Saturday, August 13, 2011

Just Say NO to Adobe. Error Encountered While Writing File(s)

I'm wrestling with backup of my photos on Adobe Elements Organizer, version 9.

I love a couple of aspects of the product. The ability to organize tags in hierarchies is a key one. Display of photos with or without captions is another.

Of course it suffers from a few bugs and a lot of bad opinion. Wikipedia's current Image Organizer entry doesn't even include the product! The discussion page for the entry includes this gem, "...but buggy per Adobe forums."

Most of the bugs are really just clunky user interface issues, typical of Adobe products. O sure, it crashes when you stop on a file with a type that it doesn't like but willingly added to its catalog but I can live with that.

Let's just watch the backup process run, though. First you have to understand what the organizer does. It contains a nice SQL database in which it stores "metadata" about the photos along with thumbnail images to quickly display. So when it does a backup, it stores a proprietary index file and ultimately, the familiar .JPG files of the images! At least that was the scheme in the old version.

I have a nice tidy 49,500 images stored away. I kept these on version 3 of the original Adobe Organizer for many years after watching the reviews of new versions and reading of the travails of users who tried to upgrade. I finally upgraded when forced into it by a new computer with Windows 7. Adobe Organizer no longer would run. (Proof, by the way, that Adobe doesn't follow standard coding practices!)

Let's watch the backup function run. Here we get to see Adobe show us "clunky" like no one else can.

I click on the "Backup" entry in the file menu. Nothing seems to happen! Seventy five seconds later, a box appears allowing me to select Full or Incremental backup. There has been no indication that anything was going on. If, however, during the seventy-five second dead time you were to click on a photo on the screen, a rotating circle icon appears and spins for the balance of the time. I guess it is Adobe's version of "Hourglass on Demand."

After selecting Full Backup, there is about a ten second delay followed by the appearance of a box which says Calculating Total Media Size. At least now we get a "progress bar" as it takes ninety seconds to arrive at an estimate. By the way, the estimate is not shared with us at this point. When I select a drive for the backup, I learn it will take 98 gigs.

I select a drive and specify a catalog location. I now get a small box that says Please Wait While Elements Organizer Prepares For Backup... There is no progress bar. Nothing. For eight minutes and fifteen seconds. FMTT! Who wrote this thing?

Finally, after the eight minutes delay, a box with a progress bar appears and we are underway!

After a half hour, the back up is more than half complete.

There's no stopping us now! Don't I wish.

Somewhere north of 60% complete, that box goes away and this one appears:

Well, that's certainly helpful. What am I agreeing to when I click OK? That I like your error message?

But what happened? A bad backup disk? Let's look at the backup folder and see what was written.

That's interesting, about 58,000 .xml files then a .pref file and then start the .jpg files.

Look ahead to the end and we see a few thousand more .jpg files and the .buc or "backup catalog" file.

Now the old version of the organizer never wrote those .xml files. Does that have something to do with the problem? What is the overall status of the backup directory?

Say that's an interesting number, 65,533 total files were written before it crapped out. Isn't that a power of 2? Not quite. 2 to the 16th power is 65,536. But it is suspiciously close. I wonder if there is some limit on the number of files you can have in a single directory? Let's Google a little. Ah, here is a good site, Ask Leo:

I think we have found the problem! My backup disk came formatted as FAT32 and I was too lazy to reformat it to NTFS.

But really, in all of that checking and calculating that Adobe Elements Organizer did, couldn't it have mentioned that this number of files wouldn't fit on a FAT32 drive? Or couldn't there have been a warning at the start of the backup about the limit to a backup on a FAT32 drive was around 30,000 images? Or maybe, just maybe, when the backup did crap out a message about what type of error was encountered might be appropriate?

I suppose that everyone knows this but me. I'll try asking my wife, my boss, my son and see if they know the limit. Hey tomorrow is Sunday, I'll ask my priest, he uses a computer. How many of these people know the limit to how many files can be written in a single directory on a FAT32 drive. How many people would guess that Adobe would write 100,000 files to backup 50,000 pictures even if they did know the FAT32 file limit?

By the way, Microsoft Live Photo Gallery is almost good enough to replace Adobe Organizer. But not quite. Maybe one more upgrade. Go Microsoft! Or should I just say "to hell with it and buy Apple?"

UPDATE, 8/16/11:
I bought a new Passport drive via and it came formatted as NTFS. YEA! The backup program immediately (well, that's a relative term) ran to completion. Problem solved. For fellow nerds, the file count was:

49,470 original pictures (but a few had version sets behind them)

The backup wrote:
57,926 xml files mostly running about 7k in size
1 pref file of size 1k
49,546 jpg files mostly in the 200k-4,000k range
1 tly file of size 21,854k
1 buc file of size 179,675k

Any ideas what the extra xml files are all about? Or why they exist in the first place? Why not include them in the buc file and cut down on the number of files? O, well.

This was the final message from Elements:

And here is the catalog details box.

49,471 photos, 107,475 files in a single catalog in the folder. Your Mileage May Vary!