Making sense of file storage, Apple-style

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sporkles
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Making sense of file storage, Apple-style

Post by sporkles » Sat Nov 07, 2015 2:23 pm

This is partly a rant and partly a cry for help.

My girlfriend is a complete noob when it comes to computers, and insists on using a MacBook Pro and an iPhone. I've told her a jillion times "fine, but that means you have to work things out yourself."

Most of the time, it's OK, she'll browse the web, use Facebook and take photos. The problems start when she runs out of space on her phone and/or wants to back up her photos. In the past, I'd use her Windows laptop to import her photos in Windows and put them in a more or less organised folder on an external drive, together with all her pre-iPhone photos. Then she activated iCloud, and later she got an iPhone 6 and a MacBook Pro. Now, right out of the gate, trouble started. I told her if I were her, I'd take the opportunity to get a fresh start rather than restoring her old phone with all the apps and photos from the old one. She didn't take my advice, and for some inexplicable reason, her new 16GB iPhone started out as FULL as her old, 8GB iPhone.

So the first task is to get all those photos securely off her phone and backed up. So naturally, we open the Photos app on the Macbook, and start importing photos from the phone. As a photographer and Windows user, I'm used to a very simple and understandable 1:1 import scenario: I launch Lightroom and import the raw files from my memory card, converting them to .DNG in the process. The result is 1 file per photo in a meaningfully named folder (year/month/day). Lightroom also stores info in its library. Both the library files and the actual photo files are stored in my own Photos folder, which is in a custom locaton, and all this a breeze to back up, using SyncBack.

On the MacBook, using Photos, on the other hand, it's a different story. After a bit of poking around and not understanding where the hell the files are stored, I realised that it's possible to view the photo library in Finder - it's all jammed into some kind of archive, containing a bunch of folders. I figured, OK, I can at least drop that archive on the external drive, and have a very primitive backup. However, the library contains photos dating back to 2012, all viewable in Photos, but the only references to identifiable files in Finder are in folders called Masters, Previews and Thumbnails. These folders each contain a folder called 2015, with the expected files buried in numerous subfolders.

Question numero uno: where are all the other files? In the cloud? Does OSX tell me in any way? Nope.
Question number two: iCloud sounds like a nice idea in theory, but can you set it up so that you can safely delete photos from your phone to free up space, witout also erasing them from iCloud and other devices? I see some workaround solution involving "optimising" local copies, but why the fuck is stuff like that buried in some internet forum? Why doesn't Apple make it absolutely crystal clear what the various options will do to your files?

Is there any alternative way of handling this stuff on a Mac? A solution that imports the photos into an obvious folder system (year/month/date)? An app that will simply monitor a user-defined top folder and add contained photos to the library? A backup app that will mirror this folder to an external drive?

This stuff makes me feel so incredibly powerless. Is this shit actually working for other people? Am I just not getting something that's very intuitive to everybody else? I don't really like to play the part of the Windows/Google fanboy, but DAMMIT: *THAT* SHIT ACTUALLY JUST WORKS!

Tarekith
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Re: Making sense of file storage, Apple-style

Post by Tarekith » Sat Nov 07, 2015 2:38 pm

Use image capture on OS X to f the photos off the phone, it's built in and easier for this sort of thing I find. Just drag and drop to a folder.

doghouse
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Re: Making sense of file storage, Apple-style

Post by doghouse » Sat Nov 07, 2015 2:53 pm

You're just coming at it expecting it to be like Windows. Keep in mind that 99% of all users (Win or Mac) never worry about any of this crap. Yes, you can learn how the Mac file structure works but it's only important when the drive is full and you want to archive to another drive or in the cloud, which is the way everything is going.

Want to back it up? Buy an external drive 2-4x the size of the internal drive and use Time Machine every day. Done. If you have more money, buy an Apple Time Capsule (a hard drive/wireless router) for automated backups fired off hourly if the Mac is detected on the network, totally painless. Or pay for an iCloud subscription and the backups will be placed there instead.

What is different about Mac is the OS decides the file hierarchy, not the apps. I don't have Photos, but if you go to Users/<username>/Photos I suspect you will find all the files in there, that's where iPhoto and Aperture placed libraries.

To give an Ableton example, all plugins regardless of the developer are found in Library/Application Support/Audio/Plugins, then subdirectories for Components (AU), VST, VST3, etc. Compared to Windows where the application decides where to stash the plugins, it's a lot easier to deal with when there are problems locating the files.

sporkles
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Re: Making sense of file storage, Apple-style

Post by sporkles » Sat Nov 07, 2015 3:09 pm

@Tarekith: thanks, I'll definitely give that a try!

@doghouse: yes, and this "zero user intervention" is what I cannot stand. Lots of things can happen over the years - you may even decide to jump ship from Mac to Windows, and if that moment should come, you want to be in charge of your files. I know that modern computers and OS'es are designed to be usable with an absolute minimum of understanding required, but I feel like it makes us dumber. The second you think "what if I could do this...?", the same 99% of all users will lose motivation immediately, and simply accept the status quo. As for plugins, you're always asked where you want to install them in Windows - it can be a bit of a PITA that the default/last used VST location is not remembered, but it's a small price to pay, the way I see it.

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Re: Making sense of file storage, Apple-style

Post by Tarekith » Sat Nov 07, 2015 3:54 pm

I feel your pain, my wife is exactly the same. I was laughing pretty good at how closely this situation mimics my own, evne knowing a good bit about OSX doesn;t help sometimes. My wife takes pictures of everything, and then never does anything with them. Her phone is always full, and I never know what she stored in iCloud one day, and what's only on her phone. Every few months I have to take all her pics off the phone and put them in a folder on her desktop via Image Capture.

And there they rest awaiting some fate only time and eternity knows. :lol:

beats me
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Re: Making sense of file storage, Apple-style

Post by beats me » Sat Nov 07, 2015 7:06 pm

1. Make sure all her photos are in the Mac Photos app/library

2. In the Photos app preferences click the iCloud tab and turn on iCloud Photo Library. It will start uploading all the Photos to the cloud. It will show a progress bar and may take awhile since it's the whole library. It may stop if the computer goes to sleep so monitor that. You can also turn on the 2 options below Download Photo Library. It gives good descriptions of what they do.

3. After all the photos have been uploaded from the Mac go to the Settings app on the iPhone -> Photos -> turn on iCloud Photo Library. You can also turn Optimize iPhone Storage. This will reduce the file size/resolution of the photos and videos stored on the iPhone but keep full resolution versions in the cloud.

Once that is all setup and done from that point on anytime she takes a photo with her iPhone or puts a picture in the Photos library they will automatically upload to the cloud and instantly (give or take a minute or 2) be available in her Photos app on all her Macs and idevices without ever having to plug anything in or drag or drop files around. Brilliant.

NOTE: If she has a ton of photos she may need to upgrade from the free iCloud service to 50GB for $0.99 a month. You can do this in the settings app on the iPhone -> iCloud -> Manage Storage.

Hope that helps.

F34TH3R
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Re: Making sense of file storage, Apple-style

Post by F34TH3R » Sun Nov 08, 2015 4:02 am

Do NOT PUT STUFF ON YOUR INTERNAL HARD DRIVE. It will eat up your computer. Get an external hard drive
F34TH3R

sporkles
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Re: Making sense of file storage, Apple-style

Post by sporkles » Sun Nov 08, 2015 12:17 pm

Thanks, Beats. Yeah, I did come to the point where I found the option to turn on iCloud Photo Library in the Photos app, but it was taking forever, and it still didn't really solve the problem of lack of storage on the phone off the bat.

I'm just really surprised to see how convoluted this stuff is, especially coming from Apple.

beats me
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Re: Making sense of file storage, Apple-style

Post by beats me » Sun Nov 08, 2015 3:32 pm

sporkles wrote:Thanks, Beats. Yeah, I did come to the point where I found the option to turn on iCloud Photo Library in the Photos app, but it was taking forever, and it still didn't really solve the problem of lack of storage on the phone off the bat.

I'm just really surprised to see how convoluted this stuff is, especially coming from Apple.

It takes forever at first because it is going over the entire library for the first time (Live 9 indexing your library, anyone?).

I agree Apple did a shit job of explaining what to do but my directions above doesn't make it too difficult. As far as drive space on the iPhone, and you probably want to do a little Googling on this, but since everything is being stored on the cloud you could probably delete all the photos off the iPhone but make sure it isn't deleting them off the cloud at the same time. Once you do that she'll still be able to see all her photos on the iPhone in the same manner as before but she will be looking at a cloud stream as opposed to what's on the drive. It should appear the same and seamless unless she doesn't have a wifi or cell connection at the time.

You could also attempt to constructively suggest she doesn't document every millisecond of the day or delete pictures that were pointless a second after she snapped it. Drives and the cloud are already a massive landfill of photos nobody is going to look at again and most people don't do their part in cleaning up their contribution. If all these photos were printed out and littering your place in books and boxes would you get mad at the archetect for failing to build a place that can accommodate the endless pile?

stringtapper
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Re: Making sense of file storage, Apple-style

Post by stringtapper » Sun Nov 08, 2015 7:35 pm

beats me wrote:You could also attempt to constructively suggest she doesn't document every millisecond of the day or delete pictures that were pointless a second after she snapped it.
You've been single too long, beats.

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sporkles
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Re: Making sense of file storage, Apple-style

Post by sporkles » Sun Nov 08, 2015 8:30 pm

beats me wrote:
You could also attempt to constructively suggest she doesn't document every millisecond of the day or delete pictures that were pointless a second after she snapped it.
Believe me, I've tried. That being said, there are far worse cases than her, and the main problem is that she's carrying around all the photos dating back to 2012.

I think I'm going to try Tarekith's method first, just to make sure I have a solid copy in case I fuck things up... :x

[art]
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Re: Making sense of file storage, Apple-style

Post by [art] » Sun Nov 08, 2015 9:54 pm

16 gb is too small for all your Photos.

I have a 64gb and roll with all my pics going back to 2009. Still tonnes of space.

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