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Pretty as a Picture

Photo applications for Linux.

As Linux moves into the desktop, users want to connect their digital devices to their Linux computers, and, well, at least have something happen. Long associated with difficulties in dealing with devices, Linux has come a long way. Quite a few devices such as cameras and music players, work immediately. All you have to do is plug them in. Linux has supported SD and Compact Flash cards an card readers for a long time, and USB support in Linux keeps getting better.

Once you connect your devices, the next step is to do something with your pictures, music and files. For digital cameras, you’ll want to manage and organize your photo collection.

On Linux, two applications really stand out for working with photos: F-Spot and LPhoto.

A recent development, F-Spot presents the type of user interface you’d expect from a digital photograph manager. You organize your photographs into photo albums, each of which appears on the left-hand side of the Outlook-styled F-Spot window. Available at projects/f-spot/, F-Spot is a relatively new application, as reflected by its low version number, 0.1.0. Even so, F-Spot shows a lot of promise. SUSE Linux includes F-Spot.

Written in C#, the language of Microsoft’s .NET efforts, F-Spot runs on top of the Mono infrastructure which runs .NET applications on Linux. Windows .NET applications often use Microsoft’s Windows.Forms library for creating the user interface. F-Spot, though, uses the Linux GTK libraries for the user interface, fitting directly into the GNOME desktop.

Like F-Spot, the Mono project, at, shows a lot of promise. Despite raising a number of issues by basing a project on recreating Microsoft technology, and all the pro- and anti-Microsoft arguments that implies, Mono-based applications are impressive.

Unlike F-Spot, LPhoto has a long history, at least in terms of Internet years. It’s part of Linspire’s Click-n-Run application service. LPhoto concentrates on supporting as many digital cameras as possible. The goal is to create a so-called plug-and-play experience for end users, especially those new to Linux.

Linspire’s LPhoto application hews as close as possible to the example set by Apple’s iPhoto Macintosh application. Other Linspire applications flatter the Macintosh applications by imitation, such as LSongs, an iTunes look-alike music application. The Linspire developers chose a good suite to emulate, though. Apple’s applications are considered easy to use and among the best for non-technical users.

LPhoto also includes features to help create Web pages of your photographs, emailing photos, displaying slide shows and burning pictures to CDs. All of these are tasks that may prove daunting to Linux or computer newcomers.

In other news, SUSE Linux has split into professional and freebie versions, much like Red Hat, which its Enterprise Linux, with support options, and its free-for-all-comers Fedora Linux versions. Splitting off Fedora let Red Hat concentrate more on large customers, and the income-generating enterprise versions of Linux. Similarly, SUSE, now part of Novell, split off what it calls openSUSE. The name openSUSE looks weird, but then this is based on the product that was known as SuSE for a long time, funny capitalization and all. One of the welcome changes brought by Novell, aside from major enterprise support, was the renaming of the product to the more rational SUSE. –Eric Foster-Johnson

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