An up-to-date overview of free software and its makers
Projects on the Move
The Krita graphics program celebrates its 10th birthday and a successful jump to KOffice 2.0, while the Mistelix DVD creator gets ready to grow up.
The world of free software is fast and furious, and a project celebrating its 10th birthday is considered part of the establishment. This year, Krita  (Figure 1) joins that illustrious group of programs reaching double figures.
Krita is a pixel-based graphics program with a feature set that many free applications in the field lack. One of the application's unique selling points is its handling of color spaces. Krita uses the legacy RGB color model, the CMYK model preferred by professional printers (Figure 2), Y'CbCr, which is used for color encoding of digital videos, and L*a*b*.
Serious amateur photographers will also appreciate that Krita can read digital images directly from cameras in raw format and convert the original material to other image formats. Python and Ruby interfaces support the automation of recurring tasks. The DCOP interface handles communications in the KDE3 desktop; as of Krita 2.0, the D-Bus equivalent in KDE4 takes over this task. If you are still missing a function, despite Krita's huge feature set, you can easily write your own plugin thanks to the modular program design.
Krita took quite a while to develop. After a wild and woolly adolescence, the first fully usable version of the program was released in 2005. That release became a full member of the KOffice family . Krita also made the jump to KOffice version 2.0 and will be included with future versions of KDE4, unlike other KOffice family members that are still working hard to keep up.
The most important applications in KOffice are still alive and kicking, including KWord, KSpread, and KPresenter, which handle the classic tasks of word processing, spreadsheet, and presentations, respectively. The other applications are Karbon, another (vector-based) graphics program, and KPlato, the project management tool.
Some Krita functions are available in other KOffice components thanks to improved cooperation between the family members. In the future, these programs will be able to use Krita color models and channels of up to 32 bits.
Improved integration of individual KOffice programs removed the need to maintain the chart creation tool KChart. This functionality is now available to KOffice users in the form of a plugin.
KOffice 2.1 will be the first release in the Version 2 series meant for end users. The developers do not recommend KOffice 2.0 for daily use because some KOffice programs lack the functionality present in version 1.6: The developers simply didn't have enough time to rewrite everything before the KDE4 release date, although they do intend to catch up before KOffice 2.1 is released.
Kivio is another chart creator. In contrast to KChart, which uses numeric input, Kivio lets the user draw charts freehand. Because the project lacks a maintainer, it is uncertain whether Kivio will make the move to KOffice 2.0.
If you are interested in contributing to the development of Krita, you can check out the to-do list in the source code package. If you want to contribute, but do not have programming skills, the developers would appreciate donations of Wacom Intuos drawing tablets to help them implement support for the new devices. Of course, any kind of financial support that would let the developers buy new hardware is welcome, too.
Homemade video DVDs are still the medium of choice for true geeks who want to demonstrate both their vacation snapshots and their technical prowess. Showing a trek through an exotic country on the couch in front of the TV impresses your audience and is much more cosy than crowding around a laptop screen.
Mistelix , a Gnome program, creates slideshows from a collection of images and produces a video DVD at the click of a button (Figure 3). It includes the free Ogg Theora codec, although many DVD players do not play this video format. In addition, a DVD wouldn't be complete without a menu and a sound track; a click of the button adds both via the Mistelix interface. If you prefer not to add live commentary while viewing, you can add subtitles to the video.
Besides creating DVDs of still images, Mistelix can integrate existing videos. Again, you can combine the material to suit your own needs and then select what you want to play via the DVD menu. The current version 0.2 only supports the MPEG format for original video material; Mistelix does not have a function for auto-converting other formats as of this writing.
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