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The ’69 Dart of Software

January 13, 2011 1 comment

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I got to my office and it was too cold to work. So I left the frozen tundra of Redwood Digital Research for the cozy confines of The White Raven.

From the comfort of a large coffee and a view of traffic passing New Leaf Market — a solar-powered organic grocery story which has its servers running Red Hat, no thanks to me, but still — I thought about a couple of stories I’d read this past week.

The first was a blog post by an Emery Fletcher which paints Ubuntu as the be-all and end-all of Linux implementation. While I am eternally grateful for Ubuntu’s efforts in promoting Linux in the general public (even if it is to the point of putting itself first and FOSS second, but I digress) and while the blog presents an interesting point about Linux implementation, it’s hard to determine whether this blog item suffers from anything more than mere myopia.

Current versions of Debian, OpenSUSE and Fedora are all as user-friendly as the current version of Ubuntu, but that does not enter into the equation in this blog. That’s unfortunate, too, because what both Fedora and OpenSUSE — with its new Studio spin — have done consistently with each upgrade have been remarkable. Mr. Fletcher may be lacking some perspective — think about where Ubuntu would be without the contributions to kernel development (warning: that link is a PDF file, courtesy of the Linux Foundation) and desktop development without the three distros mentioned at the beginning of the previous sentence — a harrowingly depressing thought, indeed.

The second article — the one from which this blog title derives its name — comes from a comment I made on a discussion in LXer.com regarding this blog item comparing Photoshop and GIMP.

First things first: There are some unqualified truths in life. The sun will always rise in the east and set in the west. The moon controls the tides. The San Francisco Giants will win the World Series only once every half-century.

Above all of the aforementioned is this one: GIMP is not Photoshop.

I’ve used GIMP in a professional setting — namely the newspaper for which I work. Once a long time ago, the paper did not have enough Photoshop licenses to go around for all the editors, so I downloaded GIMP (not requiring a license) and used it to process photos that ended up on the newspaper’s printed page. However — and you knew that was coming — I am fairly well-versed in GIMP and had little problem adapting to its interface; had another editor who is more Photoshop oriented had to do the same thing, s/he may have had a problem or two.

GIMP is an adequate photo manipulation program, but without the army of developers behind it — as Adobe has — it will pale in comparison with Photoshop. Always. So it’s foolish to think that professionals wouldn’t use Photoshop. In other words, if you’re a professional driver qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, you’re not going to strap yourself into a ’69 Dodge Dart to get the job accomplished — you’re going to use the appropriate tool(s) for the job. Conversely, most people don’t need a turbocharged single-seat racing car to go to work and back, and to run daily errands.

Will there be a time when GIMP can rival Photoshop? Not without a huge influx of developers to match what Adobe does. Believe me, every night before I drift off to sleep, I pray to the Almighty that developers will magically appear on GIMP’s doorstep (and the rhetorical doorstep of other FOSS programs) and that Job One will be making a single window interface for GIMP. Please, Lord . . .

Also, calling GIMP a ’69 Dart is not an insult. I had one, and it was the best car I’ve ever owned, VWs included (and those who know me know my loyalties for automotive products from Wolfsburg run deep). The Dart was the most boring and utilitarian car I’ve ever owned, too, but it was still the most dependable and reliable.

Well, now that I’m a bit warmed up, I’ll head back to Redwood Digital.

[FSF Associate Member] (Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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Down on the farm(ers market) with Linux

July 17, 2010 1 comment

Colonel Panik, my good friend and constant commenter to this blog, asked me to give you all some insights about what we’re finding at the Felton Farmers Market every Tuesday.

An order is an order, and Bob does outrank me.

So here’s what we’re finding in Felton:

More people are using Linux than come to the Felton LUG meeting: We’ve encountered roughly a dozen people in two weeks who live in Felton who use Linux who we’ve never seen at a meeting. My oft-echoed question, “Have you heard of Linux?” has been met with a constant “Yes,” and many of the people who have, and who have used (or are using) it are already using Ubuntu. I like to think this has something to do with the Lindependence events back in 2008, not to mention the Software Freedom Day events we’ve had here since 2007, but there’s no hard evidence to back this up. It’s just a hunch.

Most people are looking for digital alternatives: There are only a handful of people — I can only think of two in two weeks that we’ve had the table — that have no interest in FOSS after explaining what it is. In fact, a lot of people are looking for alternatives to the laundry list of maladies that accompany their daily Windows experience. In fact, easing them into FOSS with the OpenCD is a good way to introduce them to programs like OpenOffice.org and GIMP, and eventually we can get them to change operating systems to something — oh, I don’t know — free as in freedom and price?

“. . . I haven’t used it, but my $FAMILY_MEMBER has”: This is a common response by those who have not used Linux/FOSS themselves. This is a promising sign. Even though they may not be using it, at least they’re aware of it. Those who went home with a disk hopefully will know more about it and come back the following week with questions.

There are other things that amaze me: The Google engineer who stopped by the table — “Oh, I’d better know what Linux is.” — and others who work “over the hill,” as we call the Silicon Valley, who would stop with strawberries in hand to take a look at what we had, and take a disk or two to try out. Also, what amazes me is that a lot of youngsters — teens, of course — who have used FOSS and don’t mind spending their time at the table talking about things like “Will GIMP ever have only one window?”

Thanks for helping at the booth so far go to: Bob Lewis, my partner in Felton LUG organizing, who is one of the most sensible and passionate Linux evangelists I know; Karsten Wade, who brings his vast knowledge and rapier-quick wit, and OpenSource.com swag, to the table; Frank Adamson, the Ubuntu-using octogenarian who took his daily mile-walk to come to staff the table; and to Peter Belew, for making his talents available at the table.

See you next Tuesday. Coming up next: Reports from OSCON.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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Making the grade

May 13, 2010 1 comment

The Guide to Computer Training listed its Top 50 Open Source blogs on Tuesday, and included in the 50 — at number 20, no less (though I realized later that the list is in alphabetical order, so I didn’t really finish way ahead of Slashdot) — is yours truly and this blog.

After I picked myself up off the floor, I have to say I am beyond honored. It’s good to be in the company of these folks who regularly write about FOSS, GNU/Linux and Linux, especially Bruce Byfield, whose essays masquerading as blog posts appear thanks to Linux Magazine.

However, there are several blogs which stand head and shoulders above this one that deserve to be on that list which, for whatever reason, didn’t make make the cut.

So if you’re here from the Guide to Computer Training site, welcome, first of all; second, you need to add these five blogs — five which come immediately to mind, though there are many more — to the list that the previous site provides (as well as other blogs which readers are urged to add to the list in comments below):

Click, by Steven Rosenberg: This blog, which appears on the Los Angeles Daily News’ site, is always chock full of information as Steven traverses the Free/Open Source landscape using both GNU/Linux and BSD. Most, if not all, of his Debian/Ubuntu adventures are very informative and I’ve learned something from all of his blogs, even when I’ve disagreed with him (which, to my knowledge, has only been once).

Shallow Thoughts by Akkana Peck: Don’t be misled by the title — this is far and away the most educational blog over a wide variety of FOSS programs and issues that I have ever read. And it’s not the blog so much as Akkana writes about — and links to — her tutorials in the blog. All her tutorials are absolute gems, and our Christmas cards last year were produced, in large part, thanks to her GIMP tutorial. Since I live just “over the hill” from the Silicon Valley, I get the bonus of hearing her speak when she addresses local LUGs. But if you can find talks she has done, like her presentation on “Make Your Old Laptop a Ferrari” she gave at the Southern California Linux Expo earlier this year, it’s time well spent.

Blog of Helios by Ken Starks: To say that working with Ken is an honor would be a gross understatement. I met Ken when I gave him $10 toward putting Tux on the nose of an Indy car during the 2007 Indianapolis 500. Ken came to California during Lindependence in 2008, where we invited the entire town of Felton, California, to a church hall to see Linux and take home a Live CD or two. Now, Ken is giving underprivileged kids in the Austin, Texas, area a leg-up in providing Linux boxes to them through the HeliOS Project. Ken’s blog points out the highs and lows of bringing FOSS to the world, and his down-home humor that’s reminiscent of fellow Texan Jim Hightower — oooh, he’s going to hate me for saying that — is always a plus.

Dissociated Press by Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier: Zonker’s claim to fame, other than a nickname he picked up in college, is that he was the OpenSUSE Community Manager for the last couple of years. But what’s probably more interesting — and thankfully more important to those of us promoting FOSS — is that Joe’s talent and skill as a journalist precede, and thankfully now follows, his gig at OpenSUSE. He could be writing for any publication on any topic, but thankfully he’s writing about FOSS.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols‘ Computerworld Blog: More times than not, Steven is first out of the gate with FOSS news and developments, which alone would make his blog a must read. What’s more — and I mean this as a compliment — Steven’s not afraid to “go off the reservation” and write about non-FOSS issues as well. Everything on the blog is written with an artesian depth of understanding that points to his wide experience, and I get the sense that he embraces, Mencken-like, being FOSS’s resident curmudgeon. But I could be wrong . . . .

There are others that deserve to make the cut as well, and I’d urge you to add them to the comment list below.

And thanks, Guide to Computer Training — I will try to live up to your standards in being one of the Top 50.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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