F-Spot Considered Harmful

There is a good possibility that every photo you’ve imported to F-Spot has had its EXIF date tags altered without your permission and without F-Spot informing you that it has done so.

UPDATE: See the note from one of the F-Spot developers in the comments below.

I’d like to publicize an issue that the F-Spot developers have been slow to address:


There is a good possibility that every photo you’ve imported to F-Spot has had its EXIF date tags altered without your permission and without F-Spot informing you that it has done so.

From bug reports going back over two years it is clear that F-Spot has a serious date problem.

What is the assigned severity of these bugs? Normal.

What is the status of these bugs? UNCONFIRMED.

How’s this for confirmation:

Mangled EXIF data as viewed by Gthumb
Mangled EXIF data as viewed by Gthumb

The above is a screenshot of the EXIF date information (as viewed by Gthumb) of a photo I imported to F-Spot version for testing purposes. Prior to import, all three of the fields (DateTime, DateTimeOriginal, and DateTimeDigitized) had the same timestamp: 2009:10:26 13:37:11. This timestamp corresponds to when I took the picture: 13:37 on October 26th.

As can be seen, F-Spot has decided that the users are idiots and to update the fields with the values it thinks are best without telling anyone. It decided to set the DateTime field to the time when the photo was imported into F-Spot (as if that date is so important it needs to be saved for posterity). For DateTimeOriginal F-Spot decided that the appropriate time is the UTC time when the picture was taken (conveniently deciding that since my computer is currently in U.S Eastern Daylight Time, I must have been in the same timezone when I took the picture and that my camera was set to the correct time for my timezone at the time I took the picture). The EXIF date fields do not have timezone information in them so setting it to UTC is meaningless because there’s no way to tell from looking at the data that that is what you’ve set it to! The DateTimeDigitized field is the only one F-Spot left alone which gives us the strange paradox of the picture being digitized 4 hours before it was originally taken! <sarcasm>Yeah, that makes sense.</sarcasm>

This problem is so bad some users have resorted to writing perl scripts to try and fix things after the fact or launching the program in different ways to prevent the problem from happening. I am going to take the nuclear option and simply remove F-Spot from all of my computers.

An open letter to the F-Spot devs:

To whom it may concern,

Data corruption is ALWAYS a critical problem but you list bugs 340903 and 454082 as “UNCONFIRMED” with a severity and priority of “Normal”.

UNCONFIRMED? Normal? Who are you kidding? Data corruption is always critical and these bugs are years old and have been confirmed in your own bugzilla by dozens of users.

Regardless of whatever reason you had for introducing this stupid date-changing “feature”, you never change EXIF data unless the user expressly tells you to. That’s basic common courtesy.

You’ve known about this issue for over three years. You need to grow up, acquire a clue, and fix F-Spot’s terrible and destructive behavior. Yesterday.

Until then I will distrust F-Spot and anyone who says it is anywhere close to being a good, decent, or even “ok” photo manager. You and others keep telling me that F-Spot is awesome, that F-Spot is great, that it is the best Linux photo manager. I no longer believe you. From now on F-Spot is not getting anywhere near my photos. I’ve written about you before but I take all the good things I said then back. I was younger, more impressionable, and foolish. But those are just excuses. The fact is I was wrong. Yes, you appear to have some nice features, but your core has some rotten bits and I don’t eat rotten apples (even if only bits of them are rotten), I throw them away.


Daniel Bartholomew