I’ve been playing around with iPhoto ’09 for the last few days and, on the whole, I’m impressed. Unlike some claims I’ve heard, it does not cause my (1st generation) MacBook’s fans to spin up or even seem to bog down the computer.
Faces is an interesting technology and it makes a pretty good shot at figuring people out, although, it seems to have trouble telling my wife and my mother-in-law apart, and in one case, it thought I had a second face on my knee. (We aliens do, but they’re invisible to the camera.)
My photo library is huge. Oh, maybe not huge by a professional photographer’s standpoint, but huge from the standpoint of available disk space on my MacBook. I’ve had to break my albums apart in single years’ albums, and my 2007 album is over 42gb. 2008 is smaller, but still over 30. Earlier years, taken with smaller-resolution cameras or scans weigh in around 10gb each.
I had to convert each and every one of them into iPhoto ’09 format, and the face scanning process (which looks at each photo and identifies potential faces) took several hours on some of the albums. If Faces misses a face, you can add it manually, which is great for the occasional miss. It sucks though when Faces seems to fail miserably, as it did with my 2004 album. Only one in 10 photos is tagged for Faces – and there’s no way built-in way to re-initiate the scan to try again. You can; however, go into the photo package and delete the faces.db files. That causes it to rescan – with equally bad results. Before I invest a lot of time tagging faces, I’m going to wait for a bug fix to come out.
More interesting (and useful) to me is Places. iPhoto has got this right – at least that’s my impression so far. I do geotag some of my photos. I use a nifty piece of software called HouDahGeo to map the track log of my GPS to the date/time stamp of my photos. It sets and saves the GPS coordinates right into the EXIF data. That’s great when I’m out with my GPS and the GPS is turned on – not so good when I don’t have my GPS with me. My iPhone stores geotagged coordinates, but the GPS functionality in an iPhone 2G is pretty slack.
What do you do when you don’t have GPS data for a photo, but you want to add it? Well, it’s a tedious process and not worth the effort. iPhoto has gone and fixed that. Pick a photo, or group of photos, hit the info button and start typing in the name of the place. Ofttimes it will find it, but the mix it knows about is eclectic. Why does it know where Heritage Square (a ratty old park in Phoenix) is, but doesn’t seem to know where Los Angeles International Airport is? No problem, you can add frequently used places to your list and then adding them to photos is a snap. Further, the places you add can have a range of precision, for example, if I wanted to tag my house, I could expand the zone to just the house, but if I wanted to make a place for a park, or a city, I could expand the zone accordingly. I’m not entirely sure what effect that has on the coordinates just yet, but the idea sounds good.
Here’s when it gets creepy weird. For the first time, to my knowledge, someone has made a program that makes geotagging old photos easy. In fact, I’ve geotagged all the photos I’ve got of my childhood. Of course, I don’t live in those houses anymore, and if I upload to flickr… what would the people living there think if they go to “their” house and see it populated with dozens of strange photos?
This will only accelerate. Soon it will be YouTube videos too. Already I’m seeing lots of meaningless personal videos on Google Earth (if you have the YouTube channel turned on.) The usefulness of geotagging visual information will rapidly decline. For example, what if a company decides to make a commercial for their product – let’s say it is food powder – what’s to stop them from geotagging the video at the location of Eiffel Tower? People going to Google Earth to see videos about the Eiffel Tower will be presented with foot powder ads.
It will all end in tears.
But for now, it’s pretty cool in iPhoto.