Walt Mossberg

Recent Columns by Walt Mossberg

Mossberg’s Mailbox

Choosing a Photo-Sharing Web Site

There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about choosing a photo-sharing Web site, syncing laptops and desktops and printing photos.

I’m unhappy with the photo-sharing Web sites that I’ve found and I wanted to ask if you’ve found any better ones. One problem I’ve run into is that they require you to sign in (create an account) to view your friends’ photos. They also don’t make it easy to download photos and they don’t allow much privacy.

You might try Smugmug at smugmug.com. It costs $40 a year, but offers unlimited storage, password protection, retrieval of photos in high-resolution format and it doesn’t require your friends to register or to receive spam. It is also a handsome site that allows you to customize the way your photos are presented and to tweak the photos themselves, to a limited extent.

What do you recommend for remotely syncing laptops and desktops?

I use a free product called FolderShare, which is now owned by Microsoft, and can be downloaded at www.foldershare.com. You install the FolderShare software on each computer, and it runs in the background, silently synchronizing all the files in folders that you designate on each computer. If you add or alter a file on one computer, the software matches that change on the others.

For instance, you might set it up to synchronize the files in the My Documents folders on multiple Windows machines. It also works on the Macintosh, and can synchronize files between Macs, or mixed groups of Windows and Mac computers. For instance, you can set it up to keep the My Pictures folder on a Dell synchronized with the Pictures folder on a Mac.

While on vacation I uploaded many photos to my Dell laptop. I also have a Dell desktop at home hooked up to a H-P Photosmart printer. When I get home, how can I print these photos? Do I have to transfer them to the desktop or can I just print them from the notebook? If so, how do I go about it?

Assuming the printer isn’t on a home network, and isn’t accessible from any PC on the network, you have two choices. The simplest method would be to transfer the pictures to the desktop computer, by copying them to a thumb-sized USB drive or burning them to a CD, from the laptop, and then copying them from the thumb drive or CD onto the desktop.

The other approach would be to install the printer’s software onto the laptop, assuming you still have the disk that came with it, and then unplug the printer from the desktop and plug it into the laptop.

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Because of the volume of email I receive, I can’t routinely answer individual questions by email, or consult on individual problems or purchasing decisions. I read all questions I receive and select three each week to answer in the column.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com

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