February 5, 2013
Update May 2014: We’ve ceased our development efforts of integrating Seagate’s line of wireless portable hard drives natively with Photosmith. Despite many attempts, we have been unable to interface with the drives in a way that we can guarantee reliability. We have talked to Seagate about these issues, and they assure us the drives work as designed, as a media consumption device. However, the use of the Wireless Plus and GoFlex devices as a backup device through its wireless interface has sadly not proven to be dependable enough for us to support it natively within Photosmith.
Update on “Sandboxing”
We’ve talked about this extensively in the past so if this is the first you’ve heard of it you may want to peruse those old posts. This time around I’m going to talk about what the changes actually are and what some of the benefits and drawbacks of them are.
In a nutshell: all previous versions of Photosmith accessed your photos directly via the Photos app (via the ALAssets API) each and every time you looked at one. Starting in this version we’re making a local copy of the photo and accessing it directly off of disk without all the extra layers in between. The benefits are we can do most things faster, use less memory, and some things are now possible that weren’t before. The drawback is we now have to do for ourselves some things that Apple gave us for free; imports take a little more time, and it uses more disk space –which is already a precious resource on an iPad.
First order of business, Import. If we’re going to change the model from automatically importing everything to giving you control over what gets imported then we have to give you a way to do that. So we need to add a whole new import process. That means changing our database to support it, making a great UI to help you select images (Hello Smart Groups!), and least fun but most import, write our own image processing and metadata extraction code. Previously we got that from Apple but that goes away now so add it to the todo list. Heh, deciphering a dozen different RAW file formats and the umpteen different ways manufacturers interpret the same EXIF spec should be no sweat, right? Right?! Luckily, we’ve got Oliver, a new developer on our team. That man is amazing, he took over our existing processing code and polished it into pure gold over the last few months so hopefully we’ve got this one about licked. Next month, we might even let him email his family, once.
Notice the “link” and “copy” buttons? How your photos are imported into Photosmith is up to you: Copy the full photo from the Camera Roll into Photosmith’s and have peace of mind that it’s safe, and you have full control over deletion of the image, right from within Photosmith. Otherwise, if you’re a little tight on storage space on your iPad, you may leave the original photos in the Camera Roll and we’ll only render some small previews for quick display purposes only. However, you run the risk of Bad Times if you accidentally purge the Camera Roll and don’t sync to Lightroom first. For this reason, Copy is the default, and is highly suggested.
Our Sandbox, Our Rules – Let There Be Delete!
So, what will all this effort buy us?
- Stability - Mike said the first Alpha release of v2.3 was the most stable version he’s ever used (keep in mind, Mike is the keeper of all the “crasher” images that customers send us) and it’s been getting better from there. It’s been a long road and we’re very excited about where we’re at now.
- Speed – you won’t believe how fast and responsive the app is getting in the latest builds – most notably, the loupe / full screens can take advantage of those local previews and load so much faster.
- Efficiency – it’s too early to say for certain, but we think we’re going to be able to do 100% zoom with images sizes that will shock you, even on iPad 1 devices…
- Future Flexibility – With all the changes in v2.3, we changed a lot of how we store data in our internal database. While making these necessary changes, we planned for the future as much as possible. Photosmith is now flexible enough to handle many different sources and destinations. Read into this what you want – this next update is just the beginning. :)
- Additional Integration - Now that we’ve freed ourselves from the bonds of the Camera Roll, we’ve been able to add FTP server support (upload/download directly to/from the app) and iTunes support (download your pictures or xmp files directly through iTunes)
And on the other hand…
- Website – We started with the website redesign almost immediately after 2.0 launched, but it took this long to catch up. We love the new look Nico created and Shawn implemented. Once the app update is live, our plan is to backfill the website with more demo videos and example workflows.
- Seagate – We started working on the Wireless Plus drives back in August. By staying involved with Seagate over the months we got the opportunity to give them suggestions of the things that we think are necessary to interoperate with Photosmith. It looks like most of them made it into the final build. Note: we haven’t run our own final certification tests yet so it’s too soon to promise, but we think their new drive will deliver the external storage we’ve all been waiting for.
- RAW Image Formats – As mentioned above, we’ve been adding our own RAW image handling. For now, we’re focusing exclusively on metadata and embedded jpg extraction. When time allows, our plan is to expand our own image rendering capabilities beyond what’s otherwise available via Apple’s code in iOS.
- Wifi grips & FTP – A nice side effect of adding the FTP server is that we now can support many WiFi grips and import directly from the camera into Photosmith. This will open up Photosmith to popular Wi-Fi-enabled dSLR grips! (Sadly, Canon’s new 6D does not appear to support FTP but instead uses a different protocol. No idea yet if we’ll be able to add that or not).
- Integration with other photo apps – Good things in good time – Let’s just say that iOS developers are some of the coolest folks out there, and we’re very proud to have a very productive working relationships with other Photography app developers. We all see the greater good, and the users will benefit to “collaborative competition.”
- Standard Boring Business Stuff - Taxes, payroll, server maintenance, it’s all comes with the territory.