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Linux Daily

Daily usage of linux, raw style

F-spot is quite the surprise. It’s one of those bundled programs with ubuntu that doesn’t get enough attention. I discovered it by chance really, I didn’t have anything to do and started to check out the programs I had installed and never tried. I’m gonna talk a little about the features of the program, first off, the good stuff.

1. The timeline

The timeline is one of the reasons I love this program, I don’t know. It’s just a brilliant idea. I really like it, I use the program mainly becayse of that thing.

The blue rectangles represent the amount of pictures

The blue rectangles represent the amount of pictures

The downside is that is sorts files out by the date of creation, and since I took a couple of photos with a camera with replaceable batteries, some dates were completly screwed up. But you can edit them by hand in Edit->Adjust Time, and the function works great. This took a lot of time to figure out, why isn’t the option in the context menu, when you right click a photo? Usability is a bit off…

2. Tags

You can associate tags with your pictures and organize them that way. It’s the new paradigm of computing, where folder structures and file names are ignored and metadata is everything. Right now tags have some problems and are a bit featureless, but the current support works well enough so you don’t have to scream OMG THIS SUCKS.

3. Nice extensions

Comes with some cool extensions. “Export to folder” enables you to generate a webgallery based on you photos, organized by tags and what not. Slick design, works pretty good. There’s an extension to automatically export your pictures to a flickr account available to download, another one to save a group of photos to a zip file, and then there’s…

4. Export to Picasa web album

Google’s picasa web service is very well organized, and f-spot comes with the extension and it works fantastic. I use gmail, and I got an album online in less than 2 minutes. Since I already used gmail, I just activated the picasa service, went to f-spot and boom, online. It even automatically uploads your comments to pictures, that you can write in the edit image mode.awesome.

5. Edit Image mode

In this mode you can do some basic editing to your pictures, but it really does all the essential. Red eye removal, automatic color correction… And in this section you can add comments to your photos, and that kicks ass.

Now the downsides…

1. Slideshow/Fullscreen is awfull

On my pc, it’s not even close to working ok. I do have a history with my graphics driver, but I mean fullscreen video playback works so I don’t see a reason this shouldn’t. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s fairly disappointing anyway. Seeing just one picture in fullscreen works fine, though it’s a bit slow to actually open the picture. First it show a low res version, and loads the full quality photo. Weird. Stuff like this in windows works lightning fast, I don’t what shitty algorithms these guys are using…
EDIT: I found out that disabling compiz (system->preferences->appearance->visual effects->none) makes fullscreen itself work, but it’s still one slow piece of shit.

2. Organization is a bit confusing

Organizing pictures in time is a great feature, but seeing the pictures displayed in this gigantic matrix is not very intuitive. You don’t really know what you’re looking at. They knew about this problem, and now when you click on a specific point in time, the first picture referent to that time frame “moves” so that you know where to look

A simple idea

A simple idea

But still… even the tags associated to the pictures don’t help, because they only show up as a minuscule thumbnail bellow the pictures. You can barely tell what tag it is. So i thought “Well ok, I’ll just put no image in tag preferences, and maybe the tag name will show up”. No, didn’t work. No text. It’s either useless minuscule thumbnail or nothing at all. In my humble opinion, the problem resides in the fact that there are no sections. Something like my mock up on the lef (based on google’s picasa lol) would probably do the trick.

3. Cannot select multiple pictures with the mouse

Because the thumbnails occupy the whole display space, there isn’t a white, neutral space where you can click and draw a square to select pictures. Because we use this to select files in the majority of file managers, you’d expect to be able to this. It’s dramatically counter intuitive, you can off course select multiple photos, but you have to use ctrl-click or shift-arrows.

4. Folder structure of imported photos is useless

When you import photos, the folder structure will be photos/year/month/day. And this, is useless. For me it is at least. I’d rather have the structer be just photos/tag. I didn’t find out a way to do this.

5. Doesn’t support videos

I take a lot of videos with my camera like I bet everyone does. Having them organized with the rest of the pictures would be brilliant.

In conclusion, f-spot is a young program but is maturing quite fast. The current version is 0.4.4 and already the program has great features that make it worthwhile. The fullscreen stuff is the worst of the bunch, the rest are just lack of features, rather than the features not working like they’re supposed to.

This is my typical usecase. I got to a festival and take photos for say 5 days, I download the files from my camera to my pc and do a custom folder structure, something like Festival/Day one, Festival/Day two etc. I import the pictures to f-spots database only, tag them and start reviewing the pictures, where I can delete, rotate, do some minor corrections and write comments. When I’m done, I upload the pictures to picasa (where a specific album is opened with the name of that tag attached to the photos) and light up a cigarette writing an email to a friend saying “Dude, you gotta check this out :-)”

Sometimes, linux kicks some serious ass.

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