Updated 5/24/01: Read in the comments section on sharpening algorithms. I finally broke down and shelled out some dollars for a scanner, an Epson Perfection 1240U Photo in order to add a few pics to LinuxMedNews.com. Having plunked down my money I thought I might as well do a side by side test of the scanner on Linux and Windows. I was prepared to be disappointed in Linux due to previous experience with sound card and video configuration. Read on to see what happened.
The Epson Perfection 1240U Photo I bought was $217 from Computers4Sure. It is a USB device which includes a transparency adapter for scanning negatives and other films. The scans were done on the same machine dual-booted to Windows 98SE and RedHat Linux 7.1 using the defaults for all software.
Installation for both Linux and Windows receive a B+. It came down to two issues: both had annoying installation problems but Windows was somewhat easier to install. This was negated by the bundled manufacturers software NOT being as good as Linux! Xsane (“Scanner Access Now Easy”, the Linux scanner graphic user interface program) was more cleanly laid out and better suited to its purpose than the manufacturers bundled scanning software. Xsane supported every feature of the scanner, including the transparency unit. Along with GIMP, the combination was quite powerful. What’s more, I didn’t have to install it as RedHat 7.1 already had placed it on my machine. A major minus is that I had to surf the web to find out that xsane was the scanning software for Linux and I had to find and enter some magic incantations and edit /etc/sane.d/epson.conf to get it to work. Moreover, I found the included Adobe(TM) PhotoDeluxe(tm) software bundled on Windows to be clumsy, non-standard and had an excessive number of screen changes to get tasks done. It seemed like more of an advertisement than ‘serious’ software and it became intrusive. The FilmFactory photo organizing crippleware, er, software was also a disappointment.
After paying $217 for the scanner and bundled software, I found that you had to fork over $40 more to use the full version of FilmFactory which was virtually unusable in its ‘free’ bundled form. Not good. While one of its GNOME counterparts gAlbum looks somewhat deserted on Sourceforge it provided a fair amount of functionality without the absurd limits that the out-of-the-box FilmFactory had: 5 ‘roll’ limit, and file format export limited to GIF and BMP. That is unless you wished to shell out $40 for the full version.
I did not notice any appreciable difference between scanner speed on Windows and Linux. The scanned in photos both became blocky with greater than 200% Zoom of a picture. However, picture colors were more accurate with Linux.
This picture was scanned using the Epson bundled scanner software on Windows, while this one was scanned using the xsane 0.62 software on RedHat Linux 7.1 at identical 200 dpi originally TIF file format, but converted to JPEG for display on the web. I’ve put them in a large size so that a close comparison can be done and I used default settings on all software for an out-of-box experience. The flesh tones and colors are less vibrant on the Linux scanned picture, however, the Linux scan is much closer to what the actual photograph looks like. The blue chair is too blue and the flesh tone is more colorful than the actual photo in the Windows scan. Update 5/24/01: a reader has found that the Windows scan has been put through a ‘sharpening’ algorithm that is present in GIMP, but not default. Sharpening with GIMP results in a sharper scan on Linux which you can see here.
In conclusion, which is better? I call it a tie. Once the hardware was installed, scanning software on Linux was better than Windows. Linux lost a few points for having to figure out which software did scanning, and having to edit a configuration file. But, it gained it back with the ‘bundled’ xsane software for Linux which was more suited to task than its equivalents on Windows. Scanned picture colors were more accurate on Linux than Windows. Finally, you don’t have to put up with company logo’s and splash screens at every turn with the bundled Windows software which seemed to compromise the user interface.