Thursday, August 30, 2012

artist of the digital realms

Today I downloaded a series of videos by Scott Ligon@MOCA Cleveland. Very interesting lectures. For a guy like me not school trained to peak in on this is cool. Why I say this, because the bucks involved to go to school, and the bucks involved in getting the software he knows and loves and uses, especially the industry standard Photoshop. Ultimately it about the tools themselves and not the brandname. You can have assess to whatever tools are available to you. BUT, the "working artist" are usually trained in Photoshop. This helps when you have to collaborate, share files, or move to a new company using the same software.

If you are not in the above professional loop or do not need the proware, or want to be well versed in many different software or are just starting out, use GIMP! Now, let me turn this around. If you are starting out use GIMP. Why, same or similar tools, zero cost. As you grow in your skills, for sure you will want the pro tools, or maybe not. MyPaint is wonderful too.

I am an Inkscape user, which is sort of like Adobe Illustrator. I like vector drawing because it is close to the CAD work I have used for years. Mostly you use a mouse but I guess you can get use to using a pen. For me using a pen is awkward. My Wacom Graphire 2 (man is that old) gave me a lot of issues. It was too small, as big as a mouse pad and the active area is small. Then on the laptop I had at the time it was jittery on the screen. On my newer laptop the display is solid.I solved the size problem by placing the digital tablet in an old laptop display lid. I used foamboard to fill in the sides and match the surface height. A clear sheet of flexible plastic makes the surface smooth. It is more comfortable to hold and pleasant to use. Maybe I will invest in an updated tablet.

Drawing vectors with a mouse is one way to draw, with a pen on a tablet is different. This is like using a pencil, you must really draw freehand. I have never been a good freehand drawer. The first thing I get is the blank page syndrome. Every artist gets this because you ain't been trained yet. SO, the next thing you must do is play like crazy, see what types of lines you can make. Practice drawing lines and shapes while you find a project you can work at. This will focus your play into skills. Video and pdf tutorials are great for freelance learners. Now you have something to draw, can you see it? draw it!

I noticed most programs use keyboard shortcuts, make a list, even incorporate them into a desktop screen so you can peak at them. I am thinking of a mini remote USB keyboard to mount on my tablet contraption so I won't have to reach for the laptop.

Now when doing vector drawing, it is one way of thinking. To do the same in raster or pixel drawing, there is another way. You have to learn how to apply the principles of art according to the kind of drawing. I went from pen-n-ink drafting to CAD with little trouble, then to vector drawing with no problem. Not having good freehand drawing skills is slowing my graphic tablet learning. I need to work at the concept, the muscle memory or hand-eye coordination thing and the workflow or procedures. In all I recommend Open Source Software artist tools to start.

Monday, August 27, 2012

click'n and screaming

Damn those quirks! You know when you are typing or mousing and your thumb inadvertently touches the touch pad. The cursor veers off to another place and the text you are typing along with it. The solution, tape your thumb to your index finger!!
There is a setting on this PC that shuts the touch pad down when a PS/2 mouse is plugged in, what? this laptop has no PS/2 ports, it's USB.

Ran into another quirk, did some drawings in Inkscape on one computer, copied to jump drive, then used Inkscape on another computer to work the same file. The first PC was Linux with a 1920x1200 screen, the other was XP with 1024x768. Man the picture was scrambled and I had to sort it out. When I ungrouped it the text flew off into the margins!?! Strange strange.

Speaking of strange, my vintage Wacom Graphire 2 graphic tablet is rarely used. I can't get a handle in it. Ooh, you need a new one. Wait, it still works and I'm not that good with it. What's wrong with it? It's too small, like holding a pad of note paper. On the table it is too thick, on the lap it is too small. Not the drawing area, the outside of it. I found the lid of an old laptop with the LCD removed from it. I placed the little Wacom in the middle of it. Had to do some cutting to make it fit flat. Then I took foam board and filled in either side to the height of the surface of the tablet. Finally I covered the whole top with a sheet of thin plastic. The drawing area is still 3.5 x 5 but the surrounding area is now 8 x 13. I now have room to rest my hand on the surface and I can sweep across the surface not worrying about edges. Hey, a little swashbuckling goes a long way, you know.

Your in a room with a few people and you are trying to not be distracting. You turn on the laptop and the built-in speakers beeps, burps and sings. I took an old cutoff headphone plug, stick it in the jack during boot up. It is quiet. I think I'll sell it with a fob, quiet, cool, bling!!

Laptop is still running great, no video mishaps, solid, stable.
Mint is great, I am going to try the Gnome desktop to see if they improved it, but no rush. Ooh, last quirk, a Linux and Open Source Software user in a sea of XP and Win7. They expect MS, it doesn't compute that Linux and Open Source is viable and free too. There are cross-use issues but in the fold.........no worries. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

down the road apace heels a click'n

Well folks as I said before I was making some changes amid some turbulence. The laptop flop and Ubuntu 12.04 glitches. So here is an update as to where we are at today, even as we speak, err type. Baking the laptop's removable video cards worked, I am still stunned and not happy-danced out yet. Don't try this at home, at least not in an oven used for food. Be cautious and a little leery, it's OK. I want to buy a small oven for art projects anyway, but will have to see if I can get 386 degrees out of a small unit. What about an easy bake oven? LOL! ok, I'll stop.

Then I tried to install XP Pro on the spare laptop, twice I got the BSOD (blue screen of death) during the install. The little sticker that says this unit is designed for Windows XP is iffy. So now Mint 13 (Maya) Linux is on both laptops. The one that I mostly use has 4 gig of RAM so I installed Virtualbox which allows me to run XP as a virtual system inside of Linux. What a laugh to run XP in a window and control it as an application. It runs well so far. I use XP to run Google Sketchup. This worked better than running Sketchup in WINE ( a MS Windows simulator for Linux), which worked till it couldn't find the GL graphics libraries, dang, they are right there!. XP is still good if you need it.

So the laptop displays look solid and stable. Mint is the bomb and real MS WinXP in a window works fine too. Now I am going to tell you the ugly truth. Trouble is exciting, the fixing, the fussing, the explaining, the chest thumping..........getting back to work is kind of flat. Yeah, I'm flat and happy.

Been pushing the pen a lot lately, I am half way through another notebook. I need to push the mouse to get some of the ideas into digital form. My biggest hurdle comes from not having enough ink in my printer. There are 3 colors and 2 blacks. If one of the cartridges are out the printer shuts down. Wouldn't you know it, one black cartridge is out. Why two if one out shuts printing down? You'd think one big honking black cartridge rather than two small ones would suffice and a switch to switch to black ink only........do I have to tell them everything!?! Oh, I should have bought a printer with both bells and whistles. At the time bells were enough. Let that be a lesson to you and me. See ya.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

resurrecting an old laptop

You thought I was going to post another post about reviving a PC with Linux, didn't you? Actually it's already a Linux PC, lol. Let me tell the whole story.

A friend gave me two Dell M90 laptop, a good one and one for spare parts. Recently the good one's video card started displaying abstract art. Now I got two laptops in the same state. I did a Google search for replacements and fixes. In a forum some were saying about baking the video cards. Theory is that day to day stress causes micro fractures in the solder joints, enough to cause functional problems. The M90 are known for heat related problems, now this too. I read the same on other forums and watched a few videos on the procedure. They used the ovens in their kitchens but I was worried about gases and fumes of solder materials in my food oven. I used a oven not used for food at the art gallery. Well needless to say it all worked, I now have two working laptops. So I won't lay it all out but if you Google you'll find it.

My laptop is back and I have a working spare. Can you beat that? If you have moving parts, bang it on the side, if not bake it!! I can hardly believe it's working, but it is.

Monday, August 20, 2012

the gathering

We got a local PC user's group and it is not bad. Mostly Microsoft users. They tried to stir interest in a Linux user's group, there is a diff that cramps things.

In the Microsoft oriented group, it is about applications like Office and Photoshop, Outlook, how to do things on the Microsoft platform. Not about the OS it self. MS does not have to be explained, it is in common use. It is unsaid but applications or programs are for doing stuff that "users do".

With Linux on the other hand, every thing has to be explained, the OS and the applications and what you can and can not do and what to expect. Linux, OH what's that? What can you do with that?, Can you use Microsoft programs with that? That from people who have no clue. Linux has been primarily a server OS so you get a glut of server administrators. They talk about various servers and databases, virtual devices, and hooking into Microsoft networks with Samba and the command line. There are few to none casual average semi-savvy users in the Linux clutch.  You won't get a class in using GIMP because everybody uses Photoshop in MS Windows, what's GIMP. The casual user is strangely absent from Linux user's groups. There are few casual users. In the usual Linux group, it's all about the OS. The only way to get average semi-savvy Linux users is through the promotion of Open Source Software. Then you get a mix of MS PC, Mac and Linux users because the softwares are available for all three platforms. For Linux only users the care and feeding is not there similarly to MS PCs and Apple platforms.

The point of groups is to pool experience and get help and the best use out of your hack of choice.

OK, on the home front, my two Dell M90 laptops share a common plight, the graphic cards displays abstract art. My faithful desktop a Dell Precision 380 is now bearing the brunt of my daily computing. I did have a problem downloading YouTube videos. I tried a couple of different downloaders that work in Firefox web browser to no avail and a YouTube client application. All delivered a file with '0' data in it. So I went to Firefox, Google search and typed in my problem. In one forum someone mentioned going into Firefox preferences and erasing the cookies for Google. I just erased all the cookies and BAM!, ZOWIE! it worked, I now can download YouTube videos. This is the kind of help you could get in a user group. You couldn't find this in a user manual (besides, Linux doesn't have a manual, but there are a lot of good Linux books. I don't read many books of late because of YouTube videos on GIMP, Inkscape and Sketchup and other stuff like John Coltrane and Black history.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

heads up display

OK the worst things in the world is to have a rose colored heads=up=display and deer in the headlights, or flying bird crap or worst yet hit a low flying bird. The first thing is not knowing the reasons, the second thing is bad judgment, the last is dang I feel sorry I couldn't have done anything different. All my previous ranting about Ubuntu 12.04 was only half true. I still got way too many internal error messages, but the rest was hardware related. My laptop's graphics card went into displaying abstract art. I do have two Dell M90s', both in the same state. I even swapped the graphics cards after intensive surgery and the card from the other M90 was worse than the card I was using. Needless to say I am now in morning, dressed in black and about to go out into the yard, chop weeds and figure out how to get another laptop.

Hey, it's another day in the life of a Linux user. I'm a psychotic mess, LOL. When my main PC goes down I shutter at the thought of going back to XP. Good thing a Linux install is a no brainer (for me!). First I run something called Gparted and set up the hard drives. I could also go straight into the Live-CD version of the Linux distro I'm going to install. It gives you a chance to repartition and reformat. You can format a drive to the Microsoft system standard too. This makes Gparted or the Live-CD version of Linux a handy tool for operating system installation. This is important because Microsoft doesn't give you a installation CD unless you buy it and PC manufactures usually put a rescue/backup partition on the hard drive of the PC they sell instead of giving you a separate CD with Microsoft OS on it. So to get the CD is gold. Usually there is a chrome sticker on the system box. You can go into a PC store and have them reinstall your operating if it is hosed or retrieve it from the rescue partition if it exists. Not cool if the hard drive itself breaks. I wonder if the MS CD has hard drive tools on it, probably not, but up to the Win98 days it did.

Linux is great in that the popular versions for popular use all work the same. You buy a CD/DVD or download off the internet for free. You burn the downloaded file onto a blank CD/DVD. Then you pop it in the CD/DVD drive. If it is a live-cd version it will boot-n-run off the CD. You can check it out pretty good and decide if you want to install it. While it is running off the CD, you click the install icon and the procedure goes from there. When it is installed you go about making sure your video drivers are good, the sound works and the internet works, plus if it plays YouTube videos OK, set up email. Then when you have internet go to the app that adds programs from the Linux repository. You are ready to go. And I just changed my desktop from Ubuntu 12.04 to Mint 13 Maya with the Cinnamon desktop. Looks great and no internal error messages. AND NOW a Linux commercial............

There you are on the edge of an icy plateau. You eye to the left and to the right, not a soul in sight and the crisp air excites your mind with what's to come. You hear a sound behind you, turn slightly to realize there is a multitude of ones like you and you hope the heck that someone doesn't push you off before you are ready. Just your luck someone jumps first and the cascade begins. It comes to your turn and you leap thinking it's a good thing we aren't lemmings. As you speed past the rocks and ice you realize it's no worst than other places and slash........the waters fine, fish abundant and penguins do fly.

Linux, no big thrill, no over kill, gets the job done and still is fun. That's my take.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Ubuntu, what did you do?

I upgraded to Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on this Laptop (Dell M90), it's been a little rough on the video card (Quadro FX 2500m). Unity and Gnome shell I think complicates it's working properly. Every now and then the whole screen becomes uncontrollable angular shapes. There is also the system crashes where the lights flash and the keyboard and mouse are unresponsive. Yes, I tried the regular video drivers and the Nvidia drivers, the results are the same. I only get the system error message on my desktop, but all this craziness on the laptop. I pulled a different hard drive out of another Dell M90 and loaded Mint on it. Swapping the drives on the same machine allows me to see if the install was a problem. Mint does not use Unity or Gnome 3 and the display is rock solid. I don't have the feeling of pending doom. I noticed something else, the laptop runs a little cooler, it seems Ubuntu works both the video card and the hard drive to death on this M90 laptop.

My point is this, Linux is Linux is Linux, BUT..... each development group that puts out a distribution of Linux tweaks it according to how they think it should go. When you try out a distro it may or may not perform well on your selection of hardware. AND.......you won't know that until you check it out. Perhaps there are some notes in a forum or comments by other users using the similar hardware as you. I always say mileage may vary, should work fine but maybe not optimum.

So, I'm going to say the problem with Ubuntu is Unity and Gnome Shell and my Quadro FX 2500 in this laptop. The desktop (Pentium 4) only gets the system error messages. If Mint gets the nod after I test all my graphics apps, then I will put it on the desktop also. I also installed WINE so that I can run Goggle Sketchup. It is a MS platform program, if it doesn't work I will put XP on the second drive, I might do that anyway. Now don't forget Mint is based on Ubuntu but it is minus Unity and Mint has it's own tweak of Gnome 3 shell, to tell you the truth, I am happy with the Cinnamon/Mate desktop just fine.

catching up


Welcome back the Linuxville ch√Ęteau is being renovated again. I upgraded to Ubuntu 12.04 on my laptop and desktop. It is the LTS version which is like saying this is the base line for the next series to follow.  Well..........since loading it and using it I have been greeted with internal error reports every chance it gets. That alone does a lot to erode your confidence in the software. The 'damn what now' phrase is starting to become center in my vocab. I went looking for answers, sort of but instead went over to the DistroWatch web site. The numbers did the talking as Ubuntu is no longer the top dog by a large margin. Mint OS is king by curosity , try it you will like it and jump ship. I have used Mint in the past, but rose colored Ubuntu loyalty was altering my gaze. I have installed Mint 13, the Mate/Cinnamon version and so far my complaints are about the Ubuntu I left behind. Well so what I don't have a desktop that rivals a heads up display in the movies. I need to get some work done.

Been real busy doing a mural project with local kids and real paint. I turned a spare PC into a fancy DVD player for my TV. Built a PC for a friend. Been playing with ideas pertaining to the shanty town as a form of honest architecture. We are talking quonset huts and silos and cargo containers, with various results. GIMP, will you please make a Debian package of version 2.8, it is a drag being stuck with 2.6 in the repositories. I still use Inkscape a lot and it is still wonderful.

In the Lorain Arts Council Gallery and Art Center I run into many rough patches. Everybody uses MS Office suite and Photoshop, etc. When I do stuff in Linux platform products there is not always a smooth cross over. When we are looking over each other's shoulders it is harder to help, give tips, rescue advice, etc. You really have to think about what's being used and I don't have much fresh experience on the Microsoft platform. Even when I use XP, it is simple use, not savvy use at all. I prefer Linux because it is free and it's inner workings are not a company secret. I don't have to be a trained personnel to comprehend it. But having said all that I use Linux simply also. If I could fix it I'd be making money doing that and would have no time to do art. You have limit the kind of knowledge you know or folks will steal your time helping them (usually for free!). Most never heard of Open Source, hey that's what I use and it works...........for me!

I have been using Google's Sketchup the free version. It is the most wonderful 3d program. On the Linux platform you need WINE to run it. It works OK but on my laptop in Ubuntu it has been touchy. It can't find the graphics drivers, then the GL extensions, then..............I am not going to reinstall it just to use it, would rather dual boot with XP and not be bothered. We will see how Mint handles all this.