history, technology, cyberculture and nostalgia find a place to meet and mix


For the ignorant (and there exist many), GIMP (General Image Manipulation Programme) is a free and open source image processing tool. It has nearly revolutionized image processing mostly owing to the fact that it is free unlike close rivals Adobe Photoshop Extended (which is about $1000 more expensive).
Adobe Photoshop and Gimp, both are however different and unique in their own ways. For a comparison between the two, head to FindTheBest.com and a simple Google search away.

But this is where I state the most obvious difference GIMP, unlike Photoshop, works on UNIX and Linux (It was initially made for this OS's, ported into Windows and Mac much later). And for those operating systems, it is the best image processing software around without question.

The professional and rich still use Adobe Photoshop, mostly because of historical reasons, but the geeks and poorer amateur artists have been slowly gravitating towards this open-source tool.

But the bridge between the 2 softwares has been narrowing down. (See GIMP 2.6 released, one step closer to taking on Photoshop.) Though GIMP would like you to believe that they don't give a damn about the rivals, and whatever they do, it is to get closer their own product vision.

The Origins

GIMP was started as a image-manipulation project by two Berkeley students called Spencer Kimball and Peter Mattis. It was first meant as a university project. But it soon got larger, as most things do, when it hit the internet 6 months later. So here you had it, two developers with practically no image processing knowledge attempting to create a software which users could use to manipulate images.

For any software to survive, it needs to create a community. It is this community which supports each other, lobbies for updates and most importantly troubleshoot - debugs and improves the software. This tool was created in ways to engage the user community - it had an active plug-in system, so developers could make separate programs to add to GIMP without having to alter the main distribution. But they went a step further and actively engaged the developer community, creating a mailing list which allowed everyone to interact on an open forum. It was a success. The tool grew fast, improving with every iteration. Soon the list broke up into gimp-user and gimp-developer, differentiating between the back-end code and the image manipulation itself. This is key. For a tool to work, people need to be able to use it effectively. Just creating a bug-free tool isn't enough. You need to educate the public. And this endeavour was accomplished by people putting out tutorials and people sharing their artwork. On October 7th, 1997, two users, Karin Kylander and Olof S., announced the Gimp Users Manual.

GIMP initially used the commercial Motif widget library for the core windowing capabilities. This of course went against the ethos of the open-source movement. It eventually led to the creation of an independent, open widget set based on an open core drawing library - The Gimp Toolkit (GTK).

The Future
GIMP is primarily developed by volunteers. And for a software running on willing unpaid labour to succeed in a crowded marketplace truly makes this software special. It is released under the GNU General Public License (version three or later) as free software, and works with numerous operating systems, including GNU/Linux, Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows.

Hopefully this software will continue optimizing itself, and show the robustness of community networks in creating tools as compared to rival more centralized 'big-corporation' softwares.

The Mascot
Wilber is the official GIMP mascot, created by Tuomas Kuosmanen (tigert).
No one is quite sure what animal the mascot is supposed to be.

Further Links:
A Brief (and ancient) history of GIMP
The GIMP vs. Adobe Photoshop, or ``Davy and Goliath''
The GIMP Plug-In Registry allows authors to update their plug-ins, and people to register their plans for future plug-ins
Grokking the GIMP, by Carey Bunks

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Tribute to John McCarthy

John McCarthy (September 4, 1927 – October 24, 2011)

American computer scientist and cognitive scientist. Recipient of the Turing Award in 1971.Inventor of LISP. Coined the term "Artificial Intelligence".

LISP Programming Language
The second oldest high-level programming language. Originally created as a practical mathematical notation for computer programs, it soon became the favored language amongst the artificial intelligence community, due to the ease with which AI programs could be read.

McCarthy published the design of LISP in a paper in Communications of the ACM in 1960, entitled "Recursive Functions of Symbolic Expressions and Their Computation by Machine, Part I". He showed that with a few simple operators and a notation for functions, one can build a Turing-complete language for algorithms.

McCarthy championed mathematical logic for Artificial Intelligence. In 1958, he setup the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory with Marvin Minsky.
He was instrumental in the creation of time-sharing systems. He envisaged a time when we would have national grids, like water and electricity, which people could tap into for computer bandwidth.

He moved to Stanford and created SAIL (Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory), and for many years the two groups he had setup were friendly rivals as they went deeper and deeper into the field of AI.

McCarthy was passionate about AI. He believed it to be a goal of AI to solve real-world problems, like humans. And was disillusioned by the lack of ambition shown by researchers in the field. He compare the chess competitions between computers to geneticists designing fruit flies so they could race them in races.

This was a man who believed in technology and talked often about the sustainability of human actions. He genuinely believed that we could have material progress, while still not destroying ourselves in a stupid rage.

John McCarthy's Home Page
John McCarthy (1927 - 2011), Believer in Humanity

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A Tribute To Dennis Ritchie

Dennis Ritchie was one of the greatest computer engineers. Winner of the ACM Turing Prize in 1983 and the 1998 US National Medal of Technology, his work has probably created more jobs than anyone else in the past many decades.

C. It was his creation, alongside Kevin Thompson. Developed between 1969 and 1973 at Bell Labs, it is the most widely used programming language in the history of mankind. Its use is pervasive, and there is hardly any domain where C has or can not be used.

It was designed to be portable, and to work on any hardware. Programs that were written in C could run with little or no modification on any other computer that ran C. It was a massive leap in software engineering. It freed programmers up, especially in the early days of the 70's and 80's, when hardware and computer systems were in a state of constant flux.

And its a symbol of greatness when a programming language can remain relevant even 4 decades after its creation. It, and its variants, are used everywhere! As an electronics engineer, I cannot even hope to describe its importance in the world of embedded systems. It has sometimes even used as an intermediate language by implementations of other languages.
C++ and Java, say, are presumably growing faster than plain C, but I bet C will still be around.
- Dennis Ritchie

UNIX. He helped make it. It revolutionized the computer industry. The he remade it with C. Made it portable. Brilliant. Need I say more? Sigh

UNIX is basically a simple operating system, but you have to be a genius to understand the simplicity.
Dennis Ritchie

We need to remember that C and UNIX spawned a revolution in the computer industry. Every subsequent software owes something to these two. And no one can ever take that away from DR.

He was the truest of computer engineers. Intelligent, with enough brains to make lives easier for us dumber folks. And his death did come as a massive shock to me. The software industry all over the world owe enough to DR to award him every honour possible. Darn. And what made me sad was watching a world obsessed over Steve Jobs, a maker of shiny toys, while a true genius died in relative anonymity.
The world is unfair. Often.

Slashdot Comments - The true place to understand the pain software engineers feel at this news.

Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie. September 8, 1941–October 8/9, 2011
printf("Goodbye world.\n");

(Links to be updated in a while)

A non-updated version of his biography - Encyclopedia of World Biography - Dennis Ritchie
Dennis Ritchie, father of Unix and C, dies
Interview with Dennis M. Ritchie
The future according to Dennis Ritchie

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Dennis Ritchie - Creator of C dead at 70

Dennis Ritchie is dead, after a long battle against an unspecified illness. Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie. The man who created C with Kevin Thompson. Who helped develop UNIX. One of the greatest computer engineers ever.
And no newspaper cared to report it. I can find NO news articles about it anywhere.

The man who is responsible for pretty much most of the computer jobs all around us.

Sigh. I am sad.

Evidence : Rob Pike, co-creator of the Plan 9 and Inferno OSes at https://plus.google.com/101960720994009339267/posts/ENuEDDYfvKP?hl=en

As much as I might hate twitter, its the only reason why heard about this.
There is an epidemic out there. Tech revolutionaries dropping one at a time. Except this one is a little more brilliant than the last one.

Tribute to Dennis Ritchie - http://techretro.blogspot.com/2011/10/tribute-to-dennis-ritchie.html

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Living the Football Dream

Football Manager (formerly known as Championship Manager), a creation of Sports Interactive, is amongst the best selling games in PC history. With the last version (Football Manager 2009) selling over a million legal copies, and this estimated to being only 10% of the actual number of copies in play, this computer game has been a phenomenon of historical proportions.

It is a game with minimal graphics and absolutely no built-in storyline. A "blue sky" scenario with no end, where you choose to stay until you find the real world slipping by. You climb the ranks to become the greatest Football Manager your small virtual world has ever encountered, living through the ups and downs of the world of football. The agony of losing a match at the last minute paired against the joy of winning the trophy you just gave up a few hours of life to battle for.

This game has been revolutionary ever since its early Championship Manager days. Like most managerial strategy games, it has limitless potential to mimic and extend the real world. And like all good games, it allows you to play a character who makes decisions that matter. There have been a lot of games which have attempted to do the same, but Football Manager's greatest assets are the untiring unpaid scouts who research almost every country in the world to bring the game as close to reality as possible and a match engine that is as realistic as anything we have watched in real life. All the drama is well simulated. What started out as text commentary around a decade ago has now been extended to a realistic 3-D simulations bundled with a lot of statistics. From the attributes of many thousands of players, each with their own unique likes and dislikes, to every aggregated piece information you might need about how a team and its players are playing.

Once it has submerged you in a world that looks vaguely familiar, in your journey through time, you will discover that this is a world that has been modeled to reflect only the simpler parts of reality. A sanitized virtual world where you can live out your fantasies of control and victory. It combines the passion of football with the power of being a decision-maker, yet gives you enough flexibility to choose the level of micro-management.

he world you play in is dynamic. It grows and changes, vibrant with random events you have no control over. The players grow old and quit, even as new ones are born. The fortunes of individual clubs rise and fall, while the players go through their own individual careers. There are young players you can watch and sometimes guide into becoming world-class superstars. There are other names that soon fall into obscurity. Amidst all of this, you are the only constancy as you plot your own rise through the ranks from relative obscurity to a name that is respected by all the virtual denizens in these few megabytes of reality.

It is an art, to be able to combine simplicity with realism. The real world is often off-putting because things just aren't simple enough, and many games in their attempt to be realistic attempt to simulate this component in the virtual world. Thus even our fantasies of control are as complex and irritating as reality (Case in point - Civilization 3). Football Manager has succeeded in giving us freedom to choose our own paths, along with a lot of data and depth, without ever overwhelming us or complicating our alternate gaming realities

This is an ode to the most addictive computer game I have ever played, one that has already taken a substantial part of my life and shall continue to do so. We create the stories in this world just like we do in another game I am a fan of - The Sims. For now, I will attempt to lead Aldershot to Champions League glory - it has been a heroic struggle as these underdogs have climbed the ranks to now go head-to-head against the giants of European football.

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