Category Archives: Design

Patterns and textures

These patterns were originally for Nautilus, the GNOME file manager (now called “Files”), when it supported having images as backgrounds. They are still good for some other programs though so I touched them up a bit.

I designed these so readability was good with them which was the key factor. A background I feel is to help with the comfort-ability of the area. They are barely noticed and add grip to the area. An original example:


And here is a view of them all:



Keyboard outlines for key mapping

When I work with a program long enough I will at times like to write down the key mappings so I may refer to them later. I had done this enough that I decided I might as well make a keyboard outline to use for key mapping. I did four of them for the basic US-English models. The fonts Arial and Arial MT Rounded are required to see properly. Enjoy.

Compact layout

Full layout

Laptop layout

Mini layout

Example key mapping

Monitor Hardware Calibration


A calibrated monitor will help images feel more natural and will help ease eye strain with tasks like reading. It may be preferable to some that when a new monitor is acquired to have it calibrated. This is a guide to show how to do such.

My Experience

I read documents on my computer all the time and occasionally do graphic design work. I appreciate having a calibrated monitor. I have a background in developing color photography which has helped my eye to recognize correct image reproduction. I have also worked for computer laboratories that has allowed me to calibrate a good number of varying monitors. Others will know more than me, however, this should be a good layman’s approach.

Monitor Setup Knowledge

  • the monitor should be left on ten+ minutes to let the bulb warm up to its standard operating color
  • the monitor’s angle at which it is viewed is important, for older or less expensive monitors a non-direct view of a few degrees can effect the display image… angle the monitor so that it is perpendicular to the eyes
  • hardware calibration should come before any software calibration, and software calibration only when necessary… hardware calibration would be helped if software calibration were disable beforehand
  • some monitor controls are extracurricular, eg better flesh tone or crushing black levels… for initial setup these controls should be turned off
  • some images are scalable so they can be view accurately at full screen, I would recommend doing so to help with one’s attention

Gamma Correction

Gamma Correction is an adjustment of the mid-luminosity level of the bulb to correct for a light source that is unique (ie not the sun) that the natural eye adjusts to non-linearly. A monitor that needs Gamma Correction the display will look light and glowy; excessive Gamma Correction will look dark and over-saturated. Most monitors today use the 2.2 sRGB Gamma Correction standard.

The test image displays four channels for setting Gamma Correction: a composite, red, green, and black. This image will need to be viewed in its original size, ie 100%, for it to work correctly.

Some monitors have Gamma Correction controls; for others it may be tied to the RGB controls… and some monitors will require to have it set with a software program. Adjust the controls up and down and match the circle luminosity to the surrounding area.


If changing the RGB controls do not effect gamma, I would recommend a software calibrator; proper gamma correction is essential to proper monitor output. For Linux xgamma can be used, and Windows has its own calibration tool. (As a side note: this test works because the brain averages the black and light lines of the background to an aggregate luminosity; the circle is a 73% luminosity.


Contrast, sometimes called Picture or White Level, defines the luminance range of a monitor. A contrast that is high would have lightness-values extended to black or white; a contrast that is low would lightness-values toward middle grays.

The test image displays columns of circles with increasing lightness toward the center of the image. The center circle has a lightness of 254/255; the background is a pure white of 255.

Begin the test by turning down the contrast to zero, then turn it up until circles begin disappearing; turn down the contrast again until the most inner-most circle that is capable of being displayed is displayed. This defines the maximum contrast. The monitor might only be able to display some of these upper contrasts, an acceptable amount I am told is the 245 of 255 range (the third outer-most circle). For certain monitors high contrasts values may alter the temperature of the bulb.



Brightness refers to the power level of the bulb, its physical brightness. Black level refers to black reproduction, or more elaborately the accuracy of displaying the lowest shades of black. The brightness setting may have an effect on both.

The test image displays columns of circles with decreasing lightness toward the center of the image. The center circle has a lightness of 1/255; the background lacks lightness of 0/255.

Begin the test by turn up the brightness to 100, then turn it down until circles begin disappearing; turn up the brightness again until the inner-most circle that is capable of being displayed is displayed. This defines the minimum brightness.

For brightness, I like to recommend reading light level. A good light to read a book with is a good light to read from the screen. What feels comfortable to the eye is usually better.


Black should be black and the shades near it are nice if visible too. A lower value acceptable for this is probably 10/255 again. If turning the brightness down has no effect on the black level visibility, leave it at the top or what is comfortable to the eye.

Color Balance


Fine tuning color balance can take years of practice to develop a trained eye–reds can look purple, cyan can look green…

The test image displays a variety of grays. If the images lacks the feel of being gray, adjust the RGB controls from 100 down to fix. Play with the controls up and down and get a feel for the color. Our eyes naturally adjust to the conditions they are in so this test can take time to learn how to do well. Periodic breaks can help reset the eyes. To fine tune the color, more can done later with the overall image, also the Gamma Correction test image can be of help adjusting color.


Fine Tuning

neutral chroma-free gray scale. This is the most critical component of monitoring and is accomplished through a White Balance Adjustment–Bennet Cain

After all the controls have been set I recommend going back and fine tuning them if necessary. I have been told that flat-panel monitors controls function independently. This means that one controls adjustments effect only that control—for CRT monitors control settings were dependent meaning that other controls could be effected by another control. To be sure of one’s settings though it is good to go back and check that all the control settings feel right.

Below is the skin tone test which works well for an additionally test to determine color balance. Skin tone is a good test for image reproduction.


Software Calibration

Fine-tooth calibration of a monitor through software calibration can help a monitor display more accurately. Otherwise, software calibration should be avoided–it is a second level adjustment and inaccurate at that. Software calibration, for example, can look like it is bringing in those blacks that the monitor originally could not display, but what it is doing making a two black in to a ten black. Software calibration also is a dependent control; for example, adjusting brightness with a software calibrator will effect contrast. The only acceptable software calibration to me is Gamma Correction and EDID.

EDID information is supplied in the monitor’s ROM. It contains information representing how accurately the monitor is able to produce color and lightness. EDID information is meant to be grabbed by the Operating System and used as an ICC profile to better render the display and share color information with other devices.

Software Video Players and the Plunging PLUGE Line

CRT monitors, generally for television, if setup deliberately for video production, used PLUGE controls to “black-crush” the bottom 7.5 IRE (7.5% visible luminance spectrum). This could have been done originally because early CRT monitors had difficulty displaying this value or possibly it was done for dramatic effect; I have yet to learn why. Some DVD players are able to produce an IRE below 7.5. It may be necessary to calibrate a “black-crush” on the software video player to render videos correctly.

To Do

  • Use an ffmpeg Command to Create Video from Images

See Also

Architectural Intent – a Wallpaper Tile

I tend to use my desktop as my workspace so I like wallpapers that act as more of a background decoration rather than elaborate artwork. So I created this. This is based on a wallpaper I found on the net (sorry, can’t remember where) and I re-did it. The original was in jpeg format and it had a bit of dithering to it.

It’s real basic, just 140×140, but I tile it and it comes out real nice:

It’s a vector image so it’s able to be resized real easy if need be.

Arachnophilia: a Beautiful, Basic, Web Editor

Screenshot from 2014-02-13 06:31:55Update (2014-02-14): Since this post I’ve moved onto Bluefish because it has better support of tables. Bluefish has the ability for pre-defined tags with snippets ability… nice.

I’d just about tossed in the towel on finding an HTML editor that I felt comfortable with when I happened upon this: Arachnophilia; and now I not sure how I could be better off.

Arachnophilia isn’t technically a Linux program, rather it’s a Java program. I’ve avoided using Java programs until now because they ran slowly; however, Java seems to have come a long way from the earlier days and Arachnophilia runs decent, decent enough for me to use on a regular basis.

Arachnophilia is designed to allow direct access to numerous tags. The tags on the two toolbars include the most popular tags and more can be easily added. The library on the left lists a good number more tags. Just about everything is editable in Arachnophilia including the menus. The huge bonus too is that Arachnophilia allows creation of new user-created tags. With this program I’ve been able to create custom tags that I use with my blog.

There is no installing Arachnophilia, just downloading the Arachnophilia Java archive and then directing Java to start it (or if on a Debian system can use the .deb below):

java -jar Arachnophilia.jar

Arachnophilia is simple, plain and enjoyable to use and has easily become my default HTML editor. Thank you Paul Lutus for your work.


HTML Entities from the Command Line

While doing HTML work I tend to do my work with text editors. For this, I use Arachnophilia a Java HTML editor with easy, editable, customizable tags (Review here).

Arachnophilia has support to convert characters to HTML entities but isn’t easy to get to (HTML > More Functions > Char to Entity. There are various web sites that do but if willing to use the terminal they can be quickly gotten there as well. Thanks to script by Darren this can be done easily. It requires script Perls’ HTML::Entities module to do so (for help installing Perl modules look at this page). You’ll probably need redirect the script to point to the Perl program proper:

whereis perl

More than likely its in /usr/bin/perl. After fixing that run the script. This will put you in a sub-shell that you can copy and paste characters to be encoded:

You can also convert a whole file. This will print to standard output (terminal text):

htmlentities filename

Or convert a file by doing:

htmlentities  < file > convertedfile

Blue RSS icon

Decided to play with vectors last night I tugged and pulled a good many handles and came up with a this. I needed an rss icon so why not? Just like all the others but vec-tor-ized. Made in Inkscape (gawd that program is fun). Please be free to use it if ya like.

RSS Iconj

Linux Design – Calibrate the Display

Many people who have worked in the professional graphics department in either Mac or Windows have learned that a calibrated display is a valuble tool in creative design. Macs have a manual display calibrator built into OS X that is pretty darn good. It allows the users to adjust color balance in varying gray scale levels. To a trained eye this can nearly be as good a hardware calibration. ICC profiles can as well be created for printers, scanners… Creating an ICC profile will give very very accurate colors to be able to produce and reproduce across different monitors and medium.

Linux isn’t a powerhouse for desktop publishing. Alot of people still use older versions of Photoshop instead of GIMP (I suspect that’s it’s more for the plug-ins that anything else). And calibration in Linux is still in its infancy. So what can be done in Linux?

Keep in mind readers that I haven’t worked in desktop publishing in quite a while but this is what I found out I can do in Linux.


Lprof is a graphical (qt) application to create ICC profiles for camera, scanners and monitors.

I installed Lprof and I have Gnome so I thought that alot of qt applications may get pulled in but Portage only had to pull in one qt library so it wasn’t so bad.

With Lprof can set a generic color space, a white point(D65 – daylight, is the standard for most desktop LCD’s and monitors), and also a gamma. Lprof will need a screen 1024×768 to adjust the gamma, this can be got around for small displays by making the desktop scroll in the xorg.conf:

        SubSection "Display"
                Depth           16
                Modes           "800x600" "640x480"
                Virtual         1024 768

A more specific color space (RGB values) can be defined, but Lprof has no way manually test it.


Xcalib is an utility for setting an ICC profile to a monitor.

xcalib ibook.icc


Argyll is a command line tool and driver to be used with professional hardware calibratrors. (spectrophotometer, colorimeter). I have yet to try it though I would very much like to one day.

Other Alternatives

Lprof and xcalib didn’t work for me. Either Lprof didn’t write a profile that xcalib understood, or xcalib wasn’t able to properly communicate to the video card. I suspect the later, as on xcalibs site it is noted that xcalib has trouble setting a couple variables on older ATI cards.

All is not lost though as the gamma setting can be set to make up some color differences in the monitor.

Most distro’s already have xgamma installed so begin testing xgamma by:

xgamma -gamma .95

Xservers default is 1.0. Use a gamma chart to correctly set the gamma.

Most charts are configured to be set to 2.2, the basic standard now days. Macs still use 1.8 which can make things screwy even when I used Mac OS I had a 2.2 gamma set up.

Xgamma can adjust color gammas too -rgamma -ggamma but there is alot easier way to do that


Monica, my honey my sweetie. Monica is a graphic front end to xgamma:

Linux Design - How to Calibrate the Display

Careful with Monica she can be sensitive – the color boxs are tad off. I find it easier to detect color skew with the gray scale bar on top. Thank ya honey, you can go now. ;)

Wrapping Up

Monitors and LCD’s do change over time. It’s not uncommon in desktop publishing house to see people calibrate their displays every couple of weeks. But now that gamma has been discovered a good way to set it is to put it in the Monitor section of /etc/X11/xorg.conf:

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier  "Color LCD"
    Option      "DPMS"
    HorizSync   28-84
    VertRefresh 43-60
    Gamma       0.78 0.92 0.95 #RGB

Lprof Bug

Once I had created a profile, Lprof refused to write to file. Probably a missing dependency but easy enough to fix:

touch ~/Desktop/ibook.icc

Then on the select file button (…), I selected ibook.icc and then was able to “Create Profile”.

Notes and Resources

Command Line – Converting SVG’s

Command Line - Converting SVG'sDoh!

A couple days ago I mentioned that I’d be writing about converting svg’s from the command line… yesterday. This porous gooey noodle at times steers adrift however and the pen forgot about the partchment. Thankfully though I awoke today and the replacement that at times gets loaned to me recalled.


Previously, I had used Gimp to convert .svg‘s to .png‘s, but I found that a line to Inkscape from the command line can do it nice and quick:

inkscape noggin.svg --export-png=noggin.png -w96 -h86

Inkscape also can do pdf’s, and eps’s. Some examples can be found on website Inkscape

Forgiven hopefully Iam.

Someone’s tired

I discovered this past week that I wasn’t the only one sleeping at odd hours. I discovered our regular wide-eye’s tux could too be caught taking a nap. I got the idea from some suspend tools located in the kernel. Since Linux at times seems centered around servers us laptops users notice it most, I created this dude to help Linux power management ;).

I bandied about the license for the awhile and discovered Creative Commons seems to be working for a lot of different artists. It offers variations from free-use to commercial, to alterable to fixed. I choose the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported. Which looks to be a nice fit with the Linux style—non commercial use and alterations must be shared.