New photo gallery at LiveJournal

For some time now, I’ve been trying to work out where best to store my photos. You see, I’d like a gallery on line, so people can view it, and I’d like to be able to do simple photo editing — rotations, reflections, red-eye removal, that sort of thing. I was therefore caught between the idea of a local photo program, on my computer, and publishing those photos to an online gallery, and the idea of just having the online gallery and making sure that it’s one that can handle the editing requirements I’ve got. For some time I went backwards and forwards on this, thinking one way way best and then the other. I even toyed with the idea of writing some sort of web-based photo management app. I don’t like keeping things in two places — it’s an invitation to them getting unsynchronised. On the other hand, most of the existing web-based photo management (as opposed to photo display, for which you need nothing more than HTML) apps are shit. So, between a rock and a hard place. One night I had an epiphany, which is: bandwidth is not infinite. Doing all my photo management online is unacceptably slow and annoying in a world where one photo might be 2MB in size. I couldn’t bear it. Of course, here, I’d fallen foul of one of the Eight Fallacies of Distributed Computing. Much as people would like to claim it, remote resources and local resources are not equivalent, at least not until we get a decent fast internet. That being the case, I needed to plump for a photo management app on my machine and then simply publish the photos online. Now, the choice of photo management app was fairly obvious: F-Spot. It’s nice, it integrates with Gnome. Its main competitor on the Linux desktop is Digikam, which is pretty good but which I just don’t like. No particular reason, and no discredit to the digikam team; it’s just not my sort of thing. One big download later and I’d imported all my existing gallery photos into F-Spot. It also made it easier to import new photos from my camera, which was nice. Next step, then: putting these photos on the web so people can see them. F-Spot supports exporting to a number of existing photo sites (Flickr, smugmug, etc), to Gallery, the PHP online photo gallery thing, and to its own HTML layout and jimmac’s Original gallery. I was all geared up to use the HTML layout, at which point I found that it can’t be customised. I want my gallery (eventually) to fit in with the look of my site. So, I thought to myself: I’ll write something that parses that HTML, grabs all the info out of it, and then creates my own static HTML gallery. That’s a good idea. Two months pass and I’ve done fuck all. What this actually means, when this happens, is that I’ll never get round to it. After three decades I know my own mind, even if it takes steps to hide what it’s thinking from me occasionally. In the interim, something important happened: Jono posted a few images on his website, they got syndicated onto various planets, and as everyone pulled up the image it drove our poor server to its knees. After some experimentation with ImageShack for this sort of thing, we came to the conclusion that off-site image hosting is what we need. So Jono went to Flickr, because he hates freedom. Flickr’s pretty good, I’m not going to deny it, but, as has been related in these pages before, I’d like to try hard to use free software only where possible. I’ve got no problem with paying a subscription to someone who’s doing the hosting for me, but I’d like to use someone who’s got open source running their site. Flickr might use lots of free software under the covers, but it itself isn’t free. Other photo sites seem to be the same; Smugmug are very proud of how they use free software, and they contribute changes and extra code back to the community in a good way, but the software for the site itself isn’t Free, so I was loath to use it. Those of you saying “I bet you use Google!”, yes, yes I do. I didn’t say I’d succeeded in every way in not using non-free software, but two wrongs don’t make a right; just because I’d given in in certain areas doesn’t mean I should give in in all areas, does it? And then I had a brainwave. LiveJournal is built on free software, and it’s released and available. And they do photo hosting. After a bit of looking around, I established that yes, indeed, they do, the code is open source, and so off I went to LJ. And now I have my photo gallery online. Well done, Brad and LiveJournal. I said before, a long time ago, that if the Semantic Web works then it’ll work on LJ first; looks like running a public profitable service without hiding your source away is working first there too. It needs theming to look like the rest of my site and just generally not look horrific. I am aware of this, but I haven’t had a chance yet to properly understand the LJ “S2” theming engine. I’ll get to it. I am also aware that by not being on flickr I miss out on being part of that community; my photos won’t show up in tag searches, that sort of thing. That is a shame, and I am indeed missing out; still, there you go. This also means that I have finally got photos of the 2007 SOCPA mass lone protest available. Enjoy the site of Bill, Ginny, and I holding up signs in front of Westminster landmarks! And if you think we look daft then, well, where were you when we were protesting, eh?

I'm currently available for hire, to help you plan, architect, and build new systems, and for technical writing and articles. You can take a look at some projects I've worked on and some of my writing. If you'd like to talk about your upcoming project, do get in touch.

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