I have recently revived a dying Dell Vostro V13 by purchasing a new battery, wiping Windows 7 and installing Ubuntu 14.04. This was pretty straight forward to do, although I did have some issues booting from USB, despite what the Vostro's BIOS claimed it wasn't having any of it so I ended up burning a DVD and booting from this instead. Aside from that though it has been a dream move and I only wish I had done it ages ago when my battery started to die and Windows started creaking.
Props to ifixit.com for this great article on disassembling the Dell Vostro V13 which was of great help once I received my shiny new battery from China (despite the .co.uk domain on the website I ordered from!). Anyway, back to the topic at hand.
I was initially concerned about the move as the laptop is our only laptop at home and although I've used Ubuntu before (at work for python development), I have never used it as my main machine and my wife has never even seen it.
The main requirements from both of us were to have a laptop that didn't crash or slow down over time (yes Windows I'm looking at you!) and to be able to use the laptop for browsing, word processing, creating and managing spreadsheets and for me, use as my digital dark room and some node development (more on node in a later post hopefully).
The first few requirements were easily met by Ubuntu as it comes with Libre Office which allows us to work on documents saved in ODF (Open Document Format) and have these compatible with documents that need to be editable in Windows. And it should go without saying that Chrome and/or Firefox on Ubuntu are both great browsers that we all know and love from our time on Windows, so no issues there.
So this only really left one requirement, photography, and as it turns out I was to put this to an acid test tonight.
Last weekend was my cousin's wedding, Joe and Zoe married in a stunning countryside location in East Sussex, some of the pics are on my flickr, if you want a nosey. It was a beautiful day in an amazing setting, we lucked out with the weather and it was a real honour to not only attend but to also help take some shots for the happy couple.
With this in mind my recent move from Windows to Ubuntu was a minor cause for concern as I needed to source some photo editing software and learn how to use this in order to get the RAW files off my DSLR and into a suitable format and state for the happy couple.
In the past I would have used Adobe Bridge, Camera RAW and Photoshop (CS3, I never got round to upgrading!) to review images, adjust the .ARW files from my Sony alpha and then edit these down to jpegs for printing and storing online as well as burning to disk if needed, (as this was a wedding it was, everyone wants the pics when it's a family wedding, and rightly so!).
As it turns out I needn't have worried, I managed to find a great piece of open source photo editing software called digikam which does most of what Bridge, Camera Raw and Photoshop does just as easily. When installing you are guided through an initial configuration wizard, I stuck with the suggested settings as I just wanted to dive in and get started, it's easy to change any of the configuration later if needed so don't worry about your choices during this step of the installation. After a minute or so I was up and running and pulling in files from my picture album, the application is easy to pick up for anyone familiar with photo editing apps such as Photoshop or Lightroom and seems quite familiar even on first use.
I haven't yet tried some of the more advanced photo manipulation such as using filters and masks for colour popping or adding texture or effects to images yet, but for basic tweaks and manipulation it is great. In particular the ability to run batch operations with multiple custom steps on whatever selection of images you like is brilliant, this helped to speed up the initial conversion from raw to jpeg no end.
Below are a couple of shots of the software, the first is the main view, which is roughly similar to Adobe Bridge in that you can manage and view your albums and tag, score and categorise your images. From here you can filter the images in view to show those you are working with.
If you are anything like me you'll shoot way more images than you end up using and then have to sift through these to find the best shots. The custom filters are a great way to do this and replicate the labelling in Adobe Bridge nicely. As you can see I used star ratings as this seemed to me the most obvious way to do this, but I'm sure further exploration of the application will uncover different ways to skin this cat.
The next image shows the editor, which is a handy function key press away from any selected image (F4), briefly this shows me cropping an image, but there are drop downs/panels for many other adjustments and tweaks and I expect to find most if not all of what I have used in Photoshop available as I get to know the software better.
So to sum up, once again my decision to move from Windows to Ubuntu has paid off, despite some (completely unfounded) initial concern over software availability and the effect of the switch on my workflow all is well with my digital dark room, so that's another +1 for Ubuntu!
If you are considering the switch from Windows to Ubuntu just do it, I can assure you that you won't regret it. Ubuntu is easy to install (either alongside or over the top of Windows), most of the software you use will have a counterpart available and more than likely this will be open source and free to use.
Further to this Ubuntu is lightweight and doesn't suffer from the bloat that inevitably afflicts Windows as it ages and it will feel faster than your old copy of Windows did on the same hardware. So what are you waiting for?
That's all for now, 'til next time; stay classy.