Libre Graphics Meeting | osp blog

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Libre Graphics Meeting

Montreal, 4-6 May 2007

squirl.JPGAn intense meeting of demos and how-to’s – LGM takes place in three fairly intimate rooms in the Ecole Polytechnique of the University of Montreal, which means we have enough time and opportunity to ask our questions, set up interviews, discuss bread baking with developers, designers, typographers, researchers gathered.

The university is located on the slopes of the Mont Royal so between presentations we spot skunks and squirls in the park.

It is both inspiring and strangely intimidating to meet the makers of many familiar tools: The Scribus team is present in full force, key developers of Blender, Gimp and Inkscape are around and speak about their tools with infectiuous enthusiasm. We need to make a bit of an effort to make people understand that our interest goes beyond feature requests and bug reports. Collective charm needed to convince George Williams, developer of FontForge, to do an interview with us. “I have nothing interesting to say” he keeps telling us during the Grand Supper. Well, he finally agreed to an interview so judge for your selves.

inkscape.JPGFriday 4 May we land in LGM with a talk by Bryce Harrington + team, presenting a history of Inkscape in screen shots (slides), and an overview of ways FLOSS projects are usually structured. Inkscape is according to Bryce Harrington based on a 'hive' model; a relatively unstructured coming and going of high energy collective work. Bryce ends with presenting the upcoming release of Inkscape 0.46. New features will amongst others include: gradient in typography / etching effect / print dialogue. He also brings up Inkbook – decentralized, networked drawing in .svg; interesting stuff.

Jakob Steiner demos Inkscapes' ability to produce photo realistic illustrations, such as Motorola phones and shiny racing cars thanks to blur, transparency and mask functions.

Of the more strange but fascinating kind: Igor Novikov and Valek Philippov reverse engineer the Corel Draw image format. Their hallucinating travels through endless bin-hex dumps show, that also for them, structure reveals itself through transformation. Igor presents CDR-Explorer, a tool to visualize binary formats for reverse engineering purposes. The Explorer allows you to look at a raw file as if you look at a folder structure, which facilitates the understanding of its various building blocks.

Peter Linell starts his talk on Scribus with telling about his first encounter with developer/initiator Franz Schmidt. He portrays Scribus as a program built around robust + safe pdf-export. Linell goes in to various new features, amongst which the ability to import layered Photoshop images, and ways to process images inside Scribus – duotone etc. can now be edited from inside the software. Apart from the ability to add bleed and registration marks, he presents The Color Wheel, including the ability to pre-visualise a document as seen by someone with various flavors of colorblindness (this feature deserves its own post!). Andreas Vox follows with the new lay-out system (NLS), in Scribus, explaining the transition from old, convoluted code via a 'legacy mode' in to the New Lay-out System. Character styles, word spacing and optical alignment are amongst new additions. In the near future we can expect paragraph optimisation for hyphenation too.

orange.JPGThe evening is reserved for the Grand Souper LGM with live music and convivial atmosphere in the very orange patio of the Ecole Polytechnique.

The OSP presentation is planned early morning on Saturday May 5. We speak about the relation between tools and what they produce; about creativity and efficiency, using the tale of the frog that turned into a prince (text and images follow!). The small audience that is present in the lecture room early enough, seems pleased though slightly surprised by our unorthodox approach.

In one of the classrooms reserved for LGM, Karin Delvare (The Gimp) tours through different layers of participation in FLOSS projects and explains amongst others the art of doing a bug report. In the main hall, Hubert Figuiere speaks about how to organise images using metadata; his presentation is concluded with a discussion about various media​/supports for archiving.

Michael Terry from the University of Waterloo is involved in developing InGimp. This software automatically archives userdata / behavior for the purpose of usability studies. Interesting was that the system makes log files automatically publicly available (leaving out any data that might breach privacy), allowing developers to analyse incredible amounts of ultra precise data on for example the amount of time spent on certain tasks, patterns of access, combinations and successions of tasks. As a gadget / feature the team developed a 'dynamic profile visualisation' – basically a stick figure with representations of assumed tasks, of ways of working.

cedric.JPGBack in the classroom, Cedric Gémy (~~responsible~~ contributor to Inkscape and Gimp documentation) demonstrates with élan the possibilities of using free standards and open source software, moving from Inkskape to Blender to Gimp to Scribus; Boudewijn Rempt and Cyrille Berger show new functionalities of Krita, a simple image editor with the ability to do for example realistically behaving watercolour images (colours actually blend!) and dry brushtrokes.

For the presentation of Alexandre Robin: Our first year of Graphic Design 100% Open Source, see this OSP post.

spiro.JPGDave Crossland (designer, lecturer) and Nicolas Spalinger (SIL) speak about the Open Font License, and the way metadata on fonts could reflect these licenses. They spend the second part of their presentation showing Spiro which caused great enthusiasm in the audience.

linnell.JPGIn a lively Q +A session, Peter Linnell demonstrates the robustness of Scribus in a prepress context, explaining the set-up of PDF export and how 'self-defensive-code' is employed to please even the most conservative printshop requirements. To his mind often faulty fonts are the cause of output problems – Scribus therefore is ultra careful with loaded fonts; it is the reason why a first start-up is slow; each font is checked glyph by glyph before it is added to the list.

The day ends with a crisp presentation of Raphael Meltz, Le Tigre, a French monthly magazine entirely layed-out in Scribus. Raphael shows Le Tigres' work flow of both their monthly print and daily pdf-publication; including a rudimentar end-to-end solution between SPIP (a web based Content Management System) and Scribus. Raphael was clear about their economical and philosophical motivations for using FLOSS, without being shy about the possible problems and difficulties, which had most of all to do with html import-export issues.

At the end of the day we interview Nicolas Spalinger and Pierre-Luc Auclair (contributor to the Deja-Vu font project). The evening FLOSS font enthusiasts gather in Concordia University to watch Helvetica, a full length documentary on the modernist typeface premiering in Montreal.

Sunday May 6 starts gently with a private tutorial on Inkscape and Scribus by Cedric Gémy; we talk lay-out with Raphael Mertz.

The second presentation this weekend by Igor Novikov is even more exciting, demonstrating SK1, a vector illustration programme, specifically for prepress. SK1 offers solutions for many problems with CMYK export we find in other programs. Their user interface is refreshingly different and their set of sample images fantastic. Discussing the history of the program (a fork of Skencil), shows that the Ukraine context requires its own approach. That is more or less the subject of the interview we do later with Igor and Valek.

Andy Fitzsimon impresses with his virtuosity in Inkscape (glassy icons galore!) but most of all with his intelligent approach to the management of translatable design elements across multiple languages. Making use of .svg, he manages to employ the .po format (used in many translation projects) to translate styled typography. We are also interested in his use of the xml-editor as design tool.

Jon Phillips presents The Open Clipart Project, and most of all ccHost, a sort of repository system where images, sounds and other files licensed under Creative Commons can be made available for download; making direct connections from applications such as Inkscape to ccHost ('save to ccHost'). George Williams (FontForge) was interested to add the possibility to direct upload fonts from FontForge too.

bof.JPGAfter the conference is officially over, a BOF is (Birds Of Feathers: developers gathering) organised on type management and its future.

About 10 developers involved in projects relevant to typography, gather around the table for an intense session on standards, the workings of fontconfig ... Exciting to witness how everyone seems to come up with real proposals that will undoubtly alter the future of using fonts on linux systems.

breakfast.JPGWe spend Monday morning interviewing Andreas Vox about Scribus and Igor and Valek about SK1 and Ukrainian software culture; soon here on OSP.