Sunday, June 05, 2016

Living within iCloud Photo Library's storage budget

If someone walked into my home and torched my old-school photo albums they could go to prison.

The way Apple chose to sunset Aperture had roughly the same effect, albeit in slow motion. Even Apple’s keen supporters remain puzzled by how badly Cook managed this [2]. In a better world Apple would at least be liable to a class action lawsuit. [1]

Despite Apple’s blunders there are some things they did well with Photos.app [4]. I use Photos.app as a staging area for iPhone images I’ll move to Aperture [8]. I like being able to cull images on my iPhone. I think Brian Chen got it wrong; Photos.app’s iCloud Photo Library is the right balance between local image ownership and backup and Cloud services [3].

The problem is that iCloud Photo Library is currently expensive. My Aperture library is about 400 GB and I don’t do much video. People who do video, or who delete fewer images, can easily have 1-2 TB Libraries [5]. I don’t mind paying $60 a year for 50GB for each family member, but $600 is too much.

I’m fine with 50GB because I use iCloud Photo Library as a staging area. I periodically migrate to Aperture and empty out my Photos.app System Photo Library. My daughter has Photos.app as her primary repository though, and she is better at acquisition than deletion. She ran out of storage recently.

My plan for her is to archive her current Photos.app Library and create a new empty System Photo Library. She deleted almost 6GB of images today [6] so I haven’t had to do it, but the plan looks something like this:

  1. Confirm all images in her current full-resolution System Photo Library on my Mac. (Call this SPL1.)
  2. Disable iCloud services for SPL1 and move SPL1 from the current external 1TB SSD to a slow external hard drive (which is backed up by both Synology Time Capsule and Carbon Copy Cloner).
  3. On another Mac (could do via iCloud, but easier on a Mac) open up her System Photo Library there and delete every image and then empty the hard-to-find Photos.app trash. Confirm iCloud Photo Library is empty using web interface. [7]
  4. Create a new System Photo Library (which will be empty).

Then, when she gets up to 45 GB again, repeat the process. She will end up with many Photo Libraries, which is not ideal. Particularly since the only way to merge Photo Libraries is to make each one SPL in turn and gradually build up the aggregate in iCloud. 

Of course Apple could fix this. They could provide us with a way to move images (video and still) out of Photos.app into system storage as Referenced Images — while preserving metadata and relationships. Referenced Images don’t go to iCloud, so this would allow a single Library to support both iCloud and Referenced images. While they are at it they could also provide a way to merge Libraries (3rd party solutions lose a terrible amount of data).

I don’t have much hope though. As best I can tell Apple considers customers to be smelly and unpleasantly demanding.

- fn - 

[1] The modern era has convinced me we need a legal liability framework for consumer software. 

[2] If you rely on Final Cut Pro you should expect great unhappiness in your future.

[3] Assuming, of course, Apple figures out how to run a Cloud service. They’ve been earning a C grade at best. I waited about 6 months before I started using iCloud Photo Library; I know Apple’s “1.0” is Google’s “pre-beta”. Apple has major software development issues.

[4] The image editing tools are quite good but they are tedious to use. Photos.app real issue is image management, including metadata support. It’s abysmal.

[5] Ideally on SSD. Aperture sucks on a hard drive.

[6] Didn’t think she could. I underestimated her ruthlessness. My daughter is dangerous.

[7] If you omit the Delete step this is, reportedly, on the path to merging two Photos.app Libraries.

[8] I’ve revised my Aperture migration plan a bit. If WWDC has substantial Photos.app image management news then I’ll stay on Yosemite/Aperture until August 2017 then switch to Photos.app. and MacOS 12. That may give Apple time to fix bugs — especially the image corruption problems with Aperture import (brushed corrections mishandled). If WWDC disappoints then I’ll switch to El Capitan in August 2016 and stay on Aperture through 2018. Then see what my options are.

2 comments:

Chris said...

Have you considered using Google Photos? I find it much better than Apple's offering.

JGF said...

Last time I tried Google Photos I couldn't upload to a specific album, album definition had to be done post-upload. I should look again.