Synology Moments and Daminion

Introduction

On 1st Nov 2017, Synology introduced a new photo management package called Moments.  This is part of an integrated suite of apps that include Drive, Calendar, MailPlus and Synology Office and is Synology’s answer to Office 365 and Google apps.

This article explores whether Synology owners can use Moments as a substitute for Photo Station as the web front end to Daminion.  Synology Drive is a prerequisite to Moments (see this article for more information about Drive.)

The Future of Photo Station

Synology haven’t made any formal announcements about the future of Photo Station.  There have been no significant enhancements to it since 2016 but this is probably because the development team have been concentrating on the new product.  Unofficially, they have been saying that the two products are complementary with Photo Station aimed at serious photographers and Moments at casual users – people who want to organise their selfies, as one forum member suggested.

Annoyingly, when you login to Photo Station you get a reminder that Moments is the new photo management solution.  Whether that’s a simple marketing idea or a hint about Photo Station’s future is unclear.

Synology Moments Features and Impacts

Public / Private

Moments and Photo Station differ in one esential way.  Photo Station uses a standard shared folder \photo that is public by default.  Therefore Photo Station is publicly accessible too (although it can be locked down.)  Moments takes the opposite view – each user has a Moments folder that is nested inside their personal Drive folder which means that the photos are private unless explicitly shared.  If your intent is to share management of the library with other users or for your entire library to be publicly available on the web, this creates some challenges which will be dealt with later.

Setup

Moments is much easier to set up than Photo Station which has so many configuration options that it can be a challenge to get it right.  Because it is private by default, Moments is able to use fewer configuration options.

User Interface

Moments UI is simpler, cleaner and looks much more modern than Photo Station.

Face Recognition

Photo Station’s FR is a beast – there’s no other way to describe it.  It is a resource hog and creates so many false entries that it is a waste of time.  Moments’ version is a quantum leap forwards.  It is very fast and seems to be free of the glitches that caused Photo Station to identify features in the landscape as faces.

However, it has a fundamental flaw.  It does misidentify people, so you end up with a group of photos linked to a person label that includes wrongly identified people.  In itself that’s not a surprise.  What is a surprise is there’s no way to remove or relabel the incorrect entries.  This renders the feature useless, so I turn it off.

And, as every vendor on the planet knows but doesn’t address,  FR is only part of the solution to the challenge of People Recognition.  Unless a person is shown full face or with a substantial partial face, they cannot be recognised.  You will always have to manually tag people who are in profile or are seen from another angle, and Moments has no facility to tag these as people because it’s only concerned with faces.  That doesn’t work for me so i turn FR off.

Places / Geolocation

Photo Station has some issues with geolocation, the most significant being that it frequently fails to find a match for the location you enter, forcing you to search by postcode or by panning the map, and then to manually move the marker. Having done so, you cannot edit the label to the one you want.  Accept the old label and the marker moves back to the original position.

In Moments, you don’t search for a place.  Instead it assumes that all images already have GPS coordinates and performs a reverse lookup to derive an address label for the image, and then it groups matching items together.  That’s great if you are using a smartphone with GPS, but very few DSLR cameras are GPS enabled.  The vast majority of my photos have no GPS coordinates and I have to add those manually using Daminion.

Again, there is no ability to edit the Moments label, which is unfortunate because they can be wildly inaccurate.  For example the auto-applied label, United States of America, Utah, Washington County,  Left Fork of North Creek is actually Zion National Park!  And in the rural area where I live,  the same, very inaccurate, label is applied to places within a 5 mile radius of each other which is crazy when GPS is accurate to less than a metre. 

Because of these inaccuracies I have disabled Places.

Object Recognition

All the big players are offering automating object or subject tagging, the theory being that you don’t have to spend time tagging and can find your photos easily.  The reality is  very different. Of the hundreds that were created for my library, the number of useful auto subjects was… zero.  Here are some examples of how inaccurate they are:

Recognising the built environment is no better.  A picture of the Eiffel Tower was labelled as “Architecture.”

Automatic subject tags cannot be edited, and incorrectly identified items cannot be removed so, once again, this functionality is of little use for the serious photographer.

To be fair, Synology is not alone in this.  I tried the same photos with other apps from big players like Microsoft and Google and they all performed as badly.  AI has a way to go before subject labelling is going to be useful for serious photographers.

Auto Tagging – Conclusion

Whether it’s Faces, Places or Subjects, automated tagging is currently only useful to the casual photographer.  If all you are trying to do is organise a few hundred photos then you will probably forgive the occasional wrong label.

What we have is a classic trilemma. The serious photographer needs a DAM app such as Daminion to enable them to manually tag their library.  Auto tagging is free and fast but it is not accurate.  Manual tagging is slower and not free, but it is accurate.

Keyword Support

So, as far as auto tagging is concerned it turns out that Moments is no more useful to the serious photographer than Photo Station.  The good news is that, like Photo Station, Moments supports keywords embedded in the image files.  And it recognises the same keyword set that Photo Station uses, so if you want to transfer to Moments, you do not need to rework the metadata.

Accessing the keywords is a little different.  In Photo Station the keywords are presented as general tags in a set of alphabetically sorted thumbnails.  Moments also uses thumbnails but presents them in random order. Scrolling to find a specific keyword is almost impossible in a large library.  The best way to find a keyword is to use the search function.  Fortunately this is very fast, just like Photo Station, and you will see matching keywords as you type which is very helpful if you are not sure what search words to use..

Sharing content

In Moments you can share:

  • Files
  • Albums.  An album is a collection of files that you select manually and assign a name to.  You can add content to an Album retrospectively.
  • You can’t share folders, but you can put the contents of a folder into an album in a couple of clicks.
  • In Photo Station you could create URLs that performed a seeded search of the public library.  You can do that in Moments but they won’t be public shares, you will need to login to see the search results.  Not good.

Sharing has been made far less complex than in Photo Station.  Everything you need is on one dialog box that appears when you have selected the content and  pressed the share button:

Shared links do not appear in any central library so you need to keep track of them separately, perhaps in Note Station.  You could also create a public web page of your links.  Or you could create a publicly shared Synology Office document that contains the links.

Be aware that if you move shared content, the share link will break.

How to make Moments your core library

Despite all the downsides, you may decide that you would like to use Moments as your core library.  It is particularly appropriate if you want to create a private library, you are the only person managing it and you want to create limited public shares.

Copy / Move your content

Photo Station requires the content to be in the \photo share.  Moments will not work with that share, even if you make it a Team Folder.  The images must be in your My Drive location.  And the best place for them is /home/Drive/Moments. If you don’t use that location but put them elsewhere inside My Drive then you will need to tell Moments to look outside the standard location.  You do this here:

However, if you turn that option ON, be aware that it will do exactly what it says and will scan and index every image or video in your My Drive area.  It found and indexed my entire library of screenshots and gifs.  Impressive but not what I wanted.  It’s a pity it’s such a blunt instrument.  It would be better if you could pick the folders to include / exclude.

It is recommended that you copy your \photo share content instead of moving it.  That will make it easier to switch back to Photo Station if Moments doesn’t work for you, as well as protecting your library in the event of a technical problem with Moments.

You CAN create a shared library in Moments

Having said that Moments is private unless explicitly shared, there is a way to allow multiple users to manage the library and create albums / share links.  It’s not very elegant but it will work.  You simply create a new user,  a non person, called Moments (or whatever you want to call it) and share the password with the contributors.  Anyone with the credentials can log on to that account and manage the library.

They should, of course limit their activities to creating albums and share links.  If they change, move, add or delete content, your Daminion Library will be out of sync without you knowing.  This would be a good use case for adopting Daminion Home Server.

 

Paul Barrett

 

Synology Drive and Daminion

Introduction

On 1 Nov 2017, Synology introduced a new package – Synology Drive – which is their take on the cloud/local sync concept offered by Google Drive and Microsoft One Drive (amongst others), using a Synology DiskStation for the “cloud” part of the solution.  At the same time, the Moments package was released – Synology’s latest generation photo management app.  The implications of that app are covered in a separate article.

This article explores the impact Synology Drive has on the Daminion / Synology integration.

Synology Drive Features & Impacts

Sync

Drive enables a user to set up multiple synced folders between the Synology DiskStation (DS) and their computer.  This can include a sync to the user’s private Drive folder (which is located in the Homes folder on the DS) but additional sync tasks can be set up, for example, to the \photo folder which Photo Station uses.  The folder to be synced has to be enabled in the Drive Admin Console.  Sync tasks may be one or two way.  Two way makes most sense with Daminion and Photo Station.  Changes made to the local version of a Drive file will be synchronized in the background.

You need sufficient disc space on your computer to accommodate the synced folders and files, which could be a problem for someone with a laptop that has limited SSD storage.  For those users, linking to a mapped network drive remains the only viable option.

Versioning

Drive has server-side file versioning.  You can set the number of versions of a file that you want to keep.  It’s an excellent function, but it’s completely independent of and conceptually different to the Daminion Version Control function, so you need to be clear about which version of versioning you are referring to!

Speed & Convenience

Any DAM requires fast access to the source files.  In theory, with all actions running from a local source, file access times should not be throttled by LAN performance.

“Does Synology Drive respond as fast as an unsynced local HDD and better than a mapped drive?”

To test this I took a batch of 1,000 files (JPEG and TIFF – some up to 200MB) and imported them into a new local Daminion Catalog.  I did this for an unsynced HDD, repeated it using Synology Drive synced to to the same HDD, and then repeated it again, for a mapped network drive.  The latter two tests were performed to a Synology DS916+ using a hardwired connection on a Gigabit LAN.  Then I tested the speed of a “Write Tags to file” action in the same environment.  The results were:

Image SourceTime to Load 1,000 filesRelative Speed
Load files into catalog
Unsynced local HDD00:08:22Reference point
Synology Drive00:09:04+8.4%
Mapped Network Drive00:09:15+10.5%
Write metadata to file
Unsynced local HDD00:09:36Reference point
Synology Drive00:09:51+0.7%
Mapped Network Drive00:12:02+23%

As expected, the unsynced local HDD was fastest.  Surprisingly, Synology Drive was significantly slower than the unsynced HDD when creating the catalog, although there was no appreciable difference when writing the tags to file.  The mapped network drive performed worst of course, being 10.5% slower to create the catalog, and 23% slower to write the tags.

Freedom from tethering

Using a WiFi connection to connect a Daminion Catalog to a mapped drive would not usually be recommended, because of fluctuating WiFi performance issues and potential harmful effects on files if the network drops while a file is being written – the simple act of closing a laptop lid could cause that.  The background sync of Synology Drive together with its auto resume solves that problem and makes WiFi connection viable, although a hardwired connection is preferable if large scale edits are performed.

Syncing to multiple computers

Another benefit of Drive is that it is possible to set up sync tasks on multiple computers to the same target location on the DiskStation.  This is useful for a one-person operation when switching between machines but whether this is scalable to a true multi-user environment is unknown (but then I expect multi-user sites will be using a Windows Server, so it’s a moot point.)

Impact On Daminion Home Server

There is little impact on Daminion Home Server.  You continue to have two options:

  1. Do the majority of your library maintenance work in standalone Daminion, in the knowledge that this will automatically update Photo Station.  If you make an edit in Photo Station,  you will need to perform a refresh folders (F6)  operation in Daminion to resync the Daminion Catalog.  For many home users this is an adequate solution.
  2. Install Daminion Home Server so that Daminion can monitor the server folders for changes and update the Daminion Catalog.  If you are making frequent changes to the \photo folders and files at server level, this is the option to choose.  The Daminion Home Server is, of course, monitoring the server-side copies of the local files which, at the moment the Daminion folder watch service runs, may not have been synced by Drive.  However, this should resolve itself given time for the processes to complete.

Impact on Synology Photo Station and Daminion Integration

Drive is an alternative way of moving content onto the server.  Therefore any of the integration steps that deal with that topic are affected by this new product.  The access point becomes a local synced drive instead of a mapped network share, which simplifies things for the user.  But in all other respects the integration is unaffected.

It’s a matter of personal choice whether to adopt Drive.  If you adopt it for non photographic purposes you will likely do so for photos too because you will find it so much more useful than mapped drives.

 

Paul Barrett