The Ugly Files: Playing with Picasa

A crucial feature of the Ugly Files: Photos. Not the subject matter, of course!

But oh, the organization. I have a MacBook, and  iPhoto is a great application, but it’s always worrisome to think that someday the laptop could be stolen, or drop out a window, or just up and quit one day, and take hundreds of photos to never-never land.

I do back up to an external hard drive, but — duh! What if there’s a fire and both the drive and the laptop go up in smoke?

After way too many months of thinking “I really should do something about that,” I have officially entered the cloud, or online storage, or whatever you like to call it. As a first step, I’ve been exploring Picasa, Google’s image organizer. What I like, so far:

• Editing the photos using Google’s Picnik application is pretty easy. At least, it is for basic editing — cropping, adjusting sharpness, contrast and shadows, etc. I honestly don’t know what it would do with stuff like color saturation and fine-tuning, but then, in this context I’m mostly interested in information, not restoration.

• The caption area is roomy and easy to read, which is nice after trying to squeeze genealogical information into iPhoto fields.

• It’s simple to designate an album as private, which means only people I invite can view it.

• It’s possible to order prints from Picasa albums, which is also nice.

I’m sure there are many lively opinions out there about the pros and cons of various photo organizers. What are your thoughts?


The Ugly Files is an occasional series in which I document various stops in my journey to organize my genealogy life.


The Ugly Files: Download Overload

This week began the long-overdue Project Laptop Cleanout, which in turn has spawned what I’m going to call The Ugly Files. Yes, I’m descending into the dark, disordered recesses of my laptop in a quest to restore genealogy sanity.

Image courtesy of Not my desk. Not at the moment.

And nowhere is darker and more disordered than my downloads folder. The other day, I noticed it had 2500 items and decided that maybe that was a little high. Today it’s down to 682 items, and still reducing.

A lot of the clean-out involved no-brainers,  such as school event announcements from 2009.

But then there was the large batch of newspaper page .pdf downloads, culled from many trips into online newspaper archives. These have an annoying way of turning up with catchy names like “c2484e2bb9a.pdf.” If I don’t give them new names quickly enough, I find that I might as well rename them “WhyDidI_SaveThis.pdf”.

I do quickly file the big-news .pdfs, such as obituaries in my direct line or interesting news stories with biographical details about closely connected kin. But I haven’t been good about dealing with less obvious stuff, especially news items about people who have surnames I’m researching in areas I’m researching, but who don’t appear to belong in my tree.

Here’s a good example, a one-line item from the Watervliet news section of the Albany Evening Journal, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1905: “Captain Julius Haigney of Second Avenue is enjoying a well-earned vacation at Granville, N.Y.”

Now, Haigney is a fairly unusual name. But the Watervliet, N.Y.,  family of Haigneys I’ve been studying doesn’t have anybody named Julius. At this time the population of Watervliet was about 15,000, not a hamlet, but not New York City, either. Small enough, in other words, that the presence of this unusual surname, apparently unconnected to what I’ve been doing, still gives me pause. What’s this Captain Haigney  doing there? Is he somebody I ought to know about?

I don’t want to drown in trivia, but on the other hand, you never know if someone who appears to be a stranger today might turn out to be collateral kin a few years from now.

So rather than allowing tidbits like this to clutter up my hard drive (and my brain) while I dither, I’ve dedicated an area to my oddball items, and transcribed them into a single Word file (They’re all very short — death notices and social items, mostly.)

And now that I have a system for dealing with them, I hope I’ll be better about saving them from languishing in Downloads limbo.