Reviews

Reviews

Using kdesvn on a multimedia project

This has been a very busy year for our "Lunatics" project (a free-film/free-culture animated web series about the first settlers on the Moon). As with many software projects, we keep our assets in a version-control system -- specifically "Subversion". In principle, Subversion does everything we need. The command line interface, however, does not make the right things easy for us (it's far too obsessed with parsing text files, which are incidental to our project, and it balks when given binary data files (which are essential). To keep a handle on the file tree, we need something a little smarter, and I've recently adopted "kdesvn" to do that job. This seems to solve the biggest annoyances.

Book review: The artist's guide to the Gimp by Michael J. Hammel

The artists guide to the Gimp is a book that gets everything right. In terms of design, the book's layout breaks all the rules of how to make a computer manual: it is in landscape format, it's all in colour, and it's printed on glossy paper that makes you feel you are browsing a brochure, rather than a book. In terms of contents, the book covers everything with such ease that you end up reading the parts you weren't really interested in.

Book Review: Ubuntu Made Easy

Ubuntu Made easy: A project-based introduction to Linux, published by No Starch Press, was written for the new Ubuntu user. The authors Rickford Grant and Phil Bull deliver on the titles promise with content that covers a comprehensive range of practical topics. This book rapidly describes practical recipes for the most common and a few less common home centric tasks. The authors push the new user with increasing velocity towards a detailed understanding of the Ubuntu Unity desktop.

QuiEdit: An Editor for Anyone Who wants a Quiet Life

Editors, like file managers and browsers, are legion. To carve out a niche for itself an editor needs to have some compelling or unique feature(s). QuiEdit is unique. No, really. It is. If you want to write, unplugged from the distractions of the digital world, it has to be a contender. How?

Book Review: Introducing Character Animation with Blender, 2nd Edition by Tony Mullen

This is the Blender 2.5 update to Mullen's very successful book on character animation. Since Blender 2.5 introduced a fairly dramatic change in interface design, this is a very useful update. This is a thick and extremely dense book that covers character animation from start to finish.

Book Review: Character Development in Blender 2.5 by Jonathan Williamson

Jonathan Williamson is established in the Blender community as an instructor for the Blender Cookie tutorial website. So it probably comes as no surprise that he should write an instructional book on using Blender. This one is an impressive work, and despite a relatively high price, may be worth your time if you want a thorough introduction to designing and modeling characters in Blender.

Book Review: Annie's CS101 by Dmitry Zinoviev

The full title is "Annie's CS101, A Charting Approach to Computer Programming." This is an interesting approach to an introductory programming course -- the target is for younger learners (although not children), and it focuses on the thought process behind conceiving of a programming problem and solving it. The language of instruction is Python, although this is not really a Python book.

Book Review: Machinima by Matt Kelland, Dave Morris, and Dave Lloyd

If you're wondering what machinima is, this book is a good starting point. If you're wondering what machinima is likely to be capable of and what its history has been like, then you'll likewise find it very useful. If you are looking for a how-to or tutorial on making your own machinima, then you'll find this book disappointing. It's basically a highly-illustrated "coffee table book" about the machinima artform.

Spark: A Tablet Running Open hardware and KDE Plasma Active Pre-installed

A tablet has been on my to do list since forever. Two things held me back: the priority to replace my terminally ill eight-year old laptop and the unhappily well known fact that the current crop of tablets are tied down more securely that a latter-day Gulliver in Jonathan Swift's tale.

Book review: Open Advice

A lot of people work hard trying to benefit Free Software. All together, we make a difference. Then again, some people manage to make a huge difference. They are sometimes lucky, but most often than not just immensely dedicated. Well, if you want to hear the opinions of dedicated people heavily involved in free software, this is the book for you.

Read Open Advice online!

Book Review: Animating with Blender by D. Roland Hess

Among the books I've read to get my head around the process of creating an animated film with Blender, this one is definitely the best. Nowadays you'll probably want to use Blender 2.5 or later, and this book is based on 2.49, but even with this problem, I'd still recommend it. The real win of this book is the way it deals with the synoptic view of the project: how to organize your project, how to break it down into manageable chunks, and even how to store it on disk. It's an excellent resource.

Book Review: The Transparent Society by David Brin

This book is a bit of a departure for my Free Software Magazine book reviews, it's a philosophical and social essay by science-fiction writer David Brin, and it's over 13 years old (published in 1998). But as I am reading this now, I'm struck by how prophetic this book is towards events that are going on in the world today.

Book Review: No Safe Harbor by the US Pirate Party

When I first heard the expression "Pirate Party", I was sure it was some kind of a joke. When I found out they were actually getting elected to representative seats in Europe, though, I certainly started taking the idea seriously. But could a political party in the USA actually get somewhere with a name like the "United States Pirate Party". Certainly not without a good platform introduction -- and that's what this book of essays is all about.

Book Review: Sound Effects Tips and Tricks by Eddie Bazil

Not so much a software book as a book on theory and technique of sound processing, "Sound Effects, Tips and Tricks" is a concise look at what can be done with good signal processing software. I found the book interesting, occasionally frustrating, and enlightening. In the end, it mostly taught me to have a better understanding of what I didn't know -- but that's useful.

Book Review: Bounce, Tumble, and Splash! by Tony Mullen

Modeling every single aspect of a scene in a 3D application like Blender is hard when details are very fine (as with hair, bubbles, smoke, or a field of grass), and so there are a variety of automated techniques for pseudo-random modeling. It's also hard to animate every behavior accurately and realistically, especially of complex deforming surfaces. Fortunately, Blender can work out the physics -- applying gravity, collisions, and flexible movement for you. This book is a guide to this difficult subject.

Book Review: Stop Staring by Jason Osipa

After looking at several recommendations on the best sources for a good book on rigging and animation characters' faces (which will obviously be very important for our Lunatics project), I came across this one, "Stop Staring: Facial Modeling and Animation Done Right". The book lives up to the expectations of careful analysis of facial expression and movement; provides guidance applicable to a wide range of character designs; and is largely neutral as to the 3d application used.

Pirate Bay Gets Physical with 3D Designs

The torrent site, Pirate Bay has introduced a new category of downloads -- for physical designs of 3D-printable objects. This is an interesting step forward for Open Hardware as this will make designs available to a broader audience. There is already a proprietary distribution channel via Shapeways, but making the designs publicly downloadable means they can be printed by local suppliers or on your own 3D printer.

Video editing with Kdenlive: Might be the sweet spot

So far, my favorite video editing app is Kdenlive. I found that it provided a relatively shallow learning curve and a familiar multi-track interface, but it also didn't make it hard to get to the kinds of controls I need for the precise control I want to have on vocational editing jobs.

Video editing with OpenShot: Capable, but lacks some polish

The OpenShot video editor was the easiest to get in Ubuntu Studio's "Oneric Ocelot" release, so we had a chance to try it out recently. It's pretty good -- much more capable than Kino. It provides similar capabilities to Blender's VSE, but without the burden of learning Blender. In fact, the learning curve is very gentle, because the interface is clean and simple.

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