Linux System Administration


The purpose of this document is to help a reader to get started with Computer Vision library OpenCV on Linux system. OpencCV is a multi-platform library, but this article will be focused only on OpenCV using Linux operating system ( although, just the installation of the OpenCV library and video camera is platform-specific, all examples in this article should compile on any platform where OpenCV is properly installed such as Mac OS, MS Windows and etc.). Reader will be guided through a step-by-step guide on how to install and use some of the basic functions of OpenCV library such as displaying images, playing a video or using a video camera to process a video input stream.

Conventions used in this article:

  • $ - execution on the command line by a non-privileged user
  • # - execution on the command line by a superuser
  • the actual command to be executed on the command line or code of program to be compiled
  • OUTPUT: output produced on the command line by command execution
  • NOTE: general notes and additional information


In simple words a Computer Vision is a scientific field which attempts to provide a sight to the machine. This scientific field has expanded rapidly in recent years. Among researchers this growth is because of many improvements of vision algorithms and among the computer vision hobbyists this is due to the cheaper hardware components and processing power. OpenCV library plays a great role in the Computer Vision field as it helps greatly to reduce cost and preparation time of computer vision research environment needed by university students, hobbyists and professionals. OpenCV also provides a simple to use functions to get the work done in a simple, effective and elegant manner. OpenCV was started by Intel, and later it was transformed to an open source project now available on OpenCV library has multi-platform availability, and it is partially written in C++ and C language. Despite the fact that this library is available on many Linux distributions from its relevant package repositories, in this article we will attempt to install and use OpenCV library compiled from a source code downloaded from web site.

The reasons for compiling a source code may include:
  • new version 2.0.0 recently released and more features available
  • some bugs fixed which affected Linux OpenCV 1.0.0 versions ( such as cvGetCaptureProperty() etc. )
  • more support is available for OpenCV 2.0.0 version than for former 1.0.0 version

This article will start with installation of OpenCV on Debian 5.0 ( Lenny ). Later a reader will be guided through a number of examples on how to use OpenCV to display an image, play a video and use camera to capture the video input stream.

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Here is a small skeleton on how to set /etc/network/interfaces file to connect Debian or Ubuntu to a wireless network. NOTE: Use iwconfig command to find a name of your wireless interface. In this example we use wlan0 as a target network device.
Static network interface:

auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet static
wireless-mode Managed
wireless-key 4ff38e6e98d6a750f33cdb105e

Dynamic dhcp network interface:

auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
wireless-mode Managed
wireless-key 4ff38e6e98d6a750f33cdb105e

Recently I was tempted to have a look on OpenCV project and Oreilly’s book “Learning OpenCV” This is a great book and it assumes some basic C programming skills. However, it is not specific to any platform when it comes to compiling and running program examples. Here is a very short start with Ubuntu 9.04

Let’s start with installation of some useful packages into our ubuntu system:

apt-get install libcv1 libcvaux1 libhighgui1 libcv-dev libcvaux-dev libhighgui-dev libavcodec-dev libavformat-dev libavutil-dev libavutil49 pkg-config g++

Once this is done we can start by compiling a first example in the book ( make sure that you have all quotes corect otherwise you will get errors like:
opencv.c:1:10: error: #include expects "FILENAME" or

actual example code:

#include "highgui.h"

int main(int argc, char** argv)
IplImage* img = cvLoadImage( argv[1] );
cvNamedWindow( "Example1", CV_WINDOW_AUTOSIZE );
cvShowImage( "Example1", img );
cvReleaseImage( &img );
cvDestroyWindow( "Example1" );


now it’s time to save this code into file. For example let us save it into myopencv.c file.

to compile this code we can use command:

g++ -ggdb -I/usr/include/opencv -lhighgui myopnecv.c.c -o opencv_example

another way to compile is to use pkg-config
g++ -ggdb `pkg-config opencv --cflags --libs` myopnecv.c.c -o opencv_example
which is exactly the same as
g++ -ggdb -I/usr/include/opencv -lcxcore -lcv -lhighgui -lcvaux -lml myopnecv.c.c -o opencv_example

the library must be included for compilation otherwise this errors would occur:
myopnecv.c:In function `main':
myopnecv.c:(.text+0x25): undefined reference to `cvLoadImage'
myopnecv.c:(.text+0x3c): undefined reference to `cvNamedWindow'
myopnecv.c:(.text+0x4f): undefined reference to `cvShowImage'
myopnecv.c:(.text+0x5b): undefined reference to `cvWaitKey'
myopnecv.c:(.text+0x66): undefined reference to `cvReleaseImage'
myopnecv.c:(.text+0x72): undefined reference to `cvDestroyWindow'


error: too few arguments to function ‘cvLoadImage’

if your compilation was successful a opencv_example binary should appear in your directory. when running this binary supply an argument ( some picture ):

./opencv_example mypicture.jpg

the image should pop up on your screen.

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