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Open Source Graphics Meets Quality Assurance
Libre Graphics Meeting includes 3D animation in a tradition of flat pages
William Pollard (will789)     Print Article 
Published 2007-05-13 09:17 (KST)   
At the Libre Graphics Meeting (LGM) in Montreal, Coverity announced that 100 open source graphics software projects will be included in their SCAN project for source code analysis. This started in 2006 with "LAMP," the combination of Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl/PHP/Python widely used on the Web. The new software includes the projects featured during the Libre Graphics meeting -- Scribus for page makeup, Gimp, Inkscape and Krita for graphics, and Blender for 3D and animation.

Louis Desjardins (right) and Pierre-Luc Auclair (left).
©2007 prokoudine Flickr/Creative Commons
As reported on the site for Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), Louis Desjardins, a 20-year veteran of prepress and print production and organizer of the conference: "LGM is a sure demonstration of the maturity of free and open source applications -- even at a professional level. Not only that, never before have I seen such a close and amicable working relationship between the users of this kind of software and those who create it."

The SCAN project is partly funded by $1.24 million over three years from the U.S. government's Department of Homeland Security. Software engineers at Stanford University manage the project and maintain a publicly available database of bugs and defects. Antivirus vendor Symantec provides guidance as to where security gaps might be.

Rob Rachwald, senior director of marketing at Coverity, explained the original project in an interview with eWEEK:

Four years ago, Linux had 2 million lines of code. Today, that's up to 6 million lines of code. There are 75,000 different functions within the Linux kernel. There's no way you can realistically go through that without having it automated in some way. We'll be testing 100 percent of your code base, going through each and every function to understand how those functions are related.
A study by Mitre in 2006 found more than 230 open source packages already in use for critical operations within the federal government.

The expansion of the SCAN project to include graphics was welcomed in Montreal by Bryce Harrington, one of the project leaders for Inkscape.

Coverity has again showed its good will in now analyzing open source graphics projects as part of their efforts with Scan. As a test engineer at the Open Source Development Labs, I have been using the defects Coverity reported for Linux NFSv4. The way Coverity's product communicates information about every reported defect is especially valuable. It's rare to find this level of information in tests typically available to open source developers.
Coverity recently announced the Prevent Software Quality System (SQS). "With this new infrastructure, we can fully leverage the scalability and precision of Coverity Prevent SQS the same way our commercial customers do. Our analysis of these 250 open source projects and beyond will reduce the global economic impact of catastrophic software failures and security vulnerabilities," said David Maxwell, open source strategist for Coverity.

During the Libre Graphics meeting Jon Phillips, a business and community development engineer for Creative Commons, explained the connections between open software and open content. A suggested model for any open content library would imply the use of open formats, typically XML based, such as SVG for graphics and ODF for documents. The current content landscape includes some closed environments and some that are mixed such as Flickr with an option for Creative Commons licenses and Google applications where the Open Document Format is supported. Examples of open content are Archive.com and Wikipedia. Content includes clipart and fonts and work continues to integrate both with software such as Scribus and Inkscape.

My impression is that Scribus has now reached a crucial stage in reliability for page makeup. In the Southwest of England, Scribus is in regular use on a Linux platform. The versions for Windows and Mac are regarded as less stable but are worth exploring if Linux is still not an option. Scribus is appreciated because it is highly scriptable, has good support for importing and exporting SVG and open source documents, and fully supports the print industry standards for PDF/X. A recent review in PC Pro objected to the fact that Scribus has no option to show bold or italic unless you have the proper fonts. They accuse Scribus developers of being "typographical snobs." Actually, I think this just shows that Scribus is professional software for prepress production. Unless the fonts are available there will be a problem in production.

So far there has not been much discussion connecting open source graphics with the Job Definition Format (JDF), used for the administration of print jobs and communicating between machines. JDF is based on XML and is published as an open specification. It is supported by some large companies but they are effectively working through standards and collaboration in a way that I think the Libre Graphics Meeting would recognize. Future meetings might have more time to consider how JDF and XML can support the creation of specifications for all aspects of a print requirement.

There was information about XSL T 2.0 from Liam Quinn. A new version was issued by W3C in January. The standard is for transforming XML data through a style sheet to a page representation. This can be a Web page or PDF for print following an additional stage. The W3C page is written in a fairly technical language. Further explanation could be made available that was easier to follow.

The scope of graphics is moving on to include video. Blender is now being used for 3D animation. Elephant's Dream was made entirely using open source software and is available under a Creative Commons license so can be remixed in any manner that someone chooses. There are already many versions available, including the first HD DVD released in Europe. The production was in Amsterdam during 2005 and 2006.

Before waiting for a download, the easiest way to get an idea of Elephant's Dream is through the version on YouTube.

As my own assumption is that most design is for some form of print, I was surprised to find this report on the Redprocess blog:

Inkscape has some incredible features that you won't find in Illustrator -- gradients on strokes; advanced object linking, allowing you to create complex effects that remain completely editable; full access to the underlying XML, so you can directly edit any content. But unlike Illustrator, Inkscape doesn't yet handle CMYK or spot colors, and has no support for any kind of blending modes (coming soon). So I doubt I'd be able to move 100 percent away from non-free tools, for the foreseeable future, but it really isn't too often I find myself tasked with print work. So a minor inconvenience at worst.
So the move away from print continues. With links to data through XML, the free and open source software community is well placed to support this. In my opinion the Job Definition Format has to be central to print fairly soon for print to offer any sense of comparable speed or flexibility.
Thanks to Ben Green from Bristol Wireless for help with this story.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

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