This is that time of year again. The wonderful folks at Google have announced (http://code.google.com/soc/2008/) that they were running their Summer of Code program again. We at the Scribus Team are quite excited about it in part as one of the two newest additions to our group Hermann Kraus has made his way in through the excellent work he did for us during GSoC 2007 and in part because we had such a great time of it last year. This is a terrific program that brings innumerable benefits to the Open Source ecosystem. We are hoping to be a part of this process this year as well, so we are working on our application and are soliciting ideas for potential GSoC 2008 Scribus Team projects from the larger Scribus Community in our wiki at http://wiki.scribus.net/index.php/GsoC_2008_Ideas. Let the summer of fun and learning begin!

Storing documents in text, in XML, in Scribus to be exact, is a really cool thing. Let me show you a real life example.

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During the release party for 1.3.3.10 Jean Ghali one of our quietest but steadiest developers (he’s slaughtered a mountain of bugs in 1.3.3.x), noticed that we were about to pass our millionth download on Sourceforge. Which got me thinking…

A million downloads for a project like Scribus. What is the significance ? What does that tell us ?

The technical part: Just shy of 20TB of data. Or looking at the rough averages currently, one person downloading a copy of Scribus every two minutes or so. Two years ago when we started hosting our downloads on Sourceforge we averaged 4.5Gb of data. Now we’re getting close to 2TB some months and the trend is steadily upward.

Moreover, those numbers are actually lower than reality when you consider it only counts downloads of Scribus after 1.2.something and we host a lot of binaries on the OpenSuse Build Server and we also have a separate Debian/Ubuntu repository. Lastly, almost every Linux distro includes Scribus by default.

So, where does that leave us ? What does it tell us ? The plain numbers are kind of dull and boring, but what it represents in the bigger scheme of things is that a complete and very healthy ecosystem has evolved in the area of Free and Open Source graphics applications. You can do serious professional grade publishing reliably using only open source tools.

When Scribus was started there was GIMP and a then sometimes rough on the edges Ghostscript, but not much else. No Inkscape, no Krita, no Fontforge, a dearth of decent professional grade fonts and very few which were really capable beyond Latin and CJK languages. Font managment plain sucked. Keith P. will go to heaven if only for making fontconfig and thus font installation sane on *nix. Early Scribus had all kinds of hacks and code just to find fonts, not any kind of sanity checking or other goodness we can now do with Freetype2.

Which leads us to today, where we can see GIMP getting GEGL and its long promised deep color spaces. Krita2 in a short few months will have a lot of goodness Scribus users will really groove on (and it might be really running stable on Windows.) Inkscape is making its first baby steps in adding color managment and they are really trying to make it work perfectly for Scribus downstream. Lprof, the color profile maker now is cross platform and is getting hardware support for pro grade colorometers.

Even better is the community of people who have emerged around Scribus and other FLOSS graphics apps. We have things like Fontmatrix which I ranted about earlier popping up out of nowhere to complete the scenery. LGM 1 and 2 were great and I fully expect LGM3 to meet or exceed them.

What that million means is are now enjoying what was just something we could only dream of when Scribus 0.2 (~ 150 downloads) was so modestly launched in 2001.

One of the things which is perceived as a stumbling block to using Linux as a designer’s platform is the lack of font management tools. Most graphics professionals started or at some time worked on a Mac and often enough MacOS 9 or earlier.

So, while font management is nowhere as difficult on Linux as it might be assumed since the arrival of Keith Packard’s fontconfig, it is a perception thing. Moreover, KDE3 for a while, now has a simple and very effective font manager/installer called Kfontinstaller. I have commented elsewhere that I think it is the simplest and most user GUI friendly font manager on any platform. It is a font manager with no extra bells and whistles. To boot, Linux can run with lots of fonts installed with no large performance hit – unlike earlier graphics apps and older Windows versions.

Getting back to Macs, and in my experience with production workstations on Win32 , a 100% certainty was the need for a third party font manager. Most of the time either Suitcase or ATM sufficed. They made it manageable to use and select from more than a few hundred fonts.

Plus, fonts on pre-OSX Macs had a nasty tendency to corrupt themselves every once and a while. Most of the older font managers had tools to try and fix this too. Something which one should never worry about happening on Linux. 😉 As you can imagine over time doing layout professionally you tended to end up with hundreds if not thousands of fonts installed. Not good for performance and a nightmare to manage without third party tools.

Given all that, one can see why graphics and layout folks are asking: “Where is the font manager ?” In a sign of the increasing maturity of open source as a graphics platform, there is now a real font manager built with the kind of features and abilities graphic designers, layout pros. along with others have felt necessary, but modernized with some new touches. Introducing Fontmatrix. 🙂

fontmatrix1.png

One thing where Fontmatrix has the older proprietary managers beat is the concept of ‘tagging’. This makes it really nice to group fonts and even sub-group them logically for use in say a book. It also has extensive support to give you a nice gui to show all the glyphs in a font, previews of sample text, variable sizing and also tell you what kinds of advanced Open Type features are inside the guts of your font. That is something I’ve never seen outside of a font editor. And not least, it creates a nice PDF catalogue of your fonts for printing or reference. All in all, a real pro’s font manager, but still nice and user friendly.
Fontmatrix is still young, but it does not crash for me and it works really well already. For installing ease, I have packaged it for Suse 10.2+ and Fedora 8 on the OpenSuse Build Service which I have talked about before. Enjoy.

Today marks a big achievement in the development of Scribus 1.3.5. As of now, we no longer use Qt3 or its support classes. YAY. A big job – one that started out as very simple but right at the end took awhile to get finalised. Its a nice feeling to have that sorted and now we can get on with stabilising the other changes and heading towards a release (not imminent, but approaching at least).

This is just a quick update of the ongoing LGM2 in Montreal. Some last minute complications prevented all the Scribus team members from being here, but LGM2 has been an excellent meet so far. In brief:

  • We have announced the latest release of 1.3.3.9, 1.3.4 and the first public demo of 1.3.5, the port of Scribus to Qt4. The port is not complete, but Scribus compiles, loads documents and runs under Qt 4.2. Packages and source will available soon.
  • We saw Raphael from LeTigre give an excellent talk about how LeTigre has been produced using 100% FLOSS graphics applications.
  • The Krita developers give a well organized talk about the future of their painting/image editing application.
  • Louis Soares-Potts gave a presentation about the importance of Open Document format. We had a very interesting conversation about how ODF is used with Scribus and how we can better use ODF for not only import, but export for some use case our future plans with ODF.
  • The GIMP team has shown up en masse and we have had a bit more time to chat together informally. I hear the gimp developers want gimp 2.4 be out very very soon.

This list is far from complete and more to come…. Montreal has been a great host city.

Scribus Team got two project slots for Google Summer of Code 2007. We had 7 applications and coming up with two selections really wasn’t easy. I’d like to thank all students who applied to the program whether selected or not. You guys make it fun. The selected projects are Imposition plugin, which is our number 1 user requested feature addition, and Math Support. The students who are going to be working on these projects are Mateusz Haligowski and Hermann Kraus. Mentors for these projects are Riku Leino (Tsoots) and Andreas Vox (Avox) with assistance from other dev. team members, of course.
Let’s get the coding going and hopefully everybody invoved will have a fun summer!
Oh, and don’t forget the cool T-Shirts!

You know how it is, idly chatting in #scribus, compiling a little, surfing here and there… and suddenly you want to know the distance from Montreal (site of LGM2 ) to Victoria (site of FOSS4G 2007 ). Nothing as easy as that, just ask Google Maps for directions and it’ll give you the km number for free. Unfortunately there are quite a lot of Victorias around the world, so you have to choose the correct one (in British Columbia). But seeing other locations listed, from Texas to Australia, you obviously try some more, just for the fun of it (maps.google.com sadly only offers destinations on the North-American continent). Ok, no route to Victoria, Australia, nor to Victora, Seychellen — not really surprising.
The distance to Victoria, Texas is even shorter than to Victoria, BC, that’s a (small) surprise. But now: Google Maps Deutschland does have a route to Victoria, UK. Yippee!

google-map-montreal-victoria.png(click to enlarge)

Of course you wonder how to take the longer, middle leg of this journey, but — don’t fear! — Google Maps Deutschland has a solution in its itinerary for that, too. Read for yourself. 😀

/Andreas

P.S. And here’s what we really need: the route from Lyon to Montreal (this time in English language):
http://maps.google.fr/maps?f=d&hl=en&saddr=Lyon&daddr=Montreal

Here is my chance as the primary program administrator to break out the good news. As of today we are in the GSoC 2007 program. Prospective student GSoC developers are encouraged to check out our ideas page and start working on their GSoC plan. See End-to-end Publishing Solution plan for a first example. Of course, every prudent student will make themselves thoroughly acquainted with the Advice for Students GSoC page and proceed according to the guidelines. By the way, if your idea is great, but somehow is not on our ideas page then head straight over to the Blue Sky section of our GSoC ideas page and add your own. Be sure to make your appearance on our mailing list and in IRC #scribus on freenode to make our acquaintance and to start working towards finding a mentor. I (malex) and prokoudine – our backup administrator – will be responsible for organizing the process. So, get going, have fun, and be happy!

Last year I was fortunate enough to be one of the coders COSS hired to code for an open source project. My project of choice was Scribus. Now it’s your turn. COSS is extending the deadline for Kesäkoodi 2007 applications. So if you think you can fill in their requirements submit your application to COSS. If you would like to apply but don’t know what to do you can always contact me at [riku ät scribus dot info] for ideas (my ideas will be Scribus related). I’ll be happy to work as your mentor in a Scribus related project.

From KK2007 FAQ:

WTH is this?

COSS and a number of companies are hiring students to code in open source projects.

And it works actually how?

Here’s it short: The hacker first chooses an intresting open source project in which she / he is willing to contribute in and preferably consults a representative of the project about a suitable programming task. Based on this, the hacker will then create a project for her/himself, makes a project plan and sends an application to Summercode 2007. A panel consisting of representatives of FILOSI universities and institutes will pick the finalists, see criteria. Finalists can correct and polish their plans and make a throughout and short presentation of it for the final, where the representatives of funders will pick the chosen hackers, who’ll be announced shortly after the event. The summer is reserved for hacking and documenting and the fee is paid monthly if the project is advancing as planned.

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