31 August 2007

Fun with glass and shadows in Inkscape

[GDM]A couple of days ago I was playing with my own variations of Martin's GDM mockup, with glassy surfaces (transparency and shadows), which is all the rage these days.

So playing with those I had to use a simple but less known masking trick, which gave me the idea to develop it in an Inkscape tutorial about glassy surfaces .

glass and shadow

A usual, a Romanian translation is available too.

28 August 2007

GIMP 2.4 RC1 in F7

[gimp]After my lame bribery attempt last week for a yummable GIMP 2.4 RC1 for Fedora 7 I got some feedback and tried even the Rawhide rpm, which installed (only with gutenprint as a required update) but refused to work ("gimp: symbol lookup error: gimp: undefined symbol: g_once_init_enter_impl").

Fortunately, I found a working F7 rpm and I am happy. The package was not a result of my request, so my bribe remains unclaimed, but I still give a big Thank you! to the packager.

27 August 2007

SIOX: foreground image extraction with Inkscape and GIMP

A couple of years ago when the SIOX (Simple Interactive Object Extraction) surfaced the web, a lot of enthusiasm and expectations were created. Now with released or almost released applications using it, we can have an objective look at it and draw practical conclusions, not only talk about the demos which may be (at least partly) doctored.

 With fast release cycles (about two releases a year) Inkscape was the first to have a working SIOX implementation in a release, back in Inkscape 0.44.
Inkscape is a vector drawing application, so it had to implement the algorithm in its specific way, namely as a part of the tracing tool, which convert from raster to vector, so the result is not pixel-perfect, but it does not even tries that.
Another downside is that Inkscape will use only the starting photo and one single path defining the region of interest (without a mark for the sure foreground), so the result is far from perfect and the tool is not really interactive.

The receipt is simple: import the photo, draw a freehand shape covering it, select both and run a trace by colors:


 GIMP got the tool even earlier in its development branch, but only the soon-to-be-released stable GIMP 2.4 will put it in the hands of the larger audience.
Here are a lot of options: brush sizes, feather edges, smoothing and you can mark both the sure background and the sure foreground, but after the SIOX job is done, it still needed to adjust a little using classic selection tools.

The receipt is more complex: open the photo and use the foreground extraction tool, it will offer a lasso-like tool to mark the region of interest around the subject and then a brush to sample the foreground. You can change the brush size and/or zoom in and out and even an eraser to unselect foreground. When ready, press Enter to get the subject selected, but you still have to use the real lasso selection to adjust it more:

I think I have some solid experience with both application, so my conclusion is obviously biased: SIOX may look like a timesaver for some operations, but in the end you will still need a loot of additional work to improve its results, you will not save that much time, so for me it is mostly a nice gimmick.
As particular applications, Inkscape is really lacking a way to define the sure foreground so it will give satisfactory results only for selected images but with GIMP you can zoom in and use smaller brushes (like in the good old Quick Mask way) and select anything you want.
Maybe if you want vectorization for complex images is better to extract the foreground in GIMP and trace in Inkscape the already extracted foreground.

23 August 2007

Microsoft Office Open XML and ISO fast-track adoption

So ISO will vote on September 2 for or against the Microsoft Office Open XML file format as a standard. What I expect the result of this vote to be? I think the quote bellow (followed by my own English translation) from the unofficial position of the president of the Romanian committee is telling:

Motivele mele pt. a favoriza OOXML sunt de natura practica si "ideologica", nu tehnica:

1. Sigur ca OOXML e un standard atipic. Cum zic si IBM-ii (in critica lor), nu e "aspirational". Dar are un scop "nobil", pe care-l salut: "decripteaza" binarul (mai multor generatii de) documente Office. Fiind eu in bransa patrimoniului, o sa ma intelegeti ca sunt sensibil la prezervarea documentelor "legacy" (si migrarea este - pina la noi ordine - metoda cea mai convenabila de prezervare). Dar "transparentizarea" formatului intern al tonelor de fisiere Office nu e utila doar "comunitatii arhivistilor". Ma gindesc si la programatorii multor aplicatii care vor sa consume documente Office: standardul asta le usureaza viata.

2. Obiectiile de detaliu ale IBM imi par (pe cit le pricep) notabile, dar imi vine greu sa cred ca un comitet tehnic ECMA (cu Apple, Novell etc., adica cu tehnicieni adevarati) sa le fi trecut usor cu vederea, daca sunt asa de serioase. In plus, mi se pare ca - cel putin o parte - sunt lamurite de raspunsurile ECMA. Si mai multe sunt lamurite de raspunsurile MS. In plus, vad ca MS e gata sa ajusteze in unele locuri unde obiectiile IBM au nimerit. Nimic neobisnuit in procesul de evolutie a unui standard.

And now my English translation:
My reasons to favor OOXML are practical and "ideological", not technical:

1. Of course OOXML is an atypical standard. As IBM says (in its critique), it is not an "aspirational" standard. But it has a "noble" goal and I salute it: it "decrypt" the binary of (several generations of) Office documents. As I work in the patrimony branch, you should understand my sensibility for legacy documents preserving (and migration is - until new orders - the most convenient preservation). But the "transparentization" of the internal format of tons of existing Office documents is useful not only for the "archiver community". I think also at the programmers of various applications wanting to consume Office documents: this standard will make their lives easier.

2. The detail objections from IBM seems (as fair as I can understand) notable, but I find hard to believe an ECMA technical committee ECMA (with Apple, Novell etc., so real technicians) could overlook them if they are so serious. Additionally, I believe - at least in part - those are clarified by the ECMA replies. And more are clarified by the replies from MS. Additionally, I see MS is ready to adjust in some places where IBM's objections have hit. Nothing unusual in the evolutionary process of a standard.

So what I can say more? With such blinded apologists who need paid supporters?

22 August 2007

Bribery: GIMP 2.4 RC1

[gimp]With GIMP 2.4 so close (RC1 landed a few days ago in Rawhide), it just does not make sense to write new tutorials using 2.2, they will be obsolete from the start, so anything new better be based on 2.4.

The ways to have it are: run Rawhide, wait a couple of weeks for F8T2 and do tutorials with a LiveCD or build myself. Not being brave enough, I'll try a fourth way: the bribery, trying to get a yumable GIMP 2.4 RC1 for F7, pretty please! What should I offer?

I am sure a lot of people would appreciate such package as the new version has a lot on new features and interface improvements.

Update: A few days later, I found a package.

15 August 2007

Userbars, Fedora, Inifinity

Userbars are some small graphics (350x19) used by forums posters in their signature to show their interests, affiliation, hobbies. Recently I used to post a little more than usual (where "usual" for me was "almost never") on a few forums, but I had no userbar.

What can I do? Of course, make a Fedora userbar for myself, and with the current Ligher Touch for Máirín's Infinity, obviously I had to use it to show how much I like the graphics:


Of course I have available another graphic, more "classic" and boring:

update: more Fedora userbars, including "developers" and "ambassadors".

10 August 2007

Fedora 8 themes - round 3

As Máirín already posted we are now in the Round 3 and only two designs meet the criteria of having enough elements created: Infinity and Abstract.
She already posted thumbnails and links, but a blog post without images is boring, so I will post a couple of thumbnails, but to discuss them, follow the talk already started on her blog.

[infinity] [abstract]

I do not like Abstract, it make very high use of the logo at a time when our general tendency is to de-emphasize it and I am not happy with its brightness either, as for Infinity, it is clean and smooth, but it still lack some bling, we have to figure how.

Something which may, or may be not, related is the Generic Logos feature, which recently got approved but was for quite some time on the radar: it is about generic branding to ease as much as possible the creation of derivative distros. How this will impact the default theme is something we will have to figure in the next few days.

07 August 2007

Reflected images with Inkscape: take two

I recently wrote a tutorial about reflected images with Inkscape and GIMP but learned in the meantime an awesome trick which partly invalidate some things I said and help you to create wonderful reflections with Inkscape. The streamlined process is like this:


So I have to witness my lack of knowledge and update my tutorial to cover this neat trick.

03 August 2007

Postage stamps with Inkscape

Yet another trick in my graphics tutorial collection, this time about creating a postage stamp with Inkscape.


And, as I believe people are already used to, a Romanian translation.