1 January, 2021

Graphics Tools

I have to work with photos quite a lot. But the only graphics programs I have consistently used consistently over the years have been (the non-opensource, crossplatform program) XnView and GIMP. I usually go to GIMP only when there is something a bit more complicated to do. In XnView, my main uses are auto-correcting white balance (or doing this manually, if the automatic function does not work very well for a photo), cropping, and batch-resizing. My favourite shape for photos is 3:2, like the old 15x10 cm. printed photos. 4:3 is not a pleasant shape to look at (for me), and, if I use this size for a featured image under the title of a WordPress post, the text below it is too far down the page. 16:9 is too wide for many needs, especially if the photographer did not intend this shape when taking the picture. Standardizing on 3:2 is easier.

When I receive a bunch of photos from people for a post, these are often of mixed sizes, shapes and orientation. I don't batch crop, but I usually want to batch resize at least some of these photos, so that they will be of the right size, or the right weight, for the web. Obviously, when making the photos a uniform size, I do not want to enlarge the ones that are small.

XnView handles these needs quite nicely because :
a. It can choose to resize only those photos that are too large.
b. It can choose that the new dimensions will be according to just the longest side.

I have installed Gthumb again, which is much improved from its early versions. It has perhaps a more agreeable interface than XnView, has some nice editing functions; including many that are absent from XnView. But its batch resize functions are primitive compared to XnView (see screenshots). I say this with a little bit of uncertainty, because under GThumb's "Personalize" function, it may be possible to create scripts that can do more - but this is beyond me. I am sure there are ways to obtain the same flexibility by using Imagemagic, and there is a batch plugin for GIMP. But I know that with me, GUI simplicity works better than memorizing complex commands.

XnView's batch editor:


GThumb's batch editor:


There is one annoyance in XnView. Sometimes, especially after altering a photo, it gets the orientation wrong. Eventually, I discovered that this has to be corrected in Tools | JPEG Lossless Transformations rather than by the more intuitive method of rotating the photo in the editing view.
Anyway, I think I may incorporate GThumb into my workflow.

Meanwhile, I still did not understand why, in my Hubzilla instance, my PNGs come out looking better than JPGs. And I wonder when Hubzilla will begin to handle WebPs ?

Links blog

✭ Popular Tools for easily Cropping and Resizing images in Ubuntu
 working with images, even as an amateur, we frequently encounter the seemingly simple task of resizing and cropping our image files. Let us first see how cropping and resizing are different from each other.
#linux #graphics-tools

✭ Calls for release of man arrested photographing transfer of Rohingyas | Human rights | The Guardian
“Photography is not a crime. Abul Kalam was taking photos of buses on their way to Bhasan Char … it is by no means a secret and has been extensively covered in the media,” said a letter calling for his release.

✭ Dozens of residents die at Belgian care home after Santa visit | Belgium | The Guardian

✭ Joe Biden should end the US pretence over Israel's 'secret' nuclear weapons | Desmond Tutu | Opinion | The Guardian
"The cover-up has to stop – and with it, the huge sums in aid for a country with oppressive policies towards Palestinians..."
"Every recent US administration has performed a perverse ritual as it has come into office. All have agreed to undermine US law by signing secret letters stipulating they will not acknowledge something everyone knows: that Israel has a nuclear weapons arsenal."

✭ How Four U.S. Presidents, including Obama and Trump, Helped Protect Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal | The New Yorker
"The Israelis first started to feel as though the unwritten Meir-Nixon arrangement was no longer sufficient during the Presidency of George H. W. Bush, when, after the first Gulf War, in 1991, world powers talked about the possibility of creating a zone in the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear arms."

✭ The Guardian view of Brexit: a tragic national error | Editorial | Opinion | The Guardian
"This is a day of sadness. Britain’s departure remains a tragic national error. We have expelled ourselves from a union that was good for this country and the world....

In 2016, many of the most fanatical Brexiters hoped the UK’s departure would trigger the EU’s breakup. Yet two of the most striking consequences of the vote were the unity of the EU27 in the face of Brexit compared with the growing disunity of the UK4 over the issue. The breakup of Britain rather than the EU is now the more likely prospect."

8 September 2020

Aznavour, le Regard de Charles

"Aznavour, le Regard de Charles"

Watched "Aznavour, le regard de Charles", which D. had ordered in the framework of the DocAviv, Tel Aviv's springtime documentary film festival, delayed till now due to the pandemic, and still presented just online. I told her it might not hold my attention, but in the end she was the one to fall asleep in the middle.

Aznavour, it turns out, was quite an avid cameraman, constantly filming his travels and the women he loved. Eventually, he amassed a trove of Super-8 video films, which he rarely looked at, but kept stashed "in a secret room of his house." He tells the film maker that, unlike his songs, he has never revealed these to anyone, but perhaps she "will know what to do with them." To the archival film material of the resulting hour-long film, is added a voice-over narration taken from his writings and journals, and, of course, many of his songs.

The product is a very poetic odyssey, full of a particular kind of nostalgia. I don't know much about the man, but the film expresses his humanistic vision; a song critical of the war in Algeria "that was instantly banned"; a trip to Hong Kong, where he expected to revel in an Asian Manhattan, but ended up seeking and filming the poor people in the city's overpopulated back streets and waterways. Wherever in the world he travels, he seems to find intimations of himself. Perhaps he's the ultimate egotist. In the end he says that it is as if we are the ones looking over his shoulder through the camera, and perhaps it is so.

In 2017, just a few months before his death, he visited our village. Prof. Yair Auron had invited him to his Garden of Rescuers and wished to honour him for his family's assistance in rescuing Jews from the Gestapo in wartime Paris. I think he wasn't in such a good mood, because he had just come from a meeting with Ruby Rivlin, and the President had promised no concessions on recognition by Israel of the Armenian Holocaust as a genocide. Aznavour, in the voice of the film's narrator, mentions his visit to the village, saying "I spent a moment in a "kibbutz" where Palestinians and Jews lived together, and that is what I would like to see everyday."


Resistance to WhatsApp

There's a lot of pressure being put on me to get on WhatsApp lately, because that's what everybody else is using. They will complain that it's so so difficult to send me pictures and videos. But I am not sure that I need to be responsible for their ignorance. I tell them that the use of WhatsApp is against my principles, and if they want to reach me, they should adapt, and not me. Of course, if I was being paid a full-time salary, I might have to agree, but, as things are, I'm pretty much working voluntarily much of the time, so I think they will need to accommodate to my particular way of working.

Pretty much everything about Facebook and its sub-companies stinks. Regarding Facebook, I do have an account, in order to post news for the Village. But my account has no friends, and nobody knows about it. I do not enjoy my interaction with Facebook at all. The user interface is horrible. Using Hubzilla is several times easier, and I don't think it is thanks to a staff of thousands of high salaried Hubzilla developers. I enjoy creating posts on Hubzilla. Creating a post on Facebook is a hit or miss affair. Will it accept my photos? Will it use my links properly?

It reminds me of my experience when I had to use Microsoft programs. Even when they worked well, I never really felt in control. Sometimes what I wanted to do required extra $$$ for features that weren't available on a regular plan. I think that's still true of much of the software available under Windows or Macs. Sometimes formats or entire applications were obsoleted. The last time I had to access some files in early versions of MS Word or Works document formats, the only way I found was to use LibreOffice because Microsoft had stopped supporting them.

Graphics work

Another busy day for me, translating and editing posts following those two arson attacks on the village. Then a bit of graphics work as we are organizing a "human chain" solidarity event for Friday. I found on Pixabay a couple of possibilities for representation of a human chain, but my first few attempts to use these in GIMP were failures.

This one was no good because it looks like the coronavirus


This one was no good because I didn't notice it had a woman soldier in it. We don't need a soldier there.


Samah didn't like the black:


Getting closer - no coronavirus:


After a couple more attempts, ended up with this, with the painting by Sliman Mansour more prominent.


I have no memory at all for the effects I want to achieve in the GIMP, and it's only thanks to the excellent How-Tos plastered all over the web that I manage to do anything. But I do try to keep a record in my CherryTree notes of procedures that work.

Cross-platform foss apps (again)

Now I'm on MS Windows (see earlier post), because that's what I acquired with the Thinkpad given or loaned to me by my son. But we seem to be reaching a stage where the actual operating system is not of prime importance.* I mean I had to fiddle quite a bit in order to set up the machine as I wanted it, minimizing the connections with Microsoft and setting up the same software I always use on Linux. I'm beginning to think it's a useful constraint to go for software that's available everywhere, on all Linux desktops as well as MS Windows and Mac. Not everything works as well as the non-FOSS options. For example, Foxit Reader (which isn't FOSS) is much more feature-rich than Evince, which I also have set up. But for everyday tasks, Evince is enough.

For those willing to work with the terminal, the limitations become much more insignificant, but it's a struggle to identify the right scripts. For example today I was looking at Imagemagick, and I didn't find yet an easy explanation of how to do stuff. There's a routine operation I always do when importing photos from my phone or elsewhere, in order that I can put them online. This involves reducing the size of the photos according to their longest side (but only those that actually need to be shrunk), and then saving them with a new name. This is very easy in Xnview (which isn't FOSS), but it seems like a struggle to obtain through Imagemagick.

I'm still trying to obtain a FOSS alternative to XNView, and yesterday looked at Digikam. Naturally it can do a lot more for digital assets management than XNView, however its batch routine is still primitive compared with the latter. There are no options for shrinking only large photos (rather than blowing up the smaller ones), and no option for shrinking them by their longest side (in order that it will work the same for portrait and landscape shapes). That's when I started to look at Imagemagick, because why be upset with GUI options, when in the CLI you can do everything, right? But it isn't quite so simple in the case of Imagemagick. And I know myself. Things that take a long time to learn are just as easily forgotten - especially the ones that I don't need to do several times a day, so that they become a routine.

For text editing, I've finally ended up with Bluefish.  It can do everything I need, and it was possible to simplify the interface how I liked it, and use tabs.  One need that many people don't have is simple and painless LTR / RTL shifting, as soon as one changes the input language.  Bluefish handles this painlessly - when I shift to Hebrew or Arabic, it begins the line from the opposite side.  Some programs, for example Geanie, can't handle RTL languages at all, and others don't do it very well.

I would like to get into the habit of using a single editor (Bluefish) wherever I need an editor. For example this WordPress post, and maybe also for writing emails. Using a single editor means that everything is taken care of in one familiar interface, and there are no surprises like losing all of my work if the computer suddenly turns off. Bluefish saves every minute by default.

* The upcoming versions the Windows Linux Subsystem offer an even more real Linux experience than what currently exists, and it has better interaction with filing systems.