Wallpaper, Wallpapers, Website!

Starting off the Plasma Sprint today has been a good start with a little bit of real-world trolling, some quick sight-seeing, and of course, starting to get todos scratched off the list.

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Nobody noticed when this was stuck outside the window, and we are happy to report there’s a vast array of KDE software available for Windows. 😉

I’m excited to say it’s that time of the release cycle, meaning we show off a new wallpaper coming to Plasma 5.10!

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The new wallpaper is named “Cascade”, English for many interesting things in technology, and French for Waterfall, or many waterfalls. Interestingly, this wallpaper has more layers than the 5.02 wallpaper had triangles.

If wanted, I can again show the process of how this wallpaper was put together, leave a comment and I’ll write it up.

Which brings me to my second todo which I finally got around to – wallpaper downloads! We’ve already had 9 wallpapers for the Plasma 5 series, and you can now visit https://store.kde.org/ to download each of them. For Nuno’s original “Next” wallpaper, I’ve provided a “remastered” version for 4k monitors named “Prev”. It’s not perfectly accurate, but for those who liked the original it is available;

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Additionally, there’s a new wallpaper named “History” for those who want to celebrate 10 iterations of Plasma 5 and the upcoming 11th iteration;

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(Clicking on any of the images will take you to the relevant page on the KDE Store)

Lastly, much work as been done on the KDE website redesign. I’ll be blogging about it later, but here’s a screenshot showing the general design for the new homepage:

(sorry if the image is a bit fuzzy)

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The 2017 Plasma Sprint is sponsored by Meat Water.

Plasma 5.9 Wallpaper “Canopee”

It’s that time of the release cycle! Plasma 5.9 is getting a new wallpaper, “Canopee”, French for canopy. Like the last wallpaper, Bismuth, we are again shipping with a 4K version.

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(Download)

This wallpaper is aiming for the same effect as Bismuth from Plasma 5.8, but the colours have been turned down from “11”.

The development of this wallpaper was a little bit harrowing; I had several designs which were started and scrapped in rapid succession. It’s easy to imagine a few lines in pencil as looking good, but in reality only the initial vector work will tell you if it’ll work. Inkscape for some reason also evolved a rather massive memory leak, swelling to 5+ GB of RAM usage after only a few dozen gradient adjustments, sending my machine grinding to swap.

As I worked I kept snapshots of various steps, so I’ll cover how this wallpaper was put together:

The first part of the making Canopee involves using Envelope or Perspective in Inkscape to set up the initial grid of ‘polygons’, trimming excess, then punching out the unique layers. Unlike Bismuth which had one layer of polygons at varied heights, Canopee had several complete layers of overlapping polygons.

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The next step is adding gradients and closing the seams. I need to add the gradient first otherwise I can’t see what I’m doing when I close the seams. If I don’t close the seams you get those white lines you may have seen in the early 5.2/5.3 wallpapers. Below is after I added the first set of gradients, and the first few rows of “closed seams”. Seams are closed by making every triangle overlap slightly, so I start from the back and manually adjust nodes for every ‘polygon’ in the wallpaper.

(Yes, manual. If you’ve been paying attention, each successive wallpaper has more polygons. I am, in fact, being slowly driven insane by this)

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After getting the water and track done, the next step is the island. You can see that welding the seams makes things more solid. I’ve also made the yellow layers semitransparent, later they’ll glow with a soft light which is accomplished by adding a blurry solid underneath the layers.

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The “grass” will use vertical jittering to add texture and visual interest. This is actually one of the more time-consuming tasks as it requires huge amounts of manual correction and visual fixes. ‘Polygons’ are more often than not above and below each other when they shouldn’t be, and I have to manually add walls to make them look like columns. This is also the most error-prone part of the process, and some mistakes were caught as late as after adding post-processing in GIMP, meaning several fixes often have to be ‘backported’ to the master vector file. It was also at this point that I decided to dump purple and use exclusively ‘natural’ colours.

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Finally, I add various fine touches, including reflections, more refined shadows, large glows, particles, etc. At this point everything is set in stone, so I create 3 more layers which will serve as masks in GIMP when I do post-processing. Each mask covers one area which I’ll want to apply a specific effect to; I try to use slur, pick, and thread filters on “liquids”, and noise filters with varying adjustments on other materials.

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Finally I composite it all in GIMP at a 5120×3200 resolution. This wallpaper had a huge number of corrections in post, including one missed glow, a small run of polygons which were ‘flat’, and several mistakes in the jittered layer. After those corrections the final result is at the top of this post. This wallpaper will be available for Plasma 5.9 at 4K resolutions, but if you can’t wait to get it the top image links to the 2560×1600 version.

A Link to the Tileset & Sprite Trivia

In my off time I’ve been closely examining the Legend of Zelda Link to the Past tilesets and sprites, and I’ve been learning a huge amount about how that game is assembled visually. it’s amazing how much they managed to do with the limited resources of the SNES.

For a game I’ve played religiously as a child, it’s interesting to see the imperfections which I completely glossed over even after several complete playthoroughs. There’s also some neat workarounds Nintendo did while preparing their graphics.

So here’s some “trivia” I found while closely examining the various maps and shots of the game;

  • Bricks lining the floors of diagonal walls are always rounded. This is not decorative, but a limit of their sprite-sheets 8×8 tile resolution. There are 5 unique 8×8 tiles used to create a diagonal wall, it would have required 6 tiles to add the 3 pixels needed to straighten the edge, and another 16×16 composite tile. Same, apparently, with the bottom of diagonal cliff edges. If they fixed this, several tight diagonal corridors would have been impossible.
  • In the overworld you will never find a flower that is NOT above a sprig of grass. You will always find flowers tiled with grass, or above and to the left of two sprigs. If you see three flowers, it’s just a combination of the other two patterns.
  • Live grass and dead grass never touch. I’m guessing because dead grass is a palette swap, so they would have had to include a tile-set for those edges. Instead, there’s always a dirt buffer or a cliff.
  • Bobbing flowers in the overworld have more frames of animation than any single enemy walk cycle. As a matter of fact, some enemies only appear to have one frame in their walk cycles – it’s just flipped to create the illusion of movement.
  • The animation used for guards falling off an edge contains more frames of animation than several enemies have for all their animations, total.
  • There is one tree in the game with a root placed on dirt/cliff edge. The tiles that make up that root are recoloured grass; because of that, one of the colours is slightly mismatched.
  • Cliffs are by far the most complex tiles in the game, but also tend to show the most seams between tiles. To say it must have been painstaking I think would be an understatement.
  • Most dungeons and houses share the same brick walls, only palette swapped with different tops. Instead, dungeons distinguish themselves with unique entrances, pillars, and decorations. There’s also a unique entrance for the monastery which was unused, possibly to avoid it being confused with dungeons.
  • Walls in houses and dungeons also don’t obey perspective, various tricks are used to maintain the illusion. The southmost walls are sometimes outright covered, and very seldomly will you see half-walls or “tall” objects touching the south walls.
  • Braziers, tall lampposts, half-walls, and various other doodads to not contain transparency keys. While not surprising on its own, it’s shocking to realise how many things don’t actually have “shapes” or “blend in” to their environments when closely examined, simply having grey backgrounds which most people must never notice. Those moving spike traps? Those are square, you just thought they were pointy.

Anyway, those were some fun facts.

Zelda: A Link to the Past is simply an amazing piece of work, and the tilesets are remarkably compressed for what they were able to create; PNG images containing the complete light world are larger than the entire game itself, not including the alternate dark world, insides of houses, or dungeons.

Tomorrow is a New Day – Joining Blue Systems

I’m very excited to let everyone know that as of tomorrow I’ll officially be joining Blue Systems, working full time on KDE and related projects! The chance to really immerse oneself completely into something you love and also work alongside people you absolutely respect is mind-blowing.

I would like to deeply thank Blue Systems for this opportunity, I hope my contributions will match the awesome generosity that everyone in the community has given allowing me do this. Thank you!

Queueing up for Plasma 5.8

It’s been too long since I’ve posted on Planet… I missed you! But despite my slothish activity there are rituals to be followed, and so comes a wallpaper for Plasma 5.8;

Probably the first thing I’ll mention is that the Plasma 5.8 wallpaper will be shipping with a 4K UHD version. The last wallpaper was meant to have a 4K version, but it simply didn’t happen. Seemingly everyone is beginning to enjoy screens with high pixel densities, so it’s about time we shipped wallpapers to match, and it’s a fun bullet-point for an LTS release.

Here it is;

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We still have a short window for tweaks and adjustments, so if there’s feedback for minor changes I can try to fit them in. I know a couple minor tweaks I’d like to make as well.

The general theme of the wallpaper is to try bringing back the vibrancy of earlier wallpapers; there’s been a trend making things progressively darker, and it had been mentioned that several people missed the energy of older wallpapers. With that in mind, hopefully this iteration has that light and energetic vibe without looking like a hot mess.

On a more personal note, some weeks ago the company I work for had been bought out. Because of that everything I was working on had to be put to the backburner while I sorted things out. I had to make some extremely difficult decisions, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t mess me up for a while there. It’s been intense. I also still have i’s to dot and t’s to cross.

Ultimately it means that I’ll be moving from coast-to-coast and south of the border to work in the United States. It’s a bit freaky penetrating the bureaucratic nightmare that is immigration forms, and sobering as I send them out. But I’ll be joining the ranks of many great Canadians who crossed the border: Jim Carry, William Shatner, Mike Meyers… *cough*Beiber*cough*

I can’t say I know what this will do to my contributions; whether or not my new job will give me more time, less time, or if I’ll need to stay back until I even really know 100% what’s going on. I certainly don’t plan to stop contributing, but I can’t say how active I’ll be in the near future until I see where the chips fall, things are also still in a state of upheaval.

I am, however, still looking forward to Akademy. I’m set to give a 30-minute talk on design iteration; whether or not you are creating a new application or maintaining an old beast, effective iteration is the key to great design. 😉

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That Time of the Cycle

With Plasma 5.6 long out the door, it’s time for the traditional changing of the wallpapers! Or at least, showing what the next wallpaper will be.

With Plasma 5.7 we won’t be venturing too far from where we are in 5.6. As I mentioned in a previous post about wallpapers we have been paying attention to the feedback, trying to find something that hit the right balance. The 5.6 the wallpaper seemed to hit that mark, so you’ll see fewer dramatic swings in the wallpaper direction; we’re goanna stick with what works for a while.

Here’s the 5.7 wallpaper, “Skylight”;

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(Download 2560×1600)

I’m keeping very close to the formula of the current wallpaper, and generally this is what people should expect for a few wallpapers for the next few releases of Plasma. I’ll vary the ‘material’ and positions a bit in the future, but I didn’t want to do that too much during our transition to perspective this release… Perspective was the one thing I meant to do with the current wallpaper, but for various reasons it didn’t happen.

One thing that also came up was assembling the old wallpapers somewhere for the people who preferred a previous release. I’d like some opinions and feedback on a few questions if we decide to do this;

  1. Where would you want all the wallpapers stored? A ‘legacy wallpapers’ package, the current additional wallpapers package, OpenDesktop?
  2. Would you want me to “George Lucas” some of the wallpapers, and tweak/improve the lower-quality ones for re-release? Or should we just drop some of the really early ones?

So, what do you think we should do with the older wallpapers? Comment below, let us know!

Touring CERN and the LHC

During the Sprint at CERN everyone got to take a tour of the Large Hadron Collider, it was a fantastic time and a proud moment for members of the KDE community to see the massive and incredible machines which happened to have KDE software running at the controls.

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There were many different systems on display, not just KDE!

We had a rare opportunity to actually go 100 meters underground and look at the scope of it – grand and atomic – and look at one of the greatest achievements of society with our own eyes.

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There were many different systems on display, not just KDE!

Once we got our eyes on the massive structure a couple of the guys pulled out a bag and said “Hey, want to see something cool?”

Of course.

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There were many different systems on display, not just KDE!

Over at the injector (where they feed matter into the LHC) some of the other VDG members had snuck in a bag of paintballs. It was ON. Much like a pneumatic tubes of the late 1800s, the LHC consumed the ammo with gusto. I was sure our giggling would give us away, but we made sure people crowded around the controls before anyone knew what we were doing.

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There were many different systems on display, not just KDE!

The way the LHC was laid out, there was various catwalks surrounding where the beam passes through. We found a pair of convenient walkways ripe for us to jump across which would let us get hit – we didn’t need to worry much about timing, after all, the gauges already indicated the first paintball was going 92.3% the speed of light.

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The first hit! Left a small mark!

It was a good time. We had some bruises, other peoples heads and arms simply vanished at near relativistic speeds. We lost 3 members of the VDG, 5 WikiToLearn editors, and Sebas was the only Plasma developer to go, though watching him get sucked into a black hole made by a near-light-speed paintball was really, really cool.

As an aside, since he’s beyond the event horizon, I’ve taken over his blog. Any amazing accomplishments he makes from now on were actually all me, and I should get the credit.

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And that was our tour of the LHC. We’re confident in our productivity to take over for the now deceased community members, and we firmly believe the sacrifice was totally worth it. After the tour we got into our cars to drive back to the sprint proper – albeit with some more shoulder room in the vehicles – and we got back to work after turning the LHC into the worlds largest paintball cannon.