Worth a thousand words

Headshot with fence

Mr. Wonderful strikes again

I managed to get an unusually nice photo of my dog the other day, and then I made it nicer with GIMP. Proving that “free” (open source) does not mean “cheap” (lacking in functionality).

Headshot with fence removed

Portrait of a sweetie

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When the software it came with doesn’t work…

camera with tripod and carry strap

My little red camera and gear

My brother gave me a new camera for Christmas — a little red Nikon “Coolpix” that I can carry in a pocket if I want. I’d been using my brother’s camera, which is a bit bigger, and is 3 megapixels. My new one is 12 megapixels. Nice. I was able to download the stuff off the CDs that came with the camera onto my laptop, but couldn’t get the transfer software to run. So I had to have my brother download my pictures onto his computer and then move them to a flash drive for me.

Funny thing, though. The Nikon transfer software wouldn’t work properly on his computer, either. He always ended up having to transfer the pictures using his PhotoShop (not even the full version) program. So I wondered if there might be some alternate program I could use. I looked on SourceForge for Nikon photo transfer downloads, and my search results turned up several possibilities.

I downloaded one and tried it. No go.

Then I wondered “if PhotoShop can access the image files on the camera, maybe GIMP can, too,” and I connected my camera to my laptop and opened GIMP. It didn’t automatically open a prompt asking if I wanted to download the photos, but when I clicked on the “open” line in the menu, the camera showed up as a file location. I was able to open the folders in the camera drive and select the ones I wanted to transfer. I had to open them in GIMP and then save them separately, so it’s not perfect. It may be pretty time consuming if I have a lot of photos to transfer. But I can do it. Without having to return to microsoft slavery.

Saved by the Banshee

Yesterday as I was browsing the Linux links, I stopped and read this article on Ubuntu User about the next release of Ubuntu including the Banshee media player as the default player included with the download. I was curious enough to go to the Banshee site to see what kind of features it included. As soon as I saw the line about “Sync your music and videos to your Android, iPod, iPhone, or other device – or import its media,” I thought it might be the answer to the issues I’ve been having with my iPod Nano.

When I installed Xubuntu, the default music player was Exaile. It is a nice enough music player, but it took me a while to figure out how to import my music files, and I never could get it to import from a CD. If you visit the Exaile site, you may find, like I did, that the descriptions of its features are written in code. I don’t mean machine code, exactly, but for a non-techie like myself, it might as well be. The wiki for the player is not much more helpful. But at least I was able to use it for the music files I had. Later I found another application that I could use to copy my CDs to my hard drive. From there I could add them to my Exaile collection. Extra steps, involving extra apps. Not cool. And I still couldn’t sync my Nano. The software I had downloaded for that didn’t work — I suspect because my iPod was, in fact, a Nano, and not a standard issue iPod. So I had three separate programs to handle my music, and not well, at that. I decided to give Banshee a try.

Because I have a handy service in my Applications folder called Ubuntu Software Center, I didn’t have to download the app from the Banshee site. I just found it on my list and clicked “install.” And spent most of yesterday test driving it. It did everything as advertised — charged and added music to my Nano and my old Shuffle, imported music from some new CDs with no problems, and generally gave me no reason to regret giving up iTunes. It definitely gets my vote for media center of choice.

A noteable accomplishment

Although I’m not doing the Postaday2011, I’m subscribed by email to The Daily Post blog where they are posting topic suggestions every day. Today’s is: Best accomplishment of 2010? And I thought I could actually do something with that, relative to the theme of this blog, because deciding to erase the windows operating system from my laptop and install a Linux OS, all on my own, was a pretty big deal, considering I’m not an uber-geek. Of course, I’m no stranger to making rash decisions and taking rash actions, but I try to limit them to only a few a year or so.

It has been almost six months since I made the transition, and I’ve had no reason to regret my decision. I think using Ubuntu/Linux will allow me to get a lot more use out of this laptop, and I won’t have to deal with it taking longer and longer to perform some operations trying to open new documents and new web pages with an old worn out OS.  Life in open source is not completely frustration-free, however. To get photos from my new camera onto this computer, I first have to download them to my brother’s computer, because the transfer software is not translated for open source systems — yet. I’m waiting, uber-geeks.

Journey into Linux, Part Three

I didn’t jump into the open source environment all at once, and I certainly didn’t start with Ubuntu. I wasn’t even aware of how much free software was available until just a few years ago, although I remember my second ex-husband mentioning “share-ware” from time to time, usually referring to alternate versions of popular video games that were available at no cost if you knew where to go to download them, and were generally decent facsimiles of the originals. Saving money on software became a real  issue when I left my job in Kentucky and came home to help my brother take care of our dad in his final years. I didn’t start looking for a job when I got back, so I wasn’t in a position to spend large on computers and software. I bought a used IBM Thinkpad with Windows XP installed on it because I planned to use it for an online course. The laptop did not come with Office installed. There was a CD with the Lotus office suite, which I learned to use, but the programs were never real familiar feeling to me.

OpenOffice.org was my first introduction to an open source program that had the look and feel of the MS Office programs I had been trained to use when I worked for the State of Kentucky. I had no trouble finding my way around the word processor and spreadsheet programs. I think OpenOffice.org is the way to go for anyone who just needs a reliable set of productivity programs and doesn’t want to spend all the money to have the latest version of Word. The current version of OpenOffice Writer can open any Word document, and save a document in Word format. Same for the spreadsheet program and Excel. There is really no reason for an ordinary citizen or student to be chained to the high cost of Microsoft products.

And Microsoft is not the only replaceable product on a Windows PC — or on a Mac. If you like to edit photos but don’t like the high price of PhotoShop, check out GIMP. I’ve had all kinds of fun creating new variations on old photos, and I didn’t have to spend a penny. Of course, all of these free software providers are happy to accept donations of any size. They are well worth whatever size donation anyone can make. The developers keep on writing code for new products just because they want to make improvements on stuff that’s already “out there” but doesn’t do everything they want it to, and they are happy to make it available to everyone else so others can have that same expanded functionality. And the nice thing about such a large community of developers is that they operate like a self-regulating organism, catching and repairing bugs that get past others.

I’m completely sold on the open source enterprise. Even updates are less of a pain in the ass than they were with either the Mac or Windows machines I’ve used. I very rarely have to shut down my computer after downloading an update package and installing it. And it never, ever shuts off of its own accord, the way Windows machines are prone to do.