Bring out the GIMP.

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o I keep reading all these great articles about the GNU Image Manipulation Program, commonly referred to as GIMP or “the GIMP”.  Every time I read one of these great articles, I inevitably find the part of the article that says “GIMP has improved muchly since the last version, and blah blah blah” so (equally as inevitable) I install it (again) and try it (again) and fail (again) to accomplish… well, to accomplish anything at all.

GIMP, for the uninitiated or those that aren’t nerdy enough to know, is (as the name states) an image manipulation program.  While the developers of GIMP don’t see it this way (or at least claim not to, though I can’t for the life of me figure out how they couldn’t see it), it is, basically, an “open-source” Photoshop.  It has become the de facto standard for image manipulation for open-source pundits and those that can’t afford a license of Photoshop.  It’s pretty much the only option for Linux users.  
Anyway, GIMP has ups and downs and all-arounds, and it is incessantly compared to Photoshop (of course).  It has a very similar… very similar… toolset to Photoshop, though it’s all in different places and (in some cases) you arrive to the same tool/process/whatever in what many consider (me among them) a seriously backwards way.  It’s almost like the GIMP developers want to be different from Photoshop at any cost, even if their UI suffers for it.
And so, GIMP has had many, many opportunities to impress me, all of which have failed.  I found it frustrating, slow to use (although admittedly it’s a very fast little app – much lighter than Photoshop), and a pain in the butt overall.  All this is only compounded by the fact that there’s just no cohesive documentation – it’s all scattered around and overly complicated.
Well, no longer.  Behold!  GIMP has a spiffy manual!  And it’s not half bad!  It’s not super comprehensive, but it definitely helps a long-time, heavily ingrained Photoshop user migrate a little more efficiently.  How efficiently?  Enough that I’m using GIMP quite often now.  And you know what?  It’s not as bad as I originally though.  There’s really have been countless improvements to the interface, the speed is excellent, the toolset is equal to (in most cases) Photoshop’s, and it works great on crappy old computers.  This is extra relevant to me now that I have to rely on an older laptop running Ubuntu.
I still go to Photoshop when I need something done and I don’t want to deal with a learning curve, but I think that’s just a matter of time.  Also, there’s no simple alternative to Lightroom, so as a photographer I’ll most likely stick with the LR->PS dynamic duo (although Bibble Labs’ offering is looking pretty spiffy… might be worth a serious look.)  GIMP is getting there though, it really is.  It’s no longer “the alternative you get when you can’t afford Photoshop because Adobe charges ridiculous money for their apps”, but quite a viable app on its own.  I am, this time, finally, impressed.
I just read an article that the first thing GIMP should change is the name.  I have to agree with that: GIMP was cute back in the “Linux is only used by less than 1% of the population of the universe” days.  The burgeoning popularity of Linux as an OS, and even GIMP as an app (it’s available on all platforms), makes me wonder if GIMP is all that marketable.  Then again, it’s recognizable, kinda catchy, and you can always say… 
Bring out the GIMP!
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Connecting the dots: Social Networking Hurts My Head.

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Much like the 60’s, everybody’s on everything these days.  There’s tweets, buzzes, pings, orkuts, facebooks, myspaces, blah blah blah, ad nauseum.  And let’s not forget the countless blogs and feeds and streams of information constantly flowing in and out of our lives.  

Well, that’s how I feel about it, anyway.  I’m a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of social networking avenues available to me.  All I really wanna do is update one simple interface and have it reach out to whatever/wherever everyone happens to be, because I know it’s important that everybody know what flavor ice cream I’m eating right now.
It’s that emphasis on how important I feel it is that makes me want to streamline the process so that I can spend the least amount of time possible in broadcasting my extremely interesting activities.  Logging into 15 different sites and updating status incessantly is just… consuming.  Time, spiritually, emotionally… the whole nine.  
Enter these feed aggregator connector sites like Ping.fm and Twitterfeed.  These are just a couple of the many, many, many sites dedicated to filling the role of “your one-stop shop for social networking and status management!”  These sites range from the fairly simple (Twitterfeed) to sites like Hootsuite that promote themselves as “professional twitter clients”.  Good lord, there’s a professional Twitter client?  Most of these sites let you interconnect feeds and read them, send them, blog them, push them, pull them… see, this is where my head starts to hurt. 
 
Getting them all to play well together… navigating the maze of connections to avoid things like double-posting or publishing overly-enthusiastic amounts of times is just painful.  Combine this with interconnecting a whole bunch of APIs that don’t wanna play together (even though they say they want to, it just doesn’t always work out.  No means no.) and I’m just like “maybe it’s not worth all this effort.”
But maybe it is worth all this effort… I must have thought so because I plowed through and signed up for some ridiculous amount of sites (which I have no doubt will flood me with plenty of ‘updates on how awesome their service is’ over the next year) in an effort to consolidate my modest little internetwork (that’s my phrase btw – you can’t steal it.  Okay, fine, you can steal it.)  
The final solution?  Twitterfeed to push my blog(s) to Twitter, and then push everything from Twitter out to things like LinkedIn, Buzz, Facebook (thought Yakket), etc.  Twitter’s interface is simple, fast, and easy, and there’s an app for that.  So that solves things nicely.  For now.  Until something breaks.
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Why I will stay with Movable Type or, How I Learned To Love The Bomb.

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So for a hot second there… okay, maybe a hot minute… I thought to myself: “I’m going to migrate my blog to WordPress.”  WordPress has been getting a lot of press lately (pun!) not just on the interwebs, but also amongst my peers.  It’s got a nice, simple UI that I can appreciate, it has a very well-developed plug-in library, and it (apparently) gets updated a heckuva lot more often than MT (or pretty much any of the other blog engines.)  These points appeal to me.  I like actively developed software.  It makes me feel like when some new and unbelievably awesome social networking site comes on the scene, my blogging software can ‘keep up’ and ‘plug in’.  Right.

I did a bunch of research, opened up a whole series of windows, loaded up all kinds of articles on migration, and prepared myself for a task that I’ve already done once before (and it was hellish, and the end result was that I migrated back to Movable Type.  What does that tell you? ‘Cuz it tell me a lot.)  Anyway, I ramped myself up, got things ready, psyched myself for the process, got all hot n’ bothered.  Then I ran across this article about migrating to WordPress 2.5.  Full stop.
I was reminded by that article of several very, very good points… and why I was using Movable Type in the first place.
Point 1. It uses static pages vs dynamic pages as the default setting.  Why does this matter?  Well, for SEO purposes it’s always better to have static pages, so there’s that.  The links are cleaner.  The code is cleaner.  And above all else, there’s no database to eat shit when you most need it not to.  The article offers an optimistic example… “when you’re on the home page of Reddit..”  Right.  Well, that’s not super likely.  However, even a moderate hit on a shared database host could cause an outage, bump into some throttle, who knows.  Why bother even finding out?  Static pages FTW.
Point 2.  So much of that WordPress functionality that I would find useful is built-in with Movable Type.  Really basic stuff, just built right into the truly feature-packed Movable Type.  The home page statistics, the asset management, the pinging tools.  There’s lots to love.
Point 3.  The interface.  This point isn’t as terribly relevant as it used to be; the WordPress interface has improved significantly and there are many, many solid UI elements in WP that I’ve really got my eye on.  The Movable Type interface is fantastic.  I’ve loved it since the olden days, before all the fancy new improvements, but the newest iteration of MT is truly a thing of beauty.  Side-by-side, WordPress feels… less than ideal.  Again though, WordPress has its charm – and I appreciate the UI – but it really, truly isn’t MT.
Point 4.  An interesting point in that it kind of works backwards.  One of the ‘positive’ points for migrating to WordPress is that it is under really active development.  There’s quite a bit of activity and that translates to ‘freshness’ to me… as new technology is developed (at that awesome pace it always is) plugins are developed, software is updated, etc.  That being said, Movable Type is by no means a slouch… they’re just not as ridiculously fast to put it out there and let production sites Just Break.  I can appreciate that.  Besides, a few searches and I always turn up whatever plugin I could possibly need at the time from the Movable Type plugin repository.  That Just Works.
Point 5.  Speaking of Just Works, Movable Type Just Works.  So why in the world would I put myself through the inevitable pain and suffering that would ensue the moment I begin the process of migration?  
I wouldn’t.  I mean, if I didn’t stop to think about it, I might have.  But as it stands I won’t do it.  In fact, I was considering “Well, at least I can recommend WordPress to people who want something quick and easy to just put out there, right?”  Sure, I guess I could do that.  But wouldn’t it be better to recommend the Better Product?  I think so, yeah.  
So Movable Type stays on Jose Sierra dot Com.  Thank you, Six Apart, for keeping me on the One True Path.
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When did MT get so darned complicated…?

Man, Movable Type has really gotten… fluffy.  Used to be such a lean platform… and I’ve always been a fan of how it handled things… but the new MT is just so full of goosh.  I’m going to have to go through all these ‘interesting new features’ with a fine-toothed comb and see what’s going on here.  Especially when there’s offerings from WordPress and TextPattern that are still simple, easy, and quick to use – and josesierra.com has been on each of those platforms at least once during the last 6+ years.  

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Technorati still a player…?

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Back in the day, Technorati used to be something of a player in the blogosphere… of course, this was back when blogs were nowhere near as common and the question really was “Why should I even start one?”  

Once the world started to realize the amusement-factor of blogging and commercial interests started to realize how effective they are as a marketing tool, well, then we really started to see some exciting new communities and tools crop up.  One of these was Technorati. 
I was a big proponent of being involved with Technorati in those days, but it seems that their relevance seems to have waned in favor of the nine point six billion social-networking sites and site aggregators out there.  I mean, there’s really no shortage of websites that will take your feed and combine it with countless variations of information… it’s actually pretty interesting.  Feedly is a great example of this… and I’m a big fan.  Now, granted, they don’t quite do what TR was doing – putting together content based on relevance and authority – but they haven’t done much at all for years and years.
So the question remains, is Technorati still a player?  Is it still relevant, or does it join the masses of obsolete social media concepts that had their day in the sun but have since been eclipsed by the onslaught of people doing exactly the same thing?
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Camp KoralKids, a great summer experience for children with diabetes

Camp KoralKids came out to the Tigertail ropes course and apparently had a great time!  Check out this video about KoralKids… notice anyone running around there in his obnoxiously green shirt?  Yep.  That’s me.

Great group of kids, lots of fun and very enthusiastic!
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Gotta love the South.

It’s only funny ‘cuz it’s true. A collection of short stories about the South… 

Alabama 
 A group of Alabama friends went deer hunting and paired off in
twos for the day. That night, one of the hunters returned alone,
staggering under the weight of an eight-point buck. 
“Where’s Henry?” the others asked.
“Henry had a stroke of some kind. He’s a couple of miles back up the
trail,” the successful hunter replied.
“You left Henry laying out there and carried the deer back?” they
inquired.
“A tough call,” nodded the hunter. “But I figured no one is going to
steal Henry!” 
Georgia 
The owner of a golf course in Georgia was confused about
paying an invoice, so he decided to ask his secretary for some
mathematical help.
He called her into his office and said, “You graduated from the
University of Georgia and I need some help. If I were to
give you $20,000, minus 14%, how much would you take off?” 
The secretary thought a moment, and then replied, “Everything but my
earrings.” 
Louisiana 
A senior at Louisiana was overheard saying ….. “When the end
of the world comes, I hope to be in Louisiana.”
When asked why, he replied, “I’d rather be in Louisiana
because everything happens in Louisiana 20 years later than in
the rest of the civilized world.” 
Mississippi 
The young man from Mississippi came running into the store and
said to his buddy, “Bubba , somebody just stole your pickup truck from
the parking lot!”
Bubba replied, “Did you see who it was?”
The young man answered, “I couldn’t tell, but I got the license number.” 
North Carolina 
A man in North Carolina had a flat tire, pulled off on the
side of the road, and proceeded to put a bouquet of flowers in front of
the car and one behind it. Then he got back in the car to wait.
A passerby studied the scene as he drove by and was so curious he
turned around and went back. He asked the fellow what the problem was.
The man replied, “I have a flat tire.”
The passerby asked, “But what’s with the flowers?”
The man responded, “When you break down they tell you to put flares in
the front and flares in the back. I never did understand it neither.” 
Tennessee
A Tennessee State Trooper pulled over a pickup on
I-65. The trooper asked, “Got any ID?” The driver replied, “Bout whut?” 
 
Texas 
A Texas Sheriff pulled up next to a guy unloading garbage out of his
pick-up and into a ditch. The Sheriff asked, “Why are you dumping garbage in the ditch? Don’t
you see that sign right there over your head.”
“Yep”, he replied. “That’s whah ah’m dumpin it heah, cause it says: ‘Fine
For Dumping Garbage’.” 
You can say what you want about the South, but you never hear of
anyone retiring and moving North.

The Android Community – always lookin’ out.

Check out this interesting TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) analysis done on the Nexus One and T-Mobile’s service.

Nexus One. Android keeps on rockin’.

Android continues on its forward march of progress, with updates coming out seemingly every week these days.  The improvements are significant, the joy to the users is unending, and the success, fantastic. 

Now, finally, the hardware seems to live up to the potential of the OS…

Whoa, whoa, whoa… back up just one sec…

The N1 is quite the distinguished offering.  It has style, performance, and the Google name behind it.  It is, IMHO, a superior offering to the Motorola Droid which, by all indications, should’ve been the “superphone” that everyone wanted.  Unfortunately, Motorola released it for Verizon.  Yet another boneheaded decision from Moto.  You guys are the best.

Anyway, the Droid has been love-hate for a lot of users, particularly the users that have ‘come over to the dark side’ from the iPhone.  It’s not an iPhone guys, sorry, but what it is, is better.  There’s a hundred and one reasons why, not gonna get into it (if you really must now, go Google it.)  The N1, though, promises to have all the hardware to keep Android chugging along famously.

Thing is, Android is chugging along famously already.  I have Android blazing away on my MyTouch 3G, I have friends with G1s (first-gen “Google” phones) that have Android blazing away (okay, maybe “blazing” is a bit strong… how about “briskly moving along.”)  I’m glad the N1 is out, I’m glad the hardware is good, I’m glad it looks as awesome as it does (and it does look awesome.)  I just don’t know that it’s really the superduperawesomeness that everyone seems to think it is.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, check out this review.

ISO Burning Power Toy for Windows Vista

Whoa, neat!  A Vista power toy that doesn’t suck! 

Ever get your hands on an ISO (if you don’t know what that is, this probably doesn’t apply to you, LOL) and then rummage around looking for some way to burn it.  Particularly some easy way to burn it? 

Rummage no longer, dear friends!  Click here to download and install the ultimate in ISO-burning awesomeness.  And it’s free.  That’s right, free.  Can there be anything more awesome?  Yes, of course there can – but right now this is what we’re working with.

Give it a shot.  Simple, easy, and refreshingly to the point.  Blam!