Sunday, January 8, 2012

Using Picasa with Multiple Computers

UPDATE (1-19-12): I’m going to leave this post up, but feel free to completely ignore it, as much more information has recently come to light because of some nice e-mails from a guy named Don.  It would be best to check out his lengthy explanation of the current situation with Picasa on multiple computers here.  The complexity of the situation has me simply wanting to find a different solution for organizing and sharing my photos.  Ugh.


For being such a pioneer of the web/cloud, Google has created a photo solution (Picasa) that is mind-bogglingly single PC based.  Even the “sync to web” feature only allows uploading of photos to the web… it’s barely “syncing” anything at all!  Your PC simply remembers what photos were uploaded and will update the photos you uploaded when you make changes on your computer.  They only recently made changes that will ask you if you want to update your computer if you delete a photo in your web album (before, it didn’t even do that!).

And if you store photos on multiple machines, you’re really screwed.  That is the impetus for this post.

Picasa uses .ini files to keep track of changes made to your photos (this is definitely a good thing, as it employs non-destructive editing, i.e. the originals are not altered).  As a result, changes you make to photos on one of your computers will not show up on another computer.  Even worse, if you have “sync to web” enabled on multiple computers, you sync your photos between computers, and you tick photos already ticked on another computer for upload to the web, you are uploading multiple copies of the same photo (then try figuring out which photo to delete so as to not REALLY confuse Picasa).  Not only that, but changes you have made to your photos are not displayed on the other machines, as they are tracked only in the .ini files.

You can try syncing the .ini files between computers, but this only leads to more problems down the road, and you can never be totally sure you’re actually looking at the most recent changes on the computer you’re using.

This post at Cloud Ave. is a decent how-to solution, but is still not a great solution to the overall problem (as there are pitfalls all along the way and it doesn't really allow for mirroring your photo collection on multiple machines).  It employs a workaround in which one computer will act as the server, and your other computers/user profiles must feed from that main computer on your network.  But what that means is that if you are out in the world and make updates or changes on your laptop (not the “main computer” at home), it will freak out the system once you get back to home base.

While the Cloud Ave. solution is not a total solution, it does illustrate how incredibly simple the solution to the problem is.  If Picasa stored your .ini files in the cloud (in your online web albums/profile) or at least synced to them there, the problem would be COMPLETELY solved.

I have NO IDEA why Google has not implemented this, as there are obviously thousands of people who use Picasa across multiple machines.  Get to it, Picasa team at Google.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking Microsoft Live Mesh (or possibly a Drop Box folder, though Googling the issue seems to turn up a plethora of problems) is the best current solution.  If I use Live Mesh to sync my master "Pictures" albums on multiple machines, Live Mesh keeps everything (including Picasa .ini files) synced.  The problem is that you have to either sync ALL your photos (which for me is terabytes of data), or set up syncing for every single sub-folder in your Pictures library (which means hundreds of folders).  Since I don't want every single picture I own stored on my laptop, I have to go the "set up every sub-folder route," and Live Mesh is horrible for addressing hundreds (even thousands) of sub-folders, since Live Mesh lists every single synced folder in one long list and has no way to group or categorize things.  Using Live Mesh also means syncing everything across the web (not your local connection), so it's incredibly slow (you can mitigate this a bit by making sure your folders are first synced across all your machines before taking Live Mesh live).

I wish I had a perfect solution to share here, but for the time being, it looks like there isn't one.  Blurg.


Danload said...

Thank you so much for your Post. You described the problem very well. It still confounds me there is no simple solution provided by Google for this problem.

There are many complicated solutions, such as Setting up a Virtual network between all your computers that have the Pictures folders, on a mapped Drive Letter "Z:" or whatever on the virtual network. Then either pit the .ini file on the google drive and tell each picasa program on each computer to use the .ini file; or install the Picasa Program on the Google Drive (or Dropbox) itself. Reinstall Picasa on each computer on the Google Drive itself.. What do you think!

Thank you Again for articulating this problem!

The Invisible said...

The biggest problem with the solution you suggest is that Picasa makes it extremely clear that they don't want people putting .ini files or installs on networked drives. That said, that is really the only solution to the problem at hand, so...

I'm REALLY hoping Google, as the "leader in cloud technology" addresses this issue VERY soon!

Anonymous said...

Another solution is to use emulation software on your other PCs to simply work on your Picasa PC remotely. It would be a slower interface, but it would be seamless with no risk of db corruption.

Unknown said...

Adobe Revel seems to address your syncing issue.... but it comes at the cost of just about every feature in Picasa. It's so basic at the moment, but the foundation is there for a cloud based, synchronized, photo storage/editing solution. I just hope they start implementing more tools SOON.

The Invisible said...

Thanks for your feedback, David. However, from the Adobe Revel front page:

"Adobe® Revel™ is a fun, powerful, and intuitive photo app for your Mac, iPad, and iPhone."

That alone (no PC support) makes the program unusable to more than 50% of the market, thus not a viable solution.

Murat said...

Hi Dan,

Thanks for pointing into the major Picasa problem.

Could you please tell me a number of computers where Picasa has been installed in you case? And whether all of them are located on the same local network or on geographically dispersed computers?

And at least the last question: do you Mac or Windows?

The Invisible said...

Murat... Windows and PC. Seven computers. All on a local network (though accessed while abroad).

VijayG said...

I sync across two macs over a home network. The files are located in a folder in one of the macs, and I "Share" this folder with read and write permissions. On the other mac, Picasa is set up to only scan this shared folder. This works, but there are some limitations - when you make changes to a picture, you have to hit "Save" or "Save a copy" to save the changes to the file, otherwise, they dont show up on the other computer. Secondly, browsing through files is a little slower due to the network lag.

Unknown said...

Very informative and well written post! Quite interesting and nice topic chosen for the post.

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kazzywazzy said...

I take it given the date of this issue and that Picasa now syncs to Google+ with no limits on how many files (as long as you revert to their max file size) that this is no longer a problem?

I'm suffering this issue too with solutions from using MEGA (50GB Cloud Storage) to expensive NAS drives with cloud, alas NONE of these solutions have an all encompassing pictures solution for my images across multiple machines.

Our plan is to use Picasa on each machine we have our images on, syncing the images we want to keep to a single Google+ account.

Then using the Google Backup tools download all the images to a single location with the Google+ account as our permanent cloud storage option.

We can then use MEGA accounts as a long term storage archive (.zip / .rar archive of our single download location).

As long as we keep to using picasa we should have a permanent way to ensure we have everything we need.

Two things though..

1/ Duplicates... Will Picasa recognise duplicates using this method?

2/ Videos... Can we use this for home movies too?

Anyone have any ideas?

The Invisible said...

I'll try to reply in detail in the future (just have a moment before a film shoot right now), but I've all but stopped using Picasa because I hate the forced Google+ integration *SO MUCH.* Google has taken so much control away from the user with Google+, and they've done so without consideration of the end user (only consideration of themselves). Thus, I've actually been looking for a better solution for quick photo editing, organization, and online sharing.