Interview with Kai-Uwe Behrmann

August 3, 2010, Author: Lucie Navrátilová, Categories: Design, Interview, Usability

Please, introduce briefly yourself and your projects in.

I am one of the OpenICC people, who try to make graphics and especially colour management under Linux more easy.

Why did you choose open source software and not the regular one?

To work in the open is a challenge as programmer. It is a very good exercise in many programming aspects. People can more easily compare your code with others, comment directly, translate or collaborate otherwise. As well code exchange can happen easily for complexer software without much administration overhead, provided the licenses allow for that.

What future do you see in libre software?

It is like a street or public place, which helps transporting and preserving ideas and concepts more easily. I expect this kind of software will continue in making a growing part of available software. Look at all sort of applications or operating system vendors. Large parts of the software stack consist of open source. The value add comes through new arrangements, improvements or specialised features. Without open source the IT world would not be as vital as it is today.

You are working on Oyranos, color management system. Will you tell us more?

The idea of Oyranos was born as many colour management stuff appeared to be repeating among applications and libraries. The ultimate goal when I begun Oyranos was to enable colour management for applications in a few steps.

But to get there we had to dive into many system parts and get an idea of how these pars shall work together. Many of the resulting experience went into concepts and later into conventions and public proposals. This took much more time than I initially thought. But it was and is absolutely necessary to get essential pieces in place.

Let me elaborate here as I think the technical side is not easily understandable by most users. However, you might skip to the next question, if you are not much technical interested.

A device like the monitor has several properties like brightness, colour primaries and so on among many non colour related ones, as, how it is connected to the computer or when it was manufactured. For detecting the colour related properties we have to first know of them and where they are, they are in a binary blob called EDID, then getting them, which involves several OS layers and learn to understand that data and translate that information to a ICC profile, which can be used by colour management aware software. As it stands the ICC profile to monitor association can still be improved.

That not enough, different software shall render colours equally, be it window decorations, file icons, movies or graphic layouts.
Thus we started with the concept of a colour managed desktop, which does the colour conversion for all applications even if they do not ask for it. But hey, some applications are more experts then others. So we need as well a way to place a hole in the colour corrected desktop in order to profile monitors and allow for application side colour corrections. I think you can imagine there are many layers and projects involved. To communicate among those, we created a set of conventions for each OS layer.

Oyranos is just one piece of software, which implements these conventions and provide an programming interface for them.

Most of our readers are photographers or designers. How can Oyranos help them?

Oyranos has some interesting technology inside. Through demonstrating the possibilities it inspires other software to expand on that ideas. Of course thats not very direct obvious.

You might benefit directly by being able to set colour related preferences across applications. Indirectly it helps by providing technology to other software, like multi monitor colour correction, which will be in the next release.

Do you use photos for your work?

I just like photos. That was initial to have worked on a image editor with HDR capabilities and a panorama creation application. So at least I am a bit involved. I find it always great to read that my programming work is helpful to others.

Do you want to tell something to our users?

A public statement? Fine, here we are …

As long as you ask around, what is the best and most comfortable, you act much like a consumer.
But open source is even more. You as a group of users have much more influence than with other distribution models like binary only software or remote online services. The questions are who owns what, and what does the owners do with it?
If you feel comfortable with the idea of owning your tools and having the right to modify them, you might feel comfortable with the independence open source can provide you as a group. You can even more rely on that as open source is not going away so easily through a financial crisis or bad management.

And some words about communication …
Voluntarily working programmers are much like artists. Without positive feedback they are often missing something essential. Much like a present without welcome is a bit on the lost side.
From my point of view as passionated user and as a programmer of a smaller project I think getting positive and constructively in touch with all kind of users is something really essential for volunteers as there is no number of sold installations.


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