Yearly (Linux) photo management quandary

Here we are again, another year, another dissatisfying look at what options I have for local photo management.

Here’s what I do now:

  • Photos from our cameras and my phone are imported using F-Spot on my desktop computer in the office, to a directory tree that resides over NFS on a fileserver, where they will be backed up.
  • Tagging etc. happens on the desktop computer.
  • For quick viewing of a few images, if I know the date they were taken on, I can find them in the directory structure because it goes like Photos/2014/01/01/blah.jpg. The NFS mount is available on every computer in the house that can do NFS (e.g. laptops).
  • For more involved viewing that will require searching by tag or other metadata, i.e. that has to be done in F-Spot, I have to do it on the desktop computer in the office, because that is the only place that has the F-Spot database. So I either do it there, or I have to run F-Spot over X11 forwarding on another machine (slow and clunky!).

The question is how to improve that experience?

I can’t run F-Spot on multiple computers because it stores its SQLite database locally and even if the database file were synced between hosts or kept on the fileserver it would still need the exact same version of F-Spot on every machine, which is not feasible — my laptop and desktop already run different releases of Ubuntu and I want to continue being able to do that.

It would be nice to be able to import photos from any machine but I can cope with it having to be done from the desktop alone. What isn’t acceptable is only being able to view them from the desktop as well. And when I say view I mean be able to search by tags and metadata, not just navigate a directory tree.

It sounds like a web application is needed, to enforce the single point of truth for tags and metadata. Are there actually any good ones that you can install yourself though? I’ve used Gallery before and was never really satisfied with ease of use or presentation.

Your-Photos-As-A-Service providers like Flickr and even to some extent Google+ and Facebook have quite nice interfaces, but I worry about spending many hours adding tags and metadata, not bothering to back it all up, and then one day the service shuts down or changes in ways I don’t like.

I’m normally quite good about backing things up but the key to backups is to make them easy and automatic. From what I can see these service providers either don’t provide a backup facility or else it’s quite inconvenient, e.g. click a bunch of times, get a zip file of everything. Ain’t nobody got time for that, as a great philosopher once wrote.

So.. yeah.. What do you do about it?

5 Responses to “Yearly (Linux) photo management quandary”

  1. flop25 Says:

    Hello

    what do you mean by a backup: do you want to backup of the gallery web app or for the files?

    With Piwigo you could make a symlink of the /galleries folder and then run a Synchronization.
    But again, a backup of a web app is independent of the product! Just run a Cron job which will make mysql/database dump and backup files in a zip automatically (if the server is run permanently)

  2. Andy Says:

    @flop25,

    If I run the software myself then backup is not a hard problem. Backup is only a hard problem for a web service you don’t run yourself.

    A harder problem for FOSS solutions seems to be basic user interface and features.

    I have never used Piwigo but it doesn’t look like it is easy to search, e.g. photos with a tag, photos where two different tags are together, and so on. Am I wrong on that?

  3. flop25 Says:

    “basic user interface and features” Hmm If you really tried Gallery2, things are not basic

    About Piwigo, by default, it displays related tags of pictures in the album currently displayed on the menu, and you can click on it and then click to add a tag and restrict the search. Check http://piwigo.org/demo/index.php?/category/Europe

    I don’t use tags on my public gallery but a lot on my private one for my family

  4. Andy Says:

    @flop25,

    I see with Piwigo I can do a search for photos that have all of a set of keywords; that is good. My usual viewing needs are all the photos with a given tag or all the photos that have two different tags, e.g. “every photo that is tagged both Andy and Jenny”.

    F-Spot seems slightly more complete here because it can negate tags, e.g. “show me photos tagged Jenny but not if they are tagged Beaconsfield”, but I can’t really remember ever using that feature.

    It’s also a pity that Piwigo doesn’t seem to do nested keywords. For example, if I like to have a set of keywords for People, with their names being each keyword, then a set of keywords for Pets with their names also. It’s easy to navigate the trees of People and Pets but it looks like on the Piwigo demo site there would just be one big list of keywords with Dave the person next to Darren the cat!

    Well, you’ve made a reasonably convincing case for Piwigo so I wonder why @tdobson said it wouldn’t be suitable.

    Thanks, I’ll play some more.

  5. flop25 Says:

    advanced taxonomy is really really complex, honestly. For instance, rendering the menu of nested albums is the most expensive in server resources

    I do understand your point of view, but here is the problem complexity of code/time spend by a voluntary to code it/number of people using that feature, and many FOSS limitations are based on it

    If your have time you can use Drupal, very complex, very complete, extremely had to understand ^^

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