Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

10/18/2019

AI Art Generator

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun and Games,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Surrealism at its most tech?

Maybe.
Artificial intelligence is all the rage these days, especially the newish “generative adversarial network” variety. Generative adversarial networks, or “GANs”, really came to public attention, and mine, with the This Person Does Not Exist website that generates uncomfortably believable portraits based on machine learning through observation of other photos. It’s fascinating, but also a little disturbing.
Now, with the same technology, you can make art that is unique and based on computer generated output from a GAN at Artbreeder. Artbreeder makes more than portraits and can generate landscapes, creatures, albums covers and, yes, portraits. It can be totally random, or you can combine things from a list of photos or, for some options, change settings to effect the outcomes. It is free, but you’ll have to make an account that’s connected to an email address. And, you’re restricted to 25 downloads. The landscapes and portraits are the best, though, if you’re wanting to make a kind of abstract monster, that comes out well, too. You can see some of the things I’ve created at my profile page, but I definitely encourage you to set up a free account and play with it yourself.
It’s a fun, if surreal, way to waste a little time on a Friday afternoon.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

5/24/2019

Lightroom Masterclass

Filed under: Art,Fun,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Finally learn Lightroom!

Remember last week, how I was saying that I used Lightroom more than Photoshop? There’s a reason for that. Actually, there are several reasons, but the big one is that Lightroom is actually made specifically for photographers. For most of us, it has the basic tools that non-techs would want to have to quickly edit our photos. Granted, I am, actually, a computer geek, but I generally don’t want to spend hours and hours of my non-work time in front of a computer. (Yes, I do see the irony of that statement one a blog/website, but, still…) In any case, Lightroom lets you quickly get just enough editing to make good photos a LOT better. But, it only does that if you know how to use it. Personally, I hate spending money on training, if I can help it, but, sometimes, I have to admit that it’s good to see the industry accepted way of doing things with software. So, all of that is to say that this week, thanks to PetaPixel, again, I’m bringing you a link to a 30-minute Masterclass in Lightroom by Mango Street. They really cram in a lot of information in that 30 minutes, too! But, trust me, it’s all great training, even if it goes a little fast for someone who hasn’t used Lightroom much. Good news, though, you can go to the Mango Street YouTube channel for all their other tutorials where you can get a bit more in depth and get more tutorials about other aspects of photography, too.
It is all free, and all very good info, so go check it out!
Then, after you get inspired, go out and shoot some fresh photos to test out your new editing skills!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, my very personal blog.

5/17/2019

Quick Photoshop Tutorial

Filed under: Art,Fun,GUI Center,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Selecting edges is hard!

As a professional computer geek and an amateur photographer, everyone expects me to to know Photoshop like a graphic designer. The truth is, though, I enjoy photography because it gets me out from behind the computer. I really spend more time making the photo in the camera than I do editing it afterwards. Oh, sure, I do pull all my images into Lightroom to clean up the exposure and colors a bit, but I rarely do more than that. Unless it’s a little cropping.
But, a couple of jobs ago, I did find myself doing a significant amount of editing for the company website. Usually, that meant cutting out some one of the company products and putting on a better background or no background at all. I hated it. I hated it because selecting fine edges was incredibly hard for me. It was super tedious and if I ever hit something like hair, well, let’s just say I was glad to be working in a mostly industrial environment.
Of course, the truth is that I wasn’t using all the selection tools to their greatest effect. If only I had been following PetaPixel back then, so that I could have possibly found their 1 minute tutorial on using Photoshop’s refine edge brush! Wow! What a huge help that would have been!
So, in the spirit of helping my fellow geeks, because who else would be reading this blog on a Friday, enjoy!
Seriously, it really is only a minute and it will help you tremendously with your selections in Photoshop. And, if you like that, there’s a whole Definitely worth checking out.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

4/26/2019

Government Sponsored Font

Filed under: Art,Fun,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Your tax dollars at work for better design!

No, seriously, this is actually US tax dollars working to develop a “better” font. Not even kidding.
Believe it or not, there’s a little something called the United States Web Design System that’s collaborative team specifically started to “…make it easier to build accessible, mobile-friendly government websites for the American public.” And, as it turns out, they have some resources that might be helpful for non-governmental web designers, too. One such is a simple font called Public Sans, which they call “A strong, neutral typeface for text or display.” Which it is, actually. It can be downloaded from their GitHub page, which further describes the font as “principles-driven” and “open-source”. It’s also a fairly nice, and free, change from Helvetica. Oh, and it includes webfonts, so you can, in fact, use it to unify your on-line and off-line branding identity.
And, again, all freely available and all brought to you, one way or another, by the United States of America Federal Government.
Sometimes, the government really IS here to help!

Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

1/18/2019

More Free Alternatives

Filed under: Art,Better Living Through Technology,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I’m tired and lazy, but it’s Friday, so here’s a post for you.

The brave few who are regular readers here know I dig free software. I also have had aspirations of being a bit of an artist, writer and photographer. Sadly, I was more devoted to eating well and living comfortably than I was any art, so I didn’t get too far. But, as I get older, I also get cheaper and less willing to spend money on hobbies, which often leads me to seek out free software.
Anyone who’s done any serious computer graphics work knows that Adobe has some of the best software available. In fact, I actually subscribe to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan. I wasn’t a huge fan of the subscription model, but getting the latest version of Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99 a month is actually a pretty good deal. Still, there’s a lot more that I wouldn’t use as often and therefore I’m not quite as willing to pony up the steep prices to get. For that, I’m back to my old quest for free software. Thankfully, David Murphy at Lifehacker has compiled the super useful 27 Free Alternatives to Adobe’s Expensive App Subscriptions. He’s done all the leg-work for you. I can’t vouch for all his choices, but for years I used GIMP instead of Photoshop, because it was free.

In any case, it’s been a busy week, for reasons I hope I can reveal soon, and I just haven’t had time to give you more than this simple link. Also, this week the link should actually work, unlike last week when Scrivener added some extra characters to the link code making an endless loop. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Scrivener for writing, but blog posts need clean code and text and until I figure out how to make that more seamless, I’ll use a text editor for blog posts before they go up.
Oh, and I did go back and fix those links from last week if you want to check out the incredible animated GIFs.

 

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

1/11/2019

Advanced Animated GIFs

Filed under: Art,Fun,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:22 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Let’s not get into a discussion of how to pronounce “GIF”.

All I’ll say is that the creators of the format pronounced it like the peanut butter brand.
Either way, my purpose this week is to share two things from the same source. First, there’s the super cool, trippy animations from Etienne Jacob, aka Necessary-Disorder.

An animated GIF from Etienne Jacob, aka Necessary-Disorder

Just look at that incredible GIF. It repeats, but it seems to just run endlessly. It’s amazing. Hit the linked site for more of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, if you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, head over to his other site necessary-disorder tutorials where the young Frenchman shares his process and tools for making these amazing works of animated art.

Another animated GIF from Etienne Jacob, aka Necessary-Disorder

I’d share more, but it’s been a crazy couple of weeks at work and I’ve been super busy there, and on a little something I’m keeping under wraps for now. Hopefully, though, there will be some good news to share with you, dear blog readers, before the end of the month.

9/30/2018

DIY Pop Art Prints

Filed under: Art,Fun,Stimulus and Production,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:43 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Like Andy Warhol, but that match your decor.

If you don’t know who Andy Warhol is, this post may not make sense to you. Also, you may not be old enough to be reading my blog. Seriously, though, if you don’t know who he is, please, for the love of art, go look him up.
One of the many things I enjoy about Andy Warhol is that he supported himself and his art via work in advertising. Even well after he was a well-known and successful artist, he kept up his advertising work. I suspect that, like many artists, the regular job provided a sense of security. Either way, he made some of the most incredible modern art. In fact, even if you’re somehow not familiar with the artist, you’ve no doubt seen his Campbell’s Soup Can work, or something that riffs off of it. Or, you’ll have seen some of his other prints, like Marilyn Monroe or the arguably better known Chairman Mao. Those prints all derive from silk screen work that, while complicated to do in his style, is actually a technique well within the grasp of the motivated hobbyist. As a kid I remember watching my older siblings silk screening t-shirts.
And that’s why, this week, I’m sharing Watch how to make prints like Andy Warhol from Boing Boing. At that link you’ll find a really good tutorial on doing just that. It’s only about five minutes long, and obviously only a start on actually doing this entire process, but it’s well worth the look. And, I even know, personally, at least one current artist who’s using this method to produce work, so it’s definitely still viable!
Go check it out and maybe give it a try this weekend!

10/27/2017

NaNoWriMo Prep – Templates and Worksheets

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Trying to get all your ideas and characters organized for National Novel Writing Month? I can help!

It may not always be obvious, especially to those closest to me, but I love being organized. What’s probably more obvious is that I played a lot of role-playing games growing up. I think it’s safe to say almost every hopeful writer or professional geek my age or younger played Dungeons and Dragons, or something similar. But, for me, the best part of that was always before the game started when we were making characters and filling out their character record sheets. I absolutely loved thinking about all the things they might buy at the market for use in surviving their adventures. And, along with that, describing their looks, their clothes, their family relationships and other background details. Not everyone did all of that, but, like I mentioned, it was just about my most favorite part. And, now, it’s one of my favorite parts of writing. Unfortunately, it can also become one of my favorite distractions from actually writing. Don’t let that happen to you! But, also, as you’re planning your novel, it’s good to try and think about who’s going to be in it, what they’re going to do and where they’re going to do it. So, toward that end, I’ve got some, hopefully, fun novel planning worksheets, or “printables” as the fancy kids call them these days, for you.
First, from the All Freelance Writing website, I’ve got an article by Jennifer Mattern which collects her favorite Novel Planning Tools and Worksheets. It’s a short list, but it’s also a great place to start if you’re just looking for the bare minimums to get you started.
Much more complete is the list of links gathered by Eva Deverell in her Creative Writing Worksheets post. Frankly, it’s a pretty complete list and you could stop there without worrying about missing out on anything, even if you do have to chase them to all their respective sites.
If you’re a more visual guy, like me, then maybe you should try this collection of “pins” at Pinterest titled “Novel Writing Worksheets”. It’s got a lot of “printables” besides the planning worksheets that might help, especially if you find yourself needing a little help creatively in a crunch.
My personal favorite, however, is the group of Evernote templates for planning your novel (or story) at the Evernote blog. I’m 99% sure I’ve mentioned these before, but they’ve updated them and added a few. If you use Evernote to plan and organize any other aspect of your life, I highly recommend that you take a look at these templates. They’re really well done and should cover any creative writing need. Seriously.

The next question is, of course, what are you going to use to actually write your novel?
If you go with Word, William Shunn has some free, downloadable templates that will let you get started with a pretty standard manuscript format. If you like Word, but don’t want to pay Microsoft for it, check out Libre Office instead. It’s a free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office and it includes a very good replacement for Word called Writer. And, I even have a basic manuscript template you can download and use for Libre Office Writer, also free.
If you want to get fancier, there are a lot of alternatives, but Scrivener is specifically written for fiction writers and is often offered at a discount to people attempting NaNoWriMo. And, while I have absolutely nothing against the creator of Scrivener, there is a free, open source alternative called Plume Creator. I don’t have any real experience with either of these, but I always favor the free, open source alternatives whenever possible.

For myself, while I used to mostly work in whatever word processing package I was currently using, I’ve gone to pretty much only using straight text. I made that change for a number of reasons, but I was heavily influenced by an email exchange I had with Steven Brust about his writing tools. I was surprised to find out that he wrote exclusively in emacs. I found out after a bit of digging around that he’s not the only one. Vernor Vinge, a brilliant science fiction author, also uses emacs to write his fiction, though it’s less surprising to me since he also teaches computer science at the collegiate level. So, now, while I’m still working on the actual text, I just use my favorite text editor, which in my case is the same tool I use to write Perl code and edit server scripts and web pages, UEStudio, which is an extension of UltraEdit, a tool familiar to serious programmers. Incidentally, keeping everything in straight text with out any formatting not only limits distractions, but makes for the most compatibility between systems, which, ultimately, is why I decided to make that change.

This post originally appeared at the Fantasist’s Scroll.

7/7/2017

Free Stock

Filed under: Art,Fun,On Creativity,Photography,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Regular readers know how I love free.

Okay, look, I put this stuff out there week after week and I’m honestly not even sure that anyone ever reads this at all. I don’t know, maybe I just do it to keep the search engines happy, or maybe just out of habit. Worse, maybe I just keep doing it because to stop would mean that this blog and site are meaningless and so is my entire life. Yeah, so best not to think about that and keep posting. Besides, even if I just keep posting this stuff so that I can find it for my own, personal use later, that’s reason enough.
So, in that spirit, I’ve been thinking about my sad and inadequate graphic design skills and how to improve them. Naturally, as a blogger and WordPress user, I thought I might try, yet again, to make a custom theme. Specifically, a prettier child theme of the default twenty-seventeen theme that comes with WordPress. Naturally, I’d want to pretty that up a bit more than I normally do, which means adding graphics. And, until I get better at all that actual graphic stuff, that means I’d use some stock graphics. But, since I’m a cheapskate and a skinflint, according to my ex-wife, I went hunting for free stock sites. I found three that I liked. Or, I found one and then two sites that are either a list of free stock sites or an aggregated search of free stock sites.
The first is a list of 25 “sublime” sites to download free stock images by Sitepoint. And they are 25 great links to great stock photos.
The second is an aggregated stock photo search engine, that also lists some other sites, called furiouscamera.com. Their search is pretty good, though obviously limited, and will also include non-free images, for which they get a percentage, I assume, so watch what you try to use. Still, my searches brought up a good selection.
The third link actually started my search, though it’s also found in the list at furiouscamera.com and is AllTheFreeStock, but it also has a whole lot more there for you, like brand style guides and SEO tools and more. I listed it last because, frankly, there’s so much there it’s kind of overwhelming. If you’re a designer, though, especially for the web, it’s definitely worth a look.

So, there you go. Free stock graphics and photos for your work.
Come back next week to see if I delve even deeper into my existential fears and trauma!

This post first appeared on Use Your Words.

5/12/2017

Character Records

Filed under: Fun,On Creativity,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Keeping your dramatis personae straight can be a chore.

Back in the day, when I played Dungeons and Dragons, my favorite part of the game was creating characters. I know, it’s weird, but, there it is. I don’t know what it was about filling out the forms, either the ones we created or the fancy pre-printed ones you could buy, that used to entertain me so, but it did. It’s funny, because I don’t like filling out other kinds of forms, but I do still get nostalgic about character record sheets. Years later, when computers became an essential part of role-playing games, there were even programs that did most of that work for you. I enjoyed them, too, even though I had stopped playing years before. There’s something about codifying and quantifying an imaginary character that just appeals to me, I guess.
That odd propensity carries over a bit into figuring out characters for fiction. Though, I have to admit, I tend to do more character generation than actual story-telling, too. It’s a bad habit, I suppose, but one I’m happy to encourage in others.
And, that brings me to the links I’m sharing with you, dear readers, this week.
First, there’s the Character Chart from Rebecca Sinclair. It’s a good, complete informational form to fill out so that you can get to know your characters in detail. Even if you never use them in your story, knowing the details of a character makes them feel more real to you, and your readers. A better version, in my opinion, of that chart, is the downloadable, fillable character chart, which takes that questionaire and makes it a fillable PDF form. It’s pretty excellent.
And, since a character’s starting equipment was always one of the most important, and fun, things to work out, I whipped up the Random Fantasy Pocket “Liter” Generator and, for more modern settings, the Random Daily Carry Generator. These also feed into some of my favorite kinds of stories, wherein the protagonist finds themselves in the thick of the action, in media res, if you will, and only has what they’re carrying on them at the moment to survive their adventure.
And, finally, the oddball link. This is really meant, I think, for genealogists, but if you’re writing a sweeping epic and need to keep track of an extended family, the Family Echo family tree creator is a nifty free tool to help you out. If you want to save your trees, you need to make an account, but the hassle may just be worth it to keep track of your fictional family.

So, there you have it. A somewhat random collection of writing links for your Friday fun. And forgive me if that doesn’t work for you, but my wife and I are closing on our mortgage refinance today, so I’m a little distracted.
Enjoy your weekend and I’ll see you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

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