Out of a bewildering host of photo sharing services, Sharpcast looks like the easiest one yet.

You start by downloading its free software, currently for Windows XP only. Here’s the gee-whiz part: You can then keep any number of computers and a Web site instantly synchronized with the latest pictures. This instant update Sharpcast happens whenever any of the computers running the software goes online to the Internet. Of course, most computers with high-speed connections are online all the time.

Coming up later, Sharpcast will do the same instant updates for text and calendars.

This would be more than handy when traveling: You can update an album on a Sharpcast-provided Web site from a public computer or your laptop, and your home and business computers will be updated at the same time.

You can also update from so-called “smart” cell phones, like Motorola’s Q phones, the Treo 700w and a few phones from the major cellular providers. Snap a picture with the phone and — if you are also on or going on the Internet and the Sharpcast software is active — that photo will be automatically posted to your laptop and desktop.

We started up the Sharpcast program and dragged some photos into a new album on one of our computers. The minute we turned around to face our other computer, they were there. When we typed in a caption, the new caption appeared on the other computer almost instantly. We rotated a photo on one desktop and it rotated on the other machine at the same time. This would have occurred even if our computers had been a world apart, instead of next to each other.

Control rights for editing and posting belong to the originator of the sharing Web site that Sharpcast creates. Anyone who wants to stay up to date with your latest photos must have the free Sharpcast software or click on a Web link you send them, but they cannot control the contents of the site.

Since the photos reside on a Web site, adding more pictures and making editing changes does not eat up any memory or drive space on the computers of those using Sharpcast. The ones you want can be saved to your local machine simply by downloading them from the site. You just click the “export” button from within the Sharpcast program.

To repeat: If you have loaded the software, picture updates to your own machine are automatic. Unlike the popular (formerly Ofoto) or, you do not have to go to a particular Web site. This is true for all computers that are actively online and part of the share list for that site.

The share group first sees thumbnail views and can then click on any picture to enlarge it. The photos enlarge in the same resolution they were taken, unless you prefer a compressed version. If they wish, members of the share group can re-send the photos to others with a click.

A question we always ask ourselves about free services is: “How does anyone make money with this?” After all, someone has to pay the bills. The answer is Sharpcast will offer printing services and fees for mass storage as things progress. Sharpcast users will get 5 gigabytes of storage free for now. Check further at

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