Archive for August, 2007

Inkscape: Perspective Hell

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Ever since I had formatted my computer and reloaded openSUSE 10.2, I have not been able to get the perspective effect in Inkscape v0.45-1 working. This has always been of a hit or miss for me in the past . Before I formatted I was somewhat pleased with the perspective effect. Although it threw up an error dialog it would always work after I just โ€œokayedโ€ the error. This time around I cannot get it to work at all. Frustrating since it’s one of my favorite features of Inkscape. I use it often. Richard and I use it to create the graphics for screencasters.heathenx.org.

A workaround for me has been using Windows XP virtually on top of openSUSE and using Inkscape in that. It’s not my preferred method but at least I’m not completely S.O.L. Now that I think of it, I cannot remember a time when the perspective effect wasn’t working for me in Windows. Uh! I hate even acknowledging that.

Honestly, I am confused by the python-numpy and python-numeric packages. Apparently, you need at least numpy so that the perspective effect will work. Not sure why I installed numeric but at this point too many packages depend on it so I cannot uninstall it. Numpy on the other hand can be installed and uninstalled all day long. Numpy is installed but me thinks openSUSE is not properly symlinking to it. The two modules that I need are just not loading or cannot be found by the perspective.py script. Richard and I spent spent a few (and probably drank a few) last night trying to troubleshoot it. Of course he is an Ubuntu Feisty user (I am too, just not on my main desktop) and I am an openSUSE user. Our packages do not match and are in different locations. It’s tough to fix when you are using different distros.

So if it helps anyone, I have recorded a short screencast (no sound) illustrating the errors that I am getting. I am using two perspective.py scripts. One is the original script that ships with Inkscape and the other is a patched script that looks like was authored by Aaron Spike. The patched script pretty much suppresses the exact errors and gives you a โ€œfriendlyโ€ error stating that numpy module is not found or loaded.

If anyone would like to help, PLEASE! I’m floating out at sea here. I would appreciate any help in the matter.

Screenshot of the original perspective.py script:

Screenshot of the patched perspective.py script:

 

Episode 035 – Perspective Reflections

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

ep035_thumb1.jpg

I’ve uploaded my latest Inkscape screencast (Episode 35). This one describes a neat method of creating reflections using a simple black to white mask. I discovered this neat trick at Nicu’s great blog.

While I’ve made reflections using Inkscape in the past, I’ve always had two problems. First, if the group of objects to be reflected consisted of multiple colours, using a simple opacity gradient was quite a pain. Second, creating a realistic looking reflection for an object in perspective (particularly photos) was very difficult. The one that we use on the screencaster LCD monitor thumbnail (at the top of this post) is really faked with a white opacity gradient. The problem being that if I changed the background to anything but white, you’d suddenly see the retardedness of it all. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So the mask method eliminates these two problems and makes creating reflections of more complex objects (including perspectives) much easier and more elegant.

Hope you enjoy it.

For those who care about the mechanics of screencasting, this was actually the first one that I created solely with recordmydesktop, mencoder, and Audacity – although I did use an ffmpeg one-liner to extract a screenshot for the thumbnail (anybody know how to do that with mencoder/mplayer?). I think the quality is better and the workflow is definitely easier and more logical. Big thanks to Heathenx for helping me out with this stuff.

But it wasn’t completely without problem. You will notice some weird artifacting that occurs about 2 or 3 seconds into my sped-up intro. This wasn’t in the original ogg capture, but occurred somewhere during the post-processing. I thought it might disappear by the end – but no such luck. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ve decided to leave it there for the time being and will correct it and replace the files when I can.. ie. not tonight. ๐Ÿ˜‰

One other thing is that I haven’t yet put this one up on YouTube. It’s about 12min long, so I’m gonna have to split it up like I did with Episode 26. I’d like to do it with mencoder as well this time, so in the next couple of days I expect to have the two-parts finished and up on YouTube as well.

Grafpup Linux

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

 

I have been a fan of light Linux distros for sometime. A few in particular are Damn Small Linux, Puppy Linux and some form of Knoppix. These โ€œlightโ€ distros work great as virtual machines for testing new software or maybe for just trying to break something that you wouldn’t want to try on your production distro. Plus, I use them to recover data and repair both Windows and Linux machines.

The other day I was looking for a light distro that was graphic oriented. I was looking for something with at least Gimp and Inkscape. I discovered Grafpup. It’s a little more than a 100mb download. Pretty small really. If you are looking for something light-weight and portable then check it out.

Here’s an excerpt from the web page:

Grafpup is a compact distribution containing the Linux kernel and various Open Source and freeware programs. It is especially well suited towards graphic artists and other imaging professionals but has many other tools available as well. Grafpup has been loosely based upon Puppy Linux, which is a creation of Barry Kauler. However, there are a lot of unique features which set it apart both from it’s parent and most other Linux distributions.

Grafpup strives to provide a complete workflow for the digital artist, from beginning to end. As such along with the major graphics applications like Gimp and Inkscape you will also find a variety of support programs and extra features. Color management is enabled for all applications that support it, and there is a basic selection of color profiles included in the standard install. For those doing photographic work there is almost complete support for raw image formats via both dcraw and the ufraw plugin (both Gimp and Cinepaint), as well as the gtkam utility for directly connecting a wide variety of cameras. Scribus and Abiword take care of publishing needs, and Gutenprint provides a wide range of printer drivers.

A Thing of Beauty

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

My latest toy!

At home I had a 15″ monitor. I know…not the best size for anything. However, I have a computer armoire at home so that I can close it up when I am finished using my PC to hide all of the clutter. When it’s open it looks like a gadget train wreck with all of the devices that I have plugged into things. I always liked CRT’s due to the crisp video. I have a 22″ CRT at work. The thing is a monster but the clarity is great. Anyway, I could never put a large monitor inside my armoire and expect it to close. So I had to sacrifice with a smaller monitor.

So yesterday my wife was cruising the net and found a reasonably price Acer 19″ widescreen LCD at our local Wal-Mart. She asked me if I would like one. Uhh…YES! So she went and picked it up and it was waiting for me when I got home from work.

This thing is really nice. Major improvement over my 15″ CRT…obviously. And it fits quite nicely in the armoire. openSuse picked it up automatically and now I am staring back at a 1400×900 thing of beauty. I was concerned about how my fonts would look on an LCD but no worries. They look great. I’m impressed with Suse’s hardware support.

Very pleased. ๐Ÿ™‚

Broken System Fixed

Friday, August 24th, 2007

Well…I was successful in crashing KDE on my openSUSE 10.2 computer. I’m not sure how exactly it happened but I killed KDE in my account, my wife’s account, and the root account. I found that rather odd. I have hosed a few Linux PC’s in the past but not like this. I logged in with a different windows manager and it seemed to be working just fine. KDE was just in a frozen state. I hadn’t done any updates and made very little changes the night before. Hmm…perhaps I have gremlins in my computer.

Since my openSUSE machine doubles as my main desktop and the main server in my household, I wasn’t interested in having a broken system especially since I rely on it for SSH, Samba, VNC, and screencasting Inkscape, among a handful of other server duties. So I backed up some stuff to my NAS device and formatted my Linux drive.

30 minutes later I was looking at my new desktop. Of course it wasn’t ready to go. It always seems like I have to install a gatrillion packages before I get something satisfying. Plus, I have to wade through a plethora of security updates and patches for openSUSE.

This time around I installed Compiz-Fusion since Beryl doesn’t seem to be in my repo’s anymore. It was probably time to update that anyway. I got my nVidia driver installed, Xgl, and Compiz-Fusion all working together. There is a few things that I do not understand about the new Compiz. Beryl-Manager has been replaced with CompizConfig Settings Manager (ccsm) and now emerald is a separate entity having it’s very own configuration manager. I no longer have that pretty red gem icon staring back at me in my taskbar either. As far as I can tell there is no icon for Compiz-Fusion so that one can restart it if needed.

There are many howto’s for installing Compiz-Fusion on openSUSE 10.2 but most are lacking some important details. They get you 90% there. I ended up writing my own howto (just for myself) compiling information from several sources. I like a third grade approach in any howto…you know…really dumb it down for myself. ๐Ÿ˜‰ย  At the moment I am unable to change the default settings in ccsm. Compiz-Fusion is quite usable out of the box but I like a little more bling in certain areas. I think I have something to try but we’ll see.

The other issue that I am having is the perspective effect in Inkscape. It doesn’t work and I cannot remember how to fix it. I have pyXML, python-numeric, and python-numpy installed and I still get an error. I had always gotten an error box before but the perspective effect would still work. Now I get nothing. So that is what I’ll be working on for a while.

The good news is that my screencasted video is even sharper than it used to be with recordmydesktop’s ogg output. Plus my audio is much cleaner. Of course, for audio, I recently switched from my premium OEM microphone to a USB Linksys Headset. Perhaps all of those package updates had something to do with the better quality. I wasn’t complaining before I formatted my computer but I definitely like the results now. Maybe I’ll reserve my next screencast for openSUSE. ๐Ÿ™‚ I have yet to encode any video on my freshly formatted system…so I’ll cross my fingers when the time comes.

Episode 034 – Circular Array/Pattern

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

You know the drill. I uploaded my latest screencast, Episode 034, to the screencasters’ web site. This is a simple and quick tutorial illustrating how to array an object in a circular pattern. Easy stuff.

I actually clipped this from Tavmjong Bah’s tricks page on his online Inkscape manual. Tav’s manual is a valuable resource for any Inkscape user. Check it out.

openSUSE 10.3 1-click install

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Here’s an interesting post on the 1-click install feature that will be implemented in the new openSUSE 10.3 distro.

New users to openSUSE often dislike the package management system.ย  It wasn’t always like that but ever since Novell bought SUSE they have been trying to get a handle on better package management. I remember when I moved from Red Hat to SUSE a few years ago the first thing that I did was figure out how to get apt/synaptic installed.ย  While the developers have worked on a new package management system (zypper), most users have grown accustomed to using the Smart package manager as an apt replacement. Honestly, Smart is all I ever use. I rarely use Yast or zypper or rug or zen or whatever we have available.ย  Quite frankly, I am a little confused by all of them. Yast is a no-brainer but the others aren’t useful to me. For me Smart just works and it works just like apt and that’s what I want. I want to be able to “sudo smart install package_name” (as opposed to “sudo apt-get install package_name”) and know that it installed with all dependencies needed.

Anyway, the 1-click install looks like it will be quite handy. Will it stop me from using Smart when 10.3 is finally released? We’ll see…

Btw, 1-click install reminds me of klik.

What does your favorite text editor say about you?

Friday, August 17th, 2007

Saw this article over at Linux Today. Interesting and funny. I’m a Notepad++, Gedit, and Kate user. I see he left out Kwrite. That’s another that I use.

VMWare gets the boot

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Last night I wanted to give the new Inkscape 0.46 development version a go. However, I didn’t want to break my stable 0.45-1 version. Since I didn’t know what to expect from the development version, I thought this was a task for a virtual machine. Before I could get to it though, I needed to fix VirtualBox on my openSUSE machine.

I have been a VMWare user for a few years now. It has always worked very well for me in Windows XP, openSUSE and Ubuntu. One day I stumble across a tutorial for getting VirtualBox installed on an Ubuntu machine. I was curious so I followed the instructions and got it working. I think it took just a few minutes to get it going. Immediately I noticed that VirtualBox had a simpler interface and it โ€œfeltโ€ lighter. I researched a little and found several opinions on the ‘net regarding how some found VirtualBox to be faster than VMWare. It does feels faster but sometimes other opinions influence my own judgment and I start to regurgitate what I read.

Awhile back I must have broken something or maybe not installed VirtualBox correctly on my openSUSE machine. It kept crashing on me. This behavior was not present at all on my Ubuntu machine. So I set out to remove, clean up , and re-install VirtualBox again. This time around I got the latest version straight from the VirtualBox website and got it right. VirtualBox runs and work great now.

I decided to give VMWare a rest for awhile. I haven’t uninstalled it yet but I stopped the services from running at boot and deleted my Windows XP and Damn Small Linux images. I ‘m strictly going to use VirtualBox for awhile. I reinstalled Windows XP and Damn Small Linux as virtual machines and away I went. VirtualBox is indeed a pleasure to use. So far the speed over VMWare is an improvement. Both XP and DSL ran very fast. Plus, the interface is faster. Maybe it has a smaller footprint than VMWare. I recommend VirtualBox to anybody willing to give virtualization a try.

I did end up giving Inkscape 0.46 a try in the end. It’s a little unstable at this point. I had a few crashes. I will say this though. I cannot wait until 0.46 is officially released. Many improvements. I checked out the new things that Ryan Lerch blogged about and they worked great. The new gradient improvements are going to be a major time saver. If there is any program that I would like the folks at Inkscape to take on then it would be Xara. Inkscape seems to be getting closer with each new release. To the Inkscape devs…keep up the great work.

Episode 032 – Shattered Photo Effect

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

ep032_thumb.jpg

Here is my latest Inkscape screencast – Episode 032. This one shows one way of creating a shattered glass effect with a photo image using Inkscape. It’s a fairly simple method and not the only, or best way to do it for sure. If you’ve found a better way to achieve the same effect in Inkscape, leave a comment, I’d like to hear your suggestions.

Hope you enjoy it and find it useful. ๐Ÿ™‚

NOTE: In his usual lazy-arsed way, heathenx has forgotten to post his Episode 031 and Episode 033 to this blog. When you’ve worked with him as long as I have, it comes as no surprise. ๐Ÿ˜‰ They are however pretty neat, so check ’em out (after checking out mine of course!) – Keep in mind that this is coming from the guy who posts one every 3 weeks ;).