Archive for August 2006

Reinventing the Photo Album (Part 2)

Published on August 29, 2006

I would like to expand a little on yesterday’s discussion of the photo album software I am in the process of developing. Specifically, I’d like to talk about the server side changes that I’m planning on making in relation to the Plogger software that I currently use. Suggestions and additional ideas would be super great, so please suggest anything that comes to mind.

Plogger allows users to add images to an album in two ways: either by uploading an image one at a time, or by importing a number of images at once. I never use the upload feature, opting instead to import one or more albums at a time via SFTP. Plogger handles this process via an upload folder on the server side. One may either place images directly in this folder, or create sub-folders to better organize things during the import process. I tend to do the latter step, creating a sub-folder for each album that I create. At import time, Plogger scans the upload folder for items to be added, presenting the user with a list of the folders containing items to be imported. After selecting the desired folder to import, the user is given the opportunity to caption the pictures and move them into an album. Physically, the files get moved from the upload folder into an images folder. The resulting file structure looks something like this:

images/
 +-- collection_1/
      |-- album_1/
      |    |-- image_1.jpg
      |    |-- image_2.jpg
      |    +-- image_3.jpg
      +-- album_2/

There are a few problems that I can see with this system. First, thumbnail images aren’t placed in the images folder, but in a thumbs folder instead (which is up at the same level as the images folder). Unlike its sibling, the thumbs folder has absolutely no organization whatsoever. All of the thumbnail images are simply placed in this one folder, ad hoc. I’m not entirely sure what happens if two different images in two separate albums have the same filename. I wouldn’t be surprised if the name collision is not resolved cleanly.

The second issue is that the sub-folders one creates within the upload folder don’t get cleaned up when the images get moved during the import step. As a result, a bunch of outdated, empty folders build up over time. Highly annoying for an obsessive-compulsive organizer like myself.

Finally, what happens if two albums have the same name? Again, I’m not sure that the collision is handled cleanly. The results could be potentially disastrous. Separating two intertwined albums in the database would most likely cause a great deal of headache, and is something I’d rather not have to deal with.

So here are the changes that I am proposing for my new, custom system. First of all, thumbnail images will be placed with each corresponding album, in a nested “thumbs” folder (to keep the root album folder as clean as possible). Second, the upload folder will be properly cleaned out when importing images. Empty albums will be discovered and removed as necessary. Third, albums will be date stamped. For example, if I uploaded an album today using a folder name of “eno_river”, the resulting album name in the images folder would be something like “20060829_eno_river.” This would help prevent name collisions on the album level, and would provide a nice chronological ordering on disk (not that that really matters).

This is how I am planning on proceeding with my new album package. Thoughts? Suggestions? Both are most welcome. This project is still in the early stages of development, and things are still quite malleable.

Update: I want to emphasize that I will not be using the filesystem to do logical organization and naming for each album and image. My album package will use a MySQL database to accomplish this, storing caption data, album data, and EXIF data as necessary. The organization on disk is simply a convenience, to help keep things orderly. Kip makes some good points in the comments in this post, some of which may result in modifications to my current plan.

Reinventing the Photo Album

Published on August 28, 2006

I’m slowly working on a replacement for the Plogger software that I’m employing here at this site. Plogger works well enough, but there are enough bugs and “misfeatures” in it to motivate me to write my own package. In the process, I’m learning how to manipulate the file system through PHP, and make use of various cryptographic techniques (for security purposes), both of which are new PHP topics for me. Thankfully, PHP makes all of it very easy.

Here are a few things I’m planning on changing in my new photo album package:

  • Albums will be sorted based on date, providing a better chronological ordering.
  • EXIF data will not be hidden by default.
  • Photos will be better organized on the server side.
  • The old “slashes in the photo captions” bug will be fixed.

Progress is slow, but I hope to have something working within the next month or so. I’m also working on a new theme for this site, which is also coming along nicely. It might debut along with the new photo album software, so keep your eyes peeled.

Bon Echo Beta 2

Published on August 24, 2006

The second beta build of “Bon Echo” (what will become Firefox 2.0) is nearing completion, so I am officially switching to the nightly builds for my browsing needs. And I’ve already been quite pleased. By default, the nightly builds come configured to use the nightly update channel. Through this channel, you can receive each day’s updates just by using the Help » Check for Updates… menu item in Firefox. They get downloaded, applied, and the browser is restarted. And with the new session saver feature in Firefox, you start right back where you left off when you downloaded the updates. How cool is that?

I still dislike the theme, and the list of bugs written against it continues to grow. Thankfully, the list of fixes is also seeing some growth. Hopefully things can get polished up by release time.

Sometime at the end of this week, or perhaps this weekend, I will be updating both CoLT and Googlebar Lite to work in the beta 2 builds (stupid maxVersion, grumble, grumble).

Moving Very Slowly

Published on August 22, 2006

For whatever reason, I’ve been in an incredibly lazy mood over the past several weeks. Every day brings a new stretch of boredom, and I don’t know what to attribute it to. Perhaps I need a vacation. Thankfully, I’ll be taking one in two weeks. A new PC game couldn’t hurt either. I recently realized that I’ve been growing more and more tired of the games I’ve got. This past weekend, I reinstalled Quake 4, to try out its dual-core support. Although it was an enjoyable experience, it felt hollow. A new experience would be most welcome, but sadly there aren’t any games on the market that pique my interest. Prey looks interesting, but I’m not willing to pay $40 for it. Oh how dry the well seems to be!

In other random news, I’m working on a new theme for this blog. It’s still in the concept stage, but maybe I can get it up sometime this fall.

Zalman VF-900 Install Process

Published on August 18, 2006

Not too long ago, I posted a Zalman VF900 review and, due to my lack of a digital camera at the time, failed to post any images about the install process. Now that I have a camera, and due to my recent computer rebuild, I have posted a small photo set of the install process.

This time around, installation was much easier since I knew what to expect. Thankfully, the stock cooler on the eVGA GeForce 7900GT was easy to remove, unlike my previous card. And the Zalman cooler is, as always, a snap to install. Although I don’t have any current screenshots, my temperatures on this new card are phenomenal. The idle temperature stays around 40 degrees Celsius, and the highest load temperature I’ve seen has been a paltry 45 degrees! As I said before, I highly recommend the Zalman cooler; it truly works wonders.

Overhaulin’

Published on August 14, 2006

This weekend I had the great fortune of rebuilding my personal computer. It turned out to be quite an experience, and surprisingly frustrating at times. Before I detail the problems I ran into, here’s a list of the new components I put into it:

  • Asus A8N5X motherboard
  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ CPU (dual core)
  • 2GB Corsair XMS DDR400 SDRAM
  • Antec SmartPower 2.0 500W Power Supply
  • eVGA GeForce 7900 GT 256MB
  • 2 Seagate Barracuda 160GB SATA 3.0 GB/s hard drives

I have also put up a small photo series detailing my progress, for those interested (more on this in a moment). Fortunately, it doesn’t contain any photos of my frustrations.

After assembling everything in the system, I plugged it in and turned it on. For a fraction of a second, the system begins to boot; after that, nothing but silence. I try again, with even worse luck the second time: nothing happens at all. Panic instantly sets in. Frustrated, I surf the web looking for answers but come up empty handed. My dad suggests that it sounds like power supply issues so, one by one, I disconnect every device from the supply. After getting down to just the motherboard, CPU, and memory, things begin working. Slowly but surely I replace the items and, to my delight, everything eventually works.

I tried out Windows slipstreaming for the first time, and was pleasantly surprised with how well it worked. I was able to load Service Pack 2 instantly, bypassing the oh-so-annoying Windows update process. Interestingly enough, I still had a total of 55 critical updates to be applied, and even more for Microsoft Office. I’m slowly getting things back to normal, and I look forward to doing a little gaming in the near future.

I’ll have another Zalman VF-900 blog post here soon, detailing the install process (as well as my second no-power adventure with my new machine).

As I noted earlier, I have posted a photo series here at this blog covering my computer building experience. I am trying out the Plogger photo gallery software for my photos, so feel free to check out my main collection (I have replaced Plogger with Monkey Album, my own photo album software). Plogger has a few bugs, and a few features I dislike, but I’m going to try it out for a while (until I can write my own). If you see a problem anywhere in the gallery software, let me know. Hopefully things will work as they are intended to.

A Little Green Friend

Published on August 10, 2006

A hitchhiker rode with me to work today, joined me for lunch, and then made the trip back to my house. Although I forced him to ride outside of the car, he didn’t seem too fazed by the whole ordeal. And I was quite surprised that he could hold on at 70 miles per hour, given his rather enormous size. What a trooper.

And as a bonus, here’s the original macro (Warning: 1.5 MB File) shot I took.

Variations on a Theme

Published on August 7, 2006

The new look and feel coming in Firefox 2.0 recently landed on one of the branch builds, so I downloaded one this weekend’s builds and tried it out. My verdict? It has a long way to go before public consumption. In other words, it’s pure crap in its current form.

A preview of the new theme is available over at the Mozilla wiki, and it looks pretty nice. Too bad the real thing looks nothing like that. Every icon looks grayed out, there are toolbar button hovering problems, widgets aren’t properly aligned, etc. A catch-all bug over at Bugzilla has been filed for the new theme and, as of this writing, there are 38 dependencies (38 other bugs) written against the new theme (and only one has been fixed so far). That list has grown steadily over the past few days, and I can only imagine that it will continue to do so. I’m excited about Firefox 2.0, but if Mozilla screws up something this basic, it will certainly be a disappointment.

In somewhat happier news, a bug that’s been around for some time has just been fixed in today’s branch build. Bug 318793, Firefox caches extension update file, has been a minor thorn in my side for a while. I’m glad to see that this issue has received the attention it so sorely deserved.

Narrowing Down

Published on August 2, 2006

Since early February and March, I’ve been talking (and thinking) about upgrading my home computer. And I’m finally making some inroads to the situation. For whatever this is worth, here are the components I’ve firmly decided on:

  • Asus A8N5X: This motherboard has great reviews at NewEgg, and the socket 939 platform from AMD is way more mature (and stable) than the new Intel stuff (or even AMD’s socket AM2, as far as I know). It looks like this isn’t available anymore at NewEgg. 🙁
  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+: A great processor for a very reasonable price (although it went up $15 just today). Dual core should be fun to play with.
  • CORSAIR XMS 2GB (2 x 1GB) 184-Pin DDR SDRAM: Going from 1GB of RAM to 2GB will certainly be an improvement.
  • Antec SmartPower 2.0 SP-500 ATX12V 500W Power Supply: I’m going to try a modular power supply and see how well I like it. Antec makes quality units, so I don’t doubt that I’ll be pleased.
  • Seagate Barracuda 160GB SATA 3.0GB/s: I’m planning on getting two of these, doubling my available storage (not that I need double the storage mind you). My current Maxtor drives really suck; they’re loud, slow, and I’m tired of dealing with them. Hopefully these Seagate’s will do better. These drives are no longer available at NewEgg. 🙁

I’m also looking at upgrading my video card (preferably to a GeForce 7900GT), but I don’t know which brand to go with. I currently have a card manufactured by eVGA, and as I have mentioned before, it runs a tad warm. I’ve also been reading about a number of stability problems with eVGA 7900 cards, although they recently did a 7900 series reload to fix some of the issues. As a result, I’ve been focusing on the XFX GeForce 7900GT (470MHz). The XFX model comes with stock speeds (most 7900 cards come factory overclocked, something I’m thinking I’d like to avoid) and it has fairly good reviews at NewEgg. The price, around $225 after rebate, isn’t bad either!

Had I fully made up my mind about a video card earlier this week, I would have gone ahead and ordered these components. But I’d rather spend some more time weighing my options. Suggestions? Comments? As always, they are welcome.

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