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Is HDR Photography Linux's Killer App? [Aug. 6th, 2006|10:36 am]
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[Current Location |Home]
[mood |accomplished]
[music |The Fan (The machine, not the Band)]

Linux will transform the computer world once it develops a true 'killer app' that will make our lives easier. All Linux needs is a little bit more polish, and it will become a true transformative force for both professionals and consumers alike.

Cinepaint is a program that almost reaches this elusive goal. Cinepaint allows photographers to create HDR images, without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars. It isn't perfect, but it is a leap in the right direction. A polished implementation of HDR technology could cause many photographers to try out linux and make the switch! A free professional set of tools to compete with Photoshop would cause tremors throughout the industry!

If you have never seen an HDR picture before, check out Flickr's HDR Page for lots of awesome images. HDR photos have taken the web by storm, and have provided countless amazing painting-like photographs for use as computer desktop wallpaper. A fascinating article about HDR photography can be found in the New York Times.

After reading the article, I was annoyed that the reporter only mentioned Mac and Windows programs that cost at least $100. No mention of freeware or Linux software. I wasn't too surprised though, because my last search a year ago for a Windows or Linux solution to HDR a turned up almost nothing. I had given up hope because it seemed that the software only handled RAW images, and my mid-range Canon SD500 only produces jpegs. And the software required an investment of $600. No thanks.

A search on Google didn't reveal any decent information, but a search of my favorite social bookmarking website, del.icio.us , turned up a great link on the
Serendipitous altruism blog.

Surprisingly, the website had a link to completely free programs to do HDR with on linux!

If you haven't installed Ubuntu Linux yet, check out my previous posts, and install it!

Once you have linux installed, you can install cinepaint, which has a built in HDR image creator. Once installed, go to the Toolbox window, go to the "File" menu -> "New From" -> "Bracketing to HDR"..."File" -> "Open". Then click on HDR...and ta-da! Its very simple.

Unfortunately, saving a file is a bit of a problem...as with everything linux, things aren't always polished...saving to tiff didn't quite work. It is possible to save to other formats though. What did work was taking a screen shot as a .png and then converting it to .jpg with The Gimp...which really isn't an elegant solution, but it worked.

So, with minimal effort, I was able to make HDR images for free. It was difficult to get the pictures to line up correctly without a tripod, as you can see with my first attempt: here

About 2 hours later, I produced this: image

When the public realizes how much money they can save by using free quality software on linux, a new revolution will occur. Cinepaint is a great example of a program that saved me over $600! Imagine how much money it can save society at large! And imagine how much more freedom people will have to create art without being tied into proprietary software and formats! Imagine a world where everyone has a computer that is a limitless canvas that can be used to create beautiful art! That utopia is not far away!
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GPL requirements do not have a chilling effect on Linux distros [Jun. 28th, 2006|10:55 am]
[Current Location |Home]
[mood |amusedamused]

A recent report by NewsForge's Bruce Byfield opined that the GPL requirement to distribute source code could have a chilling effect on derivative Linux distros. This is hogwash. A more accurate headline would have stated that GPL requirements have a chilling effect on commerical distros, since they either have to include the source code or offer the source code in writing. They can not merely point to their parent distro's offer to supply the source code. Mepis and Fedora are commercial distributions which fall into this trap.

The GPL is a software license whose purpose is to guarantee the freedom to share and change free software, in order to make sure the software is free for all its users. One of these freedoms is the freedom to examine, modify, and distribute the source code. For the full text of the GPL, see http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html .

There are only three ways to comply with the GPL requirement regarding the distribution of source code:

1) Accompany the software with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code on a customary medium; or
2) Accompany the software with a 3 year long written offer to provide the source code on a customary medium; or
3) Accompany your noncommercial software with the information you received about the 3 year long offer to distribute the corresponding source code from the original parent program

As an example, lets say I go to sourceforge to download mediacoder, an excellent transcoding utility. When you download the .zip package, you will find that it only contains the windows executable and no source code. There is no written promise to supply the source code. There is no information on the 3 year long offer to distribute the corresponding source code from the original parent program. Thus, it seems that mediacoder is in violation of the GPL's terms. (Update 8/26/06: After much searching, you can find the source code/cvs files for mediacoder. At the time of publication, I couldn't find it...but now they have made it available.)

Just wishing that your source code is publicly available is not good enough. It must actually be available. You must take positive steps to make it available. Merely offering a CD when requested is not acceptable. You must present the offer upfront, along with the software. It is hard to feel bad for developers who have "good intentions and creativity" but don't follow the promises they made to follow the letter and spirit of the GPL.

How can Mepis save itself? It can include the source code as a download from a website. Or it could offer a CD with the source code for a nominal fee to cover its actual costs in producing the source code. Or it could make an arrangement with Ubuntu to keep Mepis source code in the apt-get repository.

Violators of the GPL have good reason to worry. Under third-party beneficiary theory, anyone who benefits from the Free Software Foundation's copyright could sue to enforce the GPL!
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How to Install Ubuntu Linux 6.06 on your Computer [Jun. 10th, 2006|07:00 am]
Nuxified has published a terrific article on how to install the latest version of Ubuntu Linux on your home computer. You can read it by clicking "read more" at the end of this post.

The instructions are great, but step 5 is a bit confusing.

If your like most people, and have only one hard drive, and intend to keep Windows XP on your computer, you need to complete the following steps before attempting to install Ubuntu.

1) Back up all of your important files that you wish to keep. Burn them to a CD or a DVD. Assume anything you don't back up will be lost forever.

2) Find your WindowsXP install disk and put it in a safe place, where you can retreive it easily.

3) Insert your Ubuntu CD into your computer and boot into the live desktop. Follow the installation instructions until you get to step 5. While in the partitioning phase, select the third option, "manually edit your partition table". Delete your windows partition. Then create two new partitions, 80% for Windows and the remaining 20% unformated for Linux. Save your changes. Quit and Reboot. Quickly swap out your Ubuntu CD for your Windows XP CD.

4) Reinstall XP. Yeah, this sucks, but you need to reinstall XP every year anyway. Make sure to install XP on the larger of the two partitions.

5) After you have installed XP and configured it to your liking, reboot using the Ubuntu CD and begin installation again.

6) When you reach step 5, instead of manually editing the partitioning tables, just select step 2, use free or unallocated space. Then continue with the instructions from the website.

I currently run Ubuntu on one hard drive with no problems. Its great!

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Switching to Ubuntu 6.06 [Jun. 3rd, 2006|06:14 am]
Yesterday, I installed the most advanced operating system in the world onto my home computer. No, not Microsoft Windows XP or Mac OS X.

Ubuntu Linux.

Most people don't know what Linux is. Linux is a computer operating system that is completely free to download and install on your computer. Plus, all of its underlying source code is available to the public for anyone to freely use, modify, and redistribute. Other operating systems such as Windows XP and MacOS X cost hundreds of dollars and require costly licenses if you want to give a copy to a friend or install it on your grandmother's computer.

Linux is based on UNIX, a powerful operating system whose predecessors were used on the very first computers in the 1960s. Ubuntu is a flavor (or distribution) of Linux that is also very powerful and easy to use.

Anyone can set up a home computer to use Ubuntu Linux. In fact, I have installed Ubuntu on "dead" 12 year old computers that could no longer run Windows. Even better, you can run both Windows XP and Ubuntu from the same computer!

Two frequent objections to switching to Linux are "I can't use Microsoft Word" and "I've never seen Linux software being sold at CompUSA or BestBuy". Well, welcome to a whole new world...a world of free software. That is right, completely free software. Not Shareware. Not Postcardware. Not Demoware. Free. And the 15,000 free software packages works just as well as their commercial cousins. Thats right, 15,000 software packages. The software available ranges from the popular web browser Firefox and the wordprocessing suite OpenOffice, to powerful desktop publishing solutions (Scribus) and math applications (Graphmonkey). And you don't have to search all over the internet to find them. They are all located in a central repository that you can access using an installation program called Synaptic.

Another objection is that "My friend has Linux, but his Printer/Digital Cam/Scanner doesn't work, so whats the point?" The amazing thing about Ubuntu 6.06 is that "it just works". I can surf the net, do my online banking, and play Java and Flash games. My Creative NX webcam works. My Canon scanner and printer work. I plugged my Powershot Camera into the usb port, and Ubuntu Linux recognized it immediately. My microphone and speakers work wonderfully. I can play DVDs and CDs. This release of Ubuntu is the best Linux distribution ever.

If you are interested in installing Ubuntu Linux on your computer, I strongly suggest that you read and follow the directions at http://help.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/desktopguide/C/index.html . Please feel free to email me if you are having trouble installing Ubuntu and I'll try to help you out.

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First LiveJournal Post [Jun. 1st, 2006|07:47 am]
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[Current Location |Home]
[mood |bouncybouncy]

Ah, once again I am starting up a blog. Most blogs are ephemeral entities. They start with short silly posts, progress to mildly amusing personal anecdotes, ramble incoherently about perceived injustices, and then they are abandoned for months.

Successful blogs are focused and are updated every day. They provide interesting and unique insights in short and concise language. They are funny, easy to read, timely and informative. They are well-crafted informal short essays.

Thus, my blog will tightly focus on both Politics and Technology. The posts will run the gamut from installing Linux on your home computer to the implications of the most recent U.S. Supreme Court opinions.

Every great blog needs a name and "Digital Citizen" popped into my mind as a great name for this blog, but like all great ideas, it looks like it is already taken by someone else. There is a guy named Luke who runs a podcast over at http://www.digital-citizen.org/ . Perhaps I'll call myself "The Original Digital Citizen"? Bah, I am sure that my readers can e-mail or comment below to help me out with a better name.

I hope that this formula of easy to read essays will insure that this blog will stay around for a long time to come.
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