Fractal Computing

Back in 2006, Juan Luis Martinez ( wrote a post explaining why despite the growing popularity (and growing hip-ness) of the Macintosh computing platform we shouldn’t expect a similar proliferation of fractal programs to follow the way they have on the Windows platform. He doesn’t speculate as to why it isn’t going to happen or what it is that’s all messed up with fractals on the Mac platform, he simply asked the question (I’m paraphrasing) “Why is a graphic design-rich environment like the Mac so fractal program poor?”

Of course it’s not quite so bad now as it was back in 2006; Duncan Champney has produced a fine fractal program, Fractal Works, whose style has created it’s own niche in the fractal art world and not simply played catch-up with Windows programming. I think if Juan Luis was writing today he’d concede that Macs now have a respectable fractal program in Fractal Works.

I know nothing about Macs, and Apple in general, except that they make very elegant computing devices and they run the entire user/developer environment like a minimum security prison. Ironically, the computing company that has the hippest public image is also the one with the most repressive and authoritarian practices. (Totally un-cool.) Bill Gates, the former head of Microsoft might have been a hard playing businessman who used his company’s monopoly to run competing software developers off the road, but Steve Jobs of Apple is running both software and hardware competitors off the road.

I got a new computer this past week. My previous one was a used, off-lease desktop made in 2002. It ran Ubuntu Linux and drove down its own road, far away from the commercialism of the worlds of Microsoft and Apple.

My new computer came with a disk for Xp and a disk for Windows 7 but instead I dropped a disk for Ubuntu 10.10 into the optical drive and installed this popular version of Linux in about 20 minutes. Everything worked on my HP Elitebook 8440p including wireless card and special touch sensitive volume buttons. In fact, the installation of this Free Open Source Software (FOSS) operating system was actually easier than Windows 7. Ubuntu downloaded and installed the drivers, flash plugin, document viewers, multi-media codecs and a full suite of applications in one, simple step.

But I decided to go with Windows 7 instead.

Why? Linux is the land of the free, isn’t it? No more Evil Bill or Sinister Steve? Don’t do it man! Stay in Shangri-la!

The answer to why is right from Juan Luis’s posting from way back in 2006: the world of the Windows operating system has more creative options for its users. Ironically, those creative applications were built by and for its users and have nothing to do with the square-headed corporate creators who make and administer (and license) the operating system. Windows might not be a perfect world, and Linux has much less restrictions and a groovy, futuristic vision, but Windows is more a world of its users’ making than it is of the heartless corporation that created it. Weird, but it’s grown into more of a creative place than Linux has despite lacking the strong un-restrictive, wide-open everything foundation that the Linux world is securely rooted in, and was carefully designed to forever be.

But… I could never find very many programs that would knock me out of my gourd in Shangri-la. I just couldn’t dig that, man.

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2 thoughts on “Fractal Computing

  1. I’ve been using Linux exclusively for a few years now (CentOS at work, Gentoo at home) and I was so glad to say goodbye to windows permanently, to me this was such a relief!!

    I haven’t said goodbye to windows applications though (particularly UltraFractal). Wine works perfectly with pretty much all the windows apps I’ve wanted to use, though this won’t be true for everybody. I found that a fair proportion of demoscene productions even work, which was one of the main things apart from UltraFractal that was previously keeping me in windows.

    There’s heaps of other great reasons to use linux: speed, stability, security, great desktop environments, awesome shell power, some of the best development tools, cutting edge versions of applications, better ethics and more freedom, low cost, more interesting things to learn, awesome configurability and so on.

    I recently wrote a little python script that uses imagemagick’s ‘convert’ (to convert to png) and the linux ‘mail’ command to upload all of my work to Flickr. I’m not saying that this could not be done elsewhere, but in Linux it is super easy and feels very natural.

    It can take a bit more tech savvy to look after a source-distribution Linux like Gentoo, but as you say – Ubuntu is very easy if that’s what you prefer.

    I’d like to hear which of the apps that you need don’t work in Wine, maybe you could give some feedback to the wine developers, so that eventually they would be supported ;)

    dig it man!

  2. I didn’t mention it, but there’s also the major issue of intel graphics drivers. The open source ones on Ubuntu work, but the performance with respect to full screen video and high resolution small screen video always lags way behind the performance of the proprietary drivers that intel provides for Windows.

    Ultra Fractal works fine with Wine (I tried out a demo version) as does Stephen Ferguson’s Sterlingware. Beyond that, InkBlot Kaos, Tierazon and the other “classic” fractal programs I’ve used all have some feature like window resizing or parser problems. I’ve found some work arounds for the window resizing, like saving the parameters and loading another bitmap the size you want the image to be.

    Photoshop compatible filter support in Linux is poor. Xnview is the program I use and I’ve managed to get most filters to work, but again, graphical problems like no preview image or no preview image until you force a screen refresh by moving the filter dialog window. And there will always be the occasional crash. Strangely enough, I found the Wine 1.0.1 version to be more stable for running XnView than more up to date stable and current versions.

    Showfoto’s Block Wave filter is one Linux thing that simply doesn’t exist in the Windows world until lately and, once again, strangely enough it works better in the KDE Windows version than in the Linux Ubuntu package. The undo behaves properly in Windows whereas in Linux it would skip over the last function and undo the previous one making you redo that function (usually a resize before block waving) before you can alter the one you wanted to redo.

    But I’ve come to realize that everyone’s desktop world is a different set of tools. If you just use UF and a few basic image utilities (and don’t have video driver issues) then Linux will offer you major security benefits and (if you do programming) a wide open developing environment.

    I used a program, Terraform, that made really cool wireframe landscape renderings but became obsolete quickly because it wouldn’t compile with the new libraries and utilities that became standard in most distros like Ubuntu.

    Fyre’s a good Linux program for which there doesn’t seem to be any Windows counterpart but usually it’s Windows that has the “weird little programs” and there’s always some interface bug that causes a crash or makes things like saving an image impossible. For me, this is what creative desktop computing is all about –little programs and photoshop filters– and the Linux world isn’t making these as much as Windows programmers are.

    Everybody’s got a different tool set; mine just seem to consistently be native Windows programs. But, as I think you’re saying, if you’re a UF user, then Linux is just as good as Windows.

    It was amazing though how Ubuntu 10.10 installed like it was made for my laptop. I first started out with Linux back in 2002 when getting just X-Windows to work was major triumph. For most users, Ubuntu or any other distro is probably a seamless replacement for Windows, and like you’ve said, has nicer interface options (desktop themes).

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