Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tagging Hundreds of Photos with KPhotoAlbum

I have been whittling away at tagging the huge stack of photos in my Pictures folder. Photos with "None" in the "Keywords" category are down to 9776 (from over 10500). This going to take a little longer than I thought!

Some KPhotoAlbum features I like:
-ability to find any tagged photo in a matter of seconds
-a very efficient tagging interface

One minor quirk I wish I knew how to fix:
-when I type in a new keyword that is a proper noun (capitalized), if it has the same initial letters as other key words in my database, it refuses to let me capitalize the new keyword unless I "left arrow" to retype the letter.

Some feature requests (which require a bit of explanation):

KPhotoAlbum already has the ability to sort the keyword/places/people lists.

Using this button will sort the keywords (or places or people) alphabetically, but will also allow you to drag and drop to make one keyword a subcategory of another keyword. This is very helpful for place names:

Using this button will sort the keywords according to which were most recently typed, which also is very handy.

A few suggestions (which I intend to add to the wish-list, once I figure out how to do so):

a) make the sorting preference of one supercategory (e.g. people) independent of the sorting preference for the other supercategories. What I mean is, I would like to keep "places" sorted in the hierarchical tree pictured above, while keeping the people and keywords sorted with the most recent ones at the top.

b) The "sort by most recently typed" option would be even handier if it was "sort by most recently typed or selected with the checkbox." In other words, either typing or selecting should put the newest one at the top.

c) in my "places" supercategory, it would save a LOT of clicks and mouse wheel scrolling if selecting "Hicks Cemetery" (using the illustration above) automatically caused Watson Township, Allegan County, Lower Peninsula, Michigan, and USA to also be selected.

d) I'd like to figure out a way to use KPhotoAlbum's slideshow as my KDE screensaver. Why? So that as the screensaver runs pictures from my folder I would be able to pause the slideshow, add tags or "tokens," etc. (Maybe a few years down the road we'll be able to use voice tagging... just speak the keywords, places, etc. Does that sound too lazy?)

I wish I was a programmer, and could offer code instead of just comments. Perhaps these things are already underway. I do know that Jesper Pedersen and crew are actively working toward the KDE 4 version. When new functionality begins to leave KPhotoAlbum 3.x.x behind, it may push me to take the plunge back into KDE 4. Until then, I'm enjoying a bit of productivity. We'll see what KDE 4.2 brings in a few months.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Using KPhotoAlbum

I have a couple of nights off from work, so tonight I am biting the bullet and starting the monumental task of tagging my digital image collection. As I explained in previous posts, I will be using KPhotoAlbum, which is very likely the most efficient tool for photo tagging in existence. However, it is still work!.

Now that I have the great majority of my images renamed by date and time taken, when I open KPhotoAlbum, (after allowing it to do its initial indexing, and after watching the introductory videos, of course!), it brings me to the "home" page:

As you can see, there are several "super categories" listed on the left. Clicking on one of those will reveal the subcategories under them. In this case, I will click on "Places."

If I click on one of those subcategories, I see all the sub-sub categories (e.g. "Sidney Lanier Bridge"). Clicking "Show Thumbnails" at any point will give you a display of all the pictures in your current selection.This is how you can quickly drill down to exactly the pictures you are looking for.

KPhotoAlbum is a great tool for KDE 3.5.x. Rumor has it that it is being overhauled for KDE4. I look forward to seeing the new version.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Update on Jhead...

After a little tweaking, I came up with the following Jhead command, which named 99.5% of my picture files with the following format: FourDigitYear-TwoDigitMonth-TwoDigitDay_TwoDigitHour-TwoDigitMinute-TwoDigitSecond.jpg (e.g.: 2000-05-23_21-28-26.jpg, which translates to May 23, 2000, 9:28:26 pm)

jhead -nf%Y-%02m-%02d_%02H-%02M-%02S *

I still have 28 files which had been manually renamed in ages past which jhead refuses to rename, complaining that "Possible new names for 'filename' already exist" I may have to rename those manually. We shall see.

On a side note, I had to separate out .bmp's, .mov's, .tif's, etc. and will have to deal with them later. Jhead seems to work only with jpeg's. Once I get the renaming and organization settled, it will be time to go to work on tagging with KPhotoAlbum.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Jhead the Mighty

I just used Jhead to rename a majority of the 11000 pictures in my folder according to the exif date and time stamps. After installing Jhead from Synaptic, I issued the following commands in Konsole:

cd /home/les/Pictures
jhead -autorot -nf%y%m%d-%H%M%S *

Wow. Stand back and enjoy the show as hundreds of pictures are automatically renamed, so they can now be sorted by the date and time they were actually taken. Nice!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Overload: the biggest problem with digital photography!

Over 9000 images in main folder... about 3000 to go... time for bed. My brain is mush, and so is my mouse clicking finger.

Update 2: Just the process of consolidating my pix into one folder trimmed the size down from over 12,000 to 11,000! That means that there were over 1000 duplicates scattered around. For example, a certain picture of myself may have had one copy in the "Family" folder, another copy in the "Portraits" folder, another copy in the "Trip to Illinois" folder, etc. I expect further processing to eliminate even more.

Our family has gone through some major transitions during recent years. We have moved from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Flint, Michigan, to Florida; from a comfortable home to 2 years in a hotel, to our present mobile home in Florida. Much of that "progress" has been documented with our Nikon Coolpix 5700, and a few other digital cameras. In fact, in the 6 years or so that I have been taking digital photos, I have amassed over 12,000 pictures on my hard drive. Photos are by far the largest portion of my file space.

I have my KDE screen saver set to slide show mode so that it keeps throwing random images up every 20 seconds. (You can do that when you "keep your nose clean!") It has been fun to have that constant visual reminder of people and places we love. Often we'll interrupt whatever we're doing to comment on some random picture... "Who on earth is that??" "Oh, that's the janitor at the school where Mary Ann taught...", etc.

The worst part of having a huge digital collection, as you might guess, is getting it organized for easy access, and keeping it that way. My practice has been to create folders that are named according to content. That was great when there were twenty or thirty folders. But now that there are almost 400 (and in some places several levels of subfolders), there is just no way to quickly find what I'm looking for. What looked to me like a promising "scheme" of file and folder structure at the start, has become very cumbersome and problematic when multiplied to exponential proportions.

Enter KPhotoAlbum, which has been designed by Jesper Pedersen to address this exact problem. His solution? Tagging, rather than "foldering." With KPhotoAlbum's tagging, you can find almost any picture (that you have tagged) in a matter of seconds. See Jesper's video demos here. It really works! It really does make the tagging of photo content an efficient process. It's still work, mind you, but it is efficient work.

I have been using KPhotoAlbum somewhat hit and miss for several years, and I'm quite sure that it is the solution to my photo problem. The only thing keeping me from making it my only solution is the prospect of tagging thousands of pictures.

Here is my plan: I'm going to kick the legs out from under the table. I'm going to burn the bridges behind me. I'm going to motivate myself to get busy tagging by eliminating the folder structure entirely! I'm going to put ALL the pictures in one folder, so that almost the only way to find anything is to get it tagged! I suspect this will motivate me to get rid of a lot of blurry, unnecessary pictures as well!

"On your marks! Get set! GO!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What you can do with Blender...

I got inspired a few days ago to complete a digital chessboard project that I started many moons ago. I had done the chessboard itself, attempting to replicate one that I had built for my family back in the 1990's. But with the digital version of the board done, it kind of sat there forgotten for the better part of a year, I think. Anyway, here is the completed set, rendered out in full HD (click on the preview above). I'm rather pleased with the results! A few more tweaks with lighting, add a little environment, like a table, a window, a cup of coffee... and "checkmate!"

Just in case you think this is an actual photograph, here's a little evidence to the contrary...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Arch Linux Report Card

As I mentioned in a previous post, I trashed my Arch Linux installation in the process of reinstalling Windows Vista (it's a long story... read it if you like.) Anyway, prior to that event, I had been fairly happy with Arch. Here is a report card I wrote prior to "losing it":

"I've used Kubuntu, Mepis, PCLinuxOS, but was irked by all the bloat, as well as the need to wait for the next "Intrepid Ibex" or whatever. I looked for a trim distro that had up to date KDE 4.1 and rolling release.

I would warn off anyone who is afraid of command line, or who hasn't done a few Linux installations: this install is not for the faint of heart. You will not do this installation without a considerable amount of reading, learning, and a hiccup or two along the way. If you do not have a second machine available to browse the beginner's guide during the installation, BE SURE to print it out! It is 45 to 60 pages, depending on how you set your margins, text size, etc. Yes you need it!

I'm quite pleased with the results. After a week or so of messing around, I've created a very attractive and functional desktop, with access to cutting edge versions of nearly all the applications I have been accustomed to using: OpenOffice, Gimp, Blender, Firefox, Flashplayer 10 beta, Dolphin file manager, Kmail, etc.

Shaman is a capable replacement for Synaptic, although I despise the name. In addition to pacman there is yaourt, a command line tool which also gives access to Arch Linux's AUR (Arch User Repository, I think), providing a somewhat automated package building process for a wider range of packages than are available through the normal arch repositories. This is where I had to go for Bibletime and Sword packages.

Nice job, Arch Linux!"

I still feel the same about Arch, I'm just not willing to go through the pain of setting it all up again. The incredible thing about it was that after installing just about everything I needed, I still had less than 700 packages installed. Compare that to my former Kubuntu 8.04 installation at about 1400, or my current Mepis 8 installation with 1043.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Minimize Thunderbird to System Tray in Mepis 8

edit: be sure to read Paul's comment below! His way is easier. Thanks Paul!

After having recently moved all my mail to Thunderbird from Kmail, I was dismayed to discover that Thunderbird will not "minimize to tray," meaning that I would get no new mail notifications and no "Lightning" calendar reminders without TB being open on the desktop or minimized to the taskbar. A little Googling provided the following answer.

  1. In Konsole, login as root and type the following: apt-get install alltray
  2. Find Thunderbird in the KDE menu and RIGHT click on it. Select "Edit Item."
  3. The KDE Menu Editor will open. In the "Command" field, type the following: alltray -s -l thunderbird %u
  4. Click the save button on the KDE Menu Editor and close it.
  5. Start Thunderbird and follow the instructions that Alltray provides.
  6. Enjoy!

Thanks to Techthrob for this tip!

Is Linux "Libertarian?"

I watch relatively little television... so I missed this 20/20 segment that aired recently, but I saw a link to it on www.campaignforliberty.com, and thought it was so good I have to pass it along. It was so well done, and entertaining, I actually watched the whole 30 minutes online... and I recommend it to you as well. For some reason, I was not able to find the 6th segment on ABC's website, but it can be found on YouTube here.

Do you wonder why I mention this on a Linux-related blog? Let me see if I can explain.

While I would hesitate to call myself a Libertarian, out of a general dislike for using labels, I lean that direction on a number of issues. I think the less government we have, the better, as long as we still cover the essential bases of national defense and a just judicial system. "John Stossel's politically correct guide to politics" expressed my views quite well. Keep things plain, simple, transparent and free (read: liberty). Government isn't the solution, it's the problem!

My enjoyment of Linux and open source software fits into this stream of thought quite nicely. It is the "free: as in Freedom" part that I really appreciate. Keep things plain, simple, transparent and free (read: liberty). Don't weld the hood shut on my car (operating system), forcing me to bring it in to the dealership (Microsoft) to fix every little hiccup, and to buy every little part for a not so little price.

That's my view.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mepis 8 screenshot

Here is a screenshot of my current Mepis 8 desktop. I am using KDE 3.5 with the Xaphire theme, as mentioned in a previous post. The Kicker background image I created with Blender because I thought the Xaphire one was less than beautiful. I was trying to make something that looked somewhat similar to the Xaphire window buttons. There surely is room for improvement, but it's a start.

I am very impressed with Mepis 8 so far. It has been rock-solid, which is a blessing. Thank you, Warren Woodford!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Withdrawal symptoms?

Hands shaking... headache... brain fog... internet withdrawal symptoms? Nine days with no internet makes one weak.

The aforementioned modem (which I mistakenly referred to as a "router") finally quit, and I was forced to (gasp!) go to the public library to find another one on eBay. And then I had to wait for it to arrive. The seller included a setup CD for the wrong modem. Another trip to the library for some necessary info (the modem's default user name and password, OpenDNS server addresses, etc.) And now, we are back in business.

I can listen to www.theclassicalstation.org again!

I think I'll go do a Synaptic update.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Migrating Your Kmail to Thunderbird

I have decided to quit Kmail and give Thunderbird a try. I've been wanting to do this for ages, but the process for moving mail from Kmail to Thunderbird is rather formidable. I will attempt to document my "method," much of which I owe to the above linked blogger, TiJaJoMa, and the rest to the creator of the below linked import addon for Thunderbird.

1) I installed this add-on for Thunderbird... thanks, Kaosmos! (Click the download link at the bottom of the page, then in Thunderbird you'll have to click "Tools -> Add-ons -> Install" and then navigate to the .xpi file... on mine it landed on the desktop).

2) My Kmail folders were maildir format, so within Kmail I had to do this for each folder:
  • For a folder named Family, I created a new folder named FamilyM or FamilyMbox or whatever. Make sure when you are creating the folder that you select the mbox format!
  • move all the mail from my original folder to the new one.
  • delete the old empty folder, just to avoid confusion
3) After all the folders were converted to mbox format I chose to leave them with the temporary name (e.g. FamilyM), so as to make them easy to identify in the next step.

4) I created a folder on my desktop called "TempMail."

5) Using the Konqueror file manager to navigate to /home/les/.kde/share/apps/kmail/mail, I copied all the ".Whatever.directory" folders into the new TempMail directory on the desktop.

6) In the new TempMail directory, I deleted the "." from the beginning of each of these folder names, so they would be visible to the importer script.

7) In Thunderbird, I created a new folder named Family (or Whatever) by right clicking on "Local Folders" in the folder tree, and selecting "New Folder"

8) Then I right-clicked on the new folder just created, selected "Import/Export," and "import mbox file," then "Select a directory where searching the mbox files to import." (Italian English?)

9) A box opened where I had to navigate to the TempMail folder on my desktop, and select one of the "Whatever.directory" files therein, and click "Open."

10) I then was asked "Do you want to import the file /home/les/Desktop/TempMail/Whatever?
I clicked "Yes!" and guess what? It worked!

11) Finally it was time to rename all the new Thunderbird folders, because the importer script adds a random 3 digit number to the folder name, to avoid the possibility of overwriting an existing mail folder.

Whew! I know this is going to be automated someday! I hope this helps someone. Let me know if it needs clarification.

Rationalizing My Discontent - Part 2

Let's face it: Microsoft Windows carries an enormous amount of excess baggage, no matter what version you are running. Just look at the system tray after a normal startup: you have your "normal" Windows system security programs running, a third party security suite running, quite possibly a file indexer running, and who knows what else.

I work the night shift at a large county agency, and their XP computers are almost useless at times because of all the indexing and security scanning that happens at night. I'll grant you that they are not the latest whiz-bang machines, but wouldn't it be nice to side-step a good portion of the minefield of viruses, and all the scanning that goes with it, so you can just do your work?

While I am not implying that there are absolutely no security threats with a Linux system, I have experienced none of them. There are several reasons that I can think of why this is so:
  1. I generally avoid the more hazardous areas of the internet.
  2. I use Gmail, which catches the great majority of spam before it gets to my machine
  3. Linux is simply more secure, because it requires an administrator's password to install or change system software or files.
  4. Face it: most viruses are written for Windows systems!
I've never met a Linux that was slower than Windows XP, let alone Vista.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Mepis 8: It's a beautiful thing!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I used Mepis for quite a while, back in the Mepis 6 days. I have to say that I am very glad to see that they have gone back to using a Debian base and repositories instead of Ubuntu (which is Debian based). Why put one more layer of complexity between you and Debian?

So, in my developing desktop, I am using Mepis 8 beta, KDE 3.5.9, and the beautiful Xaphire theme mentioned in my previous post, which satisfies my need for a dark glassy classy look. Perhaps I don't need to hurry in reinstalling KDE 4.1!

Mepis 8 also provides the tools to help me with another issue... network configuration. I really don't have a difficult setup... Verizon dsl, Actiontec router, & ethernet card. Somehow, though, I've been having issues, even since the new ethernet card. I'm beginning to wonder if the router is going bad. At any rate, the Mepis Network Assistant has been helpful each time in getting the connection reestablished.

Other tools that I use a lot which are included in Mepis 8, or available in their standard repositories (accessible through Synaptic)--

  • GIMP, (Gnu Image Manipulation Program: an open-source alternative to Photoshop), Blender (3-D modeling and animation),
  • OpenOffice 3.0 (Microsoft Office alternative)
  • Firefox 3.0.1
  • Synaptic 0.62.1, my favorite package manager
  • Bibletime, a great Bible study program
A couple of other nice things:
  • automatic recognition and mounting of usb memory sticks, external hard drives, etc.
  • Flashplayer works perfectly "out of the box" at Youtube, Foxnews, etc.
Stay tuned...

Beautiful dark KDE theme: Xaphire

Check out the Xaphire theme for KDE 3.5.x at KDE-Look.org. Very classy! It looks great with the Nasa Night Launch Firefox theme. Installation is not so straightforward, but worth the effort, in my opinion. Now if I could just find a Xaphire-like theme for this blog...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Why is Kmail so difficult about importing from Kmail?

It seems that every time I switch distributions, the one application that gives me the most headaches is Kmail. Whenever I try to import my old mail, it never gets the folder structure right... it doesn't see the subfolders, and I have to import them, rename them, etc. folder by folder. I also have to recreate my identity and my account settings. How come? Am I missing something?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

We interrupt this program...

All-righty, then! I was all set to tell you about how I was getting along with Arch Linux... until something went wrong with my ethernet card. It took a while to narrow it down to a hardware issue... I was convinced for a day or so that I'd messed something up with my Arch network settings. I borrowed my daughter's XP laptop to determine that it was not a router issue. I tried several different Linux live cd's on my machine, and they all had the same problem, so that told me that it was likely a hardware issue, but I wasn't 100% convinced until... I reinstalled Windows Vista, and even it could not get through.

Reinstalling Vista, of course, wiped out my Arch installation. (Yes, I had backed up my /home directory.) I wound up buying another ethernet card at Wal-Mart (not too many other places open 24 hours, you know!) After that card proved to be too ancient (my first clue was the floppy disk in the box! It's been 4 years since I had a machine with a floppy drive!), and failing to find Vista drivers for the new card, I returned it and bought another card at a local computer geek shop, which Vista recognized immediately.

The end of the sad story is that I used Vista to download Mepis 8 beta-2 (64-bit), and I am in the process of re-creating my desktop. My only disappointment is that it is KDE 3.5, but I guess I can deal with that for now. I know they have KDE 4 in their repositories, but I think I'll save that for a while.

Check back for my review of Mepis 8... so far so good!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Doesn't play well with other children"

Coming up...

A report card on some of my favorites: Kubuntu, Mepis, Arch...

Rationalizing my discontent

The first computer I ever owned had an 8086 processor, a 5 1/2" floppy drive (back when floppy disks were floppy), and a 32 mega-byte hard drive. I think the OS was DOS 6 or 7. I worked for a large church at the time, and when they upgraded, I was the beneficiary of their cast-off. I was delighted... for a while. Someone even gave me a stack of floppy disks that enabled me to upgrade it to Windows 3.0. I think it worked.

In the spring or early summer of 1995 the church planted a computer on my desk at work. This time, the OS was Windows 95! Now we're really cooking! I got a lot of work done with that machine, and subsequent ones... but experienced my share of headaches, too. I learned what the blue screen of death meant. I learned how to reinstall Windows. More than once.

Eventually we "moved up" to Windows 98. That was when I really began to move from satisfaction to annoyance and irritation. Windows 98 seemed like a giant step backwards in stability, without much in the way of forward progress. Perhaps the worst thing about Windows 98 was how llloooooooonnnnnggggggg it hung around!

The infections of frustration and discontent began to fester, especially when the brand new $700 dollar system I purchased for our home came with the same blue screen of death I had grown to love on the hand-me-down boxes I had just gotten rid of.

I don't remember where I first heard of Linux, but my experiences with Windows 98 had created some fertile ground for the seed.

...to be continued...

The Summer (Autumn, Winter & Spring) of Our Discontent

I have been a regular Linux user since sometime in 2002. Generally I have dual-booted with Windows 98/XP or Vista, but once or twice there were two Linuxes competing with Windows for space on my hard drive. Currently my computer is 100% Microsoft free.

To the best of my recollection, these are the Linux distributions that I have tried:

SuSe 8.0 This was my first experience with Linux. I didn't know at the time that software didn't have to come in a box with a manual and cost $40 or more. But you will forgive me... we were using dial-up at the time! More recently I also tried a Suse 11.0 beta version.

Red Hat 7.something. I think someone at the Grand Rapids Linux Users Group gave me the disk. More recently I have tried Fedora 9 (Red Hat's "community" version).

Knoppix 3.something, and more recently, 5.3.1

Debian 3.something

Mepis 6, SimplyMepis 7

Kubuntu 6.04, 6.10, 7.04, 7.10, 8.04, 8.10 (Obviously I've spent some time here.)

PCLinuxOS 2007, PCLinuxOS 2008

Sidux 2007-04 (Eros)

Mandriva 2008

Elive 1.8.2, 1.8.4



And finally... in case you were wondering... my "Linux du jour," Arch Linux.

Do you think I have a problem?

Aspiring connoisseur of fine Linuxes...

What I look for in a Linux distribution:

1) Stability of the basic operating system is crucial, of course. By that I mean I should never see "kernel panics," failure to boot, or what is known in the Windows world as the Blue Screen of Death. (To be honest, I haven't seen a BSOD for several years, even when running Windows.) Failure to boot... well, that's another story, most of the sorry details of which I brought upon myself.

2) It has to look classy, which for me, at the moment, means KDE 4.x.x.... that is, the latest version of the K Desktop Environment. Those in the know may be asking "what about that stability you were talking about?" Well,
I have had relatively little trouble with KDE 4.1 on my current setup. I am a visually oriented person, and I like the glassyness and the transparency effects of KDE 4. My only real dissatisfaction with it at this point is the few applications I use regularly which are still using the KDE 3.5 libraries, such as OpenOffice (office suite) and Amarok 1.4.10 (music player).

3) Quick access to a large repository of software packages. This generally means Synaptic, or a similar graphical tool used for sorting, selecting and installing of Linux software packages.

4) Frequent visits to major news websites these days requires the latest updates to FlashPlayer, Java, etc.

5) A large user base, with good online documentation, such as a wiki, and with a friendly user forum where I can go to get help with technical problems.

6) Ongoing development. I prefer not to wait a year for patches and upgrades.