Challenge 1: The install2014-03-27 00:00:00
Okay, here we are at the first week of the course. Last year, many students were very stressed out by the final project, and in particular about how to get the software working while at the same time trying to do a design and get it put up on the Internet, etc.
I think we can make that whole process much easier by following a simple schedule throughout the course, so that by the time the design project is announced, you have everything you need and you know just how to use it. Depending on what the project is, you might even already have it done!
This series of posts will be an incremental tutorial to get you familiar with my personal favorite collection of software for doing permaculture design. These tools are all free and open source, so you can go through the whole tutorial for no additional cost.
I'll put up a new challenge every week, and if you complete the challenges (they should all be very simple, only a few minutes of effort), you'll be in an excellent position to turn out a very nice design when the time comes at the end.
With that said, on to challenge one!
The Challenge - Install your software.
Like I said above, this tutorial series is going to be based around my personal favorite (free) software. The tools I like to use for permaculture design are:
Inkscape - This is a vector drawing program, which means that you can make images that have teeny tiny details and zoom way in without losing image quality. The alternative is called "raster drawing," and is based on editing pixels (think photoshop). The downside of that is that if you zoom in too much, everything gets grainy and you can't add any more details. With a vector program, you can draw a 100 acre property and still zoom in enough to draw individual plants, if you want. You'll use this to draw the actual design.
gimp - This is a raster image editing program, useful for retouching photos or stitching together background images that you get from screenshots (you'll see what I'm talking about in a future challenge). You'll use this to clean up imagery you use in your report, and to create a backdrop for your design.
libreoffice - This is an office productivity suite, along the lines of Microsoft Office. The advantage it has over Microsoft's stuff is that it's free while being mostly compatible with Microsoft's formats. If you already have MS Word, MS Excel, etc, then you can skip this step as it would just be duplicating functionality. You'll use this to write your design report.
I used to recommend MWSnap, but after a lot of awesome feedback I have better recommendations now for a screenshot tool! Any of these tools will do what you need - install one that's compatible with your system and you're ready to go. Credit goes to Ty Morrison, Quintin Holmberg, Erik Little, and Manolis Karamous, all of the permies forum, for these recommendations:
Another new addition (updated 5/14/2014) is Google Earth. This has proved very useful in later tutorials, so I recommend installing it as well.
Getting it all installed
Go to the pages linked in the list above and download the installer for your operating system. The install process for each should be pretty straightforward, just follow the directions as usual.
If you want to do something a little different, you can install a tool called scribus, which is a professional-level page layout tool for generating documents. It's more complex to use, but you can make some really amazing documents with it, so it might be worth a look if you're feeling adventurous. Note that you'll still want to do your actual writing in some other program, because scribus is really about layout more than word processing.
You should be able to just use the default settings for each install. Go ahead and get them installed, and when you're done you will have completed design challenge one!