Friday, May 21, 2010

We are making progress

Right here in the heart of the city, my local public library is making progress. Aside from the flurry of Windows 7, Microsoft Office version whatever and Photoshop books, there is now a spanking brand new GIMP book. This is the GIMP Bible by Jason van Gumster and Robert Shimonski. I am excited because for years Photoshop has ruled the roost with 50+ books and it cost how much?? GIMP does what most folks would use it for and it is free. That's free for folks who have no need to purchase professional level software just to tweak family photos and dabble. I also saw two new Open Office books. Open Office is also free and I am speaking especially to you students who need word processing but don't really need or can't afford M$ Office. Go figure, a public library with a truck load of software books on software no one can really justify the cost of and very few on freely available software. It is even more tragic because open source software is 100 times better than the freeware of the past. And quite a lot of it is enterprise quality, yet not fluffed with fancy trimmings and embedded security problems.

Even if you love or are work bound to Microsoft Windows, Open Source Software can relieve many mental stress fractures and plug financial black holes in wallets and purses. I always hear from ones who try open source but it doesn't work well in their situation. These are usually business folks who rely on Microsoft products and folks with the name-brand loyalty thing. I also see so many who would greatly benefit, who are clueless. Why clueless? Because Open Source stuff is not on the store shelf. Open Source doesn't have that cute mind sticking advertising thing going on.

I have lots of tutorials by users and videos but, I still do not own a printed GIMP reference book. I have PDF docs and users guides and yet there is something about a printed book that is handy and reassuring. Still I am like most, I lightly use many kinds of software. Of late my realization is that to do graphics I need to get more in-depth experience. And if you profess to know anything of anything, people expect you to be somewhat an expert. Sorry folks I use what I use the way that I use it. I am open to learn new tricks if it's something I can use. But overall, GIMP expert and graphics guru I am not. Let's face it, there are some who like to be seen as authoritative. For me to do or be that I would have to study all kinds of stuff I am not interested in, then make myself available to you. In that case I would definitely write a book.

This brings up another good thing, community information. Linux and Open Source both have a history of posting up-to-date information on the internet. And much of that information is maintained by the whole community of users, not just the authors of the software. This is because uses often find innovative ways of using and redefining intent of a software. They discover bugs, flaws, shortcomings and devise work-around, patches, scripts, customizations, tips, etc, The community from the noobe to the developer/maintainer all put in to support software. This is not true with customer/client based commercial software.

So, getting back to GIMP or any other software application, If you want to use it either dabble with it or set aside some time for structured learning. If you can not find a formal class or hire a tutor, I tell you the online and downloadable video tutorials are the way to go. You might find a surveying Open Source Software class before you find a specific class for Open Office or for GIMP. If you have a local computer group, use that as a focal point to gather like interested people and start a SIG (Special Interest Group). Even if you just have email communication, the fact that you are pursuing together is great encouragement and support. As a friend of mine said to me, "if you want to learn IT, hang with computer geeks." To associate and commune is great for learning stuff. This is even more appropriate for graphics because we need to show and tell.

The cool thing is that you don't have to use Linux to use Open Source Software. Some will run on Windows, Linux and Mac. The point is it is out there and not different than other software doing the same thing. It may have a different look and feel or have more or less features but for sure you won't need a defibrillator to revive your wallet.

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