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the last 10 percent

01/06/2012

I live on my own in quite a tiny house with my dog. Yet, being a geek i am surrounded by computers of various sorts.
Excluding “computers” like my ipod Touch and Android phone. My house is currently home, I’m ashamed to admit no less than 7 PCs.

3 Netbooks, including my tiny 7″ Acer Aspire One
My old dell d420 Laptop with docking station
The £30 Dell Studio (that despite having a broken hinge, dodgy O key and non functioning DVD is still the most powerful computer in the house)
My increasingly aged Pentium 4 Media Center in the Living room
a recently re-equired HP Pavilion Desktop, soon to replace my Media Center (I lent it to someone last year)

All but one of these machines is running some form of Linux. Be it, NST (Fedora Deritivitive) To Full Fedora 16, or Ubuntu… well not ubuntu per se as Unity is is usability pile of crap. All of them Run KDE.

The only windows machine remains as it’s my TV recording machine and linux just doesn’t have a decent DVR option. – if you even begin to think about adding a comment about MythTV don’t.

My idea of a media center that records over the air television is a simple one. Install the software, follow the setup wizard to scan for available channels, configure the options, recording drive, media folders etc.. Watch and record TV.

Windows has several very good options.
Windows Media Center – which is actually pretty superb,
Media Portal and
NextPVR.

All three are free, all three take maybe 10 minutes of setup (excluding scanning for channels)
NextPVR is my current favourite, it’s a synch to set up, looks nice, very lightweight, records and plays back crisply. The othes are fine very good indeed and i can’t fault them. But NextPVR is currently my Go to TV recorder. With all three, I simply run the setup wizard and away I go.

Not so in linux.. finding a PVR solution is tough, finding a user friendly pvr is impossible. As is finding one that actually works with any of the three usb tv receivers I own. As soon as instructions talk about downloading and extracting kernel headers and compiling drivers.. my eyes glaze over. I’m a geek, sure, I love to fiddle, but sometimes I want to fiddle AFTERwards, I don’t want to download 500mb worth of poxy header files to compile a driver that will be 42kb in size (and didn’t compile) I don’t want to be insmodding</em anything.

I still haven't managed to get any of my computers to see each other across my local network – let alone get them to join my ldap domain and authenticate against a server. I've essentially given up with that notion, Linux is just shit at networking and I have to accept that I'll have to do all my file sharing either by wasting time and bandwidth using the internet or simply just using a usb stick. Quite honestly it's a bit piss poor.

– before you ask, yes technically they are all trying to exist on the same workgroup (my workgroup is called one.local) – I'd like to have just 1 place where I assign user accounts and access, not have to do it on every single machine I own (hence the setting up of a server and ldap domain, or the attempt to)

Even geeks like things to Just Work sometimes.

If I could find a pvr solution for linux, preferrably with KDE integration, I’d be a happy chappy in one sense.

I like photography, I love photography. I’m not very good, I’ve been at it for years and have some great shots, but I’ve reached a level that I don’t seem to be able develop from (pun intended) but that’s ok. I enjoy it nonetheless. But because of the photography it sadly means I can’t run linux on every machine, if I found a PVR solution that worked.

Linux isnt’ an OS for photographers, maybe for the home snaps with the point and shoot it’s fine, but for dslr users, shooting RAW with hundreds or thousands of images.. it’s not so good..

Recently I had been tasked with finding a “best of” selection from someone else’s photo archive. The External 1Tb drive came and I quickly realised the enormity of the task at hand. 60,000+ files to wade through, examine, shortlist, possibly develop and then create a small slideshow of the best.

Gwenview to the rescue… or so I thought. Gwenview struggles with Camera Raw. it just wouldn’t preview PEF files (Pentax Raw) nor .NEF, Nikok Raw.. although I’m sure it should have, it failed to preview in Fedora and Kubuntu. JPegs and Tiffs were fine and when they worked Gwenview was great, previewing was slick, copying to another location, just one keystroke away, with the added plugins pack it gave simple editing and slideshow ability.

Sadly though, Gwenview started killing my system.. Eating up ram and cycles like it was an American in a all you can eat buffet. It very quickly started to grind the system to a halt and I would have to restart the machine every couple of hours or so to kick it back into life.. The Fan ran full tilt the whole time.

After getting bogged down with Gwenview, I tried Shutter, the Picasa of Linux. It did work with RAW files a little better, not brilliantly, it only showed Raw files with embedded jpegs in them, but it was a start. It led me into a trap though.. Shutter, being a database system (gwenview seems to be a viewer) Wants to “import” your images so that you can start cataloguing. Fine, I “imported” from the external hard drive.. and shutter promptly started copying every single image on my hard drive, I didn’t notice immediately as the import into shutter is chroniically slow. I left it importing overnight and only noticed what it had done in the morning when my hard drive was full and linux crashed. Maybe I was just in a rush and didn’t read all the instructions on screen,but I expected Import to mean “add the details to application database, leaving the files where they were” I can’t really think of a reason why this would even be the default. If I was “importing”from my camera card, I’d have copied the images manually to the image archive. Not only did shutter copy of the files it imposed it’s own file structure on the imported photos. i hate that. i hate applications that decide what is best for me, ignore my own settings and worse still don’t tell me that they’re going to fuck up things I spend a long time creating – yes iTunes, I’m thinking of you here!

Shutter’s tagging and cataloguing, what I saw of it, seemed very good. but it’s heavy handed “i know best” approach just drove me insane. An OPTION to keep my file structure or use Shutter’s shitty one would have been nice as would have “leave files in place and just import them to the database” option instead of this silly copy all the files option.

I eventually did find a couple of Camera RAW programs to edit and develop but all the while I kept thinking to myself..

This would have taken half the time in Adobe Bridge, then Photoshop. Or even half the time in Adobe lightroom. Browse, catalogue, move, organise (or not) then easily edit the result. I found the raw editing apps to be quite good, but then I had to import into another app to process beyond basic raw manipulation and expoert to jpeg. too many steps, too many applications and I’m not familiar with them enough to make that a speedy process. Thank god i didn’t have to use GIMP though, otherwise I’d still be trying to fathom it out now (I hear Gimp 2.8 is finally half way usable, but I’ll stick with alternative, usable applications for the time being)

If Gwenview didn’t shred my processor and handles RAW files better, it would be excellent and would have nearly done the job, Pinta, Krita etc might have finished it off and given me jpegs I could use, but I felt Gwenview could have been nearly there.

I had to admit defeat though, and some 40 hours into the review, switched to windows, Adobe Bridge and CS4 and whizzed through the rest. What took me about 30 hours in linux, I completed in windows in 3 or 4. (this is at least parrtly as I’m familiar with Bridge and Photoshop though) Taking that familiarity out of the equation though and windows still wins hands down, quicker faster better workflow and memory management. Ok CS4 isnt cheap (if you buy it) but sadly Linux still has a way to go for photographers.

I’m 90% linux,(and like it, LOVE KDE) but just that last 10% might take forever to get good enough to allow me to ditch windows finally.

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