By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1999, The Syracuse Newspapers
Linux, the scrappy computer operating system that built its reputation on stability and power, is gaining a major backer from outside the world of Linux software. For the first time, a major Windows graphics program has been released in a separate Linux version.
The program, CompuPic, is one of the oldest and best developed image-cataloging programs for Windows. It can display various-size thumbnail pictures of all the images you've stored, and can show them full-size either one-by-one or in a slide show. It has many image-editing functions built in, and file manipulation is especially easy. Images can be moved, copied or deleted by simple drag-and-drop operations. There are dozens of other features.
Photodex, a company in Austin, Texas, began working on the Linux version of CompuPic after the successful release of the Windows version a few years ago. The finished Linux version will be ready this fall, but interim beta versions that lack some of the final version's functions are being released every week or so. The program is free and can be downloaded fromhttp://linux.compupic.com/.
Linux runs about half of all the server computers on the Internet, but was almost unknown among consumers until this year. The combination of embarrassing disclosures about Microsoft's business tactics and an increasing awareness that Windows was not reliable brought Linux into the spotlight. It's considered the only PC operating system that has any chance of taking a lot of business away from Microsoft, and a top Microsoft executive has even publicly praised Linux. Microsoft software engineers visit the main Linux Web sites more often than they visit any other non-Microsoft sites, according to Web statistics.
Linux is an "Open Source" operating system, which basically means it is free and continually improving. Linux already has a high-quality image-editing program, but that software -- called "The Gimp" in typical Linux humor -- does not ordinarily create image catalogs and has none of the file manipulation abilities of CompuPic. The two make a powerful combination, particularly considering the cost (both are free). I found it interesting that the Linux version is being given away despite the fact that the Windows version of CompuPic costs $40. Photodex managers feel the Linux market needs the boost that only such a giveaway can provide.
I installed the Linux version of CompuPic on a Pentium-class PC running Caldera OpenLinux 2.2. (It is running the 2.2.5 version of the Linux kernel, or core of the operating system.) Photodex has both an old-fashioned Linux download file and download files for Caldera, Red Hat, SuSE, Debian, Slackware and other Linux types. (There is no official version of Linux.)
The Linux version looked and worked just like the Windows version except for a few areas in which the true multitasking and absolute program management in Linux made a huge improvement. Linux takes total control over everything that happens on the computer. A major program such as CompuPic can coexist with a dozen other big programs without causing the typical slowdowns, lockups and crashes that occur under Windows.
In two other noticeable ways, the Linux version was much better. A right click on any thumbnail pops up a long menu in both the Windows and Linux versions. One of the options is to send the image by e-mail. This worked smoothly and quickly under Linux. And running CompuPic for days and days while doing image editing and file manipulation had no effect on any other operations. My Windows PCs need to be rebooted once or twice a day normally, but I often have to reboot them every two or three hours when I'm doing intensive operations.
The Linux version is like the Windows version in offering an amazing number of features, including a built-in greeting-card maker. Right click on an image and you can quickly make and send off (via e-mail) a greeting card that shows off the image. It sounds corny, but it's a wonderful feature.
Because the Linux version of CompuPic is free, it differs in one significant way from the versions that users must pay for. The software code that helps show GIF and TIF images is disabled after a few weeks of use. Photodex does this to comply with licensing requirements from the company that owns the code, Unisys. If you have a lot of GIFs or TIFs, you'll have to use another viewer for them. (Free viewers and editors don't have the same problem.)