jb… a weblog by Jonathan Buys

Moving to Ubuntu - F-Spot

I mentioned in my last post that I was giving up my MacBook so my wife could go to college, and (until I can justify the cost of another Mac) that leaves me with her Linux PC. After the first few days of using Linux at home,as opposed to managing Linux servers at work, here are my initial impressions.

My wife’s PC is a gigantic Acer laptop, with a 1.6 Ghz centrino processor and a one gig of RAM. Hooked up to my external monitor, keyboard, and mouse, the PC runs Ubuntu surprisingly well. I can’t enable the desktop effects, but since Gnome has built in compositing support now that’s not a problem. The install went smooth, all the hardware was properly detected, wireless, sound, monitors… everything worked.

So far, my favorite application in Ubuntu is F-Spot. F-Spot is the Gnome desktop’s answer to iPhoto in OS X, and in a lot of ways, I think F-Spot has iPhoto beat on some very basic levels. Over the years my iPhoto library has grown to thousands of photographs. Pictures of the kids, our travels, friends, family, nature, and other random things. Unfortunatly, I have never been all that good at organizing the pictures so they were easy to find. F-Spot uses a tag-based system to organize your library, allowing you to tag a photo multiple times simply by dragging the photo, or a group of photos, to the tag on the left hand side of the screen. This is great. It’s super easy (and fun!) to create a tag for ever member of the family, and then drag photos over to those tags. For example, if a photo has a picture of me and my wife, I’ll drag it to the “Me” tag, and then over to the “Wife’s Name” tag. Its surprising how fast you can do this. Each tag is given a picture, and tags can be nested under other tags.

When compared to iPhoto’s forced “Events” organizing system, F-Spot wins hands down. I was never too fond of the Events system in iPhoto, and felt it an awkward way to group photographs, especially since I would take photos of events, like a trip to the in-laws, over multiple days, which iPhoto would assume were multiple events. It never melded with my mental flow or organization, not the way F-Spot’s tags do anyway. iPhoto does support tagging, but not in the same way as F-Spot, and it just doesn’t seem to flow as well either.

Metadata is read by F-Spot, and the photos are automatically placed in a scrolling timeline at the top of the window. The timeline gives you a graph of how many pictures were taken at any given time period, and it easy to scroll through. Also, Gnome recognized my digital camera (a Kodak Z712 IS), and asked if I’d like for F-Spot to automatically import photos from it when I plugged it in.

After thinking about it, I realize that this is a first for me. Here’s a Linux application that edges out an Apple application in usability. Apple prides itself in ease of use and intuative interfaces, but I’d like to see a few features removed from iPhoto and a simpler tagging system (or keywords, if you must) put in place to organize our ever growing digital libraries. One more note, F-Spot doesn’t do movies of any kind, I’m still looking for an application to handle that. I haven’t delved too deeply into photo editing with F-Spot, I’m not sure I really want to. The “remove red-eye” feature works as advertised, but that’s as far as I’ve gone so far.

Overall, I’ve really liked what I’ve seen with F-Spot, and I’m looking forward to learning more about the applications capabilities.

linux productivity