28 July 2021

Piwigo and Impress

I use the FOSS program Piwigo to manage the photo albums for our village. Piwigo has many features that we don't use, such as compiling a list of personal favorites, and then showing these as a slideshow.

Yesterday I also discovered a wonderful plugin for LibreOffice Impress that converts a folder of photos into an instant slideshow presentation.
I was able to use this with Piwigo, to download the necessary photos into a folder and quickly make a slideshow for an event we were having.

Photo magic with GIMP

I discovered a great tutorial on YouTube “Make your photos look better”
(the link has been passed through Invidious). It quickly turns a dull photo into something amazing. But for someone like me, who doesn't understand the mechanics of how this can be done, the method seems even more magical than if this were a one-click operation in photo software. I have summarised the steps, so I don't need to watch the video each time.

  1. load a photo into GIMP
  2. duplicate layer, twice.
  3. on top copy, colors menu, desaturate, based on luminance
  4. on colors menu, desaturate
  5. on filters menu, blur, gaussian blur, 5 to 40 radius, depending on size of photo.
  6. reduce the opacity of this top layer to about 35% (opacity is in a scale above the layers dialog box)
  7. then right click on the layer and choose the option merge down.
  8. Then select the option for the layer and choose “grain merge” (modes are at the top of the dialog box)
  9. “now you can see how the colors are more vibrant” (make layer disappear with the eye next to the layer)
  10. We can also use other modes, for example, “soft light”
  11. We can also control it with the opacity. If you think it is too much, you can decrease it.


The best articles are appearing now, a few days into the reporting. Edward Snowden, Cory Doctorow, Arundhati Roi, George Monbiot all have written, each with from their own unique perspective. People are tired of reading this stuff, but it has never been more important. George Monbiot's article is one of the shortest and his points are the most salient, so I will quote extensively from that:

Pegasus spyware is just the latest tool autocrats are using to stay in power - The Guardian

Democracy depends on an equality of arms. If governments acquire political weapons unavailable to their opponents, they become harder to dislodge. They now possess so many that I begin to wonder how an efficient autocracy, once established, might ever again be overthrown.

Since the Berlin Wall came down, autocrats have refined a new strategy for perpetual governance: to maintain the process and appearance of democracy – including elections and parliaments – while ensuring it doesn’t work. Power is sucked out of democratic structures and relocated to a place where it can scarcely be challenged: an inner circle defended from opposition by a forcefield of money and patronage, a compliant judiciary and a grovelling media. Narendra Modi, Viktor Orbán, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Jarosław Kaczyński, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko all know how it works.

Protest, as we have seen from Belarus to Hong Kong, often becomes ineffective. Huge numbers take to the streets, pull the lever of democratic moral authority that has toppled so many regimes in the past, and nothing happens. The autocrats sit and wait for the protest’s energy to fizzle out, crack heads and imprison leaders, knowing they no longer need fear the people. They now have the means either to win elections through rigging, suppression or beguilement, or to ignore the result if they lose. The arc of history no longer bends towards justice.

The new surveillance tools complement a formidable array of modern weapons. Dark ads on social media; thinktanks using dark money to turn outrageous ideas that favour the ruling class into apparent common sense; voter suppression; the stuffing of the courts; the long march through the institutions, shutting down opposition in the civic sphere; cleverly prosecuted culture wars: these are the ever more sophisticated tools of autocratic power in nominal democracies.

He particularly dwells on the case of the UK (which probably didn't need Pegasus, because it has its own sophisticated tools). But Monbiot speaks of how legislation is being used to suppress criticism and protest there.

Arundhati Roy is equally eloquent, and is equally relevant - she brings various examples from India.

This is no ordinary spying. Our most intimate selves are now exposed - The Guardian

At the end of her article, the advice she offers is traditional:

So, where does that leave us? Back in the world of good, old-fashioned politics, I’d say. Only political action can halt or mitigate this threat. Because that technology, when it is used, if not legally then illegally, will always exist within the complicated matrix that describes our times: nationalism, capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, racism, casteism, sexism. This will remain our battlefield – regardless of how technology develops.

We will have to migrate back to a world in which we are not controlled and dominated by our intimate enemy – our mobile phones. We have to try to rebuild our lives, struggles and social movements outside the asphyxiating realm of digital surveillance. We must dislodge the regimes that are deploying it against us. We must do everything we can to prise open their grip on the levers of power, everything we can to mend all that they have broken, and take back all they have stolen.

The question is how effective that can be, once the autocrats have so successfully played our supposedly democratic systems, to establish their authoritarian rule. As Monbiot says, the main reason Donald Trump failed was his incompetence - leaders like Modi and Orban are much more successful. And, in the US, the Republicans are working in the background even now to ensure they will win the next elections through suppression of votes. Countries like China and Russia are already beyond hope. India is almost there. The UK is on the way.

I love this photo in the Guardian of the Indian home minister


Cory Doctorow is as usual best at giving a complete historical overview, because he has been following this stuff for so long. He also, unlike some of the journals that have been reporting on Pegasus, links to key sources.

Pluralistic: 27 Jul 2021 – Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow

Forbidden Stories is one of the primary sources for the Pegasus Project:

Pegasus: The new global weapon for silencing journalists - Forbidden Stories

OCCRP - which I hadn't previously heard of - is one of the most comprehensive reporters on Pegasus
The Pegasus Project - OCCRP

Here's how much the software costs:

Pegasus Hack: How Much Did it Cost to Spy on Citizens? - The Citizen



Julian Assange stripped of citizenship by Ecuador - The Guardian

Former intelligence analyst sentenced to prison for drone program leak - The Guardian](https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/27/former-intelligence-analyst-sentenced-prison-drone-program-leak)

“He committed the offense to bring attention to what he believed to be immoral government conduct committed under the cloak of secrecy and contrary to public statements of then-President Obama regarding the alleged precision of the United States military’s drone program,” they wrote.

Israel's famous whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu continues to post a tweet each month, with a photo of himself overlooking the beach near Jaffa. The message is always about the same:

No news yet,nothing changed continue to wait for freedom from israel,this is me waiting in Jaffa after 35 years 1986-2021,I will continue to wait,Freedom is the way,soon or later they must let me go,see you in Freedom,Borne to be free!

Vanunu Mordechai - @vanunumordechai - Twitter