smugmug spoke at the April COBA meeting last night. Chris and Don MacAskill and J.T. were on hand to demonstrate the various features of their popular photo web site. Their passion for their product struck me the most during the presentation. smugmug is very much of a family-owned business, with father and son team of Chris and Don forming a formidable business and technical duo. Their stories of the company’s beginnings and how they settled on a printing fulfillment house were very interesting to hear. In their first month of business, they got 5 subscribers; at the time, they were happy. Today, with more than 60,000 subscribers and 20 million photos, they must be thrilled!
After an exhaustive printing shootout, they chose EZ Prints as their printing fulfillment provider. I’ve been looking at EZ Prints since Nelse Hansen spoke about how he used them at the September, 2004, meeting on event photography. Originally, I wanted to build my own ordering system tied to EZ Prints. As with many of my ideas, however, I simply didn’t have enough time to execute on the project. A service like smugmug looks like it will fit the bill. They offer enough customizability to satisfy my hacking/tweaking habits, and they are in this business for the long haul. It’s never good to sign up for a service only to see them die a few months or years later.
Next, I gave a presentation on the Infrant ReadyNAS 600, the 1TB RAID 5 network attached storage box that I recently purchased. Since I last wrote about the ReadyNAS, I finished the 250GB transfer of my images and have been using it as my primary photo repository. I did some preliminary benchmarks for the box and found it to be a little slower than I anticipated. In a way, that’s to be expected, as network and operating system overhead and file transfer protocols would claim a big chunk of the theoretical gigabit throughput.
One COBA member asked why I didn’t just build my own RAID 5 system. I certainly don’t lack the technical ability to do it, but as with my online fulfillment system, I lacked the time to do it. The ReadyNAS 600 might not be the fastest perfoming system money can buy, but it certainly is easy to install, configure, and manage. For me, the tradeoff between performance and usability outweighed the extra price that I paid.
Those looking for a cheaper alternative to the ReadyNAS might be interesting in the BuffaloTech Terastation 1TB. It’s selling at Fry’s for $999. With the success of the Noise Ninja deal — we had nearly 80 people sign up — it might be interesting to see what kind of discount we could get on a product like the ReadyNAS 600 or Terastation.
COBA Next Month
Next month’s COBA will be presentation filled! I’ll be speaking to COBA about the benefits of having a completely annotated image library. Metadata and tagging is becoming a very popular topic in the industry, as evidenced by the plethora of articles on the subject and support by major computer manufacturers. I will cover how I tag and annotate my images using iView Media Pro and the cool things you can do once you have finished processing 70,000+ photos.
On the equipment side, I’m looking at having another tripod/ballhead show and tell session. If you have a tripod/ballhead combo that you’d like to demonstrate to the group, bring it in! Finally, I’m also trying to get speakers to talk about two new RAW converter packages, RawShooter essentials and Camera RAW in Adobe Photoshop CS2. If you have experience with these two products and can talk about them, let me know!