Zen and Theme Releases

After my dalliance with Gallery2 and not being really satisfied with it, I was on the lookout for a better photo management software for my website. Don’t get me wrong – Gallery2 is good, but it felt too heavy for my use, and the Smarty templates were not helping either.

After some hunting, and having considered options like Coppermine and PixelPost, I went with one of my old candidates – Zenphoto. My initial gripe about ZP was that I couldn’t customize it. However, I realized that I was being asinine about it. All I needed to do was rather than run the Dreamhost “One-Click Install”, I needed to manually unzip the files and configure the software by hand. Small fry. I had the software up and running in a matter of minutes.

I found it pretty easy to customize ZP, given that the structure is fairly intuitive. Take a look. I have almost managed to get it to work to my expectations, with a few minor UI tweaks remaining. Additionally I want to investigate using Cooliris’ PicLens for the slideshows because they are hyper-cool. I know I need to use a Media RSS file, but somehow the ones on the web that already have been developed don’t work for my version of ZP. So for the moment I am using the standard JQuery based slideshow, while I will continue to work on an appropriate Media RSS generator and a somewhat better slideshow capability.

This brings me to my next topic – my current WordPress theme. I call it Green Light and I have been using it for a couple of weeks now and I like the way it has shaped up. I am planning to release this on the official WordPress themes site. Before I do so I would like to solicit your feedback regarding things that you believe I should improve here. Comments regarding color schemes, icons, aesthetics, layouts etc are most welcome. Note that this theme doesn’t have options enabled.


Update on 30th July 2009:
I submitted the WordPress theme. Let’s see if it gets accepted. I had to rename the theme, though, because someone already had taken “Green Light”, so my theme is now called “Suffusion”.

Oh Gallery, My Gallery!!

After my previous post I set about to do one of two things:

  1. Create a full-blown application for uploading photos – My way of uploading photos was a multi-step process:
    1. I would select photos I wanted to upload and put them in a separate folder on my local disk
    2. I would then use Picasa and export the subset of photos as a web-page. This would automatically resize all images and create the thumbnails.
    3. Next I would create a file with image names and descriptions. I had a script on my home-page that parsed this file on the fly and displayed the album.
    4. Then I would upload the photos, the thumbnails and the file with the names.
  2. Use a package and customize it using a template – This would require me to operate within the constraints of the application that I was using.

I ultimately settled for the customization of a package. Writing my own photo-loader was way too much effort to handle in the hours after work. I considered a lot of options:

  1. Picasa web albums
    This was my first choice, because I love Picasa and I use Google for a lot of things. Moreover I could really harness a lot of things like Cooliris’ PicLens (which is awesome) and create some snazzy stuff. Unfortunately what got in the way was Dreamhost. While very good in most aspects, Dreamhost didn’t provide out-of-the-box support for Picasa. So I would have to customize my Dreamhost installation and make some changes to my PHP configuration for this. As it would turn out, this was less than a stellar idea because I had to run “sudo” on Dreamhost and I did not have the right permissions for it. While I did not get any email saying “Sayontan, you are a bad, bad boy”, I did get a return message on the command prompt notifying me that this incident had been reported!!
  2. ZenPhoto
    ZenPhoto is one of the two packages that Dreamhost provides. I tried it out, but unfortunately this falls under the category of software that you cannot customize on Dreamhost. So, two down.
  3. Gallery
    Technically Gallery was the first thing I attempted, even before my misadventures with Picasa, mainly because it was available with Dreamhost and secondly, I could customize it. However, I found it extremely counter-intuitive to use when I first installed it. But after I exhausted my other options I was compelled to revisit this. My typical style of using anything involves first fiddling with it, then reading the documentation / manuals to clarify any doubts that I have. Most software and hardware today have very friendly interfaces, so this approach works very well for me (as it does for most other people, I am sure). Naturally I had very little joy with Gallery the first time. But faced with no other choice to bundle on my website and with a mounting stack of photos to process I bit the bullet and dug in. Piece by piece it came together and with a few hours of effort I got the basic layout figured out. There are, however some annoyances:

    1. The BreadCrumb
      This is a pretty nice feature that could do with a few configuration options that would enhance control. E.g. I cannot ask it to exclude certain levels or to show the caption / title of the image rather than its name
    2. Sub-albums / Album groups
      This is a hard one to explain. On my earlier site I had groups like “2004”, and then separate albums under it. On the main page I would see both, 2004 and the albums under it. But I cannot conceive of a way to “tag” my albums without using sub-albums, and if I create one album called 2004 with a bunch of sub-albums, I cannot see the names of the sub-albums from my main page.
    3. Slideshow control
      One good thing that Gallery did is an integration with Cooliris. But now I have a new problem: I want to define things like the pause between two photos in the slideshow, I want to remove the links that show up at the top etc. I am sure I can figure it out, but it isn’t obvious.
    4. Square thumbnails
      This is a major gripe. Gallery can display a sized down thumbnail, but it feels the need to pad it with some solid color. The other option is to use a square thumbnail, which does away with the padding. I wonder, though, if it will allow me to set no colour for the padding.

Anyway, I guess it worked out alright in the end. There are a lot of things I would have liked to improve, but as is the case with packaged software, the best plan is to wait and play along. Most of the stuff comes by anyway. Of course, if you believe I botched some of the implementation or missed some features, please let me know – I would love to hear from you.