Sunday, July 20, 2008

the secret of brand-X

You know in every movie you get a kick out of there is some scene that is memorable. The one where the Joker dressed as an artist goes through the museum with boom-box and spray paint making adjustments to great works of art in Gotham City. Or in Star Wars, Luke discovers "open source", I mean the force. He gets reminded by a whisper later " use open source Luke", I mean "use the force Luke". Obiwan says "you have entered into a wider reality" or something like that. In the DOS days, I remember the free trade of software. It was sporting to put your stuff out there for others to use and fiddle with. Soon however, this practice faded away. The software got better and user rights became pinched with price and user agreements and copyright restrictions. Software became marketable entities. Of course with continuing improvements and growing user base, prices go up also and user restrictions become binding but veiled threats (who reads those things anyway). There is word of mouth, ads, and of course comparisons. The psychological leverage of a name brand says that buying this you will succeed. Why then open source?, because guys with the best engineered sneakers in the world are consistently beaten by guys with running shoes made from recycled tire treads!!! Today you have a choice to spend the bucks or "borrow" a copy or get for free the means to manipulate a Bezier curve. If the Bezier curve is a standard in vector graphics, you are paying good money for what if the priced and free programs do the exact same thing. So you are aspiring to get into computer graphics, want to play with the tools before you commit big bucks for a "professional graphics suite", or you are considering putting it all on the back burner because you can't afford to get the "pro tools", yet. You need to change your thinking, open source is here to meet your aspirations and demands. Without the man, walking or running, a sneaker (any brand name) is just a foot covering. If you become great at Bezier curves, it doesn't matter the software that does them. So, in this corner, Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator, in the other, behind the brand-X mask, GIMP, Inkscape, Sodipodi, Draw, Scribus, Xara Xtreme to name a few. Let the developers compete, but you the user can reap the spoils because you are "the user".

There is a difference between computer aided drafting and fine art drawing. Drafting involves the accurate dimensions of things and diagrams closely tied to grids for neat efficient appearance. Fine art drawing on the computer is a lot of eyeball judgment. With fine art drawing, there are pen and tablet devices that are a little better than drawing with a mouse. But the main thing is the required methods to get things done I call a work flow. Work flows are how things are done, draw a line, adjust a line, erase a line. Then working with layers is so different than doing it on paper. The advantage is that you can isolate elements, adjust only those elements without effecting the elements on other layers. Say you have a background and a foreground with your picture. You could trim around your image so that the background would show through when viewed together. Then you could change either the foreground or background at your discretion.
The most wonderful thing on a pencil is a large eraser, on a computer it's undo and redo. Computers also allow you to cut, paste, drag, drop and other useful things that are very labor intensive on paper. You can setup a pretty snazzy art studio with a decent computer, some graphics applications, a scanner, color printer and a determination to fit your wild ideas into the constraints of work flows to express them. Constraints, what constraints? Well, if you are working in bit-mapped graphics or pixel graphics this is one thing. A bit or pixel say the size of the head of a pin when blown up will look like the tile on your bathroom wall. The little picture becomes a mosaic of colored squares. It resembles the original but is a blocky representation at best. Vector graphics on the other hand are computer generated end points. When you blow them up they retain the proportions of the original, no matter how big you make them. So, you can do a little vector drawing and print it out on a big format. We say it's scalable. The bit-mapped graphic closely resembles traditional art work with pencil or brush. Vector graphics is something born on the computer and uses the computer's math power to represent a picture.

In Linuxville, the tradition is not to make you a consumer, but give you the tools so that you can do things yourself. You can start doing stuff right away because all is free or low cost. And if you think I am trying to persuade you into the Linux fold, you are correct, but I recommend also you investigate open source software if you are inclined to stay with the Microsoft powered PC. Today there is no need for the wallet to limit your access to software and the skills to use them.

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