Picasa face-recognition scan conclusions

Picasa face recognitionI have posted previously about letting Picasa 3 scan for faces so I can identify them. I had hoped to publish the results at the time but I was caught up with other things and didn’t get a chance.

Unfortunately I don’t have an accurate record of how long it took. I started it on about the 1st October with 14,000 photos to process. On the 4th it was 50% completed after I had added an additional 5000 photos because I added some of the folders under Documents. On the 5th it was saying all day that it had 51% to go. Then that evening it changed to 52%. I thought it was going to take another week, but the next day it was finished.

That’s 5-6 days. For 19,000 photos.

It ran for 24 hours a day, and I only closed it down occasionally when it was slowing down what I was doing. It used an average of 45% of my CPU, so sometimes this was a problem. I don’t remember the processor that my laptop has, but it’s a bit over 2 years old.

Of course, not all of these photos have people in them – there are landscapes, wildlife, and images of documents.

Some things I have noticed:

  • if I sign in to Google it can get the names from my contacts list
  • it runs very slowly at other times and quite quickly at others
  • it picks up faces from the covers of books and photos on the wall behind the real people
  • it can find faces in very fuzzy pictures
  • it is not bothered by hats and sunglasses
  • it quite often suggests the wrong person but that person is closely related, such as a sister, aunt or grandmother
  • it identifies people more accurately the more photos you have identified
  • it can identify people at all ages in their lives
  • it is better at identifying babies than I am
  • it doesn’t recognise cats, dogs or gorillas, although it did identify one front-on picture of a dog
  • I have a lot of duplicate photos, and when I identify one it suggests the same name for the others very quickly
  • I am terrible at remembering names
  • I nearly have more photos of my nieces than I have of my husband or myself

By the time it finished it said it still had about 6500 faces to identify. I am slowly whittling those down. I now have just over 5000. There are also the faces it can’t identify as faces, which I have to do manually if I want it done at all.

It seems to have trouble with faces if they are:

  • at an angle
  • have hair over one side
  • side-on unless they are completely from the side
  • really, really fuzzy

And yet sometimes it sees a face where there isn’t one. I thought this one must be in the background somewhere.

Panda face

He looks like he has a little beard and a receding hairline.

This is the photo it came from:

Picasa panda

Can you see the face, in the top right corner? Not a face at all!

It also picks up the hundreds of faces in the backgrounds of photos and wants to know who they are. You can mark each one as ignored, and you can see these later if you want to. When the Sydney Harbour Bridge was 75 years old they opened it to the public to walk across, and the photos from that day have many people in the background. Fortunately they are mostly wearing lime green hats so I could quickly exclude them when I saw them.

All the people in a wedding photo can be identified if you have already identified them elsewhere. Even if you don’t know their names you can give them a number, like Wedding 12, and group photos of the same person together. You can then more easily identify the person, or a relative can, when you can see a number of photos of the same person together.

I have had a wonderful time with Picasa, and I still am. I am finally learning, through having to identify photos, which of my grandmother’s three sisters is which, and what my mother’s older brothers looked like when they were young.

I have also very much enjoyed seeing pictures of the same person throughout their lives all in the one place. Here are some of my grandmother Amy Eason nee Stewart:

Amy Millicent Eason nee Stewart

You can see her from the earliest photo of her that I have, when she was a baby; as a teenager, a young mother, and so on all through her life. The photos are of varying quality but the only one I had to manually identify was the blurry side-on one in the 3rd row.

A valuable lesson I learned was in trying to identify what it is that makes this person look like that person. What is it in my face that Picasa mistakes for my grandmother’s? Or two of three nieces but not the third?

To be fair, sometimes Picasa is totally wrong. It tried to tell me that this same grandmother was in a shot of my husband posing with the Wests Tigers rugby league team. It wasn’t. When it ‘groups’ unnamed faces it tends to put faces together that are shot at the same angle. Sometimes I think it is suggesting names based on the frequency with which that name appears, or on the previously identified name, but that might just be my cynicism.

All in all I am so glad I went through this exercise. Identifying faces has become my procrastination-of-choice, and it has made me much more likely to name the faces of photos I have just taken rather than leave it for years when I can no longer remember the names. I am also determined to research the names I should know but can’t remember – school classmates, fellow safari tourists, even Wests Tigers. All those unnamed faces bother me!

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy – Week 23 – Find a Challenge

The challenge this week is:

Come up with a personal genealogy challenge of your own. Each person has different research goals and experiences. Use this week to come up with your own challenge, and then take the steps to accomplish it.

Haha, I thought. that one’s easy! My biggest challenge is finding the time to get everything done that I need to do. So I’ve decided, for the sake of this challenge, to narrow it down.

I don’t seem to find time to read any more. To just sit down with a book and read it. I used to do most of my reading on the train into the city, but these days I tend to do stuff on my netbook computer, which I’ve talked about before, or read research notes or minutes and notes for Council and committee meetings.

I used to always carry a book with me. Always. Now I don’t. If I think I’ll need something to read I might take a family history magazine or journal with me, but usually the netbook is enough to keep me occupied.

How do I read the books I need to read to further my research? There is so much I have to read:

  • books on Australian history
  • books on Fijian history
  • books written by early settlers and sailors in Fiji (usually downloaded from Google Books as PDFs)
  • books on how to find records for family history
  • journals and magazine, which are arriving all the time
  • fiction (we all need some down-time)

Kobo e-readerLast weekend, when I was walking past my local Borders bookstore, I saw the answer. The Kobo is Borders’ answer to Amazon’s Kindle. It’s an e-reader that is cheap ($199 Australian), light, easy to read, and small enough to take anywhere. It does nothing except read books, which is what I want. It reads PDFs as well as e-book formats.

Unfortunately I couldn’t buy one on the spot as they had run out, and were taking pre-orders. I said I’d think about it and went home. I thought about it so much that I rang and pre-ordered it from home. They told me it would be in on the 7th June, which is next Monday.

On Thursday (3rd June) I got a call to say they were in, and I could pick mine up! Woohoo!!! I did. I had a workshop to prepare so I didn’t really get to play with it until yesterday.

I’m already reading more than I ever did before. I’ve started on Dickens’ Great Expectations, which I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read before, although the story seems strangely familiar. I think that contemporary fiction counts as educational, don’t you? At least I’m not reading Harry Potter!

And I feel much better for it already. Reading is what was missing from my life.

The Kobo is a little slow to change pages, so I’ve already learned to press the button a little ahead so it’s there when I’m ready for the next page. I’m still looking around at what books I can put on there. It came with 100 books already, including Dickens and Jane Austen.

The PDF part is still a bit of a challenge, though. I downloaded two PDF books to experiment. They are:

  • Smythe’s Ten Months in the Fiji Islands, 1864
  • Fanning’s Voyages to the South Seas, 1838

I’ve had success finding ancestors, or potential ancestors, in these sorts of accounts, so I’ve got to keep reading them. Printing and reading takes way too much paper and toner, and I tend not to read them on the laptop, although of course I search them for surnames and places as best I can.

So far reading these PDFs has not been a success. An e-book flows so that no matter what font size you select, the text flows to fit the page. PDFs don’t do this, so there’s a lot of scrolling involved which is too disruptive, even in these old books where the pages are actually quite small. Apparently they are looking at software changes to allow this, but in the meantime scrolling is slow.

So that’s the challenge I need to resolve next, and this is what I’m doing to resolve it:

  • I’m experimenting with zooming in and changing the orientation to landscape, but it’s still slow to get down the page.
  • I’ll experiment with the different page sizes of different documents
  • I’ll look at different formats. Perhaps these books are downloadable as e-books rather than PDFs?
  • I’ll be experimenting with Descent, the journal of the Society of Australian Genealogists, which was published from the beginning of the Society in PDF form. That will save me having to decide before I leave the house which one I’m up to. If I can resolve the PDF issue!

Wish me luck!

I love my new Toshiba mini notebook!

Well, I was brave enough to take the risk! My new mini notebook is a Toshiba NB200, which arrived by courier yesterday. I broke the seal warning me that my new purchase may not function correctly and I’ve been playing with it ever since.

So far I’m just installing the software I need and downloading and installing updates, and the battery has lasted very well. The keyboard feels solid and the major keys are much the same size as on my standalone keyboard, although of course all the other keys are in different places – another keyboard to get used to. The touch pad is much the same size as on my 15in laptop.

It works well and quickly, even though I wasn’t able to upgrade the RAM to 2GB as the salesperson advised me. I’ve seen forums where a lot of people have upgraded theirs successfully, and I might consider that later when I really start using it.

I am expecting to use it when I go into the city or out to the archives, and for my birthday last year I got a mobile broadband … thingy (whatever the thing is called). My old mini is a HP 2133. The battery lasts less than 2 hours, and with Vista it’s very slow to get going – both reasons to leave it at home. If I use it on the train on the way into the city I have to take the power cable to charge it again for the ride home, especially if I actually use it while I’m in the city. I bought it too soon – at the time there was very little around, and what there was was small and made from flimsy-looking plastic.

It’s so small and convenient that I’ll probably use it around the house as well. The fate of the HP is yet to be decided.