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Once more, and the bleak mid winter sees Britain transformed from a green and pleasant land to a white Arctic landscape covered in snow, ice, and chaos. Many people struggle to cope with change in their life – such as a dramatic change in weather – so switching operating systems for many people will prove daunting. I manage to minimize the impact snow can have adopting a more relaxed yet determined attitude towards it. I find my approach towards snow to be equally pragmatic when applied to changing operating systems.
I'm now into my second week of my Linux project, the focus of which is to see if Linux can be an effective platform for a digital photographer. By effective, I mean provide a viable alternative to Microsoft Windows or Apple OSX.
I'm now using the Linux operating system and applications exclusively. My chosen distribution, Ubuntu, is packaged with a host of applications, and countless more are available on download. Other distributions, such as SUSE or Red Hat, are equally rich in content. Perhaps the most attractive aspect of the Linux platform is that the vast majority of this software is offered to people free to use without charge.
Applications are the key to this experiment. The quality of any operating system is of nothing if the required applications are unavailable. When IT projects go awry it is often because the end goal is misunderstood, poorly defined, ambiguous or even unknown. Knowing the intended use of the system for is vital, and means you can then define with some accuracy what the best way of realising that vision is.
I know what I want to do. My aim is to create an entire work flow from RAW through to final image. Linux is, without a doubt, a fabulous, effective and very successful operating system with a significant proportion of the world wide web running on it. For many it is an essential tool. My use, digital photography, is a little bit more specialised. But only a little bit specialised, and there are applications out there for the digital photographer. The fundamental problem to be faced however is that the paid for application being used now probably isn't amongst them.
This is likely to be the crux of the issue for most people. Mature applications, such as Adobe Photoshop (in any of its flavours), or Adobe Lightroom – essential tools for many people – are simply not available. There are alternatives. GIMP, for example, is similar to Photoshop, and Lightroom users could do worse than check out Raw Therapee. Though good, neither is quite as refined as the Adobe offerings. Both are, however, free.
How prepared are you to learn new software, and with it, accept any limitations your tool set may introduce to your work flow? It's the question I'm now wrestling with myself. I've been impressed with Linux so far, but am now at the stage where I need to ask if Linux is an advantage or a compromise.