I Visited the UK LoCo

May I just say, I have a fantastic time with the UK LoCo this evening attending the interesting Dans LaNoir. This is a restaurant which is completely pitch black, where you’re served by blind waiters and lead in and out.

Part of the appeal of going through this kind of blind experience was seeing if I could cope with not having sight. But part of it was a good old fashioned dare with friends. I found myself using some of the techniques I’d observed two of my blind friends in the US use as well as noticing how much the eyes fake information which you can see when you can’t see, if you see what I mean.

The conversation is also a good laugh. With Alan Pope in the gang it felt like I was invited to eat inside the UK Podcast; where all there is food and the sound of stuff happening with much frivolity.

Many thanks to the UK LoCo leader Alan Bell for making me feel very welcome and for all the gang for being such awesome geeks.

Shared Bookmarks, do they exist?

I’m after a system where by users of my community computer labs can enjoy a new entry in their bookmark bar of items which are of particular interest and use.

Our system we use requires each user to have their own username and password and thus their own firefox profile, so we can’t do what the windows 7 labs would do which is just to add the bookmarks to the Internet Explorer session as the ‘User’ user.

So I had a look at social bookmarking services like delicious, but none of them provide a way to specify bookmarks or tags (which work) in a way that allows bookmarks to be populated.

I also looked for some scripts that perhaps might be able to open the firefox profile bookmarks html and edit it and sync one particular part of it up with a master file. But I haven’t been able to find such a thing.

So I turn to you dear reader; do you know of anything like this? Please comment below.

Inner City Boston Ubuntu Hour 2

Today was the second Inner City Ubuntu Hour, myself, Dave Hunt and Ralph DeGenero met at Winter Street and Tremont on this beautiful july forth weekend to talk geek about Ubuntu.

First stop we went to Starbucks to get some drinks and use up Rio’s free drink card. Then onwards to have some food at Pho Pasture in Boston’s China Town. We talked about the etymology of language and lots of various geeky subjects. The main event followed:

We took the T (train) to Andrew Sq. and walked over to the Mary Ellen Community Center. I showed off the computer lab with full Ubuntu machines and how the network was administered and kept in sync. Particularly interesting was the way the package syncing worked and the new user registration gdm. You can see a video of me demonstrating the user registration system here.

I also have a set of scripts to notify users and track their session times using libnotify and app-indicators. You can check out the client and server scripts here and the session manager here (unfinished).

We tested the Orca screen reader and attempted to upgrade it for the lab to 3.1, but the new versions are having trouble with Maverick at the moment. So they were quickly downgraded.

With that, we ended to Ubuntu Hour which was extended into over time to show off some really cool stuff.

FOSSed 2011

Between July 6-8 2011 there will be another FOSSed event here in the North-east of the United States. It’s up in Maine and features a mix of educational and software types, a good solid event for anyone interested in FOSS and the education scene.

I went last year and did enjoy it quite a bit. The sessions were fun and we got to see some of the interesting ideas being experimented with in various schools around the country. There was plenty of time to just chat about all sorts of tech during the breaks and the accommodation was on site. Easier to deal with travelling.

This concludes this public service announcement. Comments welcome below.

LGM: Day 4

Michael Terry and AdaptableGimp

Michael (not our mterry, but the other one) Terry presented a wiki based system for presenting artistic tools in gimp within a workflow structure. This means that all the tools that you need to achieve an action are displayed in order and there are instructions linked from each tool in how to use that tool in that workflow.

The best parts of this FANTASTIC functionality is that as well as downloading instructions from the wiki and an xml list of tools, you can create new Tool Sets within Gimp and they are automatically uploaded to the wiki. This allows all users to collaborate on gimp workflows.

This is the sort of workflow based tool use that I really enjoy seeing. It emphasises the task you want to achieve and makes education as shallow as possible. Imagine a method of embeding the documentation/tutoral right into the UI of your software, this is what this does. checkout their website.

Using PinPoint for Presentations

Pippen talked about using a very light tool to show very awesome presentations. Check out the source code and if you know how to package things then get this packaged so we can use it in Debian.

Features include animated transitions, simple text format you can write by hand, lots of options, comments that appear on the presenters screen, running commands.

Talking about Economics

One of the lighting talks talked about economics. He suggested that incidental development was the way to go. Sighting mozilla, wordpress and other projects as examples of this economic model working.

Hardware is as Important as Software

There was a very interesting talk about Fabrication and Hardware by Jon Phillips. He talked a lot about how China develops open hardware and processes through a methodology which isn’t as restricted. He also suggested that if we don’t get a handle on the hardware situation we will be left with closed and non-modular hardware which is mass-produced but inflexible for innovative product development and distributed production.


Party Time! See you all in Montreal until 3am! Thanks to all the sponsors and all the really interesting people who I could spend some time with.

LGM – Day 3

Using Inkscape to Make Patterns

Susan showed off the inkscape plugins she has made to draw cloth patterns, so you can make clothes by using inkscape and a plotter device (to draw the pattern). It was pretty cool to hear inkscape being used to make physical items.

DeviantArt Demonstration

Two deviantArt people were here talking about how they foster communities, ideas, sharing and how they support the use of open source tools and creative commons licenses.

They have a New API which should allow tools to create plugins to export to deviantArt. It uses OAuth2. The idea is that you can sync updates to your deviantArt files from your programs.

Open ColourSpot, The Problems

In printing there is a system of colour matching called PANTONE, which is an arse of a proprietary colour system. Unfortunately we don’t yet have a good free culture replacement for this. This is the concern of the Open ColorSpot project. ginger ‘both lower case, no seriously, she means it’ coons gave a good talk about the frustrations in trying to lead the project against the industry invested interest.

JonCruz talks about Linux Printing (and how it’s dead)

Basically Jon’s talk talked about how badly the Linux platform supports the professional printing industry. This is a walk through all of the problems and gaps in the functionality we currently have. Much more so than the desktop itself, we suffer not being able to supply good tools for artists and print professionals.

Colour correction is one of those problems, but also things like 6 colour, CMYK handling and other controlled printing methods (Halftones, true black, registration issues etc)

One interesting idea is “Supporting 80% isn’t enough” and Jon is passionate in expressing how just supporting the common users doesn’t get you noticed. The press isn’t interested in apps which do boring every day things and attracting new users and programmers to a project can really be about supporting more edge cases than just always going after the 80%.

LGM – Day 2

Christopher Adams and an Open Font Stack

Chris talked about the availability of free fonts. They announced the rebirth of the Open Font Library who’s goal is to collect together a collection of useful fonts. Some of the most interesting elements to the new font library website is the ability to type directly in the website to text the font. This is a much welcomed improvement over the traditional font website which tends to render a default set of letters as a picture.

The Font page also shows all of the interesting information, everything from it’s free license to which languages it supports and how up to date it is. Included in most uploads are the source files which can be edited and uploaded. An exciting project and I hope we can somehow tie the desktop into this kind of website to allow installation of these fonts easy.

Inkscape Meeting

Jon Cruz explained the project he’s working on to bind together different open source graphics tools with a sort of project management tool. This he says is similar to Adobe Bridge. Other interesting topics were the redesign of the gradient tool, problems with the font list and a bug fix for grow/shink by paint bucket.

Free Network Services

MediaGlobin announced! This talk is all about federated network services. Everything from StatusNet and Gnu FM. Checkout the video to this massive hour and a half talk as there were some great questions and pieces discussed.

LGM – Day 1

Richard Hughes talks about ‘colord’

RedHat has allowed Richard to work on a really cool framework for setting up and managing colour management in freedesktop using dbus. It’s a framework which expresses profiles and devices and provides methods to allow management. This is then plugging into gnome colour manager and the kde colour manager.

The colord is in Fedora 15 already and will probably be in Ubuntu 11.10 later this year. Hopefully Ubuntu/Debian won’t be too far behind this important functionality.

Thanks to JonCruz for allowing me to use his screen correction device to create a screen profile for my laptop to allow me to correct my screen. This should make my art look better and make prints easier to judge colours for. I might have to buy myself a screen calibration tool, but using it showed me how dificult it is to mess about with colour profiles today (i.e. command line, guis a broken etc).

Eric Schrijver and the text only programmers culture

Eric did a very interesting talk about the difficulties in getting programmers to recognise that the command line (while being awesome) is not the only input method that should be scrutinised for key parts of the system. Specifically under criticism was the high use of text only programming languages and text only command building.

These ideas are near to my heart as working on Ground Control showed me very vividly how cruel and unwelcoming traditional programmers can be to innovative graphical expressions of command line functionality. The people who report positive use are the people least able to help with programming, which is a shame as it needs love.

Christopher Webber talks animated advocacy

Chris walked us through some basic 3D animation and more advanced 2D animation using blender, surprisingly to me he showed how easy it would be to bring in inkscape layers and animate them into a nice looking video. He’s interested in using animation to promote free software advocacy, convinced like me that new mediums can express and explain complex ideas and philosophies in new ways that allow new people to really et on board to the whole free software movement.

This is particularly interesting to me as the only animation I’ve managed to do has been using inkscape to generate a hundred frames which are then put together manually in openshot. Not exactly quick or easy to manipulate after the creation.

I’ll be attempting to talk to Chris during LGM more about the prospects of animation to explain Free software principles.

Montreal: Libre Graphics Meeting

Hey there, I’m in Montreal this week for the Libre Graphics meetings. I’ve been here since Saturday and it’s been quite a blast already and the main event isn’t even here yet.

We had an excellent chat about how much the author of software can be said to be responsible or involved in the art expression and how software as tools are different or the same as physical art tools and art education.

There was a nod towards proprietary software being profoundly bad for education as well as a lot of mooting that control over your own art tools was very important from an artistic point of view.

I’d have gotten better notes, but I was completely zonked from work on Friday and 4 hours sleep. Then I had wine and was drunk and deathly sleepy. But I seem to remember there might have been Mexican food and a chat between Janine Melnitz and google maps to find the hidden hotel of the elves.

2 days later I’m almost completely recovered! Let me know below if you’re interested in LibreGraphics and if you’d like me to report on any issues that might be talked about.