10 December 2008

Solving problems, one step at a time (photos)

Storing the photos online is only a part of my problem, storing them offline is the other: in a few months my collection grew enough to fill the hard drive, my current one is not that big (is quite old) and I find very hard to delete photos (I could probably delete about half of them).

this is what I whish to put online

So obviously I had to buy a new hard drive, I went with an external one (USB), WD My Book Essential, 500GB (I figured this should be enough for a couple of years), the price is not bad and the device is nice.

The next step was a somewhat controversial decision: the file system choice. I could have left it fat32 as the factory default, the drive will be used mostly for photos but I may have some files over 4GB, like a DVD iso. Another option was to format it as ext3, it will be used most of the time in Linux, but I surely will need it also on other computers with another OS. So I swallowed my pride and went with NTFS. My Fedora desktop seemps happy with this choice.

That was the first step, the second step, choosing an online storage solution (flickr replacement), is still open. But since people showed interest about it, here is my progress, evaluating a few suggestions:

SmugSmug has a lot of features, but it does not look good for me, here are some of my concerns:
  • I hate the uploader: I have to choose Windows or OS X, select Windows and get a clumsy Java applet;
  • the HTML code to embed the photos in other websites is served as Flash and is not usable for me with Flash 10 + Firefox + Fedora;
  • there is no possibility to license your photos under a Creative Commons license, all you can do is to manually add a text in the description field;
  • I don't like their policy of not having both free and paid accounts, everything is paid. To test you have the option of a 14 days long demo;
  • the structure is the same old and boring, based on albums. There is no gallery other than flickr where you can have one photo as part of more than one album? Like both in "FOSS" and "beer"?

The Atomique layout looks clean, but hoestly, I was scared to read in the installation instructions "Atomique is still in its very early stages. It is advised to be cautious and not use the software in a working environment"l and scared even more to read on the front page "I didn’t really find the time so far to continue my work on Atomique and I probably won’t be able to in the near future": it does not look to me like something where you can invest thousands of photos.

I also received a hint about the possibility to craft something like I want on top of Drupal: I am sure this is possible, I saw wonderful things done on top of Drupal, but such a task is much beyond my skills as a programmer (there are years since I did programming seriously) and much beyond the time I can invest in this project.

There is still Gallery2, I have an instance of it working for some months, but I don't like it and don't feel compelled to switch to it: Gallery seems to follow the "more is more" philosophy, resulting in something hard to navigate or administer. Also in the category "tried and not liked" I can mention Zenphoto, which I tested for a short while back this summer, nice, but lacking important features and the awful and feature-lacking Coppermine which we run at the Romanian Fedora community.

I am still searching, the time for step two has not come yet.


  1. You could choose ext3 and install Windows driver which allows safe read from and write to ext3 partitions. I don't remember its name, but you can google this :)

  2. The problem with the ext3 driver for Windows is that to use the portable drive with a Windows box, you'd have to either have a NTFS partition on it where you store the driver so a Windows box without it can access it, or you have to carry the driver on a thumb drive in addition to carrying the hard drive.

    Last, but not least, when you connect the drive to someone else's Windows box, they have to trust you enough to let you install the driver on their machine.

    Going with NTFS is simpler because, AFAIK, a Linux, BSD, Mac, or Windows machine will read it without needing special drivers installed, so you can take it anywhere. I think this was a good choice on Nicu's part if he wanted maximum portability.

    Can't comment on photo storage options. Yahoo is courting Microsoft again, but Microsoft isn't biting at the moment, and if they did, it would be quite a while before the regulatory hurdles were crossed to let Microsoft take over Flickr. So you're looking at a year or two before any Microsoft ownership would or could impact a Flickr account.

  3. Lol. Fix modelul acela de HDD extern l-am cumparat si eu acum 5 zile. :)

  4. The downside to using a USB hard drive is that another USB component's failure dismounts the hard drive forcefully, so you may loose data.

    I'm using a small powereless external drive 160GB to carry my /home through different places.

    And I have a Linux on it besides the /home, so I don't care about what OS people are using, I'm using mine.

  5. Alex, since I am using the drive only for storage, this may not be a problem, I will get notification if something wrong happens with the connection and repeat the write.

  6. My experiences sais that if you mainly use the disk with Linux you're better forget about NTFS -- the performance of the ntfs-3g is at least worst in certain situations. Rather go for an ext2 filesystem if you also need to connect it to other OS'es (ext3/journaling is not usable on other OS'es).

    Partition your HDD with a small FAT(32) partition to at least hold the IFS Ext2 driver for Windows (see http://www.fs-driver.org/) and the rest make it Ext2.

    When creating the Ext2 filesystem disable the directory hashing option (other OS'es like Win/BSD do not grok it). You could also try lowering down the number of inodes and reserved space for large storage sizes (e.g. 1TB).