Forum OpenACS Q&A: Looking for a web photo solution, for mom....

I would like to find (yahoo, ofoto, shutterfly?) or build (OACS 3.2.5, OACS 4.5, ?) a site to share the photos of my kids with my mom. And the world.

Mom's no longer the innovator she used to be. She is using the original WebTV and has a color printer attached to it.

I've perused the ofoto and shutterflys, and they're pretty cool, but definitely oriented around selling you their prints. Ofoto, etc. will not present a page with just the picture on it, and I don't believe my mom (WebTV) has the ability to click right, print photo.

I've checked out, and that has the new hp stodgy feel to it, but apart from that, it's just what is needed in many respects, including local tools (.exe) to edit photos quickly and a mass upload tool. But it is geared toward printing out photographs on (hp) printers using Windows. To print something out you get to install (ah, summer time and how I like my UPS, but I do wonder if someone just got fried somewhere) a little plug-in to Internet Explorer. Works great, except for WebTV, that funtastic little MIPs machine.

Yahoo and provide a solution of sorts, except that to keep any real amount of data on those sites gets pretty pricey pretty quickly and it's not real clear I can get as much space as I want anyway. I have a nifty Fuji 2800 digital camera that can take really bad avis that are just wonderful. They are really bad in terms of frame size and frame rate, and they can only be 60 seconds long, but they have sound, and it makes it trivial to capture video and pictures and that's wonderful. A 60 second avi is 10Mb though. Well mom can't watch that anyway on her WebTV, but everyone else can.

Probably the easiest thing to do is buy her a damned pc and pay for an AOL account. Easiest, but not really an affordable solution either, and I really don't want to become the AOL help desk.

It's usually at this point, I just return all the digital toys and go back to film, vhs, and Costco developing.

Is there no web site or service that is reasonably priced and that I don't have to write or build myself?

In the build-it-yourself department, there is the ACS of course. I've built my own custom photo module for ACS 3.2.5 in the past, and I've implemented Andrew Grumet's photo module for the ACS before, but I would prefer to do something 4.5ish.

What's the scoop then? I want to get mom all setup, but I do have a paying job and other responsibilities. For a quick "time to mom", should I: OpenACS 3.2.5 or OpenACS 4.5? Do the 4.5 photo album and photo album lite modules work with 4.5? Do they work with postgres?

Is there some prebuilt home photo server thing I can buy and install on Windows? Is there another photo website I should check out?


Jerry, have you tried and ??? I think these provide 30mb of free space for family projects like the one you describe. I understand the interface can be awkward at times however...
Posted by Jerry Asher on
It's not the interface that keeps me away from yahoo.  I'd prefer a yahoo solution over a doit-my-self solution.

It's the disk space size limitations that are the deal breaker.  A feature of the original Phillip Greenspun photo software was the ability to maintain different sizes of images and let folks pick what they want to see.  I really like that, but it adds up to lots and lots of disk space.  I do like making movies available too -- and those are 10Mb a piece.  It appears that yahoo will only sell me 100Mb (and that for $35 per year).  In the words of Hans and Frans, puny.  pumps that up to 500Mb, but they want $100 a year for that.  That would almost be worth it except for's completely hid interfaces and their pop-up advertising.

Assuming each photo is web ready at 30kb, 30mb provides room for about 1000 jpegs.

One can rotate images periodically if the cost of purchasing more space is higher than the cost of rotating. Of course I assume providing ACS or other web services would be greater because it is less likely one can share the labor burden with family??? Anyway, best wishes..

I'm afraid I don't know of a good solution for your mom. I just wanted to inform you guys of a photo application that I have built for my own use that I call Photo Archive. My use-case is that I have thousands of jpgs about 300-500 kbyte in size that I have taken with my Canon Ixus (such as the ones taken at the recent OpenACS social in Amsterdam...I will announce them as soon as they are on the server). I have organized the photos into folders and I wanted to make those photos browsable on the web. Unfortunately my Photo Archive application still lacks important features such as photo meta-data and uploading via the web. I am just about about to add rotation of photos and I have recently added the ability to specify which folders should be viewable by logged in users only and which should be viable by all users. I hope to be able to publish this little app this week in my copious free time...😊
Posted by Jeff Davis on
I am also working on making 4.5 Photo Album do what I want. I have bulk uploads working and am working on the metadata stuff and some other nice things. I will post a url here for people to take a look once I unbreak it again.

Ultimately what I want to do is get things to the point that my family can pick a set of photos they want and I can automatically generate an iso image to burn for them (or print the photos for them) and I want a clean workflow for all the digital photos I take.

I don't have a camera that does avi's (or voice annotations) but I am willing to make those work for people if someone provides me some test files to work with.

Posted by Jerry Asher on
Jeff, Peter,

Please let me know how I can help.  I'd prefer not to have my photos stored in 20 different formats in 40 different places subject to 4 different business plans and vc financing. I'd prefer to have them on my own server, in one well known location and have software that managed the differently requested formats (maybe on the fly.)

Regarding voice annotations, the Fuji camera I have just creates a .wav (it's a very Windows oriented camera) with the same name as the .jpgs.  Movies are .avis.  The basic settings of the Fuji drivers just offload all the photos from the camera into the same directory.  I will be happy to send you some files if you wish.  The real question is if there is any standard or if all the camera manufacturers are just coming up with their own.  Are their AVI players for the Mac or for Linux?  If not it would be nice to have a utility in the workflow that could convert from AVI to MPEG.

I know that it's dangerous to start talking about other desired features, that's a forum discussion that comes up every few months....

Posted by Jeff Davis on
I expect testing and suggestions are the most important for me but I need to get something testable for you before either makes sense.

If you have looked at the other web based photo things you might point out what you think are the best ideas we can steal :)

As for a test file it might be nice to have a tarball or zip with a few images including an avi and a wav file or two to test with.

Another thing I am debating is whether to use exifutils ( or exif-tools ( )

exifutils is very good but not free (I have an old "free for noncommercial use" version but only for linux). I have almost decided to go with exif-tools which is GPLed but sort of sucks for anything beyond the basic information (and has not been changed in about 2 years as far as I can tell). I looked at the code and I think there are some easy changes to improve extraction of vendor specific data but I hate having to adopt a seemingly dead project to make something work. If someone knew of a better alternative than either of the above that would be a huge help...

I have bulk uploads working and am working on the metadata stuff and some other nice things.

Jeff - How are you doing bulk uploads? I was looking for a Web-based batch upload solution about a month ago (, but I didn't find a usable one -- we settled for a client side app.

Posted by Jeff Davis on
This was just allowing people to upload zip or tar files, not
a client side app for bulk uploading (something I don't have
much desire to write since it is such a swamp to try and do
anything client side).
I love gallery for keeping track of photos.

It's a php/cgi solution, so

time to mom = elegance = maintenance = nil

Also, it's skinable, very popular and under active development.


Check, $30 a year unlimited space
Or what about getting her an iMac with all the integrated iApps? I just love mine and it runs *Nix too and it just works!!! And with the Mac, you can access to iTool for free!!! Check out some homepages built in minutes at and And its certified to be mom-proof - since my sis-in-law, who is not a computer guru by any measure, managed to pull together some of the albums on those two sites.

All it took was plugging in the Digital Camera on the Mac. It automatically powers up iPhoto and creates a Photo Album. And then, there's a SHARE option with Homepage as a destination - and voila! An Internet Photo Album in minutes.

I thinks Apple pulled a coup by integrating *Nix with a Consumer OS, while preserving the elegance of Apple's Industrial Design.

And best of all, you can even run a OpenACS off it to do some other stuff since PostgreSQL and AOLServer do run on OS X.

I'm actually working on porting Lar's stuff ( to OS X and then doing a little AppleScript thingy to push iPhoto pictures into the OpenACS Photo Album for a more sophisticated Photo Album with ratings, long captions and all.

Once that's done, I can blog and do pictures the OpenACS/Lar's way with the help of Dynamic DNS off my iMac.

Alternatively, you can give her a Ceiva Picture Frame. It dials up and downloads pictures off your Ceiva account. Pretty neat but a bit expensive.

Hope this helps!

If you have looked at the other web based photo things you might point out what you think are the best ideas we can steal :)
Ideas from photo album lite:
  • Short path to uploading. I'd rather not require users to perform lots of clicks and form entry before adding their first photo. In the case of photo album lite I tried to simplify things by using a 2-level type hierarchy (folder/photo), bubbling the folder-adding form up to the browse folders page, and delaying annotation until after the photos are added. I think a 3-level folder/album/photo is viable, but perhaps there should be a way to automatically create the folder and album upon image upload to avoid distracting the contributor.
  • Annotating while viewing. I like having a picture in front of me while I describe it, as opposed to working from memory. I think others do too.
  • One upload widget set. No need to distract the user with UI distinctions for image files vs. zip files vs. tar files. Give them a single set of upload widgets and have your backend script figure out what kind of file its got and the appropriate action.
Ideas from
  • Drag and drop uploading. Kind of clunky for multiple not-zipped files, but so simple!
  • Sorting while viewing. Ofoto displays the images, and moves them around on the screen client-side, when you change the order.
  • Logical associations with places and people. I want to be able to offer links like "see other photos of the people in this picture" and "see photos taken near this picture"
  • Integration with Ofoto or the like. It would be great if picture pages had an "order prints" link that took to you a vendor's site and everything just worked.
Posted by Jeff Davis on
I saw a page that let you send photos to shutterfly to order prints at a gallery (php) site ( but I could not find anywhere on shutterfly where you could get a form pointed at the action for the form on the page (although it does indeed seem to work).

My parents actually got a spiral bound book of 4x6's from them and I was reasonably happy with the results (some photos probably should have been manipulated in photoshop first but life is too short).

It should be noted that you can order an archival quality hard
bound book of photos directly through iPhoto.

On another note, I would love to see this discussion (and
hacking) be directed into the next version of the photo-album

Please see these other threads:

Another thing to keep in mind.  Does it make sense to have a
more general image archiving service underlying a new version
of the photo-album?  This could drive us a step closer to a more
general solution for all packages that need image content.

Lets keep the ideas coming.  BTW, if someone else with more
time or a more pressing need wants to coordinate the effort
please let me know.  I have some other fish to fry right now, but I
don't want to stand in the way of progress.


Posted by Jerry Asher on
It's pretty neat to hear of these various efforts that have different amounts of integration with commercial services.  What would be very nice is to learn if there is any effort to create a web api (soap) to enable client apps to upload/manage photos at a photo serving sites, and to allow photo serving sites to request prints, etc., from the various photo printing sites.

If there is such a standard being developed, our photo albums modules should support them.  If there is no such standard being developed, it would be terrific for all parties to get involved and start one.

Posted by Dave Bauer on

I have been thinking about a service-contract based image storage that any package can use. Some packages will use it to store content while others will use it to display the images.

That way, if I use photo-album or some other package to upload images, I can use the same techniques to get the images back out to display them in my templates.

Posted by John Sequeira on
Something similar to this was announced late last year.

An imaging industry group call I3A announced the Common Picture Exchange Environment (CPXe) for moving photos between cameras and online storage/printing services.,1653,41720,00.html

Its pretty new, so I wouldn't rush out and write a service contract for it necessarily, but it looks like it's got some steam. Also, its not clear whether you have to be a company (pay $$$) to play with their network. It would certainly be a shame if that were the case.

Posted by Jeff Davis on
There are whitepapers on this at (although they mostly just say soap wsdl uddi blah blah blah).
Do you have anything done on your photo album? I'm looking for one that does what yours does and would be willing to contribute to this. Tell me if you need any help.

** Martin

Posted by Jeff Davis on
I actually have a postgres version working which handles
most image types, has bulk upload and bulk edit (including rotation), fixes a bunch of
long standing photo-album bugs, has hooks for printing at
shutterfly (almost working), will load from the server
filesystem, and handles exif data from digital
images.  I don't pull out wav files from images and I have not
done anything with the UI but it is getting there.

I am trying to get something done today (which will likely carry
over to next week) but am hoping to finish off the postgres side and
hopefully get the oracle version working which would mean I could
check it in to CVS.

You can try it out what I have now at (but keep in mind this is
my test server so I will be nuking it periodically and things break).
Its also on a dsl line so bandwidth back to you is not great.

Yes. That is just about exactly what I'm looking for. Except for the oracle port, I can help you finish up anything you want. You need any help? I'm rather. . .uhm. . .not busy and can spend lots of time on it (unless I happen to get a job that wants to hire me instantly).

** Martin

Posted by Eric Wolfram on
Here's my list of web photo album applications solutions, which I collected about a year ago as part of some research for my friend.