Saturday, October 29, 2005

Is a Name Change In Order?

Dave Winer says:
"The "Long Tail" makes me want to barf. I'm not in anyone's tail. I'm a head, a heart, if I must choose an organ, kidneys or lungs. Anyone who calls bloggers a tail of anything has his head up his ass."
Huh? Maybe I'm missing some sort of sarcasm or quick-witted reference on this one Dave. Seriously, I just don't get it. Give me some indication of what set you off. Put it in context.

Aren't we talking about the long slender portion of a curve on a graph? In terms of weblogs (and it could be in terms of just about anything with a market or audience), there are a relatively small number of blogs read by a relatively high number of people. This is a fact, not an insult. The long tail of weblogs is made up of people like me (of which there are millions), that are read by very few.

And besides, there are many who find the 'long tail' the most valuable part. And being that it's a statistical fact, is there really any point in getting pissed about it? Let's just change the name. Maybe 'the Creamy Nougat'.

Anyways Dave, in terms of blogs, compared to me, you are nowhere close to the tail.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Inkscape - Draw Freely

One of the many things I've been fooling around with lately is Inkscape. This is an open source vector-based illustration application (phew..that was a mouthful!). So instead of creating raster based images like you would with Photoshop, PaintShop Pro, or the Gimp, you work with lines, shapes and fills to create Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) files. The advantage is that everything you create and work with is resolution independent and scalable. There are so many things you can do with a program like Inkscape that you can't with a raster based application (the reverse of course, is also true).

One of the most interesting things I like about the program is it's implementation of tutorials. There are several tutorials accessible from the help menu. Each one is actually an SVG file itself. So the informative text is interspersed with examples that you can play with right then and there. For instance it might describe how to scale, skew or rotate an object and it has several shapes right there for you to practice on. I've not met a tutorial yet that is as simple and effective for any application I've used.

In addition, if you need to, anything you create can be exported to a bitmap image the size of which is determined by you. So you could create a drawing and then save it out to be 80 pixels or 8000 pixels wide.

The new logo at the top of this blog is an example of my current doodling with it. Actually I used Inkscape to create the round logo and text and then used the Gimp to create the reflection. Don't worry, if you don't like the new header for the site it will likely change anyway...such is the nature of fiddling with a new program ;) I'll likely come up with something I like more anyway.

An additional side benefit is that it is available for both Windows and Linux. So I can use it in either environment with no discernible difference (that I'm aware of anyway).

So onwards and upwards. It seems I keep finding things to explore at the expense of the things that I really should be doing - I'm not quite sure how learning to use Inkscape will help complete my half-finished basement...ah well, all in the name of progress!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

All Gussied Up For What?

A quick update on Microsoft Max. I realize this is a pre-release product. Probably it is meant to show what is possible with the WinFX runtime. It has an elegant and pretty interface. But I'm still trying to figure out what the heck to use it for!

So I can create slideshows (with apparently no choice of transitions) and then share them with people. But only on the condition that they have installed MS-Max as well. Is this not a very very closed system in the midst of what is becoming a very very open internet? I thought Microsoft was grasping this concept with their embrace of RSS, blogging and company transparency.

I know there are lots of programs and systems that can achieve the same thing. I myself currently use flickr to show off my photos. Anybody running Flash can view a fairly elegant online slide show with a few clicks. But even well before this, I used a freeware program called IrfanView. This little gem was a Swiss Army Knife when it came to image manipulation especially when dealing with batches of images. One thing it also did was create slideshows in either .exe form or .scr form for use as a screensaver. Nevermind Microsoft's own PhotoStory 3. Now there's a program that should get the WinFX treatment and enhanced online sharing capabilities. It is a vastly more compelling product (although granted it only generates .wmv files I think..)

The one thing it does do that I can appreciate is the "mantle" view of a collection of photos. This is where it takes your photos and arranges them with white borders and stands them up on a nice reflective surface (see the image at the top of this blog post). However, there are at least four major things wrong with even this feature: 1. You can't pick which photos or how many photos it will use in the 'mantle' shot. 2. The program sometimes crops off the top or sides of photos without warning when creating the 'mantle' versions, 3. There are visible gaps between the white borders and the photos themselves, and 4. There is no direct way to capture these 'mantle' shots to create a wallpaper or single image. The way I did it was to create a slideshow and hit the PrtScn key to create a screenshot, then crop and resize it for use as wallpaper. Why even bother releasing a product that's missing these kinds of key features for the only compelling component of the entire package! Grrrr.

A month ago I thought it strange that I hadn't heard much about Microsoft Max. Now it doesn't surprise me a bit. I can even understand (although not agree with) Microsoft trying to keep everyone locked into their platform, but you won't do it without a compelling product. This, in my opinion is one of the least compelling I've seen in a while.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Another Kick at the Can and What Is a LugRadio?

I've taken another kick at the Linux can... About 9 months ago I installed Suse Linux (9.2) on my machine and dual-booted it with XP. While I found it interesting, I didn't have the time to really get it up and running smoothly enough to really evaluate it. In the past couple of weeks, I took on the personal challenge of checking out how the other half lives again and removed Suse and installed Ubuntu.

I ran into several problems trying to get the dual-booting to work properly and figuring out how to get the sound up (it was working but the mixer volume was off!) so I'd have to still say that from my experience (albeit a sample size of 1), it still appears to be more of a OS for 'tinkerers'. Although to be fair, the problem was getting the XP dual-booting going under Linux, something which XP doesn't even allow (I don't believe MS even gives you the option of dual-booting anything other than Microsoft OS's).

Mind you, I'm running Ubuntu 5.10 ("Breezy Badger" for those in the know) which has not been officially released - that happens in two days I think, so things might have been a bit smoother had I waited for the stable release.

I'm pressed for time, so I'll save my comments for when I've got more Linux miles under my belt and can put a few coherent thoughts together.

One other thing though. In the course of investigating Linux and Ubuntu, I found a great podcast dealing with Linux. It's called LugRadio and I enjoy it immensely. Even if Linux is not your thing, these guys are truly great to listen to. I've heard lots of podcasts now, from the highly polished to those that are completely rough around the edges. In my opinion, these boys have got a great balance. They cover interesting stuff like open source software, programming, technology and even some politics with intelligence, passion and great humour. Probably not for everyone, but they've held my attention for hours of listening. Give them a try.