When it comes to photographs, I generally have one word of advice for everyone, experienced or noob: Flickr.
It’s a scene I’ve seen several times at the Central West End Linux Users Group I help run in St. Louis — a new visitor to the LUG brings her busted Windows machine to the meeting, finally sick enough of that OS to install Linux. But first we have to recover whatever data is still sitting on the hard drive (thank you, Knoppix!).
Over the years, I’ve found that most of the stuff on people’s hard drives just isn’t that important to them. Documents, bookmarks, music, videos — they (most of the time) just don’t freak if it’s gone for good. They’re not happy, but they’re not in tears either. With one exception: pictures.
If pictures are unrecoverable, then people get very upset. Not at the members of the LUG who are helping them, but at themselves — for not backing up — and at fate, for causing their hard drives to fail.
A simple backup would have saved those pictures that were so valued. Anyone reading these words knows that most “normal” (meaning, non-computer) people rarely, if ever, perform backups of their data, even if that data is incredibly valuable to them. When it comes to photographs, I generally have one word of advice for everyone, experienced or noob: Flickr.
Flickr is easily the best photo-sharing & storage site available on the Web. It’s cheap (free for 100 MB of uploads a month, or $25 a year for unlimited uploads), it’s powerful and innovative, and it supports very cool social software features like tagging. Really, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be using Flickr. Once you start, you’ll be sucked in and find yourself using it more all the time.
Of course, this begs the question: how do you get all of your current photos into Flickr? And as you take new photos in the future, how do you get those uploaded to Flickr’s Web site? You could always go to the Flickr upload page, but it has problems. You can only upload six photos at a time, which would quickly grow tedious, and your tags must apply to all of the photos you’re uploading (there’s supposedly a neato Flash-based browser uploading tool, but I couldn’t get it to work at all). There has to be a better way.
Fortunately, there is. Flickr has supported an API from its early days that allows other developers to create programs that work with the website; in addition, Flickr itself uses that API to create desktop apps that allow users to perform bulk uploads of images. The Flickr Uploadr (yep, that’s how they spell it) has some nice features — batch tagging, the ability to add pics to existing or new sets, and auto-resizing — but it’s not as full-featured as it could be. Worse, you have to manually type your tags in, without any sort of auto-completion, meaning that the tags you’ve already used on your website don’t appear as options in Flickr Uploadr. For someone who uses lots of tags, and who tries to be careful with the tags he uses, this just won’t fly.
Linux apps to the rescue! KFlickr is the best app available, on any operating system, for uploading photographs to Flickr. The “K” should tell you that it’s written for KDE, but it also runs just fine under GNOME. It’s free, open source, and has oodles of cool features and smart integration with Flickr that make it a snap to get your pictures off of your hard drive and up onto Flickr’s servers.
Installing KFlickr is simple. You may already have it on your hard drive as part of your distro install (a quick look-see should tell you that) but if you don’t, not to worry. Debian-based distros can just run
sudo apt-get install kflickr, while those relying on Yum and RPMs can use the repository of their choice to grab the necessary package and install it.
The first time you run KFlickr, you’re going to need to authenticate the program against your Flickr account. This basically entails pressing a button in KFlickr that loads a permission page at Flickr in your web browser, giving your consent on the web page for that program to access your Flickr account, and then going back to KFlickr to acknowledge your granting of permission. Sound complicated? It’s not, and you’re walked through the whole process, so you won’t find it that hard.
Now it’s time to upload some photos using KFlickr. Press the Add button and select the images you want to upload. Choose as many as you’d like. Using KFlickr, you can enter a title for each picture (or just use the file name, if you’d like) and a description.
The Kflickr interface
You can also adjust the photos themselves. If you need to rotate the image before uploading it, you can with the Rotate button. If you want to adjust the size of the pics as they are uploaded, use the Upload Size dropdown menu, with these choices: Thumb, Square, Small, Medium, Large, Original, and Custom, which allows you to specify the height and width in pixels.
Flickr-specific choices are available as well. The License dropdown lets you tell the world how it can use your images. Feeling like total control? They go with “All Rights Reserved.” Want to support Creative Commons and help restore some sanity to our beleaguered copyright system? Go for “Attribution-ShareAlike” or one of the other five Creative Commons licenses. Flickr allows you to make your photos public so that anyone can see them, or restrict viewing to family and/or friends. KFlickr supports those choices with the Privacy Control section of the program.
The Photoset dropdown allows you to do one of three things. If you leave it set to the default — “Photostream only” — then your pics aren’t placed into any of your photo sets. If you choose a set you had created previously — yes, KFlickr knows the sets you created before you started using the program, which is very cool — from the dropdown, then you can assign your pictures into that set. Finally, you can create a new set on the fly by simply entering it into the dropdown menu.
And then we have tagging. You can type tags in if you’d like, but it’s so much easier using the Tags dropdown which, like the Photoset dropdown, is populated by data already on Flickr. You can either use your mouse to click and choose the tags you want to enter, or you can simply start typing the first few letters of each tag, and KFlickr will helpfully fill in the rest for you. How wonderfully efficient and helpful!
If you want to work on several photos at the same time, simply select them in the photo list with the Control or Shift keys, and KFlickr goes into Batch Mode. This is a great way to prepare a whole group of similar photos for Flickr and worldwide exposure.
Lots of apps out there integrate with Flickr, but Penguinistas are lucky, since we have the best of them all available to us. It’s name is KFlickr, and you should starting using it — and Flickr — today.
teaches at Washington University in St. Louis, consults for WebSanity, and writes for SecurityFocus and Linux Magazine
. His latest book, Linux Phrasebook
is in stores now. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org