Find-a-Task, quickly! 1

The Ubuntu community team has recently set up Find-a-Task, which is a small tool that helps new contributors find a task to start working on. If you click around (long enough), you will also find Xubuntu tasks in there. How nice of us!

There’s one problem though… The content is unfortunately maintained in a private environment, and there’s no easy way to see all the tasks. What if you wanted to check if a very similar task, or exactly the same task, already exists?

Stop the clicking already! I wrote a simple Greasemonkey script that outputs the full index of Find-a-Task instead of showing you the different categories and tasks one by one. The easiest way to install the script is to click on the Raw -button on the Gist.

The team has only started gathering these tasks around the community. Some have already came in, but there’s room for a lot more expansion.

If your team wants to add some tasks, join the #ubuntu-community-team IRC channel on Freenode and shout your tasks out loud. The community team will update the tool with your tasks as long as you provide them the name, description, target URL and the desired category for each task.

Go add a task… quickly!

High priority projects list for artists

My inspiration for this article was that the Free Software Foundation is reviewing the High Priority Projects list. Briefly put, the goal of the list is to achieve more freedom in computing for everybody, focusing in projects with the broadest possible influence.

To learn more about the project and find out how to send your input, read the announcement on reviewing the High Priority Projects list.

In this article, I won’t be covering any projects that would really affect the majority of computer users. Instead, I will talk about some areas which are important for graphic artists, including those who are working with non-digital formats as well.

Support for color managed documents

There are two main aspects to color management: color management in documents and color management for monitors. Ideally, you want them both set up properly. Unfortunately, both of the areas are lacking in Linux.

Many of the applications support CMYK color profiles only partially, or do not support them at all. Being able to work in true CMYK with a specific color profile is crucial if you need to send your work to a professional printing service.

The lack of pretty much any kind of CMYK export from Inkscape is the breaking point for me. It is also the main reason I still work with proprietary software under a virtualized environment. I acknowledge there are some ways to product a CMYK color managed document in Scribus and have even done this a few times, but it isn’t a perfect workflow.

As far as I’ve understood, calibrating monitors and using ICC profiles for them and making software use them as well isn’t unproblematic either. However, I don’t understand these issues enough to weigh in; other online resources cover these topics better.

Close the gap to commercial software

As Inkscape, Scribus, GIMP and other projects prove, great free software for artists exists. However, there is still gaps to commercial software here and there. These gaps need to be closed in order to get more professional artists consider free and open source alternatives to the proprietary software they are currently using.

One of the aspects is making free software look and feel more familiar to people who use proprietary software. While I don’t think this should be the main goal, it’s one that would help people migrate the most.

The Shimmer project started the Huego project to help this goal. Unfortunately, due to lack of time, it has been quiet after the first commits. As always, contributions are welcome! On another, more positive note, Martin Owens has created a set of Photoshop Tweaks for Gimp which you can start using right now.

Today, Inkscape is already a very important part of my workflow already; the only case when I won’t even think about using it is if I need to create a rather complex CMYK document. Even in the smaller CMYK works I prefer it in the drafting phase, because I can get my ideas out of the system so much faster with it.

Finally…

As I said before, great free and open source software exists already and there are some software and hardware for color management. Now we simply need to make the software even better, to support the features artists need in their daily work and to give them the option to stop using proprietary software.

This will undoubtedly require both artists and developers to be interested enough to actually overcome the obstacles in the way and most importantly, work together. A masterfully built up software is useless if the artists don’t think it’s intuitive to use – in the same way as an idea of a great software in a head of an artist is if it’s not implemented in reality.

If you would like to shift your workflow towards free and open source software, but can’t because there isn’t an application avaialble – keep shouting out and support the developers who work hard to create more great software.

If you are a developer, keep on working what you think is important, and maybe we will some day have software that can help more people to switch to non-proprietary alternatives.

This article is part of the article series .

Sixaxis controllers with Xubuntu

During the Christmas time I have traditionally worked on some random projects related to computers or other electronic devices. This year is no different.

The winning project this year was connecting Sixaxis controllers via Bluetooth to my Xubuntu laptop to be able to play some retro games under Dosbox in a less retro way…

Here’s a brief overview what you need to do to get them working.

Please note that the following steps include enabling PPA’s, and you are following the instructions at your own risk.

Enable connections via Bluetooth

To be able to pair and connect the Sixaxis controllers correctly via Bluetooth, you will need to install QTSixA. If you want to use your controllers via USB only, you might want to stop here. The controllers are mostly supported out of the box. More information on the QTSixA website.

The steps you need to take at this point are documented thoroughly on the Sixaxis page of the Ubuntu community help wiki. Here’s a really brief recap.

Install QTSixA

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:falk-t-j/qtsixa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install sixad libusb-dev libusb-0.1-4

Pair and connect

To pair the controllers, run sudo sixpair when your controller is plugged in. Repeat for each controller.

Naturally, if the controllers are already paired with this machine eg. not used with any other host machine since the last use, you can skip this part.

To connect the controllers, run sixad --start and press the PS button (for some time) on each controller when the software tells you to. When the controller vibrates, you are connected!

The sixad daemon captures your bluetooth device and will stop the regular bluetooth activity. You can return to a normal state by running sixad --restore. If you wish to, you can set sixad to run on boot so you can always connect your controllers on the fly. More information on this and other configuration options can be found at the official QTSixA website.

Map buttons to keyboard events

If you want to use the controllers to play games that do not have direct support for game controllers like I did, you need to map the controller buttons to keyboard events. For this part, you will need additional software.

As I was doing the research, I read about several applications that allow you to remap buttons. I ended using AntiMicro since it seemed easy enough – and just worked. Your mileage may vary.

Install AntiMicro

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ryochan7/antimicro
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install antimicro

Configure to your liking

Once you’ve done that, run AntiMicro to set the key bindings.

If Antimicro doesn’t show you “Sticks” and “DPads” separately, but only two columns of buttons, I recommend running the controller mapping (bottom left). For some reason, this was correctly detected on my desktop, but not on my laptop.

The UI itself is pretty straightforward; when you press a button on the controller, the corresponding UI button is highlighted. To change the key binding, simply press that button and pick a key you wish to bind it to. In some cases, you might not be presented with a virtual keyboard; in these cases, you can get it to appear by pressing the “No key” button. You can even do advanced set up, for example key combos.

Finally, you can save the button profiles for easy access in the future. Remember to keep AntiMicro running as long as you use your controllers.

Enjoy!