Picasa on Linux

July 27, 2006

snapshot4.pngWell I finally got around to installing Picasa onto my Ubuntu box. Coming back from a 2 week vacation with a few hundred pictures got me interested in photo organization again. In my opinion, iPhoto is a dog. I wish this wasn’t true. I wish I could gloat over Windows users with the speed and ease of iPhoto, but I can’t. Each time I open that thing up I get frustrated. It organizes pictures in a convoluted date based system, it takes forever to start up, forever to scroll through pictures, and two forevers to do anything else.

I have avoided using iPhoto by trying out iView Media Pro for awhile. While it can organize photos in a much more systematic way, its still slow. Plus, every time I want to do something in that program, it takes me 30+ minutes to get it done. The UI is not very friendly to me, and options that I think should be obvious (like copying a picture to the desktop by dragging it there) aparently don’t exisit. Plus now that Microsoft has bought out iView, I don’t think this program is going to get any new exciting features any time soon.

And so I installed Picasa on Ubuntu. I found instructions which made the process trivial, so that was nice. I wish I could say that all my photo organization problems have been solved through Picasa, but alas, this is not the case. While I have seen Picasa work incredibly fast on very outdated Windows XP machines, on Linux on top of Wine, it remains sluggish and CPU intensive. However, this performance hit seemed to decrease after sitting there for awhile (I couldn’t tell you why). But while editing photos, I probably won’t be able to do much else. Picasa also seems to add extra folders to its viewer that it should be ignoring (the “originals” folders that appear after editing an image).

Even with the slowness, I think I will continue to use Picasa because its organization features are just that good. It takes the best of both worlds of sequential and event organization. The folders are arranged by date, and separated by year, but within this date system, you assign meaningful names to the folders. Plus all the image folders are stored at the same level. So instead of drilling down to specific days like you have to in iPhoto, i.e. 2006 >> 12 >> 25, you have folder names like “Christmas 06”. Plus you can tag your photos with keywords to help you find them later.

I know that iPhoto has some tagging features and the folder setup has gotten better, but it still doesn’t seem nearly as intuitive or easy to use as Picasa is. Plus, with 8,000+ photos, Picasa still moves faster than iPhoto on my iMac that has … 25 pictures.

Google: we’ll buy anything you want us to if you get a team of developers to make a Cocoa version of Picasa, I promise.

I also came up with a decent backup system and automatic-remote-picture-addition system that I will detail in the next few blogs.

Update: Aparently others have problems with iPhoto as well.  Not many solutions yet.

Gmail as a Recipe Organizer

July 26, 2006

logo1.pngMy wonderful wife (of 13 months and one day, today) has come up with the brilliant idea to use a Gmail account to save recipes she finds online.

She had been using Yum, but got frustrated with trying to format the recipe correctly and stopped using it. It would try to be smart and convert the ingredient measurements to standard abbreviations, but usually didn’t get it right, and just made more work for her.

Now with her Gmail Recipe Book, she can log in, copy and paste the recipe and send it to herself. Auto-magically she has the recipe saved for future cooking.

But with Gmails tagging system, she can organize her recipes into categories like ‘chicken’ or ‘beef’. Since you can add multiple tags to an email, she can put recipes into different sections.

In the future, she could create two tags: ‘eaten’ and ‘uneaten’ to further differentiate from those recipes she has tried, and those yet to come.

She also came up with a good rating system. After trying a recipe, she can reply to that recipe and input our thoughts in the reply. That way each time she looks at that recipe, she can see all the replies (reviews) that go with it. Perfect! And if she wants a visual cue to the ratings, we could always use one of the alt symbols: ◊,†,•,‡ etc.

Control Your Subversion: Tips for Setting up Subversion on the Mac

July 4, 2006

subversion_logo_hor-468x64.pngThis is just a little post to help me remember how I got this stuff working.

Subversion is a revision control system that is being developed to replace older similar systems. Revision control lets you update your projects in an iterative fashion and allows you to keep track of these changes. This is perfect for when you have a bunch of people working on the same thing and want an easy way that everyone can work on the same stuff without stepping on other peoples toes.

I have used version control systems on a Java application we developed as a team last semester, and I plan on using it soon to develop web applications, but it really could be used for almost anything: a big proposal, documents for a conference, anything that you might work on in a step-wise fashion.

Plus, it doesn’t have to be a group project to use Subversion. You can use it as an easy backup system so you can work on your stuff from any machine and use it in case you want to revert to an earlier version of something.

They have a free book about how to use / setup Subversion, and there is a lot of info out there on how to use it.


If you have the server set up, using a client to check-in and check-out projects is easy. For Windows there is a client called tortoisesvn that comes highly recommended. I guess it integrates with Windows Explorer to make things easy. For Mac you can use a precompiled command-line version (this one is the most popular and put out by Martin Ott of SubEthaEdit fame) or search for a GUI version. My favorite so far has been ZigVersion. SvnX is also recommended, but froze up when trying to connect to my server (probably because I was initially typing the location wrong).


This is the tricky part. The easiest way to install it on a Mac that I’ve found is using Darwinports and this tutorial. I followed it excatly without any issues. Darwinports is so handy, everyone should have it installed by now. Then I used this section of the book to add basic authentication to my Subversion repository.

New Repository
Now to add a new repository I simply use:

sudo mkdir reposName

sudo svnadmin create –fs-type fsfs reposName

make template and import

cd ~

mkdir svn-template

cd svn-template

mkdir trunk branches tags

Import your template directory into the “reposName” repository using

svn import .http://localhost/svnrepo/reposName -m “Initial import.”

And you should be ready to go. Here’s a list of commands from the book commonly used in messing with the repository:


  • Update your working copy


    • svn update
  • Make changes


    • svn add
    • svn delete
    • svn copy
    • svn move
  • Examine your changes


    • svn status
    • svn diff
    • svn revert
  • Merge others’ changes into your working copy


    • svn update
    • svn resolved
  • Commit your changes


    • svn commit

So that brings together most of what you would need to set up a Subversion server on a Mac, and mess with it. Hope this can help somebody

Anna of Ikea

June 3, 2006

We just went down to Texas for 2 days to shop at the wonderful world of Ikea… a cheap furniture store. We had a good time, and got a lot of cool stuff, of which I will blog about soon. I wanted to point out first a fun piece of trivial from the Ikea website. Ikea has an online help 'aid' named Anna, that is supposed to answer questions about the store. What I've discovered is that the Anna of America and the Anna of the United Kingdom are two different Annas!

Picture 4.pngPicture 1.png

American Anna

UK Anna




So in the spirit of the Elementary Alchemist I ask the question :

Who would win? Which Anna Reigns Supreme?

Welcome, G4, to your New Home

May 28, 2006


Thanks to a very generous group of people, I now have in my possession a lovely new (for me) Power-mac G4.

It's a bit slow (400 MHz) but its running Tiger just fine. I looked this particular model up in MacTracker and it looks like it is a pretty decent machine.

What I plan on using it for is to combine all my server processes into one machine. Up until now, I had been using two computers to handle various tasks: web server, printer server, backup server, ftp server, afp server. The two machines I used before were a very old / slow machine running FreeBSD, and my newer 1 GHz Ubuntu box.

Printer sharing was a pain to set up in FreeBSD. That seemingly simple process took me probably a week to get it up and going. With Mac OS X, all the processes were set up simply by going into System Preferences and checking some boxes.

My afore mentioned custom backup system needed to get setup again on the new machine, but that wasn't difficult as Mac OS X already has rsync on it. I did have to add a new hard-drive in it, as the 10 gig default doesn't give much extra storage space, after the OS install. Hopefully that disk drive will last for awhile, but they are pretty old.

With all the excitement of the new Intel based Macs, it was kind of fun to be just as excited with a machine built in 1999.

My favorite feature of the PowerMac: The built in speaker. Combine this with iTunes and the "say" command and you get endless opportunities, like setting an alarm and have iTunes play me a song in the morning. Or press a button and have my Mac tell me the current time… or even the current temperature! Pretty exciting stuff. I'll have to play around with some scripts and see how much my Mac will tell me.

gCal Cleared my Dock

May 20, 2006

dockAs seen in the <small> picture, I now have only two items on my dock: Firefox and NetNewsWire Lite. Quicksilver takes care of accessing every other application easily without the need to see it down there all the time.

Until recently, I had included iCal with the docked applications. Not because I used it all the time, but because I felt I should be using it more, and thought that if I saw it, I would be more likely to use it.

However, Google's new Calendar has now permanently removed iCal from that exalted position.

gCal (as I will now refer to it) gives me everything I need in a calendar application. I can access from any computer, I can add new events without having to navigate to the specific date, and I can see my wife's calendar at the same time, so we both know what's going on when. Universal access was always a big limitation in iCal. As I'm at school or work for much of the day, to use iCal I would have to try to remember any events until I get home, and then put them into the calendar.

I also like to be efficient (which my wife calls 'laziness') and so gCal's intuitive short-cuts to adding new events really helps me with that 'efficientness'. I can essentially click anywhere and add an event by typing something like "Tim's birthday party 5:30 – 7:30 on May 19th" and it is automagically added to the correct day and correct time.

Also, when someone calls and invites us to something (which happens oh so often) I can call up gCal and check both my and my wife's schedule right there. Here is a pretty good web site that explains a lot of the tips and tricks of google calendar.

And with Quicksilver, its just as easy to access gCal as any other 'application'. I simply set up a key-binding (Command+shift+c) to open gCal in a new tab.

I also have it email me every morning with my schedule (looks like you can have it send it to your phone as well, but it won't work with my Verizon plan as of yet) so in-case something big is going down, I'll be ready.

Give it a try, and add me to your shared calendar space. Soon people won't have to talk to one another, just check GMail and gCal, and you know what's what.

ibackup (Finally)

May 13, 2006

Picture 1.pngSo I finally brought automated backups to the household. It took awhile because I am lazy, and because most current backup systems I’ve seen didn’t seem quite right for our setup.

I wanted to be able to backup critical data (i.e. school papers, homework, etc) on our 3 Macs to a Ubuntu server in my office, upstairs. I like using a Linux-based server for this kind of stuff because of the reliability of the operating system, and the relatively cheap cost of the hardware. I have been using this particular system for a few months now to develop our RTS game, and actually got the entire machine for a total of 0 dollars.

What makes our set-up a little unique is that both of our primary computers are laptops. So a scheduled sort of backup wouldn’t work as the machines aren’t always on at one particular point. Also, my wife is more techy than most, but still wouldn’t be comfortable opening up the Terminal to run shell scripts.The backup system I came up with uses Rsync to transfer files and is setup so that we only have to double-click on an icon and the backup starts up.

I used this great tutorial to set it up so that my machines could connect to the Linux server using SSH without needing a password. Then I used this tutorial (by the same person) to formulate a shell script that will automatically backup our Documents folder and our Desktop folder. Here is basically the entire script I used:

rsync -e “ssh” -rca –delete-after ~/Documents/ jim@ -v
rsync -e “ssh” -rca –delete-after ~/Desktop/ jim@ -v

Then I found a great program called Platypus 3.3. This lets you make applications out of scripts. So I loaded my script into Platypus and out came a fully function program to put on each machine. (I modified the script slightly for each system so that they are backed-up into different folders inside of “back”)

Now I know this isn’t a perfect solution as we will still have to find the time to run the backup program (it takes around 5 minutes to work its magic), but its certainly better than no backup at all. I might create a separate script to backup other folders like images and bookmarks and what not. Also for redundancy, I think I’m going to have the Linux server backup the backup folder to another folder on another physical drive. And since the server WILL be always on, this can be handled by cron easily.

This system seems like it will work well for what we need. Once I tweak the script a bit to include a few other critical files, I won’t have to worry too much about our aging laptop hard drives failing any time soon.