Open Source Applications on OSX for Graphic Design and More

This is for people using OSX, but a lot of these are ported to Windows. Actually, in Windows you can get true, native apps, while in OSX you have to use the X11 emulator most of the time. Regardless, here’s a few tidbits that might make open source more attractive and easier to acquire.

X11 or simply ‘X’ predates all of the operating systems us laymen are familiar with. It is the original graphical user interface. When young Steve Jobs went over to Xerox Labs this was what caught his eye (yes, Xerox invented the mouse, if you didn’t know). It started on Unix machines, was adapted slightly for Linux and now you are running an emulator within OSX. OSX install disks come with this since 10.3. If you are doing a fresh install, it’s under the ‘Customize’ button that appears shortly before the ‘Install’ window. Just check a box. Otherwise, you can install it after the fact, but I’m not going to describe that here. If you are using 10.3 there is a download on Apple’s site. Apparently for 10.4 they recommend installing from your original disks. You MUST have this to run the following unless otherwise stated.

The only thing the GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) lacks is CMYK support and Layer Sets. Okay, that’s not the only thing, but it’s pretty close to Photoshop 6, and that’s not bad. There is a variant of the GIMP out there that targets Photoshop users. This brilliant individual changed the menues, tool shortcuts and some of the graphics to make the GIMP look and feal more like Photoshop. Google ‘gimpshop’ and download. If you already have X11 installed, installing and using GIMPshop is like using a native application.

This is cool, but difficult to understand if you are not familiar with Debian or Ubuntu Linux. It’s an application that downloads and installs applications for you. Specifically *NIX applications. It allows you to avoid ‘Dependency Hell’. If you don’t know what that is, revel in that fact. To get Fink, go here: It installs like a standard application. After that’s installed you’ll want to drop the application ‘Fink Commander’, which comes with Fink, into your applications folder. Follow their instructions. Once that’s all done you can use Fink Commander to review the list of available applications. The GIMP is available this way, but it’s a much older version, so use the above suggestion instead. The next few apps can be installed through Fink. You will have to add any X11 applications installed through Fink to your X11 Applications menu manually, but if you want to know more about that, just ask. To install apps, open Fink Commander and browse the list or use the search feature to look for what you need. When you find the right file, highlight it and click the button on the far top-left. Fink will take it from there.

This is a layout application. It’s a little rough around the edges, but worth checking out. I can’t find a kerning function, but it can be a powerful app. The best feature about Scribus is that its document files are actually written using xml. This means that the file can be opened by a text editor and edited. Maybe that doesn’t sound sexy, but it allows you to manage the content more like a web page. Granted, the markup can get complex and messy, but it’s much more future-proof than the closed binary proprietary file formats tha the commercial apps use.

Like the name indicates, this application allows you to create or customize your own fonts. Sounds like fun, but in reality is fairly complex. Great tool though. Can also be used to convert PC fonts to Mac fonts and vice versa (so I’m told). A handy tool to keep around. Installs through Fink easily. I’ve successfully created a font with only the first 6 letters finished. It’s cool if you have a little patience.

KDE Games
Okay, not a design tool, but who doesn’t need a little old-school gaming action every now and then? Here’s a few of the games included: Battleship, Poker, Solitaire, Tetris, Connect-4, Putt-Putt Golf (and you can make your own courses! Killer!), Black Jack, Mahjongg, Minesweeper, Tron and Asteroids. Just use Fink Commander to search for ‘KDE Games 3’ and click the little (less than intuitive) button in the top-left to install. The files don’t have little sexy icons though. You will find the files (after you install them) here: /sw/bin/. I’ve found that OSX doesn’t recognize these as applications, so you can’t make a shortcut for your doc by right clicking. However, if you make a shortcut for a native OSX app and then Get Info, you can change where it points to. So, take that shortcut and name it after one of your new KDE games, and then point it at the appropriate binary file in /sw/bin.

Inkscape is a pretty solid vector drawing application. It’s documents are an svg file type and that means written in xml. Sound familiar? SVG is the W3C standard for vector graphics. Which is why SVG stands for Standard Vector Graphics. Unfortunately, you can’t install Inkscape via Fink. However, it’s easy enough to download and install by going here: from there you can download the OSX version. It will work pretty much like the GIMP, which is pretty much like a standard OSX native app.

Well, there you have it: A complete graphic design suite. If only Adobe CS came with Asteroids! There are endless amounts of apps out there, but I need to get some sleep. Let me know if any of this interests you or if you have something to add to the list of information.

Ubuntu 6.06 on 1.6 GHz PowerMac G5 (part 2)

Well, I finally got to a point where my OSX installation wasn’t doing a lot of work for me. As I have said in earlier posts, I have an Ubuntu 6.06 disc (see part 1) and a good friend with cable internet downloaded all of the Yellow Dog 4.1 discs for me after my failed attempt over dsl.

I have booted from the Ubuntu cd before, but was disappointed with the screen resolution topping out at 1024 x 840px. That wasn’t acceptable. So I started with Yellow Dog. Yellow Dog specifically makes Linux for PowerPC processors. With that in mind, I figured the video hardware they needed to support would be a fairly short list. They should be able to keep track of the very few video cards that Apple uses right? I guess they support other PowerPC computers, but for the general consumers Apple Computers and Microsoft’s Xbox are pretty much the only available PowerPCs on the market.

For starters I used the OSX install disc to boot and used the Disk Utility from there to erase my current 74GB OSX partition (along with some files I forgot to back up) and set a new OSX partition at 20GB while leaving the rest of the disk empty. I set the OSX partition at the end of the disk since I intended to install Linux on the front. I can’t say if the partition order really matters.

I installed OSX in its new 20GB home. I then booted from the Yellow Dog 4 disk. Anyone familiar with RedHat will find YD’s Anaconda installer pretty much unchanged. It is a great installation experience and definitely gives you confidence that this will work :). I think I did a ‘Workstation’ install, but after I did some manual editing of the application list, that might have all gone to hell. The installation went fine and on rebooting I had a boot option for OSX. Very easy and straight forward.

Problem number 1: Screen Resolution
I don’t understand the difficulty here, since my G5 is already two years old, supporting the hardware shouldn’t be difficult. However, the 1024px cap that I experienced in Ubuntu was there in YD. I attempted to alter the resolution from the ‘Display Resolution’ application as well as altering /etc/X11/xorg.conf but to no avail. I successfully changed the setting at one point only to find myself without a display. So it wasn’t really successful. Fortunately, I remembered the Control-Alt-Backspace feature for restarting X11 and it walked me through correcting the problem. So back to 1024. πŸ™

Problem number 2: Dual Monitor/Head Support
At that point I had also discovered YD’s ‘Display Resolution’ had a tab for dual-head or dual-screen set up. That’s pretty cool and definitely looks as simple to manage as OSX’s. Unfortunately, it didn’t jive well with the fact that my single video card had the ability to output two displays. In the error log I noticed an error stating that it was sending the data to a device already in use. So, it is likely that with two physically separate video cards this would be a snap. Alas, but not for me. πŸ™

Problem Number 3: I Hate RedHat and RPMs
Looking at my brand-spanking-new desktop was not inspiring. I was starting to remember why I had a bland response to my initial Linux install all the way back two years ago: RedHat’s main menues are sloppy and confusing and the RPM system sucks if you don’t know where to get dependencies (this state of mind is called ‘Dependency Hell’ for any of you that are newer to this than me). I realize that I can customize the menu, but I don’t want to do that and there are so many applications that seem to have similar names or would do similar things that it just doesn’t seem worth it. When I first used XFCE I was amazed how the makers took the time to group all of the System Setting applications into one dialog box. What a novel idea! KDE should get some credit for that as well, but KDE just isn’t quite my cup of tea. XFCE, for all of its limitations and faults, is a great desktop environment for people coming over from Windows and OSX. I think XFCE has even out simplified Apple. But anyway, RedHat’s implimentation of Gnome is simply revolting. Ubuntu has them beat with a much more organized menu from the start. I think the way Synaptic makes installing applications easy is the other important feature. Not much learning required. And so, Yellow Dog failed to meet my expectations. πŸ™

My next move was to install Ubuntu instead and see how the dice rolled. I had already screwed my OSX installation, I might as well try everything now. I started from scratch, erasing the whole disk and reinstalling OSX. Why? Because OSX, though it shows you one nice and simple partition, is actually creating two or 3 small partitions additionally that contain boot instructions for OSX (the equivalent of a Master Boot Record, I assume). From what I understand, the linux distros have to write to one of these specific partitions in order to alter the boot options. Actually, I did initially try to install Ubuntu right over the YD 4, but when it came time to reboot I did not see the boot option text. It booted straight into Ubuntu. No OSX. So, I went back and started from the beginning.

This is getting long, so I will finish up in a PART 3 soon.