Online Gallery Updates

I’ve completely overhauled my online galleries, and there are a lot of new photos there. Hopefully they’re a lot easier to browse, it’s easier to buy prints, and somewhat useable on a phone or tablet. I’ve been working on this on and off for many months, so it’s exciting to finally have it done and be able to show you all! Of course, nothing is ever really done, but I’m happy with the update.

To take a look, just click on “Photos” in the grey bar on the left.

Taken in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
16mm, f7.1, 1/40 of a second

http://travelsandtrails.com

OK, so I haven’t been posting much for ages. That’s at least partly due to my work on Travels and Trails.com (it’s a good excuse anyway). It now has all the travel information and photos that my previous exploration section had, and is much better in many ways. There are still tons of things I’m planning to add, but you can already sign up and list your own places there, and browse everything – hopefully it’s much easier to find places.

So there you go. The exploration section is now gone for good. Check out Travels and Trails for the replacement.

Travels, Trails, and Tubes

For a long time the exploration part of this site has contained pictures and descriptions of a lot of the places I’ve been. It started out as zenphoto, and I started hacking it. I started by modifying themes, adding a bit in here and there. Eventually I added maps, because if you need one thing to describe a place, its a map. Unfortunately, a couple months ago, the service I was using to publish my maps shut down and my maps became unusable. While I was sadly deleting them (so the pages would actually load in a reasonable time) I got to thinking of all the shortcomings of my exploration section and all the things I’d like to do with it. Yeah, I love photography, but a gallery is only one of the important things to have on a site describing travels. You need maps, you need descriptions, in some cases you need more information such as elevation or distance or cost. The list goes on.

So I decided to build my own. And while I’m at it, I’m not just going to build it for me. I don’t get to go many places and I’d like to know about places I haven’t been to yet, so I’ll let other people add places too. Right now you need an email address to sign up. Considering the amount of spam I’m getting on this site, I need some sort of authentication system for users to add content, and I think an email address is best. If you think that’s a dumb system tell me about a better one in the comments – I might even change it.

With no further ado – Travels and Trails.com.

Keep in mind it’s still a work in progress. It will probably change drastically yet (If you think you know how it should change, let me know in the comments below). There are many parts of the site I’m still working on, and probably many bugs to fix yet. But hopefully it will work well for you. If you’re interested in travel or hiking, check it out. I have yet to add a lot of the places I have in the exploration section here. I’m splitting my time between programming and adding places, so it might take a while.

What to do with all those photos.

I wanted to like Aperture. I really did. I was getting a laptop so I could take it with me on trips to download photos from my camera. I like apple’s products in general, and I was getting excited about Aperture, so I decided on a Macbook Pro. Apparently Aperture doesn’t run very well on plain old macbooks – the graphics card isn’t good enough. So I lay down the extra cash for the pro, take it home, and start setting everything up. I install the Aperture trial, and start importing my pictures … and continue importing my pictures … for hours … for a couple days. Eventually I switched to Lightroom and I got all set up in a day. Below is a bit of a review.

Speed
Lightroom seems to a little faster and simpler than Aperture, and still does almost (give me stacks!) everything that I would want. With Aperture I would often get the dreaded beachball cursor. Now this is a fast computer – a high-end Macbook Pro (2.33Ghz Core 2 Duo with 2GB ram). This should not happen. But with Lightroom, even browsing my whole collection is fairly speedy, and I rarely get the spinning cursor.


Adjustments
For image editing, Lightroom has very detailed non-destructive adjustments, just like Aperture, but it seems to me that images can be improved dramatically much quicker than aperture by just using the “Basic” controls on the right side. (vibrance is a beautiful control – I don’t think Aperture has an equivalent). I was never able to get results I was really happy with in aperture. In lightroom I can usually do all the color adjustment I want with the white balance controls, “Recovery”, “Fill LIght”, “Blacks” and “Vibrance”. Of course there are lots of more detailed controls for more fine-grained control which is occasionally needed. Cropping, straightening, spotting are all simple and intuitive in both programs.

Stacks
The one thing I miss from Aperture is stacks, which groups a bunch of photos, and only shows the best one of a group. Similar results can be achieved with stars and flags in lightroom, but it’s not the same and it takes a bit more work.
Edit:
Somehow I overlooked this in Lightroom. Both programs have stacks. You can either stack automatically by capture time or you can assign stacks manually.

Display
Aperture is also better for dual monitors, with flexible display settings. Lightroom doesn’t work on dual monitors yet, but the fullscreen mode (press f) in Lightroom is really nice, with the pop-out panels.


Organization
Other than all this, the filtering (to see only the photos you are interested in) is very powerful in both programs. The terminology is different between the programs, but the abilities are very similar. I didn’t really like that everything had to be in projects in Aperture. And a project can’t hold more than 10,000 images, so I can’t fit all my photos into one project. Lightroom’s catalog holds all the photos, and then they are arranged and filtered within that. This hierarchical structure makes a little more sense to me. The Folders in Lightroom are just the folders on your harddrive, and if you rename them, you rename the folders. This seems much more intuitive than Aperture’s projects to me, and if I ever switch to another program, everything is still organized by folder the way I want it.

Storage
The catalog system in Lightroom seems to work fairly well. I’ve got everything on an external hard drive, some of my best in a catalog on my laptop hard drive, and I can merge the changes I make on my laptop catalog back to my external catalog pretty easily. Of course, you can ignore all this and only have one catalog – that’s by far the simplest. Changing the catalog you’re browsing requires a restart of Lightroom, which seems a little dumb to me, but I rarely change catalogs, so this doesn’t affect me too much.

Backup
Aperture has built-in backups with its vault system. Lightroom backs up its catalog every week too, but I don’t store any of my photos in the catalog (although you can) – just all the meta-data. I back up my whole filesystem rather than letting the program backup it’s own package of my images, and I’m much more comfortable with this. This seems to take a lot less disk space too.

In the end, if you have a Mac, you should try them both. Both have 30 day demos, which is great for evaluating. Both programs are around $300 CAD, but if you’re a student you should be able to get either one for just over $100. If you’re stuck on windows, Lightroom is your option, but you also have the free option of Picasa which is much simpler and less powerful, but still not too bad.


Site Upgrade

I just recently changed hosting providers, and with all the messing around with databases and ftp, decided to upgrade wordpress right away. So I am now with Hostgator instead of Powweb, and so far I am pretty impressed. Yesterday, I thought the site had slowed down again (like it always did at Powweb), but then I did a traceroute and found out that it was my ISP that was timing out, not Hostgator. So I have three domains hosted on one account, and they all seem pretty speedy. At Powweb I had to do some .htaccess magic to make multiple domains work, and they never worked quite right. At Hostgator they have a beautiful little tool that does it all for you (with the $9/month package), and it works flawlessly. Of course, I’m sure I’ll have complaints at some point, but right now I’m really impressed. Oh yeah – those three domains are tuxable.com, where you are now, JoelKoop.com, a photography portfolio site I’m working on, and TravelsAndTrails.com, a very unfinished travel site where a person can look up places they might be interested in going or add places they’ve been to. This one is going to change significantly, so it might be unrecognizable in a couple months.

The control panel at Hostgator is not as flashy, but more powerful and easier to use than Powweb’s. Although “easier to use” doesn’t mean “easy to use”. Someone, at some point in time, needs to do usability testing on these control panels and get a designer to create them.

Grand Opening of a New Travel Section

Tomorrow there will be a new travel section in place. The trips we’ve taken will all be gone, and in their place will be all the places we’ve been sorted by location. This will make it a lot easier for you to find information about places you might be interested in going to, or just seeing pictures of a particular place. I will probably keep trip information in the blog, so if you want to know, you still can. This is exciting for me, and hopefully useful to you.

(edit – the travel section is now replaced by travelsandtrails.com)

Browsers

Like any self respecting semi-geek, I use firefox (when I’m in windows). So when I redesigned this site recently, I did all my testing in firefox, and it went well. I know IE has weird display glitches with CSS, but those can usually be minimized by keeping your css simple. (heh heh, don’t go inspecting my css now – it’s not *that* clean). So tonight I realized I haven’t looked at my site with Internet Explorer since I redesigned it. So I went peeking around, and it looked pretty good. There were a few little glitches here and there that were pretty simple to fix.

Then I noticed it. The google maps I have in the travel section were not displaying. Weird. Then I go to http://maps.google.com and click on hybrid (or satellite) and what happens? No map. I even went so far as to go to maps help to try to fix the browser. No luck. So has microsoft done something to IE7 so it won’t work with google maps? Even a little browser like konqueror (KDE‘s web browser) works with google maps.

So anyway, if you’re checking out some travel album, and the maps are blank, try using Firefox instead of IE.

More Programming

So my week off is at an end. On Tuesday I start framing for the summer, so coding will be slowing down significantly. On the upside, I’ve already got a lot of coding done. I’ve got the universe, stars and planets being created nicely. There’s a fancy tech tree all set up, and plenty of methods to work with the environment and the tech tree. Next I’ll be working on the user class. Yes, class – I’m doing this in object oriented PHP. I’ve worked with php a lot before but I’ve never used it in the object oriented sense before. I’m enjoying that quite a bit. I like the object oriented nature and I like that PHP is a lot more compact than Java (my other object oriented language experience).

Once we get something ready for public consumption, I’ll post a link.

Online Game

OK, honestly I don’t know much about game development, but despite that, I’m working on a game. Actually, I believe that right now I’m the sole programmer. At least that’s the interesting part to me – Dave is setting up the rules, interface, and general concept. And that’s a ton of work that I’m happy not doing. So anyway, right now I’m working on the database architecture, and will be doing a bunch of programming, probably in PHP, once the database structure is somewhat solidified. If you want to check out the game go to swcampaign.com.

What? A Blog!?

Yes, it’s a blog. Does this mean I’ll be blogging? I really don’t know. I’ll still be keeping the photos up to date in the travel and portfolio sections of the site. I’m planning to organize them according to place instead of by date, which will make it easier to find info about places you might be interested in going to. I’m hoping zenphoto will release the next version soon so I can use sub-albums.

Anyway, this is still a work in progress. At least wordpress and zenphoto are pretty well integrated now. I’d like to get a site-wide search working, but that might mean me writing it myself, and that might mean it doesn’t get done. If you’ve checked out the site in the past, let me know what you think about the new version.