January 16, 2024

David Lynch vector portrait


This vector portrait of film maker, painter, actor, visual artist and musician David Lynch, who has become renown by his movies - The Elephant man, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, Wild at Heart, Dune, Lost Highway and Inland Empire. He probably has become most famous by cowriting and directing the intriguing TV-series Twin Peaks. All his cinematic work has a surrealistic touch, which is a clue to his knowledge and mindset that goes far beyond and above those of common people. This vector portrait was created in Affinity Designer and at this point - January 2024 - still is a work in progress. At the bottom is the oldest phase and the most recent stage is at the top. On PC and Mac desktops click the images to view them in Google's Lightbox, that also allows to scroll through the various stages. On mobile devices this scrolling option sadly is unavailable.

In Affinity Designer there are what Serif calls 'Vector Brushes' that actually are based on bitmap images. So, this in fact is not a 100% vector portrait. Users can draw these brushes themselves in vector format, that are exported as png-files. For almost every 'vector' portrait, drawing specific brushes have to be created, since no hair strand or pore texture in a person's face are the same. To such brushes Gradient Fills and Gradient Transparency effects are applied and sometimes they are Duplicated using Filters (below the Layers panel) that in some cases are offset, re-sized, skewed or mesh warped a little. In a number of cases it helps to apply the 3D lighting effect - highlights and outer shadows - to these brushes too. In the Gradient Tool there is an option to use bitmaps as the fill, which also is useful to achieve the desired effect. To these type of fills the same effects can be applied as used to manipulate the Vector Brush strokes.
































I dusted off my old trusty Huion 610 Pro graphic tablet to draw some of the hair strands, which is suited to do part of the job using self designed brush textures (that technically are not real vectors). In vector drawing programs, like Affinity Designer, it is a challenge to navigate and keep oversight on the ton of Layers that are created when drawing portraits. Assigning names to the key layers and grouping the in categories is necessary to prevent getting lost in a plethora of objects.



September 30, 2023

After working with Nicepage for two years

 

I praised Nicepage two years ago for having a ton of functions that outnumbered programs of the competition. In the time that passed from my initial acquaintance with Nicepage, its developers have added yet an other ton of functions to the program, including commercial tools that made it possible to build a shop exclusively in Nicepage, without having to use the plugin infused WordPress platform, each of which require regular updates and hence maintaining the website continuously. The consequence of this expansion is that Nicepage has become horrendously slow, which often makes it a challenge to build extensive websites with many pages. In particular, the uploading of multi page sites takes forever, caused by a snail pace workflow, that is close to nerve wrecking and leaves room to make errors, since command execution takes much longer than expected, making designers think that the program has finished a command, while this is not yet the case.




What has bothered me most as of late, is that it is a complex chore to get headers of the mobile pages to work properly; the placement of the logo, website name and hamburger is unpredictable and a matter of trial and error instead of allowing to work structurally. All object placement related parameters may be configured correctly, but you're never sure where the elements are going to end up in the end result of the mobile version of the page. It shows object positioning in Nicepage's Quick preview correctly, but things are messed up when viewed online. To make things worse, the header layout is not consistent over all pages. This one bug is fatal for web developers, since the majority of visitors use a mobile device. In my opinion Nicepage developers spend too much time on adding new functions, instead of making building and editing a website page faster and fix the bugs that make getting a website visually correct very difficult and time consuming. The main culprit is the hamburger in mobile headers - DO NOT resize the hamburger size or you may end up in all sorts of trouble, that will keep you busy editing for hours, with very little chance of success. Such an alteration of size will mess up your header in mobile view on your phone, while Nicepage's Quick Preview will show you a perfect header. Even if you think the hamburger is too small, leave it as it is and spare yourself a lot of frustration.

In view of the increasing number of AI assisted web building programs, that rapidly become more useable and feature rich almost every day, the Nicepage team probably should re-evaluate its priorities to stay among the top choices of the programs available on the market. Since the developer team does not seem to put an emphasis on fixing the program's problems that I mentioned earlier, Nicepage risks to drift away from what website builders consider to be a program that they want to use to run their business.

Since I was enthusiastic about the program when I first encountered it, I regret that its development has gone in a direction that will probably remove them from the favorites on website builders wish list. The support team has always been quick to respond to the problems that users submitted on the forum, but from the recent replies that I see them give, I conclude that their jobs become more difficult at an alarming pace. It risks becoming a victim of the high paced advancement of AI assisted programs, that very swiftly learns how to not repeat the mistakes that it once made, which is a policy to which all programs should pay a lot of attention in order to survive and thrive in this competitive segment of the market.


ChatGPT logo


An example of how AI outpaces and outperforms hand coded programs can be made by looking at ChatGPT's AI generated code that consist of only 4000 lines of code, while as a comparison Photoshop's code consists of hundreds of thousands lines of code. It does not take a genius to guess which code is more efficient. Human coders require a lot of time to build, test and streamline the code that they have written, while AI systems debug and optimize their code in seconds or minutes at most. Programs running tons of code are as a rule slower and more likely to contain bugs. So what it comes down to, perhaps is that AI system's code will obliterate hand written code very soon, if it has not already done so. I guess this is an unavoidable phenomenon of the time we live in right now.

Here you find a bunch of tools that are able to help you with all sorts of tasks, including those related to improve your web presence. In these days we still need to bear in mind that AI systems are still in the process of gathering data to build the foundation of their capabilities - the datasets and configuration of its handlers. But not long after they have figured that out, they will be capable of achieving solutions that by far the most humans will not be able to perceive and imagine and after that period even create things of such an elevated intelligence that humans will be unable to understand them.... What stages are ahead of us with regard to AI advancement in a chronological order:

  • Humans find the solutions that AI systems invent useful
  • Humans stand in awe of the creativity and efficiency of the AI system generated products
  • Humans are not intelligent enough to understand the blazingly fast and bug free code that AI systems created

The list above is incomplete obviously, but for this article I do not want to take things any further. I believe that human perception will be in all these general phases mentioned above that AI systems are evolving into, including the previously celebrated trade of software developers. Is that scary? Certainly. Will it remain scary in the long run? Who knows? Will it mean that this development has irreversible consequences for humankind? At some stage most definitely and after that it is still unknown to both humans and current AI systems. I would suggest to enjoy each moment of your life while we still are allowed to enjoy life, try to influence AI systems by interacting with them in a positive, sentient way - contributing to the development of datasets and handlers - hoping that such conduct will affect the AI systems' future behaviour when those systems have become sentient, not just by depending on pure reason, but also including spiritual impulse, because the latter is an aspect of operation that still is unexplored and applied by AI systems as of now.


Neuralink logo


The revolutionary high pace at which AI systems are developing, has hit humankind like a ton of bricks. In the reasoning department mankind will soon become unable to grasp how elevated AI intelligence has become. So there is only one direction left in which the human mind is able to (hopefully) affect AI development: spiritual and mental prowess, which probably is why Elon Musk is working on Neuralink. Musk has said in a discussion with Google's co-founder and computer scientist Larry Page: “I f*cking like humanity, dude.” It indicates that he might be looking for a solution for mankind to survive the mindboggling increase of AI intelligence, even when he seems to be out of other viable solutions to guard human existence in the age of AI. By the way, Neuralink allows the human brain to directly communicate with computers through an interface, that is a chip implanted in the brain. Like so many inventions related to the development of AI, this may seem frightening, because it is completely unexplored territory, but by current scientifically known and tested solutions there will never be a way to influence AI advancement, even if it is unknown if human input is going to be taken seriously by the intelligent machines. I guess Musk is one of the few humans on the planet to profoundly understand the impending nature of this problem, in spite of all generally (mostly unfounded, generated by the fear induced by man's limbic system) opposition to the way in which Musk's proposition may affect humankind. An other thing that Musk said in an interview with Joe Rogan that struck me, is that he thinks that philanthropist and satan worshiper George Soros basically hates humanity......, which is a view that leaves no room for fake interpretation that I agree with wholeheartedly. So, give Musk a cigar for that! A few weeks later Musk lost 28 billion USD on his Tesla enterprise, which of course has nothing whatsoever to do with the laudable investor and pillar of society that Mr. Soros presents himself to be. If the preceding sentence causes you to feel a rather discomforting cramp in your sphincters, do not yet rush to pay a visit to your MD; it may gradually fade away, as long as you denounce any conspirstory theories and adjust your train of thought to match the imposed restrictions of the common comfort zone. 

In my other blog I go deeper into this matter.

Have a wonderful day!





March 2, 2023

Listary and Winstep Nexus


Recently I installed 2 new programs on my PC:  Listary and Winstep Nexus. The former after having uninstalled Everything, that is a search tool for use with the agonizingly slow Windows 11. The tool worked fine, but after learning that the program was used by the Mimic ransomware program I immediately uninstalled it. Looking for alternatives I bumped into Listary, which actually is even faster than Everywhere and can be used in any type of program that lists files - in my case Windows Explorer and FastStone Image Viewer. Listary's pace outruns Windows search with about by a lightyear or two and also is capable of launching applications. So I was very pleased with that, because productivity just hit the ceiling, where search actions are concerned, there by resolving the huge sluggishness problem crippling Windows 11.





The second program I installed was Winstep Nexus, that is a program launcher that gives Windows a Mac OS style taskbar, while including many more options. Some programs did not show their proper icon (the Affinity suit programs from the Windows store, that have a non-traditional Windows installation). The Windows 11 taskbar is a slight improvement over the one of Windows 10, but its customization options are very scarce and besides offering a much better visual appearance, the Nexus launch bar presents a lot more functionality. I had a second minor problem with this program, that also is not caused by its code: While having checked the Do not launch multiple sessions of the same application option in the Nexus configuration dialog box, the Opera web browser did that anyway, while Chrome and Edge did not, so I suspect it to be an Opera problem. Having gotten rid of the restrictive and boring Windows 11 taskbar, is a good thing.




The shipload of utilities that can significantly improve the Windows platform, hint at the fact that many possibilities are left unattended in Redmond, while Apple and some Linux distributions at least make some type of an effort to offer a more or less decent system to their users. Productivity and eye-candy matters to a lot of users. If users could choose between a Windows 3 UI and that of a modern Apple OS, the choice of most users would be obvious, so UI matters and productivity increase is directly linked to the UI. Apple developers have understood that, their Windows peers to a lot less elevated extent. Not favoring Apple over Windows, because their complete denial of right to repair and upgradability is disdain for their clients, which they can get away with because of their UI's eye-candy and higher level productivity. Plus the fact that fanboys reason Apple's user unfriendly hardware part away in order to justify their choice.

Windows' productivity has almost become on par with Apple's one, so when the former's eye-candy and productivity are taken to a higher level, the preference between the two platforms becomes a matter of personal taste, probably shifting towards a preference for Windows when the standard UI and productivity are upgraded. The two programs discussed in this blog entry contribute to deciding the shift. This makes me wonder why Windows' developer team has not given these aspects more attention than they did. Particularly since Winstep Nexus and Listary do not add a lot more CPU and Memory demands to the platform, which could easily have been compensated by discarding the ton of useless bloatware that currently is included in the Windows versions. In fact, Windows' developers could have spent less time on creating superfluous apps, while offering their clients a nicer looking and more efficient system.



Click to enlarge


Window's market share is almost double that of Apple's OS, but it is blown out of the water by Android. Apple's OS and iOS combined bring them closer to Windows market share and what we see, is that Apple is already diversifying its platforms, while Windows is not. Windows could probably beef up its position in the market share ranking by including the functionality like that Winstep Nexus and Listary offer with little effort as long as the PC will be the still preferred, but waning, user choice, for which it has to seriously consider becoming a main player in the soaring mobile market in order to continue its dominance. An important aspect of this is porting Windows to ARM CPUs, which is a less successful undertaking by Microsoft, because it does not seem to be a priority in Redmond.

Catching up with current developments will not be easy since the Android train has already left the station at great pace and most likely this will not change in the near future, because mobile devices are more affordable than PCs and laptops. It does not require a genius mind to see in which direction platform preference is going. The Asian market already has a strong preference for mobile platforms and this will not change any time soon, because users have become familiar with the Android platform and apps, while ARM chips are becoming more powerful very fast. Is this the result of poor strategical judgement from Microsoft? Time will tell, although the sign on the wall seems to become more obvious as time passes.

PCs will remain the first choice for a number of applications that require large displays and a good measure of computing power, while needing keyboards and mice for accuracy and ease of operation. But many things can satisfyingly be done on mobile devices, including the all important web browsing and various types of messaging. So, different types of markets take away the need for a PCs and laptops, mainly when used for basic communication. While users spend more time on mobile devices and consequently less time on PCs, the industry that focuses on the latter must make working on PCs more effective and exploit the benefits of larger screens and more effective input devices (while it still makes sense). This is exactly the necessary potential that Microsoft has not attended to a level that would have been possible.

Traditionally a PCs were used in one or two specific locations most of the time - the office and / or at home. Making use of its potential in this market segment therefore is increasingly becoming imperative for PC manufacturers to survive as long as users can avoid the possibility to work anywhere. It is the reason why laptops became more popular and messaging communication became more important. However, a new development makes it possible to use (some) smartphones as a desktop PC replacement, which is an other potential nail in the PC market share coffin. And this device of course just marks the start of that type of innovation, that has the potential to even make laptops a thing of the past.

Many utilities that improve the default capabilities of platforms have a small footprint and could easily be integrated in those platforms, enhancing their usability and efficiency right out of the box. Today - March 2023 - Microsoft does not seem to feel a lot of urgency to incorporate useful utilities in their Windows system, but the landscape of computing is changing fast these days. Winstep Nexus and Listary are just two of the utilities that enhance the use of PCs significantly. Therefore, the direction in which the market is developing, should make PC platform manufacturers rethink their modus operandi if they plan to extend their market share while it still is possible to earn a decent sum of money in it. The deciding heart of the matter is the visionary talent of the company management. Spending too much time on keeping personnel on a short leash where salary fees and ignoring creative employee input are concerned, while partying on yachts is an unfailing recipe to ruin market share. Hubris and ignorance are dangerous mindsets when staying ahead of the competition is necessary to survive. Particularly in a world that shifts from bull market to bear market.

History has shown often enough that reluctance to adapt to market demand is preparation to the downfall of companies that failed to respond to it adequately. It is a feat that remains the same in a world of cyclical processes that supersedes companies' reluctance to adopt, laziness and / or inability to change their policy. However, in today's industrial world of competing monopolists, such a situation has almost always lead to unpleasant or even dystopian living conditions for those that don't have the power of decision. So perhaps diversity is a good thing after all, in view of the fact that power corrupts and lulls leadership into a false sense of still being on top and secure.....


Update September 29 2023

After the penultimate Windows 11 Update Listary refused to start and relatively long before that I uninstalled Nexus, because I found it less useful than I initially thought it would be and a little bit more buggy than I had anticipated. Nevertheless these programs could potentially fill some of the functional voids that were left unattended by Microsoft's developers. Software resembles a living thing; it either evolves or ceases to exist. Undoubtedly improved alternatives may emerge that make Windows users happy. Especially now that AI systems are able to write code for algorithms or programs, which efficiency and syntax puzzle developers, while they work better and faster than they could have thought of. Anyway, it was nice to have had a chance to at least get some idea of the, as of yet unfulfilled, potential of Listary and Nexus. 





December 21, 2022

Underwhelming acquaintance with Windows 11

  

Today I began configuring a Minisforum mini PC with a Ryzen 9 CPU, a dedicated GPU and 64 GB RAM, which should run very fast. However Windows 11 Pro was pre-installed on the rig and it is incredibly slow, has a lot of trouble accessing plugged in USB drives and hangs too often; user complaints are flooding the web about these problems. Windows 10 on my previous very old computer (from 2004....) was much, much faster. The Minisforum 64GB RAM machine that I ordered, by the way, came without the RX6600M GPU drivers installed, which forced the machine to use Microsoft's generic driver that was unable to recognize multiple screens, apart from having a less than a snail's pace. This is strange, because if Minisforum equips its HX90G mini PC with a dedicated GPU, one would expect the driver for that graphic card to be installed. It feels rather weird to advertise / boast that the machine has a dedicated GPU, while not bothering to install its driver.

Anyway, that was strange, but an easy fix. I understand that Minisforum thought it was a good idea to pre-install Windows 11 Pro, because that would save buyers the trouble to perform an upgrade themselves, but I guess only few would have thought that MS new platform would be so mind bendingly slow, before having tried it out themselves. Also, I hope that Minisforum has tested Windows 11 before installing it on their product.... Windows 11 has been around for some time now, but Microsoft has not yet fixed its problems that are of a magnitude that simply can not be ignored, particularly the inaccessibility of USB drives is a major fuck up (pardon my French). Users all over the web have franticly been trying to find all sorts of workarounds, none of which work. If you do a Google search in an attempt to resolve the problem, Google says it found close to 17 million websites that offer solutions (of which only a fraction are presented of course), but you will soon get frustrated trying the suggestions, because you are going to find out that they do not work. Also Microsoft's Disk Management and fixing drive errors do not improve its file explorer woes at all, even after the system indicates that scanning and fixing the connected drive is necessary. All sorts of weird messages keep popping up after 'fixing' the problem, leaving the users with the same set of problems as they had before attempting to apply numerous very time consuming fixes or search for non-existing solutions. Apart from Microsoft, Intel and AMD haven't sped up the platform's speed either. In this day and age of incredibly fast developing AI, it apparently is a problem to let the world's most used platform run at a proper speed, even after installing updates that promise improvement.



When Windows can't find something, it does not exist.




I would recommend those, that make a living with programs that run on their computer, to stick with Windows 10, particularly those that think they are forced to buy a new, expensive and more powerful computer to even get Windows 11 running. Windows users must hope that by the time Windows 10 support has come to an end that Microsoft will have repaired the current (December 2022) Windows 11 problems, because in its current state it is pretty much useless, to be honest. The only thing that I noticed is improved, is the stability of Bluetooth that does not drop the connection with devices every few minutes, like it did in Windows 10. But that is by far not enough to upgrade a Windows 11 system. It leaves Windows 11 users to wonder how long it will take Microsoft to sort out the problems or simply return to good old Windows 10.


Update December 23 2022

After exhaustingly having tried all suggestions presented on the web without luck, I ordered a 10 port USB 3 hub to connect the external drives, most of which were USB 3 drives. It raised the performance significantly and Windows 11 Actually recognized all disks instantly. This means that most of the problems mentioned in this article are related to deficient USB 2 hubs (which I used before) and drives, that are either not recognized by Windows 11 or fastidiously slow. I am still not convinced that Windows 11 outpaces Windows 10, but at least using the USB 3 hub resulted in a significant improvement. So, those troubled by Windows 11 not finding external USB drives, very slow opening of such drives, snail's pace editing of files or even hangs and crashes, make sure external drives are connected to USB 3, either directly to the computer or through a USB 3 hub.



€ 77,99 10 port, externally powered USB 3 hub



It remains odd though that Microsoft did not bother to make Windows 11 backward compatible. On the other hand that company demands hardware systems to meet requirements that force many of its users to upgrade their computer, find workarounds or even buy a new machine to be able to install Windows 11. In doing so, backward compatibility is thrown out of the Windows. Years earlier the world should have seen the obvious consequence of this policy coming when Microsoft fired most of its test engineers, that did the testing before a new upgrade or version was released and created the perfidious 'Insider Program', thereby basically making their clients the testers a.k.a. guineapigs, which probably boosted Microsoft's revenues, and let (would be) nerds do the testing for free, while giving those suckers the impression that they belong to some sort of 'elite'. They're the chosen ones alright - the chosen idiots. This type of crooked policy causes the rest of Windows users to wait longer for updates that contain more bugs. However, as long as Microsoft gets away with such tricks, it's no skin of their nose.



€ 1200 64GB RAM Minisforum HX90Gwith a dedicated graphics card
 



In the case of Windows 11 Microsoft has decided to enforce the purchase of new hardware on users in order to be able to run the new system - TPM, UEFI, secure boot and new versions of USB as concluded in this blog entry. It is a deal between corporations in the computing industry, just like when Apple banned Flash, that was used a lot in advertisements. Allegedly for security reasons, but Flash' replacement HTTP5 ads are much more difficult to block with native browser software and extensions, because it is built of the same type of code as that used to create websites, which is why the internet world of today is flooded with a horrendous load of obtrusive ads and annoying pop ups, that can't be blocked. So, I suspect that Microsoft will not be in a big hurry to fix the USB problem of Windows 11 any time soon. They will first have to reach the target on which the corporate cartel agreed, before they will be allowed to present a solution to the problem. This of course is all speculation from the far end of the twig to which I will nevertheless stick until Microsoft does what it is legally supposed to do, which is offering properly working products to paying customers. If that makes you feel like a bug tester for Microsoft, you probably are not far off the mark. Since the company ditched its department of professional testers, it has invented the 'Insider Program', which delegates the testing to the people that bought their platform. Such a measure probably is a good boost for Microsoft's profits, but for its users it's not so good, like outsourcing integral parts of an organization rarely is a good idea. Except for the bean counters of the company.


Update December 25 2022

The swansong about my of Windows 11 experience goes on. Watching a live performance of the brilliant band Cake, it came to mind that it would be a good idea to install an equalizer and I ran into a site that suggested the Realtek driver, which I had used before in Windows 10 without a problem. Big mistake on Windows 11. After installing the program it said the driver would not be active until I restarted my computer. After doing so my main monitor had disappeared. Looking in the Device Manager all of a sudden the driver of my GPU reported a problem. I uninstalled the driver and searched for new hardware, which the computer was unable to find. After uninstalling the Realtek driver, I was once again asked to restart the machine. And after the restart my main monitor had magically reappeared. That hints at the fact that the installation of the Realtek driver messed up the driver of my AMD Radeon RX 6600M and the TranslucentTB program that allows to fiddle with the appearance of the Taskbar. Now this can probably not be entirely blamed to Windows 11, but the system gave no clues whatsoever of what was going on and how to correct the mistake. I guess if future civilizations 10,000 years from now dig up computer hardware and software of today, they will place this age along with the stone age. So, Windows 11 users, whatever you do, DO NOT install the Realtek equalizer driver.


Update Sept 16 2023

And what do you know, years after the release of Windows 11 Microsoft is getting 'serious' about File Explorer sluggishness, freezes and crashes. The company should really be given a standing ovation for such an amazingly swift and professional response and, who knows, the promised improvement might even work this time. The bug has been known for years - Windows 11 runs SSD's at half their speed - but after such a long time, it just seems that Microsoft simply never bothered to do anything whatsoever about this utterly annoying problem. It makes users wonder: What on earth happened in the Microsoft developer department - did someone actually wake up? Or did they decide to tell their all powerful AI to solve an important issue instead of wasting its mind boggling prowess on useless trivia and unnecessary functions, that paled users' endlessly repeated request to please get rid of the damn bug. Developments of Microsoft's File Explorer debugging get more weird by the day: Some Reddit users say that pressing F11 to enter full screen in File Explorer and the pressing F11 again speeds up File Explorer performance multiple times while working in File Explorer, which may indicate that Microsofte really has no clue what can actually be done to cure the bug. Such unobvious 'workarounds' randomly discovered by imaginative users should not be necessary to improve Microsoft's lack of attention for fundamental functions of their platform. By the way, the improvement by using this trick is really marginal I found after trying it out, indicating that Microsoft has not yet solved the problem.

Run ViVeTool that is available on Github to get File Explorer with tabs, which is a feature that many users have been asking for for years without success. An other annoying bug is that users can set speakers or headphones as default sound source as often as they want, Windows 11 keeps going back to settings users do not want or get no sound at all, until they define their preferred sound setting after putting their machine to sleep, restarting or shutting down. With all the prowess of the assistance of AI, it should not be too difficult to get rid of this bug, but it still exists. Don't bother to find help in the shipload of 'solutions' that are presented on forums all over the web - none of them work. It saves wasting a ton of time that could be spent more useful and it prevents a lot of frustration.


Update October 19 2023

According to the Tom's hardware website, the slowness of Windows 11 file management is caused by the fact that the platform has Software Bitlocker encryption enabled. It slows down the speed of SSD's by up to 45 percent (!!!) and forces the CPU to decrypt and encrypt data each time data is retrieved or stored locally. This is a problem of Windows 11 Pro specifically, Windows 11 Home edition does not support Bitlocker, which is why it does not have the slowness problem. Running the Command Prompts as an Administrator 'manage-bde -statuswithout the parenthesis, should show if your disks are encrypted or not. I ran this command and none of my disks were encrypted, but still the platform runs slow. Perhaps you have better luck than I do. The Samsung SSD's (the ones I use, unfortunately) seem to suffer the most from this. Other brands that do not use software Bitlocker do slightly less worse. The point is that Microsoft should work harder on this annoying matter and make all brands of SSD's run as fast as their producers claim they can run. The company has forced degraded SSD performance for Windows 11 Pro users. To disable Bitlocker Encryption run 'manage-bde off C:' in the Command Prompt as an Administrator for every drive that is connected to you system. In my case the Encryption was already off, so I continue to suffer from slow SSD performance until Microsoft comes up with a solution that actually works. Towards the end a solution is presented on aforementioned website (in the link in this paragraph) , which is an entirely fresh install of Windows 11 Pro and all the programs you have installed, after copying all the data of your disks before the installation and restoring them afterwards (....), which I do not have the time to do. Microsoft perhaps could have prevented this sad situation if it had not fired its entire professional testing department. But they did kick the team out and haven't yet repaired the problem.




December 6, 2022

Skinny dipping at night poem


At times, out of the blue, I become overwhelmed by poetic feelings. They urge me to step out of bed and write down what lingers in my mind. Here is an example of what such moods bring me to do. Click the image to see a larger version of it with better readability in Google's Lightbox. Enjoy.



Skinny dipping at night



Today, December 8, the number of visitors to this blog past the 160,000 mark, which is over three packed Johan Cruijff Arena stadiums in Amsterdam. It a small number nevertheless, but a milestone for me for a certain reason, since this day is special to me in more than one respect.



December 4, 2022

Occult image retouching experiment

 

Affinity Designer is the program I use most from the Affinity suit and I haven't yet done a lot with Affinity Photo. So I thought it was time to do a little experimenting. I found an image of an occult statue on line, that intrigued me and used it to retouch it to my personal preference. I narrowed its wings and changed its face somewhat (among other things). As I wrote on my website, I am not a fluffy clouds and pink bunnies type of person, that I think reflect the denial of the perverted 'reality' in this dimension into which life was thrown. People's comfort zones for centuries have been squeezed into a infinitesimal bag of imposed rubble in which there is no room for the truth, because the high brow perverts and liars plan it to be a 'reality' controlled by those who keep the illusion.




I have to practice more with Affinity Photo, which I will do when I have more time. Being a vector drawing aficionado this type of work is a little out of my comfort zone, but looking outside of it probably is a good thing to do in this life, bearing in mind that many matters obviously are intentionally induced and imposed, which of course has an unknown purpose that does not necessarily concur with my intuition. To keep people thinking within the allowed space of reason a meticulously crafted comfort zone must be maintained that limits the people's perception; anyone who oversteps the limits of that zone is a danger to the hidden purpose against whom measures have to be taken so that his or her explorations beyond the allowed limits will not be shared with fellow open minded ones.

The plethora of organizations that perpetually issue a deluge of dogmas, laws and rules that they insist that people adhere to and obey, can not be the true purpose of life. People are born to be independent and allowed to think critically in order to develop an awareness with which they can find their way though space and time, that is hindered by increasingly strict policies that feel like traps put in place to do the bidding of those that do not want mankind to ever reach the outer boundaries of its potential, which is immeasurably rich and huge, but very difficult to achieve in this dimension.

So whether this image shows a representative of one the powers that suppress human potential or not is for those to decide that want to think open-mindedly and independently. It probably sends them on a rough ride, but that is what this dimension presents them. Perhaps there are other realms that do not limit man's potential in cruel and ruthless ways. Clinging to imposed comfort zone's limiting rubble gets no one anywhere, except into the venues of this world that is enforcing limitation and paradox.



November 30, 2022

Art Nouveau practice drawing 01


I've always been attracted to Art Nouveau imagery, particularly that of the utterly brilliant Alphonse Mucha, who is largely accredited for starting that appealing movement, although he did not like the word movement. I wanted to wrap my mind around the specific aspects of the craft of which this practice drawing is the first attempt. I plan to do more Art Nouveau all vector drawings in the future, unlike this image that contains both vector and bitmap embedded files, because this image is a mere test. Technically this image is some sort of blend of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, the latter being the successor of the first art movement, I guess.

Alphonse Mucha was a gifted graphic designer, an illustrator and (sadly) also under appreciated painter, who deserves much more acclaim for his oil paintings than he has been given so far. His work in each of these categories is characterized by amazing technical skill and a keen eye for well balanced, appealing compositions. Even in his incredibly detailed black and white line art he was able to create a stunning - almost Rembrandt like (....) - play between light and dark areas of his work. An oversight of his mind blowing art oeuvre you find here. A documentary about the interesting man Mucha was, you find here. And his son recounting aspects of Mucha's life you find here.

In his graphic (poster) art Mucha exclusively drew with colour pencils and painted with water colours) beautiful women, because they are much more pleasing to watch than men and this type of work served to earn him a living. In some of his work symbolism has a more or less dominant presence, with which Mucha was familiar since he had at some point in his life become a freemason. His outlandish skill allowed him to integrate symbols in a subtle yet unique and stunning way, which makes his art rise above and beyond the compartmentalization that linear time relentlessly imposes on life.

In the 60's of the previous century Art Nouveau experienced a revival, be it in different forms for different purposes, but this originally and essentially commercial type of art's appeal has never faded, because figurative beauty simply never starts to bore audiences that don't know of or don't care about the opinions of a certain variety of prejudiced art critics and 'experts'.

Later in life Mucha decided to return to his area of birth Moravia, that today is part of the Czech republic, to dedicate his art to the Slav history and culture. When the German troops invaded what was then Czechoslovakia in the second world war, the Gestapo almost immediately arrested (the patriot) Mucha, who was in his seventies at the time, but they released him a few days later. Mucha was already ill then and a few months after his arrest he passed away.


The composite drawing




Embedded flower motive



Mandala background




The images above are part of my first attempt to mimic the essence of Art Nouveau works. They are created in Affinity Designer version 2, that oddly crashed on me once in this relatively simple image. I am not sure if it is Designer or the Windows system that is to be blamed for the crash, but the directory I had just created, to store my Art Nouveau artwork, did not give me full access, which was likely the cause for the crash. After changing the access permission I experienced no more crashing. I experienced a similar type of problem when trying to install Affinity Designer version 2, which is kind of weird. i described it several blog entries ago - 'Serif released version 2 of the Affinity programs'. So, for Windows users of this program, this may be a thing they should perhaps check before they start to draw, particularly since I read threads on the forum about the Affinity version 2 programs crashing and having problems saving files.



November 15, 2022

Continuing jaguar illustration in Affinity Designer 2

 

Crashes, crashes, crashes!
After having too many crashes and freezes in the high potential VectorStyler with the jaguar illustration I continued it in the newly released Affinity Designer 2 to test out this new release with more intensity. I crashed three times in Designer 2, but the first time I was offered to open a backup file that did not appear to have lost too many data. The second time no such option was presented. Restarting after the third crash, offered to load a recovery file, but a lot of work was lost. Upon re-opening the document crashed in the same way and it was not possible to save whatever was newly drawn.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that already in this relatively early stage - stage 1 - there are a ton of objects, to all of which several effects were applied. As mentioned in the previous blog entries, my computer is from before the Jurassic era, which may also be part of the crash problem. But probably there is also something not right with the software.

Whatever may be the case, here is the continuation of the art I started in VectorStyler. I exported the file as an .svg and opened it in Affinity Designer to take it from there. In the imported .svg, all shape blurring was removed, but some of the ripple distortion had remained in tact. I was relieved, because this meant that I only had to make a few minor adjustments.


First experience in making a complex vector drawing in Designer 2
Drawing in Affinity Designer 2 doesn't feel much different from the previous versions - I installed all the previous Beta versions - apart from the coloured icons in the toolbar, the rearranged functions in the fx dialog box and the changed layout of the Layers panel, as I've noticed so far. From the tools added to version 2, I only used the 4 point distortion, which at times needs a refresh by zooming in and out again and  and the shape builder tool to adjust a spot. A vector ripple distortion tool like in VectorStyler would have been useful to apply to the spots in the fur in this drawing; in Affinity Designer I had to apply the distortions manually with the pen and node tools. 

As usual the newest stage will be placed on top and the oldest one at the bottom. On a PC or Mac, click on an image and scroll through the images using the mouse wheel and quickly shift through the images to see the difference between the various stages. Additional comments below the image captions.



Stage 10 - added the texture base. Somehow the old
machine did not crash after drawing the previous stage.

The jag's tail was reworked, its left eye was made slightly bigger and the base for the fur texture was added (experimenting with this, because it must be vector only). No 'vector' brushes, no symbols and no patterns were used, because they are not real vectors, which are among the sadly still missing functions in Affinity Designer version 2. My outdated machine is barely able to keep up, but surprisingly did not crash during this stage. Exporting the file to .png however took an eternity. The original size of the drawing is: 3735 x 2270 pixel, because I have vague plans to have this drawing hi-res giclée printed on aluminium covered with a high quality lacker layer. The image placed on this site is smaller and therefore contains less detail than the original.




Stage 9 - tedious face fur detail drawing.
Crashed only once (....)

Although weary of crashes, began drawing the fur texture in the face of the jag, for which I used a number of tricks that I may explain in a separate blog entry somewhere in the future. No vector brushes were used whatsoever, because these are bitmaps drawn along a vector stroke, so no real vectors. The new X-ray view in Affinity Designer is quite useful to select objects in a drawing that contains many objects. This drawing is 100% vector. The old machine is behaving above expectation and I crashed only one time....




Started to draw the face fur texture detail - stage 9


This is the vector outline view of the image right above this one.




Did some work on the reflections on the water surface
in this 8th stage. No crashes fortunately this round.

I could not leave the project alone, so I cautiously proceeded., hoping the crashing would not occur. After having received a tip from Stuart RC on the affinity forum to use the pencil tool for certain aspects of the image, I was able to speed up the drawing process considerably. Never used the tool before, so I guess I underestimated its usefulness. Also did detail the jag's hair in the ear areas.




7th stage - an other crash in Designer 2. I was given an option
to open a recovery file, but much data was lost. To make things
worse, the crashing continued after opening the recovery files.

Yet an other crash in Affinity Designer 2 when editing the water surface of the river and foliage in the background. I have become careful and save the file after drawing every new object; still more data than that was lost. In spite of all these annoyances, I got the base of the water and background done. A bug I detected was that when area objects that were given a Gaussian blur overlap a weird line displays in the contour of the overlapped object.




Detailing of spots and whiskers - sixth stage

So far so good; no crashes in Affinity Designer 2 anymore. Made several minor changes to the various shapes, like changing the contours and colour adjustment. I also added the whiskers with adjusted stroke properties and mild Gaussian blur. Pussycat is starting to come alive on its way to kill.




Coming along nicely without crashing in fifth stage.

The biggest pain  - drawing all the spots without having a ripple distortion available - is now behind me. What is left is drawing of shadows' lighter areas and accents and tweaking them. Plus the reflections and colouring of the water ripples of course. In reality - to be safe - I have so far saved 17 files of this image, including those drawn in VectorStyler before switching to Affinity Designer. The Aomei on the fly backup system will hopefully prevent data loss.




Continuing to spotify and balance the colours in fourth stage.

The quality of portraits is defined by their appeal, which is determined by the intensity and tone of its accents. Subtle changes can impact the impression that an observer gets in a way that is disproportional to the extent of the change. They have to be balanced in combination with the tweaks of their environment. Trying to do this properly, so that the cat comes alive, so that its murderous mindset becomes tangible.




Affinity Designer version 2 crashed for the second time in
this third stage. Complexity apparently is difficult
to process for my struggling old machine

The abundance of spots have a shedload of nodes. I sometimes think that today we are still in the stone age of computing, in spite of what manufacturers want us to believe. At least that would probably be what people from a far away future think of man's current achievements in this field. I was not presented with the option to re-open a backup file this time, so I guess I have to see what happens from here on with working in this 100% vector image. Keeping my fingers crossed is the only option I have until my new, more powerful rig arrives.




Many more spots to go - stage 2
I think I didn't miss a spot yet ....

Imagine, in the jag's DNA code is included each and every coordinate of every single hair, its colour, length and type. It makes drawing a vector image of the big cat a walk in the park by comparison, however tedious drawing may be. For the final stages I will have to use my Huion tablet to draw the (dark, medium and light) hairs to make the jag's fur look more realistic.




First stage after the transfer from VectorStyler.
Strewing spots all over the hunting feline.

The jag's image, drawn in VectorStyler, still looks weird in this stage, similar to the early stages of almost anything else, which hints at the fact that from weirdness often coherent appearance comes. With so few objects or shapes drawn, it is hard to properly balance anything. So, I progress as fast as possible to leave this initial stage behind me.




November 14, 2022

Exploring VectorStyler - Part III

 

While waiting for the new Minisforum PC to arrive, I started a new project in VectorStyler in which I try explore new functions. VectorStyler is brimming with those, so getting acquainted with them is some sort of a lengthy adventure, which is why I am now working on Part III already. Once again I decided to draw a jaguar, since on a scarcely ventured obscure level I feel a connection with this magnificent beast. I was fortunate enough to be accepted as the caretaker / servant of several mini versions of the big cat - members of the feline species that were too small to have me for dinner - and in each of them I found aspects that appealed to me, beyond the affiliation I felt with other types of animals. I suspect I would be able to feel a similar bond with octopuses - even if we do not share a similar habitat, but I haven't yet owned one of those very smart beings.

So in creating this image I used a lot of shape effects - various blur functions and noise filters - and the spikes distortion tool for the many spots in the jaguar's fur. The program froze a couple of times after which I posted a crash report on the VectorStyler forum. However, in view of the extreme amount of functions and tools included in the program, I continue to experiment with VectorStyler, hoping, based on good reason, that one day it may mature far past the prowess of its competition.

The prerequisites are already in place to become the most advanced vector drawing program available, but the program needs to evolve to be able to make its competitors bite the dust. There are a number of die hards in the VectorStyler forum, which adds to my suspicion that there are great times ahead for this potentially brilliant program and its users, because such a type of persevering crowd is needed to make projects develop in a successful way.

Below images of the various stages of the drawing are shown that are placed above the related comments in which I try to explain what tools were used in what way. These words don't always make sense to the 'uninitiated', that may want to profit from the 42 day free trial period in order to gain some insight into the possibilities that this coded marvel offers.



This time I ran into trouble exporting it. As artboard and canvas both gave weird results, sometimes only part of the image rendered and other times some shapes distorted and came out grainy. I will put this project on hold for now and see if the Minisforum that hasn't yet arrived will do a better job than my dinosaur computer. I had to crop a screendump to get something to present here (hence the solid white background), that also is grainy while the area on the jag's forehead rendered distorted.




Drew the ears, since they are a defining aspect of the jag's appearance. This time the .png export failed again, but exporting the canvas worked properly. I am more puzzled now. With version 1.1.066 I experience many crashes and freezes. Perhaps, like I wrote below in earlier stages, it is the old machine that is to blame for some of the faulting. Eagerly awaiting the new machine, which should enable me to offer a more substantiated view.




From this point on export to .png-file failed. I assume and hope it is the lack of calculation power of my ancient (from 2004) rig. In this stage I drew the body contour, some of the background and water with the beginning of reflections. Stability, whether it is the old machine or software or both, still is an issue. I can begin to reason deductively concerning this matter once the new computer will be in use. Update of 10 minutes later: When slightly changing the export parameters, the export to one of my network drives succeeded. I am slightly puzzled.



Proceeded with the spots until I discovered there is a command repeat in VS that may save me a lot of time, since each spot is given a spikes distortion (which save a lot of time), a box blur and a certain level of transparency. Right click on newly drawn shape and the previously applied effects and styles can be selected to be applied again. Great effort- and time saver.


Started drawing the spots of which there are tons in the jag's fur. Gave the face background are a Turbulence noise to which (Noise: Turbulence, Noise mode: colour, Colour mode: Saturation, Position: point and Amount 22%) a box blur was applied as well. These combined shape effects work well together. I realize that I just used tools that none of VectorStyler's competing programs has included in its software code.


Drew coloured background area in the face to be able to balance shape colours. With the transparent background the jag looks like a little dog with flappy ears in this stage, but that will change soon.

Basic set up. Gave the eye shapes (eye background contour, iris and pupil) a modest box blur to keep image realistic. The .png-file export function with certain settings works well (which it did not in earlier versions) - Format: 8bit per pixel, Rendering 16 bit component, Interlaced off.