About

This is a members-only web site for our family and friends. It contains news and photographs plus other things such as a family tree and our music collection.

It uses a simple web log (blog) format as many people are familiar with visiting such sites.

We hope you enjoy keeping up with what is happening in our growing family.

Linda and Greg.

More about our web site

Our web site has taken many hundreds of hours (perhaps into the thousands) to get to this point, including a number of false starts and reworks.

On this page I’ve documented the principles, products, technologies and services used to build and maintain our site.

On reflection, I would only recommend this approach to someone having good hands-on Information Technology experience and a willingness to spend a lot of time. It is quite complex and requires skills in many technologies, products and services.

For me it has been a labour of love that started in 2006 as a tribute to my brave and wonderful wife. I’m constantly maintaining it, enjoy it as a hobby, see it as something worthwhile for our family and look forward to improving and maintaining our web site as long as I can.

If you would like a simpler solution, have a look at the alternative solutions at the end of this page.

Email me here if you have any comments or suggestions.

Our Solution

Photo Gallery Management

The starting point is a well-organised collection of digital photos on your computer that have been tagged with keywords and descriptions. It is important to store the tags and description in the photo metadata, along with all the information the camera puts there, such as shutter speed, f-stop, lens information and timestamp. There is plenty of commercial software for doing this such as Photoshop, but they can be expensive. I found a freeware product called iTag that suits my needs. I organize my photos into a folder hierarchy based on date taken (e.g., Albums200820080320080316) and use Google’s Picasa for local viewing and editing. It is freeware and keeps copies of the original before making any changes.

A key decision point here is whether you want to have all photos on your web site, or just a subset, such as those with artistic merit or those you feel will be of some interest to others. My decision was to be quite brutal when deciding which photos I took were worth keeping, and to put all surviving photos on our web site. I then use the same folder hierarchy on our web site as I do on my computer.

Web Site Builder

Web pages

I have been using Microsoft Frontpage for maintaining our web site pages. It did everything I needed, but was very complex to learn. So, as part of my succession planning, I began looking for something I could hand over to other family members to maintain. So in January 2009 I migrated to Wordpress. It is a free package and exceedingly simple to install on our godaddy host and amazingly easy to use. It’s a little limited in functionality, but that is the price you pay for ease of use.

Photo pages

For building the web site pages I use jalbum with the fotoplayer skin. These are freeware too, although I decided to buy the pro version of photoplayer to get some of the advanced options. These products take my photo gallery as input and produce html web pages as output. The web page hierarchy replicates the photo gallery folder hierarchy.

Copying to the Server

You then copy the web pages to your web server. You can have your own server connected to the internet, but I decided to go with a commercial web provider called godaddy who sell domain names and server space at a reasonable price. It costs us about US$100 per year for the domain name (angeles-hill.com) and 150gb of space, which is more than enough for the foreseeable future, even storing full-size original images as I do.

To copy the web pages produced by jalbum up to the godaddy web server you need FTP software. I use FileZilla which is (you guessed it) freeware. This is a fairly slow process on our cable broadband connection as the upload speed is restricted to about 60kb per second. So a 10 mega pixel (2.5mb) photo takes about 45 seconds.

As I mentioned earlier, I have both the original photo plus a 800×600 pixel copy on the server. The smaller copy allows speedy viewing for normal broadband connections, and the original can also be viewed or downloaded. An additional benefit of having the original up on the server is offsite backup for our photos. I keep backup copies here at home also, but having an offsite copy protects against fire.

Security

In early 2008 I had to add security to our web site to prevent unwelcome guests. This was not easy, involving restructuring folders and a change of godaddy server type from Windows to Unix. Having done that, I was able to use standard Apache security offered by godaddy on Unix servers. It was not perfect, as users could only change their password by contacting me, but it worked.

Then in February 2009 I discovered a freeware product called Deadlock. It still uses standard Apache htaccess/ htpasswd security, but it allows user registration and also supports password and contact details management by the user. In other words it is a complete self-service system. All I have to do is validate registrations before they can be used. Plus, it was so easy to install, even on gadaddy.

Family Tree

I use Ancestral Quest to build and maintain the family tree off-line. PhpGedView (freeware) is installed on our web site and it uses a copy of the tree uploaded from Ancestral Quest. For privacy, I show only the names of living people. Although PhpGedView has its own security I don’t use it, as the pages are protected by our site security.

Music

Early in 2008 I ripped our entire CD collection to mp3s using MediaMonkey (more freeware). Although the name does little to inspire confidence, it has proved to be an excellent product for managing and playing a music collection. Our CDs are now stored in the garage as backup, but I still felt a little nervous, so I copied the entire collection to our web site as extra backup. The music folder hierarchy is

artist name/album name/track name

After migrating the web site to WordPress, I found a terrific plugin call Zina. I just pointed it at the music I had uploaded to godaddy and it registered the entire library, artists, albums and tracks. Good search engine and you can play or download tracks.

To do

I still have a lot of unfinished work to keep me busy such as scanning old photos and 35mm slides, and maintaining our family tree will be ongoing. 

Alternative solutions for sharing photos with friends and family

The solution we have is overkill if you just want to share some of your photos with friends and family. For a simpler alternative have a look at sites such as Picasa (Google) and Flickr (Yahoo). (These observations may have been superseded by improvements made to Picasa and Flickr since I wrote in late 2007.)

Picasa

This is the one I used before embarking on our custom solution. You install it on your computer to manage your photos, and it interfaces seamlessly with 1gb of free online storage that can be shared with friends and family. You can purchase additional space if needed. Here are some of the features and flaws:

·         The original image was not available, only a reduced copy, maximum 1024 pixels.

·         The free limit is generous due to the limited resolution supported.

·         It only supported a flat album structure. You can’t have albums within albums.

·         You can’t automatically replicate the folder hierarchy of the photos on your computer.

·         Comments from the image metadata are automatically used when uploaded. Tags are ignored.

Flickr

After checking out their documentation and a quick test of their free account I can offer these comments:

·         The free account is very limited, with only the last 200 photos uploaded available for viewing.

·         The pro account at US$24.95 per year has unlimited storage.

·         You can have albums within albums (they call it sets within collections), but only in the pro version.

·         You can’t automatically replicate the folder hierarchy of the photos on your computer.

·         You can upload the image at its full size.

·         Comments and tags from the original image metadata are handled automatically.

 

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