29 January 2008

How it's made: my map elements with Inkscape

I imagine such a preamble is not very inviting, but it is the preamble of the latest article from my tutorials website:

map elementsIt's been a while since I wrote a tutorial (in fact quite a while, as "wrote" != "published") and that was for good reason: I was not able to come with a tutorial fitting the rest of my my tutorial site and did not want to break the tradition . So it was a hard decision to write this piece, which comes as a conclusion to my quest to create a RPG tileset of over 50 clipart images, a decision I made mostly because I already was asked about how I made the images and expect even more questions in the future.

It is not really a tutorial, more a "how it's made" for my map tileset (available also from the Open CLip Art Library), it describe the process I used in creating those images, a very short sketch of the workflow (described in more detail in the article) is like this:
[read more]

Of course, there is available as usual a Romanian translation.

And now I can really consider this topic closed.

A gem in the street: laptop stolen flyer

On my way from home to work I saw this gem:

A flyer saying "Laptop stolen from car, reward offered". To be of any use, I think it should have said something about the reward, which must be above the [black] market value of that laptop. Can you imagine the thief contacting the owner with an innocent face: "I found this laptop in a thrash can in the park" ?

To make the gem complete, the flyer is glued on a phone booth with the inscription "displaying forbidden".

25 January 2008

Unbloat your Inkscape made SVGs

This should be common knowledge, but I see it often not used, so maybe a blog post will increase the awareness a bit.

Long story short: when trying to fit all the packages on a live CD every bit matters, so a number of strangely large file size for some SVG icons got noticed: a directory with 50 icons, 3.0 MB (in g-p-m, if that matters). Puff: run a "magic" script (an one liner), the size is decreased to 986.0 KB, the new version is commited upstream and everybody is happy!
It looks like a good idea for everyone using SVG icons to "unbloat" them, the space saved may be significant.

As any Inkscape user that's wort his salt should already know, the script is something like this:

for i in *.svg; do inkscape -f "$i" --vacuum-defs --export-plain-svg "$i"; done

Or, for one single file from the GUI, File > Vacuum Defs and save as Plain SVG.

Now some boring details: when working for a long time on a complex document Inkscape may vreate a lot of definitions and some of them may get ununsed, like you fill an object with a gradient and delete the object later. The gradient definition is kept, you may want to reuse it later, so a complex file may gather a lot of such unused definitions (even more if you import another files, each with its duplicate or unused definitions). Vacuuming them is a good idea, it may reduce the file size.

Another (small) file size reduction can be achieved by saving as "plain" SVG. By default, Inkscape will put inside the SVG some atributes useful (but not essential) for further editing (window geometry, guides, metadata and so on). Saving as "plain" SVG will remove them.

One of the worst offender was initially 281.1 KB, it decreased to 56.4 KB after vacuum defs and to 48.6 after saving as plain SVG.

23 January 2008

Quest complete: RPG map tileset

I can consider complete my quest for a RPG map tileset, 50 images are done (outline and full color), uploaded to my clipart collection and to the Open Clip Art Library (look at the cartography tag).

[rpg map sample]

Now is the time to sit back, relax, upload some samples in various places (like here), annoy people with that and maybe think at the next step, which should be something different. Or should I do more pieces for the set, considering I have a long list with additional ideas? This is a good think to think about while sitting back.
[rpg map sample]

I don't know how transparent is from those clipart images how much I miss the time when I used to fight orcs and be happy about that. I guess it's quite obvious (is a long time, about an year and a half).
[rpg map sample]

PS: the samples above are JPEGs, the PNG version was to big in file size, so I had to use lossy compression (with high quality), but load the JPEG, change the extension and will get either PNG and SVG.

Uploading to OCAL is killing me...

So the time has come: the set is done, it have to be uploaded to the Open Clip Art Library. Unfortunately by hand, one by one, the full color image, the outline and a PNG thumbnail.
Question again: what are the computers build for? By any chance to help us automate repetitive tasks? Anyone wonders why I hesitate re-uploading my images (some hundreds) from the old site? Look at the pretty screencast (2.8MB, Ogg Theora) and multiply the operation with 50 (the number of images I have to upload):


Php coders badly needed... anyone available?

22 January 2008

Fries? With that?

All the cool kids are campaigning for one or another codename for the upcoming F9, can I keep myself from acting like a monkey and try to pose as a cool kid by weighting about the issue?

First, as many others, I am not very happy with the selection, between really bad ones (Chinga-something, Asperger) and some for which I don't feel anything (probably because I don't get the cultural reference), I see myself with one option for which I can imagine producing cool **** about: Mayonnaise.

I am sure people expect from me some more visual campaigning, but I do not have such hard feelings for that name either so I would pause my cartography quest (which approaches completion, BTW) for it.

17 January 2008

Coloring the map

The other day I talked about the outlines for my RPG map tileset, naturally I went to the next step: adding pretty colors (as planned) and it progress quite fast, it is the easy part.


I tried to get a balanced result: at the same time shiny enough but also simple enough, I could have added a lot more details but this is my current trade-off (feel free to start from the outlines and do your own colorization).

One decision I made will surely come back and bite me in the ass: I used gradients. They make the look prettier but after importing a few images with gradients Inkscape gets confused very fast (it is a known bug).

But enough for now, I spammed enough with this topic, will talk again about it when the set will be complete and uploaded to the Open Clip Art Library (hopefully next week considering the current speed). Until then I will quietly update my gallery, one by one.

16 January 2008

Halfway to an empty pledge: a RPG map tileset

One of my many failures in 2007 was to get the people at the Open Clip Art Library into holding a "month of cartography", such a benign defeat is a good show of how bad I react at losing.

A few years ago I made a proof of concept about how Inkscape can be used to create RPG maps and a (small at the time) number of terrain SVG tiles. This showed to be one of the hottest topics on my blog, with important traffic, many reactions and follow-ups (I got many people contacting me offline about it). It can be considered a success.

Recently on the Inkscape users mailing list the topic of cartography came to attention so I got the idea about holding a "month of cartography" at OCAL, we used to have such things, but the (still unfinished) migration to ccHost shifted the focus. They are good for channeling energies, gaining momentum, generating buzz and potentially bringing new contributors and users.
My approach was to make a pledge: if at least two other people back me and will contribute, I pledged to contribute at least 50 new, original, images.

The idea didn't got enough traction, nobody backed me. So here is me bad at losing: once the idea was developed in my head, I continued working on it and created (at a slow pace, due to the low motivation) the above mentioned quantity of images. So today I am halfway to this pledge: I finished the outlines (this was the hardest part) for 50 images, they still nedd to be colored (that is the second half), see below a few highlights:


For now the images are available for download as part of my own clipart collection, after I add colors they will be uploaded (both as outline and full-color) to the Open CLip Art Library. The coloring process will follow at the same slow pace, probably I will make enough noise when ready.

The set is not consistent as style, scale, perspective or quality but, hey, I pledged 50 images, not 50 quality images... (could it still be labeled as a set?) see also a screenshot with the entire set:

When approaching the target number a motivational issue appeared and I got confused about what to do next: start coloring, as originally planned, draw more new shaped, as I have in my head a large list of items which could be drawn or just call all this thing off, freeze and upload as it is.
Most likely I will stick to the plan but he work speed may have to suffer, watch the tileset to monitor the progress.

14 January 2008

GNOME playing cards

[cards]There is an undergoing vote trying to get better default in GNOME games, I don't know why there are so few votes, only a couple so far, maybe it was not publicized enough.
So go ahead and vote your favorite, maybe we'll get a shinier desktop.

note: of course I voted for my own set, but everyone should vote what he likes best.

Romanian translation: OpenOffice.org Getting Started / Ghid de initiere

[ghid deinitiere]Most of the translation work and the compilation was made by ghrt, a preliminary version of the Romanian translation for the OpenOffice.org Getting Started / Ghid de initiere is available for download (a 6.9 MB PDF) in the project's documentation page.
It is still in an alpha stage (without the "Base" and "Quick Keys" chapters and with some inconsistences), but it is our first release in a "book" format.

10 January 2008

Fedora 9 themes - Round 1

The deadline for Round 1 of Fedora 9 theme submission was a couple of days ago, on January 8. Round 1 in intended to gather concepts, so do not expect polished graphics, only sketches and ideas.

Here is what we get so far (as required, the proposals with a formal mailing list introduction and wiki page), listed chronologically:

  • f9 theme proposalCODE 9TO9, by Jiri Jakub Masek, a theme based on one line drawn 9 pointed star, endless, cyclic, algorithm 9483726159;
  • f9 theme proposalFreedom, by Michael Beckwith, following the motto of Infinity Freedom Voice that Fedora uses, and with Fedora 8 using Infinty, it propose Freedom, supplying some other ways that Freedom could be represented;
  • f9 theme proposalWaves, by Martin Sourada, "Waves could symbolize infinity, freedom, voice, ..."
  • f9 theme proposalNight, by Mola Pahnadayan;
  • f9 theme proposalElectric Sphere, by Mola Pahnadayan;
  • f9 theme proposalAt Last, by Andrew Healey, the image of a person with their arms thrown up in triumph having symbolism that ties directly to the Fedora ideals and also with the feeling that using a human image in the theme helps personalize Fedora;
  • f9 theme proposalShoowa, by Luya Tshimbalanga, a raffia cloth textile from the Kuba, a people from the central Democratic Republic of Congo, bringing the diversity of the Fedora community through the use of art from different cultures.

Thoughts? Comments? Praises? Compllaints? Any kind of feed-back?

RHM top 10, or 2 ouf 10 for Nicu, or Desktop Linux

I noticed Red Hat Magazine published a list with the top 10 most popular articles in 2007.

Much to my surprise, I see two of the articles in this top are mine: 2-nd place, GIMP 2.4 preview and 8-th, How to use Inkscape’s new blur filter (this one written in collaboration with Mo).

I know this is not due to my great writing skills and style (or the lack of it most likely), but about the subject, I touched some area of popular interest: Desktop Linux, yet another proof 2007 was one of the mythical years of the Desktop Linux.

08 January 2008

Inkscape about screen vote

[inkscape]Inkscape 0.46 release is nearing, now is the time for the community to vote for the new "about" screen.
I don't have an entry in the contest and not a clear favorite, but I did my part and cast a vote.

03 January 2008

So what's the year of Desktop Linux, 2007 or 2008?

So was 2007 the Year of the Desktop Linux? Will 2008 be?
I pretty much agree with the points (and I could add some myself) about how 2007 already was that mythical year, only with a caveat: I think "the year of the Desktop Linux" is pretty much a 2 years thing, with not necessarily two consecutive years.
The first year was 2007, with a lot of new deployments (OLPC, Eee PC, Dell, etc.), the next step for those is to remain Linux installs (and not be replaced with Windows once they get into the end users hands) and to grow beyond the hardcore existing Linux users, getting to the general public. When this growth will pass a certain market share (dunno what, probably at least more than OS X), that will be the second half of the Desktop Linux. And it may very well be 2008.