Tag Archives: news

Music, The GNOME Music Player, Is Getting Smart New Features

gnome-music-appMusic, the GNOME music player that isn’t Rhythmbox, has been quietly progressing in the past few GNOME releases. The app now has a basic feature set that ticks all the right boxes, e.g. search, smart playlists, etc and is fronted by a modern interface that swaps chrome and clutter for instant usability. But the app is set to […]

The post Music, The GNOME Music Player, Is Getting Smart New Features was written by Joey-Elijah Sneddon and first appeared on OMG! Ubuntu!.

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GEGL gets mipmaps, 71 new image processing operations

GIMP’s new image processing engine got its first update in three years, and it’s so full of awesome you’d cry and demand GIMP 2.10 released right next to it.

Supernova GEGL operation in dev. build of GIMP

Supernova GEGL operation in development build of GIMP

A lot of work has gone into making GEGL faster. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the new version features major improvements such as:

Better thread-safety and experimental multithreading support. You can run e.g. ‘$ GEGL_THREADS=4 gimp-2.9’ from terminal window. But don’t expect this to automagically improve performance: it still needs a lot of testing, and developers are interested in thoughtful reports.

Experimental mipmaps support. If you are not familiar with mipmaps, here’s the basic idea. Instead of working on a huge image in its entirety, an application generates a smaller version of the original image and processes it for preview. While you are evaluating the preview, it silently chews the real thing in the background. Again, it’s an experimental feature currently not used by GIMP, whether it will prove to be GIMP 2.10 material depends on contributors activity.

New default tile backend writes to disk in a separate thread. This should make GIMP more responsive while saving/exporting files.

GEGL 0.3 also got 71 new image processing operations. Mostly they are ports of existing GIMP filters, and that automatically makes them eligible for the future non-destructive editing workflows. A lot of that work was done by Thomas Manni who is among the most silent and hard-working GEGL contributors of late.

However, porting GIMP filters to GEGL doesn’t necessarily end at writing a GEGL operation and compatibility code for GIMP to keep the operation accessible for plugins and scripts. Some GEGL filters like the Fractal Explorer have a lot of options, hence automatically generated user interface may simply not fit even a 4K display vertically.

Automatically generated UI for Fractal Explorer port on a 1920x1280 display

Automatically generated UI for Fractal Explorer port on a 1920×1280 display

To fix that one needs to write a custom user interface in GIMP. This started creeping into GIMP’s code base about a year ago. Diffraction Patterns operation is among notable examples of making a familiar interface with all the benefits of using GEGL tool’s skeleton, such as presets and live preview on canvas.

Diffraction Patterns has a compact custom user interface much like the original GIMP plugin

Diffraction Patterns has a compact custom user interface much like the original GIMP plugin

On a related note, one of slightly nerdy new features of this GEGL release is ‘ui_meta’. Basically, now GEGL operations can provide useful hints to GEGL-based applications about best ways to render user interface for various properties.

Here are just a few examples. If you want GIMP to display a rotary widget for the quick setting of an angle, you can add 'ui_meta ("unit", "degree")' to the property in question.

Rotary widget for quickly choosing an angle in development build of GIMP

Rotary widget for quickly choosing an angle in development build of GIMP

The (“unit”, “relative-coordinate”) meta will create a button next to input field, by clicking which you will be able to pick a relative position from your image, for example, the center for a Zoom Motion Blur effect.

Additionally, if there are two adjacent properties, where the first one has (“axis”, “x”) meta, and the other one has (“axis”, “y”), GIMP will create a chain button for these two values, so that you could e.g. lock ratio between the two values or keep them equal.

X and Y values can be locked to each other, and you can pick a relative position

X and Y values can be locked to each other, and you can pick a relative position

More work needs to be done on range of proprerties’ values exposed in user interface.

But wait, there’s more. Jon Nordby backported all the changes to GEGL he made while working on The Grid, an artificial intelligence based CMS that relies on GEGL for all image processing work. One of them is reading custom GEGL operations written as JSON files.

img_flo web app for creating node compositions with GEGL operations

img_flo web app for creating node compositions with GEGL operations

The idea is to reuse the concept of meta-operations already available in GEGL for a very long time. E.g. such a core filter as unsharp mask is actually a meta-operation that combines the use of several other operations: add, multiply, subtract, and Gaussian blur. You can create your own meta-operations of any complexity with img_flo web app, then use them from within GIMP.

Finally, just to avoid confusion, newly released GEGL 0.3 is not something you can “install” into existing stable version of GIMP and automatically get all the new features. It’s best to treat this as a foundation of what’s coming in GIMP 2.10 and beyond.

92 people contributed to making GEGL 0.3 happen, but there’s still plenty of contribution opportunities for everyone: porting more filters, improving default range of values, descriptions etc., making further performance improvements, adding new exciting features

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Siri Suggestions in iOS 9 Riff on Ubuntu Scopes

ios9 suggestions scopesWhether you watched the Apple WWDC keynote or not you’ll be wading through reaction to it for a good few days to come.  Take this post for example. But before you click the ‘x’ and run off note that we’re not here to bore you with a recap of the entire WWDC keynote for you. Nope, we want to […]

The post Siri Suggestions in iOS 9 Riff on Ubuntu Scopes was written by Joey-Elijah Sneddon and first appeared on OMG! Ubuntu!.

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Krita raises over €33,000 at Kickstarter

Earlier this week, Krita Foundation successfully raised the money to fund 6 months of work on the increasingly popular free digital painting application for Linux and Windows.

The campaign launched on May 4. Two weeks into the fundraiser, 643 backers brought €20K (the baseline for the project to succeed), then 322 more pledged another €10,520. Additionally, the team received €3,108 donations via PayPal and will use that money to work on features from the list of 24 stretch goals.

Much like last year, the team started working on some of the stretch goals already during the fundraiser: modifier keys for selections, stacked brushes, basics of memory management (reporting if you are about to overuse RAM). The upcoming stable v2.9.5 release will feature these an many other newly added features and fixes.

File size warning in Krita

File size warning in Krita

In the coming days developers will be processing submitted surveys from users who pledged €15+ and thus got the right to vote for stretch goals, then continue working on both core tasks — performance boost and animation — and the stretch goals.

Both Google Summer of Code projects — animation and tangent normal map brush engine — are being actively worked on. You read Jouni Pentikäinen’s blog to follow his progress on animation.

Meanwhile the team published several interviews with artists who depend on Krita in their work, including David Revoy. A longer and very insightful interview with David was also done by Erik Moeller; it focuses on topics such as art, merits of different licenses, crowdfunding models etc.

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First Ubuntu Phone with ‘Convergence’ Is Being Made by Bq

Ubuntu's plans have come a long wayThe first Ubuntu Phone that will be capable of turning into a desktop PC will be made by Bq. A tentative launch date of October 2015 has been set for the convergence device, though this is likely to changed depending on the state of ‘converged’ code within the Ubuntu OS itself. No pressure, developers! News of the device was […]

The post First Ubuntu Phone with ‘Convergence’ Is Being Made by Bq was written by Joey-Elijah Sneddon and first appeared on OMG! Ubuntu!.

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Anatomy of SourceForge/GIMP controversy

SourceForge, once the most popular and respected hosting for free/libre projects, is taking another self-inflicted reputation hit. The recent controversy involving GIMP is all about ethics, while on the SourceForge’s side it appears to be about money.

If you follow tech industry at all, you couldn’t have missed a slew of reports yesterday that SourceForge took control over abandoned gimp-win account where GIMP installers for Windows used to be distributed from, and started providing their own offer-enabled installers instead. Ars Technica did a nice coverage of that, but there is oh so much more to the story.

Offer screen

Screenshot of the installer, courtesy by Ars Technica

Obligatory disclaimer: being affiliated with the GIMP team, I’m naturally under suspicion of being biased, so if you find any of the claims below subpar to expected journalism standards, by all means, do use the comments section to point out mistakes.

How this became even possible

A fair question one might ask is how builds of GIMP for Windows ended up on SourceForge in the first place.

Historically the GIMP team has been somewhat relaxed in how 3rd party efforts were organized. E.g. the official user manual is still a semi-separate project, with its own Git repository, its own team, and its own release schedule. Similarly, both Windows and OS X builds used to be 3rd party contributions, both hosted at SourceForge, one built by Jernej Simončič, the other — by Simone Karin Lehmann.

Jernej recalls:

I started building the installers for GIMP in 2002, and I initially hosted them on the space provided by my then-ISP, Arnes. I moved away from them a few years later, and while I could probably have arranged with them to keep hosting the installers, I already had a SourceForge account, so using that seemed simpler. For a long time SF was the place for hosting binaries for open-source projects — nobody else had comparable infrastructure, when they offered file hosting at all.

This started changing in the recent years. The team began working with contributors more closely, e.g. pulling Mac-specific fixes from builds by Simone. The other related change, which is at the heart of this topic, was moving Windows installers from SourceForge over to gimp.org.

Why GIMP-Win left SourceForge in 2013

First of all, problems with SourceForge are older than some people might expect. At some point in mid-2000s, SourceForge stopped evolving as fast as it used to and focused on advertising-based revenue. This allowed them to go from $6mln in 2006 to $23mln revenue in 2009. But it also alienated free software developers due to poorer service quality. Various projects started moving away.

<!–

Among high-profile projects who began leaving SourceForge was Audacity, one of the most well-known free/libre audio editors. In 2009, Audacity team moved downloads over to Google Code and set up their own bugs tracker, then in 2010 they moved their source code repository to code.google.com. Today, like GIMP-Win, their account is officially controlled by SourceForge Editorial Team.

The primary reason for moving downloads? Context ads fine-tuned by scammers to pose as download buttons and trick users into downloading the wrong installer, typically containing malware. SourceForge had been long aware of Audacity team’s concerns, but did nothing to address this in a timely manner and only tried to make amends a year later when it was already too late.

The user experience was pretty much the same for GIMP users who went to SourceForge for downloads and ended up with something entirely different.

–>

Among the reasons — context ads on SourceForge download pages, fine-tuned by scammers to pose as download buttons and trick users into downloading the wrong installer, typically containing adware. GIMP users who went to SourceForge for downloads ended up with something entirely different.

Exhibit A:

My girlfriend downloaded the GIMP windows build referenced off the GIMP.org website and it seems to have a Malware/Adware package called “Sweetpacks” bundled with it. I realize that the Windows version of GIMP is linked with a “hey, this isn’t us” kind of disclaimer but the fact that GIMP.org links to it gives the sense that its contents are trustworthy or, at least, not hostile. If there is really no validation of that distribution and it contains these kinds of softwares then it may not be such a good idea to have GIMP.org linking to it.

Exhibit B:

When I downloaded this recommended free banner software from the help section, I also got a virus downloaded along with it called CLARO search engine. It will infect all your browsers and you will not be able to search on anything except this stupid Claro search. I had to uninstall all my browsers and switch back to IE instead of Chrome, because reinstalling Chrome still came with this insidious malware. DO NOT download GIMP.

Exhibit C:

I want to recommend GIMP to Windows using friends, but it is not supported officially for Windows. Even worse, the download link for the Windows build goes to an ad-driven filesharing site with ads masquerading as download buttons. A friend on mine clicked on one of these and her antivirus software went nuts! This is a serious problem! Is there anything we can do to help? Does anyone know the dev for the Windows build? I will not be able to recommend GIMP to Windows using friends until that problem is solved! :gaah

The stream of complaints kept on growing, and eventually it became impossible to figure out if users were talking about false positives (Kaspersky antivirus software used to be particularly bad at handling GIMP installers) or fake installers full of actual malware.

Where’s the money?

Over time the ads-based monetization strategy at SourceForge became increasingly aggressive. Seeing up to four 320×240 AdSense banners on a downloads page became the new norm for users. Despite introducing a reporting feature, SourceForge couldn’t prevent all malicious banners from displaying on their web pages.

Ads on SourceForge

Google AdSensense’s Ad placement policy: “Currently, on each page AdSense publishers may place […] up to three AdSense for content units”. There are four units here.

Nevertheless they continued with this strategy, and in 2013, SourceForge introduced a program of sharing revenue from ads with actual developers, to which the GIMP team initially agreed. Michael Schumacher, GIMP’s treasurer, explains:

The summary of their proposal is like this: “Hey, you are an active and popular project, if you link to your SourceForge downloads from your site, you will get money depending on the number of downloads”.

At some point the issue of those ads deceiving users just got unbearable, and we cancelled that, when we abandonded SF in 2013. Since GNOME handles our financial account, Karen Sandler, GNOME’s executive director at the time, was involved with this too. I told Karen that we’d return any of the money, if this was deemed appropriate. She didn’t tell me to do so.

On November 5, 2013, GIMP team issued an official announcement that they stopped hosting official downloads of Windows installers at SourceForge:

In the past few months, we have received some complaints about the site where the GIMP installers for the Microsoft Windows platforms are hosted.

SourceForge, once a useful and trustworthy place to develop and host FLOSS applications, has faced a problem with the ads they allow on their sites – the green “Download here” buttons that appear on many, many adds leading to all kinds of unwanted utilities have been spotted there as well.

But that was only the first reason. Here’s the other one.

The tipping point was the introduction of their own SourceForge Installer software, which bundles third-party offers with Free Software packages. We do not want to support this kind of behavior, and have thus decided to abandon SourceForge.

The team insists that this was intended as criticism on this approach, and that they explicitly stated that in their communication with SourceForge. This news was also duly noted in The Register’s coverage of the events, as well as at Slashdot which, like SourceForge, is also owned by Dice Holdings. In other words, the lack of team’s interest in providing offer-enabled installers was communicated both directly and publicly.

In their rebuttal, posted on November 14, 2013, SourceForge representatives stated this about the offer-populated installers:

This is a 100% opt-in program for the developer, and we want to reassure you that we will NEVER bundle offers with any project without the developers consent.

However various members of the GIMP team state that they explicitly opted out. In recent a Reddit thread Jernej Simončič, under the handle of ‘ender’, claims:

They offered us to bundle “offers”, which we specifically declined shortly before moving the installer to GIMP’s own servers.

Nevertheless, some time between November 2013 and now, SourceForge ignored that the GIMP team opted out of the offers program, took over the gimp-win account, and started distributing offer-enabled installer of GIMP, which at least one team member explicitly forbid them to do, and then they allegedly took all the revenue.

Exhibit D, from November 2014:

I went to SourceForge and tried to download GIMP twice and chrome would not allow the download because of MALWARE.

On May 16, 2015, Jernej Simončič sent the following request to SourceForge:

Please remove the gimp-win project from SourceForge. I do not want any kind of “offers” forced on the users of my installer, and if I knew this was going to happen, I would have shut down the project myself.

As of May 28, 2015, he reports he hasn’t heard back from them yet.

The best part comes now. First of all, the offensive installer has already been silently pulled off SourceForge, without any apologies. Secondly, in another official rebuttal posted on May 27, 2015, SourceForge says that they didn’t hijack the ‘gimp-win’ account, instead they “stepped-in to keep this project current” and “established a mirror of releases that are hosted elsewhere”. The mirrors were supposed to only store verbatim copies of all installers provided by the upstream projects.

They also made this very claim:

Since our change to mirror GIMP-Win, we have received no requests by the original author to resume use of this project. We welcome further discussion about how SourceForge can best serve the GIMP-Win author.

What it effectively means is:

  1. SourceForge had 11 days to reply Mr. Simončič’s request prior to their post in their blog on the controversy, and they allegedly haven’t done it so far.
  2. SourceForge claims to welcome further discussion, but doesn’t not participate in ongoing discussion, and comments on their blog appear to not get approved.
  3. The only way to get SourceForge to talk at all is raising public awareness at Reddit, HackerNews, followed by coverage in popular media like Ars Technica.
  4. Even then, SourceForge would talk to the media (see updates to Ars coverage), but would not talk to actual team members.

LGW ended up emailing these three questions to SourceForge:

  1. Could you please quote the part of the program’s conditions that allows bundling offers for software projects that opted out?
  2. How, in particular, was the decision made to bundle offers for gimp-win project without developers’ consent?
  3. Is it correct that in case of projects that opted out, any revenue from bundled offers goes to SourceForge/Dice only?

So far SourceForge’s team have been unable to come up with any reply at all.

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