Weblog of: Derek Keats
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Latest Post - Category: Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)

Let us move off Dropbox: a better alternative
446 days ago

I received info from Dropbox that their dual account system that allows you to have a work and personal dropbox on the same machine was now active and working, so I set it up as per their instructions. At the end, it was not working. Strange I thought!

I contacted them, and they said, "Oh, this does not work with Linux." On querying further they told me there are no plans to make it work with Linux. This is a company that runs their business on Linux, they make all their money out of Linux, and they have plenty of Linux customers such as me who have showed brand loyalty since they started their business. However, this "screw the customer" arrogance totally killed my brand loyalty to Dropbox, and I set about doing some research on alternatives.
I have tried Google Drive, but I have found it very unreliable on Linux.  After looking at a large number of options, including setting up my own, I came upon Copy from Barracuda Networks. In contrast with Dropbox, Copy provides 15GB of free cloud storage, and a whopping 5GB additional storage per referral. The interesting thing about the referral is both the referring person and the person referred get 5Gb free, way better than the arrogant Dropbox. Copy provides 250Gb of storage for the same price as Dropbox charges for 100Gb. People who care about Linux may want to move off Dropbox along with me.
If you want 20Gb of free cloud storage, you can use my link to sign up. Both you and I get 5Gb, a win-win situation. Click here to sign up for 15Gb free cloud storage.

Previous Posts

Free Software alternatives to Photoshop and Lightroom: Gimp and Digikam
486 days ago


I belong to a number of photography sites and facebook groups, and a common question asked relates to Adobe software tools that are useful to photographers. A frequent lament goes "I would love to have Photoshop and LightRoom, but they are so expensive."

I manage my photography workflow very well with Free Software (open source) tools that cost me nothing, and most of which are available across different operating systems, including GNU/Linux, Windows, and Mac. 

Bataleur eagle in Kruger Park
Camera: EOS 7D
Lens: 400mm F5.6 prime
Aperture: F5.6
Shutter speed: 1/1000 sec
ISO: 800

None of the software I use costs me anything, and all of it is of superb quality. I think photographers often don't understand the quality of Free Software (open source) these days. Hence this post. Hopefully, it will help someone save a few thousand Rands, money that is better spent on things such as bodies, lenses and flashes. 

Digikam in my preferred configuration. Note that it is highly configurable.

For people looking for an alternative to expensive Adobe tools, I use Digikam and Gimp for workflow and editing. Together they are more-or-less equivalent to LightRoom and Photoshop. 

Although I have a computer with Windows (which I dislike intensely) and the full Adobe suite, I totally prefer Digikam and Gimp, I choose them for reasons of quality of both the software and the underlying operating system, not price. I only have the Adobe tools because sometimes, for work, I receive files in Adobe proprietary formats and need to edit them. However, since both Digikam and Gimp work on Windows and Mac, you don't have to change operating systems to use them.

Gimp in single window mode

Getting the software

The workflow for the Bataleur Eagle image

Here I will just show  you the workflow that I used for the Bataleur Eagle image, just to show how these Frees Software tools are just as good and just as easy to use (if not easier) then their expensive proprietary cousins. 

It was overcast, hence the high ISO. I exposed for the bird which washed out the sky. Then I found a bit of blue sky with cloud and shot it knowing I would need to replace the washed out sky.

I cropped the image and did a bit of denoise in Digikam. The colours of the bird did not stand out well, so I also pumped up the vibrance and added a bit of saturation in Digikam. I then saved the image, right clicked it in Digikam, and chose 'Open with Gimp". In Digikam, I also right clicked the album (folder) and chose open with File manager.

The washed out sky was easiest to remove using a Layer Mask, but the contrast was so high, it could probably even be done using area select with a slight feather. You can see the layer I used to create the layer mask (red arrow), as well as the layer mask applied (blue arrow) in the image below. 

I then grabbed the dky image and added it a as a layer. I resized it down a bit to make it more realistic, since the original bird image was cropped a bit. The sky was too sharp to look realistic, so I duplicated the layer and applied a gaussian blur. Then I saved it, and resized it for upload (you can do that in Digikam, but I prefer to use a Nautilus filemanager plugin for resizing). After 2 seconds, Digikam had found the resized image, and I was then able to export it to Flickr (or Facebook, or any other social site) from Digicam's export dialogue. Digikam also allows  you to write the title and tags to the image file, which is great if you are uploading to Flickr, because the title and tags get carried through to Flickr.

I have not gone into the details or provided a tutorial on this. If you decide to experiment with Digikam and Gimp, there are plenty of tutorials on how to use them, including some great videos on YouTube and Vimeo. So, off you go now, install them and see if you can save a few bucks to buy that new lens you want so badly.

Below is a brown snake eagle to finish up, which was done according to exactly the same workflow.

You can see more of my photos on http://flickr.com/photos/dkeats.

Free culture in the 21st Century: Podcast of our adventure on community radio
514 days ago

Here is the podcast from last week's radio programme on Radio Today. It was  a rambling discussion about technology in the 21st Century with a focus on Free and Open, Free Culture, and Free Culture business models. 

Their embed link no longer works.

The presenter was Gillian Godsell, and the guest were me (Derek Keats), Derek Moore, Gina Proxenos, and Charley Lewis.

Radio Today broadcasts on 1485 AM in Johannesburg and nationally on DStv audio channel 869. Radio Today also streams on its website www.1485.org.za and on cell phones on 1485.mobi.


The photos that I mentioned are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dkeats/

My Free and Open Educational Resources are on my YouTube channel, as is the Peter Gabriel video that I mentioned.

Lawrence Lessig's book on Free Culture http://www.free-culture.cc/freeculture.pdf‎

We need more South African kids coding
538 days ago

We need more South African kids coding if we are ever to move away from the periphery of the knowledge economy. Besides, it is the most fun you can have that is legal, and it is a form of fun you can carry throughout your life, right up to the last moment.

We need to make computer science wet in schools, right now it is drier than the Sahara.