Fine tuning – New galleries added and some potential problems fixed

Time to start fine tuning the site along with performing occasional updates. The most boring part of the work is mostly done.

5 galleries of Jwildfire images are finished. Their thumbnails aren’t very attractive and are too dark but the images are very nice, in a different style of both UltraFractal and Fractint. I also found around new 70 Ultrafractal images that weren’t posted in the galleries of the old version of the site, these would be added to the UltraFractal galleries here after I finish the JWF ones (almost done, I think there are just 2 or 3 more galleries to be added). These images need to be edited as well. I think these were done in another computer and I’m not sure if their parameters were saved. I also had some problems editing galleries and menus (so confusing!) but I think it’s fixed as well.

Also when I found these images in the old backups of the site I also did some virus scan just out of nowhere because I remember getting some reports of problems in the site from the old host once (they apparently cleaned it and moved all the infected files to a folder named something.old but I never checked what was going on as they said it was “fixed”). In these old backups there were over 400 files infected with some kind of Trojan, all files of a certain stats plugin (a famous one!) which I don’t use anymore and had stopped used there as well since these reports. I remembered about it when browsing something in Google looking if my pages were being indexed etc. and there was this report that “1200 pages were not indexed” (how so? I never had that many pages), pages that weren’t part of the site at all and seemed to be just ads or popups or stuff loading other URLs etc. I hosted a forum in my site a long time ago and some other site, these might have been the actual infected files as phpBB is a common target for attacks, but these sections were discontinued since 2008 or something, but I still had a backup of all the databases – the hacked files weren’t the databases, though, and the database used here is entirely new.

Apparently the new version of the site is fine as nothing was really transferred over from the old site to this new version, I just used the same images but these came from another clean version I had made in larger sizes, so they might be safe and clean.

The traffic to the site has been minimal so far but I think it’s expected, it’s just a month since it was restarted. It will be a long process to be noticed again, and people don’t really pay attention to websites anymore more than they do to social media pages. What is funny is that my Jetpack plugin still keeps track of the site since the first installation (I guess Google Analytics does the same), and when I reinstalled it it came back with the numbers and stats of the old version plus all from this one (30 visitors so far…)… there were over 70,000 visitors to the site since the very start… at some point there were 1500 visitors in a day… I hope it will get back to that visibility soon, mostly when I start posting tutorials and articles about fractals in general instead of just images.

Houston, we have a problem (again!)

OK, I’m typing this on Sunday. Tomorrow, Monday, I’ll wait for the support of the hosting company to contact me to see if they can really fix all the issues in their service and if I can get a refund, I’ve been hosting with them for less than a month. If they can’t fix it and I get an immediate refund (or ANY refund), I’ll leave this hosting ASAP and will move to another company. As the site is still at the very beginning process of rebuilding, there won’t be much work to be (re)done and it’s best to leave this host now before it’s too late. I tried all I could on my side, it’s mostly their fault. Since the beginning.

Edit: The hosting company is still shit, they want me to pay a fine if I cancel. But… the image plugin I am using that was having problems had an update today and for some unknown reason… it is working fine now, even allowing me to add more than 15 images to the galleries (was it the plugin or the server? I think it’s both). The overall configuration page is working and everything seems to be working so far. I added 5 galleries of Ultrafractal images, which I didn’t bother to edit because of these errors, but I’ll do that later today. I’ll keep with this shitty hosting then until my plan expires, as I refuse to pay a fine for their mistakes. The other gallery plugin still didn’t work, though, it’s deleted now. And it’s a famous one…

Edit 2: I spoke too soon. Now it’s having some hiccups again. I created a new gallery with 20 images today and it’s not refreshing or updating… go figure.

Almost there – but there are problems

The update process for Ultrafractal images is complete. Now it’s time to create the galleries. BUT… this awful plugin didn’t let me create galleries with more than 15 images at once. I don’t think it’s a limitation of the free version, I’m not sure because it accepted the upload of over 300 images. It’s not a design problem in the layout of the gallery (I think) because it just doesn’t accept adding the 16th image to the gallery no matter what. I gave up and the galleries will stay with 15 images each. I might try to update one of the Fractint galleries by adding some temporary images to make it have more than 15 images to them to see if the limit is global or if it’s just a glitch. I just hope that they really say we can have unlimited galleries… I just don’t want to start updating the site only to find that this plugin won’t let me use all my images in the middle of the process, making me replace it with another gallery plugin and redoing a lot of stuff.

Edit: I will install another image gallery plugin, one that I was using before I moved the site to this new host. The plugin I’m using is absolutely shit. I might leave the galleries already made in place, at least the Fractint ones.

It’s late but it’s coming

I’m updating the UltraFractal section of the galleries, which will take some time to finish. There are about 450 images to be edited and added to the galleries. I will only start making these galleries after all the images are updated, as I plan to post them in a very random order (maybe date or size), other than just alphabetical. Creating the galleries is probably the easiest and fastest part. These will have slightly more images than the Fractint galleries, to reduce the number of galleries.

Besides these 450 images, I started making something about a year or so ago out of boredom which consisted of tweaking (or remixing) all or most of my old images. I think I probably have a thousand parameter files (I kept most of these I ever made, even those that don’t have an associated image published here). These tweaks sometimes gave me some very nice results with the new images looking much better than their “parents”. Some of these images were impossible to tweak or the changes didn’t make much sense or noticeable differences, so these were left untouched. Which means… maybe there are at least 200 more images – so far – to be edited and published, this if I don’t keep tweaking the other images. The idea is probably to publish these next to the original image.

Recollections, part 2 – More old posts that are still relevant

This text in some old post of the old site (from June, 2010 I think!) was sort of a very old (and long! But necessary!) rant from a distant time where I was really unhappy with my own creative process and what I was experiencing with the so-called fractal community. It still makes a bit of sense to revisit it today and add some new elements like AI to the talk. I also found another post that is in the same theme, I’ll insert some of it here as well. Here we go (it was edited purely for context and update the themes mentioned):

Still somehow inspired by a post about the misunderstanding of what a fractal is and the wrong use of the word fractal and some stuff I read at the Orbit Trap blog (the link is from the Wayback Machine as I think this blog is now gone or at least the original page I’m quoting here is gone), I remembered about another subject that bothers me (here comes another long rant!).

While checking for fractal links at Google (back then, when this post was originally written), I noticed that a lot of the current examples of fractals seemed to be related to Apophysis and its own kind of fractal, the “flame” fractals, which was the latest trend back then. OK, they are still fractals, but what happened to the “classic” images of Mandelbrots and Julias (or Newtons or IFs, and so many others)?

The easyness of use of Apophysis is kind of responsible for this I guess (not that it’s a bad thing – more on that later), along with this new generation of computer users that are more used to point and click and get faster results (even more noticeable nowadays with the social media apps) than to fiddle with command line controls or weird looking windows and forms with data that must be filled for things to work. Many of the old-school fractal generators and even some modern ones, those that also focus somehow in the scientific side of fractals as much as on the graphical aspects of a fractal are sometimes quite hard to understand and use. A good example is FractInt. Another more recent one is Mandelbulber and Mandelbulb 3D. FractInt, from the good old DOS days, is an amazing fractal creating tool, but it’s quite hard to be deciphered and also quite limited in resources, if you want to get past its basic images and find where the real fun is (hahaha!). Some of its features and settings are meant to be used with really old computers (like “enabling a co-processor”… who needs that or knows what it is nowadays?) and these extra details kind of clutter and deviate the learning curve of the software to a new user. Mandelbulb 3D for example – now an opposite situation, it’s incredibly more complex and powerful than FractInt – have a zillion commands and options that are quite hard to understand even for some experienced fractal creators (like me?) and one might not even get the whole potential of the software. With Apophysis, you can just “point and click” and with some luck you can get some decent images without too much tweaking or understanding what should be changed to make it look a little better. Install some plugins and there you go, some quite nice images in seconds!

One thing that I’ve noticed the most when I started in the fractal world was that everything that was made with the help of a computer – and help is really the key word here –  was placed in the same bag labelled “digital art”, and a wrong idea was passed along that there is no involvement whatsoever from the “digital artists” in the creation of these images, therefore… there couldn’t be art without an artist, so it was not a valid form of art because “it was the computer that made it!” (sic). And a computer isn’t an artist, it’s a machine, and the work was done by the computer, they said. This is not entirely true, though. A computer needs you, the artist, to make these images. It’s with your input that these artworks are created. Except in a few cases with the AI added to the process…

At Orbit Trap they also talk about these new art works and images in another way, they seem to be a bit upset with the fact that there is a lot of so-called fractal art around nowadays, art that uses fractals in some way, which is actually good but there’s a few images of just fractals, images that also are art in their own way (should or can we call them fractal art, instead of digital art?), without the need to be enhanced by anything else to prove anything or stand out. Pretty fractal images that beside (and despite) having a certain artistical meaning (on purpose or not), can also be “pure” fractals, and  these are part of the more classical kind of fractal art you will ever find and are as good looking as any of these new and modern Apophysis images or these mixed images (compositions with fractals and many other softwares) very popular at Renderosity and Deviant Art. Today there’s still a lot of mixed images – not that they aren’t some form of art – that are called plainly fractals (they aren’t, they are digital art that use fractals!) just because they have one fractal characteristic to them (self-simmetry, etc) or have some basic fractal-like element in their images but the image is clearly some form of a 3D composition or some image edited in Photoshop.

What annoys me about these trendy apps that create “fractals” in seconds is that it’s perfectly possible as I’ve said before to make a batch of images in say Apophysis without any additional effort or involvement from the artist and occasionally get some nice artistic composition, just by random clicking things here and there, and this makes a lot of difference in my opinion between things like creating a fractal with random clicks and presets and creating a fractal that is also an artistical element, an artwork.

Even the slightest change in a colour shade, for example, already implies an artistical involvement, it’s not just the machine working and making “art” on its own, as it happens a lot with this new trend 15 years later, the AI. This is what makes the difference. At the same time, using this same way of thinking I think I should say that, to me at least, it doesn’t need to be “complicated” in terms of computer processing or take years to be finished to be considered art nor it needs to be made just with Assembly command lines to be considered a fractal. You don’t have to spend hours retouching and fine-tuning your favourite fractals for them to be considered art, though (although at times these adjustments are just part of the fun – holes need to be covered, colours need to be changed, etc.). It’s not because it was made in a DOS software that it’s not enjoyable. It’s not because it was retouched in Photoshop that it’s not art either (or that it’s not a fractal anymore – it still is, or it was at least depending on how far it’s modified by the touch-ups). It doesn’t need to have 100 layers in Photoshop (or in UF or other fractal softwares that also have some kind of image editing tools) either to look “acceptable”. Art is just art, you’ll know when you find it or make your own without this “mass production” feel.

The vast majority of these newer images look to me like that they never had any kind of that involvement of its creator (aka “the artist”), except for picking up those that call your attention faster in that batch – the so called “eye-candy” images, those that will generate more likes in a social media app. With that, the quality gets lowered not because these mass-produced and mechanically made images don’t have some quality (they do, occasionally), but because thousands of similar looking images appear everywhere, with hundreds of these now called “artists” posting these images in their blogs or at Deviant or on social media. And to make things even worse, we now have these AI tools. I’ve seen some horrible “fractal” images made with these tools. They all look the same, they don’t have any uniqueness to them – the artist’s touch. There are exceptions of course, but not all the time. There’s no artist interference in the AI process, in a lot of situations. It’s like a “randomize” button of a software, but much worse. If AI is used to help you with some tasks, I think it’s fairly acceptable. But if it’s the AI that does all the job start to finish, no thanks, I’ll pass.

With this easiness of use, the interest in using the more complicated fractal generators was a bit lost (they aren’t complicated, perhaps a little less user-friendly until you learn how they work) and also what was lost is the ability to make fractal (and fractal art) from their basics, by altering some parameters of the formulas and understanding what these mean even if it’s just visually (and therefore, artistically) and not in a mathematical sense.

With all that, the old fractals are starting to disappear, or at least are less seen, mostly related to art and these new “fractals” are taking their places. You barely see images that call themselves fractal art that use old-school Mandelbrots, Julias, Newtons, IFs… these images seem to appear more often when they are needed to illustrate some fractal/geometry concept than when in an artistical context. It’s a pity, because there is still a lot to get from these old friends. You can and should embrace the future and new technologies, but don’t forget the past, where it all started. Maybe this is why I’ve decided to restart the site from the FractInt images?

Part 2 (from another post after the previous one)

Many thanks to the guys at Orbit Trap for having quoted my opinions, to slightly discuss them and more, and to understand them perfectly. I’m more than anything learning to be honest with my own feelings (artistically and in everything else) so whatever I’ve said here about my disappointments with fractal stuff in general that was repercuted by Orbit Trap is absolutely true. Whenever I say I am (currently) hating Apophysis for example, I really do. But I’m hating the DeviantArt kind of Apophysis – the mass-produced, randomized thing.

I don’t have any personal or commercial links to any of these people mentioned (from the evil or the good side of the force) so I just said what happened to me and my creative process during all these years and how following the self-similarity flock mimicking their work and style was making me a worse artist and making me extremely bored. It made me quit making new images for years, if not a whole decade. All the images I have discarded and deleted and won’t be posting anymore (even the parameter files were deleted) are from that period, where I was being negatively influenced by these “trends” and the final results were awful. And I think I could only understand what was going on when I read these posts at Orbit trap pointing me to some obvious things that most people (comfortably) refuse to see, better still have your comment box filled with friends’s pats on the back than making something you’re enjoying.

I might be touching some sensitive fields now I guess trying the Mandelbulb images and I’m starting to like them a lot despite hating them at first (as they seem to be the latest hit of the moment), it can be controversial, as I said I hate these trends taking the places of some still useful “old” tools. Even a few years later after its creation, when I really got interested in MB3D, there isn’t a gigantic community or group dedicated to that neither too many useful tutorials outside of the common corporate fractal galleries, which I try as much as possible not to read unless i’m looking for a fix for a problem or a tutorial, this way I am a bit “isolated” from whatever kind of “style trend” in Mandelbulbs that might be the hit of the moment so far and I’m very pleased with the images I’m making almost on my own. I see a lot of posts mentioning “whipped cream”, “cathedrals” etc. etc. but I have no idea how to do that nor do I want to do that kind of thing intentionally. Are these images (sometimes) gorgeous? Of course! I’m using Mandelbulb 3D just like when I first started Fractint: using my instinct. I liked what I did? OK, I’ll save and post. I didn’t like it? Let’s start again. If someone else likes it, great. If not, great as well. No presets, no cheating. But I’m not a trendsetter follower.