The zen of cross-platform… photo editing.

Programming Books at Home, LHS

Image by fogus via Flickr

I remember back when all the Java pundits were screamin’ about cross-platform this, cross-platform that, etc, etc, blah blah blah.  I loved it.  I was one of them.  

I mean, who cares what operating system you’re running, right?  I can run any app on any computer, period.  That’s just awesome… and it’s not even an unreasonable dream.  But that was long ago.
Java still touts cross-platform compatibility and there are many Java apps that work (and work well) across all three of the major OS’s (Windows, OSX, and of course Linux.)  Unfortunately, UI design seems to be… secondary to most Java developers, but that’s another story.  No, today I plan on kicking off a multi-part story about my search – my zen-like search – for cross-platform photo editing.  
As a photographer, I’ve found that Windows and OSX really have some very fine tools at their disposal.  Linux has several tools that do the job, but they’re all difficult to use and have a steep learning curve (not to mention they’re ugly.)  Ugly shouldn’t be a factor, I suppose, but as a designer and someone who spends inordinate amounts of time in front of his computer, I really place no small amount of value on an attractive and easy-to-use UI.  
I’ll be touching on my experiences with Bibble, Lightzone, and (of course) GIMP.  GIMP has been part of my toolbox for some time, so the typical ‘learning curve’ with using it won’t necessarily be as steep as usual, and I’ll try to keep that in mind.
Lightzone is being installed even as I write this, so next up: Lightzone – Good, Bad, or Just Ugly.

OSX-style Expose for Windows Vista


No, no, stop laughing, it’s true.  Some guy, apparently a guy who works for Microsoft, thought it’d be awesome if the Vista interface sucked a little less.  So he went and put together one sweet little app called Switcher.

If you’re one of those brave souls running Vista, and at any point in your life experienced the joy of using OSX, go get that app.  It’s not quite as unrelentingly cool as The True Expose, but it does a pretty bang-up job.  I haven’t played with all the options, so it’s possible that one might be able to configure it to operate closer to The Real Deal, but even on default settings, I’m more than a little impressed.  It really improves the usability and workflow of Vista’s interface, and it just works great.

Wait, wait – aren’t I running a Fedora machine?  Yes I am.  And I still love it.  But a few things made me alter my work area.  I had an interview at Fluent, and while we were chatting the subject of Linux, Fedora, Ubuntu, and how much I know about security came up.  Don’t ask me why, it just did.  Anyway, while it’s true that I can accomplish 99% of my tasks with the GIMP and Inkscape (and God knows I love Inkscape), I forgot to append something to that (and it’s becoming more and more relevant.)  I can use GIMP and Inkscape for creative tasks, when I’m starting from scratch.  If I have to import files (logos, graphics, whatever) then these packages fall very, very, very flat.  This didn’t used to be the case – but try to import a Photoshop CS2 or CS3 file into GIMP… or pretty much any Illustrator file after Ill-10.  Nothin’.  No love.  And the unfortunate fact is that I get quite a lot of files in these formats, now that they’ve become all industry-standard an’ stuff.

Granted, I could transfer the file to my Powerbook, open it, and re-save each file that comes in so GIMP/Inkscape can Do Their Deed, but man that’s just a lot of extra hassle.  I thought about it (a lot) and went ahead and decided to run my beloved Fedora 8 on a little box I keep in the closet as a web server for testing and kicking around, and slap Vista back on the quad-core.  I can always remote into the Fedora box and play around all I want, should I have The Urge.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not hugely happy about all this.  I’ve been loving on my Fedora box for a long time.  But I have to face the facts, and until I can once again wield the Linux environment as an effective tool, I’ll have to use Windows again for production.  It hasn’t been too painful, honestly – Vista has such annoying quirks that it makes me a little crazy – but it’s been a lot smoother than I expected.  This Switcher app I mentioned help ease the transition quite a bit.  I don’t know.  Time will tell if this move was worth it.