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Scott's Column
SugarSync vs. DropBox, The Camera Story

December 1, 2009
By Scott Lewis

This month I was rushed and didn't get to write about enough stuff. I am thinking about getting a Digital SLR camera, so I thought I would start off with my own camera history, or story. I also compared SugarSync to DropBox for file syncing and remote access.

Current Topics:

SugarSync vs. DropBox

I have been having some issues with SugarSync lately. Before we get into that I should bring you up to speed on what I am doing. I keep a few text documents (in notepad) to jot down notes as I think about them. I keep these in a folder on my home computer. When my company used GoToMyPC for remote access I would use that to sync this folder with a folder on my work computer. I also keep a couple of spreadsheets in this folder. Nothing that would be unacceptable with my work. For instance I keep historical information about my 401K plan and my investments.

When we switched from GoToMyPC to VPN software on company laptops there was no way to sync files between my work PC and my home PC. So I looked at a couple of web based file syncing solutions. I don't remember which ones I looked at in the beginning. I know I picked SugarSync because of one really nice feature they had. You go to your page on SugarSync that lists your files. Click on a file and a pop-up menu appears with a choice to "Edit with WebSync." This would download a copy of the file and put you into the default editing application (Notepad or Excel for my files). When you save the file in the application SugarSync uploads it and it is synced with your home copy.

The beauty of this is that there is no software to install on my work PC. I do not need a copy of the SugarSync client software on my work PC.

Unfortunately, SugarSync has not been completely reliable. I lost two weeks worth of changes to my 401K spreadsheet. I saw the file missing from my home computer. I found a copy in my recycle bin, but it was two weeks old. I do not know what happened to the changes SugarSync should have saved. Then I would get messages on my work PC that a file did not upload. This is especially troublesome when I did my save while exiting the application. My changes were in limbo until SugarSync could upload the changes. That may or may not happen. I would have to leave the download screen up on my computer and hope. There is no option to force it to retry. So when will it retry? Since I closed the application it is too late to perform a save as and keep a copy of my changes until SugarSync gets working again.

I was reading an article that mentioned DropBox. This is the same thing a SugarSync. You point it to a folder on your hard drive and you can access the files in it from any computer on the Internet. You don't need the DropBox application on the remote computer, you can access the files through a web page.

There are two downsides to DropBox. First, it creates its own folder. With SugarSync I pointed it to a folder on my computer, and told it NOT to sync any subfolders. So in essence I had nice control over where the files were on my computer (I didn't need to move anything around) and only the files I wanted were synced. With DropBox I can tell it what folder to use, but it forces a "DropBox" sub-folder and requires me to put my files into this sub-folder. This may seem like a minor point, but it is not. I have a shortcut on my desktop to the folder I kept my files in. By making me change my shortcut it slows down access to other files I have in that folder, but not synced. With DropBox I am forced to navigate to a completely different folder for my other files.

The next problem is a larger one. You must download a file from the DropBox web site if you want to edit it. So, you download the file, edit, save, and upload manually. This is much more complicated than the Edit with WebSync feature SugarSync provides.

Granted, I am using the free version of both of these services, which provides up to 2GB of storage. I actually use far less than 100 MB.

I am forced to decide between DropBox which is harder to use, but may be more reliable, and SugarSync with is easier to use, but less reliable.

In the end I decided to give DropBox at least one month before making up my mind. Well, DropBox is the winner. Here are the reasons I like DropBox over SugarSync:

1) It is fast. The web page that I navigate to comes up at least twice as fast as SugarSync. Also, upload and download speeds of the files themselves are faster with DropBox.

2) I have never lost a single byte of data with DropBox. The point is simple... it has been more reliable for me.

3) This may be a browser thing, but when at work I download to the same folder every time. And it remembers this. So this may be more for Firefox than DropBox, but I find it very easy to download a file to a specific folder, and when done editing it the upload dialog box opens to the same folder. This makes the download/upload process as fast as SugarSync. Even though SugarSync was more convenient, in the long run it really wasn't faster.

All in all DropBox is more than good enough. Highly recommended.

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The Camera Story

I want to get a new Camera. A Digital SLR camera. That means I am going to research in painstaking detail everything I need to know about the dSLR market and what camera I should get. Before I get to that I am going to tell you a tale of my film SLR & digital camera history.

Here are the cameras I have owned over the last 25 years:

1984 - Canon T-50 (Film)
1988 - Canon T-90 (Film)
1991 - Canon EOS Rebel S (Film)
2000 - Kodak DC280 (Digital)
2002 - Canon EOS Rebel T2 (Film)
2006 - Sony DSC T9 (Digital)

It was the summer of 1984, and George Orwell's Big Brother lifestyle was still fiction. I was going to a car show. My first real car show and a large one at that. I believe it was over 2500 cars, but my memory could be weak on that point. I bought a Canon T50 SLR Camera. All I knew about cameras was that I wanted a camera that I could add a zoom lens to later. The T50 came with a basic 50mm lens. I bought it at one of those "catalog stores." You remember the type. They had catalogs all over the place and had some stuff on display. Mostly you looked through their catalog, wrote down the catalog number on a piece of paper, paid for the item at a register and waited for it to show up on a conveyer belt and get handed to you.

So, with never owning a camera before, and never having taken any pictures I sat in my room all night the day before I left for the car show. I read as much of the manual as I could. Granted, the T50 was an automatic camera, but I was very nervous about loading and unloading the film. You did not have many controls with the T50. Basically you compose, focus and shoot. But it was a great camera. I took 13 rolls of pictures that weekend... without developing a single shot to know if I was doing things right. Almost every picture came out great. It cost me more to develop those thirteen rolls of film than it cost to buy the camera. But that camera got me hooked on photography and Canon equipment.

Alas, that wonderful little camera was stolen out of my rental car in San Francisco in September 1988... with my only pictures of Lombard Street. I was going to England that December, so I needed a Camera. I bought a Canon T90. This was the most expensive Camera I could afford. The T90 was the complete opposite of the T50. Where the T50 was an automatic only camera, the T90 had tons of manual controls, as well as the usual assortment of automatic and semi-automatic modes. A friend owned a Canon AE-1 and had a zoom lens I could borrow. So I took the T90 and its 50mm lens plus my friend's 100-300mm lens to England. I did not have a lot of time to play with the camera before leaving for England so I used its programmed features more than I should have.

To get that camera I had to do a bad thing. I mail ordered it from one of those cheap places in the back of a photography magazine. As it turned out it was a gray market camera. Meaning it was not meant to be sold in the U.S. The shutter started acting up on the camera just after the warranty ran out, and when I took it to a camera store to get an estimate for the repair they told me it would cost about $300... because they would have to custom order the part for a gray market camera. Oops!

So I lived with the flakey shutter button. It would work great some times and sometimes it would delay for up to a second or so. It was only a problem with moving objects and serious action shots, but I did miss a few good picture due to that shutter button.

For the Christmas of 1991 my wife (then my fiancé) bought me a Canon EOS Rebel S. If memory serves me this is what I told her I wanted. It think it was $320, close to what it would cost to fix the T90. The Rebel S was one of the first in the EOS Rebel lineup with auto focus. I took the T90 to a camera exchange store and they gave me $150 for it. Which means we could look at it as having gotten the EOS Rebel S for $170 (the difference) or I could buy a zoom lens for the EOS Rebel S. I went the zoom lens route and picked up a 80-200mm lens before we left for our honeymoon.

That camera served us very well for many years. It developed a slight problem of its own. The battery contacts would get flakey. The camera would think the battery was dead. On one occasion the camera indicated a dead battery. We thought it was right, as we had not used it a while. We swapped batteries with my sister-in-law who had a more resent version of the EOS Rebel (they bought it on our recommendation, as did a good friend on mine). Their battery did the same thing. We swapped the batteries back and suddenly our original battery was almost full. Fun! I would pop the battery out once in a while and try wiping off the contacts, but the problem would creep up once in a while no matter what.

In July 2000 we were looking to get a color printer that could print pictures, and with that we bought our first digital camera. We bought a Kodak DC280 2.1 megapixel camera. It was a bit bulky for a pocket camera. I could only fit it in my jeans when wearing pleated jeans... which are no longer in style. But it did take some decent pictures. We used that camera to take pictures of our house as it was being built. I was able to use it for panoramic shots from the second floor, and I did a time lapse experiment using the Kodak on my father-in-laws tripod.

The best thing about that digital camera was that we got used to taking many pictures since there was no film cost and we only printed the good pictures.

My wife accidentally dropped the Canon Rebel S. It landed on the 50mm lens. There was no saving the lens, but the camera seems to be fully functional. My wife still preferred film to digital for the import shots. So we took this opportunity to get a new EOS Rebel T2. It came with a 35-100mm lens, which reasonably compliments the 70-200mm lens we still had.

We have had zero trouble with the Rebel T2. However, as digital cameras have improved we bought our second digital camera in a Sony DSC T9, a 6 megapixel camera in the summer of 2006. Now we use the Sony camera exclusively. In fact, we fight over it at times. No one wants to use the old digital camera (yes we still have it) and the two film cameras are collecting dust in a draw.

I think that is enough for this month. Next month I will have a comparison chart to show the various cameras I am considering. I have created a spreadsheet that shows the models and their prices. You will be surprised how close in price they are. I hope to get a new camera after the new year. Sorry this won't be out in time for your Christmas shopping. But I will tell you that I have narrowed my choices to the Canon Rebel T1i and the Nikon D90. My spreadsheet will cover the models below these two in price from each manufacturer. So stay tuned for that. I will finish this series up with whatever camera I end up buying.

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Conclusion

That's all I had time to put into this column this month. Next month I am going to continue with my Windows 7 PC... buy looking at an iMac. You won't want to miss the logic behind that idea.

I also installed a 50" Plasma TV on the wall of our game room.  I will have pictures of the installation. You won't want to miss that if you want to see how to mount a TV with no wires showing.

And we should have the second in the camera series.

Please come back next month to enjoy it all.

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