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What’s new in openSUSE Leap 15 – part 1

openSUSE Leap 15 will be released on the 25th of May 2018! A new openSUSE release is always an exciting event. This means that I get to play with all kinds of new and improved software packages.

I am aware that I can simply install openSUSE Tumbleweed and have a new release 4 or 5 times a week. But when using openSUSE Tumbleweed some time ago, I noticed that I was installing Gigabytes of new software packages multiple times per week. The reason for that is that I have the complete opposite of a minimum install. I always install a lot of applications to play / experiment with (including a lot of open source games). I am using openSUSE since 2009 and it covers all of my needs and then some. I am already happy with the available software, so there is no real reason for me to move with the speed of a rolling release. Therefore I prefer to move with the slower pace of the Leap releases.

In the upcoming articles, I want to detail some of the improvements in openSUSE Leap 15. In this article, I present an overview of the upgrades for the software packages / software suites that I am interested in.

Package name openSUSE Leap 42.3 openSUSE Leap 15
Amarok 2.8.0 2.9.0
Audacity 2.1.3 2.2.2
Calibre 2.85.1 3.23.0
Calligra suite 3.0.1 3.1.0
Chromium browser 59 66
Darktable 2.2.5 2.4.3
Digikam 5.5.0 5.9.0
Flatpack 0.8.6 0.10.4
GIMP 2.8.18 2.8.22
Gnome Applications 3.20 3.26
GNU Cash 2.6.16 3.0
Hugin 2016.0.0 2018.0.0
Inkscape 0.91 0.92.2
KDE Applications 17.04 17.12
KDE Plasma 5 desktop 5.8.7 5.12.5
Krita 3.1.4 4.0.3
LibreOffice 5.3.3 6.0.4
Linux kernel 4.4.76 4.12.14
Mozilla Firefox 52.2 60.0
Mozilla Thunderbird 52.2 52.7
Pidgin 2.12 2.13
Rapid Photo Downloader 0.4.10 0.9.9
Scribus 1.4.6 1.4.7
Shotwell 0.22 0.28
VLC 2.2.6 3.0.2
YaST 3.2.26 4.0.73

Published on: 23 May 2018

Using Google PageSpeed Insights to speed-up Fossadventures.com

I wanted to optimize the load time of Fossadventures.com. I had performed some tests on Google PageSpeed Insights a couple of weeks ago and my scores were 76/100 for mobile devices and 55/100 for the desktop. The big ticket item was to enable Gzip compression. I researched the subject and the solution appeared to be a simple adjustment of the Nginx configuration (1, 2). Thanks to Nginx and Digital Ocean for the excellent tutorials, which work just as well on openSUSE. My only remaining question was which MIME types to include. I found a nice compact list on Github and based my list on that.

The second suggestion was to optimize the images on the site. I decided to start with the header image, as this was a large image that is visible everywhere. I downgraded the JPEG quality from 85 to 75 and adjusted the Chroma sampling to 4:2:0. I performed a visual inspection of the old and new header image with help of Gwenview. As I didn’t see a big difference, I decided to use this optimized image for the website. I will probably use these settings for all future posts.

The third suggestion was to eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS content. I discovered that my chosen theme (Cannyon) loaded some Google web fonts by default. By disabling this option, the load speed increased even further. Thanks Google for the advice.

I retested Fossadventures.com on Google PageSpeed Insights and my new results are 94/100 for mobile devices and 79/100 for the desktop. That is a solid improvement!

Published on: 14 May 2018

Discovering the Gwenview photo viewer

The Gwenview photo viewer is a great application and one of the reasons why I never looked back when I switched from Windows (Vista) to openSUSE (11.1). The application is installed by default when you install openSUSE with the KDE plasma desktop environment. But even if you have the GNOME desktop environment installed, I would recommend that you to install Gwenview. In my opinion, it is superior to the GNOME image viewer application.

Default applications often get overlooked. We just expect them to be there. But there are big differences when it comes to default applications. Take for instance the GNOME image viewer or Windows Photo Viewer. You can do a couple of basic things like zoom in, zoom out and move from photo to photo. You can put it in full screen mode and go back. And of course you can open, save, print and close photos. But that is basically it. Gwenview does a lot more.

So lets get to it. There are basically 2 ways to open Gwenview. The first way is to (double) click a photo in the Dolphin file manager (another great default application). The second way is to open Gwenview via the kickoff menu, by typing in the name in the search box or by looking at the Graphics section of the menu.

Gwenview contains a couple of elements. On the right side is a navigator bar that allows you to navigate to any folder on you computer. On the right are recent folders and recent files (photos) that you have accessed. So lets access one of these folders.

This will move you to the Browse mode of Gwenview. I have highlighted one of the cool features of Gwenview. The ability to easily move between photo folders. It is really great to be able to move between folders as quickly as this. No need to close the application.

Next is the View mode. You enter this mode by clicking on a photo. The highlighted section (below) in the top toolbar show the ability to move to the previous / next photo, to rotate the photo (by 90 degrees) counterclockwise / clockwise. The highlighted section in the bottom toolbar provides you with the ability to make the photo fit to the current window or zoom in to 100%. You can also use the slider to determine a custom zoom percentage.

Whenever you use the zoom feature, you have the ability to move around the picture using the navigator that will show just above the zoom controls.

Third is the Full Screen mode. This will not only show your pictures in full screen, but also gives you the ability to play your pictures as a Slideshow. When you move the mouse cursor to the top of the screen, a menu (black bar) will show various controls. The controls on the left side allow you to start the slideshow or to quickly scroll to a certain photo.

The controls on the right side allow you to adjust the slideshow settings.

A very neat feature of Gwenview is the sidebar. You can get access to this by either clicking on the sidebar button (left of the Add filter button), by pressing F4 or by going to View >> Sidebar. The sidebar allows you to navigate the folder structure of your computer.

The second tab of the sidebar allows you to see information on the selected picture. For this, you need to click on a photo. To see a lot more information, click on the More button that is highlighted in the picture below.

You can now scroll through a very long list of properties that your camera has captured while taking the photo.

Gwenview also allows you to do some basic photo editing. This is where the 3rd tab in the sidebar comes into play. Gwenview allows basic operations, such as mirroring, flipping, resizing and cropping the picture. A neat feature is the ability to remove red eyes in photos. You can also use Gwenview for some basic file operations, such as renaming, trashing, deleting, copying or moving a photo.

You think I have covered all the cool functionality of this application by now? No sir! (or madam!) Gwenview has multiple plugins. The first plugin I like to discuss is the print assistant. You can access this by going to Plugins >> Images >> Print assistant… The print assistant allows you to create (PDF) pages with multiple photos in various layouts.

Another cool feature is the ability to e-mail resized photos. This is handy when you want to share your holiday photos, but don’t want to send all these photos in full resolution (an 18 megapixel photo is about 14 MB in file size in Jpg). You simply select the e-mail program that you like to use (I selected Thunderbird) and then click on the option to Adjust image properties.

And one of the top features is the ability to import from / export to various web based photo applications. You can access this via the plugins menu. Or just click the Share button for the export options.

This covers all cool features of Gwenview. This application might be installed by default, but it is certainly not a basic photo viewer. It is a great application in its own right and a tool that I like to use time and time again.

Published on: 9 May 2018

A quicker way to download photos on openSUSE

A very common way to download your photos on your openSUSE desktop is to use the file browser. This might be Dolphin (KDE) or Files/Nautilus (Gnome). First thing you do is create the new folders that you need for your photos. You plug-in the SD card or connect your camera via USB cable. And then you drag the photo files to the location(s) of your choosing.

But there is a smarter and quicker way and its called Rapid Photo Downloader. And once you try this program, you never want to go back. The easiest way to get this program is just search for “rapid-photo-downloader” in YAST Software Management, select “Install” and then “Accept”. After the installation you should be able to find the program under the “Graphics” section of your Application Launcher menu.

One time configuration

To start the configuration, go to the Preferences of this application. This is where you perform the initial (one time) setup of how you want to import your photos and videos.

Start with setting up the folder where you want all your photos to go. Click on the drop-down for the “Download folder” and select “Other…”.

Then select the folder that you want to use for your photos. I like to know what camera I used for taking the photos. But you might be content with just the subfolder Photos.

/home/yourname/Pictures/Photos/CameraName/

The magic of Rapid Photo Downloader is that you can specify how the application will automatically create the future folder structure for your photos. I like to use folders per month. For example: “2018 03”, “2018 04”, “2018 05”, etc. You can specify this by using the settings (marked in red) in the screenshot below. As you can see from the screenshot, I also create a sub folder named RAW.

The second part of the magic of Rapid Photo Downloader is that you can specify how to automatically rename your photos. I have chosen a very simple setup, where I concatenate the image date and the original name and extension with an underscore in between.

Now you are done with the setup for the photos. Continue with the setup of the videos. In the screenshots below you can see the setup that I use.

Now close the preferences window.

Downloading photos

Downloading your photos is very easy. The first thing you have to make sure is that you have plugged-in the SD card or have connected your camera via USB cable. The second thing you need to do is to mount the external photo medium by simply opening the folder once in your file manager of choice. Then startup Rapid Photo Downloader. The program will automatically detect the photo medium and load all photos on the card. Most likely you are only interested in the latest photos that you haven’t yet downloaded. So click “Uncheck All” to clear the current selection. Then select the first photo that you like to download.

Now scroll down to the last photo, hold down the “Shift” key on your keyboard and select the last photo you want to download. If you are fine with the selection, click on “Download”.

Now Rapid Photo Downloader will auto-magically download all photos to your openSUSE desktop… exactly how you want it.

Published on: 3 May 2018

Photography workflow on openSUSE

by Martin de Boer

I am a hobbyist photographer. Which means my needs for a digital photography workflow are modest. However, open source definitely makes my life as an amateur photographer easier. For many people, it starts with getting their first (digital) camera and just exporting their photos to their computer. And maybe they like to do some basic photo edits such as cropping and/or resizing. There are 2 open source programs that prove to be very helpful for beginners:

  1. Rapid Photo Downloader (fast download of photos to your computer)
  2. Gwenview (for photo viewing and simple edits)

After a while, the more aspiring photographers will like to do a bit more with their photo’s. Maybe have a program where you can manage your photo library. And some programs where you can do some more advanced photo edits. These aspiring photographers most likely still use the .jpg format. For these photographers I would recommend the workflow:

  1. Rapid Photo Downloader
  2. digiKam (for advanced photo management)
  3. Hugin (for stitching photo’s into panorama’s)
  4. Luminance HDR (for stitching HDR images)

By the time you get (more) serious into photography, the first thing that you need to know is that professional photographers are working with RAW image files. This is the equivalent of the analog negative film (pictured below). A RAW file is not (yet) a photo, but it contains all the information needed to export a digital photo. In comparison to the .jpg / .bpm / .png format, a RAW image file contains all of the metadata and sensor data that is captured by the camera. With the right program, you are able to adjust things like color and lightning.

Most people have heard of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. This is what most professional photographers use for their workflow. However, these programs are (at this time) not available on Linux. The current (29th April 2018) pricing for the Photography plan is € 12,09 / month (in NL) or $ 9,99 / month (in US). So this is currently priced at ~ € 145 / $ 120 a year.

Lucky for us openSUSE users, there are some very capable programs that are alternatives for these 2 well known programs. And these alternatives are free (and gratis) to install and use. Lets start with the alternative for Adobe Lightroom. The open source alternative is called Darktable. It can do a lot of things with your digital negatives. It has over 60 modules that can make multiple adjustments to your photos.

The open source alternative to Photoshop is called GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program). Just 2 days ago (27th April 2018) GIMP version 2.10 has been released (1). This application can seem daunting to learn at first. The trick is to not try to learn everything at once. But to learn small edits that you can do with the program, one edit at a time. This is also something I like to address in future posts.

This brings us to the workflow for an advanced or professional photographer on openSUSE. I would recommend the workflow:

  1. Rapid Photo Downloader
  2. digiKam
  3. Darktable
  4. GIMP
  5. Hugin / Luminance HDR

In future posts, I want to go into more details on how to use these programs. From basic features to more advanced photo editing.

Published on: 29 April 2018