Photo Managers – Digikam rocks

Today I am full of Mad Love for DigiKam, the photo manager distributed with KDE. I’ve been using it off and on for a few years, and for one reason or another, I would stray away and use manual file copies for a while.
As of about a year ago though, I’ve moved to using it full time for managing the (sometimes hundreds) of pictures I take in a given session. There’s a whole slew of wonderful functions in it, but the ones that made me finally stick with it can be summed up as follows:

  • Automatic directory creation and sorting when importing from the camera. Directories can be created according to the date the picture was taken (importing 250 pictures from my camera may make 4 directories, if I was shooting over several days)
  • Direct support for my Canon 400D. When I plug in the USB, KDE prompts me to start Digikam, and everything is imported.
  • Full support for Exif data, including image orientaton, etc. Exif data is never removed or ‘flushed’ from the images.
  • Excellent export functionality to either Flickr or to a series of HTML files and thumbnails.
  • Very good gallery organization, sorting, and previewing. I can work with thousands of images and sort them into appropriate directories.
  • Tagging allows sorting and categorizing of images without reordering the directories. Searching for tags, dates, or other data generates a new view based on the tag criteria.
  • Easy calling of external programs such as The Gimp for post-processing.

All of this, combined with, well, it LOOKS great, make Digikam one of my favorite KDE apps.

Deep Breath.

Aaaaand, we’re back.
What an insane couple of days. There’s a whole series of posts brewing in my head right now, but I’ll just touch on probably the one that’s most on my mind.
Last week, I was in mid-preparation for Ubercon, an awesome gaming convention I regularly work down in NJ. CONGO has been pretty idle for the last few months as the summer is not a big time for conventions. With a week to go until Ubercon started, it was time to pull out all the hardware and make sure everything was working.
Well, unsurprisingly, it wasn’t.
The first major issue was coming to the conclusion that endor, the venerable server of dozens of conventions, really wasn’t going to handle Yet Another Apt Upgrade. It was still running on a baseline Debian Sarge install that had been upgraded a dozen times over the years, and finally, after enough apt tweaking had gone on, a dependency just wouldn’t resolve, and the machine would not take new upgrades. It was time to nuke from orbit and reinstall the OS from an Ubuntu baseline.
No problem, sez I. I whip out my Gutsy Gibbon Ubuntu CD, do a quick database dump and backup, install Ubuntu, and restore my home directory and databases. Reinstalled CONGO, loaded the working databases and…
See, CONGO was my first big Java application. And as such, it has some… intriguing ways of doing database work. And by ‘intriguing’ I mean butt-ass stupid. In particular, not using PreparedStatements for SQL commands, not checking for failed transactions, etc etc. While this was okay for a fairly static application, once you replace the entire OS underneath it, things start to get a little squirrely. And, well, we had squirrels aplenty.
So over the space of 3 days I basically had to rewrite every SQL interraction in CONGO, resulting in some fairly major code changes, and all of this 3 days before a con.
Add on top of this the fact that I’m also using a brand new printer from Evolis for the first time under Linux. There’s a whole nother post about this experience, but it did bring yet another variable into play. Oh, and did I mention that I rewrote the print routine in CONGO to generate PDFs on the fly and use them for badge rendering? Yep, also new.
Needless to say, things were a little panicy leading up to the event. Fortunately, by Wednesday afternoon, I had things fairly well stabilized, the code worked, endor was stable and functioning properly, and I could start packing for the event with a clear conscience.

The end result? It all worked. The convention went fine, the printer behaved wonderfully, running badges twice as fast as my old Fargo printers, and we had only minor glitches through the weekend. There’s still some work to do to get endor ready for larger events, but for a week that started out with totally broken software, an unuseable server, and an untested printing system, things went mighty well.