Google Photos: All Play and No Work!

I went for a walk with my Mom the other afternoon. We have this favorite little park, and it was a gorgeous day. She’s walking pretty slow these days, so I had ample opportunity to take my phone out of my pocket and snap pictures. I showed her each picture I took and she would point out something else worthy of a shot.

Editing Pictures as you Take Them is FUN

I was excited to catch the duck in flight just as it came in for a landing. Then I looked at the photo on my phone and realized that you couldn’t even see the duck! It needed to be cropped. No problem, with no tools other than my finger and the phone, I tap on the little pencil that brings up Google Photos editing tools, tap the crop tool and drag a corner in closer to the duck while still leaving some of the lily pads in the shot. I tap the checkmark to signal that I’m done with cropping, Then, one tap on the Auto adjustment gives me a better look.

The second picture below just has an auto adjustment applied, and the third has a crop and auto adjustment.

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Yes you can make a collage on your phone

I took a few more pictures, including a selfie of Mom and me that needed no improvement at all! It was such a nice day I wanted to share it with my friends on Facebook, but I didn’t want to post multiple pictures, so I decided to make a collage. Still using nothing but Google Photos on my phone:

  1. I select 7 pictures
  2. Tap the + button in the upper right
  3. Choose Collage
  4. Voila!


While viewing the collage, I tap the share button image, choose Facebook, and post to Friends. I also tapped the + and added the collage to my monthly Web Album on Google Photos.

During this lovely one hour walk, I took pictures, enjoyed having Mom point out more pictures, had fun editing them, and shared a collage to Facebook, and added the day’s collage to my monthly album … all before even getting back to the car!

Google Photos has removed all the work and left only the play

In years past, I would have taken my digital SLR camera – a Canon Rebel T3i – and taken many of the same pictures. After getting home I would need to transfer them from the camera to the computer, decide where to store them, spend some time doing the editing, upload the best ones to the web, make the collage and upload that too. That would probably take me a half hour using Picasa, much longer with other software. A half hour may not sound like much, but when you multiply that times all the days and all the pictures I like to take – well, I think you get the idea. And, worse than the time it takes is when I didn’t take the time and never enjoyed my pictures or shared them.

I love playing with my pictures and trying out the different creations that Google Photos includes. And, at the end of the day, I’m done. All my photos are safely, and privately, stored in my Google Account in the cloud. I can delete them from my phone to free up space for taking more! I also have Microsoft OneDrive grabbing a copy of all my phone’s photos for the ‘belt and suspenders’ protection. This is all automatic.

No work and all play makes me a happy girl!

You can learn to use Google Photos with Geeks on Tour tutorial videos. Some are free. To watch them all, you need to be a Geeks on Tour premium member. Here’s a video that demonstrates exactly what I did in this article:

Posted in Editing Photos, Google Photos Creations, Understanding Google Photos | Leave a comment

Testing Google Photos in Blog Post

I am going to use the Add Media -> Insert from URL, and get the URL from a Google Photos library … this did not come from an album, just the autobackup library. So … although I see this picture fine, nobody else can. I tested by using an incognito browser.

Here’s the next level. This picture comes from an album, but it’s a private album:

This picture comes from an album, but it’s a private album

And, 3d: this picture comes from a shared album, but not shared publicly. It is using “Limited, Anyone with Link”

Elliott Masie, a picture share limite, anyone with link

And, here is a picture from a publicly shared album

This is using the URL from a Google Photo in a publicly shared album

I am surprised to learn that you can use “Insert from URL” on any picture that is in an album, whether that album is shared or not. I need to try that again. So, I’m going to use my phone and create a brand new album using Google Photos. Then I’ll look at it on the computer and grap the URL for one photo in that non-shared album.

Just some bricks. In an album, not shared.

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Getting Your Pictures Down from the Google Photos Cloud

imageIt’s easy to get your pictures UPloaded to the cloud – just turn on the Backup and Sync feature of the Google Photos app on your phone. But how do you get them down to your computer?

I still want my pictures, at least my best ones, to be stored on my computer (or external hard drive.) I’m not comfortable with my only copy of pictures being the cloud copy. For the last 12 years my process has been to collect all pictures from my camera(s) and put them on my computer. Then to upload just the best ones to the cloud and share them. Now, because of Google Photos, my process is being reversed! Google Photos is automatically uploading all my photos to the cloud and I want the best ones copied down to my computer. I have identified 4 methods for downloading my pictures from the cloud (Google Photos) to my computer. Right now I like method 3 the best, but one of the other methods might suit your needs. Please leave a comment for what you think.

Method 1: Downloading Albums of Photos to your Computer

If you’ve used the Google Photos tools to put your best pictures into albums, you can then download those Albums to your computer.

  1. Open the desired album in Google Photos (on a computer using a Web Browser)
  2. Click the 3-dot menu in the upper right and choose “Download All”
  3. This will create a .zip file of all the pictures in the album and, depending on your browser’s settings, it will ask you where you want to save the zip file, or it will automatically save it in your Downloads folder. You can even save that .zip file straight to your external hard drive if you’d like.
  4. If your purpose for downloading is simply a backup, you’re done. If you want to see those pictures using Picasa, you need to Extract the picture files from the .zip and save them in the My Pictures folder, where Picasa will see them.

Method 2: Download Groups of Photos to your Computer

If you haven’t created albums, you can simply select a group of photos (click on the checkbox in the upper left corner of each photo.) Then click the 3-dot menu and choose download. This will create a .zip file just like in the method 1.

*Method 3: Downloading Individual Pictures to your Computer

*This is my current preferred method. I don’t want zip files, I want the individual pictures to be in my Pictures folder, preferably in the folder for the month they were taken. That’s been my system for the last 12 years and I kind of like it! Here’s how I do it when all my pictures are already in Google Photos:

  1. View my recent photos using Google Photos (using the Chrome browser.)
  2. When I see a ‘keeper’ I click the 3-dot menu in the upper right and choose Download. On my system, I am now prompted for a location for the downloaded file. I navigate to my Pictures\yyyymm folder. If your browser doesn’t prompt you for the location it is probably automatically downloading your picture to your Downloads folder. You need to change the Browser’s (Chrome) settings so that it asks you for a location for each download. Here is a help article on how to change download settings.
  3. Repeat #2 for each ‘keeper’ as I browse thru my pictures. This is a bit cumbersome, but I find it the best of my available options. I regularly browse thru my recently added Google Photos anyway. Just be sure to do it from the computer and download the ones I like best. Not too bad.

Method 4: Use Picasa to Download Albums

If you have made albums using Google Photos, you can use Picasa on your computer to download those albums.

  1. Using Picasa on your computer
  2. File->Import from Google Photos
  3. Check the box to Import Selected Albums then Choose the Album from the list presented

That’s it! This downloads the actual pictures, not a .zip file. Pretty slick, BUT there are two problems:

  1. It only downloads pictures not already on your computer. If you have already used any other method to get some, or all of the pictures, then the imported album will be incomplete.
  2. It doesn’t ask for a location. It automatically downloads your imported albums to a special location. In Picasa, you will see a collection at the left sidebar called “Web Albums.” On your hard drive, it will have a numeric identifier like: C:\Users\Chris\Pictures\Downloaded Albums\104655811483131756227\Blackbeard’s Dive Trip Oct 2015

Use Picasa to Create Albums

I still like to use the Picasa tools to create my Web Albums. There are 3 things that I can do with this method that I can’t do by creating Albums with the Google Photos tools

  1. Captions: When I add a caption using Picasa, that caption is part of the metadata of the picture. When I upload that picture to Google Photos, the caption becomes the Description. This doesn’t work the other way around: when I add a description in Google Photos and then download the picture, the description is lost, there is no caption.
  2. Watermarks: Picasa has an option to add a watermark to all uploaded photos automatically, so I can add © to every picture.
  3. Public Albums: My purpose to creating albums is to share those pictures. When I use Picasa to upload an album, I have the option to make that album Public. There is no such option with Google Photos (yet.) When I have a library of public albums, I can still use my Picasa Web Albums link ( to let people see ALL my shared photos.

There is one drawback to using Picasa to upload – it does not (yet) support the new “High Quality” file size. To keep your unlimited free storage, you must select the size called “Best for Sharing” which shrinks your photo to 2048 pixels on the longest side. For me, this is not a problem. 2048 pixels is plenty big enough to view the picture online and that is my purpose.

Please leave a comment to let me know which method you prefer, or any questions you have.

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Test posts for photo slideshows

this is the free platform, it has a photo gallery feature I think.

Chris July 2015

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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Part Time Mobile Internet Connections

As fulltime RVers, we have no problem signing a 2 year contract for Internet service from Verizon, but we know many people who only travel part time. What are their options for mobile Internet service? A couple years ago, your only option was to rely on Wi-Fi which is very UNreliable! Now there are several options for short term cellular Internet connections. The technology world moves fast, and nothing moves faster than cellular Internet plans, so take the information below as talking points only. Check with your provider, and/or your contract for the details that apply to you.

Verizon is the focus of much of the information in this article since it is what we use personally, and it is the most popular service among RVers.� There are links at the bottom for information on other providers.

1. Putting your Contract on Vacation: Even if you do sign a 2 year contract with Verizon, for example, you can put your service (and payments) on vacation for up to 6 months.�� Be aware that vacation time will be added to the end of your contract.� That means, if your contract period starts on 1/1/11 and goes thru 1/1/13, and you put it on vacation for 6 months, your contract now goes thru 7/1/13.� Be sure to check with your service provider (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T etc.) for details based on your particular contract.

2. Bring your Own Device: People sign up for a two year contract because that is the way to get the device (Mi-Fi, or cellular modem) for a steeply discounted price.� If you already have an appropriate modem or hotspot device, you can get service on a month to month basis.� So, bring your own device and sign up for monthly service and you can turn the service off at any time.� Standard monthly service plans offer 5GB for $50.

3. Prepaid Mobile Broadband: These plans can be pretty pricey, but it may be the best option to get your teenagers for your month-long summer vacation.� For example, Verizon charges $50 for 1 GB� � expires in 1 month or $80 for 5GB � expires in 1 month.� There are no overages because, once you hit your limit the service is turned off.

4. Cellular Resellers: You can get service without a contract from Virgin Mobile (resells Sprint network) and Millenicom (resells Verizon network.)� Also see the paragraph below on the 3GStore � you will find several options there, including monthly plans that resell Verizon, and DataJack which appears to use the t-mobile network.

4. Pay-As-You-Go: TruConnect is a service using the Sprint network.� You buy the device from them then pay $5/mo plus 3.9 cents per megabyte.� This would only be good if you are a very sporadic user with low data needs.� According to my calculations 5GB at 3.9 cents per MB = $169.68.

5. Smart Phone Internet: This is my favorite.� First of all, you may find that you don�t even need to take your computer on short trips because you can do your email and browse the web straight from your phone.� If you do take your computer, many smart phones today have a �Hotspot� feature that costs extra from the service provider, but that feature can be turned on/off at will and you only pay for the time you have it on. When it�s on you have your own Wi-Fi hotspot powered by the phone�s data plan and up to 5 devices can connect to it.� You can also use third party tethering software called PDANet. This allows you to tether your phone to the computer with a cable and use the phone�s data plan to power Internet browsing on our computer at no extra service charge.� The PDANet software costs about $20 � one time fee.� See this Geeks on Tour Video: Connecting to the Internet with Droid.

6. 3GStore: 3GStore has a reputation for being very knowledgeable and helpful in giving guidance thru the morass of mobile internet devices, service providers, data plans, and signal boosters.� They are resellers for cellular services and they sell all the devices to make it work.� We�ve had such good experience with them that we are an affiliate for� They have several plans for short-term cellular Internet solutions.

Here are some links to more information

Verizon Data Plan Details

Sprint Data Plans

AT&T Data Plans

T-Mobile Plans

Discussion of Part-Time Internet solutions on Forums

This tip brought to you by Geeks on Tour

Geeks on Tour is a membership website with hundreds of Tutorial Videos on topics of interest to travelers, such as managing digital photos with Picasa, Route-Planning with Streets and Trips, and sharing your travels with a website using Blogger or with friends on Facebook. You can subscribe to our free enewsletter, or become a paid member and be able to view all of the videos in the Learning Library.

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Computer Tote-ing Travelers

We RVers like to have our laptop computers with us everywhere we go.  But, how to carry them?  I have watched people walk by on their way to the Wi-Fi hotspot just carrying their computer under their arms, with the power supply and cords dangling from the other hand.  Oooh I’d hate to see them trip. 

Business Computer bag or Beach Tote?

I also know someone who uses a simple canvas beach bag to carry his laptop because he had a computer stolen before.  The one that was stolen was in an obvious, black, computer case.  His canvas bag with the pink beach umbrellas on it is much less likely to be a target for thieves, he says!  I would worry about the lack of padding in that beach bag.

Laptop Sleeves

I  used to carry my laptop in a sleeve – the simple padded case that fits the computer like a sock.  But then, I still had to deal with carrying the power supply and mouse somehow.

Cool Computer Bag

Recently, I was given the cool computer tote bag you see in the photo above.  I love it. It’s the best of all options.  It has padded compartments meant for the computer as well as accessories.  It’s very sturdy, yet doesn’t look like a computer bag.  And, the best part, for me, is how comfortable it is to carry.  The shoulder straps are just the right length for the bag to fit under my arm, and it doesn’t slip off my shoulder!  It is SO aggravating to have a shoulder bag that always feels in danger of slipping off.  This one does not do that, even when I have it heavily weighted down with my full size laptop and all its accessories.

My computer bag was a gift from  I said I’d be happy to write about it if I liked it … and I DO.  The only part I worried about was the price.  From the quality feel of the bag, I assumed it would cost in the $100-200 range – too much for the RVers I know 🙂 
But, check it out at the link above.  It’s only $39.99. 

So, how about you?  How do you carry your computer?

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Amish Buggy Ride – an example of using MovieMaker

We are currently in Elkhart, Indiana.  We’re here for the Gypsy Journal Rally last week, and the Escapade next week.  Last Friday we were invited by our friends from TechnoRV to join them for dinner at an Amish Family’s home.  In addition to dinner, they would take us on a horse and buggy ride if we wanted to go. 

Amish Dinner

The dinner was excellent.  Family style – 17 of us sat around a long dinner table and passed the meatloaf, mashed potatoes, salad, chicken, corn, bread, and apple butter.  All homemade.  Mostly home-grown.  You could see the corn in the field outside the window!  It was delicious!  So good that I had no room for the homemade apple pie at dessert.  But I did share a piece! 

We enjoyed the dinner and conversation so much that we stayed for quite a while.  Late enough that it started to get dark. It was then that it really sunk in … this house has *no* electricity.  They do use propane for their refrigerator and an excellent, bright lamp.

Horse and Buggy Ride

The highlight was the horse and buggy ride.  We took a couple of pictures – we were told that it was OK as long as we didn’t photograph our hosts – and I turned the camera to video for a minute as we went clop-clopping down the road.

Put pictures and video together with Moviemaker

The video is just a minute of the actual buggy ride.  We wanted the pictures to be combined with the video to give you the whole experience.  Windows Live Moviemaker makes this quite easy.  It is a free program from Microsoft, available for Vista and Windows 7. 

Steps in MovieMaker

  1. Add Videos and Photos
  2. Arrange videos and photos
  3. Add Music
  4. Click Automovie.  This will add pan and zoom effects to photos, transitions between elements, title slides at the beginning and end, *and* fit everything to the time of the music!
  5. Choose ‘Publish Movie to Youtube.’

Creating movies can be an extremely time-intensive endeavor.  But, with Moviemaker, it can take just a few minutes from camera to the web!

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