One of my favourite bits of photo editing software is Nik Silver Efex Pro, which is either a standalone app or can be used as an Adobe Lightroom plugin. It’s a fantastic bit of kit for black and white conversion, and also has a fair few more adventurous settings. But alas, I fear for the future of Nik. They have just been purchased by Google, who are probably really after their mobile photo editing apps. Google has a rather poor history of wrecking companies it buys, with a few notable exceptions.
I don’t trust Google, and have lately taken something of a dislike towards the company. Last year, when Google+ was launched, I gave the company a chance at providing all my internet needs. I embraced Google+ – to a degree, anyway – and changed my email back to Gmail. I purchased 80gb of space for $20 and I uploaded hundreds of my photo albums to Picasa/Google+. But I abandoned that idea when a few things became apparent to me. No one I know is interested in Google+, for one. But more importantly, Google’s way of splitting the photo site between two backends (Google+ and Picasa) was crazy. It lead to all sorts of issues, the most crucial one being that a large number of the photos I had uploaded had been shrunk to a small resolution by default. By default! What sort of ‘back up system is that?
A couple of months ago, Google sent me an email to let me know my $20 storage upgrade was renewing. No thanks. I declined the offer. But it turns out I wasn’t allowed to decline the offer. I either had to manually remove all the photos I’d added or close my entire Google account. That’s right. I couldn’t just delete Picasa from my package, I would have to close my entire Google account. Gmail, Reader, Maps etc etc. You might be thinking, how hard can it be to just delete all your photos? Surely there’s a batch operation in there? Nope. I had to manually delete every album, one by one. Hundreds of them. It took ages. I was, to say the least, peeved. Hence the dislike I’ve taken to them.
Can I live without Google? I set about trying to find out. I use quite a large number of Google products. Gmail, Reader and Maps of course. Also Chrome. And then there’s Android. It’s surprisingly difficult to erase Google from my life. Opera’s latest browser, it turns out, is finally sufficiently bug free to be a genuine alternative.Microsoft’s new Outlook.com email is slick. Bing search has improved massively, and Bing maps are also pretty good. But I came up against two brick walls. Firstly, Reader – there is no alternative product that works as well. Secondly – Android. That OS does rather lock one in.
Outlook doesn’t work well in Android, and Bing maps aren’t available in an app. Opera’s mobile browser is the best, but it uses Google Search by default and that can’t be changed. Locked in, indeed. But maybe not forever. I rather like the look of the new Nokia Lumia 920 with Windows Phone 8. If I replace my phone next year, it will be with the Nokia. Or any other phone that is not Android. I might also buy a tablet. But again, it will be Windows or Apple, or perhaps a Kindle Fire HD. Which technically runs Android, but at least it’s hidden from sight.
Ideally, though, I look for open apps and systems that don’t tie you into a silo type eco-system, whether it be Google, Microsoft or Apple. There’s more than one type of security out there. For sure, one should secure your PC with new software regularly to keep viruses, trojans and other malicious attacks from affecting your digital life, and to keep your computer operating smoothly. But there’s also the security of keeping what you ‘own’ on the web, safe and in your own hands.
That’s getting tough to do, as each independent company gets bought out by a corporate behemoth, one by one. But options always remain, especially when you’re in the market to buy new hardware. My laptop has about had it now. A new one is in order. And I shall be searching the web for new programs to install to keep my computer running smoothly, to get through the tasks I have to do and to make the most of the web. Companies that turn me off, ala Google, might find I (and others) start looking elsewhere. Back to the opening point of the post – finding replacements can be difficult. I hope I don’t have to look for a new Nik, because they are the best at what they do.