Automatic Network Photo Transfer

August 1, 2006

picture-2.pngThe last part of my photo management project was to have an easy way to move images into Picasa. While we will use the Ubuntu box to view and edit pictures, most of our time is spent on our Macs. So there will be times when we have a folder of pictures on a Mac, and want to get that to Picasa as easily as possible.

I used Automator to create a stand alone application that should accomplish just that. First I needed a way to connect to the Ubuntu box. In Automator there is the option to connect to a server, but you have to make sure that that particular folder was shared and enter a password and bla bla bla… too much. Since I had passwordless entry through ssh set up already, why not leverage that to get to the Ubuntu machine?

With a little searching I found an upload with scp Automator action. Perfect! scp is an extenstion of ssh, and this Automator action takes care of moving the folder over too. To use it in Automator, I went to ~/Library/ and created the folder “Automator” then moved the .action file to this folder. When you restart Automator, the upload with scp action will be there. So the Automator workflow first uses “Ask for Finder Items” to select a folder and then “Upload with scp” to copy it to the correct directory on the Ubuntu machine. I have it set up to copy the folder into the “My Pictures” folder inside “PicasaDocuments”. That way, Picasa will automatically add the folder to its listing. It’s so easy!

I then saved the workflow as an application called “PhotoDrag”. Now when I want to copy a folder of pictures over to Picasa, I simply ctrl + space to open QuickSilver, type “phtod” to open PhotoDrag, select the folder, and thats it. PhotoDrag will use scp to move it over to Picasa, and Picasa will automatically add it to itself.

In order to use PhotoDrag on other Macs, you have to grab the scp .action file as well and put it in that ~/Library/Automator folder.

As an aside, I used Mikon to quickly / freely / easily change the ugly default Automator icon into something more relevant.

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Picture Backup with Rsync

July 30, 2006

snapshot6.pngUtilizing the Rsync setup I created earlier to backup the Documents folders of our laptops, I came up with a method to backup my newly organized picture collection.

The situation is as follows: My Ubuntu machine keeps the working copy of my photo collection and I would like to back up all the pictures as often as possible to the G3 PowerMac, which has an extra hard drive and is on all the time (its the webserver, printserver, MySQL server, etc).

To accomplish this, I set up passwordless authentication between these two machines, like in the other Rsync setup and then used this shell script on the Ubuntu box to get things moving:

#!/bin/sh
rsync -e “ssh” -rca –delete-after ~/PicasaDocuments/ username@192.168.1.x:/Volumes/back/pictureBackup -vv

/bin/date > ~/backup_script/log.txt

There’s not much difference between this and the previous shell script. This will build a list of the folders / files in the PicassaDocuments folder on my Ubuntu machine, and then match that list on the extra hard drive in the PowerMac (/Volumes/ is the location of all the mounted drives). the “–delete-after” means that if an item was deleted in the original folder, it will be deleted in the backed-up folder as well (not delete the originals after backing-up, like I feared it meant).

After this completes, it should write the date to log.txt in my home directory on the Ubuntu box.

Since both of these machines will be on most of the time, I decided to add this script to Cron to get it working every night. I used KCron (shown above), the KDE GUI to Crontab. Gnome has a Crontab editor too. I set it up to run this script every night at 11:15. After the initial backup of all the pictures, the process seems to run in 5 – 10 minutes. Its a bit taxing to the Ubuntu system, but it can handle it when nothing else is going on.

So with this system, I keep two copies of all my pictures on two different hard-drives. Not a bad deal.


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.