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March 11, 2004
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Mike Angelo's Digital Darkroom

The SanDisk 512-MB SD Card and Ultra II Card Reader for Linux, Mac, and Windows

Mike Angelo -- 11 March 2004 (C) -- Page 1


Article Index
Gimp Note: If you are looking for a first-class image, graphic, and photo-editing program, give the GIMP a spin. Considering that the GIMP is a free download, that should be a very easy thing for you to do.

GIMP often is referred to as an Adobe Photoshop clone because it has pretty much the same collection of features and functions that Photoshop has. However, it appears that rather than thinking of GIMP as a Photoshop clone, it would be more appropriate to think of the GIMP and Photoshop as similar software products of comparable quality.

Unless you are a professional photographer or image editor who needs Photoshop's prepress features, you likely ought to us the GIMP rather than Adobe Photoshop. Considering that the GIMP is a free download, that should be a very easy thing for you to do.

For more about the Gimp and download links, please see our overview of the Gimp article and three Gimp tutorials based on Gimp 1.3. These Gimp articles should give you a pretty good feel of the upcoming Gimp 2.0.

How to Use GIMP for Photo and Image Editing:

#1: Basic Photo editing, cropping, scaling, brightness, and contrast

#2: Intro to layers, text and patterns

#3: Framing Photos and Images

As part of a hands-on evaluation of the Microtek Take-It S1 Digital Camera, I had occasion to use a 512-MB, SanDisk, Ultra II, SD card ($280) and a SanDisk, ImageMate, USB 2.0, Reader/Writer ($20). The 512-MB SD memory card does a very good job of greatly expanding the number and size of JPEG photo files and AVI video clips that you can shoot with most any SD compatible digital camera.

SD card and other memory card readers can be particularly useful to Linux operating system users. All too many digital cameras and other such accessory devices are not compatible with the Linux OS. However, if you use removable card memory such as an SD card, you essentially can make just about all, modern digital cameras compatible with Linux. More about that and the SD card reader further on in this article.

Use the SD Card to Expand Digital Camera Memory

Generally, most digital cameras come with only a relatively small installed memory. It's usually just enough memory to take a few high quality photos, a decent number of not so high quality photos, or a very short video clip.

For example, the Microtek S1 digital camera comes with an internal 8-MB flash memory. That's enough memory for about seven, high-quality photos (2048 pixels x 1536 pixels, interpolated), or about fifteen good-quality shots (1600 pixels x 1299 pixels).

You can increase the number of photos that you can stuff in the S1's memory if you go down to a resolution of 640 pixels x 480 pixels. However, at that sort of resolution, you are not going to have quality photographs. And more importantly, there will not be enough resolution to support effective photo-image editing.

The photo-editing is what turns average shots into darn nice photographs. It's amazing what just basic photo-editing such as cropping, scaling, brightness adjustment, contrast adjustment, and framing can do to improve a simple photo. However, you only can work with what the original photo gives you. The higher the resolution of the photograph, the more you have to work with when you edit the photo.

For example, Figure 1, on page 2, is a digital photograph of a cat enjoying a pleasant nap under a White Pine tree. The shot was taken at the Microtek S1's interpolated 2048 pixels x 1536 pixels resolution. That's about 3.1-MP (MegaPixels).

The Gimp was used to crop the picture down to 1238 pixels x 1243 pixels and scale the cropped image down to the 540-pixel x 542-pixel size shown in Figure 1. Generally, you could not do that sort of cropping and scaling with a 640 pixels x 480 pixels digital photograph and end up with that nice a final picture.

It's just so important to shoot pictures at a digital camera's highest resolution if you want to have great pictures. Therefore, you do not want to be pressured into using less than a digital camera's best-quality settings due to memory constraints.

Another reason that having ample digital camera memory is so important is that you do not want to have to worry about running out of digital film (memory) when you are shooting pictures. Take lots of shots. Then go through them in your digital darkroom (computer photo-editing software such as the Gimp) and select the best of the batch to print or publish.

Photography-wise, there is not much that is worse than running out of digital film when taking pictures of your child's birthday party, a wedding, a family get-together, your child's first steps, your four-legged pal doing something neat and cute, or whatever. Borrowing from the credit card commercial, pictures of these sorts of things are priceless.

That's why it is so important to have ample memory for your digital camera. It is nice to have a 512-MB or 1-GB memory card for your digital camera. But any additional memory is a good thing too. SanDisk SD (Secure Digital) memory cards start at $43 for a 64-MB card and go up to $500 for a 1-GB card, list prices.

SD Card Reader

With the Microtek S1 camera, as with most digital cameras that support removable SD card memory, you do not need a special SD card reader to upload your photos and movie clips from your camera to your computer. However, a separate SD card reader is a very nice thing to have.

Your computer will see SanDisk's, ImageMate USB 2.0 Reader/Writer as a removable hard drive. That lets you preview your photos and video clips without ever having to upload them from your SD card to your computer. Thus, you can pick and chose which photos and video clips you want to keep and which ones you want to discard -- before you upload them to your computer.

Another nice thing about the SD card reader is that it uses power from the USB port when it is plugged into your computer. When you use the SD card reader to upload photos and video clips to your computer you are not using your digital camera to do the uploading. Thus, you do not have to worry about eating up your digital camera's batteries when you are uploading photos and video clips to your computer with your SD card reader rather than your digital camera.

You can use an SD card and SD card reader for lots more than additional memory for your digital camera. Don't forget that you can use your SD card and the SD card reader as an extra hard drive. Moreover, because the SD card reader functionally amounts to a removable hard drive, you can use it to copy large files from one computer to another.

Oh, by the way, don't forget that you can use your SD card and USB SD card reader to take all those neat digital photos of your family, vacation, and so forth to work so that you can show your eager colleagues all those most interesting photos.

At $20 list price, the SanDisk ImageMate, USB 2.0 Reader/Writer is a pretty good bang for the buck.

Use the SD Card and Reader to Make Digital Cameras Linux Compatible

Most impressive is that both the SanDisk SD card and the SanDisk SD card reader work with the GNU-Linux operating system, even though SanDisk only lists them for the Apple Mac and Microsoft Windows operating systems -- sort of.

All too often, hardware device manufacturers do not provide Linux drivers for their products. Digital cameras often fall into such circumstances. However, SanDisk's, ImageMate, USB 2.0 Reader/Writer can let you make a nice end-run around that problem.

The Microtek, Take-It S1, Digital Camera ($99) 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 is plugged into the PC, SUSE Linux 9.0 is able to mount the Microtek S1's internal 8-MB memory as a hard drive and display the JPEG and AVI files in the KDE Konqueror file manager. That's easy and simple enough. We will discuss the specifics of the Microtek S1 in an upcoming review of that product.

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, 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 and AVI files on the SD card in the KDE Konqueror file manager. Once again it was simple enough.

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) by using a card reader (such as the SanDisk ImageMate USB 2.0 Reader/Writer).

We only tried this trick with an SD card and an SD card reader. However, this trick likely would extend to other sorts of memory cards such as CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SmartMedia, xD-Picture Card, MultiMediaCard, and so forth.

The SanDisk, ImageMate, USB 2.0 Reader/Writer comes in four models:

  • CompactFlash Type I and II (model # SDDR-91)
  • SD / MultimediaCard (model # SDDR-93)
  • xD / SmartMedia (model # SDDR-95)
  • Memory Stick / Memory Stick PRO (model # SDDR-97)

On its ImageMate, USB 2.0 Reader/Writer product-description Web page, SanDisk lists all four models as Apple Mac and Microsoft Windows compatible. It does not list them as Linux compatible. Nor, does SanDisk list them as Linux compatible on the product retail packages.

However, Paul Ghighlieri (SanDisk Tech Support) pointed out another SanDisk (tech FAQ) Web page that lists SDDR-91, SDDR-93, SDDR-95, and SDDR-97 as compatible with Linux. We have not tried any of the SanDisk card reader models except for the SD/MultimediaCard Reader (model # SDDR-93). And we have only tried the SDDR-93 with an SD card. But what we did try works just fine with our installation of the SUSE 9.0 Linux operating system distribution.


Related Articles


Article Index
Overview of The GIMP - a free photograph and digital-image editing program

How to Use GIMP for Photo and Image Editing:


OpenOffice 1.1 -- A Complete Office/Productivity Software Suite for GNU-Linux, FreeBSD, MAC, MS-Windows, Unix, and more

Creating a Simple Newsletter with OpenOffice/StarOffice Writer - a free word processor

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Creating a Personal or Company Budget with OpenOffice/StarOffice Calc - Part 1: Basics


SUSE Linux Has New Educational Discount Program - 9.0 Professional Only $50 for Students, Teachers, Schools

Crossover Office 2.1 Runs MS Windows Software on GNU-Linux Systems -- Jeremy White, and Mike Angelo Discuss Crossover Office, Wine, and MS Windows APIs for Linux

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Young People Are The Future of Linux -- Gaël Duval, Joe Eckert, Randy Plessor, Jeremy White, and Mike Angelo Discuss Linux and Open-Source Software in Schools and Colleges

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Linux Networking for Windows and Desktop People -- Mandrake 9.1 and LinNeighborhood


Mozilla 1.3b Browser-Suite Released


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