August 9th, 2017

Yet Another Cover

Well, not everyone likes my last effort at a cover for Fifty-Third and Dorchester. So I went back to the drawing board, that’s Gimp for me, and put some more work into a new version. My critics’ point was that the current version is not dark enough. It does not shout “dark mystery.” I added a few suggestive words, darkened the background, and touched up some other areas. I also added a set of blind eyes in the background. Well. Have a look.

 

Comments are always welcome.

An aside: Gimp and Visio, rasters and vectors

Gimp is a free open-source alternative to PhotoShop. I use two tools for digital graphics, Gimp and Microsoft Visio.

I began using Visio while it was still a startup, before Microsoft acquired it, at least twenty years ago, probably longer. I’ve tried other tools for engineering graphics, but I’ve always gone back to Visio. After long years of practice, I almost think in Visio. When I am writing about computers, I often begin by making a Visio diagram and later put my thoughts into text.

Visio and Gimp are built on two fundamentally different representations of visual object inside the computer. Visio is a vector graphics engine. A Visio diagram is represented as points and connections. A square is represented by the coordinates of its four corners, the types of lines that connect the corner points, and the texture and color that fills the square. A circle is the center point, the radius, and the line type. It’s all points, lines, and fill.

Gimp is based on raster graphics, which is quite different. A raster image is a set of dots. Each dot, called a pixel, has a color and intensity. A raster was the beam of electrons in old-fashioned cathode ray tubes that used to be state-of-the-art computer displays. The old tubes sprayed the front of the tube with electrons that would cause a dot of photo luminescent paint to light up when the spray hit it. The raster directed the spray in a precisely timed and directed pattern, dot by dot and row by row, up and down the screen, covering the entire screen many times a second. The electronic representation of an image was a list of instructions to turn the spray on or off as it traveled over the screen.

Images on computer screens are always raster images. Modern screens don’t have raster guns any more, but they still represent images as a list of pixels to turn on or off. Converting a vector image of points and lines into a raster image of pixels is a fundamental operation in computer graphics. The reverse is done also, but it’s much harder.

This is a long prologue to saying that Visio is easy for me to use, but Gimp is hard. I’m not nearly as familiar with Gimp as I am with Visio. That may be the reason, or maybe the Gimp interface is difficult.

Generally, developers left on their own, as they usually are in open source projects, put more effort into coding difficult tasks than they put into pity for the poor users. Open source projects often do amazing things, but they are also often hard to use. I am astounded at the subtle control Gimp gives me, and continually frustrated at how hard it is to exert that control. PhotoShop may be easier, but I haven’t used PhotoShop much, so I don’t know.

But I am learning. And enjoying myself.

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