Category Archives: Products and Services

Saying Goodbye to Phanfare


Awhile back I wrote a post about how much I liked Phanfare and until now I have been really happy with having them host my photos and videos. It gave my family a way to keep in touch with us and provided a window into the events of our lives that they were not able to be there for. Unfortunately Phanfare has decided that in order for them to continue to exist, they need to charge a minimum of $100/yr regardless of your usage. This is just for the basic hosting package. So it seems that it costs them as much to hold onto my 5GB of data as it does for someone else to store 50GB. This price increase is almost DOUBLE the amount that I have been paying up until this point. Possibly the worst part is the lack of notification to their existing customers. I found out, not from any correspondence from them, but through a little notification in my account settings that I happened to stumble onto.
It is unfortunate that they decided to go this route, and not consider the people who don’t store a ton of information on their servers. I felt that I paid them a lot of money for the space I was actually using, and I did it because they had some of the best photo and video management packages I have seen to date. In the end it doesn’t matter how good an application they have if I can’t afford to use it.
So with that I have downloaded my information off of Phanfare and will be cancelling my account with them before they automatically bill me for another year. I am really unhappy to have to find another site, when I felt I had finally found a solution that worked so perfectly for me. Thanks Phanfare…it was good while it lasted.

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Big fan of Phanfare

Awhile back I decided on Smugmug as the best photo/video hosting solution for our family photos and movies…or so I thought. I really enjoyed the look of Smugmug and the customer service was first rate, but it had one major flaw. I fought continuously with it when trying to arrange my photos. It seemed like so much more hassle than it needed to be and the changes I would make never seemed to stick. I think that when you are one of the more expensive photo hosting sites that it should be a superior experience all around.

So I went searching for something better and took a closer look at Phanfare. I had looked at Phanfare before, but passed it up for some reason the first time. Is it possible that there have been improvements since the first time I used it? Maybe, but all I know is that I have been really impressed with it so far. I love the desktop client and really enjoy the ease of organizing my photos and videos. I am not going to say it is hands down the best designed photo site, but if I have to choose between the slight edge I think Smugmug has in the aesthetics department or the ease of use and functions that Phanfare has I will choose the latter every time.

Recently I was pleasantly surprised by the news that yearly subscriptions would be dropping to $49.99 which is just icing on the cake. I think that this is a fair price for the ability to share pictures and video with family members wherever they may be. I really feel that this is a smart move to encourage people to host with them and I applaud them for giving consumers a break in a time when we could use it the most.

Phanfare Website

UPDATE 8/14/09

After seeing the details of the new pricing scheme, I am less inclined to recommend Phanfare to new customers. It seems that a Premium account costing $49.99 only gets you 5 GB of storage and the Pro account gives you 20GB for $99/year (with additional 20GB for another $49.99/year). From the sounds of it, current users that have unlimited storage will retain that feature, but can most likely look forward to price increases before too long šŸ˜¦


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Make your internet browser into something beautiful

You spend a lot of time looking at and interacting with your internet browser. So why not dress it up up a little and make the user experience a little better.Ā  Bodizzle at Virtus Designs makes some awesome Firefox and Flock browser themes and the best part is that he charges a very reasonable price for his hard work. Firefox themes are offered for just $.99 and Flock themes, which are more complex to make, for $1.99.
From the sounds of it this is his main source of income, so do Bodizzle and yourself a favor and check out some of his designs over at Virtus Designs.

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SmugMug in the lead

Not too long ago I decided to change my photo and video hosting online from Image Event to something else. It is worth noting that while it served up pictures very quickly, videos had to be pretty small and the interface customization was limited and less than intuitive. I checked out a few different places and kinda settled on Flickr because of the large amount of users and the positive press I had heard about them.
Fast forward a few months, and I am once again looking for something new. I like the community of Flickr, but the speed and interface left something to be desired. I have trialled all the other well known services like Picasa, Photobucket, Pbase, Zooomr, Zenfolio, PhanPhare, and SmugMug . The one I seem to be stuck on is SmugMug and there are a few reasons why. The themes (at least the black ones I use) look sleek, the pictures load really fast, and the customer support is quick and super friendly. Another big factor is the video which allows for 2.5 minutes of DVD quality (640×480) video clips, which are a step up from the 90 seconds of video Flickr offers. The main downfall is that the $60/yr is considerably higher than Flickr’s $24.95/yr cost. With family being spread across the U.S. and even some abroad, a photo/video site can go a long ways towards bridging the gap. The most important thing to me is that my site is attractive and that it is fast and easy to navigate. This is where SmugMug excels and why, when the remainder of my trial is up, I will most likely continue to host all of the media I want to share with them.

Things I would like to see:
– Price drop to $50/year for Power Users
– More slick themes (not holiday or season ones)
– Allow longer video clips (up to 5 min)
– Continue to work on the community features (more like Flickr groups)
– Group Albums – This allows you and the people you choose to all contribute photos to one album whether it be one folder for the whole family or maybe a gallery set up for someone’s wedding where all the attendee’s can contribute their photos. This is brilliant and something I have been waiting to see something like this from more sites.

These things, added to their already long list of features, would go a long way towards making me a lifetime customer, and impress a whole lot more people in the process.

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Some essential Firefox extensions

While Firefox is becoming increasingly popular, many don’t fully utilize all that it has to offer. I thought I would make a list some of the best extensions that you may not be using. I am using the RC 2 (2nd Release Candidate) version of Firefox 3 so I may not include a few extensions that are really popular in Firefox 2.

1. PicLens – Places a small icon in your browser menubar which allows you to search for pictures and videos from a bunch of different sites (You Tube, Flickr, Photobucket, Deviant Art, Google, Yahoo, MySpace, Facebook, and more). The best thing about this is the presentation. Clicking on the program icon brings you to a very Apple TV-like interface with videos floating in air and flying past you as you arrow around the screen.

PicLens from cooliris
Here is a picture that gives you and idea of what it looks like.

2. Download Helper consists of a small icon on your menu bar that starts rotating to let you know that the web page you are on contains video that can be downloaded. You can click on it to access a drop down menu showing all the videos you can download to your hard drive. From what I can tell, it works with any video site online so if you see a video you should be able to capture it.

3. TwitterFox – If you aren’t familiar with Twitter, it is a little app that is used simply used to let people know what you are doing at any given time. This app sits at the bottom of your browser window and will pop up if any of the people you are following post something. On the other hand, when you want to post you simply click on the icon at the bottom of the window and up pops a text box for you to enter in your post. This is so much simpler than having to go to the Twitter webpage to enter it in.

4. ForecastFox As you could probably guess, this is a weather extension that sits on the bottom bar of your browser window and displays Current temp along with the weather in the following week. It will pop up with weather alerts if there are storm warnings in your area. In the past I had tried a program called Weatherbug that I hated and sucked up system resources. This one seems to do it with alot more style and doesn’t get in your way in the process.

5. AdBlock Plus & Flashblock – These two program together help keep your web experience a positive one by blocking pop up windows and those annoying Flash animations that pop while viewing web pages.

6. XippeeI wasn’t sure about this extension at first but after working with it a little bit I really like it. If you can get past the strange name you could really find this useful. When you search for something in Google, Yahoo, or whatever, you can double click on a any word in the site descriptions and a box will pop up with a “+” and a ” – “. If you want to see searches with more of that word click the plus sign, and vice versa if you want to see see less of that word, and your searches will really get down to what you are looking for. This becomes second nature and you don’t see any icons at all, but it is there when you want to use it.

These are some of the ones that I came across today. There are many, many more so now I am gonna go check out some more cool stuff. You can get the Firefox 3 browser at http://www.mozilla.com and access all these cool extras by clicking on Tools/Add-ons in the menu bar once it is installed.

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Flock is my new favorite browser

Flock is a new browser based on Mozilla which many already know and love. The difference is that Flock puts an emphasis on social networking apps and sites and integrates them right into your browser. All the services you may already use like Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, WordPress, Blogger, Flickr, Photobucket, and many more. TalkĀ  of services like myspace, Digg, and Pownce being integrated in future updates has also emerged.Ā  I can have all the services logged in and ready on a column to the left of my browser. I can drag-n-drop media to any users on any system easily. I can see a slideshow of everyone’s media from YouTube, Facebook, etc with the click of a button. This browser was something that took about a half hour of use with all the things I use set up to log in automatically and then it hit me how great this really is. If you use alot of these services, try this browser. It is free, and there is a good chance that once you use it, you won’t want to use anything else.

UPDATE: Just a few minutes ago,Ā  FlockĀ  versionĀ  1.2.1 with Digg and Pownce integration was released.

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