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Issue #131: January 24, 2010

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Q: What is the best way to organize/archive/name photos?  And can what we do be easily transferred onto a newer computer at a later date, without having to repeat all the initial naming?  Because it is easier than individually renaming the file of each picture, I have utilized, first, Picasa and have given each of my many thousands of pictures a caption which allows them to be instantly searchable.  Where exactly Picasa stores the caption and whether it will transfer onto a newer machine in the future seems an internet mystery.  Secondly I organize/locate pictures using Picasa’s new facial recognition, -for my computer, not for web albums- (not perfect or fast, but it is free) and then tag (yes again) identities of the faces found.  Again the internet mystery seems to be where Picasa keeps this information and those who may or may not know have answered online that Picasa keeps this info not on our individual machines but ‘somewhere in cyberspace’…   all of which makes me wonder how much more of this I should do before learning it will be ‘wiped’ by a transfer to a new machine.

– Timothy.
Destin, Fla

A: Let this Internet mystery be solved!  Well, part of it, anyway.  Actually, Timothy, it’s not so much of a mystery if you know the right search terms.  The word for the information that accompanies your picture files is metadata, which literally means data about the data.  When you do a Google search for something like “Picasa metadata” you find many helpful links that will explain how Picasa handles the information.  The short answer is that it stores some of it in the files (if the file type supports metadata – for example, the .jpg format DOES support it) and it stores some of it in its own internal database, which is far more likely to be on your local computer than “somewhere in cyberspace”.  As far as the naming of the files goes, filenames go with the files wherever you copy them, so if you give your files meaningful names, they’ll simply describe themselves.  Personally, I like to make directory hierarchies for important occasions, holidays, family members, etc, then sort my pictures into appropriate folders.  It’s not a perfect system either.  For example, if two people are in a picture, I either have to have copies of it in two places, or file it by some other method.  I haven’t played with Picasa’s facial recognition feature, but it sounds promising, at least for people.  I can’t imagine how it will help with pictures of scenery, pets, multiple faces or even pictures of only one person who doesn’t happen to be facing directly into the camera.  One other thing about Picasa’s handling of metadata:  When you edit a digital picture with Picasa, it pretty much destroys the metadata put into a picture file by your digital camera.  So if it’s important to you to know things about the picture such as the F-Stop, shutter speed, etc, you’ll want to either preserve the original picture or use some other method of storing metadata.

Q: I’m planning on buying a new desktop with Windows 7 soon & want to transfer files & data from a laptop running Windows XP. The laptop has a parallel port but no serial port. Please outline some  methods which I could use to accomplish this & any additional hardware requirements.

– Thomas T.
Niceville, Fla

A: Probably the most common method is to hook both computers to a LAN, such as your home network, then access one computer from the other and copy the files you want.  You could also take the hard drive out of the old computer and connect it to the new computer, either internally or via an external USB housing.  You could also use a hardware and software combination specifically designed for what you’re trying to do, such as LapLink.

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