Sunday, October 24, 2010


So you have a camera that you bought a few years ago and you run into the biggest problem plaguing everyone who owns a digital camera.  And if you think that you don't have this problem, well let's just say that it is something that you are going to find out about very soon.

You see there is a little problem that just about every camera manufacturer forgets to tell you about.  And it is a problem located on ALL digital cameras.  It is similar to the 1999  Y2K problem.  Without backing up your photo collection this problem will wipe out a lot of fond memories. 

Sony F717 
The problem is this.  When you take a photo, your camera starts a counter.  The first picture is labelled 0001.  If you have a Sony camera it is proceeded by the letters DSC ie. DSC0001.JPG, with the suffix .jpg added to let the computer know that it is a jpeg file.  Other cameras will do the same, ie. MSC0001.JPG, Cannon uses IMG, ie IMG0001.JPG. The first thing that  you will notice is that there are only 4 digits.  That is where the problem arises!

When you get to picture #10,000 the camera rolls back to 0001.  If you are using iPhoto and you do not relabel your photos this is akin to wiping out the original 0001.jpg photo that you have in your catalog.  In my case, those were the pictures of the birth of my son.  I was saved only in knowing that I had a back up of those precious early photos.  Additionally, I did not realize the problem until I took picture # 10,110 !  That's right 110 of my original photos taken 8 years ago with my Sony DSC-F717 were completely gone from my iPhoto catalog.   Again, I was saved only by the knowledge that a backup existed for these.

The next problem that has arisen is what happens when your spouse or child decides to get a camera?  In the old days you would buy a simple point-and-shoot and take it to the store to be developed.  You would then scan the photo into iPhoto.  But today, just about everything is digital.  And if you buy a camera that is made by the same company as your original camera then you are in trouble!  Major trouble if you are using iPhoto.  In this case, I had the opportunity to pick up a used Cannon SLR, which is now 8 years old, but takes the most wonderful pictures.  It is digital.  And it cost me pennies to purchase because it was used and the owner just wanted to get rid of it.  It was also an inevitable purchase after my Sony F717 broke down.  This was a God send because I was able to integrate it painlessly with iPhoto because it had a different prefix - IMG.  So my first pictures were IMG0475.JPG and this did not interfere with the original Sony DSC0475.JPG.  Dandy, until I get to 9999 in which the original problem that I discussed will inevitably arise.  But then my wife's birthday came up and you guessed it, she wanted a simple point and shoot camera for her big day.  Nothing expensive, but something that was not as clunky as my Canon ( a huge beast by today's standards) - just a simple point and shoot.  I had a 100% chance of running into a problem.  If I chose a Sony or Canon camera then the number problem would again be an issue.  I found out also that Nikon uses the DSC prefix as well.  She chose the Canon camera and this is where things got interesting. 

iPhoto has become very long in the tooth and although there are dramatic changes being made to the program, including face recognition, mapping etc., the basics are being left behind.  This numbering system for instance should be a thing of the past.  Almost everything is digital.  Just about every photo is digital, so why not keep up with the times on this one? 

Simple Batch Processing
For now, I can no longer just plug in the camera and hope that everything will fall into iPhoto and be arranged.  We are well over the 10k range and due to the fact that we have more cameras on tap, the overriding of DSC and IMG numbers is something that will always happen.  In speaking to a few friends of mine, they have told me that Lightroom and Aperture are better at handling this sort of thing.  But they cost a lot of money.  And from what I understand, once you go Lightroom, you're there forever; same holds true for Aperture.  I have also been told that Aperture is better at cataloging, while Lightroom is better at editing.  I cannot vouch for either, having not used either one of them.

So what do I do?  Well, if you own a Mac there is always someone out there with a solution that has been peer reviewed and investigated.  The program that I found and which is literally saving my bacon these days is called simply NAMECHANGER.  It is a public domain FREE program written by Mickey Roberson at Mickey has done a great job with this and makes several different versions depending upon which flavor of OSX you have.  Donating a dollar or two for his efforts would be a good thing to spur him along to continue doing what he is doing. 

More Complex Batch Processing
With NameChanger, you get a simple no frills interface and you can drag and drop your files  and preface them in any way that you desire.  So, if you put in a batch of files with the numbers IMG0050.JPG THRU IMG0100.JPG and you took them at the same venue or during the same shoot, then you can do the following:  Change sequence starting from IMG0050.JPG TO IMG0100.JPG and batch change (that is change all of the files so that they begin with whatever it is you want, instead of IMG) to BirthdayParty001.jpg to BirthdayParty050.jpg and you will have a listing that is not readily duplicated.  You can get more specific and do something akin to Nigels5thBirthday001.jpg.

That is pretty difficult to duplicate by accident.  Once the batch change is done, then you can dump it into iPhoto.

What Apple needs to do is this.  Since it has the ability to separate the photos into EVENTS, it should automatically change the FILE to represent this change if that is what the user wants.  Just having it notice events is not good enough now that everyone and their uncle has a camera.  By the way, did I forget to mention the iPhone and the iPod Touch photos as well?  Yes I did didn't I.  Well you get the point by now.  The overlapping of photos is something that will happen to just about everyone at some point.  For now, NameChanger may be the best solution for those of us not willing to part with $300 to buy either Lightroom or Aperture just for this feature.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Google TV : Nice but wait for Apple to show its hand with its secret weapon.

I just finished seeing a few iterations of the new Google TV.  One word:  NICE!  I think that a lot of people wondered about the keyboard, but this was revealed to be a small Thumb board that looks relatively comfortable to type on.

Through the literature I have been reading that Google TV may make Apple TV completely irrelevant.  Mmgh?  Well that would be news to a few thousand people who, in the first 24 hours, made the tiny black box a rarity.  And to the many who have ordered the same online only to find a 2 week waiting list with free shipping.

A few people in the know, other than those looking for a Non-Roku way of getting to Netflix due to the fact that they can also get to iTunes, have snapped up the device and made it a rarity in the Apple Store.
Here's Why?  And here's why I think any talk about obsolescence, despite the AppleTV 2's flaws are way overblown:

1.  THE APP STORE!  The Secret weapon that Apple has in its armamentarium is the App store.  With the App store Apple can introduce anything that it wants.  TV mainstream channels that are resisting Apple now can put their own apps in the device.  Can you imagine Comcast putting an app in the store, making available all 800 channels just by segmenting it into an app?  Or Enhanced TV?  The App store can make the Apple TV anything that Apple wants it to be.

Want more proof?  Let's talk about my favorite pet peeve of the mobile Apple devices:  The inability to play more codecs.  I have clamored to have Divx, AVI, MKV a part of the Apple line up.  They have refused.  But there is an App called CineXplayer which will use iTunes to port .AVI files from iTunes into the iPad and play it flawlessly.  There is now also the VLC app which does the same thing.  The official Apple restriction is gone with the entrance of an App.

2.  Airplay !  There is talk that Google already has this, but I could only find it in DLNA.  This is not really the same thing and as I have found with a few friends, DLNA is really buggy and really picky.  It's not as simple as plugging in your computer or device and turning on your Samsung TV and hoping that the TV picks up the signal.  If Apple's Airplay is done correctly, you will be able to stream content from any iOS device, to the AppleTV and automatically have it show up on your TV.   This leaves room for a good hack that will stream an iOS compatible NAS drive to the Apple TV.

3.  Simplicity!  Hard to gauge, but Apple is notorious for making things simple.  It's in their DNA.  It is also that which may separate Google TV from the masses, not to mention the price difference.

I believe that the Google TV will be a hit, but pricing and bundling concerns may make it not so pleasant as it will be branded according to the distributor.  This makes for a less than linear or smooth experience.  But from what I have seen Google TV is a unique take on television and programming.   But as Google shows its hands in this arena, the App store remains Apple's playground to experiment and surprise.  Remember all Apple TV's -be they version 1 or version 2 - have a non consumer useable USB slot.  It's not there for nothing.  The gloves may be coming off for these two tech titans, but I think Apple may have the upper hand.  They have been doing media for a long time and the App store is their Trojan Horse to change.