Archive for December 7th, 2007

Gnome’s Online Desktop

A few years back there was this rumor about Google creating an “always online OS” based on Ubuntu, but this is something that it hasn’t been materialized to date. Instead, Red Hat jumped on the opportunity and they are now touting their “Online Desktop” for Gnome, which is basically that same idea.

I am a major fan of Havoc Pennington, but sometimes I don’t know what he’s thinking. After the utter failure of Mugshot in terms of user base (not in terms of engineering), he probably thinks that this time he’s got the right idea. Well, he does have the right idea, it’s just that I don’t believe that it will pan out. Like with Mugshot, the idea was interesting, until Facebook came out with a solid application API and made Mugshot irrelevant. Every action you can do with Mugshot it can be done with the Facebook API. Thinking about it, it would make more sense to write a Facebook application around the mugshot server rather than have a standalone client that no one uses.

Anyways, the reason why I am saying this will fail is because again, they forget the big picture. They optimize and write this for the Gnome desktop, not also for Windows and OSX. So basically the biggest feature of the Online Desktop, which is “login on any computer to access your data”, requires Linux and Gnome. And their idea that the Average Joe will travel the world with a LiveCD in his pocket is ridiculous. This is simply a non-open minded way of seeing both the future and the market they are in. And even if the idea becomes popular with the Linux users, it won’t bring hordes of new users to the OS. It will simply be a repeat of the MIT student of 1988 saying “I have Unix at school, and I have Unix at home, and guess what, I can see my school desktop at home using something called X11”. In absolute terms, this was then, and this is now, and it’s the same all over again.

But think about it, who the fuck cares if this guy used X11 to view his desktop at school? Given the fact that Windows did not have this feature and yet it got 94% of market share in the subsequent years, it only proves that this was either not a killer feature, or not managed properly. And as long the Online Desktop is tailored made for Gnome, it will remain “just a new Gnome feature” and not a revolution. Not having the source code of Windows or OSX might be a problem to create a fully integrated solution, but there might be ways to create something elegant and yet less integrated.

Now you ask, why does the Online Desktop have to be a revolution and not “just another feature”? Because this IS where computing is going and it would be beneficial for open source to get there first, and because that’s Havoc we are talking about. He aspires to do big things and people listen to him. If Havoc and his 10-member team can’t bring revolution using Red Hat’s millions of dollars, no one in the Open Source world can.

Except if Google steps in.

MALEVOLENCE

A great short horror film, shot in 3 days time. HD version here. Might give you nightmares so brace yourself.

CreativEase Color and Blur Effects Pack

Pixelan Software sent me over their CreativEase Color and Blur effects packs for a review and I had a look at it today. I am impressed by the abilities of these four plugin filters and the value they can bring to extreme color grading.

The Posterwise plugin I explored the other day on my previous blog post about the “A scanner Darkly” look but there’s more into it. Changing the posterization model from the default HSV to RGB or YUV creates new looks.

The BlurPro supports three types of blur methods with Gaussian being my favorite. Together with the “Preserved Edges” style and spice effects can amount for many different looks. Pixelan already includes a number of presets for each plugin so it can make it easy to pick preset styles.

The OrganicBlur is possibly my least favorite of the pack, but it also has its uses. You can control the amount of blur, the spread and angle and rampling. Each Pixelan plugin includes a “map” of the picture where you target the place where you want the filter to take most effect. This way, you can create for example an otherworldly environment, but the body or head of a single person look more natural that its surroundings.

The ChromaWarp2 filter is the most fun of all. You can interchange channels, change individually the RGB values, blur and blend the picture or do a channel shift. With this filter you can range from a colorful unatural colors down to sepia. We should not forget that every Pixelan filter also comes with keyframing so if you can actually animate these colors per frame.

I got the best results when I combined the BlurPro with “Preserved Edges” at 65 & Gaussian Blur, with PosterWise “border only” on “relief” and with Magic Bullet “No 85”. It created a much better comic book look than with Posterwise alone.

Before:

After:

Unfortunately, I have a major usability gripe with the Pixelan filters. If you make your changes, do something else, and then come back to it and by mistake you don’t save, the plugin resets all changes to defaults. This is not the correct usability. The plugin should just reset to the changes you had before you re-loaded it, not to the absolute factory defaults. I lost quite some work because of this unorthodox UI. [Update: Pixelan fixed the problem in a new release]

Another gripe, which is actually a bug, is that if you do a “copy” of a scene and then “paste attributes” on another scene (Vegas has this ability), the PosterWise plugin does not have effect on the new scene with the same settings that it was copied over. You have to remove the plugin from the new scene, reload it, and redo all settings by hand. [Update: Under more inspection, this is not a bug, it just takes longer to render long scenes as PosterWise renders serialized and does not give priority to the current frame you are in].

Other than these two gripes, the Pixelan CreativEase Color and Blur effects packs are good quality, with little to no noise, and affordable. If you are after specific looks on your works, you should consider them.

Credits: My two models are the Tyson and Sauncho Yen brothers, members of the Drist rock band.