Terraform - The Digital Side of the Moon



My latest digital place to hang out began with installing Ubuntu Linux on my zippy new computer. It was a big step for me because my new computer has Windows Xp on it, and although I have a valid license, I bought the computer used and in the event I ever had to reinstall Windows (like if I messed it up while installing Linux) I'm not sure I'd be able to reinstall it without buying a new copy of Xp.

Considering how paranoid Microsoft is these days with piracy, and how I can't bring myself to pay $150 for yet another copy of Windows, splitting my hard drive into two partitions and installing Ubuntu on the other one involved the possibility of abandoning Windows once and for all. That's a big move for someone like me since my digital art hobby revolves almost entirely around Windows programs.

Playing around with Ubuntu on my old PC (P2, 450mhz) wasn't too much fun. I was however, able to confirm that at least one fractal program I used would work on Linux using "Wine". Wine is a strange, magical thing which basically allows a Windows program to think it's on Windows when in fact it's running on Linux (I even found myself fooled a few times). But it was slow, and although I was just testing it out to see what I could do on Linux, you can't really compare two operating systems unless they're running on the same hardware. It was time to put Linux on the front burner.

A relationship develops between a user and their tools. I found with fractals this meant becoming more proficient with just one or two programs. I think it's just natural; we follow the path of least resistance, or pursue the things that work best, but by becoming more familiar with just a few programs you also become more awkward with all the rest. Five years ago, if I was going to switch to Linux, it would have meant leaving that huge crowd of Windows fractal programs (there's a lot of them), and all the other unique algorithmic stuff behind. But today I only use about four or five visually creative tools and half of them were originally designed for the Linux platform, that being Xaos and the GIMP.

But there's no Linux equivalent to Sterlingware, Tierazon, or Inkblot Kaos. Like most fractal programs, they're one of kind, the result of the programmer's own creative approach to rendering fractals. However, all three work on Linux now with Wine. Sterlingware works "out of the box", meaning without any added configuration (meaning pain and frustration). The other two have an issue where you open the dialog box to change the image size and then apply the new image dimensions and the program disappears. I'm sure I'll be able to fix it once I read up on Wine a little. Wine is closely related to Crossover, a program that allows the entire Microsoft Office Suite to work on Linux. A couple of small fractal programs shouldn't be a problem.

Anyhow, after I got Ubuntu going on my new machine (it's not complicated anymore) I headed off to explore the lush, Linuxian software forest (repository) from which so many exotic sounds were coming from. While searching on "fractal" I found Terraform. I think it's got something fractalish in it's inner workings. The small number of menu options quickly lead me to the 3D wireframe view and the Desert coloring scheme. Can concrete be beautiful? Well then so can a wire-frame image.

Is it just a small-scale Linux version of Terragen? Well, I'm not interested in making photo-realistic artificial scenes (and Terragen is pretty realistic), I want to see glowing webs spun by star-spiders. It reminds me of the landscape images from Fractal Vizion -rather advanced considering how long ago FV came out. Anyhow, I've got a cool new thing work with and that's more important than the operating system it's running on.

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