I'm not saying the direction they're headed is completely wrong, but it would be really nice if things just worked really well. That is usually the case on a Mac, and that is why most of use Macs.
My next wish is that Apple would quit playing the game of forcing people to buy more expensive products just to get what they want. Now I will give credit where credit is due. You no longer have to buy the iMac with the largest screen to get an I5 processor like when I bought mine in October 2010. My desk really didn't have room for the large screen, but I had no choice at the time if I wanted an I5 processor.
That being said there are still some nagging issues like having to buy a 13" MacBook Air to get a SD slot and having to buy an external CD drive for the MacMini. Just about the time the Mac Mini got updated enough for me to consider buying one, Apple takes out the CD-ROM drive
Now I understand Apple wants everyone to go to their online app store which most people seem to think has reduced prices but having an external CD-ROM sort of defeats the elegance of the Mac Mini.
Beyond that I don't have a lot of complaints about Apple, but that might be because I don't have both feet in the world of Apple. If I want to transfer photos from my Android phone, I just plug it into my computer and drag them over. I don't have to go through iTunes which I hardly use.
If I want to share files across multiple computers, I use DropBox which is a drop dead elegant solution that works on everything. My pictures are in Picasa Web Albums, and I am even giving Microsoft Skydrive a try since it also works on everything and seems very fast.
I know that the life blood of Apple is innovation, but I am hoping that the reign of Tim Cook becomes know as much for refinement as it does for the latest technology.
There is already an overwhelming amount of technology out there. Apple's core strength has always been making technology easy even when not everything was built by Apple. I hope to see that direction revitalized this year. It is something desperately needed in our world.
Finally I would love to see Apple take some of their cash horde and figure out how to help jump start the American economy. Certainly Apple can't do it alone, but by the same token Apple could become a leader in helping America retool for the future. Other Silicon Valley companies are used to following Apple's leadership, and this would be a great place for Apple to use it's influence.
If you are wondering about the donation button that is now on the Applepeels blog, you can read details in this post. It is just an effort to generate some cash to be able to review more products which will then be auctioned off to readers. Any donation from a buyer will be credited towards a purchase.