Digital Asset Management and Linux

For several years I have been using the Organiser within PhotoShop Elements to catalogue and tag my photos. I have found that having indexed and searchable photos is indispensable when preparing for some of the talks I have done. How else would I find the photo I wanted to use of the Grasshopper Warbler that I took on Baildon Moor?

Grass Hopper Warblers as found in Elements Organiser on Windows

Occasionally I used the editor within Elements, but only because it was easy to get from the organiser to the editor. This meant that I was only using a small part of the Elements power. There have also been a few hiccoughs with Elements on the way. I was forced to upgrade quite soon after an upgrade because the map display within Elements was broken. I also get pestered by notifications about upgrades, or new features, or “have you tried this?”

I am a fan of Open Source and for several years my photo editor of choice has been GIMP, but it doesn’t work with RAW files so I had been using Digital Photo Professional 4 provided by Canon to process the RAW file and then export to GIMP. The RAW processing in DPP4 seemed better than the Adobe Camera RAW that is part of Elements, it seemed better at handling highlights and noise reduction. This probably means that DPP4 automatically did some stuff that I could also have done in Adobe Camera RAW if I had spent the time to investigate.

Canon DPP4 editing one of the Grass Hopper Warbler photos

Using Elements and DPP4 meant that I was tied to Windows but on another PC I use Ubuntu Linux. I had already installed GIMP on it and occasionally used it when working on my website development. A while back I decided to start looking for programs I could use within Linux so I could move completely over from Windows. I was already using the LibreOffice suite and Scribus DTP on Windows that are also available on Linux so I needed alternatives for Elements Organiser for Digital Asset Management and Canon DPP4 for RAW processing. I used the software centre within Ubuntu to look for RAW processing applications and came across RawTherapee and darktable. I also let friends know I was looking, so I had a go with darktable on Windows

darktable editing a Grass Hopper Warbler photo

darktable has some neat ways of working and I soon got to like it and I was quite pleased with the results. If anyone is thinking of trying it I would suggest watching some of the videos to get started. I was now only tied to Windows by the Elements Organiser

Using DigiKam on Ubuntu Linux

With a bit more investigating I came across DigiKam (the header image above is pinched from their site) that looked as though it worked in a similar way to Elements Organiser. It was available for Windows and Ubuntu so I tried it out first on Windows. I wrote all the image tags to the image files using Elements Organiser and then imported everything into DigiKam. The terminology in the program was a bit different and I had to rebuild the tag hierarchy from the imported tags but that only has to be done once and I was able to make some improvements on the way. After trying DigiKam for a while I decided to migrate to it as my asset manager. This means that I am no longer tied to Windows. One neat feature of DigiKam is that it will find similar photos and rank them by how similar they are. I used it to find duplicates of images even though the file size was different due to different EXIF data etc. It also found the same photos but at different resolutions where I had created reduced resolution/quality images for the web where I could then decide whether to keep the high or low resolution file. If the photo was for nostalgia, e.g. a photo of the changing use/demolition/refit of a local building, I would only keep the low res file.

I have yet to have a serious go with the scanner under Linux. The software that comes with the printer/scanner is Windows only but generic Linux scanner software looks as though it might be more than adequate and I have already had to use Linux software to stitch the PDFs together after scanning booklets.

As part of this migration I have decided to have a rethink about the PCs in use, i.e. have some serious upgrades. The Windows desktop PC has been replaced with an Intel NUC 8i3BEH with 16GB RAM and 1TB M.2 SSD. It is tiny and only an i3 but it is a lot faster than the desktop it is replacing. The Linux box is being replaced with a custom build Ryzen 7 with 32 GB RAM, 1 TB M.2 SSD and 2 TB HDD. Given that the Linux box was the cast off from the previous Windows box this should be a dramatic upgrade. I might provide a blog update when the Linux box is up and running. In amongst this I am also going to try a Raspberry Pi4 for displaying the CCTV cameras.

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