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"Lunatics!" is back - Crowd-funding, Free-culture, and Free-Software

After an additional year of production work, our free-film project "Lunatics!" is back up on Kickstarter. We have a lot more done - some "finished" animation, voice acting and soundtrack mixing, a lot more completed 3D models, including some of the toughest mech modeling, and several characters. We are still 100% free-culture, using CC By-SA license for everything we release, and we're still open-source, making our models and other elements available to the commons. We use only music with By-SA compatible licenses, and we are working entirely with free-software, especially Blender, Kdenlive, and Audacity.

Refactoring in a Multimedia Project with Inkscape, Blender, and Audacity

One of the special problems with managing a multimedia project (versus a text-based software project), is that there are often links to external data files which can get broken when you try to move the files around -- such as you might do when re-factoring the source code to make it more navigable. Three programs that we use extensively in the Lunatics project present this problem, and each requires slightly different handling. These are Inkscape, Blender, and Audacity. I have never found a compact guide to keeping the links straight in these programs, so I'm going to write one here.

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.

"Lunatics" Project Needs Your Help!

The "Lunatics" project is moving on to the next stage, which is audio production -- recording voices, mixing sound effects and music, and putting it to an animatic which will be used later in creating fully-animated scenes. But we have a couple of problems for which we need free software help. We're also trying to meet a Kickstarter goal to get just this part of the project completed.

File Juggling with Sunflower

When it comes to file managers, Linux users are spoiled for choice. But that doesn't stop developers from building tools for juggling files. Take Sunflower, for example. This file browser is built for speed, and it will appeal to fans of the twin-panel interface. Indeed, Sunflower's unobtrusive and lightweight interface allows you to manage files with consummate ease. Although Sunflower is designed to play nicely with the Gnome desktop environment, the file manager doesn't look out of place on other desktops, including KDE.

Lunatics is now Crowd-Funding for a Pilot Episode

If you've been following my column for the last year or two, you already know that "Lunatics" is the free-culture animated science-fiction series that we are creating with free-software applications like Blender, Synfig, Audacity, Inkscape, Gimp, and Krita. We are finally crowd-funding for our pilot episode "No Children in Space" on Kickstarter. If we get funded, this will be a major step forward for free-culture and free-software in the media industry. Come check it out, tell everybody you know, and/or get a copy on DVD or other cool stuff from the project!

Prettify Your Server with h5ai

h5ai is a "modern web server index." What's that, you may ask? Basically, it's a simple software that prettifies the default interface the Apache web server uses to list files in a directory. This may not sound like much, but if you want to publish files on the web using Apache (or any other supported web server, for that matter), this unassuming tool can make the whole experience of browsing and downloading files more pleasant -- which is a positively good thing.

How to Convert RSS Feeds into EPUB files with Calibre

For my money Calibre is one of the most indispensible pieces of software in GNU/Linux. It can handle all your e-books in all the major formats, including PDF, EPUB and Mobi. It supports up to thirty e-reader devices but this article will tell you how to use Calibre to convert RSS feeds to EPUBs (which can then be read in Calibre's own E-reader or synced and transferred to your external reader of choice).

Running Chrome with less memory: disable extensions

In my last article on Chromium I explained how to add a command switch to the desktop icon's launcher tab to add a Purge Memory button to the task Manager. Browsers need memory, like memory and in fact love it. They don't give it up without a fight. I'm not belligerent by nature but it's my memory, I paid for it and I want it back. So, here's another trick in a similar vein to force Chromium to relinquish some more.

Free software programmers should be paid, too

You've probably heard of this intriguing new crowd-funding service called Kickstarter, right? (If not, how are you getting this website from that cave of yours?). A lot of people are using it to fund all kinds of exciting new things, and it's obviously useful option for free software projects. Properly used, it can allow us to close the gap against proprietary applications that still have more polish or exist in niches that require more capitalization. But the idea that it is somehow immoral to ask for money to work on free software has got to go!

Instant Web Galleries on Your Server with Bizou

So, you just got back from a trip, and you have tons of photos you want to share with the world. While there are dozens of photo sharing services to choose from, uploading megabytes of photos doesn't sound like a fun pastime. And why bother with a third-party service if you already have a Linux-based server? In this case, consider using Bizou.

Improve Gedit with three Extra Plugins (Part One)

The first thing you should always do after installing software (apart from viewing the manpages) is to check and see if it supports plugins. If you are not a programmer or hacker it really is the easiest way to extend capabilities. The Gnome text editor supports this feature out of the box.Here's three of the best.

Gedit is a text editor. The Gedit homepage list its full feature set.. It's my editor of choice when writing articles for FSM. By default, Gedit comes with bundled plugins but you can extend them via your distro's package manager. Search forgedit-plugins, install it, open Gedit and select Edit > Preferences. Click on the Plugins tab and scroll through them, checking the ones you want.

Lib-Ray Video Standard: Handling Languages and Localization

I'm used to thinking of region codes as an unmitigated evil, but they do serve one useful purpose: they divide DVD editions up so that any given regional edition has fewer languages to support. It's uncommon to find a DVD with more than just three or four languages in subtitles or audio tracks. Early on in the concept for Lib-Ray, though, I decided to do away with region-coding, and instead allow for broader localization in the design. This means there's just one edition worldwide, which is very helpful, but it does also mean that the subtitle menu in particular can become very cumbersome to navigate. How will we solve this user interface design problem?

How to install Speed Dials in Firefox -- and how to back them up

When Opera invented "speed dials", they quickly became an important wish list item in all other browsers. Speed dials allow you to visually "see" (via screenshots) a list of most recently visited web sites when you open a new tab. Several Forefox plugins tried to fill this important niche, but none of them really stood out -- until now. This great plugin also allows you to back your Speed Dials up.

How to Purge Memory in Google's Chromium browser

Since its launch, Google's Chromium browser has proved to be immensely popular. Chromium introduced many new and innovative features but it also brought along with it a familiar problem. Memory hogging. However, as Google released subsequent versions they addressed it. This short article will show you how to gain some traction over Chromium when, after prolonged browsing, it starts to seriously hog that resource.

You don't need to be a web browser developer or a coder. All you need is Chromium's built-in Task Manager and a command line switch.

Gnome-Shell 3.2: Usable--but only with Gnome 2 shell extensions

If you hated Ubuntu's Unity desktop then the shock of your first encounter with the Gnome-shell likely caused your entire digital weltanschauung to implode. Make no mistake about it, it takes you right out of your comfort zone to a strange and unfamiliar place even if you've already tried Unity and decided to throw it back or put it in the keep net. Be shocked, very shocked.

How and How NOT to Re-License your Work for Free Culture

The last week has been terrific for "Lunatics". We've cleared the licenses on almost all of the music -- and certainly the most important pieces. However, for a moment, I want to focus on the little problem with the one minute of music we probably won't get to use, and the right and wrong way to relicense your art if you are ever in that situation.

A MediaWiki workflow for screenplay development using Labeled Section Transclusion

We use a common extension for MediaWiki for managing our script-development process on "Lunatics". It works quite well, and it might not be obvious, so I thought I'd explain it here. The idea is to make it possible for the writer to work on the script in a single page while allowing the director to add shooting notes, storyboards, and other material to each scene -- and to keep everything synchronized so that we don't have two versions of the script.

Lib-Ray Video Standard: Assembling the Matroska MKV container file with mkvtoolnix-gtk

In my previous installments, I described the success I've been having with compressing "Sita Sings the Blues" with the VP8 video codec, and at the end I had a video file. Then I converted the audio to get a FLAC copy of the soundtrack (opting to retain this rather than compress into Vorbis format). Now in this installment, I'll show how I used mkvtoolnix-gtk to build a complete MKV file with VP8 video, FLAC audio, and named chapters. The result is the complete "main feature" multimedia file that will form the core of the Lib-Ray prototype.

Lib-Ray Video Standard: FLAC and Vorbis codecs for Sound

In my previous column, I described the success I've had with using VP8 for compressing the video for the Lib-Ray main feature multimedia file. At the end of that process, though, I still have a silent film. We also need to get the audio, and make a decision about the format. WebM calls for Vorbis sound, which probably makes sense for internet downloads, but this is where we part ways -- for my application, bit-perfect audio with FLAC seems to make more sense, at least for the main audio tracks (Vorbis is still in the picture for things like commentaries).


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