Sidux is an operating system based on the Linux kernel, Debian's most modern branch (called "Sid") and many free and open source applications. Our thanks to Klaymen for allowing us to feature sidux Linux's small but very talented art team and giving us an insight into the process of sidux graphics art design and development. We hope you enjoy the interview.Tell us about sidux Linux.
Sidux is my favourite linux operating system I've used to date. I come from a heavy Windows background, and it is very hard to shift all of your skills accross to a new platform. What makes this transition easy with sidux is that the key things which trip up new users, Live CDs, Installing to hard disk and software updating and drivers, are handled very well, and the community is so strong and present that even if you do have an issue, and this can't be found in the (amazing) manual, the community help you can recieve is incredible. I've had several friends stick with sidux solely because of the community aspect. One friend in particular was trying to get his wireless card working in his netbook, on the irc channel, people were fighting to be the one to help him!Please introduce the members of sidux that are involved in the graphics artwork of the distro. Do those contributing artists have any formal training in graphics art? Who or what influenced you to get involved?
As of this release, the members mainly consist of "Cleary" and myself. The art team was much larger in the past, in terms of the list of names involved, however in terms of actual contribution the team has always been quite small. I don't believe Cleary has any formal graphics training, and I don't have any myself. I got involved in graphics after being employed by the marketing department at a university for photography, and then I moved into a designer role.What other Linux distros have you done work for? Are there any Linux groups you've contributed artwork to?
No other distributions, aside from adjusting wallpapers for sidux' "seminarix" which is an Education focussed sidux based distro. Sidux has been my first linux and open source involvment.What drew you to sidux?
As mentioned in the first question, the community is what made me stick. But in terms of my first involvement, this was thanks to Cleary. I had used linux Os's in the past, mainly Red Hat and Debian, but only in a capacity for getting other work done. I'd never contributed before, Cleary demonstrated sidux for me, and although most of the features are available in other Linux distributions, having someone demonstrate the key features honked me in straight away. I was on my way re-building all of my computers to sidux and trying to learn as much as possible, getting into trouble with incorrect procedures I dist-upgraded in X for several months before a catastrophic failure! It wasn't for several months after my initial
tinkering with sidux that I started contributing release art.
What are your favorite Linux graphics software programs?
While my background in Windows based graphics was primarily photo re-touching for magazine publications, and only dabbling in vector based artwork, my usage on linux is basically 100% vector based, I'm obsessed with the fact that an image can be written as source code (and therefore easily licensed under standard Open Source licenses.)
My weapon of choice is Inkscape, and that is basically all I use. Along with some nice perl scripts that another sidux contributor (bfree) creates to streamline processing of images (another wonderful thing about Inkscape - Command line usage, you can accomplish so much without the GUI). Inkscape is great for SVG work. The following tasks are an example workflow of what can be accomplished with the SVG files by themselves: Lets say I make several items for a release of sidux, KDM Login themes, KSPLASH, and wallpaper. Lets say they are all in a blue theme. In traditional raster design, I would need to re-do these images from the source and use the GUI to change the colour. With SVG artwork, If I want to change all items that are blue to red, I can use something like sed to do a find and replace for blue color codes and switch them with red colour codes. and this can be processed on a directory of thousands of SVGs within a matter of seconds. I could never do that with most other vector based illustration programs, e.g. illustrator.Does the general community contribute artwork and how does input from the community figure into the final decision on what artwork will be used? Who has the last word on design and artwork?
The sidux approach is that if users want to contribute they need to let us know and start contributing! The forums have an open-to-all users Artwork section where anyone can post their suggestions and feedback, and there is also the #sidux-art IRC channel on OFTC.net and finally the SVN repository at https://developer.berlios.de/projects/fullstory
that contains the current and previous artwork in source form, and is open to browsing and checkout by anyone. If the user shows that they are commited and willing contribute, they only need to ask. Anyone can drop in at any point and begin helping. It's very easy! Ease aside, this seems to be a difficult task for a lot of people. While they are happy to critise or compliment artwork (sometimes to the point of creating conflict in the community) These people are rarely able to actually contribute. It is one thing to say that artwork is 'horrible' or 'great', but offering advice on ways to change or improve this artwork seems to be above a lot of people. We try to encourage good and bad feedback as this is the only way to improve.
As far as community feedback figuring into the final decisions, we don't have enough time or resources to create several
themes and then do a poll for example. But we do encourage people to check out the SVN and see what is being worked on at the moment, if they have any ideas then let us know. Also, when a Preview release of sidux comes out, it typically will have near-to or complete artwork. this is a good time to get feedback on the whole package of artwork, and still have time for tweaks. A good example is our latest release, (at the time of writing 2009-03 'momos') was a bit late due to some incoming package issues in debian sid, and we released a preview ISO for download. The feedback on the artwork was excellent
so there was no need for us to change. However if the feedback had been overwhelmingly negative we definately would have looked at a re-design.
Generally the final say on artwork (in my limited time on the team) will follow a process similar to this. We will create something, lets say a wallpaper for this example, while working on it we will be generally providing links to examples on IRC and getting feedback as we work. When it gets to a point that the feedback is positive, we will leave that in it's current state and begin working on another item (I personally then use that wallpaper or theme for a few weeks to to make sure i am happy with looking at it every day!). It will then sit in that state until the release is being packaged. If anyone along the way finds any problems with it, then we will look at changing it.
Generally the combined opinions of the community have the final say. Users need to get involved more, as most of the feedback we get is from the developers (obviously as this is the 'face' of their work) but it would be good to get more from the wider community. Creating a channel for user feedback to artwork pre-release is something that I am personally trying create. As said before, time for creating several variations is often not available. I'm planning on providing posts to the sidux blog mid-way through artwork design to show the current work in progress for those that dont know how to check out the SVN, and guage reactions that way. Once again its a matter of time available.As operating systems evolve so does their artwork. In what direction or development would you like to see your artwork go pertaining to the future of sidux?
I would like it to continue to evolve, but I would also like it to slowly develope into its own natural 'standard'. Consistency is incredibly important and to-date the art work has not been very consistent - this could be said to be the nature of sidux, being based on debian-sid. But i would like to see consistent standards, no matter how small. Expectations of users of an operating system need to be set and the most 'visible' expectation you can set is the artwork. There are distributions that people use solely because of the artwork, they don't care about the underlying OS, it's just "pretty" which is a good example of setting the user expectations - As long as they keep pumping out the amazing artwork, users will keep coming. I want to move into a process where the user's expectations of artwork are set and then continue that way.Any thoughts on current ease of use of Linux graphics software. What improvements or changes would you like to see made?
User Education! The most important thing. The first time I used a linux graphics application, i didn't even give it five minutes because it was too frustrating. I was so set in my ways that I thought the applications should do things the way I want them to, its a natural thing to expect this. Users need to understand that although the processes may be different, the benefits are incredible. They will quickly learn how the tools work and then never turn back. "apt-get install Photoshop" isn't ever going to happen. But for example with sidux, I can be up an running in minutes on any pc in the world. No lugging around CD's and DVDs with me, no keeping the licence keys safe. A one-line command can have my design environment setup. Amazing! In this example there needs to be no improvement to the program itself, just the user education, they need to know that - Yes! it is that easy!
There are a lot of new distros popping up every week. Is there any advice you'd pass on pertaining to the graphics art side of distro building?
Think about what your distro represents and then come up with a theme based on that. A distribution such as BackTrack for example, wouldnt really work with a graphics theme that involved mainly flowers and angels and rainbows and unicorns would it? Represent what your distribution is by changing the face of it. And try to be consistent. The sooner you can
decide on your base guide-lines for artwork, the better.
If someone wants to get involved with sidux artwork where would they go?
Mainly, go to the forums - http://sidux.com/module-PNphpBB2.html
, and go to the artwork section. Or PM me on the forums. But for the most direct interaction, jump onto the the IRC server and chat to one of us directly. the server is irc.oftc.net and the room is #sidux.Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Just a thanks for giving me the opportunity to provide some information about how sidux-art works.