Saturday, October 31, 2009

the maddness, the pain, the liberation

I just wasn't satisfied with upgrading Ubuntu 9.04 with 9.10. I did the online upgrade and like I said took 5 hours. I had disabled Gnome desktop which came standard on Ubuntu and installed the KDE desktop. So I got out the yellow tape and marked off the Linuxville guide desk. It looked more like a crime scene. I deleted unwanted files, then backed up all personal data on CDs. Man, I wish I had a DVD burner.

When the dust settled I installed Kubuntu 9.10 from the Live-CD. It only took 1 hour to download and another to install. Compared to 5 hours for the online upgrade, this was a dream. I am quite pleased with the results, KDE desktop is a bit more robust than Gnome, but I like it. What does robust mean? A little more configurable in some things with more noticeable results. I think KDE and Gnome compete like Microsoft and Mac, only on the Linux platform. You can't go wrong with either KDE or Gnome. The only complaint was the package installation manager for KDE (Kpackagekit), it is not straightforward and easy to use for finding software. Instead I use Synaptic, a way more wonderful and thoughtful package management app.

I am not a multi-tasker by nature but I did laugh at the Win7 commercial where the young lady had way too many programs open at the same time and it did not crash (knock on plastic!). It was never the crashing that bothered me, it was the confusion. All that stuff on the desktop reminded me of my dining room table, piled, layered with stuff in plain sight. Linux has had up to 16 desktop workspaces for years now. I had different reference materials open full page on different workspaces. There is a pager in my toolbar which shows each workspace and allows me to get to any one of them very quickly. With the compositing effects into play, you can rotate the workspaces on a cube or see them all arrayed flat or...........killing the clutter and not crashing as well. Icons all over the desktop are a dis-ease. I've learned to use my file manager to graphically show me where things are.

One of my main problems as an artist is what to do next. If you are doing this for a living, that is, working for a company, at least you have direction. If you are a free lancer it is best to draw what you know. The thing I discovered is that limitations work better than abundance. When everything, all the tools, all your talents, all the subjects are before you, it is hard to choose. I tell myself to limit my pallet. When I have a small group I get creative. What can I do with this? I can always add something or take away something. With limitations come considerations, I think about what I need and if I need to learn a new trick, a new skill.

I will admit a lot of my work is not pure digital, that is, I'm not putting in calculations to make the computer draw something mathematical. I'm not into digital photos either. But what I like is to make parts of drawings and combine them. Sometimes I draw on paper, scan it into the PC and start that way. So for me the computer is for helping along human generated art. A PC is a very, very fancy pen/pencil/brush.

Hardware, where is my hardware? I can work fine at home, at my desk, but as soon as I go out of the room a separation anxiety happens. A laptop would be a good fix but it's still a big conventional PC. A netbook is OK except it is not really meant for graphics work. I think I need a new device. Call it a sketchbook. It's a handy unit, light weight and has a few standout features.
1. 12"- 15" screen is plenty big, can be wide-screen or not. Pixel Qi (pronounced "chee") has new low power display technology that is cheaper, sort of pimped out ePaper.

2. No keyboard!! The on_screen virtual keyboard is perfect along with a remote wireless compact keyboard (if needed).

3. 6" x 9" pen pad built into the deck, where the keyboard was, OR.....
I would even take a pen pad panel and snap it over the keyboard/palmrest to turn a slightly juiced netbook into a sketch pad doodle machine.

Now I'm going to step in it. Web graphics and multi-media folks usually want a screen big enough and a PC with power enough to run professional Microsoft platform graphics applications. Please go buy a well endowed laptop and don't mess with my dream. This idea is for a sketchbook, a portable doodle machine. I want to emphasize pen input but not the touch screen approach, or the pen tablet display approach (both pricey technologies). Then I am running Linux graphics applications like Gimp, Inkscape and MyPaint. Why, because actual drawing on a PC is an afterthought with the pro-ware. I want to doodle on a PC meant for sketching. Yes, I am lowering the bar here, I've quite enough of messaging the egos of the well heeled and pro-graphic-technology junkies. Let the low end become the archetype for once. This leaves room for an upgraded model, but not today. What usually happens is a good starting point product is planned but by the time every kind of commercial artist weighs in, it becomes the Dell W700 with built-in Wacom tablet, color calibration tools and $3000 price tag, all I want is to sketch. Build a machine for my end of the market, I have art needs too.

I'm setting with my doodle machine in my lap, bag lunch, thermo of joe and the urge to push pixels. Imagine, a roving artist, small canvas, paint box, easel, folding chair and time to paint dreams. Reality, I've taken mom-n-law to doctor appointment, sitting in waiting room, doodle machine in hand, 20 minutes to myself. My brag is this: you don't need a pedigree to push pixels and you don't need to have what the pros use either (unless your job/career demands it). Honing your chops can be done near free if you are willing to open up to Open Source. And if you are to venture into Linuxville, be prepared to have your eyes opened.

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