Category Archives: Linux Stuff

Linux Stuff

Axiom Beta, open digital cinema camera, funded on IndieGoGo

Apertus team has just reached the 100K euro milestone in the crowdfunding campaign that should bring Axiom, their new open digital camera, to the masses.

Axiom is a 4K digital camera with open specs where modules can be freely added and replaced as you see fit. In that, it rather reminds the slogan of another ongoing open hardware crowdfunding campaign, by MOD, that goes: “The last music pedal you will ever need”.

Should the interface between modules be finalized for years to follow, which is the very idea, it might very well be the case that Axiom is the last digital cinema camera you need to buy. It’s the pluggable modules that you would have to upgrade.

Axiom beta prototype render

Since last year the team moved from the mixed concept/prototype stage to having a working prototype and, as a matter of fact, had a test (color graded) footage by the beginning of the campaign:

For this campaign, the team promised to deliver Axiom beta with two different image sensors: CMV12000 and KAC-12040. Sebastian Pichelhofer explains, why KAC was added:

First, we only use image sensors that have their documentation freely accessible. CMOSIS and Kodak/Truesense were the only companies willing to do that.

The KAC12040 is great, because it can be switched between global and rolling shutter, plus it’s a bit cheaper than the CMV12000.

Kodak is known for their color rendering and general sensors quality, so we are eager to take a look at what the KAC12040 can do. Unfortunately it’s a bit smaller than Super35 with 4/3″, and so its very unpopular in the crowdfunding currently. But we hope that could change once we show images from the KAC.

Indeed, more than 50 Super35 Axiom Beta units were pledged in the first ten hours of the campaign, and most (but not all) Super35 units are sold out by now.

Axiom beta will ship with passive Canon, Nikon, and MFT mounts and a web-based software remote control. Both an active Canon EF mount and a physical remote control are the first stretch goals that you still have 3 days to fund. And given that the team raised ca. 16K euro in the last 3 days, it looks entirely doable.

The engineers managed the crowdfunding campaign in a smart way — by making news stretch over the whole period, thus keeping the media interested. Over the last few weeks they announced:

  • collaboration with Magic Lantern, which so far resulted in support for .raw16 files in the ML Raw Viewer and an ongoing dialog on ways to improve the dynamic range;
  • a 16mm version based on CMOSIS CM2000, and monochrome versions of all three (CMV2000, CMV12000, and KAC12040).

If for some reason you missed the Axiom beta campaign, you still have time to support stretch goals that look very reasonable. The modular digital cinema camera by Apertus is expected to ship to customers between April and June 2015. 

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Change of heart: Inkscape starts encouraging paid development

After years of being dead against paid development, Inkscape Board revisited the controversial topic and came up with a policy that encourages personal (crowd)funded projects to add new features and fix bugs in this popular free/libre vector graphics editor.

Why just now?

The problem that the Board used to have with paid development was the assumed inequality of contributors in financial terms and, therefore, possible disturbance in the community — despite hard evidence to the contrary from projects like Blender.

Also, despite the fact that every GSoC project mentored by the organization since 2005 was a case of paid development.

Moreover, despite successful community-funded work on the Text tool by Tavmjong Bah in 2010.

The latter example is, however, debatable. Originally a completely different Inkscape contributor with a good track record was supposed to work on this project, but he stepped down. Even more, the first attempt at collecting mere $1300 to do the job simply failed, and it took a considerable amount of efforts to get the project funded.

If you think of how much was actually done, and how much time Tav put into this, you might arrive at the conclusion that the cost of the project was rather undervalued. But it did demonstrate that community-funded development of Inkscape could be done.

What are the rules?

In a way, the newly published Inkscape Funded Development Model follows the core idea of that first fundraiser. A quick summary would look like this.

In a nutshell, if you have a decent track record in the project, and someone (community, enterprise, government, alien invaders) is willing to fund your work, you are welcome to get cracking, provided you reach mutual agreement with the Inkscape Board that a) the project idea makes sense, b) you really appear to have the expertise to work on it. You should also be prepared for your performance to be reviewed.

The full document is far more verbose, we suggest you have a go at it. So far there have been no submissions, but the announcement was made only few days ago.

Will other projects “wake up” and follow Inkscape?

If you’ve patiently read this far instead of scrolling down to the comments section to write something along the lines of “But despicable {project} developers don’t get that!”, thank you.

Here’s one important thing that needs to be pointed out. Crowdfunding is frequently seen as a kind of silver bullet for free/libre software projects, and projects that don’t actively embrace this revenue model are increasingly often pictured as backwards-thinking, doomed to fail etc.

While the bit about doom is certainly debatable, the bit about backward thinking only displays communication breakdown between users and developers on levels such as human resources, motivation etc.

For instance, it would be quite impossible for Synfig to get anywhere with their monthly funding goals if it wasn’t for Konstantin Dmitriev’s decision to take over the organizational role and get a full-time developer involved.

During an interview in early 2013, Konstantin confessed the project simply wasn’t structured at the time in a way that would make crowdfunding a sensible idea. Several months later he fixed that at the (ongoing) cost of his personal unpaid time.

Somewhat similarly, it’s quite impossible for the existing GIMP team to go for paid development in its current state, because most active contributors already have jobs, and the little time they have is spread thinly between work, family, and writing the code for the project.

Coincidentally, GIMP developers are actually fond of personal fundraisers. They even directly promoted two such projects: new advanced resamplers in GEGL (half the money collected, half the job done) and mirrored painting (nearly funded, some preliminary work done). Whether they will embrace this in an official way, like Inkscape, is an open question: someone credible needs to step up and volunteer to do organizational work to fill the void.

TL;DR

Paid development in free/libre software projects is a complicated topic. Making this actually work involves far more than setting up a campaign at a crowdfunding platform and banging the drums to draw attention. And “opening the mind to the possibilities” seems to be second (more likely, tenth) to actually having human resources to allocate for organizing it all.

The Inkscape project is lucky to be in a position where all this could actually work. If you are interested in improving this vector graphics editor for a certain compensation, get involved and gain credibility.

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Pandora Client `Pithos` 1.0.1 Released With Bug Fixes

Pithos 1.0.1 was released recently and it includes some minor improvements and bug fixes – for instance, the bug that was causing the Ubuntu Sound Menu to stop working when using Pithos was fixed in this release.

Pithos Pandora client

For those not familiar with Pithos, this is a simple Pandora.com client which includes features such as:
  • cover art;
  • thumbs up / thumbs down / tired of this song options;
  • allows switching between Pandora stations;
  • allows editing QuickMix and creating stations;
  • desktop integration: Ubuntu AppIndicator, notifications, MPRIS v2 support – so Pithos integrates with the Ubuntu Sound Menu / GNOME Shell Mediaplayer extension;
  • media keys support;
  • proxy support;
  • last.fm scrobbling.

Pandora is a music streaming and recommendation service that’s only available in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. You can use it in any other country with an US proxy, VPN, a DNS service or with Tor and SelekTOR.

Changes in Pithos 1.0.1:

  • Automatically install missing codecs if supported;
  • Save window position between sessions;
  • Fix saving last station on quit;
  • Fix pacparser support;
  • Improve pandora module docs;
  • Add setup.py command to build docs;
  • Add appdata file;
  • notification_icon: Make toggling visibility more reliable;
  • mpris: Fix exception when querying position;
  • mpris: Implement setting volume;
  • screensaver_pause: Improve Unity support;
  • OSX: mediakeys and notify support.

Install Pithos in Ubuntu 14.04 or 14.10 / Linux Mint 17

Pithos is available in the official Ubuntu repositories, but that’s a pretty old version. To install the latest Pithos in Ubuntu 14.04 or 14.10 / Linux Mint 17, you can use the official Pithos PPA:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:pithos/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install pithos gir1.2-gst-plugins-base-1.0

Arch Linux users can install Pithos via AUR.

For other Linux distributions, see the install section from the Pithos homepage (the app should also work on Windows and Mac, but there are no binaries for now).
Report any bugs you may find @ GitHub.

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Borderlands 2 Now Available On Linux; Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Is Coming To Linux This Month

Borderlands 2, the popular action RPG video game developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games, is now available on Linux / Steam OS.

Borderlands 2

The game was ported to Linux by Aspyr Media, the company that ported Borderlands 2 to Mac back in 2012.

For those not familiar with Borderlands 2, this is an action role-playing first-person shooter video game which uses the Unreal Engine 3. According to Wikipedia, the game was a financial success and with 8.5 million copies sold by February 2014, it’s 2K Games’ best-selling game.

Below you can watch the official Borderlands 2 launch trailer:

(direct video link)
On Linux, Borderlands 2 has the following system requirements:

  • Ubuntu 14.04 / Steam OS (but of course, this doesn’t mean it doesn’t work on other Linux distributions)
  • Processor: 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad, AMD Phenom II X4
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • HDD space: 13 GB
  • Video card (Nvidia): Geforce 260
  • Video memory: 1GB

The game Steam page mentions that integrated Intel graphics and ATI graphics are currently unsupported for Borderlands 2 on Linux.
Borderlands 2 costs $19.99 but there’s a special promotion right now and you can buy the game for $4.99 (75% discount) for the next 32 hours: Borderlands 2 @ Steam.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Aspyr Media has confirmed that Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is coming to both Mac and Linux, on 14 October 2014 in North America and on 17 October 2014 outside of North America:

“Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel for Mac and Linux will offer full feature parity with the Windows PC version, including cross-platform multiplayer and SHiFT Support. Plus, Aspyr will be supporting all future DLC releases.”

You can pre-order Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel from GameAgent or the Steam store ($59.99).

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Is Photoshop for Chrome OS going to kill GIMP?

There are two interesting points that seem to prey on people’s minds today: is Project Photoshop Streaming for Chrome OS the first step to Photoshop on Linux? Will it, therefore, threaten GIMP in its own habitat? All good questions, let’s dive into this.

Executive summary aka TL;DR

Don’t panic. In fact, never panic.

Why did Adobe go for Chrome OS?

The first thing we need to understand is that being a de-facto monopolist in the graphic design market means that so far Adobe can do pretty much as they please. Here’s some meaty data to confirm this. Back when we wrote on the Creative Cloud in May 2013, the latest information was that Adobe ended Q1 2013 with 479 thousand paid Creative Cloud members. And now here’s an excerpt from their latest financial report:

Adobe exited Q2 [2014] with 2 million 308 thousand paid Creative Cloud subscriptions, an increase of 464 thousand when compared to the number of subscriptions as of the end of Q1 fiscal year 2014.

As you can see, Adobe increased Creative Cloud subscriptions by ca. 1.4 million users over a year despite all sorts of complaints about forcing users to give up and embrace the SaaS model.

Nothing is forever, of course, but it does look like Adobe is going to keep its market dominance for years to come.

So why Chrome OS? Basically, it’s one of the ways Adobe is trying to stay relevant as a software vendor. Here’s an interesting bit from NPD Group’s report from July 2014:

Since the start of the year (January – May), Chromebook sales within the U.S. Commercial Channel increased 250 percent year-over-year and accounted for 35 percent of all channel notebooks sales. According to The NPD Group Distributor and Reseller Weekly Tracking Services, total notebook sales through the U.S. Commercial Channel increased 36 percent, desktop sales jumped 24 percent, and overall PC client volume rose by 1 million units so far this year. Windows notebook sales were flat and Macbook sales increased more than 20 percent.

Not too bad for a product that only started shipping in 2011. And then there’s the whole topic of the Google Chrome browser that does have a major piece of the market’s pie too.

Is this the beginning of Photoshop for Linux?

It seems to be one of the most common assumptions about this news so far: Chrome OS is Linux, ergo Photoshop for Chrome OS must be Photoshop for Linux. It also seems that Adobe’s FAQ on Project Photoshop Streaming hasn’t reached the masses yet, because it gives a pretty good idea:

Project Photoshop Streaming is identical to the Photoshop you’d install locally…, however, instead of being installed on your local machine, it is running in a virtualized environment so can be accessed from any Chrome browser or Chromebook.

In other words, Photoshop wasn’t ported for the web or to Linux. It was “merely” adjusted to run in a virtualized environment and save all your project data to Google Drive. Moreover, Adobe has no immediate plans to replace desktop apps with virtualized apps:

Creative Cloud products will continue to be available as local download and install.

While this doesn’t exclude the possibility of CC apps becoming true web apps in the future per se, this is simply not happening just yet. Neither is there any indication that Adobe is interested in porting Photoshop (or any other CC apps) to Linux.

Will this move threaten GIMP et al.?

Now that is a very sensible question. Here are some important considerations.

Pricing. Adobe is rolling out Project Photoshop Streaming to educational institutions first (North America only for now), with other target groups to follow. This makes a lot of sense: if you want loyal customers, start growing them early on.

Ideally, that’s where free/libre applications are supposed to have an advance over proprietary ones even with academic licensing in place (Adobe provides an up to 60% discount for teachers and students on available subscription plans). But the topic of extrapolating skills acquired with GIMP to Photoshop, as well as being able to survive in a Adobe-centric (or, rather, PSD-centric) company is a huge can of nastily looking worms. Students expect to land a nice job, after all, what with student loans looming over them.

Performance and color fidelity. Since we are talking about a native app running in a virtualized environment, it looks like we are talking about VNC-like communication where you basically interact with JPEG screenshots of the actual user interface that a server keeps sending to you. That is, you get lags (digital painting, anyone?) and, potentially, JPEG compression artifacts. Providing reliable color management over network would be another tough task to accomplish. It’s going to be interesting to see how Adobe will tackle this.

Vendor lock-in for file storage. Within the Streaming project, Photoshop was customized to save everything to Google Drive, which is only to be expected with Chrome OS. That’s what you get for a $199 laptop that works as a thin client only.

Project data storage. Even with events like recent bump of available disk space at Dropbox up to 1TB for $10 a month, handling large bitmap project data from Photoshop is going to be an issue when it comes to cloud-based storages.

Not exactly a novel solution. In late 2013, rollApp released GIMP, Inkscape, and more free software as Chrome apps. This solution turned out to be a double-edged sword. There is no innovation there, as the company brings no added value to customers except forcing them to use cloud storage (and that’s a questionable benefit). However customers appear to like what they get: the vast majority of reviews of both virtualized GIMP and Inkscape is positive despite of the aforementioned JPEG compression artifacts, interaction lags, and lack of updates (both GIMP and Inkscape provided by rollApp are badly out of date).

Summing it up

Don’t panic about the threat for GIMP: there’s still time, and Adobe most likely doesn’t care all that much. And don’t get too excited about Photoshop on Chrome OS either: there’s much to be done yet.

With introduction of the Project Photoshop Streaming, Adobe is placing one vendor lock-in over another, which, admittedly, many will happily embrace, while others will stick to either Photoshop CC or earlier versions.

Should you adopt it, you are likely to deal with network latency, connectivity issues, and insufficient color fidelity as well. You might live happily with those deficiencies, you might be dragged off by GNU activists, kicking and screaming, or you might stay indifferent and keep using existing software. Either way, polishing this will take some time, and whatever free apps follow this route, they will have to deal with the exactly same issues.

It’s rather obvious that web-based apps are getting smarter and more capable. In fullness of time, they might wipe out the software ecosystem as we know it. Which is why it’s great to see free/libre projects such as Gravit and Metapolator emerging.

One breaking point for making this free/libre cloud-based software sustainable will be solving the data storage issue. Today, locking users to a particular cloud storage of data is practically the core of SaaS businesses, and it’s not easy to devise a revenue model that would involve both free software and federated or self-hosted storages. It’s entirely possible that in a future SaaS-dominated world, libre end-user software might stay marginalized.

It is, however, worth thinking about (especially if you are of radical FSF persuasion), how the entire community could grow reality check muscles and start figuring out, if there’s a way to stay relevant, when SaaS is a dominant model. Because we’ll live to see the day. In fact, it’s about 8:30pm the day before.

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