I managed to get an unusually nice photo of my dog the other day, and then I made it nicer with GIMP. Proving that “free” (open source) does not mean “cheap” (lacking in functionality).
My brother gave me a new camera for Christmas — a little red Nikon “Coolpix” that I can carry in a pocket if I want. I’d been using my brother’s camera, which is a bit bigger, and is 3 megapixels. My new one is 12 megapixels. Nice. I was able to download the stuff off the CDs that came with the camera onto my laptop, but couldn’t get the transfer software to run. So I had to have my brother download my pictures onto his computer and then move them to a flash drive for me.
Funny thing, though. The Nikon transfer software wouldn’t work properly on his computer, either. He always ended up having to transfer the pictures using his PhotoShop (not even the full version) program. So I wondered if there might be some alternate program I could use. I looked on SourceForge for Nikon photo transfer downloads, and my search results turned up several possibilities.
I downloaded one and tried it. No go.
Then I wondered “if PhotoShop can access the image files on the camera, maybe GIMP can, too,” and I connected my camera to my laptop and opened GIMP. It didn’t automatically open a prompt asking if I wanted to download the photos, but when I clicked on the “open” line in the menu, the camera showed up as a file location. I was able to open the folders in the camera drive and select the ones I wanted to transfer. I had to open them in GIMP and then save them separately, so it’s not perfect. It may be pretty time consuming if I have a lot of photos to transfer. But I can do it. Without having to return to microsoft slavery.
I’ve been using WordPress as my web site design and delivery mechanism since I started my own web site, Crazybasenji.com, two years ago. It spoiled me. I had previously taken some workshops in HTML and CSS sponsored by the tech department at a place of former employment. And when I say “former,” I mean 1999 – 2002. Turn of the century. So. Talking HTML 3.something, and CSS 0.1ish.
Those were the days when designing a website meant writing the code yourself, unless you had the wherewithal to buy a copy of Dreamweaver or FrontPage, or one of a few other webpage-generating programs that would write the code for you. I, of course, have never been blessed with a lot of disposable wherewithal, so if I wanted a website, I would have to build it myself, from scratch. It turned out I didn’t really want a website of my own that bad at that time. But I fancied myself just knowledgeable enough about how to do it to make me semi-dangerous. I kept offering to help with websites that belonged to organizations I was a member of. It’s probably fortunate that my offers got ignored.
Recently my bluff got called, as it were, and I found myself taking over as webmaster of a website that was suffering from a case of nearly terminal neglect. Six or more of the pages had been flying the “under construction” flag for at least the past five years. I just deleted them. There was too much to do to get the other pages cleaned up and working without having to create content for pages that would have to be updated as soon as I finished them, and frequently thereafter.
My big plan was to replace the whole website with a slick WordPress theme that would make the whole updating process a lot faster and easier. That got shot down immediately. The other members wanted to keep the appearance the same. They wanted to keep certain things on the home page and were concerned that without the “hit counters” in the footer, we wouldn’t know how many people were visiting the site. I didn’t feel it was my place to tell them about other ways of obtaining that information. After all, the previous webmaster was the one with all the experience maintaining web sites. I’m just a blogger.
So I have had a crash refresher course in writing, re-writing, and editing HTML, because that is how the whole site was built. There are no style sheets — no external style sheets, no embedded style sheets, no in-line style declarations. Which means there’s no universal page template to set background color, font style, text color, or anything else that should be uniform throughout the site. And on a few pages, the code for background color was not quite the same as on other pages, so there was no background color at all. On many pages, the links had been edited (or something) and no longer functioned, and the spacing between the links was irregular or missing altogether. Someone had put a lot of effort into formating the links on the home page and then dropped the ball on the other pages. I created a separate file for the links, and then used that to copy and paste over the code for the links on each page, and then removed the link for that particular page. I was pretty proud of the result, I have to say. Or more to the point, I was relieved that I got it to work.
There’s still a lot to be done, because I’m determined to introduce style sheets into the mix and eliminate some of the table formatting, but I have to work those things in with all the other projects I have going on, not to mention the small matter of doing something to make a living. One thing at a time.
So much for this episode in the continuing saga of my adventures in doing things I never thought I’d be doing — or any good at doing.
Well, crap. It looks like I’m out of the PostAWeek race. My last post, on 30 January, was two weeks ago. I guess it’s true that time flies whether you’re having fun or not. Now I reckon I’ll have to remove that cute badge from the sidebar. I don’t want to advertise falsely, or anything.
One thing I won’t do is blame the weather, which was a lot worse in other places than here, or power outages, which we didn’t have, or computer failure, which hasn’t happened. I just got distracted by other projects…, and going to work…, and television….
Today I started working on a project for my local Kennel Club. Our annual dog show is coming up and I’m contacting all the judges to find out what lodging and transportation arrangements they want us to make for them. I have some “form letters” to use to paste into emails, and I’ve been making some modifications based on how they are traveling, etc. My word processor has been crashing every time I “copy/paste” before I get to the “paste” part. Gahhhh! At first I thought it was because I had one of the files saved in a different folder than the others I was using, but it still happened after I moved all the files into the same folder. I’ll probably have to send a “bug report” somewhere. But first I need to finish those letters.
Still, I am not tempted to think “this wouldn’t happen if I was still using windows or microsoft or mac,” because obviously there would be the chance that exactly the same thing could happen in any of those environments. The difference with my environment is that I don’t have to “start over.” Even though when my program recovers the files that closed when the program crashed, I can’t just paste the passages I had copied, all I have to do is click on a little clipboard icon on my tool bar and there is the text I want. I don’t need to go back and click and drag through the letter again (which could just make it crash again), I just click on the line I want on my clipboard, and paste it into the document where I want it. Not a perfect solution, but not as much of a pain in the ass as others.
And that little clipboard is always there.
A recent update “did something” to my printer driver, or the network that my printer is connected to — or is supposed to be connected to. I suddenly couldn’t print. And I had a very important print job waiting. A recipe for a five minute chocolate cake that I wanted to try. I ended up writing the recipe on a small notepad, and left out the line about the milk. I made the cake without the milk because I couldn’t get my printer to work! It tasted fine — it’s hard to ruin a chocolate cake, after all. But still.
This is when I really feel a serious lack of tech savvy. Maybe I could have gotten around the network that wouldn’t connect if I knew more about how to nuts and bolts program. But I don’t. I just had to assume that someone else (who could work on the program) would have the same issue and would write a patch, and I would get an update shortly that would make everything shiny again. And so it came to pass.
I just love my Ubuntu.
Yesterday as I was browsing the Linux links, I stopped and read this article on Ubuntu User about the next release of Ubuntu including the Banshee media player as the default player included with the download. I was curious enough to go to the Banshee site to see what kind of features it included. As soon as I saw the line about “Sync your music and videos to your Android, iPod, iPhone, or other device – or import its media,” I thought it might be the answer to the issues I’ve been having with my iPod Nano.
When I installed Xubuntu, the default music player was Exaile. It is a nice enough music player, but it took me a while to figure out how to import my music files, and I never could get it to import from a CD. If you visit the Exaile site, you may find, like I did, that the descriptions of its features are written in code. I don’t mean machine code, exactly, but for a non-techie like myself, it might as well be. The wiki for the player is not much more helpful. But at least I was able to use it for the music files I had. Later I found another application that I could use to copy my CDs to my hard drive. From there I could add them to my Exaile collection. Extra steps, involving extra apps. Not cool. And I still couldn’t sync my Nano. The software I had downloaded for that didn’t work — I suspect because my iPod was, in fact, a Nano, and not a standard issue iPod. So I had three separate programs to handle my music, and not well, at that. I decided to give Banshee a try.
Because I have a handy service in my Applications folder called Ubuntu Software Center, I didn’t have to download the app from the Banshee site. I just found it on my list and clicked “install.” And spent most of yesterday test driving it. It did everything as advertised — charged and added music to my Nano and my old Shuffle, imported music from some new CDs with no problems, and generally gave me no reason to regret giving up iTunes. It definitely gets my vote for media center of choice.
Although I don’t think I’ll ever have reason to regret making the move from my previous operating systems (I include Mac OS, too, because I used an early-generation iMac for years before I traded it for my iBook, and thought I’d never use anything but Macs), there have been some significant stumbling blocks. One reason, I think, may be that I resist the temptation to use all the patches to Linux that make it possible to use the authentic windows programs. I don’t know if doing that would solve all of my incompatibility issues, anyway.
For starters, I only recently got a Blackberry phone, but I can’t use the software that came with it on the CD because my computer won’t open any of the files on it. I have looked on the Blackberry website to see if they have a download for Linux users. Nada. Same story with my new camera. At this point it is fortunate that my brother has a computer with windows on it so that I can download my photos onto a flash drive and then put them on my computer.
And my iPod Nano is in a holding pattern. I can’t add any new music or photos, and I can only recharge it from my old iBook. I can’t update the iBook to a MacOs more recent than Leopard, which means I can’t add iTunes 8 or later, which I would need to sync my Nano. And I can’t find a Linux app that will sync it, either, without having to know a lot more than I do about using the command line. All I can hope for is that future updates will include those patches. It has happened with other programs I thought I was going to have to do without. I started out my Linux life unable to watch video clips. I couldn’t watch the YouTube clips of puppies on the “I Has a Hotdog” site, or TED videos, or the replays of NCIS episodes if I had to work on Tuesday night and missed one. Then a few updates later, I was able to install the Flash player for Linux and was back in mindless-video-viewing business. And I have to say that, at least as regards watching NCIS replays, this player is better than the one I was using on the windows version… running away better.
So I’m hoping that a future update will include the features that I need for all my electronic toys. In the meantime I keep telling myself that things could be a lot worse. I could still be using the old windows xp that wouldn’t let me have more than one window open at a time without freezing up and requiring me to reboot the whole thing. That shit just doesn’t happen anymore. FTW.
Although I’m not doing the Postaday2011, I’m subscribed by email to The Daily Post blog where they are posting topic suggestions every day. Today’s is: Best accomplishment of 2010? And I thought I could actually do something with that, relative to the theme of this blog, because deciding to erase the windows operating system from my laptop and install a Linux OS, all on my own, was a pretty big deal, considering I’m not an uber-geek. Of course, I’m no stranger to making rash decisions and taking rash actions, but I try to limit them to only a few a year or so.
It has been almost six months since I made the transition, and I’ve had no reason to regret my decision. I think using Ubuntu/Linux will allow me to get a lot more use out of this laptop, and I won’t have to deal with it taking longer and longer to perform some operations trying to open new documents and new web pages with an old worn out OS. Life in open source is not completely frustration-free, however. To get photos from my new camera onto this computer, I first have to download them to my brother’s computer, because the transfer software is not translated for open source systems — yet. I’m waiting, uber-geeks.
As part of my effort to be more productive as a writer and artist in the new year, I’m joining the WordPress community challenge to post regularly throughout the year. But not every day. I could probably find enough material about open-source software and how to use it to write every day, but don’t really want to make this my full-time job.
The challenge for me will be to do my writing in the mornings, when I’m on my own time, and when I normally fritter away that time on Facebook and Twitter. Below I’ve quoted the sample post from the WordPress blog to fill in some more details. I’ll be back next week.
I’ve decided I want to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now. I will be posting on this blog once a week for all of 2011.
I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similiar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.
If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.
(I forgot to make the “Postaweek2011″ tag yesterday. My bad. Added now.)
I didn’t jump into the open source environment all at once, and I certainly didn’t start with Ubuntu. I wasn’t even aware of how much free software was available until just a few years ago, although I remember my second ex-husband mentioning “share-ware” from time to time, usually referring to alternate versions of popular video games that were available at no cost if you knew where to go to download them, and were generally decent facsimiles of the originals. Saving money on software became a real issue when I left my job in Kentucky and came home to help my brother take care of our dad in his final years. I didn’t start looking for a job when I got back, so I wasn’t in a position to spend large on computers and software. I bought a used IBM Thinkpad with Windows XP installed on it because I planned to use it for an online course. The laptop did not come with Office installed. There was a CD with the Lotus office suite, which I learned to use, but the programs were never real familiar feeling to me.
OpenOffice.org was my first introduction to an open source program that had the look and feel of the MS Office programs I had been trained to use when I worked for the State of Kentucky. I had no trouble finding my way around the word processor and spreadsheet programs. I think OpenOffice.org is the way to go for anyone who just needs a reliable set of productivity programs and doesn’t want to spend all the money to have the latest version of Word. The current version of OpenOffice Writer can open any Word document, and save a document in Word format. Same for the spreadsheet program and Excel. There is really no reason for an ordinary citizen or student to be chained to the high cost of Microsoft products.
And Microsoft is not the only replaceable product on a Windows PC — or on a Mac. If you like to edit photos but don’t like the high price of PhotoShop, check out GIMP. I’ve had all kinds of fun creating new variations on old photos, and I didn’t have to spend a penny. Of course, all of these free software providers are happy to accept donations of any size. They are well worth whatever size donation anyone can make. The developers keep on writing code for new products just because they want to make improvements on stuff that’s already “out there” but doesn’t do everything they want it to, and they are happy to make it available to everyone else so others can have that same expanded functionality. And the nice thing about such a large community of developers is that they operate like a self-regulating organism, catching and repairing bugs that get past others.
I’m completely sold on the open source enterprise. Even updates are less of a pain in the ass than they were with either the Mac or Windows machines I’ve used. I very rarely have to shut down my computer after downloading an update package and installing it. And it never, ever shuts off of its own accord, the way Windows machines are prone to do.