My Linux Fest Northwest 2019 Story

I got back from Linux Fest Northwest 2019 on Sunday. Despite the horrible traffic to and from, it was a great time.

Friday Night Dinner

First thing I did was check-in to my hotel room, then I met up with Valorie Zimmerman (Kubuntu), Simon Quigley (Lubuntu), and quite a few others, including old friend Tyler Brown, and a few new faces such as Darin Miller.

From there Simon and I headed to the campus of Bellevue Technical College, the host of Linux Fest Northwest for this year and the previous 19 years. There were people eating and playing games around tables, and exhibitors setting up at their tables in the main exhibit hall. Although I was an exhibitor, I decided to set-up the next morning

The Ubuntu table at Linux Fest Northwest 2019

So, bright and early, I got set-up in the main hall with my equipment to show-off Ubuntu Studio and its audio capabilities. Working the table was myself, Valorie, Simon, and Dustin Krysak (Ubuntu Budgie). But, after setting up, it was time for me to attend my first talk, given by Wes Payne of Jupiter Broadcasting about Audio on Linux. Was it any wonder that I chose that talk?

My Ubuntu Studio Demo Setup

After the talk, I spent time back at the Ubuntu table demonstrating Ubuntu Studio. I was amazed at how much attention it garnered, and had people asking me questions about it. Many had never even heard of Ubuntu Studio, and many thought the project had died. Those people decided to give it a nice look again, and some for the first time.

Afterwards, I watched Simon give a talk about “Open Source is More Than Just GitHub” and got to finally meet Alan Pope (Canonical) for the first time, even though we had communicated many times over the past several years.

Sri from GNOME, Valorie Zimmerman, me, Simon Quigley (standing). The GNOME table was right next to ours.

Then it was back to the Ubuntu table for more demos, answering questions, handing out stickers, and having great conversations. It was overall a great time, and Valorie has mandated that I join her at the Ubuntu table at SeaGL (the Seattle GNU/Linux Festival) in Seattle this year.

Before last talk of the day, I decided to tear down my equipment to keep from going back to the table. I attended Simon’s other talk: Ubuntu 19.04 Disco Dingo and Beyond. Unfortunately, I ran late and just as I walked in the room, Simon was talking about Ubuntu Studio. Apparently perfect timing, but took me a little while to get my bearings and get caught up. Being there I was officially in my role as a flavor lead along with Valorie, Simon, and Dustin, with Martin Wimpress (Canonical & Ubuntu MATE) and Alan giving Canonical’s perspective. The future of each flavor was talked about, and discussions were opened for each flavor lead to address any questions in the room.

Barbecue by Jupiter Broadcasting and System 76 outside the world-famous “Lady Jupes” RV.

Afterwards, Jupiter Broadcasting and System 76 served a barbecue dinner for any that attended. It was a great time as I, formerly involved with Jupiter Broadcasting, got to catch up with old friends and meet new members of the community.

Simon Quigley, me, Martin Wimpress

I headed back to my hotel room fairly early while more shenanigans took place, I headed to bed. I guess night-time parties are quickly hitting my “Murtaugh List.” (I’m getting to old for this…. stuff.)

The next morning, I got to the college early and got my equipment set-up for more demos, which was pointedly more sparse as Sunday tends to be less busy. I headed to two talks that day. The first one I went to was by Ell Marquez entitled “Building Your Community by Poisoning Your Own Well”, where we learned her struggles with Impostor Syndrome, which is something I struggle with as well. Then I saw Emma Marshall’s talk entitled “sudo apt install happiness”, where she talked about System 76’s approach to customer service, which they call their “Happiness Team.” I couldn’t help but think of ways to use some of those methods when providing support to Ubuntu Studio users.

Afterwards, I headed to the Ubuntu table to pack-up and then head to the final keynote for Linux Fest Northwest 2019, which was a Q&A session with John “Maddog” Hall, Kyle Rankin, and our very own Simon Quigley. Once done there, I headed back to the hall, grabbed anything that was left, said goodbye, and headed home.

Overall, it was a great experience, and I plan to go again next year. Next stop, whether I want to or not per Valorie, is SeaGL 2019.

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Gearing Up for Linux Fest Northwest 2019!

This next weekend (April 26-28th, 2019) I will be in Bellingham at Bellingham Technical College for Linux Fest Northwest to help at the Ubuntu table!

I will be demonstrating Ubuntu Studio and my audio setup.

I also have a few giveaways for fans of Ubuntu Studio fans. After all, nearly everybody loves vinyl stickers.

I even put a couple of them on my pickup truck! (The Tux sticker is from HelloTux, where you can pick up some amazing Ubuntu Studio clothing!)

I look forward to seeing you there! Also attending (that I know of) will be Valorie Zimmerman (Kubuntu), Dustin Krysak (Ubuntu Budgie), Simon Quigley (Lubuntu), Martin Wimpress (Ubuntu MATE, Canonical), and Alan Pope (Canonical). It’s going to be a blast!

One Year Leading Ubuntu Studio

I hardly know how to describe this entire past year. If I had one word to describe it, that would be “surreal.”
Just a little over a year ago, I answered a call to put together a council for Ubuntu Studio. The project leader at the time couldn’t commit the time to lead, and the project was failing. As someone who was using open source software for audio production at the time, and at the time using Fedora Jam, I saw Ubuntu Studio as too important of a project to let die. I just had no idea how dire the situation was, or how it had even ended up that way.
With the release of 18.04 LTS Beta around the corner, I knew something had to be done, and fast. So, I jumped-in, feet first.
Ubuntu Studio, as it turns out, was on life support. It hadn’t been worked on, save a few bugfixes here and there, for two years. Many considered it a dead project, but somehow, the plug never got pulled. I was determined to save it.
I had many connections and sought a lot of advice. We got the council going, and since I was running the meetings, I became the chair. Then, I acted as the release manager. However, I wasn’t quite comfortable with signing-off on a release that would be supported for three years. I was advised by those already involved with the Ubuntu release team that it might be a good idea to have Ubuntu Studio 18.04 be a non-LTS. I presented this idea to the council, and they agreed.
Ubuntu Studio 18.04 “Bionic Beaver” was released as a non-LTS. The community was unhappy with this decision since now that meant those that only use LTS, especially in professional applications, were feeling left out. Eventually we figured out a solution, but not until much later, and that became the Ubuntu Studio Backports PPA.
During the 18.10 release cycle, we got the development ball rolling again. Len Ovens worked on a new version of Ubuntu Studio Controls that would do something that no other tool for configuring audio on Linux had been done before: adding/removing USB devices from the Jack Audio Connection Kit (Jack) as they are hotplugged, and allowing Jack to use more than one audio device simultaneously. It’s truly something that can revolutionize how audio is done with Linux. Eylul Dogruel made an amazing backdrop wallpaper, originally intended for 18.04. She and Thomas Pfundt helped with the Ubuntu Studio Wallpaper Contest, the winners of which landed in 18.10.
We had a vision during that release cycle of adding an additional desktop environment. Unfortunately, that turned out to be more work than it was worth. So, we scrapped that idea and instead of bringing a new desktop environment to Ubuntu Studio, we decided the opposite should happen: bring Ubuntu Studio to the other desktop environments. This manifested in a repurposing of the Ubuntu Studio Metapackage Installer. Len and I worked on this, renamed it to the Ubuntu Studio Installer, and got something working for the 19.04 release. Now, Ubuntu Studio has become an operating system and a toolkit.
Then there was the vision to add more tools to Ubuntu Studio and replace some old ones. The Calf Studio Gear plugins were outdated in 18.04 and 18.10. Working with Ross Gammon, we got that fixed upstream in Debian, which then trickled-down and landed in 19.04. Then there was the challenge to add Carla, an audio plugin host and patchbay, to the Ubuntu repositories. In the past this had been prohibitive. It took me almost a year, but I finally got it packaged (with the help of the upstream developer, Ross, and several others in the Ubuntu community). Now, it’s available in 19.04.
Unfortunately, we had done all of this work, but had nobody to upload to the Ubuntu repositories. I started speaking out. When I got no response, I escalated things. Eventually, it got to a member of the technical board who, upon hearing that Ubuntu Studio had no uploaders, realized that it was not able to function as an official flavor. Remember that life support Ubuntu Studio was on? Ubuntu Studio had just gone “Code Blue.” Ubuntu Studio was about to die.
Within a week, Ross and I were able to get upload privileges for the key parts of Ubuntu Studio. Then, two weeks later, Ross got upload privileges to the Ubuntu Studio Package Set, which is everything in Ubuntu Studio not shared with other flavors.  With that, Ubuntu Studio has made a big recovery.
What’s next? Len and I agree that we’d like to make it so that nobody who runs Ubuntu Studio thinks they need to add the KXStudio repositories to have a complete audio setup. We want to keep making it a full-fledged audio, graphics, photography, and video workstation. We want to be the choice for creative-types everywhere. We just hope others want to join us on this journey.
As for myself, I cannot tell you how much “Imposter Syndrome” I’ve experienced. Oftentimes, I don’t believe I’m deserving of such a high leadership position within the Ubuntu community. Me, and audio engineer / video producer / photographer from Microsoft’s back yard, would be leading the world’s most popular multimedia creation operating system. Surely, others are more qualified. Yet, here I am. It’s a good thing others believe in me, even when I can’t.
So a special thanks to those people (in no particular order): Len Ovens, Eylul Dogruel, Thomas Pfundt, Set Hallstrom, Ross Gammon, Simon Quigley, Valorie Zimmerman, Dustin Krysak, Martin Wimpress, Alan Pope, Jeremy Bicha, Walter Lapchynski, Mathieu Truedel-Lapierre, Thomas Ward, Keefe Bieggar, and anybody else I’ve missed.
And of course, thanks to my wife and son who have had to put up with me though all of this geeking-out.
Here’s to another year.

Linux for Photography

Linux is a wonderful operating system, but one thing that gets overlooked a lot is how it can help a photographer’s workflow. In this article I discuss the software that’s available and my workflows, and pose a question for everyone.

If you don’t know my story on how I got into Linux, it’s about time I told it. It was almost 3 years ago. My son had just been born, and I had some pretty outdated photography software. I was running Adobe Lightroom 1.0 (or something like that) and Creative Suite 3. Sadly, those were the highest I could go without upgrading my Power Mac G4 to an Intel mac. Additionally, this same computer would no longer run the latest versions of Firefox. I was pretty stuck.

The real key in my workflow was Lightroom. Unfortunately, I had a really small budget. Also, it was likely that, much to my chagrin, I was going to have to go back to Windows. So, I searched for alternatives. This is where alternativeto.net came in handy.

The only viable alternative was a program called Darktable which does not run on Windows, but Linux as well as Intel Macs. Same situation, except this time there was a potential solution.

Having dabbled with Slackware in 1997 an Ubuntu in 2009, I decided to give Ubuntu a try again. This time I was blown away. The Unity interface felt comfortable, especially coming from the OS X world. Also, Darktable was a great replacement for Lightroom, and Gimp was a good replacement for PhotoShop.

The only thing missing was RAW to DNG conversion that Lightroom could do internally. I convert to DNG because it’s a fairly universal and open format, and has lossless compression which saves disk space. The only solution I could find that ran natively under Linux was Digikam with its Kipi plugins, which ran best and integrated best with the KDE Plasma desktop.  This got my switching to Kubuntu.

Unfortunately, being comfortable with my OSX-like workflow, Plasma turned out to be too windows-like. Don’t get me wrong, it can be customized very well, and the tools are excellent. But, from a photographer standpoint, it’s just too cumbersome.

Fortunately, I found out that I can run the standard Windows version of the Adobe DNG converter with WINE. This seems to work fine for my needs.

So, to stay at the most up-to-date software, I’ve been using Fedora 21 with its default desktop environment (GNOME Shell 3.14). Although not a “rolling” distribution (which tends to have breakages in my experience), it seems to always have the latest versions of software.

My workflow is as follows:

IMPORT: I use Rapid Photo Downloader. This organizes my photos by year and date into my library.

CONVERT: For this step, I use Adobe DNG converter to convert the RAW files to DNG. I discard the raw files as the conversion to DNG is lossless.

EDIT AND DEVELOP: This is where Darktable comes in. From there I can mark my picks and adjust the photos that I pick, retouching in GIMP as needed. From there, I export into my main photo library as JPEG.

ORGANIZATION: For this I use Shotwell as it can create custom albums and export to social media. This is where I simply keep my photos as it serves as a logical replacement for iPhoto for me.

What do you use? Let me know in the comments.

Touching on Touchscreen Support

Touchscreens are no longer just for tablets and phones. Touchscreen laptop computers and desktops are becoming the norm, if not more common, in the computer market. Much of this has been spurred-on by Microsoft and Windows 8, whose “Modern” interface is about as touchscreen-friendly as you can get. In fact, it is what is driving the laptop market to include capacitive touchscreens.

In April of this year, I was gifted a touchscreen laptop preloaded with Windows 8.1. I had experienced Windows 8 prior to this, but was not impressed with it until I experienced it on a touchscreen. With the touchscreen (but only with the touchscreen), it is an extremely friendly interface. As long as you know how to swipe from the sides, top, or bottom, you’re good to go.

However, I’m a Linux user. At the time, I was using openSUSE 13.1 as my daily driver. I managed to take my installation(s) from my old machine and move it to my new machine using Clonezilla. However, it wouldn’t boot until I had converted it to be used with UEFI (a post for another time, perhaps).

I had two openSUSE installations: one GNOME, one KDE. Being the experimenter I am, I tried the touchscreen experience with both. I was unimpressed. Knowing of Ubuntu’s vision for touchscreen, I decided to install Ubuntu 14.04. I was blown away by how good the touchscreen support was in Unity.

Since then, I have evaluated the main Linux desktop environments with their touchscreen gesture support. Here my evaluation:

LXDE/LXQt

Nonexistant. In this case, I can understand because the developers have no desire to support touchscreen gestures. The target for these/this desktop is for older computers that need as little overhead as possible while still having a complete desktop, and very few (if any) of those machines have touchscreens.

Xfce

Nonexistant. Again, a situation where the developers have no desire to support touchscreens. In fact, seeing the “sloth on benadryl stuck in molasses in January” development style of this desktop, I cant imagine it will ever support touchscreen gestures.

MATE

Again, nonexistant. Since the MATE desktop is a fork of the GNOME 2.x desktop, and is targeted at users that miss GNOME 2.x, I doubt touchscreen gesture support would come to fruition. However, knowing at least one of the developers, I wouldn’t put it past them for a distant future additional feature.

Cinnamon

Though this desktop is forked from the newer GNOME 3.x desktop, any and all touchscreen gesture support is nonexistant. Understandable, since the target users for this desktop are similar to those of the MATE desktop, as Cinnamon is intended to have the GNOME 2.x experience on GNOME 3.x technology.

KDE Plasma (4 and 5)

This one is tricky. The Homerun Launcher amazingly supports touchscreen one-finger gestures, but the rest of the experience in Plasma is lackluster at best. KDE did have Plasma Active going for a while, but it was really targeted toward tablets without any vision of touchscreen laptops or desktops. As such, it has no mouse or keyboard support that I could find. If KDE could merge Plasma with the features of Plasma Active sometime in the 5.x releases, they might have something going. I do know the vision is there, and Aaron Seigo did at least touch on this.

GNOME 3.12

This showed promise with the Activities Overview and certain GNOME apps being the only real area to support touch gestures. Dragging windows was fairly straightforward using the titlebar, but trying that on Qt apps would crash GNOME Shell. This wouldn’t be fixed until…

GNOME 3.14

As of this writing, GNOME 3.14 has yet to go stable in any distro. I’ve been trying the beta (3.13.92) on my laptop in Fedora 21 Alpha, which probably has a few more bugs than the stable release. Gone is the Qt app dragging bug, and the new gesture support is really coming along. Also, gesture support is now native to GTK 3.14, but until developers for 3rd party (read: non-GNOME) apps and distros are willing to support it, it’s mostly going to be confined to the GNOME Apps.

Ubuntu/Unity

Since Ubuntu 14.04 was released back in April, Unity’s support of touchscreen gestures has been absolutely amazing and second-to-none. None of this should be surprising considering the comittment to moblie devices such as tablets and smartphones. The touchscreen gestures in Unity are, in my opinion, much more intuitive than the GNOME 3.14 offerings. For example, in GNOME 3.14, to drag a window, you must use a single finger to drag the window via its titlebar. In Unity, you can drag a window from any point in the window by using three fingers to move it. Additionally, simply tapping the window with three fingers will not only allow you to drag the window with one finger in the center, but you can also resize the window with 8 other touchpoints shown on the window (that fade after 1 second of inactivity). The touchscreen support is so integrated into the Unity desktop that Ubuntu has enabled the touchscreen support in Chromium by default! I can’t get touchscreen support in any other browser or desktop without addons.

Touchscreen computers are not going away anytime soon. In my opinion, with the exception of Unity, this is a place where Linux desktop is severly lacking and behind. As these touchscreen laptops and desktops become more common, we, as a Linux community, need to become more proactive (rather than reactive) on how to support and integrate these technologies. Otherwise, we’re going to continue to appear to the rest of the world like we’re computing in the dark ages.