Monday, August 8, 2011

Awesome Products: Google Picasa


I purchased my first digital camera in 2002. It was a cheap EZ-Pics (or similar) sketchy brand that lied about its megapixels - it was 3.0 MP "with software extrapolation", which meant that it was a 1.5MP camera that used software to double the number of raw pixels in the photos, and coloured those pixels with the "average" colour of the two adjacent pixels. Suffice to say the pictures were terrible.

I'm just about the farthest thing from a professional photographer, but my photos are still very important to me! My first crappy camera took lots of pictures of our dog Yogi as a tiny puppy:

Most of my photos live on my home server (see first two images here), a computer that does nothing but sit there and hold files. However, I'm very conscious of the disaster scenario of my apartment building falling down (I do live in Montreal, Quebec, and infrastructure seems to be failing lately!). If my server were to die, I'd lose 10 years of digital memories.

Rather than print all of my photos out to albums, I've chosen to use Google's Picasa software as a backup solution.

I pay a flat fee of $5 per year for 20GB of online photo storage with Google Picasa Web Albums, which is enough for 5,000 high-quality photos, or many times more lower-quality photos. Every time I load photos onto my computer, I've set up Picasa (the desktop software) to save a copy on my laptop and immediately upload a copy to Picasa Web Albums.

Actually, lower-quality photos no longer count towards the storage limit on Picasa anymore (thanks to Google Plus!) . All photos under 2048x2048 pixels - a respectable resolution, for sure - are stored for free! It's possible to configure Picasa's desktop software to automatically re-size all of your photos to under these dimensions and upload them for free, so that you always have a safe backup copy of your digital images.


It's important to note that the online backup doesn't happen automatically, you need to be logged into Picasa (the desktop software) with a Google account and explicitly tell it to save images to Picasa Web Albums. You need a Google/Gmail account to do this, but it's not difficult.

It is also important to keep an eye on permissions when uploading to Picasa Web Albums. By default, my albums are private and un-searchable, but you can also set albums to be public, shared with specific users (requires Google login), or only accessible with a link (good for emailing).

A year and a half ago, before the unlimited upload of lower-quality photos, this service was still a bargain at $5/year. I found it was the best backup solution out of Picasa, Flickr, Dropbox, and a few other web archive solutions at the time, and I'm interested to hear if anyone's got a better solution.

If you use other Google products, you will want to check out Picasa. If you buy extra storage space, it counts for your whole Google account, so I really have 20-some GB of storage for pictures in Picasa, emails in Gmail and documents in Google Docs. Picasa Web Albums has been nicely integrated in Google+ and makes sharing with Circles very easy, and it's also easy to share private albums by email with friends and family.

If you've got a free afternoon this summer, back up your photos! My sister lost all of her photos when her laptop died suddenly - it could happen any time. Hell, if you're too cheap to afford $5 per year, at least burn a DVD (under $1) and keep it at someone else's house!