It’s been almost three years since the previous post on using a Chromebook with Fujifilm cameras. How are things today, in 2020, after several newly-released cameras, OS editions, and improved Chromebooks? What about… iPad? Have other camera brands started to catch up?
In this other posts I’ll be looking at the current options and will describe how I’m integrating ChromeOS into my photography (and general) workflows.
This small series was triggered by the recent addition of the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook to my working kit. Like Samsung’s other premiere Chromebooks, it arrives with a touchscreen, pressure-sensitive integrated pen, micro-SD reader (now supporting the high-speed UHS protocol), and support for Android apps. On the Galaxy, you get a solid aluminum frame that’s lighter than the Macbook Air, a 4K OLED display, and at last Samsung has shipped a top-tier Intel-powered (i5-10210U) Chromebook with offical support for Linux.
Basically: the machine I’ve been waiting for since 2017. Did I mention it’s orange?
In this 2020 post, we’ll look at moving photos from camera or SD cards to Chromebook, or to somewhere nearby.
Wireless, standalone devices can provide camera archive storage without a laptop. They range from the luxury Gnarbox SSD to inexpensive spinning disks like my Western Digital Wireless Pro, which trades speed and weight for price (the Gnarbox also provides “folder presets” to allow custom structured-on-import storage like the system I described here).
The WD isn’t terribly expensive: around $150 for my 2TB spinning disk. An SSD version is available for $800 – lighter, (maybe) more rugged, and faster – at a cost. The smaller 1TB Gnarbox 2 is currently about $900.
The WD Pro has a simple backup mechanism: turn it on, put in the SD card, and press the backup button. It sorts imported files into simple folders ordered by time-of-import.
You can also connect most Fuji and other cameras directly to the drive via USB without removing the card from the camera, and copy media in the same way: push the button, wait for the LEDs to indicate you’re done. Speed varies a bit depending on the specific camera.
Accessing Your Pictures
After backing up, the hard drive can be connected to the Chromeboook either wirelessly or via wired connection. In theory, you could use apps like kbImport or Files to copy from an SD card connected to your computer to a WD drive also connected to the same computer, but there doesn’t seem to be much advantage to that approach unless you want structured folders.
Western Digital’s My Cloud Android app is one wireless mechanism for bringing files from the drive into ChromeOS. You can get the app for iOS as well. But there is a better way: mounting the drive as a network share. This method works very well for Mac or Windows, right in the finder window, and can also work on phones with a helper app (but for such a case, you may as well use My Cloud). Chromebook’s Files app has built-in “SMB” support to connect the WD, but I’ve had better results with the helper extension, File System for Windows.
You can connect any device directly to the WD’s own wifi server,
http://192.168.60.1 – but that can be fiddly. It’s simpler to connect to the WD this way just once, and use the controls found in the “admin” panel there to connect it back to your main network. You can then reconnect your computer back to the main network and access the WD either by name (“MyPassport”) or local IP address (for my network,
192.168.1.32 is today’s dynamic address. You can also set a static address: here’s the manual).
The WD has a range of connection features that go well beyond the scope of this article: you can use it as a Plex media server for your TV or stereo. It can charge your phone. You can log-in via
ssh and tweak it as a tiny linux machine. Suffice to say that it’s a powerful, complex device – that complexity (not helped much by the obscure tech-jargon in the manual) might be enough to encourge you to drop the extra $750 for a half-sized Gnarbox. Or not, if the WD handles what you need?
Sometimes, you just have to do it yourself.
There are easy ways for a creator to manage digital media, but they tend to be a bit inflexible, or they don’t scale well, or you just never can figure out where your photos are actually stored, which can make backups confusing (or expensive, if you’re paying a monthly fee for cloud storage).
A couple of years back I decided to unify a single storage method for photos, video footage, and audio field recordings. My method needed to apply to all three media types, could handle external drivees, and needed to be able to run on most any kind of device: Mac (at the time, my homme machine), Windows (at the time, my office machine), or Linux (added for travel, using a tiny Asus Eee PC and a La Cie rugged drive).
The result was a python script called kbImport3 – it’s worked for me for over a decade now, with a few minor tweaks like adding DNG support, AVCHD video support, and a minor tweak for running on Chromebook.
March 12: I’ve been riding from my home office to… my home office, after completing my tasks each day. Both for enjoyment of the outdoor activity but also to give each workday some closure.
Trying not to see the usual things, and expecting such rides to be forbidden soon anyway. They are the things.