Wednesday, November 10, 2010

From snow to fog (and some words on iPhoto 9.0)

Street, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Back view, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Fog, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Path, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

We didn't get the forecasted 5-10 cm of snow yesterday. Less than 1 cm was on the ground in the morning, and most of that has melted away by now. Instead of snow, we had fog today.

I have been sitting in a car quite a lot during the last few days, so here are a couple of more urban views, and also some foggy ones.

I promised to write some words about the new iPhoto 9.0, and here it is. Today I upgrade the memory on the iMac to 6 GB because of the slow performance of iPhoto - have to see if it helps. Anyway, I'm not alone with these problems: main memory seems to be the critical resource.

I have used iPhoto from Apple to organize my photograph workflow for several years. When I bought the iMac three years and three months ago, it had iPhoto 7.0 preinstalled. I didn't upgrade to iPhoto 8.0 when it came out, but now I decided to get the new iPhoto 9.0.

The Apple iLife '11 software suite is cheap, 49 euros for iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand. Of these I don't use the other programs, only iPhoto, but this is a pretty good deal nevertheless.

I have used the new iPhoto only for a short while, so there is not much to report yet. The upgrade went quite ok, although it was time-consuming, as iPhoto includes a new database format which takes quite a while to get generated. (I copied the old iPhoto folder as a backup in case something went wrong with the update.) There was a small 9.0.1 update from Apple, which I installed right away.

The old iPhoto has been quite slow sometimes when importing photographs and organizing them. I haven't found the speed much different in iPhoto 9.0.1, although some things are snappier. Overall, about the same. On the other hand, I have taken relatively few photographs during the last days, so there hasn't been a need for lots of editing or organizing. Also, it may be that iPhoto will speed up - there may be still some initial indexing going on.

However, every so often iPhoto seems to freeze completely for some time, not responding to anything. I checked the memory use, and it was 50-100% more that I have been seeing with iPhoto 7.0. This made me decide to upgrade the memory from 4 GB to 6 GB on the iMac. The cost for the 4 GB memory stick was 105 euro, not bad.

One of the "new" things in iPhoto 9.0.1 is face recognition. I think this was present in 8.0 as well, but it never tempted. However, it seems to be useful, at least to a limited degree. It took over one hour for iPhoto to go through the photographs looking for faces; fortunately this happened in the background.

It was interesting to "teach" the program to recognize faces. I studied this topic years and years ago, in a seminar on neural networks organized by Erkki Oja. Thus it was interesting to see how this works now in practice. I have no idea whether iPhoto uses neural networks at all, but the principle of learning is the same.

It seems that iPhoto will only list those photographs in the faces gallery where it is sure enough about its decision. So, at least for now, there aren't that many photographs which it has managed to link to the names given as input. Also, for some reason iPhoto seems to have learned some faces much better than others. Maybe some faces are easier to recognize that other. Also, when children grow their faces do change, and this is probably a challenge to the program.

Also, interestingly, some photographs which had been lurking in some obscure corned of the iPhoto database turned up thanks to the face recognition feature. Maybe these were in the wrong folder or something, but it was nice to see new discoveries. And I think having such automatic organization of photographs is the way to go, provided it doesn't disturb too much the ordinary use of the program.

All in all, face recognition, even in this limited form, is quite interesting to explore. The other features I haven't yet explored much, but the program seems to be simple enough to use, and not too much different from 7.0, which is a good thing.

There is a bit more eye candy, which may be one reason for why the program sometimes seems to be a bit slower. The editing tools have been reorganized in a way which I like. Also, the full-screen browsing and editing mode works well, although there is some learning in the keyboard commands.

All in all, an ok update to the program. I hope the performance gets better now that there is more memory in the iMac.


ssp said...

Hm, in my experience iPhoto's face recognition is very poor. Some people of whom I have hundreds of photos are never recognised. And on the other hand, iPhoto recognised quite a few non-faces as faces for me: Fun web site about that here:

Juha Haataja said...

Indeed, I have almost 4000 non-recognized faces, and only about 500 photographs were classified in the faces collection.

I didn't get many "funny" recognitions, except for one "twig" photograph.

Mark said...

these pictures, as well some your other recent not quite so 'dark' pictures, are very nice.

Juha Haataja said...

@Mark: Thanks. Sorry to say, but the next posting is rather dark.