Thursday, May 25, 2006

Software Orgy

Thursday 25 May 2006

Tomorrow I will go to the hospital that I attend here in Japan and will have a CT scan for the brain. Later in the year there will be a CT scan of the whole body and an MRI scan of the whole body.

As far as I can count, at this stage I have already undergone four CT scans, absorbing a hefty belt of radiation each time. It adds up.

Still, assuming that I keep on living, it is time to think about long-term plans.

Though I am as yet unconvinced that there are very many years remaining in my life, I have to consider the possibility that I might have what we could think of as a long term future: another twenty, thirty or forty years.

I am 49 and my maternal grandmother died in her 100th year, fifty years into her future from where I am sitting.

With the possibility of a future in mind, last night I came up with an idea for the fourth book in the projected TALES OF OOLONG MORBLOCK series.

The first book, TO FIND AND WAKE THE DREAMER, is on sale at amazon.com and the next two books, COMRADE RAT MUST DIE and INTREPID GIRL REPORTER are underway.

The title for the projected fourth volume is OCEANS OF WEALTH.

It occurred to me that, if I am going to write the TALES OF OOLONG MORBLOCK series as planned, then at some stage I might want to modify the map.

But this I made some years back under Red Hat Linux, which I was running at the time, and I used a program called DIA, most unsuitable, I think, for this map making project.

I don't have any program which can modify DIA files and, ideally, I would like to work with the DIA file that I have which dates back to the year 2002.

Then by some hideously complex process, of which I have no memory, I ended up converting it, finally, to a bitmap file.

I would like to work with the 2002 version because the bits and pieces of the map unglue from each other and can easily be pulled into position, making detailed reshaping no trouble, though it needs a little patience. I can also add in place names and other elements.

It occurred to me that perhaps, by now, there might be a Windows version for DIA, so I did a Google search for "dia windows download" and was rewarded with over one million hits.

I installed the GTK+ Runtime Environment 2.8, I think, which I got from the page http://dia-installer.sourceforge.net/ and then I installed DIA.

I used Dia 0.95 which I got from the page http://dia-installer.sourceforge.net/.

I then successfully opened my file from the year 2002 with DIA but did not seem to be able to save it in any formats other than the native DIA format.

I wanted to be able to save revised versions of my map in bitmap format, because then it is very easy to use the Microsoft Paint program to colorize the map.

So I installed the Gimp, the GNU Image Manipulation Program, which you can install once you have installed the runtime environment mentioned above, which both DIA and the Gimp use.

I think I got the installation file for the Gimp from the following:

http://www.gimp.org/

But the Gimp cannot open DIA files.

I then remembered, hazily, something I used on Linux called Ghostscript. Was there a Windows version of this?

Yes, there was, and I ended up installing it.

Having clicked around the Internet for a bit, I downloaded some stuff and then, I think, I did the following:

1. gs853w32.exe, AFPL Ghostscript 8.53 for Win32. 9548288 bytes

2. install gsv48w32.exe, GSview 4.8 for Win32 1494016 bytes

I found that this software deals with postscript files and portable document files, neither of which seemed useful.

Yet I did remember using DIA, somehow, in conjunction with Ghostscript.

Going back to DIA, I found that there is a FILE -> EXPORT option which allows DIA files to be saved in a variety of formats, including the desired bitmap format, and also JPEG files, and also as encapsulation postscript files, which can be opened with Ghostscript, and presumably is how DIA came to be associated with Postscript in my mind.

The software I installed on my Windows XP Professional computer worked, up to a point, in that the DIA file from 2002 opened perfectly. However, exported as a bitmap file, it was disappointingly skimpy. I want a version as big as the original, not a small version, because I want to cut bits out of the large version using my screen capture program.

I then remembered that I have, made, somehow, with Red Hat Linux 6.0, a copy of the DIA file in bitmap format which is the same size as the DIA file.

It occurred to me that maybe I could open this big bitmap file with the Gimp, so I decided to give it a shot.

It would have been easier to find the file I was looking for except that my desktop icons had gotten messed up. This happened, with no other apparent cause, after the service pack which Microsoft recently installed on my computer, without, as far as I can tell, giving me the option of saying no.

The big bitmap file, which I found it, was 7.51 megabytes.

By that stage of my software orgy I had been working continuously for a considerable time, and was feeling more than a little brain damaged. Everything takes ten times longer than you think.

So I decided to call a halt to my software adventures for the time being.

The key point, however, is that I can now open and manipulate the map I made back in 2002, and so can update the Oolong Morblock map, in whole or in part, as the mood takes me.

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