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Google's Picasa Painted to a Linux Canvas

May 26, 2006, 16:00 (32 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

Linux users and Google watchers received a surprise treat Thursday evening with the announcement that the Mountain View, CA company was releasing a Linux version of their photo management tool Picasa.

The software was quietly released at 11 p.m. on May 25, without (as yet) even an announcement on the Google Blog.

By Friday morning, many interested users outside of the United States reported that they could not access the Picasa for Linux page--at least, not without using a US-based proxy server. A spokesperson for Google indicated that they were aware of the concern.

"The team has seen that report (and also several from users abroad who can use it). They're looking into it but I can't confirm that's the case unilaterally at this point," stated Google's Megan Quinn.

Google Open Source Program Manager Chris DiBona contacted Linux Today prior to the release to elaborate on the news.

According to DiBona, the port of Picasa to the Linux platform will not only give Linux users one more Google application for their general use, but this release will also assist other software developers in their port projects as well.

The reason for this, DiBona explained, is that to enable the Linux version of Picasa the Google development team relied on the WINE Project's emulation technology. Specifically, Picasa will use WINE internally in order to function on Linux. In doing so, he added, "we made some pretty big additions to WINE." These additions will be added back to the WINE Project right away. Google's 225 patches for WINE can be downloaded from the new WINE page at the code.google.com site.

DiBona explained that Google was able to work extensively with CodeWeavers to implement the Picasa port with WINE. With these additions to the WINE code, DiBona said, "it should make it a lot easier for other projects to get their applications ported to Linux."

Picasa, founded in 2001, was purchased by Google in July of 2004, and the photo management tool has seen some extensive use, albeit from Windows users. DiBona indicated that Google made a public committment to begin porting two applications to Linux about a year ago. The other application in this project is Google Earth. Picasa for Linux was announced first simply because it was finished first.

When asked if the additions to WINE would bootstrap Google Earth's porting progress, DiBona answered in the negative, explaining that Google Earth relied on Qt and GL libraries and code, so additional WINE support would not help. No timeline for that application's release was revealed at this time.

Picasa for Linux is available as a "lab release," DiBona said, with final tweaks and bug fixes coming out soon after tonight's initial deployment. Users should see functionality comparable to the Windows version of the product, though without a few features. Most notably absent now is the ability to burn CDs. The application's internationalization support is not active as yet, either. Picasa for Linux has been tested and runs well on Debian- and Red Hat-based distros, as well as Mandriva Linux, DiBona stated.

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