Using a command line tool like ImageMagick for image processing may sound a really counter-intuitive thing to do but there’s no need to do everything on a case by case interactive basis. Image resizing and format conversion come to mind here. Helper programs are used behind the scenes too with Ghostscript being used to create Postscript files, for example.
The subject of helper programs brings me to an issue that has hampered me recently. While I am aware that there are tools like F-Spot available, I am also wont to use a combination of shell scripting (BASH & KSH), Perl and ImageMagick for organising my digital photos. My preference for using Raw camera files (DNG & CRW) means that ImageMagick cannot access these without a little helper. In the case of Ubuntu, it’s UFRaw. However, Jaunty Jackalope appears to have seen UFRaw updated to a version that is incompatible with the included version of ImageMagick (6.4.5 as opposed to 3.5.2 at the time of writing). The result is that the command issued by ImageMagick to UFRaw -- issue the command man ufraw-batch to see the details -- is not accepted by the included version of the latter, 0.15 if you’re interested. It seems that an older release of UFRaw accepted the output device ppm16 (16-bit PPM files) but this should now be specified as ppm for the output device and 16 for the output depth. In a nutshell, where the parameter output-type did the lot, you now need both output-type and output-depth.
I thought of decoupling things by using UFRaw to create 16-bit PPM files for processing by ImageMagick but to no avail. The identify command wouldn’t return the date on which the image was taken. I even changed the type to 8-bit JPEG’s with added EXIF information but no progress was made. In the end, a mad plan came to mind: creating a VirtualBox VM running Debian. The logic was that if Debian deserves its reputation for solidity, dependencies like ImageMagick and UFRaw shouldn’t be broken and I wasn’t wrong. To make it fly though, I needed to see if I could get Guest Additions installed on Debian. Out of the box, the supported kernel version must be at least 2.6.27 and Debian’s is 2.6.26 so additional work was on the cards. First, GCC, Make and the correct kernel header files need to be installed. Once those are in place, the installation works smoothly and a restart sets the goodies in motion. To make the necessary Shared folder to be available, a command like the following was executed:
mount -t vboxfs [Shared Folder name] [mount point]
Once that deed was done and ImageMagick instated, the processing that I have been doing for new DSLR images was reinstated. Ironically, Debian’s version of ImageMagick, 6.3.7, is even older than Ubuntu’s but it works and that’s the main thing. There is an Ubuntu bug report for this on Launchpad so I hope that it gets fixed at some point in the near future. However, that may mean awaiting 9.10 or Karmic Koala so I’m glad to have the workaround in the meantime.
Using the command line to process images might sound senseless but the tools offered by ImageMagick certainly prove that it has its place. I have always been wary of using bulk processing for my digital photo files (some digitised from film prints with a scanner) but I do agree that some of it is needed to free up some time for other more necessary things. With this in mind, it is encouraging to see the results from ImageMagick and I can see it making a major difference to how I maintain my online photo gallery.
For instance, making thumbnail images for the gallery certainly seems to be one of those operations where command line bulk processing comes into its own and ImageMagick’s own convert command is heaven sent for this one. For resizing images, all that’s needed is the following:
convert -resize 40% input.jpg output.jpg
Add a spot of further shell scripting and even a dash of Perl and the possibilities for this sort of thing become clearer and this is but the pinnacle of the proverbial iceberg. The -rotate switch will do what the name suggests and there are a whole plethora of other options on tap. So long as you have Ghostscript on your system, conversion of graphics to Postscript (and Encapsulated Postscript too) and PDF files is possible with the -page option controlling the margin around the image itself in the resulting outputs. Unfortunately, portrait is the sole orientation on offer but a bit of judicious post processing will turn things around. Here’s a command that’ll do the trick:
convert -page 792×612+72+72 input.png ps2:output.ps
For retrieving image metadata like its resolution and size, the identify command comes into play. The -verbose option invokes the output of all manner of image metadata so using grep or egrep is perhaps advisable, especially for bulking processing with the likes of Perl. Having the ability to stream image metadata makes loading databases like MySQL less of a chore than the manual data entry that has been my way of doing things until now.
My latest adventure in the world computing has led me into the world of automated PDF generation. When my first approach didn’t prove to be completely trouble-free, I decided to look at the idea of going part of the way with it and finishing off the job with the open source utility Ghostscript. It is that which got me thinking about combining bookmarked PDF files and I can say that Ghostscript is capable of producing what I need as long it doesn’t generate any errors along the way. Here’s the command that does the trick:
gs -dBATCH -dNOPAUSE -q -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sOutputFile=final.pdf source_file1.pdf source_file2.pdf
The various switches of the gs command have very useful roles with dBATCH ensuring that Ghostscript shuts down when all is done, dNOPAUSE removing any prompts that would otherwise be given, q for quiet mode, sDEVICE using Ghostscript’s own PDF creation functionality and sOutputFile creates the output file, stopping Ghostscript from sending it to its default stream. All of this applies to Windows Ghostscript too, though the name of the executable is gswin32c for 32-bit Windows instead of gs.
When it comes to any debugging, it is useful to consider that Ghostscript is case sensitive with its command line switches, something that I seen to trip up others. I am getting initial device initialisation so it strikes me that dropping some of the ones that reduce the number of messages might help me work out what’s going on. It’s a useful idea that I have yet to try.
There is also online documentation if you fancy learning more and Linux.com have an article that considers other possible PDF combination tools as well. All in all, it’s nice to have command line tools to do these sorts of things rather than having to use GUI applications all of the time.