Now That You Have The New PC, What Do You Do With The Old One?

No, I don’t need it.

Well I mean, if it’s something really cool like a Mac Book Air, or a Thinkpad Yoga or something like that I could easily find a home for it here, but that’s not what I’m getting at.

So you had a computer for a while.  I don’t mean a tablet.  Tablets are their own weird problem.

A Laptop or Desktop Windows PC.  For sake of discussion.

And this is not meant to be comprehensive.  There are too many different vendors of computers, there are Macs, there are different places to keep the “original discs”.. you get the picture.

If you really need someone to hold your hand while doing this, you may want to consider finding someone nearby.  I’ve done this a number of times, and it is safe to do, but I am in South Florida and I have my own rates that I charge for this kind of service.

Advertisements aside….

You used the old PC for years.  I have a friend who had an old machine he just upgraded that he used for 10 years.  He’s lucky he could keep it going that long.  But normally people use their main computer for 2 years or maybe 3.

You get used to its quirks, it’s current operating system, it’s way of storing files, its noisy fan, that sort of thing.

I keep hearing the story of people that take the hard drive out of the machine and throw it out, or they just roll it into the hall closet and try to forget about it.

Some homes have three or four computers that way.

No.  Just stop.  Someone else could use that machine anyway, especially if it is a Core 2 Duo or newer machine.

First of all, you need some of those files.  They’re typically under a few specific spots.

Open your File Manager: Start,  “This PC”  on Windows 8/8.1 or “My Computer” under Windows 7.

I wish they’d stop renaming things, it doesn’t help.

The things you normally need are in places that are listed:  Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, and Pictures.  If you are someone like me who goes and puts things in places that mean something to “ME”, you will know where they are.  I can’t tell you where that is from here, you’ll have to search for them yourself.

But Windows has for years kept things in specific folders where it wants you to save things.  If you followed Windows’ lead, then that does make life easier. 

You will need to copy those folders off.  Use an external hard drive, about $50, and copy the lot onto the drive.  If you know how to share the computer and the hard drive across the network, you probably know more than what you’ll get out of this article.  At that point you can copy the folders across the network.

Yes, you are already on a network since you are most likely on wifi and reading this here.  But hopefully you’re at home.

At any rate, copy those files back onto the new machine in the same fashion and in the same folders.  When you are done, delete them from the old computer.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily “clean” the computer.  What that did was to remove the pointer.  What everyone is afraid of is someone getting the computer and grabbing the data that was on it before.  The easiest way to fix that is to write over the data. 

There’s a middle step here that makes life easier.  If you created the original “Install” DVDs or have a way to “Set the Computer Back To Factory Settings”, do that now.  Your computer will go back to the way it was when you first plugged it in.  That doesn’t clear out your empty space, but it does delete everything and makes it all fresh and new.  It also is a one way trip and you can’t go back.  This is a bit of a shortcut since it makes space that needs to be cleared, and it also gets rid of your data.

Once you have done that, you need to clear all that extra space.

An automatic solution is one of those programs that writes “nulls” to the hard drive.  There are quite a few of them and many are free. 

This one, DP Shredder will simply delete files or folders, and there’s a handy little button that will let it clear out the free space on the hard drive, including the space you just made by deleting files.  He wrote the software correctly since it is a rare thing these days.  It is portable and does not require an install.  However it does come in a “.7z” extension which means that first you need a program to extract that.  You can install the 7-Zip program which is free, and extract the DP_Shredder.exe to run the program. 

Now that you ran DP Shredder, and that literally took hours I’m sure, your computer is cleared of your private data.

You can safely give the computer to the charity of your choice, the kid next door, or anyone you choose.  Your old data is gone.

Removing Smooth Scroll and other Tweaks in Windows 7

After setting up my computer with Windows 7 I noticed that there were a few basic things that I’d qualify as being “Annoyances” that really are “eye candy”.  The biggest one for me is something called “Smooth Scroll”. 

Smooth scroll in Windows is where you’re looking at a document and hit a Page Down or Page Up key.  What happens is that instead of it snapping to the next page, it scrolls down smoothly in something that looks like you’re reading something on a roll of paper that someone is pulling away or towards you.

In my case, it just seems unnatural and slightly nausea inducing.   Seeing that one of my favorite things in life is a Rollercoaster, I’m not saying this lightly.

Here’s how I set the computer up to get rid of Smooth Scroll plus a few video tweaks.  I hadn’t turned all the eye candy off.  As you can see in the picture, I still have Aero Glass turned on.  I’ll leave eye candy on when it serves a purpose, and the effect seems to work for me.

  1. Click Start and select Control Panel.
  2. I suggest you select “View By: Large Icons”.  Makes life easier to find things when they’re not stuck together in categories.  Besides, that’s how I find things.
  3. Select System.
  4. Select “Advanced System Settings”.  This is on the list at the upper left.  You will see a pop up telling you if you really want to do this, you need to be an Administrator.  You do.
  5. Under the System Properties, select the Advanced tab.
  6. Under Performance, Click on the Settings button.

Your screen should look like the picture below.

You can take my word for it, if you select things like in that list, you’ll be on your way, but I will explain specifically what you want to do here.

  1. The first three check boxes are to turn off animations in windows.  I find them unnecessary and not having them will make your machine seem faster.
  2. The second three check boxes are to turn on Aero Glass and Aero Peek.  I like them, you may not.
  3. The next five buttons I turned off.  The fade effect irks me because it feels like it’s slowing the computer down just to get things done.  Task bar effects I personally never found useful and the shadow under the mouse pointer has been shown to slow down your video card.
  4. Shadows Under Windows helps me to tell where one window starts and ends, but at a performance hit on the video.
  5. Thumbnails instead of Icons, will search a folder and try to present you with what the item actually is, but it is a performance hit when you open a large folder.  Your choice.
  6. Translucent Selection Rectangle is a help when you do a lot of cut and paste, as I do.
  7. Show Window Contents While Dragging is one of those things that I keep on because the alternative is to just show a selection rectangle while you’re moving windows.  Your choice.
  8. Slide Open Combo Boxes is another one of those things I don’t see the point of, you may.  It feels like it slows down the computer to me.
  9. Smooth edges of Screen Fonts is important if you do a lot of word processing and composition like I do.  I personally prefer it.
  10. Smooth Scroll List boxes.  Evil.  Turn it off.  This was the one I got started going through my preferences with in the first place.

Select Apply and OK, and you’re on your way.

But there is more…

If you do a lot in Explorer, you will notice that they are still trying to convince you that Microsoft’s Smooth Scroll algorithm works.   It does not work well, especially with a long list of files in a folder.  To turn that one off, do the following:

  1. Click Start, then Control Panel
  2. Click Internet Options, then the Advanced Tab.
  3. In the long list, find the Browsing group, then “Use Smooth Scrolling”.  Turn that box off, then select Apply and OK.

Finally if you want to stop Smooth Scroll in Firefox:

  1. Select Tools
  2. Select Options
  3. Select the Advanced Tab
  4. Select the General Tab
  5. Uncheck the “Use smooth scrolling” check box.
  6. Click OK and you’re done.

Windows Update Forces My Backup

I’ll admit it, the last time I did a backup of my computer was February.  Six Months ago.  All excuses aside, it’s way too long.

Last night I was sitting in the big green chair.  Watching Oliver Douglas try to get Arnold Ziffel the Pig out from under the floor in the bedroom of the old Haney Place on Green Acres, I realized I reached the dreaded “Logical Breakpoint”.

I was going to do a full shut down of the PC that I use for my “Daily Driver”.   This is the little laptop that I’ve had for about 2 years.  I bring it everywhere that it’s appropriate and I’ll need proper computing power.  I use it for web development, graphics design, all my consulting, as well as a significant amount of entertainment.   I’ve got others, but this one and I “bonded” and it’s the one I start first and use all day.  I have programs that run from when it starts to do chat on AIM, Yahoo Instant Messenger, and MSN Messenger, Skype and others so that I can be found if any of my clients and friends need me. 

It’s pretty important.

So I don’t shut it down often.  I usually hibernate the machine because to shut down all those networks, graphics design programs, video editors, and the rest of the layers of software just take too long to get back to where they were before I shut it down in the first place. 

I don’t like that little gold shield that sits next to the shut down button because it will sit there nagging me until I do what it wants. 

Last night I did what it wants.

It took about an hour of reboots to recover. 

The machine went and installed 10 Windows Updates, then powered off. 

I pressed the little silver power slider to get it to come back on.  It finished the updates, then rebooted itself.

To darkness.

Ok first things first, that’s a major problem with Windows 7.  When you start a machine, it does not tell you what it is doing.   Sure, Microsoft wants you to believe that it is a sealed unit, just like a Mac, but it isn’t.  Something can go wrong.  In the land of FPL where power pops can destroy your washing machine, a laptop is an easy target.

It went to restart itself and asked if I wanted to try the recovery console.  Sure, lets try it.

Nope, it got part way into it and restarted itself.

Helpfully, from across the room I hear “Try powering it off completely and powering it up from a dead stop”.

Tried that, got further into the recovery console but that didn’t look comforting.  When you see that first power on screen again after almost two years, you know you’re in a weird place with your computer.

I closed that, and tried the shut down again.

It attempted to reboot the system again to the windows startup menu.

This time I got what a little child once called The Dark Place.  Wonderful description about when you get a black screen with white typing all over it trying to tell you what to do.

Tersely.

We selected “Boot From Last Known Good Startup” (or something phrased remotely like that) and it got me back to my familiar desktop.  I was staring at M.E. DePalma Park in bloom.   We all breathed easier.

Grabbing the external backup drive, I plugged it in.

After some hunting for the “Backup and Restore” software, it was started and I told it to do a full backup of my C Drive.

In Windows 7, Backup and Restore is in the Control Panel.  Start, then Control Panel, then Backup and Restore.   Don’t listen to Mr Expert.  He’s wrong when he tells you that nothing like that is in Control Panel. 

Anyway… when I woke up this morning the backup was at 75% complete.  That was after 10 hours.

So today has been “Triage Day”.   I’m familiar with the word Triage from the series MASH.  Basically the concept says you categorize your efforts into three levels:

  1. Dead  – What you don’t need.
  2. Repairable – What you need but if you lost it it wouldn’t be terrible.
  3. Alive – Absolutely Must Be Kept Safe!

I’m doing that now.  Getting the data into categories.  Copy your “My Documents” library onto some removable media.  Get the videos or music onto the chip that goes into the tablet or mp3 player.  Get your downloads out of the C:\Downloads or the C:\User\Bill\Download tree.

Then do a Chkdsk.   Remember those?   To do it right, your system must be in “Single User Mode”.  That means nobody can do anything to the PC.  So basically you schedule that disk check for when you turn it off and back on again.   To get to the program you have to do the following:

  1. Start
  2. Accessories
  3. Right Click on the “Command Prompt” icon and select “Run as Administrator
  4. type in “chkdsk C: /r” and hit enter
  5. respond “Y” to the question “would you like to schedule a chkdsk next time you start your computer?”

You will need to actually shut down the PC and then turn it back on.   That is where I am at.  When the machine comes back on, I’ll do the backup, really I will.   But that means I have to get back to the logical breakpoint.

As for Arnold Ziffel, he got out from under the Douglas’ floor before Oliver got squirted by the Hooterville Fire Department’s hose. 

The PC will take a little bit more time than that escapist comedy on TV last night.  I have 27GB of data from a client that still has to be copied off onto a removeable hard drive before I chance that chkdsk that will take more than an hour.

The Pleasures of Upgrading A New PC – Genuine Lenovo Battery Not Attached

This is the kind of post that I do from time to time that sticks around.  I have a couple “Helpful Hints” (you can search that) that get read every day by a couple folks.   This particular one is how to remove an annoyance from the Thinkpad when Windows is installed.   If you are following along on how to do a “Bare Bones Install” of operating system and mostly open source software, hop onto this link after you read my rant below.

To whoever is in marketing at Lenovo that made this decision, I hope you end up working as a fry cook in a low end burger joint because you truly have no clue how to market to your customers.

After going through all the steps of installing software, I had been constantly annoyed by a pop up… but I am getting ahead of myself here.

The laptop is a Lenovo Thinkpad T60.  I installed Windows 7 64 Bit onto it, and all the Lenovo software and drivers.  I also installed a laundry list of software onto it that you can see by doing a search back for anything with the tag “Implementation”.

Since this is a laptop, it gets plugged into the wall from time to time or the plug gets kicked out when I’m half awake at 6am trying to get the dog out.

Here is my complaint.   When ever the power state changes from plugged to unplugged and vice versa, I get a rude message that begins with “Genuine Lenovo Battery Not Attached”.

Don’t
Care.

The person who upgraded the battery in this machine made the choice for me, repaired it for me, and was kind enough to give it to me complete.  It works.  The battery works.  The battery holds a charge and will power the laptop for an acceptable length of time.

So who are you, my dear friend, the Marketing Drone at Lenovo to question the wisdom of the market by putting this 6 or 7 line bubble up on my desktop and hold it there longer than I would prefer questioning my sanity with “Genuine Lenovo Battery Not Attached”?

Now I went out and found out how to turn that rude message off.   There should be a check in the message to allow me to dismiss it forever, but no, you in your infinite lack of wisdom deigned that from on high I should have to see this blather until I get annoyed enough to try all sorts of things.

Including search on the web on how to turn that hateful message off.

I found it and will share it.

First, with Windows up and running, mouse down to the task bar.

Find the Power Management icon that resides next to the Wifi Icon on the right of your task bar.

Right click on Power Management (The Battery Icon) and click on “Launch Power Manager“.

When the window comes up, click on “Options” tab.

There is a check box next to “Show Power Manager Gauge in Task Bar” – clear that box, then click on “Apply“.

You will now not have the battery in the task bar from Lenovo but SURPRISE! under Windows 7 you will still have the battery information reported from Windows itself.  If you right click on the Windows battery, you can get to the Power Manager by selecting it there.

There.  Message Banished.  Now lets find that Marketing Drone and tell him just what we think of him.

Stupid.

What would this blog be without a rant, now and again, I ask you?!?!?

The Pleasures of Upgrading A New PC – CDBurnerXP

There are a few more holes in the implementation of the new laptop.  But the story goes on and on and on…

The first step was triaging all the old hardware and finding which laptops needed recycling.

The second step was installing the operating system, and the minimum software.

The third step was convincing PDF software to actually install and work.

The fourth step was installing the excellent IrfanView and beginning to get my graphics software settled

The fifth step was the install of GIMP that was surprisingly less painful than most.

In the middle of all of this, I found that I needed to upgrade Firefox.  It was a happy coincidence that it was on the same day that they released Firefox 4.

Then I installed Inkscape which went about as well as you could hope.

I covered the install of the instant messaging client Pidgin.

Now I need something to burn CDs.

Actually, I needed something to burn a DVD since I downloaded something from a website, Ubuntu, to get the latest version of the operating system.  I ended up having this file on my computer that was too large to fit on a single CD, needed to go onto a DVD as an image and resided here as what they call an .ISO file.

An .ISO file is an image of a CD or DVD.  The software that comes with Windows 7 promises to burn that image to a DVD but I personally couldn’t wrap my head around it.

Open Source Software to the Rescue.

I was very used to software that works a certain way when it comes to burning a CD or DVD.  You grab the files up into a directory, you start a program, you drag them into the handy little window and you click burn.  Assuming that your PC has all the hardware, in a while you end up with a disc that can be used for many different purposes.

It’s just that I tried to convince Windows’ default software to work and got frustrated so I went “all old school” on it.  I burned a disc that actually turned out not to be a disc that was burned.  After two tries at it I gave up.

First, I went to the Nero Lite suite.  When I went to this free version of Nero, it said it wanted to install Microsoft Silverlight.   Silverlight is an alternative to Adobe Flash, and while Flash is waning, Silverlight was just “deprioritized” in the market by Microsoft.  They will continue to support it but won’t push it for it’s programming capacity – in short, Silverlight is going to die a lingering death.  Obviously I don’t recommend Nero Lite 10.  I used Nero Lite 9 for quite a while on Windows XP and it worked well for me.  I won’t install 10 or Silverlight.

Remember, a lean laptop is one that will last longer on your lap than one that is chock full of software you don’t need. 

So after saying some rude words to my laptop, I cancelled the install, and looked elsewhere.

I have worked in the Philadelphia School System and at Temple University as in progressively more technically involved positions in IT, ending in where I am now, a Consulting IT Project Manager.  In the roles I played at the School Board, I learned that Open Source software can be very useful when your department budget is small or non existent.   To this day, I will look at “Free or Open Source Software” or “FOSS” first before considering pulling out the credit card.

CDBurnerXP is one of those “FOSS” programs and it works exceedingly well.  Where Windows’ built in software to burn a DVD was confusing and intractable, CDBurnerXP worked for me, and did so exactly how I expected it to.  Drag and drop with lots of numbers to read if I needed to understand what the details were about the “project”.  In short More Info Than I Needed meant All The Info I wanted.

And did I say Free?  Open Source?  Put the wallet away.

You can read more about how it works on the site, but this is all about how to actually get the software on your PC in case you need it.

First, surf the website.  There is a lot of information on there on what it does, how it does it, and how you can get it, but basically you have to get here first.

Then click the big green button that says “Download”.  Firefox asked me immediately if I would like to save the file and I clicked “Save File“.

When it was finished downloading, I went to my downloads directory and launched the file.   cdbxp_setup(Version_number).exe

I got the Open File – Security Warning window and clicked “Run” which was followed by Windows’ warning me that a program wanted to make changes to the hard disc which I accepted by clicking Yes.

The Setup Wizard was launched and if you’re actually following how to install all this software, this will look very familiar.  Open Source Projects tend to use similar installer programs on Windows, at least the last few programs did.  

Click Next to get to the License Agreement, then click the button next to “I Accept The Agreement” and then Next again.

You will be asked where to install the software to, and I decided that the default of C:\Program Files\CDBurnerXP was fine, so I clicked Next.

I was presented by a window asking me to “Select Components”.  Since I only need English as the local language, I unchecked the box next to Languages and Next.

The window asking to “Select Additional Tasks” then presented itself.  Since I don’t particularly need a desktop icon nor do I need it in the Quick Launch bar, I made sure both of those were unchecked.  On the other hand I wanted CDBurnerXP to be associated with .DXP/AXP and ISO files… so I checked both of those boxes.  Then I clicked “Next“.

It then put up a window asking me if I wanted to install Internet Explorer 9.  No, I really don’t like Internet Explorer.  It is my opinion that it is bloated and overly large.   I already have what ever version of Internet Explorer that came with Windows 7, I believe that it is Version 8, I hardly ever use it, and don’t want to be annoyed with configuring it until I am told that there is a compelling reason to “upgrade”.   So I clicked the box that says “Do not install Internet Explorer 9” and then Install.

At this point, CDBurner XP is installing/has been installed.

You have a window saying “Completing the CDBurnerXP Setup Wizard” and if you click Finish you will see CDBurnerXP launch.  Since I don’t need it at this time, I cleared the check box that asks if I want to “Launch CDBurnerXP” and then clicked Finish.

To burn that pesky ISO file, all I had to do was double click on the .ISO in Windows Explorer, and have a blank DVD in the drive.   A click on the Burn Icon later and I had my Ubuntu DVD for that old computer that I need for a server.

Pretty easy and no mental gyrations at strange times in the middle of the evening!

Can’t beat that, huh?

The Pleasures of Upgrading A New PC – Pidgin

There are a few more holes in the implementation of the new laptop.  But the story goes on and on and on…

The first step was triaging all the old hardware and finding which laptops needed recycling.

The second step was installing the operating system, and the minimum software.

The third step was convincing PDF software to actually install and work.

The fourth step was installing the excellent IrfanView and beginning to get my graphics software settled

The fifth step was the install of GIMP that was surprisingly less painful than most.

In the middle of all of this, I found that I needed to upgrade Firefox.  It was a happy coincidence that it was on the same day that they released Firefox 4.

Then I installed Inkscape which went about as well as you could hope.

Now I’m moving on to Pidgin.

What’s a pidgin?  Something spoken in Papua New Guinea?  Something that is better known as a flying rat?  No, this is something different.

I use the chat networks to keep in touch with clients, family, and others around the world.  There are a number of applications that I use, and Pidgin is one of them, that tie together multiple chat networks like AIM, Yahoo Instant Messenger, IRC, MSN Messenger and others into one piece of software.   I also use it to monitor my three email accounts on Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and Gmail.  It puts up a helpful notice when I get mail.

Yes, complicated.

The software though isn’t tough to use and it would allow people to stop using the bloated AOL client all the time, or having AIM, Yahoo Instant Messenger, and MSN Messenger all running at once.  It gathers all the functionality into one place.   There are competing software, but this is the one I use.  I tried Trillian and some others here and there and it just felt like it went too far.

1) Surf www.pidgin.im and download and save the installer for the client remembering where you put it.  The helpful Orange Download button is there for you to click.  You may also explore the site and find out more about this program.

2) Run the installer from where ever you hid the thing, and when it puts the window up, select the language.

3) You will now be presented with the Pidgin Setup Wizard.  Click Next to get to the GPL, then click Next to the Components to Install window.  The defaults should be good for you with one exception.  Click the Plus Sign next to “Spellchecking Support”.  It won’t break the bank if you don’t have spell check turned on, but it certainly will make you sound more intelligent.   Select your language (or don’t but I will judge you if you misspell things) and click on “Next”.

4) Now that you have done all of that, click “Install”.  The installer will count up the percentage of progress at this time until done.  It will be done when your window stops changing and you see “Completed” in the status window.  Click “Next”.

At this point you are through the basic install.   I check the box that says “Run Pidgin” and Finish at this point so I can configure the program.

Accounts window:  Pidgin works with your current chat accounts.  In this case I am going to add AIM to Pidgin for the blog, but it works with my Yahoo Instant Messenger and MSN Instant Messenger as well.

Click “Add”.  You will get an “Add Account” window.

On the basic tab:
  The Protocol is the Chat Network you want to configure.  Select AIM (or any other you need).
  The Username is your sign on.  You’ll have to supply that one.
  The Password is the password you type to get onto AOL or AIM.
  I recommend checking the box that says “Remember Password” even if later down the line it means you’ll forget your password for AIM.  Do what everyone else does – write it down on a post-it note and lose the note when you clean house.
  Check the box for “New Mail Notifications”.  You’ll get a handy notice in the Pidgin Window when you get email on this account that you will forget you ever had after you forgot how to log into it with the password that is on the post-it note that got cleaned up 2 years ago when you had visitors.
  If you have a small picture, you can add it here for your avatar by clicking the box for “Use this buddy Icon” and clicking on the default Icon.   At that point you will have to find the picture that you want to use for this account.  Easy enough to do, you have thousands of pictures on your PC.  Just remember not to use the “rude one” that you have on that “special” chat site showing you in front of the mirror that got you all those complements about your “abs”.  Mine is a boring G Rated “Head Shot”.  I’d go with that.  Leave those special pics for special times.  🙂

When you click “Save”, Pidgin will go out and try to log you onto the network.  If you put in the wrong password it will tell you in the main window which was covered up by the accounts window.  Not to worry, you can click back on AIM and the “Modify” button to enter in the correct Password. 

Of course I did forget mine, and you can surf http://www.aim.com and get it back by trying to log in.  AIM itself is kind of annoying in that your password can’t contain “part of” the user name – but they don’t tell you “how much” of that they need for you to enter it.

The process for any other network that Pidgin supports is identical.  Just click “Add” in the account window and you’re on your way.

One other thing that you will want to do is to configure sounds.  I usually have mine only set to tell me when “Message Received Begins Conversation”.  You can edit those preferences by clicking “Tools” then Preferences” and “Sounds”.  You will also want to make sure chats open in their own window.  This is done on the “Interface” tab of the Preferences window and unchecking “Show IMs and Chats in Tabbed Windows”.  I just happen to prefer having lots of little chat windows than having to shuttle between tabs.

The Pleasures of Upgrading A New PC – Inkscape

At this point, the frenzy of installing new applications and programs is slowing.  The machine is beginning to get more complete, but there will be other tweaks down the road.

The first step was triaging all the old hardware and finding which laptops needed recycling.

The second step was installing the operating system, and the minimum software.

The third step was convincing PDF software to actually install and work.

The fourth step was installing the excellent IrfanView and beginning to get my graphics software settled

The fifth step was the install of GIMP that was surprisingly less painful than most.

In the middle of all of this, I found that I needed to upgrade Firefox.  It was a happy coincidence that it was on the same day that they released Firefox 4.

Today I am beginning the install of Inkscape.

I would be willing to bet that most of my regular and irregular readers won’t ever need this program.  I do…. but why?

Gimp will allow you to take a picture and type graffiti all over it to give your message.  Then typically you will save your new artwork as a JPG.  When you do, take a nice close look at the text.  It won’t be crisp with clean lines.   There are times that you need that.  I have been “watermarking” my pictures that I put on the blog for quite a while now simply because… they’re mine.  I’d rather not stumble across a website using my pictures because Cease and Desist orders can get expensive and all the content that I put on the blog is my own, unless expressly said otherwise.  Or perhaps I forgot.  I’ve only grabbed other people’s pictures once in a while, maybe 5 postings in all the time I have had the blog.  Plenty of Velma Posts but that’s a different story.

So in your JPG, if you “zoom in” to an area you notice things get fuzzy very quickly.  Having your text get fuzzy makes for sloppy work.  It isn’t the fault of Gimp, but the fault of the way a “raster image editor” works.  They all do that.

Inkscape is a “Vector Graphics Editor”.  It saves things as points in an array… yeah I know “Science Content” as they say on Mythbusters.   Look at the picture on your monitor very closely, it’s made of a lot of dots.  Put one finger at the top of the monitor, another one at the bottom.  You have just drawn a Vector.  That basically is what Inkscape does – sets out a lot of points and says what will connect them.   It makes for a very sharp picture.  Read this link if you’re interested in a bit more deep detail. 

Inkscape also implies that it is “Alpha” or “Beta” software.  This means it is a work in progress.  If you break it, go back to Inkscape.  They may have a fix already or they may not know about it so you can report the problem and help them out.  I use Inkscape fairly heavily and I’ve been happy with the results.  The program may be rare, but it isn’t a raw burger so to speak…

So how do we get it installed?

1) Surf http://inkscape.org/ and see if you really need it.  I do, but you probably won’t.  I’m finding it’s simplicity makes it very easy to use to get the kind of results I want.

2) In the upper right corner there is a “Download Now” link.  That is to the latest version, but this link will put you on the Download page for all versions.  It runs on Windows, Mac, Linux and is probably available for more platforms than you will ever want to look at.  You most likely will want “Windows – Installer” which you will find under Official Release Packages.

3) Clicking on the link sends you to the Sourceforge download page and will start the download for you.  Save the file.  You will want to make a note of where it puts the file because I doubt you will have “C:\Users\Bill\Downloads” on your PC.  When complete, start the program.

4)  It will ask you to “Please Select a Language” and welcome you to the Setup Wizard.  Click next when you get there.

5)  You will click Next once you get to the GPL General Public License, and then you will be presented with a list of choices of features.  The only feature you may want to look into is whether you need an alternate language.  I did not need any extra features, so I clicked “Next”.

6) Inkscape will then ask where to install it, and it does not have to be in the Program Files group, but you will most likely want to let it go there by clicking “Install”.  It then will write the program out to the hard drive.  My installer ran almost to the end and inexplicably hung there for a while.  After it “woke up” eventually it came to say “Completed” and the Next button lit up.  It literally fell asleep 3 or 4 times waiting on background installs of subsystems.

7)  Click Finish and it will launch Inkscape.

Inkscape will present you with a window for “New Document 1”.  It is here that you can build your projects by adding layers.   A picture can be layer 1 to use as the background, and you can add other pictures or objects by drawing them onto the page.  Basically you can save the file as a .SVG file, and export as a bitmap your project to show it to everyone on the web.  That’s the very basic view on how to do things, you’re going to want to play around with the program.  I go in and change the size of the document, add graphics, move things around and add text.   All of this can be done easily and sounds much more difficult than it actually is.

You have control over all the bits and pieces that you are adding to the project.   If you think of the project as a Collage, you’re going to have a very good idea of how this all will work.

21st century scissors and magazine articles in elementary school art class is a good metaphor.

Another very complex program, and all Free and Open Source Software just like almost everything I run here.