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I’ve recently published another article on OpenSource.com, which I not only wrote but I also took the photographs as well. Here’s the link:

How Linux and maker spaces can strengthen our social fabric

I have to thank Phil Shapiro for his suggestion that I write something for that website. I previously wrote a tutorial on tracing photos in Inkscape back in 2014 but I didn’t get much response to that one. Phil basically encouraged me to try again and he feels that this story might result in gaining a few new contacts that may help me find a new day job to help me pay the bills. Only time will tell whether Phil is right about this or not.

My article is about this event that was held one Saturday afternoon in May at the STEM center Makerspace 125 in Greenbelt, Maryland. It was a workshop titled “Build a PC and Install Linux.” Basically the attendees got hands-on experience in building a PC using donated used computer parts and installing the Ubuntu operating system. Once the attendees finished, they were allowed to take their new PC’s home free of charge. I took a bunch of photos that I uploaded on to Flickr and I showed Phil, who then urged me to write the OpenSource.com article.

But I’m going to show something from that workshop that’s exclusive only to readers of this blog. Like I wrote a few paragraphs ago, I took the pictures that are in that article. However, OpenSource.com only printed a few of the photos I took. So, as a treat to you readers, I’m going to post the outtakes from that article right here. All of them were taken during that workshop.

Here’s one of the Brood X cicadas that had hatched back in May who was crawling around in Roosevelt Center just a few feet away from Makerspace 125. Those bugs were not only big but they made this loud mating call that sounded like a car alarm and they were really noisy between sunrise and sunset.

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

The rest of the photos outtakes were taken inside Makerspace 125 during the workshop.

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

An automated knitting look at Makerspace 125.

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

Build A PC and Install Linux Workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 20, 2017

If you want to see the photos that actually accompanied my article, click here.

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Today I came across two links that I think are both relevant to the topic of this blog post. Today on OpenSource.com there was a blog post titled Open source design is ugly, here’s why that has this question:

Why aren’t there more designers contributing their mad skills to open source projects on their own time?

Then there was this article on Salon.com about actor Wil Wheaton that seems to answer the question on OpenSource.com about why aren’t more designers contributing to open source projects: Wil Wheaton is right: Stop expecting artists to work for free—or worse, for “exposure”.

I look on the job ads on Craigslist every now and then. If I earned a dollar for every time I saw an ad on that site asking for writers/photographers/artists/designers/programmers/coders to work for an up and coming blog or website or next major hip company that has the “potential” to be as big a name as Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or whatever while saying that they won’t get paid but they’ll get plenty of “exposure” for their free work, I’d be earning my first million dollars right now.

It would be one thing if a certain project would take less than 30 minutes to finish and it’s no big deal to work for free on something that’s very quick. But anyone who has ever done any kind of writing, on-location photography, art project, graphic design, or programming/coding would know that, in order to do a good enough job to impress a client or to make a sale, you have to literally spend hours on your latest creation. Sometimes a project is so big that it could take several days, weeks, or months in order to finish the job.

In the meantime there are bills to be paid and other related financial matters that a creative person needs to pay attention to in order to not have any kind of major distractions while that person works on that time consuming project. Asking that person to work for free on a major time-consuming project is not right.

Imagine telling a plumber or doctor or a repair person of any kind that you need him or her to do work for you but you won’t pay that person. However, he/she should still work for you anyway because if he/she does a good job, you’ll give that person exposure by talking about the wonderful work that the plumber or doctor did for you to all of your friends and family. Guess what? That plumber or doctor or repair person would tell you to either fork over the money or piss off.

Most people think that it’s not right to expect a plumber/doctor/repair person to do free work in exchange for “exposure” yet they have no compunction with asking the same of writers/photographers/artists/designers/coders while refusing to consider the fact that creatives need to earn money in order to pay bills too.

A related topic is the idea of a “gift economy” that I’ve seen people in my area espouse as a great alternative way of living. According to the Wikipedia, a gift economy is a mode of exchange where valuables are not traded or sold, but rather given without an explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards. A gift economy sounds great on the surface. I would espouse it myself in this blog if I could use my talents to pay the utility bills or purchase groceries or buy gas for my car or pay the monthly co-op fee on my home. It would be totally awesome if I could give the electric company one of my recent paintings in exchange for not being required to pay my electric bill for a month or two.

Unfortunately the reality is that many places prefer money over gifts or bartered services. And if you’re someone who’s financially struggling, you’re not going to be able to afford to participate much in the gift economy because it doesn’t have immediate rewards. I’ve noticed that the people who tend to wax poetic about the gift economy the most are ones who have stable high-paying jobs or have some other form of reliable income so they have the luxury of participating in a gift economy without having to worry about whether they’ll be able to afford to pay all of their bills for that month.

I’ll admit that I once fell into the “doing work for free in exchange for exposure trap” myself. I had a friend tell me that I can build my own brand (whatever that means) if I write for other sites that have a policy of not paying people for their contributions. I once posted an Inkscape tutorial on OpenSource.com where I didn’t get any compensation. I’ll tell you that I never got much exposure for my effort. No one has ever sent any kind of messages saying “I saw your article on OpenSource.com and you’re such a talented writer that I’d love to hire for my own project and I’ll even pay you money.” In fact, I’ve never gotten so much as a simple message saying “I like it” or “Cool!” or anything like that.

So much for working for free in exchange for exposure. </sarcasm>

For people just starting out, there are alternate ways of getting exposure for yourself that are way less exploitative than working for someone else for free. One is to get a free blogging account from platforms like WordPress or Blogger. (In fact, the main reason why I started my Sagittarius Dolly blog in the first place was because I wanted to promote myself as a creative person in general while convincing you that you should buy my handcrafted products or think about hiring me as a photographer for your next event or major project.)

Another way is to get a free web account from places like Wix.com and upload your own site featuring what you’ve done.

A third way is to take out a free YouTube or Vimeo account and shoot your own videos promoting yourself and your work.

I’m not saying that you should never do free work for anyone. As for myself, I do free work only for legitimate non-profit 501(c)3 organizations or some other type of legitimate non-profit whose goals I personally sympathize with. In this case, I’m not only getting exposure for what I do but I also feel that I’m helping these groups financially as well since they tend to operate on shoe-string budgets in the first place.

However, when a site like the Huffington Post, which is a for-profit company owned by AOL and rakes in large revenue from ad sales, expects people to write for them for free when it could easily afford to pay those writers, then that’s where I draw the line.

Even when I do pro bono work for worthy non-profits I tend to limit myself to accepting such work no more than once or twice a month. That’s because I don’t want to do so much pro bono work that I end not having time to accept paid work that could give me an income of some sort.

All those people who are writing that, as an actor who has starred in two hit TV series (Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Big Bang Theory), Wil Wheaton is rich enough to be able to afford to work for free are missing the point. Wil Wheaton isn’t just saying “no” to writing for a wealthy for-profit website like The Huffington Post for free as a way of shoring up his personal bank account. He’s saying “no” out of principle on behalf of all those writers/photographers/artists/designers/programmers/coders who aren’t as wealthy as he is and who really need the income just so they can afford the bare necessities and survive. As the aforementioned Salon.com article says:

But when “free” becomes the way creative work gets assessed, it undercuts the market for everyone, famous and obscure alike. We end up with a race to the bottom. Kudos to Wil Wheaton for blowing the whistle.

You can read Wil Wheaton’s stand against the exploitation of creatives right here.

Free Tutorials

While there are lots of great software out there (including both proprietary and open source), sadly there are a lack of manuals that can explain how to use the software that are written in a clear concise manner that doesn’t assume that you are already an expert. This article on Opensource.com has some tips on how to write a software manual that’s easy to follow for the end user which can easily be applied to other types of situations (like writing instructions on how to knit a sweater, for example).

A tool wrap, house slippers, and other things you can make from a pair of worn-out blue jeans.

Browse other free tutorials previously mentioned in this blog (along with pictures) right here.

Miscellaneous Links

This has got to be the coolest use of 3D printed technology yet. Mat Collishaw and Sebastian Burton collaborated together to create a 3D printed zoetrope that does an animated reproduction of Peter Paul Reubens’ Baroque painting Massacre of the Innocents with very impressive results.

Here are some gorgeous Edwardian Era photographs of two girls that were actually shot in color between 1910-1914.

8 Ways Privatization Has Failed America

America’s elites are leaving it to die: TPP, Baltimore, Amtrak & the deteriorating fabric of a nation

Back in 2004 the spouse of an employee at the video game maker Electronic Arts wrote a blog post about what it’s like to be in a relationship with someone who works for a company that constantly demands its employees to work 12 hour days, six days a week. That post hit such a raw nerve with people that it quickly went viral for a while. Sadly it seems like not much has changed in the video game industry since that blog post first went live, according to this article titled The Horrible World Of Video Game Crunch.

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