Thursday, June 22, 2017

Playing around with Little Planets in PicsART

There is a yet another trendy filter photo application poping up all over the place called PicsArt. I've downloaded it to my phones (the free version has those annoying ads, thgat tend to take over the screen) and to my computer as a windows play store app (which also has ads but they seem less intrusive just at the bottom of the screen). I got interested because their "Magic" filters looked a lot like neural networks trained to look for the image styling, colouring etc. I'm not certain that is the case and they don't offer the ability to use your own images as a guide/filter. Not to worry they are generally garish and whilst a few have potential, but not enough to encourage me to buy the pro version.

The app however does offer many other image manipulation and sharing features. It seems particularly geared to sharing on social media and selfies in particular (again I'll pass on this). It has decent collage, cut-out and stickers features not to mention a lot of more conventional "one click" filter based photo "enhancements" as well as a range of the basic cropping, tonal and colour sliders. Rather than be to influenced by my old biases go try it for yourself.

What also got my interest was their little planets stereographic transformation, which you can find under edit, then effect (fx), distort and tiny planet. This performs a polar transformation on your photo, mathematically stretching the sky and compressing the base of your image to form a round little planet of your foreground. It does a pretty good job if your horizon is relatively flat and not tilted, but there are sliders to control Zoom (make the planet bigger or smaller, Rotation (twist the planet either clockwise of anti-clockwise) Shift(changes the scaling/matching of the end points) and Blur (blurs a little or a lot at the join). I had a bit of fun making a set that moved from Day to Night on my phone and posting some directly to Instagram.
Sunrise BunburyMorning at Castle RocksIn the Heat of The Day Bunbury
Afternoon at the Mouth of Margret RiverBunbury SunsetEvening on the Swan River, Perth

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Flickr slips in similarity

imageBack in March flickr introduced a similarity feature into its image search. Its a little hidden, which is my excuse for not finding it sooner, but any image that is part of search (normally using the search feature with the magnifying glass icon) will have three dots (…) in any image you hover over in the displayed search results. Clicking on the dots will bring up the search for similar photos feature.

So what does it do, simple it attempts to find similar photos. What makes it a little different to other offering is it uses Artificial Intelligence to help determine the subject, style, colouring and other attributes using neural networks. This is like google images showing visually similar images but flickr use their own similarity pivot technique (there is a lot of detail to be found in the article linked above). Flickr have also been putting these neural networks to good use adding/suggesting tags for your photos when they are uploaded. Flickr also has a wonderful resource of photos to look through. It isn’t perfect but it is very impressive.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Transferring a Picasa based photo library spread across a couple of computers

There will come a time with any digital collection of photos that they need to be transferred to a new computer, perhaps a different operating system. If everything is well organised in one directory and subfolders, the whole set can be copied to an external USB harddrive and carried to the new computer and the copied onto it. Pretty simple! However if you check  you might be surprised, what has happened to your previous edits, the tagging, star rating and album organization (collections for lightroom only users), they are much more difficult to ensure make that leap across computers. Now add the fact that not all photo collections are perfectly organized and often the photos are spread across several drives of across the local area network. Transferring photos might just become a nightmare!

I rediscovered that picasa is still a wonderful tool to manage your photos (well jpeg libraries to be specific). While google abandoned picasa a few years ago, but you can still download it free from several popular download sites (just make sure the site is trustworth and doesn't come with unwanted blotware and especially viruses, worms or ransomware). In later version (approx. 2015 onwards) the picasa web component was changed to use google photos (and I strongly recommend not using the autobackup to the web feature).  Google wants everyone to use their google photos system on the web, not do anything on your own computer which does not suit me and I assume will not really suit most people.

“For those who have already downloaded it, it will continue to work as it does today. But we will not be developing it further, and there will be no future updates.”   ….google post on picasa user web forum

If you already have Picasa,  you will know it has some good photo editing tools (its a pity snapseed never made it into the collection), is very fast to load photos, incredibly easy to understand and probably still has one of the best facial recognition features. It is not so great at enhancing RAW format photos (it can display and manage them). Further the “copy the photo directory” approach works well for picasa because it has a usually hidden file “picasa.ini” in each directory which stores the processes such as cropping etc. and basic organization, as well a simple start rating on each photo you have editing. When the the entire directory is copied onto the new computer and picasa reloaded it can read this file and render the photo as it was on the old computer. I discovered some time ago that this did not copy the facial recognition organization, but there was a complex workaround involving copying the hidden picasa database. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Tools/Back up picture feature in Picasa 3.9 (the last downloadable version) will also copy this extra information. I was using this backup approach for a different reason, picasa transfer :: Tools/Backup PicturesI knew it would search out the photos from where ever they are stored and put them into one big set (generally on an external USB drive for easy transfer).

The approach is very simple and easy to follow but I figured I should prepare a simple step by step through the process anyway and post here, because I suspect A lot of people will want to do this as they ungrade computers over the next few years. You will need picasa 3.9 to get all the facial recognition transfered (otherwise see that workaround above).  Get an external USB hard disk and plug it in (make a note of the drive letter it is given). Or alternatively you can find somewhere on your local area network with picasa transfer  :: Select a new Backup setlots of space (a NAS drive would be perfect albeit slow) Now Run Picasa on your old computer and using the tools menu find the back up picture option.

This will bring up the backup dialogue panels on the bottom of the screen. picasa transfer :: Select destination of backupThe default is normally set to somewhere on your hard drive, so you will need to  select the New Set option. Then enter the address of the USB drive (or network location). I’ve put a 1 2 3 marks on things you need to address on the first panel to get your back set defined. Firstly give it a name, Secondly select on the Disk-to-disk backup type and using the choose button locate your destination. I had already created a sub-directory on my USB drive F: called transfer. Finally you need to define which files to backup. Picasa was never used to manage movie on this computer so I excluded them (to save space). If your picasa library is full of screen captures and or downloaded web graphics and you only want your picasa transfer :: start the backuporiginal camera files you can try the last option. Otherwise it may be safest to select All file types to backup. On the second panel you can set up selective folders to backup but when transfering computers just click on the select all button. The final step to start the backup is to press the Burn button on the far right hand side (this term comes from the days when you “burnt” CDs, which you still can do by the way) This process can take a while and there are no progress bars but a pop up screen does tell when it is complete.

picasa restore on new computerFinal take the USB drive (after using the safely remove and eject option in your operating system) over to your new computer. If you look in the directory created (transfer in my example) you will see there is a collection of files and sub-directories and one of the files should be PicasaRestore.exe. Click on this to run it.  You can change the location of the restored files but most often the select to restore to original locations is fine for a an inter-computer transfer. Again this can take some time but you can see progress details of the files copied and setup steps and also another pop up when the transfer is complete.

When you start Picasa on the new computer it may take a some time in background to scan through the library and connect up all the faces and some organizational aspects. However you should find that your complete picasa library is fully and safely transferred and available on your new computer.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

What will happen to flickr & Tumblr

This week Version announced they have bought Yahoo! for $4.5 billion and are bringing all their tech companies under the one Umbrella company Oath: 

This could be fine, but history of these big tech takeovers is littered with subsequent failures or at least falls from grace. Down in the story you will find that Marissa Mayer has resigned, with a nice golden parachute. However when yahoo originally took over flickr, it went into stagnation and it wasn't until Mayer became CEO and gave "the lets make flickr great again" speach that the current resurgence of flickr and its improved/modernised photostream displays happened. Similarly she championed and used tumblr, another decent social media place, you can read her final post here.

I hope and trust flickr & tumblr will survive the savage staff cuts that are certain to follow and these services are allowed to continue and perhaps even let flourish. Allowing both of them to provide serious competition to the google & facebook juggernauts.

Monday, June 12, 2017

About page (beta) has arrived in my flickr

image The About page has arrived on my Flickr Photostream. It is a lot more “modern” and plenty of opportunity to show photos and links to other social media. So it is generally a biggish improvement on the previous profile page. My only concern is there is now a lot to scroll through on the web interface. How can I use this space responsibly. The Phone app. is still the same by the way.

#237_Into_a_reflected_dream     Click here to see ABOUT ME on flickr

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Google Photos :: Not So Private

I thought I would give google photos another chance (probably it's third) it seemed pretty harmless. While I can see it is attempting to make sense of the mess. It just keeps making the mess bigger. At least the photo it autoloads it makes private, right, until you share them, right. Actually wrong all it does is use a 40 character code to make the photo link difficult to guess, this includes all the old photo from Picasa Web Album that you thought where safely private and only shared via a password.
Effectively there is a massive jungle of photos out there and your photos are sitting there in the wild. It is easy to test out (access a photo in google photos) there will be a long url name to access it (the name is a web link not a jpeg address by the way. Paste that into a file you write to a usb. Take the usb to a foreign computer you have not use and cut and then paste the url in a browser you have not used so It will not know your google ID. There is your photo! Other have noticed this issue.
This is a really big deal, A significant betrayal of my trust.

Whilst I intend to keep using google photos for my shared photos and images (mainly for my blog). I have already turned google photos off on my phone and I'm working through deleting a lot of photo from my google photos account.