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March 18, 2004
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Mike Angelo's Digital Darkroom

The Microtek S1/D1 Digital Camera for the Linux, Mac, and Windows Platforms

Mike Angelo -- 18 March 2004 (C) -- Page 4


Article Index

Linux Compatibly Issues

All too often, hardware device manufacturers do not provide Linux drivers for their products. Digital cameras often fall into such circumstances.

Microtek does not list its Take-It S1 digital camera as Linux compatible. Nor does Microtek provide any Linux software with its S1 digital camera or offer Linux support for it.

Nevertheless, we found the USB connection from the S1 to a Linux PC to work. That means that Linux users can upload the photo, video-clip, and audio-clip files from the S1 to their Linux-based PCs. There are some qualifications to that statement, however.

On the other hand, the S1 would not work as a Web cam with Linux in our tests of it. Both the SUSE people and the Microtek people tell MozillaQuest Magazine that there are no drivers to run the S1 as a Web cam in Linux.

As a digital photographic camera, the Microtek Take-It S1 worked well with the SUSE Linux, Professional, 9.0 PC on which it was tested. In part, that is because the Microtek S1 is a USB device and the Linux PC sees it as a removable USB drive.

Thus, when the Microtek S1 was plugged into the PC, SUSE Linux 9.0 was able to mount the Microtek S1's internal 8-MB memory as a hard drive and display the JPEG, AVI, and WAV files in the KDE Konqueror file manager. That was easy and simple enough.

However, when the SD card was inserted into the S1 camera, the SUSE 9.0 PC was not able to see the directories and files on the SD card inserted into the S1 camera. The SUSE box could see the S1 camera with the SD card inserted as a removable drive. But it could not see the directories and files on the drive (SD card).

However, the work-around was as simple as removing the SD card from the camera, slipping it into the SanDisk ImageMate USB 2.0 Reader/Writer ($20), and hot-plugging that into the SUSE 9.0 PC.

When the SanDisk SD card reader was plugged into the SUSE Linux 9.0 computer, the SUSE PC was able to mount the SanDisk Ultra II SD card as a hard drive and display the JPEG, AVI, and WAV files stored on the SD card in the KDE Konqueror file manager. Once again it was simple enough. Please see the Mounting Note in the sidebar, below.

Figure 2. Cat in the Pines.

Out of the Microtek S1 digital camera this photo was 2048-pixels by 1536-pixels (interpolated). The Gimp was used to crop the photograph down to a 1585 pixels by 1043 pixels photo. Then, the scale tool was used to re-size the photo to 550 pixels by 362 pixels.

Please note that even with all that cropping and scaling, the detail quality remains very good. For example, the pine needles are reaonably well-defined and the color variations and highlights are well preserved.

In part that is because the Microtek S1 did a good job of snapping the shot, which was saved at the S1's highest quality settings. Please see text for an explanation. (Cat in the Pines photo by Mike Angelo)

Extending the lesson of this experience, it is quite likely that many digital cameras and other such devices that do not work with Linux can be made to do so via removable memory cards (such as the 512-MB, SanDisk, Ultra II, SD card) and by using a card reader (such as the SanDisk ImageMate USB 2.0 Reader/Writer).

Mounting Note:

There was some weird behavior for which we have not been able to determine the cause for sure, yet. At a point in time after the SD card reader was used to read the SD card from the S1, the SUSE box was able to mount the SD card while it was inserted into the camera.

Also, on several occasions we were not able to un-mount the S1 or the SD card reader. The system responded to the umount commands with a device busy message.

In order to un-mount the devices in these circumstances, the fuser -m /dev/sda1 command was used in order to grab the PID of the process that was using the S1 or SD card reader. When the errant process was killed, the umount command given by Root was able to un-mount the S1 or SD card reader.

For you non-Linux people, the Linux operating system does not always automatically recognize the directories and files on a removable hard drive, which is as what Linux sees the S1 camera and the SD card reader. In such cases, the Linux commands mount and umount are used to make the directories and files on the removable hard drive accessible to the file manager and other applications.

Don't let the mount and un-mount terminology intimidate you. It's really pretty simple and makes sense if you understand from where this terminology comes.

This mount and un-mount terminology goes back to the old days of huge mainframe computers with those big, 2,400-ft reels of magnetic tape for data storage. Putting a tape reel up on the tape drive was called mounting the tape and taking a tape reel off of the tape drive was called un-mounting the tape.

Today's CDs, hard drives, and USB drives are so much smaller than those big old 2,400-ft tape reels. However, from a computer logic approach there is not much difference between mounting a big tape reel or a CD, hard drive, or USB drive.

For more about using SD memory card and memory card readers with digital cameras and Linux-based PCs, please see our companion article, The SanDisk 512-MB SD Card and Ultra II Card Reader for Linux, Mac, and Windows.

Test Systems

The SanDisk ImageMate USB 2.0 SD Reader/Writer (SDDR-93) and Microtek, Take-It S1 Digital Camera were tested using a SUSE Linux 9.0 Professional box and a MS Windows 98 SE box.

The SUSE Linux 9.0 Professional box is a desktop machine with a 300-MHz AMD K6 CPU on an Amptron motherboard with 128-MB RAM and a 40-GB Maxtor Ultra DMA 66 hard drive. This box is connected to the LAN via an integrated SiS 900 PCI Fast Ethernet Adapter.

The Microsoft Windows 98 SE machine is a desktop box with 750-MHz AMD Duron CPU, Iwill KV200-R motherboard (VIA KT133 chipset) with integrated audio, 384-MB of PC-133 RAM, 100-GB Maxtor D536X hard drive, and 3D-Labs Oxygen XV1 video card in an Antec ATX case.

Both desktop machines feed display output to a Gateway EV910 19" monitor via a Belkin 4-port KVM switch. This KVM switch takes PS/2 mouse and keyboard input and sends that input to the computers via the USB.

Belkin Multiport USB Hubs are attached to each of the above listed test boxes. The Microtek S1 camera and SanDisk SD card reader were connected to the test computers via the attached Belkin Multiport USB Hubs during our testing procedures.

Article author, Mike Angelo, built both machines.

Recap and Conclusions

The photographic quality of the Microtek Take-It S1 is impressive for an under $100 digital camera. In addition to taking digital photographs, you can use the S1 to make video clips and record sound -- or use it as a Web cam. Moreover, you can upload your S1 photographs, video clips, and sound clips to your PC or show and play them on your TV.

All in all, at its $99 list price the Microtek Take-It S1 Digital Camera is a very good bang for the bucks. Moreover, other than the Web cam function, the S1 works with all three major consumer/desktop operating systems, Linux, Apple Mac, and MS Windows.

There are some qualifications about the S1's Linux compatibility. Nevertheless, even though there are some limitations to the S1's Linux compatibility, the S1's general Linux comparability is ample enough to consider it Linux compatible insofar as its photographic functions are concerned.

The S1 uses SD memory cards for memory expansion. SD cards currently are available at up to 1-GB capacities. That's enough memory capacity to store several thousand photos or up to an hour or more of video.

The S1's light weight and compact, cigarette pack size make it easy to take the S1 with you just about anyplace, anytime. It's great for point and shoot photography, yet you can do some nice quality photography with the S1 also.

The Take-It S1/D1 is Microtek's first digital camera offering. It is very well done and a very good value. Check it out!

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