Getting to know Linux [Ubuntu]

[I’ll be focusing on Ubuntu 10.4 with Gnome]

Linux will be frustrating at first for Windows and Mac users but it’s ok, the greatst journey it’s not the easiest journey.

So what are some basic things to get you going with Linux?

Most used applications/alternatives:

Windows Explorer / Find – Nautilus

Winamp or iTunes – Rhythmbox / Amarok

Internet Explorer / Safari / Opera / Firefox – Firefox / Opera

Windows Media Player / bsPlayer etc. – VLC or any frontend to MPlayer

Microsoft Office – Open Office (can edit MS Office files)

Yahoo Messenger / MSN Messenger / Facebook – Empathy / Pidgin

Skype – Skype for Linux or Empathy or Pidgin via plug-ins

Photo organize/view like ACDsee / Irfanview – F-Spot / g-thumb

Nero burning ROM – K3B / Brasero

Specific applications/alternatives:

  • The mighty and cried for Adobe Photoshop – The GIMP (it’s very powerful and if you’ve worked alot with Photoshop around version 7 and CS1, GIMP will be child’s play) – can edit .PSD files.
  • Corel Draw / Adobe IllustratorInkscape / Xara LT – can export / edit .CDR and .AI files.
  • Adobe Lightroom / Aperture – darktable (still in development but very very promissing)
  • MAYA, Softimage XSI, 3d Studio Max, Houdini, Lightwave, Cinema 4DBlender / Maya, Softimage XSI, Houdini and we hope for Lightwave CORE
  • AutoCAD – QCAD, VariCAD
  • Google Earth – Google Earth for Linux
  • Picasa – Picasa for Linux
  • There are many more Windows apps that can be run on Linux with WINE from www.winehq.org

You can do almost anything you can do on Windows or Mac OS with the same ease. One common thing to Mac OS is that it is build on Unix so the terminal (command prompt) and commands are the same like Linux.

Lots of people are scared about the Terminal and the fact that using Linux is like knowing tones of text based commands and arguments to do even simple tasks like watching a movie but this is not true; one thing i really don’t understand is that even now, on the internet, you will get instructions how to do tasks that you can do visually, only by Terminal.

I mean, why if you have a .targz archive, you open up Terminal (Linux Shell), navigate to the location or the archive using cd /path/to/archive and then doing tar [flags] [tar file], when you can simply open Nautilus File Browser, go to the folder wjere the archive is, right click and Extract Here.

Stay tuned …

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About Python programming language

There is a big growth in people adopting Python as a programming language for almost everything from simple scripts to applications to web programming to network programming and many more.

Now, Python is used for scripting in almost all great 3D animation and composition software, like Maya, Softimage XSI, Houdini, Blender, Nuke, Lightwave CORE (soon i hope) etc.

For starters, please go to www.python.org/about/  and read about Python to see if it’s for you.

I am just starting programming and i choose Python because:

  • it’s FREE and Open Source;
  • it’s very easy to learn, it has very clear syntax and reading a Python program is somehow similar to reading plain english;
  • it is used for scripting in major 3D and composition apps;
  • it’s dynamic, high-level, object oriented programming language (for newbies like me this line it’s translated as “modern”);
  • it has a huge user-base so you can find help/tutorials and example code very easy;
  • it’s platform independent so your Python programs will work on Windows, Mac an Linux;
  • it’s portable, just like Linux, people will install it if they could even on washing machines. Python is now ported on Symbian phones as PYS60.

Download Python (Try to stick to version 2.6.x) and use it if you want to:

  • learn programming
  • automate stuff, like, renaming 1000 photos in a directory or making back-ups of your hard-disk at different time frames
  • build applications (also with GUI – graphical user interfaces) and eve games
  • create web-sites with dynamic content
  • create a script to distribute rendering in a network of computers
  • build script/plugins for Maya, XSI, Houdini, Blender, Nuke
  • the list is limited only by your imagination

Next i will point you to where do i think, as a newbie, you have to go to get started with learning Python (i’m sure you can Google out the matter:) ).

Pipeline ideas (free/cheap ones too)

Maybe you are a freelancer, a hobbyst or even a small studio with a very tight budget and you are looking for free or inexpensive tools to get you started with 3D graphics/animation, whoever you are, maybe this post will help you. In fact i will list here also the commercial expensive 3D apps for the sake of making the article as complete as possible. I will try to differenciate on various Operating Systems but i have to tell you that having different OSes on different machines is a common practice.

DISCLAIMER: Maybe the list is not complete with all the possible piece of software out there; i will put the ones I think are the best, most feature rich, developed, used ones or the ones I heard of.

LINUX – FREE Solutions:

All in one:

Modellers:

Render engines:

LINUX – Commercial solutions:

All in one (from 1k up to around 8k):

You can make any combination you like, for example:

  • i model and UV in Wings 3D > Import for rendering in Blender or Kerkythea (for stills) or,
  • i model and UV in Wings 3D > Import in Houdini for rendering and animation.

Try the software you like, buy whatever you want, there are great tools out there and you know, the only limitation is your imagination :).

Have fun!!!

Blender Tip#2: Absolute beginner

This tip is not actually a tip, is a link to a website that can get you started with Blender in no time. I’ve used it and i can say that it was a boost in getting to know Blender.

http://blenderunderground.com

The tutorials are simple, clean and very well structured so i don’t wanna hear any complaints 🙂 … so go to work and have fun with Blender!

Blender Tip#1: Tip of the Tips

The first thing, and when i say first i mean the REALLY REALLY FIRST thing you have to know when working in Blender, is that:

SELECTING THINGS IS DONE WITH THE RIGHT MOUSE BUTTON.

The LEFT MOUSE BUTTON is used to place the CURSOR. The cursor is the little crosshair with a circle in the middle which appears in general at the origin of your scene (that’ s if you didn’t LEFT CLICKed all over the 3D view trying to select things:) )

Getting started with Blender

Blender is a FREE and Open-source, 3D Animation Package. Being free and open-source will not make it a weak software, in fact it’s tools are very modern, easy to use and competitive.

Some may not agree and will add the fact that Blender has the worst interface of all the 3D Packages but that changed dramatically with version 2.5.

Blender can do out of the box:

  • Modelling – very modern tools, including Proportional Modelling and Sculpting;
  • Texturing  (including UV mapping, Nodes)
  • Realistic lighting and rendering
  • Animation (NLA with Graph Editor (IPO Editor) and Dope sheet; in 2.5 almost everything can be animated via Right-click on the interface)
  • Compositing (Nodal based system)
  • Hair
  • Soft body and Rigid body dynamics
  • Fluid simulation
  • Smoke (including volumetric)
  • Scripting (with the ever growing in popularity Python)
  • Games, yes, Blender has an internal Game Engine.

As for plugins, i really recommend Yafaray and Luxrender two great rendering engines. I think that the native Blender rendering engine is not very good and i think a great replacing alternative to be Yafaray. Luxrender is a physically and unbiased rendering engine, and the rendering times can grow very fast, so you may use it for final photorealistic renders. Try both and see what is it you’ll like.

Blender is a great piece of software, and with the latest 2.5 version, the interface barriers are now gone. Please check out www.blender.org as well as the Open Movie Projects: DurianBig Buck Bunny and the Open Game Project Yo Frankie! to see how far can you go in Blender.

Pros:

  •  it’s FREE, very good for low budget free-lancers and 3D companies.
  • it’s open-source meaning that you can modify or extend the code to suit your neads. Also the comunity is very active and people develop plugins and scripts.
  • great tools and very competitive.
  • Integrated Compositor.
  • Import/Export from/to many file formats.

Cons:

  •  Workarounds to make some things done.
  • Prior to 2.5, the interface was horror for the average 3D package user, not impossible to learn but slow learning curve.