28 August 2009


I am in total awe seeing what a great artist can do with Inkscape:

great vector image

Yes, is vector drawing, not a photo and is not easy to create something like it:

For the moment I feel humbled :p

27 August 2009

The downside of using hosted services

I strongly believe publishing something on the web involves commitment: you put the content online and have to stand by it, do not ever delete it, or if you must delete, then replace with redirects: deletion will break pages, links, references and cause problems to people who relied on you. Nothing is worse than erasing history.

So happened when, for unknown reasons, Yahoo deleted my flickr account, now even the embedded do not work any more, leading to a large scale breakage: my photography blog, which used flickr as an image source, is ruined, the large amount of work needed to fix it will incapacitate me for a good while. For this blog I think I may have to live with the breakage: trying to fix some old articles will confuse a number of aggregators. But the works part is, it break an unknown number of pages who used my content as intended, under CC-BY-SA, and break the legal ground of this use with the disappearance of the canonical source - and I feel really bad about this, by having no way to help those people, I feel like letting them down.

In an age when a lot of people are moving towards externally hosted services, I get myself traumatised by this experience and going to the opposite: what you have in your hand is holly, you can control and rely on it. All hosted services have a TOS allowing to remove your content at will. Do not depend on them for anything mission-critical.

But let's change the tone, look here:


This little guy is searching for a house, along with a ton of other not yet published images (some are just as innocent as it and some are the kind that if published here would bring me huge traffic, lots of page views, comments, Page Rank and some ad clicks).

26 August 2009

F12 Alpha and demoing Live media

Next week, together with an Ubuntu guy, I am going to a national television (TVR), we will be filming some general stuff about Linux which is going to de diffused on one of its channels. From the preliminary conversation, I understand they will record in HD, directly from the computer screen, so my only laptop, a netbook, is not up to the task (the requirement is an LCD with at least 1200x960), so my best chance is to use Live media. OK, Live media is one of Fedora's strong points, apparently no problem with that.

Today I got a bit carried away and got an idea: the F12 Alpha was just released, with tons of greatness, let see how it works on my Eee, maybe I can use it for demos, a little risky (I would carry also a F11 with me), but let see what is about. Well, the result is embarrassing, take the Graphics menu as an example:

f12 alpha

This is pathetic: menu entry with one single (and weak) application (Office and Internet menus are not far from that either). Almost as little content as a default Windows install. I said it before and will say it again: our "Desktop" spin sucks for demoing the Fedora features.

Conclusion: I can't show that, it would be a disgrace. I think I have to take advantage of live persistence and put some real stuff on it. Still to decide if I'm trying to go with the Alpha (the use will be limited, not many things to break) or showing directly the latest stable (that one needs a bit of customization too, but it has at least GIMP and Pidgin).

20 August 2009

A new tentative personal photo galley

For quite a while I was searching for a self-hosted solution for my photo gallery, willing to move away from Flickr (which I still think is the best gallery from a technical point of view, too bad about its other downsides). Well, the Yahoo guys just gave me the final impulse for the switch by deleting my flickr account (don't know why, I received no warning about that, my suspicion in linked to a photo where I was criticising their recent deal with Microsoft).

I tried but really do not like the layout of other image hosting services like Picasaweb of SmugMug, I find them bad, ugly and too expensive but since I already have my own hosting solution with plenty of disk space and bandwidth and also don't care about the social network side of those services, a self-hosted gallery seems the optimal choice. The problem is, none of the existing solutions makes me happy.

After trying a number of existing solutions (I am too lazy and too busy to write my own), I am inclined to give phpGraphy a try:


As I said above, it is far from perfect, there are a number of pros and contras, making me to install a test instance, play with it, think more and ask for feedback (pretty please...)

My pros:
  • no database. It can work with an MySQL backend, but by default it works with flat files, which is a plus in my book, I want something light, small and easy
  • as said above, light, small and easy
  • RSS feed for last uploads
  • ability to upload images with scp and automatic thumbnail generation
  • user comments and ratings
  • ability to display EXIF info
  • clean layout by default

My contras:
  • no captcha and no OpenID login for comments: it seems like I have either to leave the comments open for everybody or require authentication to my site, both bad
  • no comment notifications by email: these two are almost show-stoppers (I would hate to block comments)
  • no ability to adjust the licensing info for each image and album
  • old-style album-based format instead of the photostream I got used to
  • no tags/keywords/labels and no navigation based on tags/keywords/labels, only album based navigation
  • no search

There are also smaller complains, like the inability to easily offer HTML code for embedding in web pages and the lack of geotagging, but those are not vital.

So please have a look at my test gallery (populated only with very few images) and maybe give me some opinions (I am looking for a self-hosted FLOSS solution). Thanks.

19 August 2009

Those damn group photos ... to be a photographer

My camera was put to take 10 frames, I found the result funny and sharing-worthy: is a challenge when you take a group photo and want to get yourself in the frame - press the shutter and run! If there are more than one photographer, "behind the scene" images are guaranteed :D (a short animation made with GIMP was a must)

[photographer animation]

Fortunately, this time it was not my turn for goofing (I had my share of similar goofing at FUDCon, which was not caught on camera): I ran fast enough! But Sebastian was my victim, mwa ha ha ha ha!

18 August 2009

GIMP and bullshitometers

I can be sympathetic with someone arguing GIMP is not good enough for him due to the lack of CMYK support (I was bitten recently when exceptionally had to print some stuff), I can understand a photographer needing more than 8 bit color channels, I can see why adjustment layers can make your life easier, I can contemplate the [legal] impossibility to have Pantone colors and so on.... But when a self-called designer and self-called user of both Photoshop and GIMP criticise GIMP's interface and usability serving as "proof" his need to search for 2 hours (!!!) to find the Crop function, then my bullshitometer alert is reaching record levels.

[gimp crop tool]

...well, at least I hope is only bullshit, otherwise it would be just sad. Part of the same argumentation line: GIMP's layer selection. Duh!

17 August 2009

Report: FLOSSCamp 2009

The power of the community is amazing: no money, no sponsors, no corporate baking but this year's FLOSSCamp was a success (so I think): almost 50 people (only 41 in the group photo, but some were too shy or sleeping ...patches needed), a large number of tents, plenty of food and drinks, good talks. Everything was organized by the power of local communities.


A special mention for Alex, who made the difference and made all this happen: from initial planning on the list, pools to select the date and location, announcement and website to printed banners, going for food and drink supplies, transporting people and taking photos to cooking food, moderating the BarCamp and making the finances and other things I forgot to list here. Thumbs up!
[alex] [alex]

We had a lot of interesting people: well known members of the FLOSS scene, old friends, newbies trying to find their place, a few people talking about their companies and significant others, dragged more or less at the conference. The highlight was a BarCamp, where we talked about some important stuff but in a friendly environment (a big circle in the grass with beers in hands)
barcamp barcamp

The "open" barbecue, the camp fires and bottles with essential liquids were vital ingredients of the success, even if we had to wait a bit for them... arguably the wait made them taste better, but I also have a theory: the first day, when still raining, a pair of used socks was put in the fire :p
grill fire

Being surrounded by beautiful scenery in the nature with grass, trees, flowers, butterflies and a nearby creek (oh! what an amazing night sky, with tons of start, with a visible Milky Way and shooting stars!) was also part of the "secret sauce"
creek butterfly

I am well known as a shill, so obviously I pushed Fedora as much as I could, from hanging the self-made (Alex printed it) banner in a "strategic" position to handling CDs, stickers and tattoos. Of course I didn't manage to evade the classic question about how is different Fedora from Ubuntu, but the question is more palatable when coming from a nice geek girl genuinely interested and positive about the answer (bonus points: even before asking, she is convinced Fedora looks better and you are with the Design Team).
fedora fedora

Speaking of promo stuff, I made an observation which probably needs more in-depth study to understand why: it shows the girls are much prone to wear our tattoos. The guys are more reluctant and usually they need to be convinced by a girl.
tattoo tattoo tattoo

Literally, a ton of photos are available in our (Fedora Romania) gallery. Enjoy!

Now, for the next year... I guess it will be a real challenge to make it bigger, better and friendlier.

12 August 2009

The Great Panda Debate

After a number of good looking re-design mockups for the Fedora front page featured a cute panda drawing, a passionate debate heated: some people are in love with the cute critter and others are offended to be associated with something warm, fuzzy and lovable. I say: resistance is futile, here are some evidence:

Already Panda iz in ur computer, developing Fedora (along with his sidekick Hello Kitty, but unfortunately HK is not, and can't ever be, our trademark):

[panda fedora]

They already got hold of our fearless leader:
[panda fedora]

...and strongarmed Tux:
[panda fedora]

Bad news: if you don't behave, they have fearsome fangs and claws:
[panda fedora]

But when needed, know how to party hard:
[panda fedora]

So what's your stance on pandas? For myself, I know I should get some free time, a piece of paper and a pencil and start my hand getting used at drawing the guy :D

07 August 2009

FLOSSCamp 2009 is only one week away


Exceeding the expectations, so far over 50 people announced their presence at FLOSSCamp 2009, they represent 5 distros, 3 LUGs, several other organizations and projects. It sounds like an event that will matter, probably the biggest FLOSS event in Romania organized exclusively by local communities.

There is still time to join us!

PS: and the weather forecast for that week-end is positive, think about spending a few days here, together with cool people and good talks.

06 August 2009

Light and photography

Like in any other community, we also have in the Fedora some self centered ******** who can ruin your day and sometime, depending on their position and stubborness, arguing may be completely counter-productive. Then it may be useful to take a break: there are so many interesting things to do and so many nice people to spend time with... So I figured out it may be useful and relaxing to write down the things I talked about a couple ago at the photography workshop.

It is said the photography is all about capturing the light so I think is useful to learn which time of the day is the best for outdoor photography:
  • [sun] first, anybody should know the strong light of the middle of a sunny day is the worst for a lot of types of photos: portraits, flowers, even landscapes. It is bad due of the intensity, which creates strong highlights and deep shadows, with heavy contrasts and also is bad due to its direction, for example in portraits it will create unpleasant shadows under the eyes and nose. Avoid it at all costs;
  • however, if you have to take a shoot in the middle of the day, the best solution is to move your subject in an open shade, for example under a tree or on a porch. This way the bad direct sunlight is blocked and there is a lot of reflected light available from the surrounding. Use skylight instead of sunlight. This way the shadows on your subject are softer and more pleasant. You don't want complete shade, which will require long exposure times and even worse will eliminate the all the shadows on your subject - photography is an 2D medium, we need the shadows to understand the shapes and the relief;
  • [golden] a much better time of the day for photography is the so-called "golden hour", which happens twice a day: a few tens of minutes before the sunset and a few ten of minutes after the sunrise. Then the light has an awesome, magical, quality with tints of gold, orange, red or purple. I find the color of the skin and people faces just beautiful on this light, but the buildings and landscapes look good too. Take care of the long shadows, created by the low position of the sun;
  • cloudy, overcast days are also awesome in a lot of cases: shooting people, street, architecture. The clouds work as a huge softbox in front of the sun, creating soft shadows and allowing to capture pleasant details. Just stay away for photos (usually landscapes) where the sky is visible: the white or gray sky of an overcast day is boring, uninteresting. It will ruin your photo.

If you MUST take photos in the direct mid-day sun and you can not move the subject in an open shade (say it must be near a fixed object or there is no shade available) there are still some things you can do:
  • use a reflector: a foldable piece of cloth on a frame, with a sliver, golden (for warmer light) or even white surface with which you can reflect some available light towards your subject and soften the shadows. You may need the help of an assistant to hold it;
  • a diffuser is pretty much like a reflector, but it is a transparent white cloth, allowing to cast a shadow on your subject;
  • fill flash: use the light of a flash unit to reduce the shadows created by the sun light. It may sound weird at first, but there are cases when you put the flash light to compete with the light coming from the sun.

Speaking of flashes, another thing you must do is to avoid using the on-camera flash at all costs, it will ruin your photos: the light source is too close to the lenses and will produce bad shadows, a flat image and a very strong direct light. Due to the position it is also very likely you will get the undesired "red eye" effect. On-camera flash will also beat your cat and kill your goldfish (kidding!). Of course, if you are in pitch-black and the only available flash is the on-camera one, take the photo with it, a bad photo is better than no photo, but don't have big expectations about the result.

[flash]A better option is to use an external flash, with its additional benefits:
  • even put on the camera shoe, is is a bit further from the lenses, the light source has a slightly different position, the shadows are not that bad, the red eye effect is less likely to happen;
  • you can use an extension cord or wireless transmitter allowing you to move the flash far away from your camera: at an arm length, on a frame or hold by an assistant;
  • almost all external flashes have a moving head, so you can turn it at an angle and have the light bounced from the ceiling or a wall, obtaining a soft light and pleasant shadows;
  • on an external flash you can mount a softcap or small softbox to reduce the light intensity or redirect it.

[wb]Regarding the light, there is also an important in-camera setting called White Balance, which a surprisingly large number of camera users do not take advantage of. In addition to the intensity or direction, an important characteristic of the light is its temperature: for example the temperature of the sun light is about 5200K (with slight variations during the day), the light temperature in the shadows is about 7000K or the temperature of the light coming from a bulb (tungsten) is about 3200K.

Probably you saw in many cases your photos looking blueish or yellowish: this is caused by a wrong setting for the white balance. If you set the light temperature to a lower value than in reality, the image will have a blue tint (colder) and if you set it to a higher value the tint is yellow (warmer). With the perfect setting the white is supposed to look white, not blue or yellow.

When shooting in RAW format the white balance is not an issue, you can correct it easily when importing, but for some reasons you may prefer (I do) shooting in JPEG (smaller file size, writing speed, less post-processing, etc.) and then setting it right before taking the photo is important. While the new cameras produced these days do a better job with automatically detecting the light temperature and setting the white balance accordingly, it is far from perfect so manual adjustment it useful. You can also take advantage of White Balance for special effects, making the photo colder or warmer on purpose.

Some cameras have the ability to set a custom value for White Balance: put a white surface (a sheet of paper) in front of your camera and tell it "this is white".

So consider the best time of the day for taking the photos, make the best in-camera setting and the difference will be visible.

05 August 2009

Ceata workshops: photography

[photography workshop]In collaboration with Ceata I started a new project, a photography workshop (if people show interest, we may add some for graphics, GIMP/Inkscape) and yesterday evening was our first meeting, trying to take advantage of the golden our. There were only five of us present but this is not necessarily a bad thing: there is room to grow.

We went on the nearby university campus (PUB) where I bored the audience talking a bit about light, flash lights and white balance and then passed a couple of cameras (my SLR and a 'Super Zoom') from hand to hand and everybody got to take pictures.

In my opinion it was a bit chaotic and my talk a bit too long but at the end they showed enthusiasm and promised to come to a second edition. I guess the time will tell...