Oxidizer Musings and a Big Welcome

by Scott ChitwoodTuesday November 27th, 2007
Posted in More Than Words

It’s been about nine months since I first stumbled across Oxidizer. If I recall correctly, my search for a fractal flame editor that was native to Mac OS X had me bouncing through a long string of links and then there it was; a product that had defied search efforts via MacUpdate and VersionTracker at the time. I toyed with it, got a small understanding of how it worked, wrote a mini-review, published some renders and finally dug into a somewhat long-winded tutorial.

David Burnett, the developer behind Oxidizer, has been instrumental in helping to guide myself (and others) along the way in our efforts to tap the power of The Big O™, for that, we are ever grateful.

Now I’m quite pleased to welcome David to our happy little stretch of the internet dirt road™. Woot, woot and a big shout of welcome! While Dave does have his own blog to look after, and at least one other development project (planetGenesis) in the works, he has gracioulsy accepted an invitation to join us here at the Rampant Ranch. What does Dave have in store for us? We’ll let him spill the beans on that :^)

And there’s more too…

First up is a forum that will include an Oxidizer specific section that will hit the air later this week. Next in line after that is to set up a system whereby registered users can upload and share Oxidizer stills, animations or maybe just a tip or two. I’ll let you know as soon as that goes live but perhaps a forum sub-category can get us started on that road.

Time to warp it up kids. Dave gave me the opportunity to test drive Oxidizer 0.4.2 and all I can say is hold on to your hats; this puppy has great power and has been crash free to boot! Very nice. Here’s a teaser screenshot of some new images to get you pumped for the official release.

Oxidizer 0.4.2 Teaser

Site Critque: Time Window Images

by Scott ChitwoodThursday September 27th, 2007
Posted in More Than Words

I’m currently in the build process for Time Window Images and finally feel ready enough to toss it out there in the wild in order get some feedback.

The idea was to approach a photography site that isn’t built on a template system and is free of Flash elements. Pages are a static build with PHP includes for common items. Have learned a good deal of CSS along the way but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it is less than perfect. On the plus side all pages are validating quite nicely. Have used an occasional table in the content area but have kept those to a minimal use.

Time Window Images

We did knowingly approach the graphic concept with a lot of transparent PNGs. Customer is aware that those won’t render on some older browsers (cough, cough, Internet Explorer) and we’re okay with that. Am in progress now with dropping content into sidebar categories. Still need to build individual photo pages that will link from album slideshows. Store may be as simple as an eBay page or we may use a third party service that is embedded at TWI. Am very open to suggestions on how to approach that angle of the site.

So, toss me a few words of constructive criticism in the comments if you have a moment or two. Thanks!

Waking Up from Summer Break

by Scott ChitwoodWednesday August 22nd, 2007
Posted in More Than Words

My unexpected and very extended summer break is just about over, look for new desktops and other goodies to hit the Rampant Ranch™ broadcast channel no later than the tail end of August. I’m thinking that this vacation is probably the longest stretch of time I’ve been idle in my web endeavors since I first went online back on August 8th of 1999. :^)

Not that I haven’t been watching from the sidelines here and there, especially in regards to Oxidizer. Plenty of great questions and comments have accumulated in the tutorial thread, and we even have some info posted by cloudy that details how to render an animation. Neat! Got that one on my list of stuff to do for sure. David Burnett released a new build of Oxidizer, version 0.4, on August 14th and has already updated it to 0.4.1 to kill a few bugs and make it compatible with genomes generated with flam3 2.7.5. I haven’t had an opportunity to play with the update but am looking forward to it!

Moving on to other projects and thoughts…

A good friend approached me awhile back in regard to hosting and building a website to showcase his budding photography skills. While there certainly isn’t a shortage of off-the-shelf Flash based site building tools out there his vision was to do something more unique and personal. A few mock ups later we arrived at a good starting point for the site layout and the coding got under way. The site, Time Window Images, is looking darn sweet at the moment! I’m especially proud to be having every page validate to WC3 xhtml 1.0 transitional. The build is in progress but feel welcome to poke around if you like.

And what of this site? What might the future hold for Rampant Mac? An idea that I’ve continually tossed back and forth under my wooly-pated noggin is whether or not to open up Rampant Mac to a select group of artists or to the GUI community at large. The same questions have also been asked by others. The idea is enticing but it also comes with a greater degree of responsibility, but I’m leaning closer to making it happen. What do you think? Is the Ranch™ a good fit for adding desktops, icons and who knows what else from the community at large? Drop a note in the comments or hit me with an email if you’d like to share your thoughts.

Let’s go off the deep end and have a little fun to close this post. Did you make your Simpsons character yet? Mine turned out fairly accurate :^)

Scott Simpson

Summer Break

by Scott ChitwoodTuesday July 17th, 2007
Posted in More Than Words

Not that it was intentional, but somehow I’ve managed to not be very productive these past few weeks. What can I say, summer days have a way of calling me outdoors to play in the sun and various water holes. So, while my Mac is feeling a little ignored, gathering a little extra dust, it’ll still be there when I’ve had my fill of six mile, seven and a half hour float trips via inner-tube transport.

It all makes Scotty happy don’t you know :^)

C ya soon!

Comments Off on Summer Break

Playlist: Grooves

by Scott ChitwoodWednesday June 27th, 2007
Posted in More Than Words

We’re all big fans of music, each of us with our own eclectic taste for genres and styles. Putting together a CD length playlist that flows nicely for the car or boombox can sometimes be a little challenging, so I thought it might be fun to share a few of my more successful attempts here at the Ranch. This first playlist, ‘Grooves’, came together over the past few weeks after several revisions to song selection and play order. It makes for good driving music in the Jeep and the family even seems to enjoy most of it too.

Got a playlist you’d like to share? Toss it in the comments! I’d love to see (hear) what you’ve got on the turntable :^)

  • A Man and a Woman » U2 » iTunes
  • Fly Like an Eagle (2005) » Les Paul & Steve Miller » iTunes
  • Not Coming Home » Maroon 5 » iTunes
  • Let Me Roll It » Les Paul & Richie Sambora » iTunes
  • Platinum Blond Life » No Doubt » iTunes
  • I’m Crying » Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers » Amazon
  • Airport » Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers » Amazon
  • Baby…Please » Dave Mason » iTunes
  • I Can’t Tell You Why » The Eagles » iTunes
  • So Into You » Les Paul & Peter Frampton » iTunes
  • Brother Louie » The Stories » iTunes
  • The Love Gangster » Stephen Stills » iTunes
  • Love to Burn » Neil Young & Crazy Horse » iTunes
  • Lady Marmalade » LaBelle » iTunes
  • Do You Feel Like We Do » Peter Frampton » iTunes

Links are provided for the sake of convenience, links are not affiliate codes.

The Return of the ‘King of all GUI’

by Scott ChitwoodWednesday May 23rd, 2007
Posted in More Than Words

Hold on to your hats boys and girls! Our old friend, and all around good guy, Michael Coyle has resurfaced in the Mac GUI community with a little patch of gravel dubbed Michael’s Mac. Woot-woot Daddy-O!

Michael’s Mac was created to share news on icons, desktops, and other GUI items for Mac OS X, along with an occasional tutorial and other neat stuff (like special interviews). The site also features a nifty system for uploading and sharing your desktop picture creations and Mac screenshots so you can show off your spiffed up interface with other kids in the room.

Being a user centric site, readers are invited to submit news, links to favourite sites, participate in the forum, and suggest ideas for site content too. Can the Shiny Dome O’ Mac Knowledge™ strike gold twice? Perhaps so.

Michael's Mac

Tutorial: Oxidizer 0.3 Fractal Flames

by Scott ChitwoodMonday March 19th, 2007
Posted in More Than Words, Tips and Tricks, Using Oxidizer

While this article is helpful it was written with an ancient release of Oxidizer and things have changed dramatically over time.  With that in mind we’re keeping the article online for historical purposes; please take a detour over to our Introduction to Oxidizer tutorial over in the wiki — you’ll find up to date info on using Oxidizer in it’s present state.

Back in mid February of 2007 I took a brief look at Oxidizer as a Quick Review to share my excitement for what appeared to be a relatively unknown native Mac OS X application for rendering fractal flames. Now, several weeks later, and with a good number of nice flames rendered, the time is right for a follow up report. The primary idea for this tutorial is to pass on what I’ve learned, which admittedly, just covers some basic procedures. This article does not document the full range of Oxidizer’s capabilities; it does however, give one a good point from which to start exploring.

Before you get started.

Oxidizer Fractal FlameThe most important piece of information you need to know up front is Oxidizer requires a two part file save process; flame and image. The end result is a beautifully rendered fractal flame saved as a Photoshop file. But that’s putting the horse ahead of the cart. Just as critical, and even more so, is saving the native flame file before the image is rendered; the extension is .flam3. So, save as flam3, then save (render) the flame to one of the available image formats. Don’t skip saving the flam3 file — two solid days of program crashes taught me that lesson very well. Once I started saving, crashes have been almost non-existent.

Another thing one needs to be prepared for is lengthy render times. Depending on image size, complexity and quality settings a fractal flame can take several hours or several days to completely write. Patience Grasshopper; let Oxidizer run in the background while you mess around in Photoshop.

If you’d like to learn about the math concepts behind flam3 files be sure to check out the documentation links at Flam3.com.
Continued →

Quick Review: Oxidizer 0.3

by Scott ChitwoodMonday February 19th, 2007
Posted in More Than Words

My quest for a native Mac OS X fractal flame editor has uncovered an application that seems to be relatively unknown in the Macintosh creative community — Oxidizer. Released in February 2006 this powerful little gem isn’t listed at any of the major software tracking sites; MacUpdate, VersionTracker, or Apple’s Mac OS X Downloads archive.

Oxidizer shares a common code base with the Electric Sheep screensaver. Both programs use the flam3 libraries to render the flames. This also means Oxidizer can read and write the flam3 file format used by Electric Sheep.

Here’s a nice example rendered on an iMac Core Duo.


I’m still experimenting with the render options to try and eliminate edge chattering that can seen in this 1680×1050 image. Once an optimal setting is developed, desktop wallpapers will follow shortly thereafter :^)

While I’m excited to be using Oxidizer it has also been an exercise in frustration — mostly due to unexpected crashes on both Intel and PPC systems. I’ve been able to minimize those by saving frequently and then restarting before making additional parameter changes or rendering to an image file. The only other oddity that could use some attention is the previews save high res info which can slow down the process of tweaking flames. I would guess that these drawbacks will be addressed with further development.

On the plus side, Oxidizer is simple enough for beginners to mess around with, plus it offers plenty of tweakable settings to satisfy users who have a grasp on the mathematics of working with fractals. The Gene Pool has sixteen image wells that fill on the click of a button, after which it allows one to select two or more flames for breeding. Hit another button to export a flame to the Editor and you’re ready to start playing with image size, render options and color.

Oxidizer is open source, and licensed under the GPL.

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