Saturday, January 16, 2010

Recent Learning: Git and Picasa

I thought I would fill in my loyal readership (as stealthy and undetectable as you are) about what I have been up to recently, or rather, what I have been learning. I believe in lifelong learning, although sometimes, it is hard to find the time to make it happen. There is so much to learn.

(behind my desk, there are literally piles of technical books, waiting to be read. And like all technical books, they are slowly going off.)

Just last night I finished reading about Git in Pragmatic Version Control Using Git by Travis Swicegood. Git is   a distributed version control system mostly used for storing source code. I had been hearing about Git for a year or two now and it is good to finally get an understanding of what it is all about. I have earmarked one of my next projects to use Git (with a remote 'origin' repository at Project Locker) and I am looking forward to puting some of my new found understanding to the test. I currently use Subversion (a centralised as opposed to distributed version control system) exclusively, and I am interested in whether the features and power of Git will make up for a more complex environment it introduces. I will keep you posted.

The other thing I have been doing (and I finished tonight) was going through the Picasa 3.5 training videos on, presented by Dane Howard. My prior experience with Google Picasa has always involved being slightly confused and lacking confidence enough to to use the tool I use to manage my photos. I can safely say this confusion is gone now.

Apart from the whiz-bang features ('easily create a blog post using your photos!'- That explains the photo in this post) some core concepts which I took away from the training that helped me understand Picasa included:

  • Photo edits within Picasa are non-desctructive. You can always roll back the edits. This is great because it allows to experiment with the simple but varied tuning and effects that are available.
  • Picasa does not 'suck in' photos and store them separately. Each folder in the folder list corresponds to the real file folder that Picasa is watching on your computer. To manage which folders Picasa (and to give Picasa a kick to rescan a folder you have changed from the file system) you can use the Tools > Folder Manager dialog box.
  • On the other hand, the import and export operations are designed to work outside the set of folders Picasa is watching. When you import photos, the photos are copied inside one of Picasa's default folders. Export, on the other hand, creates another copy of the files  anywhere on the file system. Photos are rescaled according your requirements and the photo edits made within picasa are made permanent for these exported photos only. 
  • Albums are virtual folders. You use an Album to gather together photos around a particular topic without changing their location on the file system. For example, I created a 'Scenic Photos' album and dragged in what I thought were some scenic photos from my other folders. In my casual use of Picasa prior to the training I missed this whole concept of albums that the you, the user can create and manage.
So I am much happier using Picasa now, and keen to use Git in anger just to see how it work out. 

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