How to Quickly Make Paper Texture in GIMP

Realistic paper-textures! They look so cool in the background of sophisticated website designs, mobile-applications, desktops, in brochures and print-production design, and for interesting user-interface design. Better than using just a plain white background, or a background with black-to-white gradients that often remind me of retro-1980s design. I prefer realistic-looking paper that is subtle, and use it with sensitivity to draw a viewer’s attention to the content.

GIMP is a free and powerful alternative to Photoshop software. When I say ‘free’, I mean muft and mukt. GIMP is available for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, from http://www.gimp.org/downloads/ so get your copy and let’s get started.

Step 1: Launch GIMP, and select File-menu > New. Choose the height and width of your paper in pixels, and press ‘OK’.

Step 2: Select Filters-menu > Noise… and choose ‘RGB Noise’. Apart from ‘Preview’ make sure all other check-boxes are unchecked.

Step 3: Do you want your paper to be smooth, or would you like to have a texture that’s tad stronger? Take your pick as you slide the tab on ‘Red’ ‘Green’ or ‘Blue’ between 0.20 to 0.69. Do notice how all three values move in tandem. Check out the preview which may show granular dots increase or decrease in density. I prefer values between 0.20 to 0.32. Once you find a pattern to your taste, click ‘OK’.

Step 4: Go to Image-menu > Mode > Grayscale. This one step will make the dots appear more textured, and shrink your file to one-third its size in kilobytes or megabytes, which is a good thing.

Step 5: Go to Filters-menu > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Choose a value between 3 and 9 on the slider below. Check out the ‘Preview’ to see what suits your taste, and click ‘OK. You’re done. If required, you may re-apply Gaussian Blur with a different value, for an even smoother finish.

Save your file in the format of your choice, and you’re done.

Further tips:

Use the Color-menu > Brightness-Contrast slider to set the tonality of your paper.

I use the muft and mukt illustration-design software, Inkscape, for authoring user-interface designs. You may find it for free download and use for your platform here: http://inkscape.org/

Import your paper-texture into Inkscape, then draw your interface elements over it using Inkscape’s tools.

Hope you find this quick tutorial useful. It’s a Christmas gift for a client.

🙂

Sync Your Mobile while Saying Bye-Bye to MS Outlook

I just bought myself a Samsung Wave mobile, a stunningly beautiful phone with engineering that’s even more delightful. I had my wallet out of my pocket, seconds away from buying a Nokia E72, when I spotted the Samsung Wave. Wallet back in my pocket, went home to research if the Wave is as promising as it looks, or should I look for a third option. First stop, the reliable review-aggregator website alatest.com that showed both the Nokia E72 and the Wave were equally matched. Next stop, YouTube, where I checked reviews and hands-on demos by geeks and reviewers. Then I went through the official website, and then scoured through the Samsung Apps website to check for available software for the smartphone: samsungapps.com. The underlying platform, called Bada, is indeed open-source and totally rocks.

Wave Goodbye to Nokia

My only worry though, was how to transfer my contacts and calendar from my old and battered Nokia E61i, to the new Wave. For the record, I use Ubuntu Linux 9.04 on my MacBookPro laptop, which also has Mac OS X installed separately on the hard-disk. No Microsoft Windows on my machine. The Wave ships with a software called ‘Kiet’ that syncs contacts between the mobile and MS Outlook which obviously only runs under Windows. Digging deeper I discovered FoneSync, a Euro 19.95 utility from Nova Software that syncs the Wave with the address book and the calendar of Mac OS X. A few users’ comments elsewhere on the web alluded to some bugs and issues with it. Hmmm. No support or software or hack for Ubuntu Linux users. Time to shift to the cloud.

First, I used a free plug-in for iSync under Mac OS X, that syncs contacts and calendars between the Nokia E61i and the Mac OS X. Once I got the data into my laptop, I then opened the Address Book of the Mac, and exported all my contacts into a single file, once as a *.abbu file, and again as a *.vcf file which is a vCard file. Similarly, I exported all my calendar events as an *.icf file.

Booted into Ubuntu Linux and imported these into Evolution, which is a free, muft-and-mukt alternative to MS Outlook for Linux users. Now I could happily deposit the E61i in the new ‘ecology-recycle’ bins dotting every good mobile-store in Delhi. If you have old mobile power-adaptors and phones, please do consider depositing them here rather than throw them away with regular trash. Anyways, back to the cloud-sync.

I then opened my Gmail account, clicked on the ‘Contacts’ link in the left-pane, and then clicked on ‘Import…’ to pull in all my contacts into Gmail. Similarly, imported all my calender-events into Gmail’s Calendar. So now, apart from backups on my Mac OS X and Ubuntu Linux partitions, I also have my mobile data backed up in the cloud. I can connect into it from anywhere and sync any of my devices whenever I wish.

Finally, on the Samsung Wave, here are the steps to follow:

1. Press the main-menu button to display all your software and applications.

2. Press the ‘My Accounts’ icon.

3. Press [Exchange ActiveSync]

4. Type your email ID “xyz@gmail.com”

5. User name will appear as “xyz”

6. Type your password

7. DO NOT enter anything in domain field.

8. Press [Done] and let it process

9. Type “m.google.com” for server URL

10. Enable “Use SSL”

11. Press [Set]

12. There you go, select anything which you want to sync.

I’ve compiled these steps from the helpful info provided here: http://www.google.td/support/forum/p/Google+Mobile/thread?tid=1b80c29b961dfa61&hl=en
This obviously assumes you’ve got internet-access activated on your mobile-account, or else have access via Wi-Fi.
Cleverly enough, the Samsung Wave links multiple records of the same person into one consolidated entry in the phone’s address book.
Plus, for the first time, I can see just how hyper-connected I’ve become: click on a contact’s name and view all calls, sms-messages, facebook messages, tweets, direct-messages on twitter, emails, and IM chats, in just one place.
The Samsung Wave GT S8500 is a great phone. I especially love it’s voice-quality and ability to hold on to weak signals. My ears feel better since I’ve switched. And of course, the touch-screen experience on a vibrant AMOLED screen is sensational. It’s 5 MP camera, and HD-Video capture is impressive. A built-in video-edit software can also add captions to video-segments, and an optional cable outputs to a TV. Everyone, from little children, grandmas, Blackberry-enthusiasts, iPhone-users, to uber-geeks I’ve shown the phone, appreciates the beauty and design of this phone. The only thing that beats it currently, is the Samsung Galaxy, and the newer and newer models of top-end Android smartphones, which of course, cost a great deal more.
[ends]

My Flight into Music

‘Flight’ is a music-track I composed, arranged, mixed and produced in 2007. The music emerged towards the end of an intense three years of active meditations. ‘Flight’ is authored using 100% Free and OpenSource Software (FOSS). More specifically, used a Linux-based OS, called UbuntuStudio.

Excerpts from ‘Flight’ were later used as background music for a short-film published from Los Angeles. Was even more thrilled when I also got paid for it. 🙂

You are encouraged to download, share, mix, re-mix, and have fun with ‘Flight’ for commercial or non-commercial purposes, provided you respect its copyright and creative-commons license, which is cc-by-sa-2.5 india. Here is a simple-to-understand version of this specific CreativeCommons license.

Taking Flight
In 2007, Was also invited to conduct a small workshop on ‘Digital Sound’ at a leading national FOSS event, called freed.in. You may view a blurry picture of UbuntuStudio with a sound software. Then in 2008, was invited to another National FOSS event, called FOSSMEET at NITC in Calicut, where I delivered a talk “How to design sound, compose music, and master your album.” Ended the talk with ‘Flight’ which received a huge ovation, and hours after the talk the participants lingered around and discussed all things from music to FOSS. That was quite an experience. You may view a photo of the audio, sound, and music talk at fossmeet here. Finally, on 28 March 2010, I released ‘Flight’ at the CreativeCommons Salon event held in Delhi. Discover more about this event on twitter using the id ‘ccsdel’.
Flight into Jamendo
‘Flight’ is published on Jamendo.org, a wonderful website for musicians and music-lovers who wish to share muft and mukt music. This is my first album published here. Within a few days will also publish another album of dance-music composed more recently. Discover my artist page at Niyam on Jamendo where I intend to publish even more tracks and albums over the coming months. You may also soon find me dabbling at ccmixter.org.
Soaring with Freedom
All the sounds you hear have been designed in a software-synth with quite a tongue-twister of a name: ZynAddSubFX. This software-synth was plugged into a software that handles virtually unlimited multi-track recording. Called ardour, it is more specifically, a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Even more interesting is how almost all the sound-based software plug into one another under UbuntuStudio. Mimicking the coils of cables, plugs, and connectors found in a real-world sound-studio, is a software sound-patch, called Jack Audio Connection Kit. A lot of sound-effects and the pre and post-processing of sound were handled using myriad sound-FX plug-ins, from LADSPA. You may find thousands of free sound-effects from LADSPA. The final and minor tweaks and exports were handled in the audio-editing software Audacity.

Surprisingly enough, did not use any of my other favourite free software for this project, especially Hydrogen: The Advanced Drum-Machine for Linux, as well as the music-sequencing software RoseGarden.

Earlier Sounds
In October 2006, also published an entire album of sound-field recordings made in the middle of the night and at dawn, in remote mountains while living in a stone-cottage next to a stream. Thousands of people have downloaded the audio-files from this album, a few have re-mixed these in their works, and some I know held a group-meditation based around the album. You may discover the sound-field recordings at Niyam on freesound.org. Plus, discover some drum-loops published around the same time creativedot though the site seems to go down every once in a while.

Stay tuned for more sound and music, especially since I love authoring in diverse genres.

We Don’t Need No (Proprietary) Education.

How free are you to teach and learn?

Soon, the only atom of knowledge that will be shared freely by all educationists in the world, will be that knowledge cannot be shared freely by law.

This, because all curriculum, and even methods of teaching, are not only copyrighted, but also proprietary. Anyone who wishes to teach something will have to pay a license-fee or enter into some agreement, to do so. The burden of this, will of course, be passed on to the student.

The role of the teacher and the professor will pass through its most challenging phase this century. The confusion between the four discrete terms: information, skill, knowledge, and education, will finally come clear, and everyone in academia will be forced to examine what do they impart out of these four.

Fortunately, a few brave and intelligent thinkers are trying to forge an alternative vision, at least in education-curriculum. Among them is WikiEducator, a community for the realization of a free version of the education curriculum by 2015. wikieducator.org/India
They met at a Delhi University college in south Delhi, called Acharya Narendra Dev College,
andcollege.du.ac.in/ for a Learning For Content workshop. Details here: wikieducator.org/India/L4C_India_08.

I was invited to deliver a talk on vision and inspiration, as part of the talk by Dr. Andrew Lynn. The audience came from diverse disciplines in indian academia. Was wonderful to meet so many professors and educationists. Here are some photos from my talk:

[flickr album=72157608002754095 num=10 size=Thumbnail]

Dr. Savithri Singh just emailed me her collection of photos from the event, which prompted me to author this blog. We all had quite an intense and animated discussion during my talk, that was held jointly with Dr Andrew Lynn from JNU. A few colleges also talked about rolling similar talks and initiatives in their campuses. As usual, I am always game. In the meantime, Dr Savithri’s photos:
WikiEd08 pictures
and Even more WikiEd08 pictures.