Flickr mircl

A while ago, I wrote an extended post about how I was locked out of my original Flickr account. You can read it here.

What was especially galling about the whole thing was that, even though I’d started a new Flickr account to continue my use of the service, I never did use it very enthusiastically or regularly. That was because it made me unhappy every time I visited the site, just to know that my old account had been languishing there since September 2013.

And, oh, how those not-very-good 2013 Fleetwood Mac photos came to bug me, as the last things I posted in that account.

WELL.

New owners Smugmug have been emailing me over the past couple of months, informing me that I was about to lose my “Pro” privileges as they limit free accounts to 1000 uploads. So I tried, one last time, to email technical support and get some help.

And this time, I didn’t get a Yahoo robot, but an actual human being, who looked at the situation, clearly saw the match between (a) the two different accounts and (b) the email address attached to the locked account; and also (c) looked at my screen grab of all the corrupted Yahoo log-ins (dating from the 2013 hack of the service); and decided to help me out.

Reader, I’m back in.

I was so happy about this that I immediately paid for a “Pro” account for one year, so I could start uploading things again.

So for the past couple of days, I’ve been uploading pictures taken since 2013 into the once-dormant account. I’ve reached the end of 2014, the year I bought my little GM1 system camera. (I noticed also that I’d set the date and time wrong on that camera, so there were a lot more 2014 pictures than it initially appeared.) A lot of these had previously been uploaded into the sad secondary account, but I want everything in one place.

And it’s been fun, looking back at those far off days of 2014, the year of the heavy snow fall in France, the year of my youngest in braces and my oldest out of them. I will always be happy about my kids’ confident smiles. I tend to shoot candids, not a fan of the look people get on their faces when they’re posing, although there are a few portraits on there. I used to have quite the eye, but lack of practice means that I take fairly dull photos these days.

Flickr is still Flickr, of course. It’s slow at times, flaky, unreliable, with an awkward app experience. But the good news is that I long ago ceased to interact with others on the platform, and I don’t feel the need to comment or keep checking activity. Poignantly, the last ever comment on this account was, “Why you stop posting?” A question I couldn’t answer, because I was locked out.

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The Great Flickr Shitr

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The first picture I uploaded to Flickr, taken in July 2004

Flickr was one of the earliest social networks, starting in February 2004, and, among other things, pioneered the use of the hashtag, which later became a key part of the Twitter experience. It was a place where you could upload photos/descriptions, connect with other users, join groups, make comments, and create themed collections of your own photos.

I joined in July 2004, and it really felt like a small and friendly community in those days. Of course, it was hard to see how they would ever make money.

They were acquired by Yahoo in 2005, and the long downhill descent began. There are three things that Yahoo did that are variously upsetting and annoying.

The first was that they neglected it, allowing its performance to get worse, and were particularly slow to respond to the smartphone revolution. Even as the iPhone became the most ubiquitous camera used by Flickr photographers, the Flickr app experience was kludgy. As Instagram demonstrated how simple a photo sharing social network could be, Flickr’s was complicated and slow. Even today, if someone shares a photo from Flickr to Twitter, it loads extremely slowly, making for a poor user experience.

The second thing was that they tried to drive Flickr users towards Yahoo as a web portal at a time when the very idea of a web portal was becoming ridiculous. But Yahoo are an advertising company, and that’s what they wanted to do. So they loaded an ugly, clashing Yahoo menu bar at the top of the Flickr site, and they forced everyone to use a Yahoo log-in rather than their old Flickr log-in.

Which is when the problems began for me.

The third thing was that Yahoo did what all these tech companies do: they tried to avoid their user support responsibilities by pushing people towards forums, where the same questions get posted over and over again, with similar answers, and nobody ever gets helped, and the secret portal into actual technical support is hard to find and opaque. All of which is the inevitable result of a free service that clearly doesn’t stand a chance of making money through advertising and which becomes a white elephant, or a millstone hanging around the neck of a slowly dying corporation.

Yahoo is acquired by Verizon, Flickr slips further down the list of priorities, and more and more people find themselves in the same situation as me: unable to resolve the log-in, or successfully recover lost passwords. In 2013, Yahoo was hacked, and 3 billion user accounts were compromised.

Around the same time, my Flickr log-in and password corrupted in some bizarre way and went from being a recognisable email/password to being long strings of random characters.

Like this: 0753036973656d61dc27j2gs1s29h4g8

That’s not my own corrupted log-in, but mine was very similar, and so was the password. I mean, it’s not even an email address. In time, I was unable to get in at all, and after a fruitless run-in with Yahoo support, I ended up creating a new Flickr account so I could continue to upload pictures.

But it was never the same, and I was never happy, and I eventually stopped using the service.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 20.54.00The screen grab left shows a sample of the many Flickr users who are having issues accessing their accounts.

My own problems were exacerbated by the way my Yahoo identities seemed to burgeon. When Yahoo acquired Flickr, I already had a hidden Yahoo identity, because my then-internet provider, BT, used Yahoo as the backbone for its “brinternet.com” email service. But somehow, I ended up with yahoo.com and yahoo.co.uk identities. Over time, and attempts to log into Flickr, these have expanded, and I now appear to have four distinct ways of logging into Yahoo. Four!

But here’s the thing. Every single one of them connects to the new/replacement Flickr account, and none of them will connect to my 2004 vintage Flickr account. So I have four Yahoo log-ins, and no way to get into my old Flickr. In my mind, at least one of the log-ins should resolve to the old 2004 account, but no longer does. So it’s an orphaned account, is what it is. There’s a case here for keeping hold of all of your old computers, phones, and other devices, because account details might be cached/stored. O for the iMac that used to be in the garage.

And it has been five years.

I’ve tried on a couple of occasions to get help from Yahoo. When I saw the news that Flickr is being sold to Smugmug, I thought it was time to try again.

Yahoo’s response is basically robotic. You give them the details of your account(s) and you still get a response along the lines of “I cannot find the account with the details you have given. Please give…”

I got exactly the same automated response as last time. Replying to their emails rarely elicits a human response. They send through a link to “security questions”, which ask you things you could only know if you had access to the account. It’s enraging, and obscure:

  1. Name five private groups or private albums on the account
  2. Give the date of the last charge in the format dd/mm/yyyy
  3. Name the 3rd party services that are linked to the account (apart from Facebook/Tumblr)

My response to (1) is, I don’t know, I haven’t been able to see inside the account for five years.

My response to (2) is, I don’t even know what this question is asking.

My response to (3) is, I don’t know, I haven’t been able to see inside the account for five years.

We went through this three times.

Each time, I replied to their email saying I didn’t understand and couldn’t possibly answer their questions. Each time, I didn’t get a response until I filled in something on the security page. Each time, I was then told that my responses were inadequate.

In the end, they refused to give me access to my account—but they did offer to delete it on my behalf. Consider the warped logic of that: no, we can’t verify your identity, but yes, we will delete all these photos that might not belong to you, because why not.

Meanwhile, I still have four different Yahoo log-ins that all give access to the wrong Flickr account. Meanwhile, I continue to receive communications to my secondary email address which are aimed at my original identity.

The only solution appears to be for me to click through 3,600 photos and manually download them, then add them to the other account, and try to live with the knowledge that the kudos attached to being a 2004 early adopter of this pioneering service is no longer mine.

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And this is probably my most popular Flickr photo, taken in 1998 but scanned in 2005

Panasonic DMC-GM1 Review (part 1)

DMC-GM1KEB _Gallery7_WOC_20131011This is the camera I’ve been waiting for all my photographic life.

I’ve used and owned a number of point-and-shoot camera and SLRs, analogue and digital, over the years, with mixed feelings of various kinds.

My first couple of SLRs were borrowed. There was a lovely Canon AE-1 my sister had, with a couple of lenses including a very sharp 35mm; and my brother-in-law’s Pentax body with a really fast (f1.4?) 50mm lens. My first SLR purchase was another Canon, a cheapish one, with a kit lens. I was never happy with this camera. On “Auto” settings, it struggled to get the correct exposure, especially with backlighting, and it was so low-end that the manual settings were limited.

So I got rid of that. A few years later, I bought a Pentax SLR (there’s a pattern here), which was a nice camera. I took some good photos with it, including this one, I think:

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But the thing about SLR cameras, the thing that always stopped me from using them as much as I might have, was the sheer bulk and weight. Going out with a bag with spare lenses, carrying a tripod, wearing it on a strap around your neck all day long: I just couldn’t stand it. Apart from the weight, the rubbing on your neck/shoulder, there was the issue of looking too much like a tourist.

So I tended to leave them at home, more often than not.

My first digital camera was a reaction against all that: the Minolta Dimage F300 was a compact point and shoot digital with 5 megapixels and a 3x zoom. In many ways, I still consider this a technological peak. It was small enough to fit in a pocket; its 5 megapixels was plenty enough for a decent 6×4 print and yet there weren’t so many pixels squeezed into the small sensor to cause noise problems; and its lens was excellent. I really enjoyed this camera, and took some great pictures with it, until I dropped it and the zoom stopped working.

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So happy with my Minolta was I that I immediately went out and bought another: the A200. Now we were up to 8 megapixels, I never felt the images were as good as on the F300. On the other hand, the optics were still good, and the zoom on this one was 7x with image stabilisation. As I hate using flash and love taking pictures in low light, I really got on with this. Over the years, I’ve developed a steady pair of hands and I can take un-blurred low-light pictures with just about any camera at very low shutter speeds.

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But the A200 was a heavy beast. I bought a wider, softer strap, but still found it a pain to carry around.

Since owning an iPhone, I’ve tended to use that, though I’ve also owned a couple of Panasonic Lumux point-and-shoots, including my most recent, the TZ18, with its 16x zoom.

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I love a super-zoom, but the ever-increasing pixel count on tiny sensors has meant that I’ve never really seen an improvement over the Minolta F300 I owned in the early 2000s.

I’ve been watching the development of the Compact System Camera with interest. The bodies were getting smaller, the operations more simple. Essentially, what I want is a compact point-and-shoot with a big sensor. Some of these have started to appear, but it was when I saw the announcement of the GM1 that I decided it was for me.

It has a micro-four-thirds sensor in a tiny body. The body is about the same size as my TZ18, though the kit lens is a bit more prominent and it weighs a little bit more. I may or may not get another lens or two with it. Most important to me is the image quality from the bigger sensor and the fact that I can carry it in a pocket.

The GM1 is available in black-on-black, silver-on-black, or… orange. As soon as I saw the orange, I knew I was going to get that one. But then it appeared as if disaster had struck: the orange was to be available only in airports. I figured that situation wouldn’t last long, and so it proved.

Amazon had it at the full list price of £630, John Lewis didn’t have orange at all, but I found a couple of on-line retailers who appeared to be offering it.

A trip to London meant I could go and have a look. I found what I was after in Park Cameras. I could have bought from them online, but I was happier getting it in the shop – and I was really glad I did because the first one I bought had a fault, so I was able to take it straight back.

The standard kit includes a 12-32 mm lens, crappy strap, charger, battery and another USB cable for your collection. To activate the lens, you have to manually twist it from the closed position round to the 12 mm wide angle setting. At the moment, it’s the only lens available that’s small enough for this camera body. Others will fit, but will  be larger than the height of the body, making handling awkward, unless you add the optional aluminium grip accessory. I didn’t get this because I didn’t want to add to the weight/bulk.

I paid £599, and they threw in a free 32GB memory card. John Lewis have a better offer in the free proprietary leather case, but they haven’t got the orange camera.

There was enough charge in the battery to fire it up for a few test shots. I was immediately puzzled because the camera didn’t know its lens was open until you turned it to the 14mm setting. In other words, the 12 mm setting appeared not to work. Furthermore, I couldn’t get the thing to focus until it was zoomed even further, beyond the 18 mm setting. At first I thought I was being a duffer, but in the end just took it back to the shop. Park Cameras were happy to swap it out, and the replacement worked perfectly

I will write part 2 of this review when I’m more familiar with the operation and can get more out of the camera. A lot of the features are buried in touch screen menu. For now, I’m using it in “intelligent auto” mode.

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I’ve taken a few shots and I’m happy with the detail and clarity of the images. I do have a gripe or two based on initial impressions, though.

I’m disappointed with the WiFi features. First of all, I can’t get the direct link from my iPhone 5 using the Panasonic Image App to work reliably. I can see the camera’s own WiFi network, apparently connect to it, but then the app just spins and spins trying to make a connection. I did manage – once – to take a few photos by remote control, but even that session worked only intermittently. Secondly, I wanted to see if I could upload directly to my MacBook, but I couldn’t get this working, either. It’s a horrible rigamarole. First you have to penetrate the obtuse menu system. The language of the menu is obfuscating. For example, instead of an option called Join a WiFi Network, you have to fight your way through multiple screens and options, like this:

  • Push Fn1 button (which defaults to WiFi function)
  • Enter numerical password (you have to set this up first)
  • Choose “new connection”
  • Choose “send images stored on camera” (or upload as you take them)
  • Choose PC (even if it’s a Mac)
  • Choose ‘via network’ or direct
  • Choose manual connection (because my time capsule doesn’t have a WPS button)
  • Choose the name of your WiFi network
  • enter password (using old fashioned alphanumeric touch buttons)
  • Wait while the camera connects (takes ages)
  • Fail

(If you get further than this, it might ask for a user name and password for your computer, and at this point will fail again, reporting that you’ve entered them incorrectly, even when you haven’t).

So essentially, the WiFi feature is unusable, which just makes me wish they’d left it off and saved the price/weight of the WiFi radio.

The other gripe is aesthetic, to do with the accessories you get with the orange camera. The lens cap is black and looks rubbish in situ, like this doesn’t belong. Same goes for the strap, which is also black. I’ve ordered an orange one made from vintage VW camper vinyl from Couch Guitar Straps. Hopefully, this will look better. (I only ordered this indulgence because I had enough money sitting in my PayPal account based on fees I’ve got from Referral Candy).