Saturday, 12 November 2011

Picasa ate my albums - Blogger beware

I've been using Picasa to store my thousands of photos of the house and put them into scores of albums, and it did something rather annoying the other day.

I moved my computer from its summer residence in the cool north room of the house, to it's winter residence at the desk in the dining room, which is much more pleasant and cheaper to heat as the north room plummets through chilly to frigid. This was a move I had hoped not to have to make, but I digress.

I keep my photos on a terabyte external hard drive connected by USB to my antique laptop. The USB connection was a little bit loose, and I think for this reason, and because I was running Picasa while it was connecting and disconnecting, it removed a whole load of photos from a whole load of albums. I assume it was connected to the disconnection, although it may have been due to some other Picasan quirk. The original photos are kept in a series of folders on the hard drive. I start to make a new folder after about three or four thousand photos, because it just gets too unwieldy for my antique computer to handle. Of course the photos should all be in one folder, and I should be using tags with them, but that's another story. In fact that's what I really got Picasa to do, because it can add tags to the photos, such as captions and locations, and it can put them in any number of albums, easily including the same photo in several albums, which the old file and directory system can't do so well, without either cluttering up the disk with duplicate photos, or causing the trouble of having to add links.

The other thing Picasa can do is to upload and sync the albums on your computer to your webalbums. This is really useful except for two things. First is that the sync only goes one way. If you change albums on your computer, the changes will be reflected online. However, if you change albums online, the next time you switch on your computer bound Picasa, it will revert all the changes to the version there. Because of this, if or when it starts eating the photos from your computer albums, it fairly soon starts to eat the same photos from your web albums. It did this until I realised and switched Picasa off line.

Curiously, Picasa didn't take all my photos out of the albums; it left photos from the most recent folder (August 2011 to present) and just ignored photos from the older albums (8th June to August 2011, and up to 8th June). The only rationale for choosing to ignore these albums could be that I had set it to always look for photos in the most recent album, but only look for photos once in the older albums. This seemed logical as the older albums were not going to change, and Picasa had no need to keep scanning them, but with hindsight, and if you use Picasa be warned, and if you develop Picasa, pull your finger out: Either set the album to scan always or never. Setting Picasa to scan a folder once is a foolish option, and may mark the path to misery.

If only we knew the results of our actions before we took them!

So with reference to the speedy and helpful Picasa help forum, and one piece of sound advice that didn't work, and a piece of less sound advice that did work, the problem was kind of solved.

The first piece of advice led me to the folder where Picasa keeps its album info, in files called "PAL". No pal of mine though. There were several folders with dates from each backup, so it was straightforward enough to copy the full albums from an older backup into the latest folder, and hope that Picasa would use these, and put my photos back in my albums.

Picasa did not, though. Trying all the different combinations and reboots, and even changing the database id number in each file were to no avail. I took the more drastic advice of another writer on the help forum, and deleted the database, so Picasa had to build a new one. When I then resurrected the album data from an older folder, all the albums came back in their former glory. Everything was fine except, and I was worried this would happen, Picasa now ignored all the albums it had made online before, and proceeded to make another 86 webalbums, with identical names, and usually the same collection of photos. Of course the URLs for them are different, so now I have the old albums full of partial collections of photos that are pointed to by my blog, and the new albums to which I will be able to continue adding new photos of the house, containing forthcoming details such as paint, wallpaper and floors.

So instead of writing about it, I should really be going through the albums and blog posts, and fixing all the dead links, so that normal service may resume.