Linux: From Toe Testing To Flat Footing

UbuntuSudio Desktop

UbuntuStudio Desktop

I had tried Linux once in a while as time went by and I had seen the improvements made over the years. Still, I wasn’t ready to have a system based on it. Last few weeks I spent trying out a few of the Linux distros to check if it was time for me to have a permanent installation instead of just install and delete. I was in need of another computer and I wanted to know if the time had come for me to have a Linux box permanently.

After some searching, reading, downloading, burnt a few cds and trying, I must say that now Linux is practically more than ready for the masses. It works right after installation though you still need to install the printer driver which is easy if supported and the proprietary graphics card driver instead of the default driver, if you want the real deal (initially this needs some sweating though).

Graphics card and printers installed

Graphics card and printers installed

There are still some loose ends to be tackled but they are not of great concern. Things like installing application programs and hardware drivers especially graphics cards and printers if they are not in the repositories at hand (the default distro repositories right after installation) which are still quite technical. Thus I hope in the near future, the Linux developers communities could make the installation/removing process of application programs and hardware drivers unified and simple, whatever the variant of the Linux OS that is used. These will entice the application developers and hardware manufacturers to produce products that will also target the Linux OS platform.

I decided to settle for UbuntuStudio because it had groups of programs for audio production, video production, graphic design, photography and publishing. The decision was not hard to make as the new pc was primarily intended for photography post processing.

Application programs

Application programs

Installation was straight forward and fast (without internet connection). At the reboot, it was done, unlike Windows 7 installation that has to go through 3 reboots to get it done. But what is more important is the feeling I get in using it, I must say that it is a pleasure. The booting up process, shutting down process and opening and closing of application programs (same programs used in Windows 7) are fast compared to Windows 7. I am so satisfied that I am now shifting my body weight slightly over to this foot standing on the Linux OS.

Panorama Stitcher and HDR

Mount Bromo, Java Indonesia

I had been reading and downloading panorama stitcher and HDR programs for quite a while but never really installed it and played with it. Hence the programs had evolved through many iterations. Just today I downloaded the latest version of Microsoft Research Image Composite Editor (ICE), a panorama stitcher program and the dated Autostitch demo program plus two HDR programs, Luminance and Picturenaut. They were all freeware.

Both the stitcher programs did really surprised me. They were fast and easy to use. I just opened the required files and they did the rest automatically. No other input from me and the results were pretty stunning and very well blended. Autostitch demo version was pretty dated and very basic but still good. It came with some sample pictures to try on. The only downside was that some blurring on a portion of the stitched picture. It was part of the foliage on the left side. I then used the same set of pictures and let Microsoft ICE to do their things. It turned out better. The blurred foliage part that was apparent in the result by Autostitch was gone, it was perfect. Its understandable since Autostitch demo version was dated and was the first automatic 2D image stitcher as claimed by the authors. It has now became the engine behind the stitchers Autopano Pro, Serif Panorama Plus and Calico.

I made three stitches with Microsoft ICE. I then took one of it and made two over and two under exposed pictures at one EV each using RawTherapee, another fabulous freeware raw converter. The five pictures were then turn into HDR picture using Picturenaut and Luminance. Both were fast and the results were quite similar but I used Picturenaut to tonemap it into LDR and later with the help of Faststone Image Viewer enhanced the colours. Faststone Image Viewer was also initially used to convert the original raw files into jpeg.

Looking down Tosari Village near Mount Bromo. Blending of foliage on the right is not good because pic is not good. Need for manual exposure

Road along Kawah Ijen, East Java

and this one an HDR done with Picturenaut;

Mount Bromo

Note: I am just trying out hdr using 8-bit jpeg files. For serious job on hdr 16-bit files should be used. Jpeg or tiff raw filetype depends on the hdr program. Photoshop CS5 can even produce an hdr look-alike image from a single image file besides also capable of producing an hdr image from multiple image files of different exposures.

Update: Another marvelous freeware HDR program noteworthy to mention is the FDRTools Basic which will get the job done nicely and as the name implies, basically. Worth a try.