Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011 – Status Report 2

Just over a week ago, I gave a status report on the issues that I was having with Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011. In summary, there are three major issues that I’m concerned with at the moment:

  1. Unwanted, and often inaccurate, GPS coordinates being inserted by WLPG 2011 into the Exif of images that have IPTC location metadata present, but no GPS coordinates currently set.
  2. Corruption of Makernotes in the Exif section of JPEG image files by WLPG.
  3. Unwanted compression of the file, even if only metadata is being changed by WLPG 2011.

Microsoft acknowledged issue (1), and have now produced a fix. If you go to the Download page of the Windows Live Essentials software, and re-download, you’ll get the updated version. The build number of the WLPG 2011 that was released on the 30th September was 15.4.3502.922. The updated version is now 15.4.3508.1109.

In summary, Microsoft have told me the changes are:

  • GPS coordinates on a file are read-only inside of WLPG.  WLPG will never add, change or delete the GPS coordinates.
  • If a file contains GPS coordinates when it’s brought in to WLPG, reverse geocoding will be triggered and location strings are displayed in the info pane, users can rename or remove the strings but GPS coordinates won’t be touched. Users may Rename a location but it will then leave a mismatch between the coordinates and the string since the coordinates are read-only.
  • If a file does not contain GPS coordinates, users will be able to geotag by adding a string (that gets validated against Bing as it does today) but no GPS coordinates are added to the file.  The user can remove the string or rename it.
  • If the file contains a geo name only, there will be no GPS coordinates calculated for it.

I’ve done a few quick tests, and I think I can point to a couple of additional behaviours:

  • If a file contains IPTC Location metadata when it’s brought into WLPG, then WLPG will behave in a similar fashion to the second point above. That is, WLPG will use the IPTC Location data to set the location strings in the geotag field of the info pane. If the geotag is deleted or changed in WLPG, then there will be a mismatch between the IPTC Location metadata and the geotag because the IPTC Location metadata will be left untouched.
  • Changing a geotag in WLPG, while it leaves the IPTC Location metadata untouched, will also cause WLPG to write out the contents of the geotag as IPTC Extension LocationCreated metadata. In other words, the file will now contain different location metadata in two places: the original location recorded in the IPTC Location metadata elements, and the new location now recorded in the IPTC Extension LocationCreated metadata elements.

So as far as I can see, I can use this latest version of WLPG 2011 safely, provided that I do all my geotagging and geocoding work outside of WLPG 2011. That way, WLPG 2011 is only ever reading GPS and IPTC Location information, and it will never write out GPS or geocodes into my files.

Microsoft acknowledge that there’s room for improvement here in future versions of WLPG and will be revisiting this feature. For example, I think that if they were to provide a mapping interface within WLPG itself, then users could check or modify the GPS coordinates and use WLPG to write them out into the files.

So long as WLPG 2011 never writes out any metadata to my files, then I won’t get hit by issue 2 (Makernotes corruption) or issue 3 (file compression).

What’s the current status of those issues?

Well, Microsoft also acknowledge issue (2), but currently treat this as a lower priority. I see that today the issue has been escalated, so perhaps they’ve begun to work on it. Until it’s resolved, I personally don’t want to use WLPG 2011 to do any tagging (e.g. people or descriptive tags), because then metadata gets written out to the files, and that will trigger the Makernotes corruption.

As I noted in my last status report, issue (3) is interesting, because not everybody is being affected by this. As I reported last time, it does seem to be caused by some kind of interaction between WLPG 2011, the Windows Imaging Component library in Windows itself and third-party Codecs that some of us need to install to handle non-JEPG image formats.

I’ve been doing some more investigation, and I think I have a workaround for my particular case.

I’m using the FastPictureViewer Codec Pack, because the codecs handle a wide range of image formats, which Windows and WLPG cannot do by themselves. One of the codecs is designed to handle auto-rotate of JPEG images. It looks as though that if this is installed into the WLPG/WIC/Codec pipeline, then I get the unwanted file compression. So my workaround is to de-install this particular codec in the FastPictureViewer Codec Pack. Hopefully, this issue will get resolved in a more robust fashion in the future.

So, of the three major issues that I started with, the first has been satisfactorily resolved (with room for future improvement), the second is being worked on, and the third has been identified and perhaps Microsoft and the third-party Codec developers will come to some sort of resolution in the future.

This all means that while I won’t be using WLPG 2011 to do any tagging work, It can safely be used as an easy-to-use photo browser by family members. And it can also be used by family members to edit photos, since the original files get preserved. It’s a major step forwards from the geotag disaster that hit me back in August. My thanks to the WLPG team for their work in addressing the issue.

Addendum, 12 July 2011: Last week, a new version of WLPG 2011 was released; build number 15.4.3538.0513. However, even though Microsoft acknowledged the MakerNotes corruption bug back in December 2010, this new build of WLPG still has the bug. Sigh.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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49 Responses to Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011 – Status Report 2

  1. Pingback: Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011 – A Status Report | Geoff Coupe's Blog

  2. Pingback: More Problems With Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011 | Geoff Coupe's Blog

  3. Pingback: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back… | Geoff Coupe's Blog

  4. Pingback: Geotagging in Windows Live Photo Gallery–Part 2 | Geoff Coupe's Blog

  5. technogran1 says:

    Glad to see that your issues have and are being addressed to your satisfaction Geoff. See! Microsoft do listen to their users!

  6. Ludwig Keck says:

    The response from Microsoft is good news. Geoff, I will post a comment with a link to this post on my reviews or the geotagging issues so others can learn of the progress. Thank you for your diligent work on this. And thanks to Microsoft for listening and responding positively.

  7. JL says:

    Speaking of GeoSetter, I just found a little helper for some of my problems. GeoSetter reads AFCP-IPTC, (Phil defined it as such) which means I get to delete it en masse instead of using ExifToolGUI to pick through photos one at a time deleting errant keywords and copyrights one line at a time. Not that I minded entirely but am really glad for this different way of doing it.

  8. anonymous says:

    Now only if they fix the slideshow issue and let me choose the old rich transitions and high quality slideshows, I won’t uninstall it. :)

  9. Pingback: 2010 in review | Geoff Coupe's Blog

  10. Dave says:

    I noticed when doing a backup that the backup program wanted to backup some files I hadn’t changed. Checking the files I found that some had been randomly geo-coded, while an uncompressed TIFF file had been compressed.

    I thought the culprit might have been Windows Live Photo Gallery, and thankfully your blog post comes up near the top of Google search results to confirm the problem. Thanks for posting the fix as well.

  11. Lo Yuk Fai says:

    Hi! Do you know if WLPG makes anything run in the background even when it’s not being used, and/or do anything to the photos on the drive…? Because I would like to install the Movie Maker, and WLPG is a pre-requisite which I have no intention to use…

    Cheers.

  12. Geoff, how on earth did you get a list of installed WIC codecs? And after that, how did you figure out which WIC codec windows was using to “manhandle” your JPG files?

    Great and thorough writeup, BTW. Thanks!

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      David, it was a small utility that Axel Rietschin made that will enumerate the codecs installed on a computer. He gave the link in one of the Microsoft forums – but I can’t find it now (and Microsoft have done some major overhauls on their forums, so some of them no longer exist). I suggest you drop him an email – he’s the guy behind the FastPictureViewer http://www.fastpictureviewer.com

      • mrlitsta says:

        Thanks a lot! After reading your posts, I went looking for a way to figure out which WIC codecs were installed on my system, but Google seems to think that anything with the word “codec” in it MUST be related to video. I’ll try and get in touch with Axel.

        It turns out that even though I have “bad” version of WLPG installed AND the old beta version of the FastPictureViewer codec, my JPEGs aren’t getting compressed when I add/edit tags and such. Weird.

        I should shell out and get the latest version, since we all could be waiting for another 10 years for the Camera manufacturers and Adobe to get it together and release x64 codecs.

  13. Ed says:

    I have a limited understanding of file structure, so it is possible my questions are addressed here already. We store picture files on a network server (ReadyNAS) (50,000+) as jpeg and NEF files. The files are accessed by multiple computers. We are using WLPG (build 15.4.3508.1109) for face recognition. We need the face recognition information to stay with the photo, so that any of the computers can find photos based on face names, both for jpeg and NEF files. Today we attempted this for the first time, confirming faces to names on one computer (in jpeg and NEF files). After closing out of that computer and opening MLPG on a second computer, the names for the faces were not present. The modified dates of the picture files to which the face recongnition names were added have not changed, and there are no separate .xmp files in the folders of the NEF files. The face recognition names are still available through the computer that named them.

    Is what we’re seeking to do possible?

    Thanks.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Ed, I don’t think it is possible for the NEF files. This is Nikon’s RAW format, and with RAW formats, WLPG will neither write out metadata into the image files themselves, nor create Sidecar (xmp) files. It will only hold the metadata (e.g. the Face recognition metadata) inside the database on the computer where the metadata was created. Thus, you won’t be able to share this metadata easily with a second or other computers running WLPG.

      Now, it should be able to share metadata for jpeg files (because WLPG should be writing the metadata into the jpeg files themselves). However, from what you say, it sounds as though this is not working either, which is a bit strange.

      Perhaps you need to give the WLPG on the second computer a bit of time to read the metadata on the jpegs? Alternatively, it might be that WLPG doesn’t share Face recognition metadata in the same way as other metadata – I thought that it did, but then again I don’t use the face recognition feature of WLPG at the moment (because of the Makernotes issue). Try tagging some jpegs, and see if the tags are shared across computers…

  14. Anonymous Jason says:

    Hello Geoff,

    A little late to the party on this, but do you know if issue 1 above (GPS coordinates) is also fixed in the edition of WLPG still offered for use to XP users? I’m fearful that many of the bug fixes will roll forward in the new releases, but bypass those of us still using XP (and therefore orphaned by Microsoft). I’ve been stuck using Picasa (as a viewer only) since all this surfaced, and have simply stopped tagging anything. Thank you so for your efforts on behalf of everyone.

    A.J.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Hi, A. J.

      To the best of my knowledge, the XP version did not do any form of geotagging at all, certainly not automatic geotagging. That whole issue (and bug) got introduced with the Wave 4 version of WLPG. I’m pretty confident that the XP version is Wave 3 – and you should be safe with that.

  15. Anonymous Jason says:

    And Geoff, I know you are not Microsoft help, so I apologize if the question above is too much…but honestly, Microsoft has so re-structured the help forums for Windows Live components to make them quite difficult to search and use. Just thought you might know something offhand.

  16. Jesper B. Nielsen says:

    Hi Geoff.

    Do you still use IDimager to edit your IPTC-information? Can you recommend it for TIFF-files? Or do you or other here have other suggestions (maybe free)?

    Thanks,
    Jesper

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Hi Jesper,

      Yes, I still use IDimager as my primary digital workflow tool, and as my primary tool for IPTC metadata work. I’m afraid I don’t use TIFF files, only JPEG and CR2 formats, so I can’t say how good it will be. IDimager will certainly handle TIFF files, and it’s one of the formats where metadata can be inserted into the file itself, so that’s what IDimager will do.

      If you want free (or at least one where a donation is welcomed and well-deserved), then try GeoSetter. That uses ExifTool under the covers, so it’s pretty good for metadata work.

  17. kristi says:

    Hi Geoff, i’ve read through all your posts about WLPG and you seem to know more than most. I’m at a complete loss finding information through the MS Support site. Your issues seem more in depth than mine so i’m hoping you have a simple suggestion that could help me.
    I just got a new laptop (Windows 7) and restored all my backup data from my old laptop (Windows Vista). Now i’ve noticed that my photos are randomly messed up. In particular, volumes of photos have had the date taken info changed. Because of that, photos are not filed correctly, folder names are wrong….not to mention that the critical original date info is lost. I’ve also lost many of my tags and comments.

    I found a so called ‘fix’ on the MS Support site and ran it. Nothing has changed. Is there a fix for this that you know of? I’m feeling so dejected when I think of all the hours and days i’ve spent carefully filing, tagging and labelling my photos. I’m a garden designer and so not only do I have my personal photos, I have all my client gardens and personal stock images. ugh, its a nightmare. any suggestions you have would be most welcome. btw, i really enjoyed your wedding album :-)

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Hi kristi,

      I’ve just seen your message. I’ll get back to you tomorrow with hopefully some suggestions. It’s late here…

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Kristi,

      Can you help me understand exactly what you did when you say that you “restored all your backup data from your old laptop”? Did you at any point use the “Import photos and videos” feature of WLPG? And the “fix” that you found, was it this one:
      http://support.microsoft.com/kb/951173/en-us

      Let me know the answers to these questions, and I’ll try and give you some decent answers. Thanks.

      • kristi says:

        When i bought the new laptop I took it to a computer repair guy and he transferred all the data from my old hard drive to the new one. When I opened WLPG for the first time I do not recall having to import anything or add folders, my photos and folders were already visible.

        The fix that I ran can be seen here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/951173

        the file itself was called Microsoftfixit50020.msi

        I don’t really understand why but after poking around a bit to assess the extent of the ‘damage’, many of my files now have the date taken changed to June 8, 2008. why this date?? who knows! not all have been changed to that date but a good many of them. I just know they are wrong when files with this date are in a folder called Easter 2002.

        thanks Geoff. i appreciate your input. i’m at a loss

        • Geoff Coupe says:

          Hi Kristi,

          Thanks for the info. It has helped me understand what you did, but I’m afraid I don’t have any blinding insight to offer as to what caused the problem.

          To recap, and to make sure I’m understanding the situation correctly:

          1) Your old laptop ran Vista. You had your photos, arranged in folders, stored on that.
          2) When you got your new laptop (running Windows 7), a computer repair guy transferred all the data from your old laptop to your new one.

          Am I right in understanding that he preserved exactly the same structure of folder and their contents in this transfer? – In other words, when you use the Windows Explorer (not WLPG) to browse the folders on your new laptop, you see the same folder names, and the same photo content as on your old laptop? BTW, do you still have your old laptop, with the original data? That would be very useful, because then you could make direct comparisons.

          I suspect that when you use the Windows Explorer, the folders and their contents will look the same as on your old laptop, but that when you use WLPG – because it displays photos according to metadata, the structure looks completely different.

          If you were using WLPG (or the Vista Photo Gallery) on your old laptop, and things now look completely different with WLPG on your new laptop, then it sounds as though somehow the metadata in the photos has been changed in the transfer between the two machines.

          Here’s where if you still have your old laptop comes in very handy. Use the Windows Explorer on both laptops and pick a few photos to compare. Right-click on a photo and choose “Properties” – then compare the properties in the “Details” tab. That tab shows you the metadata inside the photo, such as Date Taken. It will also show you the date of when the photo file was created, and when the file was last modified (e.g. when you added a tag or a comment into the metadata).

          If the sample files are different (e.g. the Date Taken field is different, or the Tags are different), then something has happened as a result of the files getting transferred. I have to say that this seems unlikely, but I think we need to establish whether or not this is the case.

          Let me know how it goes.

          Oh, one last thing – that fix you applied – it wouldn’t have had any effect in your situation, because it is for when you use the Import function of WLPG, and, as you say, you did not do that with the files from your old laptop.

  18. kristi says:

    I really appreciate all your time and effort to help me Geoff. Unfortunately, the old laptop is dead done…hence the need for the new one. So no comparisons are possible. Your recap is correct, the re-install of my files was a duplicate of what was on my old machine. I really don’t recall having to import the first time I opened WLPG but perhaps I did?? Maybe I did import the entire My Pictures folder. My memory fails me on this. That could be when everything went pear shaped.

    The date information and tags are most definitely messed up. And I dont foresee any easy way of getting things back to the way they were. I wish MS would just stop forcing us to upgrade. For a small percentage of people the upgrades and fancy new features may be of interest but I think for the majority of computer users, once you figure out how something works its preferable to just have it stay the same. I feel the same about Windows Live Mail. I tried it and promptly uninstalled it. what a nightmare! I’m now using and old copy of Outlook from Windows 2003 but unfortunately i lost so much of my stored message and contact organization in the transfer. It’s such an inconvenience.

    Thanks again for all your input. I am really grateful :-)

    • JL says:

      Kristi,

      It’s been awhile (last Fall) since I had WLPG on my computer. What I recall is that My Pictures was imported automatically. You wouldn’t have had to do anything to bring them in.

      The dates you’re seeing that have now gone wrong: Are these the dates that used to be ‘date taken’ or is it the modification dates? WLPG may have decided that ‘import’ was cause for changing the modification dates. The ‘dates taken’ should be as they were, of course.

  19. Pingback: Picasa versus Windows Live Photo Gallery | Geoff Coupe's Blog

  20. JL says:

    Geoff, I know I mentioned a few months ago (somewhere in this labyrinth of WLPG complaints) a problem I had discovered with time stamps on thousands of photos that had been exposed to WLPG ever so briefly and wondered if it was the cause.

    I am just now getting around to surveying the damage in more detail and I see similarity to the woman speaking above. It goes way beyond the times being off by 8 hours as you’d previously suggested. That would be relatively simple to fix.

    No. What I’m finding are months and years thrown every which way. These are all digital photos kept in folders by year; 2004, 2005, 2006, etc up to the present. The photos are numbered in a consistent way (year-jlb-####) as they come off my camera so I know they were at one time in dated sequence.

    What I have now, for instance, as I sort the columns by NAME in folder 2005 are photos with dated-taken:

    1/1/2005
    8/9/2010
    1/14/2005
    8/9/2010
    8/19/2010
    2/12/2005
    3/16/2005
    8/8/2007
    11/10/2010

    It carries on in a nauseating fashion like that through each year’s folder.

    Did I miss something in your ever-illuminating blog that would shed some light? Even the teeniest globe that is not another train coming would be so appreciated.

    • JL says:

      OK, got some light.

      According to GeoSetter which shows all kinds of time information, the date now showing as date-taken is the last modification date.

      For instance, a photo taken sometime between January 1st and January 14th, 2005 is showing a last-modified date of 8-9-2010 which is also showing as its ‘date created’ and ‘date/time original’. AND what is now showing in Windows as ‘date taken’.

      The only 2005 date in that whole list is ‘modify date’ (meaning first modify date) of 8-19-2005. This is probably the first time I added GPS co-ordinates and tags. Why it was modified again 8-9-2010 I don’t know. Might have been catching up on tagging.

      So, GeoSetter can’t fix this because the original dates are gone forever. HOWEVER. Remember the massive Carbonite restore? Well, I kept it and I still have all the folders from 2004-2010. Ha! I spit on you WLPG.

      • Geoff Coupe says:

        It seems as though, in your case, something, sometimes, takes the current “file modified” timestamp and is stuffing that back into the “date created” and “date original” fields. What that might be, I don’t know. I’ll have a look at some of my photos to check them out.

        I recently found a neat trick for searching in Windows Explorer on Windows 7. You can use dates and date ranges for searching in the Search field in combination with terms such as datemodified, datetaken, and so on.

        It wouldn’t surprise me that an earlier version of WLPG did this sort of thing – I know that I have a batch of scanned photos that did have the “date original” manually set, but which have now all been set to the date of scanning instead…

        And I recently realised, from reading some of the posts on the Picasa forum, that earlier versions of Picasa apparently did not touch the “date modified” field at all, even when it modified the file. That seems to be a fundamental error, contradicting the proper operation of the operating system itself…

  21. JL says:

    I started with the year 2004. Anything that still had that year in the date-taken appeared to be off by 8 hours so I batch repaired that. The other ones with some other year I manually adjusted with GeoSetter by comparing side by side on two monitors with the restored photos (pre-WLPG) that seem to be correct.

    The reason I’m blaming this mess on WLPG is that my 2011 photos are fine. And the only software I was using on my photos for GPS and IPTC in 2011 was either GeoSetter or Photo Mechanic.

    WLPG is long gone from my computer and so is Picasa although I still read with interest anything you have to say about them.

  22. Thomas says:

    I see that the current version of WLPG is 15.4.3555.308, as of March 21, 2012 according to Wikipedia. Do you have an update to your last addendum of July 2011 to see if this has fixed the bugs you identified in 15.4.3538.0513 ?

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Thomas, the Makernotes corruption is still there in the latest release. Frankly, I doubt whether Microsoft will ever fix it, it’s been there for so long. The file-size bug has been fixed – but this was fixed in the third-party codec, not by Microsoft.

  23. Kannan says:

    Hi Geoff, Just to understand – how bad is the Makernotes corruption. What kind of information does it corrupt when you add tags in WLPG. Wondering why Microsoft put this issue as a low priority?

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Hi Kannan – if you take a look at this post: http://gcoupe.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/more-problems-with-windows-live-photo-gallery-2011/ – you can see an example of Makernotes corruption done by WLPG. The original file contained 98 elements of camera-specific data from my Canon DSLR. Once WLPG got its paws on it, there were only 11 elements left; the rest had been corrupted by WLPG.

      Microsoft probably puts a low priority on fixing this because the vast majority of consumers would never realize that anything was wrong. Only if you’re a serious photographer and want to ensure that your original files contain uncorrupted metadata would this be an issue. The problem is that preserving Exif metadata can be a bit tricky. It can certainly be done – other tools can do it – but neither Microsoft nor Google have bothered to make the effort. WLPG corrupts the Exif Makernotes, whilst Picasa simply strips them out altogether. Neither is an acceptable solution for a serious photographer.

  24. Kannan says:

    Thanks Geoff. I compared some metadata outputs and noticed a change in a few tags. Am almost okay to compromise on that – but my main problem right now is WLPG writes metadata to database only in one machine while in another machine its nice and writes to the file. So for now its unusable as windows explorer shows different metadata than WLPG. Wish there was a setting to write to file always.

  25. Pingback: Windows Photo Gallery, Geotags and Other Issues | Geoff Coupe's Blog

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