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Interview With the Editors of Libre Graphics Magazine

Unknown Lamer posted more than 3 years ago | from the since-when-did-hipsters-floss dept.

Graphics 51

TheSilentNumber writes "I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the editors of Libre Graphics, a magazine made entirely using free software (even using version control so you can see every change ever made) after they gave a talk at this year's Libre Graphics Meeting. This project is living proof of the printing abilities of Free Software, 'That really is a constant refrain even within our own community. People always still talk about the printing problem. So what printing problem?' Libre Graphics Magazine is doing a truly outstanding job showcasing free works made with free tools, creating a publication of record, and reaching out to designers with this project."

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Cool (-1, Flamebait)

creat3d (1489345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36738866)

The glasses. Take them off, you look like a major douche. Very cool about the free software-made magazine, though.

Re:Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36739250)

But he needs them to see!!!

Slashdot's motto? (-1)

billsayswow (1681722) | more than 3 years ago | (#36738964)

Adverts for nerds, ads that advertise.

What a bunch of losers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36739016)

What a bunch of hipster losers. One can only hope they die in a fire.

Re:What a bunch of losers (0)

creat3d (1489345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36739168)

Ah, hipster's the word I was looking for!

Re:What a bunch of losers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36739224)

Q: How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light-bulb?

A: It's a pretty obscure number, you've probably never heard of it.

portmanteau (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#36739612)

wannabe geek + hipster = gypster?

Irrelevant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36739262)

From their Manifesto:
"Thus, our choices are invisible, unless we make an issue of them."
IMO, tools are tools, some are higher quality, some are lower. If you have a quality end product, the tools used are irrelevant, and should stay that way.

Re:Irrelevant... (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36739408)

Not really, everybody knows that you can create great products using the right commercial tool, but in order for OSS to get any sort of credibility it's going to take people going public with their support. Particularly when one is in a position to create a professional product using just OSS.

The more examples there are, the more likely it is that there's going to be funding to develop them further.

Re:Irrelevant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36739590)

Particularly when one is in a position to create a professional product using just OSS.

Which is only a position that irrelevant zealots get themselves into.

Re:Irrelevant... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36740530)

Not really, there's those of us that are too cheap to plunk down hundreds of dollars for commercial software as well. If you're a professional that's already gotten a career up and running it's probably not that big of a deal, but for those just starting to go pro, $500 or more can easily eat up several weeks worth of profits.

Re:Irrelevant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36741706)

Photographers don't say "All I could afford was this pocket point and shoot from Canon, sorry for the crappy quality of the photos of your wedding."

Videographers don't say "All I could afford was my iPhone video app, sorry for the crappy quality of the video of your wedding."

If you can't afford a few thousand dollars for professional tools on which you intend to earn a living, you're not a professional, you're a hobbyist.

It's great if FLOSS tools can provide professional quality results, but looking at this magazine (and I did), the results are NOT "professional" quality. It's about what I'd expect of a fanzine with a decent eye for design - e.g., what a photographer with a good eye for image composition would be able to do with a $50 point and shoot camera, which is far inferior to what the same photographer could do with a couple-thousand dollar pro rig.

They're attempting to prove that FLOSS can produce pro-quality results, and what they're doing is actually underscoring how sub-par the FLOSS tools are currently for serious professional design work.

Re:Irrelevant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36853798)

I get extremely grumpy when people think better photo gear can save you from poor skills.

subject
photographer
light
lens
camera

Check out flickr's pool of photos made with a manual focus lens you can buy for a tenner (in good condition, beat up ones go cheaper)
http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=helios+44&f=hp [flickr.com]

Re:Irrelevant... (0)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#36742250)

Hundreds of dollars? For software that home users might use, sure. For software that businesses use, a few hundred dollars is chump change, and accordingly most business software costs far more than just a few hundred dollars (esp. when you buy copies for all the PCs in a business that need it).

Business software is not cheap. Then add to that the fact that you usually have to run it on Windows, so you have to add in all the licensing costs for that, the costs for all the antivirus software for it, plus all the costs for hiring extra IT staff to babysit the Windows machines all day, keeping up on licensing in case of a BSA audit, etc.

If you have an office of 5-10 people, running Linux and using Free software is much cheaper and more reliable.

For certain markets, however, there is proprietary business software available for Linux, in case the free stuff just doesn't cut it. But again that stuff isn't cheap, but at least it won't tie you to Windows infrastructure and all the attendant headaches.

Re:Irrelevant... (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#36743964)

but for those just starting to go pro, $500 or more can easily eat up several weeks worth of profits.

Then that's a sign that you suck at your job. Almost all people I've known who have gone pro have easily made the money back in just a few days of work.

Re:Irrelevant... (1)

Genda (560240) | more than 3 years ago | (#36743898)

This is so stupid. Human beings have been making art for most of the last 100,000 years. Art adorning cave walls, painted by the light of torches in iron oxide ochres with chewed sticks, still have the power move and touch the deepest corners of our souls, and shine light into the humanity that created them. The tools are nothing. An artist can paint with a bloody finger. There is no magic in the tool. Some tools are better designed than others and the perfect tools allows the artist to express him/herself without consideration, but in my experience, its the hundreds and sometimes thousands of hours with a given tool that makes it perfect for the given artist. Which is understandably why an artist is hesitant to invest that kind of time in learning a new tool.

There is something sympathetic about the need for freedom in artistic expression. There is a place for libre art.

Re:Irrelevant... (2)

Shatrat (855151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36739622)

When the tools cost thousands of dollars it becomes a large barrier to entry for beginners and small shops.
This group is trying to demonstrate that there is an alternative (other than piracy). Also, with increased adoption most open source software generally becomes far superior to commercial alternatives. Apache, Linux, nmap, there are tons of examples. Maybe with a few thousand more users and developers these publishing tools will become the benchmark.

It is a barrier to entry, but worth it if you can (2)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 3 years ago | (#36741186)

When the tools cost thousands of dollars it becomes a large barrier to entry for beginners and small shops.

That is undeniably true (speaking as someone putting his own hard-earned cash into a new company right now). On the flip side, good tools typically pay for themselves in greater productivity and better quality of results very quickly. If you don't want to spend a few thousand on the right equipment and software, then it's possible that you're in a very awkward position, but IME it's far more likely that either you have the wrong idea about something or your business plan isn't really viable.

I did download the high-quality PDF of the magazine. The idea is interesting, but without meaning to be harsh, they're actually a pretty good demonstration of why I would never rely on today's FOSS tools to do serious work. As a guy who takes some pride in his design work, I can immediately see dozens of little details where the magazine does something poorly but professional grade software would just get it right. I won't have a dig by listing them all, but as a couple of examples, several of the pages seem to be one big bitmap, and the typography is lacking basic elements like ligatures and true small caps. They do acknowledge the limitations of their font and they're open about how they're working to improve it, but the bottom line is they could drop a few hundred bucks on some pro fonts from Adobe, do their layout in InDesign, and get the job done right.

My vote for most unintentional self-defeating article: the one starting on page 40, which contrasts proprietary with FOSS approaches. The characterisation of proprietary software is pure FUD:

Graphic artists using propriety software might spend an afternoon opening a graphic in a big bulky graphics application just to convert its colourspace.

Seriously? This is followed by the wonderful:

Proprietary software typically has two answers to your problems: don't do it, or spend more money to be able to do it. This might apply to a specific file format you want to use, or an effect you want to achieve, or a way of working.

Actually, one of the main reasons we've spent so much on various big ticket proprietary software is precisely that they do just work with the industry standard data formats out of the box. If anyone thinks FOSS does better, please get back to me once Firefox can play H.264 video, Blender can work with FBX files, and LibreOffice can reliably interoperate with MS Word while working on docx files with non-trivial formatting.

The article about AdaptableGIMP on page 47 is another enlightening read, mainly for the interesting contrast between the approach it advocates and what you read in Microsoft blogs from the guys behind the Office UI redesign. There are two completely different mindsets at work there, but one is the product of a few people doing some basic experiments and the other is the product of a massive global study funded by the kind of money and drawing on the kind of resources that no FOSS project can access. As a Brit, I'm naturally inclined to root for the little guys, but as a businessman, I know which data I'd prefer to bet on.

Re:It is a barrier to entry, but worth it if you c (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36744714)

I hear you and generally agree. GIMP's text tools, out of the box at least, are simply pathetic. However, I will note a few points. If you have a Word document with a lot of formatting, you are probably Doing It Wrong and should either be using InDesign or some presentation format. Microsoft made an h.264 firefox plugin, but the issue there is of course patent licensing, and there are a number of related reasons to prefer other video formats. Some people are cheap, some people want an open web, some want to ban software patents. The alternatives can't match the quality-to-filesize ratio, but they're close enough for that to not be an issue; the non-technical considerations are much more important. I understand h.264 gets used a lot, but you're claiming a patent-encumbered format is best for interoperability?
I found a blender extension to import FBX files. I don't know why you need that, or if the extension works, but it exists.

You're a Brit? and you have certain values because of that? How coincidental, I'm a granfalloon too! (be wary of how you integrate your culture into your identity)

Re:It is a barrier to entry, but worth it if you c (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 3 years ago | (#36746250)

Just to quickly follow up on your data type issues:

"Lots of formatting" is a relative scale, and although I mentioned docx, it applies just as well to things like spreadsheets as well, of course. In any case, even basic things like tables and numbered lists go wrong with irritating frequency if you're trying to get LibreOffice and MS Office to interoperate, and those are hardly drivers for switching to a DTP package. The bottom line is that if you write a document in LibreOffice, you can't save it in an MS Office format and trust that it's fit to send to a client.

For H.264, I will respectfully disagree with you about the technical issues. We routinely see a factor of 2 difference in file size, and if you're running a system that sends many such files over the Internet, that's a huge difference in your bandwidth costs. It's true that there are theoretical software patent issues, but they are mostly overhyped, since pretty much all major video software works with H.264 just fine. Again, the bottom line is that the other browsers support it and Firefox doesn't, so Firefox users are potentially missing out. (Chrome was going to drop support for H.264 so the mighty G could push their own "open standard", but they seem to have quietly reversed that decision, or at least delayed implementation after the market pushed back.)

As for FBX, I promise you it is widespread in the industry: if you want to outsource anything from content creation to motion capture work, this is how people communicate. The Blender plug-in, last I checked, was a one-way, unreliable implementation of a small subset of FBX features, which isn't even close to good enough. This is almost a running joke in the community, and it has been for years.

Oh, and you're right about the GIMP. In fact, unless things have changed dramatically and very recently, none of the major FOSS graphics packages can make full use of modern OpenType fonts. (Also, for the GIMP, two words: layer styles.)

Re:It is a barrier to entry, but worth it if you c (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36752702)

- Does MS Office handle ODF completely without any formatting glitch? Can you modify it so it does?
- Does MS Internet Explorer handle OGG natively? Can you modify it so it does?
- Do all the non-Autodesk commercial 3D packages support FBX flawlessly? Can you modify them so they do?

That's one of the strong points about libre software and real open formats.
Industry is starting slowly to understand and use open formats (and I mean REAL open formats, not just freely available proprietary SDKs), but companies always want to be the first and push their own formats instead of collaborating with existing independent projects.
FLOSS has its limitations, of course. It's not perfect, and in some cases it isn't even adequate, but it allows people to change that and make it better.

Re:It is a barrier to entry, but worth it if you c (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 3 years ago | (#36762952)

- Does MS Office handle ODF completely without any formatting glitch? Can you modify it so it does?

No, but it doesn't matter. Exactly one person I work with regularly sends me ODF files. He's a fellow contractor, not a paying client, and he asked up-front whether I could read the format because he knew a lot of people can't. (Of course, those using more recent versions of MS software actually can read ODF files anyway, probably at least as well as OpenOffice reads DOC(X) files.)

Meanwhile, my paying clients all expect DOC(X) documents, so that's what I have to send them, and I need software that is going to get it right.

- Does MS Internet Explorer handle OGG natively? Can you modify it so it does?

Given that anyone can write and install their own codecs on Windows machines from a technical point of view, you're shooting yourself in the foot a bit with that one.

Meanwhile, from a legal point of view, you can't modify Firefox to support H.264 even if you want to, if you're in a jurisdiction that has software patents. (Not that I like the idea of software patents, but I run my business in a world where some places have them.)

- Do all the non-Autodesk commercial 3D packages support FBX flawlessly? Can you modify them so they do?

It doesn't matter. Pretty much everyone in the industry uses Autodesk software or something compatible with it. It is the undeniable, dominant, effectively universal standard. (See also: Adobe Creative suite.)

Meanwhile, it might be theoretically possible for Blender to be modified to support FBX, but in practice the fact is that in several years the entire Blender community have not managed to do it despite numerous calls for it to be done.

All of this shows up the basic flaw with the pro-FOSS "you can always modify it" argument: there isn't always some friendly developer willing to spend their time building whatever feature we want to have quickly and for free. While we could theoretically write it ourselves or pay someone to do it for us, in practice it is far cheaper to buy a commercial product that already does it instead of treating every software requirement as a bespoke programming job.

Re:Irrelevant... (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36739662)

Huh? If you have a high quality end product the tools used are very relevent, as that is what made it possible. "Ooh, how'd you do that?" is a great thing to hear. If you have a low quality end product, the tools used are irrelevant. Nobody cares what went into a piece of shit.

Ok but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36739320)

A magazine that has published 2 issues and was built from the ground up to use free software is a far cry from a long established company trying to move existing products and processes to free software while continuing to deliver a quality products.

read the mag instead (3, Informative)

kermidge (2221646) | more than 3 years ago | (#36739336)

Has some interesting, useful stuff, from basic to about as free-wheelingly complicated as you'd like. Nice bit about customizing The Gimp.

Re:read the mag instead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36739414)

But no interested person will ever find it or read it because they have done a horrible job describing what it is on their own web page. Trying too hard to be cool.

Re:read the mag instead (-1, Flamebait)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#36739608)

Nice bit about customizing The Gimp.

And the 5 GIMP users will be thrilled.

Nothing against minimalist style... (1)

xded (1046894) | more than 3 years ago | (#36739396)

But apart from the occasional full page (bitmap) graphics, most of the two issues is black text on white background, no graphical details, two uniform-width columns, left justified, no feathering [wikipedia.org] whatsoever, widows and orphans [wikipedia.org] everywhere, etc.

If this was meant as a proof of good typesetting, it fails. But whether this is FOSS' or editor's failure, that's hard to tell.

Re:Nothing against minimalist style... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36751136)

Given the sheer number of these issues that I've seen in college textbooks, I'd say this isn't one of those 'problem' things.

Question (2)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 3 years ago | (#36739404)

I can't bring myself to press play on the video. Is the person on the far right Pat's...um...sibling?

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36739952)

I can't bring myself to press play on the video. Is the person on the far right Pat's...um...sibling?

Who is Pat, and why do you care?

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36740342)

Pat [wikipedia.org] was an androgynous character on Saturday Night Live. The recurring sketch involved people trying, unsuccessfully, to determine Pat's sex.

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36740262)

Her name is ginger coons (all lowercase).

Re:Question (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36741096)

Ginger Coons is a wonderful person, doing a lot of awesome and pioneer initiatives in the software libre related to graphic design and illustration

Re:Question (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36743200)

I can't take anyone series who wants to change the rules of grammar just so they can be 'different'.
Doubly so when they have this on their blog:
"I've got a bee in my bonnet about language."

To may people in the world think 'being different for the sake of being different' = awesome.

Re:Question (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 3 years ago | (#36743822)

Seriesly?

Re:Question (2)

treeves (963993) | more than 3 years ago | (#36743874)

I just can't take her seriously because of those glasses!
Sorry.

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36740552)

I can't bring myself to press play on the video. Is the person on the far right Pat's...um...sibling?

This comment, about an actual wonderful human being, is extremely offensive and you should be ashamed of yourself.

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36741298)

Since when is recognizing and acknowledging androgyny offensive? Just because you're offended doesn't mean something is offensive. Get over it.

Also, said "wonderful human being" is just oozing with "pretentious doucherocket"

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36770406)

Since when is recognizing and acknowledging androgyny offensive? Just because you're offended doesn't mean something is offensive. Get over it.

Also, said "wonderful human being" is just oozing with "pretentious doucherocket"

Being offended does mean something is offensive. Because, that's what it means. It's the definition of the word. So, since the dawn of time.

Also, there is no reason that in the context of this conversation that her alleged androgyny had any place. Thus, I can only assume it was brought up to belittle the interviewee. That's why it offended me.

Time to act like an adult now.

Refinement (1)

vijayiyer (728590) | more than 3 years ago | (#36739430)

Have you looked at the magazine? It's targeted at quite a niche audience, and while it gets its message across and is a decent attempt, would not be considered a reference standard of graphic design. In the real world, graphic designers don't know Perl. Nor should they be expected to.

Adobe software is not particularly nice nowadays (feature bloat and bugs), and I'd love to see a truly viable competitor. The open source tools have improved as well. But there's a certain refinement professionals expect of their tools (analogous to Snap-On among car mechanics, high end scopes among electrical engineers, etc) that just isn't there yet.

Re:Refinement (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36739838)

But for me, and our club that I edit the magazine for, open source is brilliant, as it means that when I want to hand on the job, I can give the new editor everythin, the layout, editing tools, graphics manipulators, etc and it will all work with whatever OS they have. My wife edits the source material using open office and stores all edited documents as .dot. I use the GIMP mainly for co our correction, alpha transparency, and minor graphical edits, and the layout is done in scribus. We then output a high quality .PDF for email distribution and print master. I also then compile the edited material into an .ePub file using sigil, and publish the book to our calibre server for distribution and download for those that want our mag on ther ebook readers.
Now I'd have to say we are NOT a pro publisher, but all of this cost us nothing except the hardware to run on, but if I made any money from the gig I would definately pay for the software. Only the Mac version of Scribus gives me some grief now and then, much buggier than the Linux version, but all of the features work just fine, and has got better with every release. (I layout mainly on my Mac because it has the best screen, but I have a Linux vm that I can give anyone that has everything they need to view and edit the source material. A real open source publication 8)

Are you serious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36740428)

All this proves is that a bunch of over-enthusiastic FOSS fans can delude themselves into thinking they're producing pro-quality stuff, when all they've really accomplished is to lower their standards. Libre Graphics is simply _not_ professional quality. Rough edges abound, obvious even at a quick glance.

"Libre"? (0)

markdavis (642305) | more than 3 years ago | (#36740664)

"Libre"? Barf! OMG, will people just make this word go away? What an embarrassment . :(

Re:"Libre"? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36743140)

You don't like Spanish or French?

I don't understand your problem.

Re:"Libre"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36744758)

If the word weren't older than Christ and did not make a useful distinction between two uses of the English word 'free', you might be justified in your disgust. As is, I'm somewhat embarrassed on your behalf. I can only wonder what confusion of ideas would provoke such a question.

Re:"Libre"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36745928)

No, you are going to to live with that word whether you like it or not. Especially if you don't like it. This is so much more fun.

How much effort? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#36741754)

I don't think that people are complaining that something is impossible to do. From my own FOSS experience, you usually have the tools for pretty much everything, and hardware issues are solved by cherry-picking compatible hardware. The problem is usually rather about how much effort does it take to solve something with FOSS tools only, compared to proprietary tools.

Now, I have no idea what the difference is in this particular area, since I never faced the challenge, and don't know what tools would be involved (neither FOSS nor proprietary) - so it may well be that their claim still holds true. But that would be the right question to ask.

Awful front cover design (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#36741952)

LIBRE
GRAP
HICS

What? That reads like Libre Crap Hicks. And the 1.2 looks like 12 because the . is lost by being typeset too close to the 1

This is NOT what I expect of a magazine that purports to be about using free software to do things including layout books and magazines.

Newbies. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36742346)

"Article deserved an illustration and we couldn't find one." So they published the mag with a big blank "draw your own illustration" area, for the "work-flow" article -- Only later realizing that Creative Commons Exists, and they could have used CC media... here [youtube.com] .

Keep up the good work. Everyone has to start somewhere!
--
My first programs were trash, but they were useful to some (doom & X-Com map & save game editors); Some of the web comics I like looked like crap in their early panels, none of the web designers I know produced good designs with graceful degradation and correct semantics as their first projects...

Printing Problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36743836)

People always still talk about the printing problem. So what printing problem?

Personally I find printing in linux (read: CUPS) to generally be pretty good. A number of printers are detected and installed automatically and correctly, even across the network.

There are still specific issues that aren't truly explainable, though. For example... try using gLabel to print on blank CD/DVD media in a Canon Pixma ip6600D printer. The default output registration is about 20mm low and if you try to adjust it in the configuration files the printer will eventually lock up (requiring the power cable to be yanked) when the registration gets to within 6mm of being correct. To print CD/DVD media on this printer I still, unfortunately, need Windows in at least a virtual box.

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