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Tag: YouSendIt

YouSendIt is Gone. Should You Hightail It?

It looks like name recognition wasn’t that valuable an asset for YouSendIt. To stay relevant, they upgraded their mission, their name… and their pricing! Should you find another web link creation service?

It looks like name recognition wasn’t that valuable an asset for YouSendIt. To stay relevant, they upgraded their mission, their name… and their pricing! Should you find another web link creation service?

It’s darn impossible to send out a video via email attachment these days, because of how large video files have become.
(Everything is HD… on its way to 4K!)

Sure, you might be able to get a really short clip through, without blowing up your email program.
But anything more than a couple minutes worth of content…you can forget it.

Yes, there’s the magic bullet of file compression, but that’s an added step and a story for another day…

Instead of attaching a cripplingly large video into your email,
one solution is to include a web link that your recipients can click on.
They’ll be directed to a web page that hosts your video and then downloads your file.
Before you know it, they’re happily* watching the video from their desktop!
(*Blogger not responsible for actual download speed experience!)

Downloadable Video Links Vs. Streaming
In this golden digital age of easy-upload and stream websites like YouTube and Vimeo, you might question the very need for a service that downloads your video first before you can watch it.
And if you’re feeling a little twitchy about privacy and want to keep the video away from the public eye, simply password-protect your video page.

But in the video creation/collaboration business, there are usually multiple drafts of a video before the final version crosses the finish line.

A good method for offsite collaboration on these kinds of projects is via downloadable links.

Plus, if you simply want a video to get from Point A to Point B, streaming it isn’t going to get the job done. You’ve still got to download it!

Goodbye YouSendIt
If you’ve ever downloaded a video file from a web link, there’s a good chance the link was generated by a company called YouSendIt.
They’ve been around since 2004 and currently have over 40 million users.
This month alone, they’ve shared more than 100 million files.
Impressive.
(“Most impressive.”)

But if you haven’t heard, you’ll never get a link from YouSendIt ever again.
Don’t panic. The friendly folks from YouSendIt are still there.
They’ve just been going through an identity crisis of sorts, and they’ve “rebranded” themselves.

YouSendIt is now ‘Hightail.’
Surprise…!

Hello Hightail
Yes, it was a surprise to me too.
An email from them would have been nice…

Everyone knew what a YouSendIt link was…
(It was almost a verb unto itself.)

Now a ‘Hightail’ link?
(They seem very excited by their new name. I’ll leave it at that.)

They claim their business model needed to change, as there are dozens of competing choices clouding their future.

To survive, they have to grow beyond a simple file-sharing service.
Today, it’s all about being a collaboration and file management tool.

I get all that.

The Cost of Progress
I just want to know if their shiny new kitchen can still brew a simple cup of coffee.

Today, I just want to make my video links.
Drum roll, please…

Yes, you still can, but there have been some ‘modifications’ to their subscription plans.
(oh?)

My existing YouSendIt Pro account plan cost me $49.99/year.
(They were running a deal when I renewed it…)

The Pro plan gave me a maximum sharable file size of 2 GB with 5GB of total available storage.
That’s plenty for what I need.

Both YouSendIt’s old free plan and Hightail’s no-cost ‘Lite’ plan give you just 2 GB of storage.
But the killer with this free deal remains the per-file size limit…
Only 50 MB.
That doesn’t get you very far with video.

Hightail’s value proposition is its new Professional plan which offers you unlimited Cloud storage for all your files.
That’s a real wake-up call to the competition.
(And you can still share files up to 2 GB.)

But all this goodness is going to cost you $159.99/year.
That’s a chunk of change.
And a lot more than I’d prefer to pay.

Is Free Really a Deal?
There are so many free ways to send out links these days.
So why pay anything?

Well, call me old school, l but I still subscribe to the concept that you get what you pay for.

If sending out a video link is really important, then you might want to use a company you know with a good track record.
And you may have to pay something for the privilege.

The question is how much…
I‘ve been willing to pay $50/year for peace of mind, but three times that?!

For the record, I’ve been completely satisfied with YouSendIt, and I’m sure Hightail will be equally wonderful…

I just don’t want to spend $160.
(Especially when the onward march of tech innovation is supposed to decrease pricing!)

So what now?
Time to shop around and look at the competition…

Starving with Too Much Choice
As I considered the cluttered landscape offering to help me create my links,
I quickly grew frustrated with all the choices.

Others have already gone through this lengthy exercise:

Google Drive
Yes, Google Drive keeps popping up everywhere, and it’s free.
Plus, they give you 15 GB, which is hard to beat.
But it’s a service that requires you to download yet more software onto your computer.
(ugh)

Dropbox
That said, I realized I’ve got Dropbox on my desktop.
And I’m already happily creating links with them.
(Dropbox gives you 2 GB for free…and a little more when you get friends to join.)

So, problem solved… right?

Sort of…

I’d Like the Burger Deluxe, Please
I’ve realized I enjoy some of the cushier bells and whistles I had with YouSendIt.

  • You can set the link’s life span from a few days to a few months
  • It’s also nice to have the option to see when your file has been viewed

Adobe SendNow
Then I found Adobe SendNow.
They do all that and more for only $20 a year.

  • Maximum file size of 2 GB
  • Maximum storage of 20 GB

Sweet!

And Adobe is no mom-and-pop operation.
(What can I say… I like a well-known brand.)

Put your Jackson to work, and problem solved!

Hightail it or Hightail it?
So is it time to leave Hightail?
I think so.

I’ve still got more time on my legacy YouSendIt plan.
But if Hightail can’t get more competitive against Adobe SendNow or another similarly featured service, (any other suggestions?)

…I’m hightailing it elsewhere!

How to Share Your Birthday Video with Flip4Mac

I captured the moment that defined my son’s third birthday.  But there were 43 more seconds of video action I was hoping someone in the crowd would get.  The next gauntlet would be to convert the video from QuickTime to Windows Media.  More cake, anyone?

I captured the moment that defined my son’s third birthday. But there were 43 more seconds of video action I was hoping someone in the crowd would get. The next gauntlet would be to convert the video from QuickTime to Windows Media. More cake, anyone?

My boy just had his third birthday party.

And the best part was… he understood what it was all about!

  • He shouted with glee, “I’m three!”
  • He understood he received presents from all his friends
  • He loved blowing out the candles
  • He couldn’t wait to eat the cake
    (that part was never difficult)

Home run.

And as if experiencing all these wonderful moments at yesterday’s party wasn’t enough, I also wanted to capture some of them for posterity.

You know. A few pictures. A couple videos.
What could go wrong?

The Birthday Song
I don’t know why the ‘Happy Birthday’ song is such an iconic moment at birthday parties.

The sixteen words almost command the same attention as-
“I do.”

If you miss it, it’s like the whole shebang didn’t even happen.

So I was eager to ensure I got my preschooler’s birthday-song moment on video.
I had all three of my cameras on hand and fully charged:

  • Two Canon pocket cameras (S100 and Elph 300) and my Canon DSLR (old T1i)

My wife and I had a couple ringers (other parents) in the crowd to help us capture the moment. I would be right next to my boy and technically part of the action.
(hard to pull double duty in that situation)
So I held onto the DSLR to take a couple quick candle-blowing close ups and relied on the two pocket cameras to do the heavy lifting for the video assignment.

If You Don’t Have the Video, Did the Birthday Party Happen?
I didn’t need two separate camera angles, but I wanted a back up plan if one of the cameras or volunteer camera operators ran into trouble.
You know… Murphy’s Law.
And guess what happened…?

One of the two pocket cams switched hands at the last minute.
Probably due to a moment requiring the juggling of children,
or some such understandable redirection of parental resources.

Then, apparently my video directive became diluted, and the substitute videographer shot a couple of photos instead of video.
D’oh!!

And the fate of the other camera operator?

Fortunately, he came through with flying colors.
(not that I had any real doubts… I had hand-picked this parent.
He had previously demonstrated the innate flexibility of a documentary cinematographer at other Lester events.
I know talent when I see it!)

So as they say… “I got the shot!”

Let Your Smartphone Share Your Magic Moments
Again, I don’t understand why the birthday song is such a ‘must capture’ moment, or why I’ve become so focused on it.

Maybe, it so effectively summaries the entire event, like a newspaper headline.

Plus, the whole candle blowing ritual has turned into a kind of sport for children.
(Will all the candles get blown out at once?!)

So once you’ve gone through all the effort to capture your boy’s birthday video vérité, you probably want to share it…

No big deal, right?

Case in point:
Before we had even said goodbye to all our guests, the first video came in via a friend’s iPhone. That ease of sharing via smartphones almost defies linear time!

If you can practice your video sharing via smartphone voodoo, I highly recommend it, as long as your video snippets are short.

The Limits of Streaming Your Life
Another way to share your home videos is to simply upload them to a streaming-friendly website like YouTube, Vimeo, or Facebook.

So what’s the problem?

Yes, you’ve shared your life’s precious moments via a streaming solution, but you haven’t truly ‘given’ them to anyone yet.

Remember, ‘streaming’ is not ‘downloading.’
(although you can sometimes download a file after you watch the stream)

  • An Internet connection may not always be available for streaming access
  • Your family and friends may eventually lose your link to access your file online
  • Your file may not exist forever online

If this sounds like the beginnings of an argument against the Cloud,
it’s not.
…or is it?

Let’s not go there…

Let’s just say today’s task is to simply get the birthday-song video to Grandma.

Four Steps to Get Your Home Movie from Your Apple Ecosystem to Grandma’s House
If you want Grandma to always have access to the video, she’ll have to download your file to her computer’s hard drive.

Step 1:
First, download your two-minute HD movie from your digital camera to your Apple computer.

Immediately, you’ve got two problems:

  • It’s a hulking 200 MB file.
    (so it’s too large to email out)
  • Grandma has a PC that can’t play QuickTime Movies
    These days, most cameras natively create their video files in the QuickTime format.
    (So you’ll need a way to convert it to a Windows Media file.
    More on this later…)

Step 2:
If you want to retain the full HD quality of your video, you’ll have to use a file sharing service like Dropbox or YouSendIt.

Once you upload your video, you’ll receive a downloadable web link to share.
If Grandma can handle the several steps to the download and save process, that’s clearly the way to go.

But if it’s too complicated, and she needs a one-click solution,
you’ve got to go old school:
Email the file to her.

Step 3:
Your next challenge is to compress your video before emailing it out.
(Translation: Sacrifice its quality and crush it small enough to fit into an email.)

I recommend using Apple’s ‘Compressor’ or QuickTime to reduce the video frame’s size and the frame rate.

Step 4:
Now, it’s time to convert your movie to a Windows Media file.

Can you cook up a Windows Media file with the QuickTime player?
Nope.
(remember, Apple doesn’t really like the Windows universe)

Has someone else figured out a fix?
Of course!

The solution I use is Flip4Mac.

It’s a product from Telestream that easily converts your MOVs into WMVs.
But it’s going to cost you:

The free Flip4Mac Player version simply lets you play WMVs on a Mac.

If you want to convert WMVs to MOVs, you’ll need the $29 Player Pro version.

But you want to go the other way.
That trick will set you back $49.
It’s called the ‘Studio’ version.

$49 to convert your movie to a WMV for Grandma?
That’s right.
(What? Now, you want to nickel-and-dime Grandma?!)

Believe me, this software will not have a one-time use.
It’s worth it.

This Is Not a Drill!
So I took my boy’s 140.8 MB Happy Birthday moment, which runs 44 seconds, and decided to email it to my mother-in-law who does, in fact, require a WMV version.

For those in the know, video compression is a fine art.
There are countless ways to get the WMV file to the finish line…
But for those of you who want a quick and simple solution, here’s how you do it:

Compress Your Movie

  • When your movie is open in QuickTime, under the File dropdown, choose ‘Export’
  • Under the Format dropdown: choose ‘480p’
  • Click on ‘Export’

This simple compression reduced the data rate and quickly dropped my frame size from 1280 x 720 pixels down to 640 x 360 pixels.
More importantly, it reduced my MOV file from 140.8 MB to a manageable 13.7MB.

Convert QuickTime to Windows Media with Flip4Mac

  • Then I converted the MOV into a 320 x 180 pixel WMV via the Flip4Mac integration with QuickTime.

And the final product?

Voilà!
I created an easy-to-digest 4.6 MB file to email Grandma.

Yes, the frame size is really tiny, but otherwise it looked and sounded reasonably good!

Easy as Pie
So there you have it.
Four easy steps, and now you too can sing with glee,
“Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house your video file will go!”

All I Want is to Have my Peace of Mind and Cloud Storage

It’s time to fly your data to the Cloud. Now boarding at Gate B9… all your precious files selected for Cloud storage!

Okay, Cloud.
Show me your stuff.

I need a bulletproof digital storage solution.
Why?
I’ve got a wonderful two-year-old son.
And he’s proudly running about the house like a Tasmanian devil.

My home tech is afraid.
He took down my sturdy Epson printer in 3.7 seconds with a shiny penny.

And he loves to climb.
(Anyone know of a good indoor rock-climbing program for toddlers?)

Nothing is safe.
I worry about my iMac.

Yes, I back it up with Apple’s Time Machine and an external drive,
but really… So what?
Nothing is totally safe…especially in close proximity to a toddler.

These days, everyone is opining about the magic of the Cloud, and how you can safely and cheaply store all your digital files there.

So, problem solved?

This is what I have to say to the Cloud-
Put up or shut up.
Bring it on!

Archive the Family Photos and Videos
I began this project with the singular goal of simply backing up two massive sets of files on my iMac:

  • My always-growing home video archive
  • And my bulging photo collection, which lives in Apple’s Aperture (the beefier cousin to iPhoto)

I figured in the unlikely scenario of total calamity, I would at least have these precious memories safely backed up to the Cloud.
(Where nothing could ever go wrong.)

Who Gets to Go in the Life Boat?
But when you consider what digital content you absolutely can’t lose, the issue gets cloudier.

My life merged with my home computer sometime around Y2K.
Since then, most everything that’s happened to me has some digital footprint on my computer. Unless you’re a Luddite, you’re probably in the same boat.

Think about it.
Remnants of the past decade of your life live all over your computer’s hard drive.
Talk about baggage.

Pop quiz:
If you woke up one morning, and a voice said you had to leave home forever, and you had one hour to take only what you could carry, would you be ready?

Well, if you’d been dutifully doing your annual spring-cleaning, you might be up to the task.

Well, have you?

I think the same story goes for many personal computers out there
…and their flawed users.
How organized is all the data on your computer?
If you had to immediately select just 10% of your content to save, would you know where to start?

I certainly wouldn’t.

Now is every megabyte of my digital life absolutely critical to save for posterity?
I don’t think so.

Remember, my plan was just to back up my videos, photos and home movies.
All the unused footage I left on the cutting room floor could go, right?

The problem is, I’ve fallen a tad behind in my home editing.
My boy is almost two-and-a-half, and I’m still working on some of his precious video moments from last year.

Now that’s an entirely separate problem, but you can see where I’m going.

Forget the spring-cleaning analogy.
Life is messy.
Your computer follows your life.
Get used to it.

So where does that leave you?
You’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Mind-Numbing Number of Cloud Solutions
There are plenty of companies out there in the cloud storage business.
You even can even pick up some free storage from some of them, but you’ll hit a cap quickly.

Free Cloud Storage:

The best free deal out there I’ve found is 50 gigs from MediaFire.
The only catch is the per file limit is 200 megs, which severely limits video archiving.

But none of these free choices will handle the storage needs of a long-term media file archiving plan.

Fifty Bucks Can Save Your Digital World
At the $50/year price point though, things start to get interesting-

$50 – $100 Plans:

For the uber-organized individual, this could be enough storage to do the job.

Affordable Unlimited Storage Plans?!
There are also a few companies out there offering unlimited Cloud storage at similar price points.

What?! Unlimited? That sounds crazy!
Yes, it seems counter intuitive, but the all-you-can-eat plans are far more economical.

These loss leader deals are baked into full service back-up strategies as opposed to a simple Cloud rental. They work much like Time Machine.
Set it and forget it, and they’re automatically updating your files in the background to Cloud servers.

Here are some popular ones I uncovered for both Macs and PCs:

Unlimited Storage Plans:

I’m not sure how these companies pull a profit with this pricing, but they must know what they’re doing.

Unlimited Storage is Hard to Beat
So for me, it really came down to two choices:

  • Rent 50 GB or 100 GB for long term archiving for something under $100/year
  • Or buy an unlimited back up Cloud plan for the same amount or less

You do the math.

But as wonderful as these unlimited plans appeared, I didn’t really want the complication of downloading some third-party software and then have it running in the background, syncing files 24/7 on my computer for the next…
Well, forever.

Forced to Choose
But, I realized if I chose a limited Cloud storage plan,
I’d find myself with sort of a digital Sophie’s Choice.

With that scenario, I’d be forced to take the time to select which precious files get rescued.

And that process would require me to undertake the dreaded decade’s worth of digital spring-cleaning. And how much time does that take?

I don’t know.
Because I pressed the button that says,
“Don’t worry about it. You’ve got unlimited back up.”

Yep, it’s all going up to the Cloud.

CrashPlan+ Unlimited or Bust
So I made my move and pulled the trigger with a company called Code 42 Software.
I chose their CrashPlan+ Unlimited one-year plan with downloadable software and a convenient desktop interface.

In addition to receiving universally good reviews, CrashPlan’s value proposition was really compelling.

Plus, a recent CNET post pointed me to a particularly good CrashPlan promotion.
When you read it, you’ll notice you may not meet the one requirement to get the deal, but CNET recommends you still go for it.

So do I.

(The key word I’m not mentioning here rhymes with tree.
We’ll speak no more of this.)

The Cloud’s Achilles’ Heel
CrashPlan’s software download and set-up were super simple.
(My concerns were unfounded.)
I was ready to begin backing up in ten minutes.

But as I sat staring at CrashPlan’s control panel to confirm the selection of my files to encrypt and send to the Cloud, I remembered one problem inherent with using the Cloud:

It’s the limitation of your own network’s upload/download speeds.
You’re never going to come close to the speed of transferring your files to a physical drive via a FireWire or USB cable.

And then I viewed CrashPlan’s time prediction to complete the job.
It said, “Time to backup – 39 days.”
(I’m not kidding.)
I have close to a terabyte of data, because of all the video I’ve collected over the years.
And this assumes my computer is awake 24/7.

I opened my movies folder and realized I had 519 gigs of video waiting to blast off.
And that month-long estimate is at a 2.1Mbps upload speed.
(Individual mileage may vary.)

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
So my brilliant plan had one big hiccup.
My data isn’t getting to the Cloud until sometime next month.

I hope Mr. Disaster isn’t waiting around the corner.

For those who don’t have the patience, there’s a shortcut.
CrashPlan offers a service called “Seeding.”
For $125, they’ll send you a one-terabyte hard drive in the mail. You put your massive files on it and mail it back. Then, they’ll load it up to your Cloud account within five to ten days.

Snail mail beating the speed of the Internet?
How wonderfully analog.

I considered the seeding solution but decided I should probably attack the real problem and finally face some digital spring-cleaning.

So I committed a precious hour of my free time.
(Parenthood and work consume much of the rest.)
I organized a portion of my video and photo files and brought my digital mountain down to 572 GB and only 25 days of uploading.
Not a bad return on a one-hour investment.
(Maybe there is something to this quaint custom called ‘organization.’)

Unlimited Peace of Mind?
I wanted peace of mind, and I got a ‘set it and forget it’ solution.
That fits the bill, right?

But you can never just set it and forget it.
You can’t just pack up your digital mess and ship it to the Cloud every year.
No matter how much the cost of digital storage continues to drop, any attic is only so big.

I think I’ll try to extend my “Digi-Org” to keep my Cloud files in check.

So today, I got a really good deal. But that’s only for the next 365 days.
What’s my future cost to maintain a personal terabyte in the Cloud?
How about ten terabytes?
Sure the sky’s the limit, but it’s going to cost you!

I originally imagined I would simply rent some Cloud space for years to come and create my little digital archive, kind of like a safety deposit box.

It would seem that’s still an idea slightly ahead of its time.

Plus, you’ve got to wonder which companies are going to be around in the upcoming decades. (no disrespect intended)
But the expectation that you’ll never have to move your archive to a different provider is probably unrealistic.

28 Days Later
So how do I like CrashPlan?
I’ll let you know next month.
(As I write this, I’m only 29.6 GB into the upload. 542.3 GB to go…)
For now, I’ve got Time Machine and my external G-Tech backup drive watching my digital back.

As if my own fears surrounding the safety of my home media files aren’t enough, don’t forget the world apocalypse is just around the corner.
(The Mayan Calendar Ends on December 21st.)

Well, look on the bright side.
The planet may be gone, but all my critical data will be living safely in the Cloud.

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