Watch Your Back(ground)

They say that beauty is only skin deep — if that is true, then Linux has a good shot at Miss World, as its available skins are many and varied indeed. As the impending release of Ubuntu 9.10 — colorfully named the Karmic Koala — draws near, it's time to begin thinking about its skin, and that's exactly what the Ubuntu Artwork Team is up to.

The Ubuntu default theme — known as Human — is perhaps the most aptly named of all themes in computing, regardless of operating system, bar none. It is often said that one of the great human tendencies is to argue, particularly over the trivial, and it may well be the case that there is more argument over the "brown theme" than any other aspect of the distribution. Ladies and gentlemen, now is your chance to flex your human tendencies and land your choice of colors on the backdrop of some thirty percent of Desktop Linux users.

The Ubuntu Artwork Team Lead, Kenneth Wimer, issued a call last week for interested parties to submit images to be considered for the background collection included in the next Ubuntu release, scheduled to appear at the end of October. A deadline for submissions was not included in Wimer's posting, nor was one readily apparent from the Artwork Team's site as of press time.

Rules regarding submitted artwork are fairly simple: submissions should avoid using the Ubuntu logo, at least in a prominent fashion, as "It appears in enough places already." They should avoid text, which does not scale well and presents a significant translation hurdle, as well as avoid version numbers, as the backgrounds should be usable and relevant for previous and future releases. Consideration of the overall theme is important, and restraint is encouraged with regard to tone and contrast in color, so as not to overpower the rest of the theme's elements. Small patterns require special care, as they present scaling challenges. Submissions must not include artwork that is not freely licensed (that is, that allows editing and redistribution) unless explicit permission is granted for such use.

As always, file formats are a key element of the process. While photos and the like should use JPG, bitmap images should utilize the PNG format and include any available XCF source, if The GIMP was used to create the image. The SVG format is required for all vector images. The guidelines include a special note that while Photoshop, Illustrator, and other proprietary applications may be used to create submissions, the proprietary formats used by those programs are not acceptable. Templates for both Inkscape (SVG) and The GIMP (XCF) are available from the Artwork Team's documentation page, as is a listing of aspect ratios to be considered.

There are three categories of background submissions being accepted: works to be considered for the default background, abstract art submitted for the inclusion in the release's alternate backgrounds, and photographs to be considered for alternate backgrounds. Submissions should be added to the relevant category's page in accordance with the rules for listing submissions.

A Flickr group — Ubuntu Artwork — is also available, and the Artwork Team hopes it will help draw in contributors who would otherwise be unaware of the opportunity. All submissions, regardless of the category in which they are submitted, must be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.

Now is the time, today is the day — help to drive away the evil "brown theme" menace by including your artwork among that available to those who risk it all and make the arduous right click to pick an alternate theme.

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