Tuesday, September 15, 2015

How Operating Systems Stack Up For Photography

A few days ago, I put up a 3 part series about the Chrome OS and the possibilities it offers for photographers. This time, I'd like very much to briefly give my opinion about some other Operating Systems and how well (or badly) they perform for photographers and everybody else. I'll do this alphabetically, as my own personal prejudices will show up soon enough:

Android - The OS of choice for Smartphone and Tablet users, unless your choice is an Apple iPhone or iPad. Personally I have a love - HATE relationship with my Android phone. For photography, I still find it quite useless, even with one of the better rated cameras (I have a Sony Xperia II something or other). If it's the only camera I have with me, I still seldom use it, simply because once the camera can be turned on, you've probably missed the shot, not to mention the fact that even though a photo you took looks fantastic on the phone's screen, it looks really shitty on everything else. The only Apps available seem to be the "Fun Filters" - few of which I really would ever take seriously.

Smartphones are amazing with what they're capable of - I like mine the best as a Navigator, and for quick look-ups of restaurants, motels, etc. I also use it a whole lot as a music player, but it frustrate the hell out of me when the Walkman App does an upgrade and everything changes. I don't Text, I don't Tweet, and I seldom make a mobile call. So why do I even have one of these? Even though Android is a computer OS, I really can't stand it when I go to pick it up and accidentally touch an Icon that launches an App.

What I really need is a separate pocket camera (got one), a separate iPod music player (had one) and a separate Sat-Nav (should get one), and cancel my smart-phone contract the next time it comes due, and then, use Chrome OS on my cancelled phone as a super mini-computer around the house - yes that can be done.

Chrome OS and The Chromebook - for photographers, it's merely passable, but for general computer users, it's fantastic. I had promised to evaluate lots of the Photo Apps available in the Chrome Store, but after trying for a couple of days, I soon realized the futility of this. There are a few, however, that almost fill the bill, and if Chrome were your only OS, these do offer a fair bit of functionality. The big 3 are i) Polarr - a lightweight Lightroom for raw files; ii) PicMonkey - for a greatly organized, serious but fun at the same time collection of Filters, Frames and Art Effects and iii) Pixlr - a very well done clone of Photoshop Elements. If you're into Chrome, and happen to find anything else beside these three worth having, please send me a comment below.

For everything else you might do with a computer, other than heavy sound and video production, and hi-fi music listening, Chrome OS is the cat's cream. It operates very fast on the smallest of hardware footprints, and is as easy to learn as a web browser, without the usual learning curve, or frustrations associated with computers. There are a lot of smart people out there who simply cannot learn about computers - if you see a Windows user with dozens of Icons plastered all over their screen, you've found such a person. Chrome OS brings all that to an end - it works totally differently and actually helps frustration-users to actually "get it", and learn to use a computer the correct way.

Linux - at one time, the "propeller head" OS, but not any more. Linux in all of it's many flavours has become the d-facto alternative for just about everything else, but especially for Windows. Linux, in just about all of it's "Distros" is now much easier to install and manage on "normal" computers and/or laptops, which, by the way, are still the best kinds of computers to have around if you need to do any kind of "heavy lifting" such as raw-file development / conversion, serious photo and video editing, serious music listening or recording, and serious enterprise or even personal productivity.

When it comes right down to it, Linux is beautiful. It has some of the greatest photography packages ever created (we don't call them Apps here folks), unless you're stuck on Photoshop / Lightroom and are willing to fork over the $$$. Gimp, with it's companion G'mic Plug-In is simply the best Photo Software you can have (except for raw files - Gimp doesn't do raw, but neither does it's pathetic look-alike Photoshop Elements). Gimp - G'mic simply is better than Elements because it does so many more things, and although it was built by Linux, it's been available for Windows for several years now. If you've never tried Gimp, now is the time. And while you're at it, give Photivo and RawTherapee a go - you don't need to commit to Linux to try these out - they're all available for Windows, free f charge, and install easily - in fact, Photivo is easier to install under Windows than it is with Linux.

The only down-side with Linux is hardware compatibility. Although it seems to run well on any computer or laptop I've tried, it doesn't do so well with peripherals like scanners and printers. At one time, I had my specialized photo scanner and printer up and running, but then, the Vendors who supplied the drivers decided to not bother with them any more. This happens because Linux, as great as it is, still hasn't caught on in a big way, and to develop device drivers, and keep them current, is difficult to do - especially for free. If your devices happen to be held within a major Distro's "Repository" (the open-software equivalent of an online store), such as Debian's sane for scanners and cups for printers, you'll be OK. But in my case, I struck out both times - should have done more research before I bought my peripherals.

Mac OS-X - well, this seems to be the one that most Window's haters gravitate to. I personally have had very little experience with Apple - Mac products with the exception of the above mentioned iPod, so I'll keep my comments limited. What I hear is, if you have a Mac, you love it to death, and what's more, you're willing to shell out double the money every time Apple launches a new product, and stand in a huge line-up to do so. And I'll admit, I start to drool every time I see a Mac computer being used. And have you ever noticed, on TV, whenever it shows someone using a computer, it's a Mac, with the ubiquitous Apple symbol proudly displayed?

I cannot comment on Mac photography, because I've never tried it. But I will say, if there's such a thing as "high-end" in the computer world, Mac is it - everybody seems to know this, and those who go in are willing to keep paying the extra for life. You pay double just to buy the computer, and from then on, you pay big money for everything you want to put on it, both for apps and for content. Nothing is free in the Apple grove, but devotees don't seem to object to this.

It must be good stuff!

Windows - ahh, the utter stupidity of the mass market. Most people run Windows simply because if you buy a reasonably priced computer, that's what comes on it - and even built into the price of the computer, it's still a far lower entry level than a Mac.

So, for photography, Windows gives you the best and the worst options. If you're stuck on Adobe's products, I suppose that's the best, but I've never tried anything but Elements, which quickly drove me back to Gimp. But for me, the best of all is DxO Optics Pro - for raw processing, lens optimization and noise reduction, it simply blows the doors of anything else. How do I know it's better than Adobe Lightroom let's say? Well, I've never tried Lightroom, but the DxO product is so damn good, it simply must be better. Unfortunately, I have to boot to Windows in order to use it. And that's how Microsoft has cornered the market - there's a Windows Program for absolutely everything, and the market is flooded with so much 3rd party, which all simply works best with Windows. In order to have something similar for Linux, somebody has to reverse engineer and clone a Windows program, and often not get paid for their efforts.

But Windows itself, as a product, as trying to be all things to all people, is an absolute piece of shit, and I make no apologies. It's slow, stupid, and has a never-ending learning curve. Nothing about running Windows has ever been straight forward, which explains why so many people simply end up plastering a bunch of ugly icons on their "Desktop" - Windows makes it so difficult to do anything else. So many people, who are not at all stupid, have to resort to doing stupid things with Windows, which, by the way, Windows allows them to do... to the point that Windows simply runs slower and slower until something breaks, and then the customer has to take their computer into the shop for a tune-up. Windows makes people think of their computers in the same way they think about their cars - periodic maintenance is required, and if they can't do it themselves (most can't), then thy have to take it 'to the shop" to get it fixed up and running again.

Linux is not at all like that - it is built to self-manage beautifully, it never slows down and it never breaks. I suppose this is what drives people away from Windows to Mac, which is quite similar to Linux under the hood - but with Mac, the self-management is even better than Linux because you pay a huge premium to get it.

So, there you have it. I could've written a lot more about how bad I think Windows is, but I figure that enough people have discovered that already, with some real examples.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Reader's comments are welcome, and are subject to moderation by the author.