Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Microsoft Office On Linux, Don't Bet on it. Office 365 though…

Linus Torvalds, the author of the Linux Kernel has often been quoted as saying that “If Microsoft ever does applications for Linux it means I've won.” Any many speculate that the release of the Office 365 App for Google's Linux based Android mobile operating system as the culmination of that declaration.

On the Desktop Linux side, many still pine for the availability of Microsoft's Office suite without resorting to running a Windows virtual machine or fiddling with the Wine application that allows Windows programs to run in a Linux environment. Many see the lack of Microsoft's Office availability for Desktop Linux as a barrier to larger adoption of the platform, as many have been trained to believe that Microsoft Office is a necessity or the only way to go for Office Productivity software. Microsoft has spent plenty of money building that mindset, and there is no reason for them to perform a turn about. We could also debate the merits of LibreOffice all day (I personally use it and find it more than capable for everything I need in an Office suite) and that will not change the minds of the many who have it well ingrained of the “need” for the expensive and proprietary offering from Microsoft.

Now, Desktop Linux could leapfrog Apple's OS-X for PC market share by a factor of three to five or more and I would venture we still wouldn't see the traditional Office suite made available for Desktop Linux. Even with Microsoft making many of their technologies open source, leading to more cross platform compatibility, I believe its not going to happen. Regardless if the code base would be a simple port and regardless of the demand. What I see as the more likely scenario is for Microsoft to release the full paid for version of Office 365 for Desktop Linux.

Microsoft has made it clear that they are essentially done as a traditional software company in the way they began and have existed in the past. That ship has sailed and they are aggressively attempting to liberate their customers from the S.S. Traditional Microsoft Software and quickly punch their boarding pass to the S.S. Microsoft Cloud Services. We see this in every fabric of the company and they aren't shy about letting everyone know the end game. From promoting Satya Nadella from the Cloud devision to CEO, the overly aggressive push to Windows 10 and of course the Cloud based software solutions themselves.

The cloud is the latest buzz word from technology companies and make no mistake they love it. Why? Simply follow the money and its not difficult to see why all the hype over the cloud. The cloud is wonderful for share holders and the corporate bottom line, but not so great for consumers – look no further than Adobe as a shining example of why companies are so eager to embrace the cloud and salivating over its potential. In 2015, Adobe added over 800,000 new subscribers to their Creative Cloud offerings for the fourth quarter, which resulted in them more than doubling their profits from the prior year[1][2]. Now that we're thinking money, lets get back to Office 365 on Linux. The least expensive option for Office 365 Home is $69.99 a year[3]. Now, if they convince 30,000 desktop Linux users to go with this plan, thats over $2,000,000 a year from Linux users (at this particular option level). Now that might not seem like much for a company with nearly 100 Billion in revenue[4] but the numbers start getting interesting if the new subscribers start reaching the hundred thousands or millions. Another factor to consider is that the typical Desktop Linux user with a a smart phone is not likely running Microsoft's Mobile Operating System. Personally, I would venture to guess that the number of Windows Mobile users in Desktop Linux land is probably close enough to zero to be a rounding error at best. With this line of thinking, Office 365 being available on Linux would be somewhat of a must have to try and sell it this demographic of Mobile users as something that runs on both the mobile and desktop operating system of their liking. Plus you can also look at (from Microsoft's perspective) Office 365 as a Gateway to other Microsoft services that breeds lock in and dependence on the company's offerings and now we can start to see more revenue potential for the accountants to mill over.

Will we see an Office 365 for Desktop Linux? Only time will tell. One thing that is more of a sure bet is that we will likely begin to see the complete demise of the traditional software licensing model from large software companies in favor of cloud subscriptions. It personally wouldn't surprise me if Office 2016 is the last standard type Office released from the Microsoft camp. The cloud integration and push could be seen starting with Office 2013, and while I haven't used or demoed Office 2016 there is no reason to expect anything other than more features meant to move users into Office 365.





Monday, December 7, 2015

Better Noise Reduction with Darktable

In a previous post, I wrote about Darktable's profiled noise reduction with a set of sample images to compare the results. And while the basic profiled denoise algorithm still gets great results in Darktable, I have found another method that yields even better results (that incidentally, still utilizes the profiled denoise, but to a lesser extent). It may not show as much as I had hoped in the images below, but I have found this method especially attractive when dealing with photos of people. Steps and samples below:

First step is of course to import your images to Darktable. Next, we will run the Raw Denoise module. In most instances (especially with people) I have found .003 to be a good starting point. Typically the default .010 threshold can make images too soft. For the compared images of the kiddo toys, I used .014 for this setting.

Next step is to apply the profiled denoise option. The default strength of 1.000 is typically overkill after applying the raw denoise first. For my images I have found a value of less than .300 is a good balance to retain detail, typically I use .289. For the sample image, the value used was about .400.

Composition for Comparision
No Noise Reduction
No noise Reduction (Imported and then Exported in Darktable)

Profiled Denoise Only
Profile Denoise Only

Raw Denoise & Profiled Denoise
Raw denoise & Profiled denoise used together

For additional comparison I have added a new image to the original Flickr set that shows the processing done with my refined noise reduction routine.



Monday, November 30, 2015

Heron, Osprey, Yellow Jacket & Ducks - Photos from the Lake Vacation

As I wrote in my last post, I love vacationing at my mom's family's lake property in Eastern Washington. Quiet, peaceful and when we are there in the summer nice and hot. Of course when you are lake side, hot weather is always welcome as the coolness of the lake beckons to cool you down when the need arises.

Nature and Wildlife are my favorite subjects (outside of my kids) to photograph. While on vacation at the lake, I had several opportunities for photography while relaxing on vacation. We saw several Heron's and a few Osprey either looking for fish on the docks, or perched in the evergreen trees along the shore.

The Heron's were fun to watch, slowing walking along portions of the dock looking for fish. My 3 year old son and I got to see one take a stab at one, didn't have my camera with me for that one though. With the Osprey, I stood there watching him for quite a while – just waiting for him to take off to attempt to get a wing spreading take off photo. Well, as luck would have it, when I wasn't aiming up waiting my mom made a whistle or some other noise just to see if the bird would react. And at the sound, took off – missed opportunity!

Blue Heron on the Hunt for Lunch on a lakeshore dock
On the Hunt for Fish

Blue Heron about to Take Flight from a lakeshore dock
Taking off, the next shot in the series was not in focus

Yellow Jacket on a Lakeside Flower
Yellow Jacket

Osprey Preening High Up in an Evergreen Tree Near the Lakeshore
Osprey Preening

Four little ducklings looking about
Looking for food, waddled all the way up to the cabin

Till next time, hopefully I will get some of the take off shots I really wanted to get this go around!



Monday, November 23, 2015

Lake Vacation, one of the best parts: Cell reception stinks!

One of my favorite places in all of God's creation is the lake property belonging to my mom's family on the shores of Lake Spokane in Eastern Washington. This was our yearly vacation spot growing up and I look forward to every moment I am blessed to be able to spend there with my family. The peace and quiet of the lake, looking out at the glass smooth surface of the blue/green water in the cool of an August morning – to me this is a small taste of heaven on earth. A blessing from God to be able to enjoy something so beautiful in His creation, away from all the hustle and bustle of modern life.

Aside from the natural beauty of the lake, the quiet atmosphere and relaxation of being on vacation, the lake has another huge benefit that as an adult I absolutely love: The cellular reception is virtually non-existent! Best thing to do is simply leave it off since its going to drain the battery in a hurry while constantly searching for service and rarely ever connecting. Having the phone off means enjoying the outdoors and family without a stupid phone constantly squawking at you, begging you foor your attention and focus on a barrage of worthless drivel and distractions from the life that is actually happening in front of you at the moment. With the poor reception, people won't be continually checking their Facebook feed or responding to every chirp and beep of the phone while you are trying to have an enjoyable visit with them. Everyone's attention is solely on the people and activities around them, instead of constantly zoning out to stare at a cold and lifeless digital screen. I love it.

In today's “connected” world, we have lost the art of meaningful communication, lost the ability to be intentional and personal about communication. Everything is secondary, incidental as its randomly displayed in a feed of other random information. Its time to learn to live life again and unplug, and rediscover the richness of our surroundings instead of experiencing everything through a digital display.

Next up, photos from my trip to the lake in August.



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

An October Flood Sunset

With all the natural beauty God has created here on this earth, it is amazing how beautiful a negative natural event can be - such as the picture below taken during the flooding of the Skagit River in October of 2003.  This shot is still one of my favorite sunset pictures I have taken to date, the colors are vibrant and I love how they reflect on the flood waters.  In the bottom portion of the picture you may be able to make out the yellow caution tape strung across the parking lot by the police department, and more visible in the lower right is the public parking sign.  This is where I would park virtually every day when I worked in down town Mount Vernon.

Sunset Over the Flood

This photo was taken 12 years ago today.



Monday, September 14, 2015

A New Direction

I have had in mind a new direction planned for my blog for some time now, but just haven't gotten around to adding additional content yet. The primary reason for that is my family (especially my two young children) come before a keyboard and computer screen.

As alluded to in the new blog description, the blog will now be more of a general interest blog covering topics that spark my interest and inspire me to write out my thoughts about. Naturally, this includes photography so that aspect of the blog is not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. I have a fair bit written out on, get this, actual paper and have yet had the time to type it up and prepare for its digital publication here (life as a dad, keeping my priorities straight). I assure you though it is coming and I am excited about adding more in depth content here for all to read.

Stay tuned, and I hope you enjoy the expanded content.



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hand Held Long Exposures of Multnomah Falls

Depending on your definition of long exposures, the title may be more accurate to read: hand held slow shutter speed photos of Multnomah Falls. On a recent trip to Hood River Oregon, we had one day where the plan was to take the family to Multnomah Falls. My two year old son absolutely loved it, as he was very excited to see the big waterfall - especially as we had been telling him about it for several weeks leading up to the trip. Our one day available to take the trip to the falls turned out to be an absolutely perfect day for it. The day included some cloud cover that kept temperatures comfortable and the light nice and even.

Now with no tripod and no filters to aid in achieving slower shutter speeds for the shot I was going for, my only option was to ratchet down the aperture as small as possible and brace the camera on a railing (OK, so not 100% hand held after all). I was actually very happy with the results.

Multnomah Falls
All of Multnomah Falls

Lower Multnomah Falls
Lower Multnomah Falls

I was especially happy with how vibrant the colors were with the late spring foilage in a brilliant green.