Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Picasa – Pretty Cool

18 September 2011

After the Yosemite backpacking trip, I wanted a way to share all of the photos I took on the trip. I also wanted to be able to have the other guys on the trip be able to upload their photos if they wanted. I was vaguely aware of Picasa, and so I checked it out.

Turns out Picasa is both a photo sharing site, and an associated app to perform photo manipulation. I downloaded the app, and it automagically spent some time finding and indexing image files on my computer, including the batch of Yosemite photos. I haven’t played with the Picasa app yet. I usually use Paint (either the Windows or Linux versions) or The GIMP when I have to manipulate images.

I uploaded the Yosemite photos. I created a Picasa web account (and since I already had a Google account, that was pretty straightforward), pointed it at the directory where the pictures were, added a title and some other info, and then the photos uploaded. It was fast and easy.

Once the pictures were there, it was trivial to enable sharing. I added email addresses for the other five guys, added some geolocation data to show where Yosemite is on the map, and then looked at the presentation. It was pretty simple, medium-sized previews, which could be clicked to bring up larger, or even full-resolution images.

One thing I had been dreading was captioning, since I had 200+ photos. I have looked at packages that required a lot of keystrokes to caption a picture. Usually the sequence is click the photo, then click a button to caption, type in the caption, then click save or whatever, then go back and repeat.

Not so. I clicked Actions, then Captions, and got 50 pictures arranged with caption space next to them. The process is such that when adding or changing a caption in a field, moving off the field changes the caption automagically (via Javascript, I would imagine). Since the photos were arranged by time, I got into a rhythm of typing in a general caption for a major section (for example, “Day 2, Hiking.”), and pasting it into picture after picture. So the process was click mouse in next the field, Ctrl-V, repeat, unless I wanted to add some additional text like “Boy, were we dirty!”. So captioning everything took about 20 minutes.

Another thing that was pretty cool. If there are people in the picture, Picasa does a decent job of identifying faces, and prompts you to name the people when the mouse crosses the face. It’s optional to actually name.

I noticed that one of the other guys uploaded photos into the album at some point. One thing that I would gripe about, when the album is updated, the people that you have authorized to upload to the album all get notified when someone uploads new photos. The owner of the album apparently does not by default. So I will look and see if there is some option I need to enable for that. Note several hours later: It turns out that I got an email from Picasa, while I was writing this post, that let me know that the photos had been uploaded. So, gripe > /dev/null.

Overall, Picasa on the web is a pretty cool site. I posted a link to the full site from the blog post I wrote for the Yosemite trip, and I think I can recommend Picasa when you have pictures that you want the world to see.

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Privacy and City Streets

17 June 2010

There have been two stories involving the concept of privacy in the news this past week.

First, some politicians are heaping poo over Google for capturing images of houses as part of the Google street-level mapping program, and also the characteristics of WiFi hotspots.

Second, the cops in Maryland arrested a guy for a video he took of a traffic stop (the WaPo story is here). They used a Maryland wiretapping law for this, saying that the police were recorded without their consent, and that the police have an expectation of privacy while doing traffic stops.

Some observations about this. I wholly subscribe to the concept that we should each be as private in our homes and businesses as we want to be. Some people might want 14-foot picture windows between their bedroom and the street, and some might want a 14-foot privacy fence. Right on to both.

But the public street is by definition a public street. A homeowner can’t control who walks on that street, and if they take pictures of the house and yard, that’s kind of too bad if you don’t like it. The same goes for stuff that radiates out of your house – sound or music or wifi. You do not have an expectation of privacy for the street. If you don’t want people on the street to see you, put up a fence. If you don’t want people on the street to hear you, build a berm, or talk quieter. And if you don’t want people on the street to record your wifi, turn the power down or otherwise shield it.

This is related to the Maryland incident. To summarize, a guy who likes riding his motorcycle also has a camera attached to his helmet to record some of his rides, including audio. He got stopped, and got a ticket, and then later posted the video of the incident to YouTube. Shortly thereafter, an early morning raid on the house he lived in resulted in the cops carrying away computers, drives, etc.

The Maryland “authorities” claim that the guy broke the law when he posted the audio of the incident, since it’s illegal there to record someone without their consent.

Some observations:

  • Maryland State Police have dash cameras and audio to record all interactions with the public – without their consent. Lots of other police agencies do as well. And ambulances, and fire trucks, and ordinary people. Why should police have an advantage?
  • If you can run a camera and audio on a public street at any time, the cops have no leg to stand on. They have the same expectation of privacy that an ordinary citizen does – NONE.
  • The property and tax assessor people here in Oklahoma County, OK (and others I’ve seen) have photos of most of the properties in the country, on-line, accessible to the public, taken from the streets, going back five years or so. Want to see my house, but you live in New Zealand? You can. They also routinely run photo-recon operations of the county from the air (as do the fed, agencies ranging from the Geological Survey to NASA.
  • News media record people constantly without their consent. If you go to a football game, you can be recorded shouting “Go team” or whatever, without your consent.
  • Most importantly, why should a police officer, who can use anything you say against you in court, and who routinely record people in interrogations, not be subject to the same sort of check?
  • I do not think that the Maryland law passes Constitutional muster. I do think that places with an expectation of privacy, such as telephone conversations, could be subject to such a law. But a city street, I do not think so.

    A couple other observations, unrelated to privacy (you have to read the story for context):

    Why did the officer, in an unmarked car, and in plain clothes, jump out of his car with a weapon drawn, for a traffic stop? That is wrong, the officer seems to have acted in a reckless manner, and could have shot an innocent person (to include the motorcycle rider). Speeding and popping a wheelie does not justify a cop drawing a weapon on a citizen. There was no indication that the rider was doing anything threatening, to anyone.

    Why did the cops use the old pre-dawn raid on the house, and then cart away everything that was computer-related, except out of an attitude of punishment? The video was on YouTube, and that was all the “evidence” they needed. And why not just send a guy to the door and ask for stuff. This was a non-violent “crime” (and there is no victim, either). The motorcycle guy/victim wasn’t going anywhere.

    This sort of thing makes me wonder if the prosecutor is up for re-election.

    Hooray for Google

    17 November 2009

    I’m at OKC waiting to board for my latest trip. This is one of the airports where Google is footing the bill for people to use wifi for free through the holidays.

    Wifi ought to be free at the airports anyway. More enlightened airports have provided it for a long time (COS, SMF, TPA, and MCO come to mind).

    So hooray for Google. Maybe increased usage here will get the airport authority to offer it for free for those of us trapped in airports often.