Saturday, May 30, 2009

artistic encounters of the Linux kind

The first thing that comes into play to an artist using a computer is economics. We say if I could have one machine that could do it all (I only can afford one), what would that machine be? That totally depends on what kinds of artistic work/play we are planning to do. So, let's see, digital art requires at least.......... I can't answer for all you pixel pushers so I won't. For me it goes like this:

Some kind of laptop I can carry around to dabble and doodle with, not necessarily my main work horse computer. If I lose, misplace or it gets stolen, my doodle machine can be somewhat expendable. I don't want to carry around a $2000.00 machine without Lloyd's of London backing and a full replacement warranty. This doodle machine can be new/used/inexpensive but must run my idea developing software. Of course I'm a Linux and open source software guy.

Then I will need a work horse computer that stays locked up in my studio. I could then use the jump drive or e-net to move files to this studio machine to have the full weight of graphic power push ideas in any direction.

If you only have one machine to do it all and you want a laptop, you will want a big wide screen, fast processor, maximum memory, extended battery life, etc, etc, etc. You want a desktop in a laptop wrapper. Good luck and second mortgage with that.

I still have a vision in my head of the artist roaming the country or city with his box of paint, pallet, easel and small canvases, all situated so he can move about, setup, paint, catch some rays, pack up and go. When he is done capturing he goes to his studio with his visions nailed down and incorporates them into larger canvases. Well this is more or less how I work, only I have sketchbooks and ball-point pens. I'd like to replace this with a laptop.

I have to say though the reason I can get away with doing much on the cheap is because I value the simplicity of 2D design. Many computer artist are into processing power to do 3D graphics, animation or run engineering software, complex programming and imaging software. You must have the equipment to be able to comfortably run the applications you need. The more power you need, the more display options, the more the costs go up. This is why I want a dabble and doodle machine and then also a studio machine.

Another thing I have been impressed with is backup. Especially with artwork, get USB jump drives or USB hard drives to save your work on. Nothing is worst than an OS crash or drive failure and your work is on the same drive as the crashed OS. Recovery services can be expensive. Also this USB drive allows you to carry your work with you, plug in to other computers. With some Linux you can even install the OS and apps on the jump drive and use them if the computer can boot from the USB device. I'm seeing a new cyber superhero wearing a bandoleer of jump drives like a utility belt, ready for anything. So, a laptop with a smallish hard drive is of little concern, rather USB ports is the key along with jump drives.

Sometimes the latest technology is a desire stirrer upper that has nothing to do with getting the work done, just spending your money. Step back from the edge, away from the "having the latest" excitement. I know many handymen and artist who can't give up an old brush that works fine. You pros must be competitive in your market, us dabblers and doodlers have a more relaxed pool of resources, challenges and expectations.

The last stroke of genius for artist is output devices. I've seen a video projector that fits in the pocket and used LCD's can be had very cheaply. Multiple display electronics are out there and we can't even adequately touch printer technology. If the typical desktop printer can put out digital photos, you can bet it will do justice to your digital art work. Now, multiply that times 10, wide format inkjet printers can do poster size and larger and can get pricey if you want to print on more than paper. I can get very exciting if you let it.

I am just poking at a niche, a lot of digital graphics never leaves the screen. Most folks when they think of computer graphics probably think web stuff, or game graphics, movie special effects or cartoons. The digital art world is plenty big. Got a big screen TV, what do you do with it when not watching videos. Computer input makes it a huge multimedia display.

Yeah, I know you can exploit all this with MS or Mac but this is Linuxville.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dabbling and doodling with Linux.

There is a lot of stigma surrounding using Linux. This is why some never get past comparing Linux applications to Microsoft and Mac applications. Does which one is best matter if they both do the job? If you use Microsoft, try this, if Linux try this. Why ask can I run Microsoft stuff on Linux? If you want Microsoft, stay with Microsoft. Any advantage to using Linux is somewhat lost running Microsoft stuff on it. It is extra work to do this kind of stuff. And that word compatibility is thrown around so often folks don't know compatible with what. So, in that light, it is simpler not to mix platforms, but if you don't mind the mess, it's your computer.

I fancy myself an artist dabbler. There ought to be a Linux graphics understanding to deal with the Microsoft platform graphics application bias.

1) It is OK to use GIMP even though it is not Photoshop. There are lots of graphic apps that run on the Microsoft platform (including GIMP) some free, some not. Using the industry standard is good if you need to use it. If you don't you are free to use whatever avails.

2) CMYK is not necessary if one does not need it (mostly required for offset printing). If a software does not have it, use one that does, if you need it. GIMP does not have it but can get it. In any case, GIMP handles RGB used in displays and inkjet printers quite well and is all most people ever use.

3) Linux graphics applications work well on computers with lower resources, no need to buy top shelf. To need pro tools but hold off doing digital art until you can get them is insane. If you can do it at lower cost, why not? Skills are transferable. Being able to handle the technology today with what we have available to us is better than pirating a pro-ware copy or waiting for someday when we turn pro and get on the job training (after hours).

4) We Linux graphics users (especially us dabblers and doodlers) can use any tools we want. If we manage to get professional results it is a testament to our skill and artistry.

5) It don't have to be the so-called best, it just has to work, do the job.

6) Dabblers and doodlers don't require lots of power, we don't need to have commercial pro-ware to do what we do. (we can wing-dang-doodle all nite long!)

7) Using Linux graphics does not alienate us from the rest of the graphics world. We expand it, make it better. We are making room for ourselves.

I bring up the movies Tron and Star Wars. When they started the computer and camera technology needed to produce them scarcely existed. Much of it was invented during the production. We have given in to ready made products forgetting how short a time they have been with us. We Linux users have to invent our own technology when necessary.

So, if you are a digital artist and especially if you use Linux and open source software to do it, flaunt it loudly (not made with Photoshop!), (this picture contains no Adobe made content!).
Actually, I don't care what you use to make your digital art, but this is Linuxville, you know.
Art is art, there is no state of the art, cutting edge what ever. Folks are still using oils and brushes and cotton canvas. But we do have an opportunity to explore this new digital media and make it just as viable as the old school traditional medias.

Getting back to stigma in digital art, we value a watercolor or an oil painting and when you want a reproduction (a copy), chances are it will be photographed, scanned into a computer and printed out. But a digitally created image also printed out is treated with less respect than the repro. Digital art is not new, in fact art was envisioned as soon as displays could show what software and programmers could do. We do a lot of art on computers today and there are all kinds of professional work, web design, cartoons, movies, etc, etc, etc, except one area.........., the kind of art that gets fastened to your livingroom wall or your diningroom wall. That casual art we can live with, a popular art, art drawn by computer art dabblers and doodlers.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

so much Linuxville, so little time

The absolute saddest part of my job as a Linuxville guide is not being able to try everything, do everything or know everything. I guess this is why I only dabble in art. If I am blogging I'm not making art. If I fixing PC's I'm not making art. It is not just me, count how many general practice doctors you know, then how many specialist (todays trend). Why can't you specialize in general medicine? It pays better to know in depth and people respect you and say to their friends, you are a geek, nerd, guru, pc whiz or techie. You have karnal knowledge of the OS (the wizard of OS!), and maybe can sense my problems before they happen. Please come and work your magic. "That will be $.25 for the parts and labor and $175.62 for the advice, thank you."

Oh, Arnold, what did you do? I loaded Gnome desktop on my Xubuntu, what a mess. My thought was to explore Gnome as an alternate now I'm stuck with Gnome as my main desktop. You see, when installing multiple desktops there is not much to isolate them from each other. XFCE and Gnome share somethings but Gnome tends to be the dominate personality. In some distributions I've used in the past there was a check box to enable/disable which desktop manager was ruling the roost. This is not the case here, so until I sort this out my Xubuntu has become Ubuntu.

XFCE is a little leaner in resource use but who cares, if I really wanted lean, I'd use Fluxbox or IceWM. What is really nice about XFCE is how it is set up. Simple menus, simple configurations, it just does not get in your way with whiz bang zowie, look at what I can do!!! Gnome, I can set up to look like XFCE but it's not zippy like XFCE. There are more options like transparency in the panels "behind" the icons. I do like the timed wallpaper changer and the ability to easily customize the theme colors. Performance is not bad in Gnome, I increased my RAM to 1024MB. XFCE is already zippy but more RAM and it's zippier yet!

You ever wonder why some well padded folks own a fleet of cars? Believe me if one car could satisfy that person it would be quite a car. Holographic skinning outside and inside. I wonder if chameleon skin could be wired to a computer? Multiple fuel tanks and a golf cart to Autobahn speed regulator. The ability to convert from Mini to Hummer at the drop of a hat, a gear shifter with seamless gear meshes and selectable car noises from stealthy to a gas guzzling HEMI. The funny part is someone will want a fleet of those, oh well. It's human to not get enough.

The kick the ATX PC case to the curb project is rolling along smoothly. Here's how you can get one. First buy a bigger laptop, one with the regular keyboard. Then drop it, oh did you break the display? But instead of replacing the display, remove it with the lid. Now dig out the video cable and LCD monitor from your former computer (check the closet!) and plug that in. Hey, this works quite nice as a desktop. I've got leg room and shelf space. They could make it a convertible/transportable kind of desktop computer thingy, I love it!!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know about those all-in-one PC's with the computer built into the display. It's just like those TV/VCR combos, if that is your only one and it's broke, you got to send the whole thing in to be fixed. As a techie I stand for the separation of computer and display and church and state. I will not compromise my principles! (vote for me, please!) I will fight for your desktop PC but there needs to be a CHANGE.

Speaking of standards, the ATX PC standard is recognized by all hardware manufacturers, but laptop makers enjoy a design engineer's free for all. At least they are not devising new ports on the fly. What would happen to the laptop market if a standard laptop manufacturing format emerged similar to the ATX standard? Can you imagine your favorite laptop brandname being reduced to a system integrator of OEM parts? Hey, it's not our fault, we didn't make that part! (hey Harry, I think we need a different gadget vendor, our good name is getting besmirched by poor quality). Think assembly lines diverging to different points from the same warehouse and different logos for different brands being slapped on. And you thought going to that better store got you better cheese! Ha!

My current realization has been that I am now comfortable with using Linux. I am not a Linux system admin wizard maintaining servers and flocks of networked PC's. I am a humble personal computer owner who has found Linux able to run wonderfully and meet all my computing needs. The Linux OS runs great, now what? For me, it's all about the applications. I am throwing down the mouse hand glove. To administer systems is one world, to manage and use a personal computer is another. Who doesn't know Linux on servers or high-powered workstations? But also, who knows Linux on the average personal computer? This is the part people wrestle with. The history of Microsoft and Apple is engrained in our computer user memory, but still we ask, when did Linux came about. If you were a Byte Magazine fan like I was, you'd know. Byte Magazine tracked all the computer happening in geekdom. I am showing my age here, I know Byte was before many of todays computer user's time. I miss the focus and the coverage. There is no mag covering it all today, we have divided off into MS, Mac or Linux based interest and support groups. We flaunt our loyalities and allegences and logos. The machines claim user-friendliness and the users don't.

So much talk about Linux the OS, now that I got it, what do I do with it? Run applications, just like with MS Windows or Mac OS. First people ask can I run my Windows or Mac stuff on Linux? If you bought a Mac you don't ask if Windows stuff will run on it. The same for Windows. You learn about the software that runs on it. Linux is expected to run what you already know, but Linux has its own stuff. At your insistance Linux has accomodated some of your wants through emulation and virtualization. In that sense Linux is becoming a universal OS. But again, Linux has it's own stuff. As your Linuxville guide I try to explore the Linux stuff. I don't care about comparing GIMP to Photoshop. I just use GIMP. That which is better, knowing which is best, competition, there can only be one thing is dumb. If Photoshop ran on Linux and Windows the way that GIMP does, then we'd have a fight. Besides, how many graphic packages on the Microsoft platform make Photoshop a non-issue, many of which are free?

Take it from the Linuxville guide, when you come to Linuxville leave the MS and Mac bags at home. You don't have to look back when you know you can go back any time. If you settle in here, you can manage a remote residence, or go back to visit or have dual citizenship. My intent is that you can appreciate what's here. And even I haven't seen everything that's here, I am but one person still discovering and my interest are probably not yours. So, if you explore, you can be my guide. This is normal in Linuxville.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

well known recipe for stone soup

There was this iron pot that sat in a booth at the end of the market. You have to walk past all the canned goods with flashy labels and cool sounding familiar names to get there. I thought people were returning food that was stale, rotten or otherwise not to their liking. But their faces weren't twisted with disgust and dissatisfaction, they were smiling with gimpish grins as they tossed stuff into the pot, stirred and tasted. "Can you believe this started with a stone?", they said to me. I saw a stack of bowls and someone passing by exclaimed " feel free to help yourself, no need to ask permission or sign a waver, it way surpasses FDA approval." In my head I reviewed what I saw being dumped into the pot, smelled the smells, then cradled the texture over and over with my spoon. I pulled the spoon to my lips and tasted, "I know this recipe!" I exclaimed out loud. The passerbys smiled and nodded in agreement. A gimpish grim came from nowhere, I still can't seem to shake it.

When I go to the market I now notice the signs and placards all telling me to buy the cans. TV ads and radio jingles extolling the virtues of the canned goods. Techno show hosts cautioning about trying what's in the pot at the end of the market. The canned goods companies conduct studies on the effects on users and the potential threats to their own products. They whisper about their secret ingredients locked away from prying eyes. Who knows if they actually use them. But they boast, "see, the cans are still flying off the shelves". Its true. But some still find their way to the pot in the booth at the end of the market. After being hammered by canned goods mania they venture to taste what's in the pot. Yes, the gimpish grin that comes from nowhere and the sudden outburst "I know this recipe!" are legendary reactions noted in the words of the guy who invented the stone (kernel).

Secret ingredients in a can or a stone in a pot you can see, smell and taste. You can cook, bring your best stuff, put it in the pot, stir and season to taste. You can't cook, come sample the culinary delights. Your face will ache, that Joker's grin doesn't go away and people will say there's something different going on with you. Just tell them you tried the stuff in the pot in the booth at the end of the market. Some will say they won't go there, some have no idea about it, some have wondered but have no strong urge. There is a small sign that says "Welcome to Linuxville" and there is a line you cross though faint from wear, but there is no passport checking or baggage scan. And the bowl is yours to keep.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

user mind and cpu's

I hate to bust your bubble, but no one really multi-tasks, really. Some have the ability to swiftly shift attention while managing several trains of thought, I guess you could say this is multi-tasking. But I guarantee that because focus is required to deal with each thought train to avoid confusion, no one truly multi-tasks.

In the secret life of computers we see they handle one data stream at a time, though computers now do it so rapidly, it would seem to do multiple things at once. And some computer circuits can sort of do preemptive data processing to speed things up. OK, you got 4 cores and can process 4 streams at once, in theory. Does your software written for single core computers really divvy up the workload and share it, or use cores as needed? It is hard to escape how we think, sense, reason, even putting this in circuits to aid us, because the logic is our logic. If we could capture a UFO with a live alien and interrogate them to discover their alien logic, perhaps a different kind of circuit could compute differently. Vote for your favorite alien mentality, Vulcan, Klingon, Borg........hey we invented those guys. Microsoft, Linux, Mac..... we invented those guys too.

So, in this light, what kind of user are you? The desktop GUI's of today allow you to open many tasks at the same time. Widgets, gadgets and multiple windows and workspaces all so that you can have instant access to the things and data you use. While MS Windows is the one workspace wonder, Linux has always had multiple windows and multiple workspaces and multiple desktops. But even if you can have all programs running at once, you can only give attention to one thing at a time. This is the focus that gets things done.

As much as I like XFCE as my desktop of choice, it doesn't allow me to dress up each workspace differently. Gnome has this ability with the right application. You can assign a different wallpaper to each workspace so that you know it's a different space. I think you can also assign applications to open in an assigned workspace, I'll have to check this out to be sure. So, the idea is that when you boot-up, your work enviorment is ready for use. I have to admit, I am a one program at a time person, open it, use it, then close it, but I don't have to be. You have to remember that all these open applications are using resources, though minimally until you focus on that workspace and window. If you want all this functionality you will need system RAM, else it could be slow.

This is all reflextive of the saying we use about 10% of our brains. I have to ask, is this the awareness precentage? Lots of brain activity happens without our awareness, like organ function and other body functions and regulation. You can't use your entire brain for awareness and reason thinking, your focus would kill you if it could override your automatic body functions. Besides the brain has sections to do different tasks. We could say hard wired. And where is your personality stored, anyway?

I think it is time to come down from Mt. Guru in the center of Linuxville. Maybe play a game or two or do some art dabbling. Think I getting a head code. 6 years in Linuxville, I've never had a virus. Must be alergies, have to go out to fix an MS PC.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

welcome to the Linux world

"You know it's not so easy, especially when your only friends, walk, talk, look and feel just like you, and you do the same just like them", or so goes the Jimi Hendrix song. Moving on to Linux is like striking out on your own when all you know and love is a Windows and Mac world.

"Are you experienced? well I aaammmmmmm!!"
A lot of the view of Linux comes out from ones experience. The long timers would probably squint at Ubuntu and say it is too tuned to new Linux users. And after my latest adventure, I understand and agree, somewhat. What new adventure? Why, I installed Fedora 10 (dual-boot with Xubuntu 9.04) and I can see there is a lot of Linux you don't deal with in Ubuntu. I would say that Ubuntu has pushed really hard in the new user direction to make Linux as point-n-click as possible. This is absolutely OK for surfing and snorkeling, but if scuba is your thing, you need a Linux with tanks, able to go deep.

Firstly, Linux is Linux is Linux, but then each distribution distinguishes itself by the tools, utilities and user access (look and feel of the system). So, you could put a distribution together that works but is more expert rated like Slackware or Gentoo or Red Hat. And you can also put user ease in the forefront like Ubuntu, DreamLinux, PC Linux OS. Scratch the GUIs because XFCE on either Fedora or Xubuntu makes them seem like twins. If you are a bit more serious about Linux then Fedora is more robust with expert rated features.

What the heck is expert rated, you ask!? Fedora has a full compliment of programs, applications, utilities, and tools to tweak, adjust, configure and manipulate data using both the command line and GUI. Fedora can do user friendly but more stuff is there targeted to programmers, engineers (various kinds), and system admin. Ubuntu has some of this but mostly favors popular desktop user needs. You have to realize Linux is like motorcycles, cars, vans, trucks, and big diesel rigs.

All vehicles have the standard user (driver) interfaces. It is the same with Linux only some may handle different environments and work loads better. Server, workstations, kiosks, newbie users, and long time users, all different skill, knowledge and requirement levels. Be glad, one size does not fit all. These days finding your size is easy. Start with the user friendly Linux and as your experience grows stay or move on at your own pace. User friendly does not mean dumbing down. At one time you had to know and type to mount drives, today auto-mount is standard with Linux. So, user friendliness is automating features to make them easier, convenient and/or accessible to a greater swath of users.

Let me tell you an ancient guru secret, those really intelligent appearing nerdie, geeked-out, do everything computer whiz types have one skill more than the rest of us. They have great memories. Take two average tech folks and give one of them an above average memory. They can comprehend tech stuff and remember facts and experiences and have excellent recall when needed. Good memory in humans and computers is what makes them excel at what they are.

In the real world you would ask which is better, Xubuntu or Fedora. If you can deal with Xubuntu but not Fedora, who is going to berate you? You use what works for you. I myself dual-boot because Xubuntu is easy and convenient. Fedora is slightly different in how it is Linux so it broadens my knowledge and experience. I will be the first to say the documentation is a big help. It is a misguided thought that computers are intuitive. There are too many features hidden inside for that. This is even true of Microsoft OS's. People write books on OS's so that you can learn the deep things. If you can't be taught, your local PC mentor or computer shop stays very busy.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

who's got your back?

The most terrifying thing in my computer life is having worked so hard on one or more projects and then the operating system crashes/gets corrupted or the hard drive fails. Chances are the operating system is on the same hard drive as the data. Either way I am in trouble. What could I have done to save my self the aggravation.

1. Put the operating system and software programs on one drive and my data files on another.
a) two internal hard drives or one internal and one USB external drive.

2. Use two internal drives in a Raid 1 setup. This means what ever is put on one drive is automatically mirrored (copied) to the other. Still with this Raid 1 I would separate my data to an USB external drive (because it's portable).

3. I've seen in a catalog a backup disk drive that will completely copy your drive contents at various times creating a hassle free near transparent backup. The best is to copy the system while it is working great. Some operating systems will allow you to keep a known to work copy. This is very handy if you add and remove drivers or adjust settings all the time.

4. NAS or network attached storage is also very nice. It is a self contained unit with multiple drives you can set up as a raid system or a regular storage server.

5. Jump drives are pretty cheap and large, under $20 for 8 gig jump drive. This is small size, big storage to back up important docs, data and put out of sight, off-site, in your safety deposit box, wherever.

6. You could also burn archival CD's or DVD's.

If you are doing huge graphics files, you especially don't want to loose any work so backing up files is a necessity.

The other part of a backup plan is moving backup files off-site in case of theft or disaster or for securing data. We like to think nothing will go haywire, but don't bet on it! A safety deposit box is a comfort to many. Remember the cheapo copyright, take your docs, copy them, put them in an envelope, mail them to yourself, when you get them back don't open them, the post date and sealed package is your cheapo copyright (store them off-site). Now that would be quite a service if your local PC shop had secured file storage/backup.

I've been watching all the anguished faces in California because the fires have devastated so many homes and possessions. Seeing people rake through ashes for a picture of family, if they had a computer backup plan, at least part of their anxiety could be eased. We are in a habit of not taking precautions. We bet against the odds, nothing is going to happen and eventually we will get around to it. Think of a backup plan as your flight recorder. Man, that would be a great product! A self contained battery powered, fire, flood and thief proof backup computer. You could bury it in the yard or some out building, the basement. It could be cabled or secure wireless and encrypted.

I was working with a client who had a Raid 1 and external USB drive setup. One of the Raid 1 drives went bad. I was sent to replace the Raid drives. Instead of replacing both drives at the same time and having to re-install all software, (data files were backed up on the USB drive) I replaced the bad drive, had the system rebuild it into the Raid array, then replaced the other drive and had the system rebuild that one. The client didn't lose or have to re-install anything. He was very happy just to able to get back to work in a short time, as if nothing had happened.
This guy was ready, a warranty to cover the parts and backup to recover his data.

Now, what about you? Who's got your back?

Friday, May 01, 2009

where is the open computer?

I repeat because it becomes clearer to me and if you see what I see there might be a full court press. Besides, it's kind of fun to change the game once in a while.

I would like to see a laptop base unit with a full-size keyboard on top (arrow keys and number keypad on the side). The floor brick power supply is handy and the battery pack would be optional. The LCD display, mounted in the traditional clamshell lid is not only detachable but is optional, so you can buy it without a display and use a display mounted on a desk pedestal or on the wall. In other words you can choose wither this machine is a laptop or a desktop machine. On the insides, the system ROM which contains the BIOS, has the boot loader built-in. All operating systems (including MS) are redesigned to use this boot loader (points to the boot file and boots it). The claim to fame for this computer is that it will run any OS. This is in a nutshell, my view of an open computer.

I really think the ATX case has gone away for most PC users replaced by laptops. Businesses like the ATX case because you can't walk out the door with it. The laptop base could be secured to the keyboard tray or to the desktop itself if need be. It takes up less space on the desk and in the IT room usually stacked with worn out ATX cased PC's. Then there is less PC to recycle, or less PC sitting there looking out of date and tired. What about upgrading? How many people really upgrade their computers after the initial purchase? Laptops usually contain all that people want and if they want more they can buy a laptop with more. At the most they might get a memory upgrade, maybe a faster processor, the other components are usually small cards that don't require PCI slots or are USB plug-ins. There might be a few laptops that have upgradeable graphics cards. If adequate graphics hardware is built-in from the onset, it is not an issue. Obviously a PCs for gaming and high-end graphics require more than PCs for office work and web browsing. So, cutting a wide swath across computer users for whom portability is not a big need but would like the same functionality in a smaller and lower powered package, this hybrid design is pretty close to the best of both worlds. And looking at the laptop display and hinge arrangement, it would be a snap to add a short video cable and a detachable hinge. Now mind you, I would only do this for the larger full featured units leaning toward the desktop, let the regular laptops stress portability.

I had 512 MB of memory, now 1024 MB or 1 gig. What did I gain? Elbow room. When in a room full of folks, shoulder to shoulder at a table, all trying to eat, you can not finesse your fork or pass the peas without saying "excuse me". So I am not seeing a huge performance increase, but a little ease here and there. Yeah, the feel is more relaxed, things work just better enough to notice. Of course it helps not to complain or be picky, the dark side of the force, you know.

I have had this HP desktop machine since 2005, but it seems the upgrade thirst has subsided. For a long while computer makers were all racing to update features and upgrade speeds. I think we have reached a plateau to where the speed of the machine doesn't increase the speed of the software any appreciable amount. I am talking about regular computer use. I tried to install a flight simulator game and it still requires more beef than what I have, even after these many years of hardware improvements. If I could roll out my wish list, perhaps a better graphics card, another 1 gig of memory, and a USB hard drive.

I would like to experiment with so-called entertainment systems. That MythTV setup has haunted me since I first saw it. The idea is that the pictures and videos stored on your computer, and internet accessed pictures, radio and video, also broadcast radio and TV through tuner cards can all be accessed, recorded, played back through one machine, it's mind numbing.

Then I would like to get into multiple displays as a design element in interior design. Yeah, the digital picture frame is just the appetizer.

My local library just got a new Linux book. "Linux In Easy Steps" by Mike McGrath. Some enlightened soul at my public library has blessed us with a book that brings you into Linux without deep techno speak. A little intro, a little history, a lot of practical instruction. If Linux were explained to me this way from the get-go, I'd be a guru today. At $15.00 US, I'd put this book on my desk and the big Ubuntu Bible on the reference shelf for when I get into deep inquiry mode. I'd tip my penguin beak to the library except still no GIMP books. Open source software is as free as the public library itself and yet libraries insist on stocking only or mostly books on popular and pricey software. And you ask why there is a "digital gap"!! An inspiring young person wanting to get into computer graphics sees only Photoshop books. They beg, barrow or steal sacrificing their integrity to aquire Photoshop. They could have been using GIMP honing their skills while saving their coin to buy a legal copy of Photoshop. Their integrity and skills transferable, they can acquire the pro-ware without having been trained to look over their shoulder.

Then if I see one more Photoshop book centered on cameras or photo editing I am stagging a camera demolition in protest. Computers were used in art long before digital cameras became practical, not just for scanning and printing art, but as the very instrument to produce art. I have been a computer aided drafter for over 20 years. In many colleges computer science has pushed the use of digital graphics in many fields including the fine arts. The computer as an artist's tool is not new. Today computers can be used to hand draw and hand paint in many fine art techniques and styles, including 3-d and photo-real effects. And with the progress in printers, computer art should be booming. And concerning art, there is a lot that a camera can not do except photograph something hand drawn.

So here is something every computer group, arts group can do. Take donations, put them in a fund, then purchase open source computer books and donate them to the public library for the enrichment of us all. If anyone ask why, tell'em that Linuxville guide guy sent you.