Saturday, December 25, 2010

tales of the galloping hoards

Taking a break from the cyber world, you know I herd cats. I am not opposed to dogs, it's just that cats are the petting appliance of choice. Hey, I tried petting tropical fish, it's not the same and birds are not meant for cages, though some beg to differ (birds that is!). Dogs are happy in packs, cats agree to co-exist. Dogs treat you as one of their own, cats expect you to hold up your end of the relationship or else (you can be replaced). Dogs wait on you, you wait on cats. Dogs have one personality, cats at least two, most nine. This is why dogs run in packs, they like others. Cats are already crowed, they will consider you after considerable consideration, then reconsider wither your presents warrants their attention. Then they test your sincerity, your dedication and take advantage of your advances till you reject them as a nuisance. No big deal, your done, so am I, see you next time. If they remember they will tempt you to see if you will respond. I got you now, pet me till your hand falls off. Oh wait, don't stop, you are not done yet!

Six cats is a herd, a manageable amount. I have heard tales of more, numbers not possible even in the wild. Too many of anything, no matter your heart felt intentions, will steal your soul and redefine your purpose of life. Balance is a must as you will serve to make up lacks so you all can survive. Many in my area are often overwhelmed, never ask for help and are discovered too late. Six cats is enough. My wife would have me care for neighborhood strays, I say no. Once people go down that path, they need to "org." with others and be funded and make that their life's mission.

That's the cat's tale and I go back to my computer mouse which doesn't purr or require mouse pellets. A shame, I pet the mouse more than the cats. I think they are jealous.

Friday, December 24, 2010

the ways of the source

The scene opens with Han Solo is about to jump into hyper space, they got hit by enemy fire and C3PO is in a tangle of smoking wire. That was me folks. I was working on implementing a LTSP server environment on top of my existing hardware. Needless to say my enthused effort was no match for the really of diverse and inadequate hardware pieces. This will require a few acquisitions and some more in-depth understanding of the technical bent. It all seemed too simple a concept for it to go so amiss, but IT is not about just having the right pieces in place.  There is software and configuration too. Come on you've all had the perfect cake recipe only to find success after the correct plus or minus baking powder to compensate for altitude. It's a Denver cake, you are in Ohio folks.

I did discover some things in restoring my system to working status. Hooking up and configuring routers and PCs for DSL service can be a trial of wits. All the instant and easy router install CDs are for MS Windows systems, I have an all Linux system. Good thing I can access the manual on the CD and I printed out much of the original config pages before the problems occurred.  To manually config a router is one day of burning, one day of learning. I am a wiser man. So you router makers should at least put a Linux installation program on your web sites for download.

Another thing I discovered is that my Sata drive has some bad sectors. My baby's got some bruises! I could use a slew of new hard drives (huge honking), and a few smaller used drives that whine but don't click. I also learned that if more than one DHCP server is on one network, the network is obliged not to work. Most of my frustration came from iffy web access to the router admin page. Going back to defaults is scary, it all worked so well before I'd forgotten what it was all about. This is a big problem with Linux, you set it and forget it. Not having to constantly monitor things, you have to be reminded what you did and how you did it. Then the fix is in sight.

Well, things are back to working order only now I have changed. That means the door is opened for more experiments and another crack at the LTSP server. A better planned approach is in order and to think this all started with Tinker Toys.

And may the source be with you (I couldn't help that!)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

techno tinkering

What's going on at the Linuxville chateau, dead quite, then lights on at odd hours, alternating outcries of eureka and oh darn. You see, the whole fun of computing is to see what you can do with it without wiping out your data or net access. Really helps if you have more than one computer. And if you have more than one PC then it gets a bit tricky when some of your data is uniquely on each one of them or different versions of one file is on either of them. A central data store like a NAS or network attached storage would be nice.

In another setup, a through-back to the mainframe era, is the LTSP server. I don't know why I like this setup but one central server with some dumb terminals is economical for a home computer. The LTSP server can be powerful yet small, serving applications and providing data storage for a slew of work stations around the house. Perhaps the work stations called thin clients are diskless or perhaps they are just less endowed PCs, even older PCs that tap the server's resources. Some have even called these "chubby clients"or smart terminals. This goes to show you that personal computers are not always the best use of PC technology.

The real thing is how much it takes to setup and live with this arrangement. It can't be any worse than what music buffs do. I have seen home entertainment systems manned by home-brew media engineers. I am always so envious. My server can be the latest and my less endowed terminals can be older stuff. Hey, that's STEAMPUNK if I ever saw it! The terminals can't utilise the latest software in their own right but as terminals they can blaze with eye-candy streamed from the server.

Why me? I work with my GIMP setup a certain way on my laptop, changing it as I use it. Then I roam to my desktop, open GIMP and it's not the same. If I had GIMP on a LTSP server, it would be one copy and I could access it, the same GIMP, from either laptop or desktop. I have just killed redundancy, the need to sync data on two computers and created a consistent work environment. I know you can buy already set-up NAS and servers, but we don't always have money to throw at problems and besides home-brewing is fun. Schools don't have the time to teach you all this cool stuff. If you are a techie you must tinker, the same is true with artist, you must make your own tools.

So with that, excuse the yellow tape and no, it's not a crime scene. The flashing lights say "tinkering session in progress!"

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

a NAS is not NASA

I guess the NAS adventure requires a why you need this? Let's see, I can recycle old computers I would have had to stash or trash. I wouldn't have to buy a huge honking hard drive for my own use that only I can use on my PC. (I don't need that much disc space, personally.) You see with a NAS on your network, everyone on your network can get at the files stored on it. Why is that important. If you gots family, multiple PCs in the house, and you are each downloading videos off of YouTube or NetFlix. A NAS is a central storage place everyone can access. Let me paint a picture.

"Anybody download the movie for tonight? Yeah dad, but Jimmy's got it on his PC and he's out on a road trip. (Should have burned a disc or put it on the NAS with the big honking hard drive.) I'll download it, burn it, when I'm done watching you all can have it."

Download it once directly to your NAS, it is there for anybody on your network. Lots of redundant effort foiled. It is practical for storing any digital documents and media. For me this means I have a huge honking hard drive that my various small PCs can use and not have multiple versions of the same docs floating around on each PC. It also means that my many CD library can be stored away (real backup copies) and disc swapping is a thing of the past.
This is busting the description of the home PC. A PC must have a keyboard and monitor and used by one person at a time, thus personal. A PC is only good when it can do everything the person using it wants. NO! You can dedicate a PC for certain uses. Like managing a entertainment system. A TV tuner card, media software, stereo speakers and home theater r us is yours. Connect to your NAS via your network and that huge honking hard drive(s) is a well of assorted entertainment. You can watch it on your big screen or your laptop.

If you are concerned about the noise level of old computers, buy new power supplies and cpu fans, have a techie install them. The newer stuff is quieter. But the point is that computers can be configured to share and not be so.......personal.
A NAS is not NASA, that is not rocket science, but does require technical tenacity (getting your geek on) or getting a geek professional or buying a commercial NAS unit $$! Home brewing a NAS just sounds like fun and useful. I'll let you know.

Monday, December 06, 2010

geekness - NAS

It's not over yet. Good thing my geekness is in tact. I have a few minor but constant headaches. One is that if you are serious about any computer art, every program, and input device requires a time tuned skill. A mouse feels one way and the digital pen another. Then every program you use feels a certain way depending on your input device. There is that comfort thing and that changing device thing. On top of all that is discovering which program can better do what you want. I could not use just GIMP because Inkscape has already proven to me it can do some things I want to do better. GIMP and Inkscape work very well together. You must spend time with it all.

Pack it in and push it down. This has been a good word to me. Learn it till you are sick of it, then go do something else. Later just go to work and what you have learned kicks in. Sounds simple but when it becomes a habit it is the most useful, almost second nature. But you must apply it while you are using it or it is useless, once you know (via experience) you know, you know!?

There two things a digital artist must develop a habit of doing. Number one is save often. When a system crash happens or you click the wrong button or the cat jumps on the keyboard, having saved work in progress keeps you from starting over, and the cat lives another day. The second thing is backup. Copy to CD, flash drive or use a USB remote hard drive. However you store it not on your PC is a safe resource for you.

I can't recommend it yet as I am still trying to figure it out, but a good solution is a file server, Network Attached Storage or NAS. What is that?? Imagine a PC on your network and all it does is control hard drives. Hey, my PC can do this. Yeah but how easily can all the PCs on your network share the information on your PC? This NAS appears on your file system as another hard drive except that it is not in your PC. Being a separate machine on the network means all your other PCs can access it when they need to. I had an 2nd hand 300gig drive I was going to use. It is too damaged to be reliable, so I am testing the NAS with a 20gig drive. If it works out I'm investing in larger drives.

The software is called OpenFiler. It is free and if you want powerful options and flexibility there are extensions you can buy for it. Another NAS software is called FreeNAS. I am sure there are fans of either. Why use a NAS instead of configuring PCs to interconnect and share? One is the configuration work required on each PC the other is security. As a desktop jockey I don't want to be tweaking each and every piece of hardware I have every time I make a change. I setup a NAS once and forget it and get some artwork done.

It is kind of hard to dedicate a PC to a single purpose. I am so use to a PC being able to do a lot of stuff. Once this NAS is setup it doesn't even need a keyboard or mouse, the interface is via a web browser on another PC the same as routers are managed. The best is to re-purpose an older PC for this server work. It is not too complex, nor too hard, if your geekness is intact.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

the life of an artist is not always pretty

I'm giving in to a winning retreat today. What does that mean? Oh, I moved my main PC and router and stuff back up to the penthouse, computer lab and artist's retreat.

It's for artistic freedom and what not because a certain well trained older artist individual with Alzheimers in my house is so critical and insisting I take their tutorship, I must relocate myself. They have never worked on a computer, ever! But I can remote into my upstairs PC via TightVNC on my laptop. I can be seen and then escape when necessary. So peace of mind and so far my Wacom Graphics tablet which has unusable jitters on my laptop, works fine on my desktop. That is a win too!

Trying to turn assorted PC stuff into artist tools can be a challenge. With flash drives and notebook drives cheap this shouldn't be a problem. But times are tight and making due is the game today. In my collection are 10gig, a 20gig and one 300gig hard drives. You can't always be sure of the longevity of them when they are 2nd hand. I plug them in and listen to the noises they make. Whining is good and clicking is near bad about to be really bad. I never have enough of the right kinds of cords, or long enough Ethernet cable or phone cable or power cord adapters. I have two crt monitors 17" and 14". I have my laptop which is a big 15" and not wide screen. I'd have to get a 19" widescreen to have the height useful for art work. The widescreens seem so squinty. My daughter has a huge rear projection TV, that would be wonderful for digital artwork. Dibbs on that girl!

The missing piece for me is printers. My office printer is mainly for fax and scanning. I think I wore the printer part out. What I need is a wide inkjet that can handle paper and canvas. I can use commercial print services but I need to see and handle my own work to get the feel before I commit to 3rd party printers.

I think my life would be easier if I was doing web graphics, but I don't seem to have a heart for that kind of art. I wouldn't need a printer and it would seen by thousands, millions. but perhaps not so ever present as a pic over your sofa.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

GIMP brushes can spin

I was over at, the link is on the sidebar, someone there mentioned a way to turn a GIMP brush. Man that was work. I guess it's simple after you do it a hundred times. To my surprise, someone wrote a script to do the job. Too bad both the old way and the new way are on the net. I hear the future GIMP will have this built-in, how cool!

First go to the GIMP Plugin Registry at, download a file called "rotatebrush.scm".
Then use the terminal to sudo into your file manager. Type sudo and the file manager name. Mine was "sudo thunar" Yeah, it's password protected. Type in your password, hit enter. Congrats, you have just used the command line. Not scary huh!
In the home folder goto the GIMP 2.6 folder. It's a hidden folder, goto View and check hidden folders if you can't see it.
 Then in the GIMP 2.6 folder find the script folder. Paste the script file "rotatebrush.scm" into there.
Close the windows and open the GIMP.
 I selected a brush I made circled in blue (5 dots angled to the right), from the brush menu.
 Click on Script-fu in the menu bar (in red), select the resize/rotate brush flag. In the dialog box that appears, set the new angle in degrees.   Sorry there is no preview. When you hit OK, the change is made.
My brush is now horizontal (in blue). This saves from making many single brushes at different angles and sizes. You can spin your brush while you are using it. Yeah, it's not quite that interactive but close enough to be useful. That'll learn ya! lol! And I hope I have fortified your Gimptitude a little more.

the hand that rocks the mouse

The fascination I have with drawing instead of photo manipulation is something that has grabbed me from the very start. To tell you the truth when I take a camera picture I don't have a habit of messing with it. But I guess you can get quite artful with that. In all my paper wasting days I have always wondered what I might fit on a blank page. Sometimes I know what I see in my head will not materialize because I haven't got the specific skills to put it on paper the way I see it.

This all is awkward because if people ask me to share my GIMP skills with a group I would have to tell them how little interest I have in photo manipulation. The other thing they ask for is how to draw stuff like a person or an object. I don't do people though I would like to draw objects the same as in my sketchbooks. Drawing with a mouse is like tying a pencil to your elbow. I can see why computer clubs don't venture beyond fixing photos and scrap-booking.

Many, many computer artist are doing web graphics, desktop publishing, CD covers and what not. My interest are more design graphics, fine art, drawing, painting and my aim is the home. There is a certain thing with around the house art, while the cutting edge of art is complex, art for the home tends to be............what you thought I'd tell you? Depends on the persons living there. 

I'm also looking for the illusive African Modern Style. The African art influence has been legendary for decades and yet there is no African Modern Style. There is Italian Modern, Scandinavian, even a Contemporary American Country. It's not directly about race, but Africa is the mother of us all. I think because there are so many geographic areas, climates, cultures, peoples, etc. in Africa that there is no one influence or school of thought to use as a framework for an African Style. More than not styles tend not to change as rapidly as trends and fashions. They are reworked in the latest appeal yet keep their essential classic elements. That is what makes them so endearing and when you talk to a designer they know what you are talking about. So, classic styles are a kind of a familiar language.

A lot of African style is wrapped up in textiles. You say Africa here and most see Kente cloth or Kuba raffias or Mali mudcloths, masks and drums. I had hoped the internet would cause an explosion of African influence in design down to the product level, that is, on the store shelves. This has not happened. What we have is so watered down it doesn't even pass for souvenirs. Folks here are still thinking safari and savannas and natives. There are progressive modern cities all over Africa filled with intelligent and creative people. If our American gov makes the connection, we children of slaves get shafted along with Africans getting bilked. If we children of slaves make the connection there is a transference of ideas and commerce. That is my opinion, but I haven't seen different yet.

Anyway, it is kind of cool to view but limit all the American influences. Again it is not so much a race thing as it is a cultural thing. This African culture is often not so apparent among American blacks as we are pushed to embrace diversity so very strongly these days. If we are left alone, the African comes out. Still seems if we are Afro-centric in any visible way we are suspect, labeled un-American and are in rebellion of the American Euro-centric way. OK, I admit I didn't come from Europe, so sue me. There is still a fight to be seen and heard in America, even today. And just because Hispanic peoples are taking the hits today doesn't mean Black peoples have arrived. The arts are often what is sustainable about any culture. We are all hip (hop) to what is the entertainment of the day. There are folks we've forgotten. They have devised the next cool thing already. The age is turning again keep your eyes open, you ain't seen nothing yet! Keep playing with the GIMP.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Anybody seen my brush!

 I'm going through the GIMP brushes and the one I want is not in there. The Mr. Impatient way of GIMP brushes is to draw and save as and put it in the hidden GIMP brush folder by hand, what a pain and good luck with that. The results is a brush with no good attributes. Here's what I discovered:

Make a new drawing, the size 72 x 72 (could be bigger, must be square).
Under Advanced options, set color to Grayscale (if you want brush to use whatever foreground color). Set the "Fill with" color to transparency. You should get this:

Draw on the transparent square, use shift + to make the image bigger.

Hang on it's not a brush yet. Select "ALL" from the select menu and from the Edit menu "COPY" instead of save (in the file menu). Now here is the magic: "Paste AS" from the Edit menu and "New Brush". The dialogue box should appear. Give it a brush name and a file name with extension (.gbr).

When you hit "OK" you have created a brush, the brush menu refreshes and your new brush appears and is ready to go.

 And if you wants to delete a brush, just right click and delete. If you delete it there is no getting it back.

Perhaps I am a little crude here but in time I will have all the finesse of a Hollywood movie. Hey did you hear the one about the painter who plucked his own beard to make his own brush. This is way easier than pulling hair. I read a GIMP Bible, watched a video tutorial, fiddled and condensed it into an experience. See, the Linuxville guide is into GIMPtitude and giving it to you.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

reinventing the bookshelf

Oh man, I got all the cool apps but I don't know how to use them. The way it goes is that you install it then you dabble with it. That is you use all the easy stuff. Soon you want to tackle a challenge and duh! Ok, then you scour the net to find every ebook and manual in PDF format or HTML you can find. Soon you have files and folders all over the place. Linux has this app called Calibre, a master at organizing ebooks. You can suck in ebooks in different formats, convert them to one standard format (of your choice), then view them with a few clicks. Here is a pic:
I guess I could demand it be more automated sort of like Picasa but I am happy to have it as it is. Picassa scans your hard drive for every picture, makes a thumbnail and puts it in a menu tree. Calibre does give you control over what gets selected but once selected it is awkward to remove other than delete. Mostly I go into the Ubuntu system file manager and move the file to another directory, then refresh Calibre. Calibre is so handy and as usual I do all the easy stuff first, there are deep and hidden secret powers lurking beneath the interface.

I am migrating toward using the PC as a complete system to handle most home media. It is a trend any electronic handy person can envision. PCs can do TV with a card and cable service is a plus, internet, play audio and video files, be a reader of various documents, do email, internet browse/search, calculate and control. Books in print just might become rare, what was that? Gutenberg turning in his grave? I can see more and more book shelves being knick-knack displays. There on the shelf is your favorite picture, it's a digital picture frame. At rest, it's a photo display, when you pick it up, it's a wifi-pad to the house computer.

You think I am nuts, my brother had a VHS video collection that could be used as a sofa. If that many videos could be stored and played off a 1 terabyte hard drive, a huge chunk of living room real estate has been recovered. Add to this a collection of books, magazines and newspapers. Actually the local library should have an online service where you can for a small fee read anything online on demand, no need to download. But what about human contact. Walk into the library with your wifi-pad or trade your card for one of the library's.

Having the work on one workspace and the manual or tutorial on another is a big deal. I find I have to practice some skills over and over till I got them down, you know the repeatable results thing. Then I can tweak them and discover new stuff. No joke, I can sit at my PC all day and not waste a minute. And I am just an average Joe. OK, I'm a geeky Joe.

Somehow I think there needs to be a difference in the personal computer (single user) and the home computer (shared users). If we can mash together the business server with multiple home users (family members PCs) we can manage personal data and shared data. We just have to make it practical. This can be done with present day off the shelf parts and we haven't even talked about controlling the home life support and security systems.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

talking penguins, dude snap out of it!

I walk away from the penguin a bit anxious, I turned, threatened to sand board him (they like the water), he squawked, muttering about Mutter and the end of the 'X' windowing systems as we know it. Then before I could ask more he quickly donned his shades, trench coat, fedora, slipped into the crowd and..... where'd he go?

There is all kinds of mysteries in the Linuxville streets, the talk that Linux has no curb appeal has been slung in the gutters and in the burgs (icebergs) for years. Somebody finally has the nerve to do something different and change the present situation. All of a sudden he is sick of mind, an evil genius who will force us all to comply. Users, fickle as a pickerel, crying "fix it but don't change it!" Legacy, is such a lovely word, all new stuff is so untrue. But that is not how the song goes, progress, innovation, improvements are all at the expense of trimming off the past. Some genetic scientist is injecting color into the penguin population and the gnu is still a wildebeest only a bit wilder. The nature of Linux is in it's parts and how they are put together. I am sure there will be for a time things as they are now, but for the future not to come, that is not the Linux way.

What if penguins are really distant cousins to humming birds? There was a fork in the species, a wrong turn in migration and a liking for formal wear!

Oh man, good nap! The dream seemed so real. Better get back to work.

speak bird speak

The late great Johnny Carson had the Great Karnak thing going on. In Linuxville you corner a penguin who sees all and tells nothing (unless the price is right!). It's not a bribe, it's a donation, he says.

Notice the push the drive for seamless media and access on all your devices. Your handheld device is really a personal digital assistant. You can call, web browse, take pictures, do email, text and open and close your garage door, arm your security system and never leave you TV set. That is the part that gets me. You never leave your TV. Yes, you can take it with you. You know I couldn't buy those commercials where there was a TV in every room including the bathroom. But the new and improved media net can be viewed on the cell, the PC and the TV. Of course you have to have the right equipment and the right software. You can already get internet, TV, and phone from your cable company. But no need for a TV in every room when you got your cell or iPad type tablet, netbook, laptop and desktop, in every room or on your person anyway. Oh wait something is missing. The cable company gives you access to the outer world, what about your private world?

The VPN, virtual private network is the answer. Many of the PDA devices are mostly on the go access devices, no real fire power for heavy computing. Then folks on the go may not want to carry around a huge honking storage device or an expensive and powerful laptop with all their work and personal data. VPN allows a PC or a server device to sit at home protected by a firewalls and backup power supply. Then you can access it from anywhere if you are secure in that arrangement. Between the cable company and your VPN, you can raise the power of your PDA in quantum leaps and..........."Please deposit another fish in the bird beak". Oooh boy!

Gimptitude is moving along fine. I am comparing GIMP to Inkscape while learning them together. I am finding I can do some things more optimally in GIMP or Inkscape, then import it to the other and apply it. Working mostly in Open Source is like the Darkside of the Force, "once you go down that path, forever will it control your destiny." But that is the warning of folks who don't go and we here are not talking about evil. The caveat is that you have to learn it to use it and once you do, you are changed forever. GIMP users complain about the Photoshop interface and the way it works also. Photoshop looks strange and weird when sitting in the GIMP cockpit. The thing is that most Linux users are used to having to use different interfaces on different apps. MS users are mostly wanting the same interface on every program. Which is better, you decide.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gimptitude - overcoming others to get the art out

One of the big things in my life is getting support for my artwork. I am sure you've heard the saying, "that's a good hobby, what you gonna do for money?" Yes, they've gotten so good at saying it that I've heard it in deadpan monologues and set to rap music. Unless you are pressed to be a commercial artist and produce a paycheck, you are doomed to be lambasted, underrated and marginalized. At least it seems that way. In my case I listened to all the voices and did "other" money making things. Now that I am unemployed, with time on my hands and I can smell retirement age looming, the prospect of doing what I had intended originally and naively, seems very possible today. Of course the voices are still there, it takes an act of God to change the record sometimes. Wake up people, it's about fulfilling my aspirations not meeting your expectations. But I guess they depend on me to the point that my taking risks might endanger their comfort and security. In other words where is the paycheck?

There are other pressures. Loved ones who are so one with you that they feel it's their right to influence your work even though art is not their strong suit. And other loved ones who are well trained in the arts but were pre-occupied with life issues and never kept up with their own work. They offer so much advice it is worse than critics. I remind them I did not travel through the same path nor been taught the way they were, I can't relate. I use a computer mouse not a pencil, pen or paint brush and Glade does not come in turpentine scent. When my art is in progress I can stop, save it and pickup where I left off months later. I can make copies and save them, alter them, print them and on and on. My artist world is different than the one my love ones are familiar with. I remind them being an artist is not my job description, it is who I am. I will do art wither I am paid for it or not. I can't meet the standard set by other artist especially when some of the highly trained scribble and get paid on their name. How the heck am I supposed to judge the amount of experienced creative effort when my scribbles are just like theirs. I do what I do and that's the art. It is the art of the artist. I did not need an accreditation or to be approved by the accredited to do art. There is no gauntlet of paintbrush bearing hazers to run through.  

I like contemporary and modern art and African flavors in art. I live in an area overburdened with commercial products, conservative tastes and trendy fashions. Not many appreciate design you can't get on the store shelf. Most feather their nests with what I call watered down canned design. It is a very casual acquisition of interior decoration stuff. In my artist's world, design is very concentrated, almost extreme. You might select one item of mine to fit into your world. It changes the context of your world but not enough to make my work a theme in your place. That is OK.

I am standing in the gap by not focusing on web art nor on traditional art media. It is both awkward and a challenge for everyone to think of a print as art. Painters will have their work photographed and together with photographers have their works scanned and printed on canvas or high tech paper. If digital artist directly print their digital work, all of a sudden the argument is on, what and where is the original and which determines the value the artist work, the quality of the print or the kind of print. If you print on a home office printer or a high end print shop printer or the kind of print medium and inks. It is so academic. Yet a guy can do oil paint on newsprint and is an unquestioned creative genius in techniques and material use. Is there no worry about archival quality of the original? Seeing how digital artist work, there is just as much effort put into the works. The direct printout of a digital file can be appreciated for the artist's work. I guess the scary thing is that digital prints can be postage stamp to billboard sized and applied to almost anything. Ok, the same beautiful picture on typing paper is of less value than if printed on glossy photo-paper or on canvas. You have to set the value by the materials used and the composition of the picture.

And you thought it was easy being an artist! Try being well known for your work but not bothered so you can get some work done. LOL

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Linuxaticity - some pride, a fall, a restore to gimptitude

Man, you missed a bunch of stuff. I was playing around with my laptop sound system. Then wanted to check out the Gnome Office suite. I already had AbiWord (word processor) and Gnumeric (spreadsheet), I wanted to know what other packages were included in that suite. A word to the wise, ask the question, then Google search it. I just installed the Gnome Office Suite and it was added but it also removed some stuff and my sound went with it. As of yet I don't know what comprises the sound system (usually ALSA or PulseAudio libraries) and I was using Xubuntu 9.10 which doesn't have a sound configuration app.

Rather than hanging my head and bashing it with my laptop, I reinstalled Ubuntu rather than Xubuntu. Yeah it is a little rich for my laptop, but I also installed XFCE desktop as an alternate desktop. I can now run fat or skinny when I feel to. The cool thing is that the full Ubuntu has lots of configuration tools built-in. I found the Sound icon in the Preferences menu and I had sound. You can also use System Testing in the Administration menu. And if you need to deep oogle your system to get info, there are a few apps otherwise investigate Terminal or Command-line methods. Command-line? Please don't panic, think recipes that work every time if you follow it. Once you know what to expect, it's done. I consider the command-line as the axe in the glass box, there if you need it. And if you hose your system Linux is so easy to install. I do have some recommendations.

1. Put your HOME directory in a separate partition. If you tryout OSs as much as I do, you won't have to reformat the partition with your personal data, that's less backing up.

2. Save your files to a remote drive, flash drive, or second drive. Not having your data on the same drive as your operating system is called security, and less backing up. This is very cool for sharing in a family (a drive for each family member). You can get a lot of personal stuff on a flash drive and the bookshelf hard drive is very handy.

3. If your PC can boot from a flash drive, put Ubuntu on the flash drive. You can turn your Win machine into a Penguinator at the drop of the mouse. Who knew!?

4. I am tired of syncing my PCs and keeping up with duplicate data. Put your stuff on the remote drive OR on that huge, powerful, dust bunny collecting doorstop to be PC in your closet. Then use an app like TightVNC or UltraVNC to remote the desktop from your laptop.

My laptop is three times more than what it appears as I tap the desktop machine remotely. It is way better than dual-booting or virtual machines. I can run two operating systems at the same time and not share resources. And if I want to improve I can share data, though I am not sure about sound across a remote connection (gosh, another adventure!).

Well how does this help my GIMPtitude?  My desktop becomes the workhorse and the barn for my stuff. If you come to my house I have few books on a shelf, mostly PDF files and tutorials and videos and what not all on a hard drive and CDs. My laptop is the smart user access. You don't need new computers for storage but however you work it out, at least for me it's fun. There is one caveat, the older computers sounds like a vacuum cleaner, my wife thinks I'm doing the rugs (hint, hint!).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Get some GIMPTITUDE - don't be a GIMP wimp!

What, you think I am going to show you how to do stuff in GIMP? Hey, like I said I'm a guide not a trainer. My job is to tweak you! Come on, it's net search time!

So I found some basic intro videos that went over some of the basic tools. I like vector drawing and am an Inkscape fan. I heard you can do vector drawing in GIMP also, it is called Paths. The icon in the toolbox looks like a fountain pen. In the drawing area the tool draws points to outline a shape. You can move the points and alter the lines between the points. There are keyboard controls and the 'Paths' dialogue box to deal with. When the path is made you can have a line 'stroke' the path or apply any brush to paint the path.

This all made questions pop into my head. What's the diff between vectors in GIMP and vectors in Inkscape? If I can do vectors in GIMP what do I need Inkscape for? They handle vectors in different ways, so I must discover what the diffs are and how that is useful to me. OK, in GIMP vectors are used to construct shapes but the resulting shapes are bit-mapped. In Inkscape everything is vectors and the resulting shapes are vectors, but you can export a copy as a bit-map.

Now, don't forget when you make bit-mapped pictures larger the pixels get further apart, the image gets fuzzier. With vectors the same drawing can be stretched from postage stamp size to bill-board size and have the same sharpness.

Take each tool you want to use and see how it works. The videos are a great help as I am often not a patient book reader or a step by step instruction follower. I get the gist and run with it. Now wait a minute! Slow down! While in the act of playing around, focus your attention on one tool (say the Path tool), learn enough about it to enhance your play and exploration (serious play). Then you need a project to confirm your training (constructive serious play). Make a desktop background or a logo banner. You can build on your knowledge and progress over time, before you know it you are doing complex work-flows quickly, with good results and having fun too.

Now I very much like Inkscape because it is like the CAD software I have lots of experience with. GIMP though is mostly a free-hand drawing, painting and photo editing application. I have sketched with a pen, but I've yet to perfect doing it with a mouse and as I complained in the past, my Wacom Graphire Tablet has the jittery cursor really bad on my laptop. This is the caveat when doing computer art, hardware and software are interdependent tools, you got to spend time to get good at it, but they have to work right too. So, take your time, sharpen your skills via serious play. Before you know it your GIMP wimptituity is over.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Digital dreams through penguin eyes

Hey you think swimming with the sharks is hard, try swimming with the salmon!
How about wallowing with the minnows! Eeeuoo boy, penguin dreams!?

This is the G.I.M.P., ooooooh! Gimpness!

Yes, I am into GIMP, the Gnu Image Manipulation Program and the other day I spotted and installed one called Pinta. Pinta is billed as Gimp Light. Actually there are several Linux paint apps along the lines of MS Paint. Meaning something quick and easy for viewing and doodles and whatnot. Pinta is more polished than most of these doodle machines and is a desk full of tools rather than a studio full. It has the typical needed drawing tools and layers. Most of the doodle machines don't have layers, Pinta does. But I just noticed that Pinta's paint bucket and a couple of other tools are greyed out. Did they put it out while still under development? Bummer!
This is Pinta! Simple and fast.
Yeah, Pinta is handy, quick and needs to get those tools finished, yet I still like it.

Back to GIMP, I've concluded that if you are into Photoshop, GIMP is a little hard to swallow. But the purpose of the any interface is access to the tools. When you work in someone else's studio you have to find where they put the scissors, the tape. Once you found them they work the same or close enough to get by. You learn to make it work for you, so quit complaining. Artist are known to make do. What? Oh, it's commercial artist who are complaining because you expect a certain standard (called like Photoshop).  That's OK, if you don't find GIMP useful for "YOUR" work, then don't use it. Now for the rest of us who don't need that professional standard, GIMP is a Photoshop replacement, period. If GIMP did everything that Photoshop does and was still free, Photoshop would go belly up. This rant was brought to you by the Linuxville Office of Flight Training for Penguins, The Foundation of Birds Below the Waves, and The Roaming Berg Resorts because ice is nice in your drink, in the sea and on the polar-cap.

Learning the GIMP is easy.
1. get basic over view tutorial videos off the net.
2. get project videos off the net to see how different stuff is done.
3. view videos and practice like crazy.
4. brag to Photoshop entrenched friends (optional, lol).

For me it's about doing the similar stuff and style that I have using a pen in my notebooks. That kind of sketching ideas and putting down thoughts is so cool. Then I also have the opportunity to progress to finished works on the same platform. Drawing with a mouse is awkward and so is with a digital pen and tablet. My interest is more about drawing than photo correction and alteration. Practice gets you used to using these input methods and used to handling how the applications feel and work. With digital work it is about the workflow to achieve what you want to do. It is handy that folks have documented some of these workflows for you to follow and learn. Repeatable results is the thing computers do best. And you can change the recipes to suit your own ends.

Training on this site? No, I'm not a trainer, still learning myself, your humble Linuxville Guide, guiding you into all the wonderment of penguinessence.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Linuxville artist's standard tools

When I was in college I took a few traditional art classes, in traditional media via traditional teaching methods and conventional teachers. We didn't even consider computers for art in the 70's. We have greatly progressed, there are artist tools on every PC platform and photo quality printers on the cheap. In fact the design profession has become quite entrenched with Adobe products taking the lead. It has gotten so deep that the full blown software is coveted by beginners, learners and want to be's globally. Go ahead aspire to that! It's OK! But wait!

In the backrooms of the Linuxville chateau, behind the bookcases, down the stairs in the cave of wonders, I've have discovered it is about the tools. As a kid I stressed about Red Ball Jets tennis shoes or Keds with the magic wedge. If I couldn't run optimally, they both were the same. It is obvious that Photoshop and other Adobe creative products are the grail of today's artist. But if you strip away the well explained interface, there are tools common to all graphic programs. The tools themselves are standard equipment. Think about it, the programming required to draw a line or a bezier curve or do layering, is pretty much the same in every program. Most good graphics programs have a standard set of drawing and editing tools , a way of adding custom scripted functions and extra tools.

What's the real diff? I think it is in the output of the digital file to printers. If you are doing RGB, you can get away with a lot because inkjet printers are RGB already. If you are talking offset or printing that requires you to separate color layers as with CMYK printing, that is more involved. Photoshop has built-in tools for CMYK output, GIMP does not. CMYK only makes Photoshop better if you need CMYK. With RGB printing becoming quite the bomb, GIMP is RGB cool.

We are told GIMP has a bit of a learning curve. That's a big curve if you are already into the Photoshop interface and work flows, way smaller if you have no experience. What's the secret? Stop comparing and criticizing and watch some video tutorials. Watch them, you'll say, dag man, I can do that! Believe me, once you learn to use say, a bezier curve, you can use that tool in any program that has it. So, what's holding you back, a $brand-name$?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

the penguin is out of the bag

TightVNC is proving to be very cool for me, except if I play a movie on my remote desktop I can't hear it on my laptop. I learned how the scroll bars on the sides work, they move left or right, up or down via the mouse buttons.

Doing the remote control of another computer is fun but don't expect snappy performance unless you have a fast system and lots of memory for things to flow smoothly. Ubuntu has some built-in VNC tools, they perform with choppiness while working with graphics applications. TightVNC on the other hand is a lot smoother on my meager equipment.

Still looking at digital pens. Can't afford a new Wacom Tablet and the jittery cursor of my present tablet bothers me. I narrowed the problem to the radio communication between the pen and the tablet. If I wrap the pen in foil, I can block the signal, stop the pen from working. If I place the tablet on the laptop keyboard the jitters lessen. I like to have pen pressure control but it is not a supreme necessity. I have used CAD programs for over 20 years, none of them have pen pressure control to vary the line weight while drawing. Also many have used paint applications with a mouse for years. If I can get a pen device that functions as a mouse, writes on plain paper, that is useful. Having handwriting recognition and converting to text is extra. A couple of the pens I like have a small sonic radar that clips on your paper. It tracks the position of the pen and records the pen strokes. This is also used with some Whiteboards. The pen strokes can be turned into a graphics file and tweaked by your computer. An artist like me can have fun with this. The caveat is can I get this in Linux. Oh well!

My madness says I am used to drawing with ballpoints and felt-pens. While it is nice to have line weight control, I don't usually use it. I can get by without it. I have seen pen style mouse replacements for $30.00, you can't cry about that. On the high end is the smart pens that records your pen strokes, converts writing to text and records sound. Some smart pens that use a special digital paper are down right remarkable. Why do I use simple tools instead of top of the line geeked out, I gotta get me one of these, kinds of stuff? Because an artist can use a pencil, a pen, a brush to create his magic. If I had to learn a new contraption it could be a long time before I could bridle it and get my own art out through it.

A good picture is rock musicians. Everybody likes the air guitar, playing the real guitar though takes focused time to learn it and then practice till you can play it as if it is an air guitar. The air guitar has a mental interface with theatrical gestures and vocalizations. The real guitar requires you to strum or pluck the physical strings and work the physical fretboard. There is no air in the beginning.

So the artist in me's first consideration is to go with what I know. Then if a new thing seems worth getting into go after that in a way it doesn't smother or stifle what I am already doing. I try to do everything in Linux. The professional world of digital art and printing is hooked on XP and now Win7. I have to be open to that, but I don't have to like it. The object is to get the work done and out.

Monday, November 08, 2010

penguin in trenchcoat and dark glasses

Welcome back and excuse me, I know I am more than I appear to be. If I take off my paper bag disguise there is..........another paper bag, lol!

Yes, I am still using Tightvnc and exploring what it is about. I noticed the screen resolution on my desktop is higher than my laptop. This is a viewing problem. I could change the resolution on my desktop or fiddle with a config file and change the display parameters my remote desktops can be viewed in. Using a virtual network computer is akin to having a dumb terminal and a smart server computer. My dumb terminal is not so dumb and my smart server computer can be a hub for lots of other things.

My situation is like this: My ancient laptop is limited, needs upgrading and is tethered to the power brick, good thing I still have wireless. I need to be seen about the house not held up in my upstairs geekster's lair. My powerful desktop is now shoved in a corner of the bedroom, not a good working environment. With VNC, I can load all my power applications on my desktop and operate them at the dining room table from my laptop. So my laptop is now more powerful. Imagine if you had several PCs, a printer/scanner, and other networked devices all accessible via your laptop. I heard some techies' are doing remote hardware monitoring and software testing/repair this way also. Lots of possibilities and lots of fun.

I am looking into input devices also. You know, my desktop hasn't changed in 20 years. Still a keyboard and a mouse. I've added a graphics tablet but it is not satisfactory, sorry Wacom. The digital pen came into my view. They've been around for a couple of years. There are simple mouse replacements and smart-pens, with and without tablets, with and without special paper, with scribe tips and with ballpoint tips. The software is overwhelmingly MS Windows, some Mac and covertly Linux. This software is all about capturing writing and converting it to text or just capturing a page of pen strokes (writing or drawing). Lots of possibilities here, I am investigating. That's why the trench coat and glasses, oh the penguin suits' a give away? Didn't think you'd notice.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

I tell the PC truth

The truth is that not all computers are personal, some are control devices.

You don't need the internet to use a computer. Some may disagree, but it is the truth. The internet is a great convenience, if you can get all your data resources on flash drives, DVDs, CDs, or your hard drive,  your PC will work fine by itself, you just won't have internet. Yes that limits your resources and communication, but it's to show that a computer without the connection is still useful, just less. Back in the day we called it sneaker net, only required shoe rubber and a stack of floppies. Today both Nikes and flash drives are an upgrade.

Many folks only have painfully slow phone modems, they know what I am talking about. So wither it is the economics situation or the communications infrastructure limitation, computers can still be used. I wouldn't want to run a business on that but the computer will still compute. Many operations and activities we do on PCs do not require the internet. Some kind of access is needed though, many go to public libraries.

Here in the Linuxvlle chateau there are ah ha moments and hu mu mu mu aaah haaa ha ha ha! moments. Here is the situation. My powerful desktop PC is in the bedroom. But for the sake of the ladies in need I must be somewhat visible and accessible during the day. So I use a somewhat meager laptop on the dining room table. My graphics applications require a bit more firepower than my laptop can deliver. What to do?

VNC to the rescue. Virtual Network Computing is when one PC remotely accesses another PC to use all the abilities of that other computer. So at my meager laptop I can control my desktop PC as if I was sitting at the desktop. That laughter just came out of nowhere, I couldn't help myself.

I used an app called TightVNC, there is one for the server (my desktop) and one called xTightVNCviewer for the client (my laptop). I had to read several sources to get just how to set it up because folks have different equipment arrangments. They're description of things vary and to leave out details is human. I am told there are better VNC prgrams but that is a deeper investigation for the future.
So I am running around the house yelling "it's alive!"

Thursday, October 28, 2010

living Linux with fewer gotchas

Are there any downsides to living with Linux? Depends! If you are fortune enough to have Linux pre-installed it is no different than Mac or MS, point n click. But like any new country you visit you must do a little homework or your tourist status gets changed to ugly problem child with issues, attitudes, unreasonable preferences and demands, can we deport him now!?!

Homework means you read a little to get what Linux and Open Source is about. The newly acquired freedoms and liberties (copy-left or GPL) are often misinterpreted and effaced by the folks use to the other PC platform legalities (copy-right and user license agreements). Find net info or books about the applications and browse. A little knowledge goes a long way.

Now if you need help beware of support sources, Linux enthusiast are varied. Some gurus will tell you to read the manual in colorful terms. They are not representative of us all. So if you want something fixed, who you ask flavors the answer you get. Realize you are a noob, nubi, newbie, padawan learner and you are actually a new class of Linux person, the desktop user. Most experienced Linux users are more likely to be System Administrators, Network Administrators, Software Engineers or high end engineers of other sorts. Finding one with "desktop user friendliness" is a blessing. While Linux has had a desktop for many years, the support of personal computers running Linux is still a rough area.

My example is this: I just switched my ancient laptop from Ubuntu to Xubuntu. They are the same but Xubuntu is leaner, faster and a less user friendly setup. Some of the setup tools are not in Xubuntu. I had to figure out how to get sound to work. The drivers were there but the app to interogate and test the system was not there. I hit the net, searched around. I learned that applications that did the job were not called what they should be called and the recipe (repeatable results) to put it together not in one place. The applications that run in the background are called a server. So I figured you need sound chip drivers, a sound server and a controlling front-end (mixer). I didn't have to use the commandline to type in commands I didn't understand. Mostly it was checking boxes and testing if I got sound, yet. I got sound!!!! The full-bodied Ubuntu has setup and testing tools but is a little rich for my acient laptop. Xubuntu is just right, takes a little work, but works fine now.

My point is this, system admin and server folks might be dap with connecting networks but desktops are a speciality by itself. So, each desktop user should have skills to manage their own desktop or take it to a Linux desktop support person. Linux desktop support needs to be created, with mouseside manners, user empathy and application know-how. Right now the internet is very good support but you must do your homework. If there is a local Linux user group near you, you have resources, use them!

This is why the Linuxville guide chateau is in the hood. The Linux server side is well cared for, the Linux desktop side needs more support. Don't take my word for it, check out Fullcircle Magazine for Ubuntu users.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Living the Linux life.

PC users are of several kinds, the casual user, the business user and the enthusiast.
I guess I fall under the enthusiast, because my love for computers extends beyond what they can be used for. I became a guide by virtue of hands-on experience but I am not an expert via training or ego. I make no claims of guru status though my wife will exclaim to friends a certain nerdiness and geektatude.  I am compared to a hot rodder knowing enough to detail a car but not to make the show circuit and collect trophies.

I read all about computer operating systems in Byte magazine before I even had a computer. DOS and DOS front-ends were replaced by MS Windows 3.0 thru to XP. I stumbled upon Linux in a library book. LST Linux was a German distribution I almost got to work on my 286 DOS machine. I still am not a programmer, if I load it on, push the enter key and it doesn't work I'm done. I tried Slackware, at that time formatting separate partitions for each system folder was my understanding. Today I make one partition for the system and one for a memory swap area. I think one for the home or user files should be done so that upgrading is less a pain. The part many don't get is that they don't have to install it to use it. Just pop in a live-CD Linux, reboot, use it, save to flash drive, shutdown, remove CD and done, without changing your PC. Do your homework if you plan to install and/or get knowledgeable help.

Once you have a working system you don't usually go around comparing your system to others. But, because you do get to use other systems, you notice what annoys you and what sparks your praise. The system you use the most is the standard and defending that is normal. Believe me, no one is objective, bias is rampant and spin is everywhere. It's cool but, nice but, ugly but, expensive but, and cheap but. Butts are standard on users and concerning their PCs.

Linux was like a mystery to be solved. How did Linux run on equipment meant to run Microsoft? I had to pay for every Microsoft software and so-called free-ware for it was awful. Here is Linux, not great but OK, with open source free and better than any free-ware for Microsoft. The improvements over the years were steady and the cost did not go up, what is this? How can this go on and people not regard? I think because I was willing to go a little deeper into PC stuff, I got hooked. Linux lets me play with my collection of PC hardware and get stuff done too. Hot rods for show are cool but to be able to drive it like any other cars is what makes it cooler yet.

My kids visit, I don't dual boot for their sake. They have few questions or no questions about Linux. They use what's on my machines, it's not difficult or different. To me the Linux desktop is simplicity and works well. Sophistication and polish often gets in the way of efficient working. I'd rather have simplicity and polish. Linux does this, especially the Gnome and XFCE desktops, though some would say this of KDE desktop, I don't feel that way. What ever is your fav, I am sure the simplicity and polish factors are high for you.    

Friday, October 22, 2010

upping the downside of dreaming

Dreaming is a very useful aspect of life. Dreaming lifts you out of the mill of practical stuffs to look ahead. Smart folks will use that vision as incentive and motivation and devise a plan toward a goal or as energy to move forward toward a hoped for end.

The downside is when all you can do is dream because the practical means and or the knowledge to do it is obscured. In my case I could have been an engineer or architect had not high school been totally screwed up. I still have those dreams but I had to realize them in a different way. Life moves on rapidly and I am no longer a young man. Dreams have a molecular structure that can be re-arranged to be realized through the means at hand.

Now, let's get down to the crux. The advertisements display the glitz and the flash of a wonderful operating system called Microsoft. The latest Windows 7 can do things the previous version couldn't. The cost for a new PC and this new Win 7 is OK if you can afford it. But is stands to reason you can not get all what's advertised unless you spend the top dollar. You gotta love how technology promotes you must buy new.

Say it with me, "only my XP operating system is obsolete, my hardware is fine. My PC is older but mechanically, it still works fine." 

Here's the situation, you can not buy a new PC, the support for Win XP has joined the retired ranks of Win95 and Win98. The PC you have is under powered because memory upgrades were and still are expensive. My laptop only has 512MB of memory, ooh I am doomed to use old software and old applications. Even the dust bunnies in my old PC has gray hair, err fuzz.

I am writing this blog on an antique Gateway 4026gz laptop. It has 512MB of board memory and 1ghz+ Celeron CPU. It has a wireless card, 20gig hard drive, PC card slots, USB ports, a heat problem and one missing key-cap. For the heat problem I took a small Masonite panel and glued three wedges on it so that when I set my laptop on it the fans which vent through the bottom are unobstructed. It used to heat up and cut off in 10 minutes, now it runs all day long, no problem.

And I use near the latest version of Ubuntu Linux. Just as a reminder, Linux is free in cost and in user rights (what you acquire is yours!). Then to top it off, the Open Source community has supplied every imaginable application, 99% of them also free. Now my PC use is not strained, I am not a gamer or a multi-media maverick, or a social net junkie. I blog, write emails, view videos, do digital artwork, etc. Linux does all this and I have the latest versions of all I use. I can't and don't do it all, who can?

My dreaming down side of not being able to acquire the latest and greatest PCs with all the so-called professional applications, has been met with Linux and Open Source software. My dream has been fulfilled at quite a high level, with the stuff I already have. If and when I do get "mo-betta" hardware, I will put Linux on it because I am into Linux.

Now when you come into Linuxville it takes a while to get over the surprises. The oohs and aahs are normal, but the big event is when you finally relax into a blissful Linux wonder. The collective sigh is felt throughout Linuxville.

Monday, October 18, 2010, chirp, psssssst! What's an iCar?

America, land of the mono-cultured everything is going back to the roots that the Asian folks never left. Business wise we have individual companies that have tightly focused on narrow product lines, where as the Asians have industrial conglomerates. So under one brand-name you will find electronics, appliances and autos. Here in the American mono style we merge and absorb then consolidate and downsize for efficiency, er a profit. The Asians gather companies under an umbrella brand-name and each industry concentrates on it own product with the caveat of sharing production ideas, technology cross-overs and innovations, bypassing the legal constraints and copyright and patent restrictions of individual companies. It's just an impression folks, but mono has plagued America from the industrial revolution till today.

Look at farming. Because farming is what it is we have fast food eateries, pre-processed foods and canned goods out the kazoo, all laced with sugars, starches, salts and dyes, on top of pesticides, fertilizers and preservatives. Now ask yourselves why the medical "industry" is an industry.  We save time and shorten our lives at the same time. It is also why you need a big honking grid sucking refrigerator to store and preserve. Thinking out loud we should have one refrigeration unit in a house that will chill the house and the food too.

Back to the food, if food was grown local, consumed local, though you would go to market more often, you would need less storage. Oh, did I just turn big city living into a small town life. We have hurried lives and we rest in front of the TV. Going to the market every other day is........oh wait, there is so and so, haven't seen him since he sold his big screen TV. He looks good, healthy, rested. Oh and by the way, cooking is not a lost art, stop watching it on TV and cook your own grub. Where's the book on low powered cooking? and does microwave cooking really alter the molecular structure of foods so that they are less healthy?

Somebody should write an illustrated book about low powered lighting, how to do it with style, get enough of it and how to energize it with local solar and wind (vertical wind turbines are less intrusive), with special emphasis on city dwelling. You can do it in RVs and space stations but not in a typical city house. I would call this a hybrid power thing. Take lights off the grid and use that power to fuel your big honking refrigerator, air conditioner, washer and dryer and for backup. Gee!, you don't need to cover the whole roof with solar after all. This kicks starts a domestic industry by getting some green product on every house and sold by Lowes and Home Depot etc. The deep cycle battery business will be off the hook and people will be off the grid (at least for lighting).

Every laptop I have worked on had a memory card reader slot and a PC card slot. Instead of loading the operating system onto the hard drive, it can be burnt onto a memory card or solid state device for the PC card slot. The PC would be generic until the operating system card is plugged in. The applications and user files would be in separate partitions on the hard drive. Or you put two card slots in a laptop, and a bios app lets you single/dual boot or run one OS as a virtual machine within the other OS.

Oh wait, there is a disturbance in the force, you are calling me nuts. Just like Sith lords, there's one or two.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

the crystal baldhead guy speaks

Technology converges always. It started with a four function calculator and will end with a universal controller someone will retro into a four function calculator case.

I think it is crazy no matter which device you use, cell phone, PDA, tablet, netbook, notebook, desktop, TV, it will all look and work the same and display the same media, the same, chirp, pssssst! gone fuzzy again. Difficult to see the future is (Yoda!). What's an iCar?

If you want a personal computer ditch the ethernet cable and pull the wireless card. There will be the same warning label you find on your mattress on your PC, warning you not to disconnect from the "net". You will get a cellphone call, Mr. Johnson we noticed you are no longer connected to the net, is this intentional or is there a personal emergency, do you need tech assistance, we can send someone to re-connect you. And yes there is a charge for both disconnect and reconnect processing.

Mr. Johnson your new pacemaker has built-in defibrillation. We can monitor your stats and give you a jump when needed. OnStar is always here for you, please keep your account current.

Criminals have all their electronics removed. The ankle bracelets are no longer needed because lawful people are connected and tracked. Lawbreakers have to use word of mouth and barter. We sentence you to 30 days in the natural state.

Buses are obsolete, someone found a way to link Segways together for family outings and carpooling. College kids form largest linked Segway ring, ride in a circle for 10 days non-stop. Amish invent peddle powered Segway gets hit by folks driving regular Segways. The hottest new venue in sports, the Segway races at Bonniville Salt Flats. Featuring the "Loaded Pedestrian" 100 mph tire burning turbo powered Segway.

The typewriter keyboard refuses to go away in spite of the new voice input software. The OS is burned into a solid state device, plugged into any PC and just works. A laptop is just a keyboard and large screen for your PDA device. A Steampunk cult brings back the 8 track and the word "icon" is replaced by "avatar". And remember here in Linuxville, tomorrow is only a day away!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Boom out the box, not flash-boom

Boom means you get basic functions for basic hardware. It's the middle of the road, high and dry and useful. You usually get internet access if you have a service or DSL like I do. You get applications like a web browser, music player, picture viewer, document writer or the Open Office suite and the GIMP (picture editor). So you have to see what's included. Of course if you install it, you have access to a very large online catalog of applications, so you can add and remove to your hearts content.

Flash-boom depends on the hardware you got. You must have enough system memory or the flash will slow down the boom. I have 512MB in my laptop. I can flash ok but the boom suffers a lot. 1 or 2 gig of system memory allows lots of flash and lots of boom. The next thing is the video chips. Usually ATX desktops don't have a problem as you can swap in a new video card at will. Laptops have to deal with what they have. In any case if there are enhanced video drivers for your chip set, you are prompted to install them. The better drivers allow the flash to be big.

The next part of the flash is selecting the configuration to make the pyrotechnics work. In Linux this is called compositing. Compositing has come a long way. You can get windows that wobble when you move then, windows on a spinning cube, all kinds of fade effects, and combinations of eyecandy that will rot your retinas. I have turned them off on my laptop so it remains snappy. On my desktop I kept just the drop shadows for that 3D look.

Other add-on features are icon bars that rival Apple's Mac and side panels that mimic dashboards. Some features are only available on certain Linux desktops. The Gnome desktop is one way and KDE is another and XFCE (on my laptop) is another. They are mostly the same but have different user strategies, different styles, different looks and different features. Same but different.

It all sounds hard to do but that's because most don't know this stuff until they've messed with it a little while. So find a Linux user group, Linux savvy PC shop, or something already! There are lots of advice givers on the net, forums, videos and such and me. I'm no expert, just a humble guide with some experience. My forte is the desktop not servers. I think the Linux desktop needs more support so that users have help on their own level. I hope you find Linux of any flavor a restful retreat and a reprieve from the other setups.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Hey, where'd he go??

It's October and I haven't posted in over a month. Been doing some non-computer stuff, interrogating the Holy Bible and looking into Black history. I plan to keep the focus on Linux and on digital art, but the background world view has changed a lot in the past few weeks.

During all this time I have had neither glitch, hiccup, crash, or shut-down. I did build a platform with small wooden wedges to lift the back edge of my laptop off the table. Now I can run it all day without overheating and I run it each and every day.

On October 10th a new Ubuntu, version 10.10 will be out. You can't get it in stores, but if you go to the web site it will be there for download or you can buy a CD, I think for the cost of shipping. I usually just download it. There are versions for server, desktop/laptop and netbook, 32 bit, 64 bit, etc.

There are several ways to use Linux. The live-CD is very cool as it runs directly off the CD without installing. When you remove the live-CD your computer is unchanged. What ever applications are on the CD can be used by you and you can save your work to a jump drive. You can install while running the live-CD or not. You choose to make a hard drive partition or use the whole hard drive. If you want to run both MS Windows and Linux, a program called Grub gives you a menu to choose at boot.

If you have MS Windows running when you put in the Ubuntu Linux CD a program called Wabi will let you install Ubuntu in a MS Windows folder so that it runs sort of like a Windows application. I call this a pseudo virtual machine.

For me if you want both MS Windows and Linux on the same machine, dual booting is best. That way the two different operating systems are separate, not needing extra resources. Be sure you install MS Windows first to minimise booting problems. You can select the default OS in the Grub OS selector afterwards.

Another option is virtual machines. You can run Linux as a virtual machine on a MS Windows system and vice-versa. VirtualBox is my favorite application for this. There is a MS version and a Linux version. Virtual machines is about sharing resources, so running two OSs needs more memory and some hard disk space. 

The last option is called Wine. Wine is a MS Windows compatibility layer which runs in Linux. Wine lets you, within limits, run MS Windows software on a Linux system. I can't run Photoshop Professional, but my Photoshop Lite runs fine. Can't tell you if MS Office will run, I use Open Office. But a special configuration of Wine called Crossover Office seems to handle MS Office products. I don't have experience with this.

The most cool thing is that you can slide the Linux live-CD into any MS compatible system, reboot and try out Linux. I recommend Ubuntu. If you have it installed or install it yourself, you gain access to the online repository of free installable applications. Some versions of Linux have live-DVDs so that the large selection of installable software is on the DVD. With my DSL internet it takes 1 hour to download the CD and 3 hours for the DVD. Once you have it, you own it, you can install it on as many machines as you want. You can copy it and give it to friends.
Now I will warn you, Linux is not as flashy as some like. This is so that it appeals to a broader swath of users and works on a broader swath of hardware configurations. You can tweak it up or dumb it down, that is what makes it what it is. So that's boom out the box but not flash-boom. You can add flash later.

Monday, August 23, 2010

snap, snap, crackle and pop

Here in the chateau of Linuxville I tend to try and experiment and torture my laptop in the name of comfort. My Gateway 4026gz is ancient by many standards but Linux runs wonderfully with a few caveats in play. First memory is 512MB so you can't really get away with Gnome or KDE and whiz-bang. They run, but it's.....well, hmmmmm, OK. I did install Blackbox and it is cool but not great as I don't like to fidget too much. Now I have installed XFCE, it pretty much is Xubuntu. Man what a difference. Snappy! Somebody snap me!

What does having a desktop that uses less resources do for you? The first is less overhead for PC operation. The second is more RAM to run applications. Yes, things run better and it does. People are always saying that Linux doesn't compare with MS XP or Win7. I say yes you are right and I hope you get your money's worth..........eventually. Meanwhile, I am feeling no pain, why? Because all of my exploits fit within typical PC use without the aid of special drivers and hardware set-ups. Wisdom says if you put a light weight desktop on your big powerful PC you will gain so much power it will be faster yet.

My daughter just gave me her newish HP Pavilion Entertainment laptop to fix, "dad I got a virus" Music plays in the background, the return of the man from heck. Not much I could do, two boys who search the net, play games and music, got mugged in the OS. Heck man I don't much about Win7. Good thing the hard drive didn't crash HP like others put the restore partition on the same drive as the installation, what if.........your sunk.

Anyway I started about 9am and finished at 5pm. I backed up some files, formatted the drive and pooped in the restore CD. It took forever, then I installed the anti-virus and the Java and waaa-laaaaa, well.......
I'm not too thrilled with Win7, it's good looking, but this laptop is beefy and fast still the OS is sluggish. Then all the stuff you have to add or take off is like weaving with knots. I look back at my old Gateway. Everybody thought the Hummer off-road-vehicle was so cool, then they made a street legal and class conscious vehicle out of it. Just a fancy high-priced box with no wow! My Ubuntu Gateway is snappy and clean and simple. Remember simple, not complex and it works. I can dress it up if I had more resources but I don't need to impress myself, just get stuff done.  You heard it once more, right here at the Chateau of the Linuxvlle guide office by your truly, the Linuxville guide himself. "nuff said!"

Friday, August 13, 2010

will it ever end.......!

Your life is too busy if you work just as hard sitting down as standing up. I mean I now have the habit of grabbing 5-20 minutes between odd jobs, errands and destinations to sketch or jot down a thought. The bad thing is when this gets engrained into your brain so that when your not scurrying about you get creative block.

Things have settled down at the chateau, moved my main PC from the upstairs penthouse-tech lab-artist nest to the downstairs bedroom so that my bodily presents can be available for duty by the wife and mom-n-law (poor me!). If I have to run one more errand I'm gonna bust! What I have discovered is that one can have multiple computers but usually one has all your stuff. Believe me is a hassle to sync 3 PCs. A better solution might be a network file storage server whose resources can be tapped by the other PCs on the network. In my case this is weak because my laptop needs more memory and a new battery to be powerful and float about too. Time for a new up to date laptop.

I cry about more memory all the time, Ubuntu 10.4 doesn't run on my laptop. I suspect 512MB is not enough. I used Sweet Home 3D and it crashes after I get going good. I am using Gnome desktop and I have loaded Blackbox which is a leaner desktop. It is kind of hard to switch desktops back and forth, you get used to a certain way. Why don't I upgrade? Because memory for old laptops don't get cheaper with age.

Did I tell you about Alchemy? Alchemy is a drawing program that manages chaos or random drawing elements. You can even use sound as a driver of events. It runs on everything because it is a Java app just like Sweet Home 3D. I used to hate Java apps, they were awkward and slow, no more. I used to and sometimes still regard myself as a Linux and Open Source purist, but as an artist I use the tools I have access to, even  Microsoft tools if I have to (darn!). I am looking at printing my artwork and most wide format printers have print drivers for the MS OS and not Linux, it is a wrinkle but not a crimp. Hey, I'm not a whinny prima donna, one day my prints will come. lol

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

living to tell the tale

When you come back from heck you deserve something great to play with. Google has all sorts of apps and mostly I pass. I don't like to get used to using apps that are hosted on a server somewhere. To have software and data on my PC is what makes it personal. There is one Google app that is the coolest thing I ever saw. It is called Picasa, looks like this:
Yeah it is cool, has a little lever to size the thumbnails, which are as clear as day, and buttons that do other stuff. The absolute coolest feature is that it reads your hard drive to display all your pics. You can also grab a pic and reorder or move it. I can view my sketchbooks and reference pictures very fast. I kept saying when is a Linux version going to happen and BAM!

I have a couple of Linux picture viewers, this is the best by far.

On the art front I am working away in hard pursuit of the African art aesthetic. This started back when I was in college. I won a years scholarship to study architecture at a big name school through a work study program. When I enrolled into the regular classes, Art History was a big part, only the class was set up for art majors intending to become art researchers and curators. After months studying Greek and Roman architecture, I was disillusioned and in a rage. It was the height of the Black awareness movement and I could not find the relevance. I adjourned to the campus library, read all about African architecture, art and the counter culture green technology. I ask the question, What was the African art aesthetics that Matisse and Picasso and others "borrowed" from. And is there a Black or African style rather than just an "influence"?

Hey dude, you talking nonsense! No, wait! How many Black architects, or engineers or interior designers or industrial designers or artist can you name. I can't, I have to look them up, then I can name a couple. The internet is wonderful the way you can patch up a shoddy education with facts that pertain your origins.
But more to the point the idea that I don't have to borrow what should be my heritage and cultural imprint. I just looked.

Here is a shot of my exercise so far:
The back panel I think is wonderful using one of my drawings, the carved African door is so cool, the sofa is called Diysofa from Must Italia. My target is not the museums but the space behind and above your sofa in the African Modern style or whatever it will be called. And of course I use free and open source software for this.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

the man from heck

I just been to heck and back. You see I am applying for a job the requires MS Excel and Autocad. It has been a little while since I have used these products but I have used similar Linux applications.

First I used my Ubuntu laptop. I installed Wine which emulates just enough of MS Windows to run some Windows applications. I have Photoshop Lite (2001 vintage) works fine. I tried to install a 30 day trial version of Autocad 2010 and then Autocad LT 2010 to no avail. The real deal is two fold. If you don't have the actual XP or 7, good luck. Then if you don't have enough hardware beef, forget it. Oh, did I tell you it took a couple of hours before I found out Autocad would not install.

The final straw was I put a second hard drive into my desktop Ubuntu machine, installed XP and then Autocad LT 2010 on it. It took forever.............but I now can dual-boot into XP and Autocad LT 2010 does work. My best recommendation is if you are using serious MS platform software, you must have serious resources on hand (lots of disk space and main memory). I have 1gig of main memory and things are slow. My PC will take 2gig. That should speed things up a bit.

It really makes me mad as I love Linux so much. I could run XP as a virtual machine but not having enough memory and or a CPU that is faster, anything practical is a pain. I have PCs of various ages and I have been able to use Linux on them with good success. The economics has always been a pain at this time in my life. The cost of memory does not get cheaper with age. As the memory becomes harder to find for older machines the cost goes up. It is cheaper to get a new machine trimmed to the max, than beefing up an old one.

You'd think I am enraged about XP, Ubuntu 10.04 also gives me heck. I have an older laptop with a lower spec than my desktop. Ubuntu 9.10 runs just fine, 10.04 won't even boot past the logo screen, and this is the live-CD. So here is my unsolicited advice. If when buying a new PC and they try to dazzle you with a huge honking hard drive, pause, take a look at how much system ram comes with it. If your system takes 2 gig of ram, fill it up now or feel up-graders lament. Hard drive cost go up and down but mostly down, you can always get a good deal. System ram though is costly, buy it up front while you can still breath. With system ram to the max, you can run anything, no sweat.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The classic battle of closed source vs open source

The classic battle of closed source vs open source
They stare intently at each other, the light sabre warriors. When ready to engage they take turns lighting them up. Microsoft a red laser, Mac a green laser and Linux in blue. We anticipate red and green but blue takes us aback. Blue laser, what kind of weapon is that? "Ah yes, Gnubian, we got a lot of that!"

The reputations and market share (usage) of Microsoft platform graphic software and Mac graphic software is legendary and that of Linux questioned, ridiculed and marginalised as being not professional enough. It's just a Jedi mind trick, blue lasers will slice off an arm like any other laser. The truth is MS and Mac out of the box, plug-n-play light sabres are made for market products. Linux requires some understanding. "I see you have constructed a new light sabre! indeed you a skilful and powerful Jedi!"

I always hear the chants, I want the best stuff out there, the most used and the most supported and what is the most used in the industry. When art is an industry and you are in that industry, you use what the industry uses. There is a road less travelled......... Like the artist wearing his/her beret, on a riverbank or hillside, recording the view on a minute canvas. Paintbox and pallet and easel and brush, charcoal, pencil, camera or laptop. To this artist every tool is generic and useful from brushes whose hairs were plucked from his chin to the imported zoo-fur brush from an exotic hard to pronounce country. Every artist boast in his tools and wraps a mystique of power around them. I use what I choose, that is what makes them superior over what you choose for yourself. I bend them to my will and in that is the magic. Besides I like blue.

"But you don't know the power of the closed source." Not deeply and I don't like it when sith lords insist I "pirate to try it" or get it for free with a new hardware purchase. I tend to strip it all down anyway, install open source and fire up the blue light. "But no one uses open source for.....Then I shall be the no one that no one knows, for the open source is with me."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

the dance of the art

Every living thing does its dance, amoebas, bees, birds, elephants and people. We dance according to our body structure, muscle toning and mind-body coordination. Watch people on the dance floor, it is telling. Or running, all are mobile but some are tuned for speed. There are natural athletes and ones who overcome natural physiology with training and practice.

In my experience there are natural artist who seem to do art in the natural process of their living and the trained. It is possible to study the principles of art and apply them. Just like with running. Your knees may bump and you gasp for air and flail your arms. The coach will teach you good running posture, good breathing management and put your arms in sync for power and energy conservation. And don't forget runners psychology, you need to think like a runner for the sprint or the long distance. With all the elements in play you teach your body the dance. When the body knows the dance, creativity comes out on top of what has become second nature via practice. The body does what it has been taught freeing you for tweaking, pushing and improvising.

Just worked with a master brick layer. His moves were honed by years of doing the job. He was effortless in his process, the moment decisions and adjustments. He asked me if I wanted to try it. I said, not me, you have all the moves down. For me it was not the stacking of bricks on gunks of mortar, it was the practiced moves. Man, he made it look easy as he danced his art. I just mixed the mortar and looked with wonder and awe. The wall is beautiful.

I have some natural ability that runs in my family. I and my cousins grew up drawing. They more than I loved to draw, I liked puzzles and erector sets and model cars. Like any kid I watched cartoons, Saturday was my time. Before the cartoon show there was a home show where they showcased new houses. I was intrigued and started sketching houses. First awkward front views, then really bad perspective views. After learning a bit about perspective my drawing had that tinge of reality. At the same time I explored pencils and pens and various papers. I didn't know I was teaching myself to dance. I was not so good at sports as my older brother could attest, but then he couldn't draw either.

I know that there are those prodigies who seem to do it from birth, but I consider myself lucky or blessed as I have learned to dance over time out of the frantic push for stardom or the urging to get an art job. I am still learning and enjoying art. Many I have known are trained, over worked and tired of it all. Even my retired mom-in-law, artist, school teacher is so much a critical perfectionist, she doesn't let art flow its own course. She never learned "good enough for now, when I learn more I will do more". She tried so hard to agonize and perfect every work. That is her dance. My point is that sometimes it is the artist that needs the tweaking more than the techniques and skills.

That is my sincere advice, learn the techniques, skills and be mindful of yourself the artist. Your body will learn to dance the moves you want to make, yet if you don't take care, your appearance in your work will be telling. That telling is the part that speaks to your viewers. They may not know the force, but they can sense it.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

the hand that holds the light saber

What about technique, what about practice. That's the easy part. You repeat and repeat again until your body can move the tools along-with your mind. Half is training the body memory, the other part is harder. Drawing on paper is intimate, you embrace your writing tool, anchor your paper, focus your mind to put it on the paper. The years of writing on paper makes this second nature. Folks who draw should know this well. It takes a while before you can treat computer drawing the same as drawing on paper. Depends on your tools, your focus and your practice. I talk and type more than draw so it's taking me a little longer.

I am pretty comfortable using a mouse. The mouse is fine for vector drawing, a more constrained technique. The digital pen and graphic tablet is wilder because you feel the drawing. First the pen doesn't have a rolling ball that grips the page and lets out ink or is not lead that dislodges from the pencil and smudges into the paper. The smooth tip glides across the smooth tablet surface, so that the feel is different. With practice you get used to this. Second there is pressure, it is adjustable but getting it to feel right takes time, plus you also can use this to great advantage. Then if you don't have a direct view pen tablet, like the Wacom Cintiq tablets or a tablet PC, the tablet is in your lap or on your desk and you look up at the screen. So, you are not looking where your pen is but where the cursor is on the screen. Thus the Jedi theme, "stretch out with your feelings Luke!" 

Every application is a special case and a new skillset. Though there is some crossover, each app has it's own interface, tools and quirks. In GIMP, you can paint, draw, photo touch-up and do some vector. In Inkscape vector is prime but it will export a bitmap if you need it. Blender 3d is a world that can incorporate elements from either GIMP and or Inkscape. You don't have to know them all really well, just what you need to know to get the job done. Over time you will amass a huge basket of skills, some not written in any book or tutorial.

The fuss over digital art is huge. Digital art covers simple pixel art all the way to animation and film. It can be viewed on small screen, large screen or be printed on anything. How it is applied depends on our focus.

A guy I know in the IT field said if you want to know IT hang with the geeks. I will say it is true also with digital art on some levels. While we artist tend to disappear into our own cave of wonders to create without distraction, the art community is how we calibrate ourselves, get tips, give advice and become apt at the business of art. Digital art is still gaining respect in traditional media circles and becoming a class act in its own right. Art schools, museums and galleries tend to be gated communes that is, tightly controlled. There are also more open venues, art shows and such. Because we use computers, perhaps we could virtually gather, still I think local face to face is warm and encouraging.

Go dabble!