in Uncategorized

Journal – mainly about photo handling under Linux

I was somehow sick yesterday - woke up feeling very low energy.  In mid-morning I had loose bowel movements, throughout the day felt zift.  And it was also quite a busy day, with the annual test for the car, a visit from the guy that replaces our water filter, two trips to Modiin to take Yotam to work and back.  Then in the afternoon we bought him a new computer monitor.

Most of last weekend was spent moving files around and doing backups, in order to free a disk up for our new Nmix multimedia player. Then setting up the player itself.  I will talk about that some other time.  But the awkward thing is that somewhere during that process my laptop Windows partition, and even the HP restore partition got affected, such that I can't use Windows, and have to use Ubuntu.  Previously I was flipping back between these every few weeks; probably eventually spending more time with Windows.

The data on the partition all seems to be there, and I was able to access and transfer it using Yotam's Ultimate Boot Disk.  Just won't let Windows start. 

So I'm stuck with Ubuntu, unless I get it fixed.  Truth is, I'm a bit worn out by the problems of both operating systems, and have found myself lusting for a Mac.  But, as my son Yonatan says, if I had a Mac I would probably find things to complain about that too.

Since I'm a bit of a fatalist, I took up using only Ubuntu as a challenge.  The most difficult thing for me under Linux is finding a way of working with photos.  Although photography is by no means the larger part of what I do, it is an area that has to be in order.  And the big obstacle to overcome is finding a Linuxcentric photo organizer and workflow.

I have done a major revisit to this subject in the last few days, trying the most commonly known applications and some less known options:  Picasa, Digikam, Gwenview, G-thumb, F-spot, Lightzone, Bibble Pro, as well as reading up on Geeqi and a couple of others.

What I need really, is actually what Picasa does rather well, except that Picasa under Linux chokes on my photo collection (it's about 35,000 photos so far). I need something that imports photos from a camera, lets me organize them and handles light editing - preferably non-destructive.  I have a folder-based system, but also use tags (keywords).  I want to use both, and to be able to search for photos using both. I also want to have a quick way of uploading the photos to the web (I have been using Picasaweb.

All that turns out to be a tall order.  Picasaweb has the most elegant user interface I have seen for handling photos.  In a single screen, without any customization, it does everything I need to do.  It is super-fast, for browsing, searching, editing and sharing, and permits a brilliant workflow.   I think it's a work of genius.  There are still a couple of things I don't like about it, but all in all I'm happy.  But, as mentioned, the Linux version (which is based on the Windows emulator Wine) is less robust.

Under Linux, the best equivalent seems to be Digikam.  It has keywords, uses folders, can handle editing (not non-destructive as in Picasa), but, for some reason, on my machine it is almost unusable.  Slow and prone to freezing.  Again, the problem may be the large photo collection.

G-thumb does a reasonable job.  It's fast and easy to use.  It uses a folder-based system.  It allows simple (not non-destructive) editing.  Instead of keywords, it relies on searchable comments.  Trouble is, the comments are recognized only in G-thumb, and it does not recognize IPTC keywords at all.  That means that any time spent in tagging (which is an exhaustive process) would be good only for G-thumb, or perhaps Gnome's file manager. 

F-spot is just the opposite.  It relies only on tags, and does not allow a folder view.  It does tagging very well, and these are searchable.  The tags are generic IPTC standard, and are recognized outside of F-spot.  The problem is, that after you have invested so much time organizing a photo collection in folders, it just isn't possible to go back and start tagging every single photo.

F-spot seems to be closest to I-photo under Mac.  I checked out I-photo in a display model in Office Depot today.  I don't think that would work for me either. 

Lightzone and Bibble are two non-free photo managers and editors that work under Linux.  At up to $200 they are expensive.  But I would consider them if they did everything I want.  Lightzone does editing very well, and is supposed to handle Raw photos (which I don't use).  Bibble seems to handle the photo-organization quite well and also allows editing.  Both programs are aware of and can handle tagging. Both do non-destructive editing, though they handle it in different ways.  Unfortunately neither have a search engine.  Lightzone has some problems navigating to my external hard drive.  Bibble has an interface based on dockable windows, which seems a bit messy to me.  A new version of Bibble has been promised for a long time.  I will wait and see what that offers.

Gwenview is nice mainly for viewing photos and is a bit limited.  Geeqi, based on an old "competitor" to GThumb, is in a very alpha-stage and is mentioned as being unstable and not recommended for serious use.  There are systems that use PHP and Appache, but these don't seem a good option for work on a desktop computer.

So there I am - nothing really does everything that I need to do.  I will probably adopt a workflow that involves Picasa, GThumb and F-Spot.  Perhaps I will import photos in Picasa, use Picasa as an intermediate station, since it works quite well with a smaller number of photos.  In Picasa I can tag them, then archive them for later viewing in GThumb and F-Spot.  Sometimes, in order to work with photos in the archive, I can do the opposite - moving them to a folder that is watched by Picasa, doing quick editing, then sharing them from there by email or web.  There are a couple of things I'm still not sure about in this process, such as Picasa's handling of keywords, and how best to use Picasa as a way-station.

Perhaps, in a few months time, some of my difficulties will be solved by updates to some of the programs I have mentioned.

Blogged with the Flock Browser