Archive for the ‘fun’ Category

What’s Your Favourite Application/Project Name?

December 14, 2007

I just responded to a comment on one of my blog posts about various aspects of the free and open-source OS world versus Windows. One part of that discussion was about application naming, with the commenter suggesting that more descriptive naming would be an important thing to have. While I’m in agreement theoretically, my heart just isn’t there. I love a creatively named application or project.

One of my favourite application names is Inkscape (and not just because I love the program too – which I do – that name is just uber-cool to me). But there are other good ones like: BlueFish, XSane, Opera, DamnSmallLinux, SeaMonkey and F-Spot.

There are of course other names I don’t like, with Gimp, Avidemux and Pidgin immediately springing to mind.

Of course none of this has anything to do with how well the applications work.

What’s your favourite application, distro, or project name (open or closed, free or non-free)? Which ones do you hate?

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Episode 045 – Snapshot Mosaic

November 16, 2007

I’ve *finally* completed a new screencast. Sorry for the long delay. This one was a fun one. It demonstrates a fairly easy way to take a single image and break it up into component ‘snapshots’. So it looks like you took several pictures of different parts of an object and reassembled them. The example I do is a pretty basic one. You could do things like adjust the lightness, contrast or saturation of each snapshot separately to really give different creative effects.

This is another example where I really think Inkscape is significantly quicker than using Gimp or Photoshop for certain photographic projects. The method is simple, very intuitive and leaves room for lots of creative ideas once you get familiar with it.

Hope you enjoy it. 🙂

Top Gear Kicks Butt – Bugatti vs. Eurofighter Typhoon

October 30, 2007

While not one of my normal topics, I have to say that Top Gear is an absolute kickass show (and magazine). Very high quality production and always a gem to watch. Alas, I don’t get the BBC channel at home, so much of my watching comes via YouTube.

Anyway, this race between a Bugatti Veyron and a Eurofighter Typhoon jet is a good indicator of how entertaining this program can be. Very nicely done and I won’t tell you who wins the race. You’ll have to watch! 🙂

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The True Future of Online Office Productivity

October 24, 2007

Screw Google Docs or Writely or whatever. Forget about ZohoWriter and MS-Office Online…

If you’re looking for a truly awe-inspiring online word processor, look no further than WordPerhect.

You be pleasantly surprised by the advanced interface and a truckload of innovative features such as:

– the ability to write on a variety of media from the back of silver cigarette foil to a torn off strip of cardboard
– the ability to customize your writing instrument size
– the choice of colour (as long as it’s black)
– the ability to save your documents, and even print your documents
– in the spirit of less is more, the delete key scratches out the previous character, there is no delete per se.

Make sure that you use your browser full screen since the highly advanced rendering engine will scale accordingly and enhance readability.

ps. The pop up dialog system will undoubtedly be the model for OS’s in the future.


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The Eight Irresistable Principles of Fun

October 21, 2007

If you’re anything like me, there are times when you get in a rut, creatively or personally. If you need a quick kick in the pants or just something to pick you up and get you on your way again, check out The Eight Irresistable Principles of Fun.

It’s not anything too nutty or pie in the sky. Just a very well done and attractive presentation with eight very common sense principles. I probably violate every one of them at one time or another – but also hold each and everyone of them in high regard.

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Another Twist on the Quick Chill

June 15, 2007

Here’s a twist on the cold beer hack I spotted over on this morning. That post suggests using a tray full of salted ice water in the freezer to quickly chill a room temp beer. If, like me, you haven’t got any room in your freezer, a trick that I’ve used to good effect in the past to achieve similar results is as follows:

1. Pour a sink or bucket full of cold water, some ice and some salt. Make it deep enough that the entire bottle (or can) of beer can be submerged including the air trapped in the neck of the bottle – that’s crucial.

2. Grasping the bottle top in your fingers, spin it back and forth keeping it as vertical as possible. Higher rpm is better but don’t strain yourself – you’re chilling a beer after all ;).

3. A couple of minutes of that will drop the temperature to a respectable degree.

4. Dry off the bottle and add a side of nacho chips, chicken wings or pizza to suit. Enjoy.

I think spinning keeps the beer from foaming, and also keeps moving the warm beer in the middle of the bottle out to the sides where it’s nice and cold. The part about submerging the air in the bottle neck is crucial since this can inhibit the chilling effect.

If you’re good, you can spin two at once and enjoy that beer with a friend. 🙂

While you should be able to do it with cans, spinning them might be more difficult. I don’t normally drink canned beer, but give it a try. What the heck.

My personal recommendations for a hot summer day are Pilsner Urquell, Creemore Springs or a nice Sam Adams.

More Inkscape Fun – Subtle Adjustments Can Make Big Changes

January 13, 2007

With Christmas, Little One’s birthday, New Years and Evelyn’s 100th birthday, it feels like the holiday that will never end! Tomorrow is Em’s birthday party with her classmates and friends. So maybe, just maybe, I’ll find more time to put towards this blogging endeavour once again.

In the meantime, a couple of Inkscape related things…

The About Inkscape 0.45 contest over on deviantArt has closed and a winner has been chosen!! No, I didn’t get shortlisted or picked, but it was fun creating a few entries and there are some real nice ones. Congrats to molumen who created the winning entry. Very sharp!

Over the holiday I did manage to do a little noodling with Inkscape 0.45 (which is not officially out yet). One of the main updates in the latest version is the blur functionality. How it get implemented in a vector-based drawing tool is way over my head but I love it just the same. 😉

Here’s a series of buttons I created which illustrate how very simple and subtle changes can have a significant impact on graphics:

All of these buttons are created in Inkscape with only either 3 or 4 objects. The button itself consists of a solid circle, a highlight semicircle (made with a simple boolean intersection of a circle and a polygon) and a text object – the letter. I’ve used an additional blurred circle object for buttons B,C and D.

Button A looks kind of shiny because I’ve left the highlight grey object (which is actually a solid white object with its opacity reduced to around 40%) as a solid color – that is without any gradient. So you see the hard edge from grey to black. This button only consists of 3 objects, the black circle, the grey (transparent white) highlight object and the green text. Looks ok I guess.

Button B isn’t a heck of a lot different from Button A. I’ve made 2 simple changes here. Actually the first is just to change the text from A to B. Inkscape is nice in that you can just double-click on the text and immediately edit it in place. The second more meaningful change is to duplicate the black circle, blur it and set it back behind the button (but above the blue background). This gives more of a photorealistic look in my opinion. It’s not quite a drop shadow but I think it enhances the button. You can use this method to enhance many different kinds of graphics when you want to maybe add impact, depth or emphasis to some object and yet be subtle about it.

Button C is identical to Button B except that I changed the blurred circle underneath to a light blue colour instead of black. this kind of gives a backlit effect. Not so subtle but maybe useful in moderation when you’re looking for that effect. I see a lot of building signage with this look. They slightly raise the letters off the building and light behind them. You can go quite brazen with this effect or keep it subtle as I’ve done here. Again, it’s just a simple blurred circle beneath the base button object.

Button D looks significantly different from the previous ones, but is the result of only one simple change. In fact it is exactle the same as button B, except that I’ve taken the grey highlight object and applied a gradient so that instead of a solid grey, it goes from a solid grey at the top to transparent at the bottom. You can see here how a simple change to the highlight gives a completely different feel to the object. Instead of shiny you get something a lot more matte. Again, a very simple change makes a significant difference to the image.

Button E is really just academic. I’ve taken button D and removed the blurred black circle behind the button. So it is effectively button A with a gradient applied to the highlight shape instead of a solid grey.

Hopefully someone will find this useful. Inkscape makes it so easy to experiment and play around that you find new things out all the time. If you spot some graphic or effect that you love while cruising the net, don’t think it’s impossible to create. Just stare at it and imagine how you might achieve those effects in something like Inkscape. It’s usually much easier than you think. 😉

Photos and Inkscape

December 12, 2006

[click here to see a higher resolution version on Flickr]

A quick note to the Inkscape mailing list today gave me a couple of quick ways to trim imported bitmaps to the shape of any arbitrary boundary:

1. Select both objects and then choose Object->Clip->Set


2. Create a pattern fill based on a bitmap using Object->Pattern->Objects To Pattern, and then fill the object with that pattern.

This proved to be quite fun, so I put together the little collage you see above. It was probably easier to create this in Inkscape than in a bitmap editor like GIMP or Photoshop since you could easily create, rotate and modify each ‘snapshot’ throughout the process and modify gradients etc..

You can do quite a few neat things with a bitmap photo imported into a vector based editor like Inkscape. There are a few neat demo video’s over on the Xara site. One of them shows some interesting things about photo editing on a vector graphics editor. Good stuff.

Variations on a Shiny Black Theme

December 6, 2006

I’ve noticed a seemingly endless number of “Web 2.0 Shiny Button” tutorials lately. Most of them involving Photoshop. Looking at a couple, it all seems to be about gradients and transparency – something that Inkscape is good at.

I figured I’d take the opportunity to practice my Inkscape chops and play around a bit. So here are some variations on a theme. If you’re sick of Web 2.0 with it’s shiny, chunky buttons, then take this as your final dose. 🙂

For anybody interested in playing around with these, you can download the inkscape svg file right here: buttons-fun.svg

First, your typical fat shiny button. Literally 20-30 seconds work in Inkscape.

Next a shiny black and red power button. BTW exactly when did this symbol become synonymous with the power switch anyway?

An over the top version of a vertical scroll control. Either that or a power window switch in your car. This ain’t getting any better is it..

Started as a lozenge. Then went for a control button. Ended up with a shiny, buttonless Kensington Trackball.

Is it a remote, or a phone? Not sure. Take away all the buttons and you’ve got the start of a perfectly good shampoo bottle. Spent about a half-hour on this one. Probably 15 minutes too much. 😉

More Inkscape Fun…

November 23, 2006

Participating in the logo discussion for the LinuxReality podcast over the past couple of weeks got me using Inkscape again. (BTW, Chess ended up going with one of the puzzle piece logos I submitted – check out the site banner over there. It was great fun discussing and coming up with that logo.)

Inkscape really is a full featured vector-based editing program. Being vector based, it lets you do a lot of things that you just can’t do in a bitmap editor like Photoshop, The GIMP or Paintshop Pro. One of the things I’ve been playing with since trying to come up with logo ideas is using hand doodles, my scanner, and Inkscape to experiment and have some fun. Here I’ll illustrate the basic process I’ve been monkeying around with.

First I scan the post-it note into bitmap form (in my case .jpg):

I then import the jpg file into Inkscape. Once it’s in there I select it and then choose Path->Trace Bitmap. This gives a dialog with 5 different methods of creating a vector object from a bitmap. In this case I used the ‘Image Brightness’ method and got a fairly faithful vector representation of the original sketch. It creates a path of nodes making up the shape of my sketch.

Then I selected the resulting path object and used the Simplify Tool (Ctrl-L) which well …er… simplifies it. It rounds corners and makes it slightly more organic looking. You can repeatedly apply Ctrl-L and watch the effects. The image below shows the effect of only one Simplify application.

After simplifying I created a rectangle matching the background colour of my blog and placed it under the simplified path object.

Of course there are a ton of other neat things you can do with Inkscape (and a ton of better sketches you could work with) but it does illustrate some of the flexibility and fun of using a vector based application like Inkscape. And it’s currently available for both Linux and Windows (with a native Mac version coming very soon apparently as well), so everyone can join in the fun.