Categorysoftware & hardware

From WordPress to Drupal?

WordPress WordPress WordPress…  is all I’ve been thinking about for a few years now. BUT, now I’m learning how much of a pain in the @ss it is (for me) to customize the look of my site. Last night I was up till 3am researching Drupal.  Looking at this list of site created on Drupal…  it sounds like a rabbit hole that I think I want to jump into, starting with setting up a LAMP server at home, then heading over to this tutorial, while keeping Acquia in mind for potential support.

Blender: My Quick Synopsis

A friend asked me to tell him, “…how cool Blender is (please)“.

So here was my response.

It’s the biggest open source 3D software and Ton (the founder) is a good guy with an honorable vision. It can model, rig, texture, animate, FX, composite and even has a video game engine built in.

The project that is currently in-progress is going to be live action. Google even donated some of its employees to create a 3D camera solving component to help with create high-end visual effects.

Here are some open-source movies that they created using this FREE software.

And Big Buck Bunny certainly displays a high level of quality with it’s fur.

Simple Electronics w/ LEDs

Ever since I touched down on the playa back in 2010, I’ve had a project in mind that would utilize LEDs.  The tricky part was trying to figure out a way to control them in complex ways.  It seems that this Arduino hardware platform is a good place to start. Minibloq is a visual programming tool that looks non-intimidating.  Gotta love visual programming.

Efficient Dynamics in Houdini

I’ve been trying to put together a Tron-like effect in Houdini, and so far it’s coming along great… other than it being REALLY REALLY SLOW.

However, it turn out that there’s some SOPs in Houdini that I’m using that aren’t very efficient, plus instancing of shaders has some issues as well. On top of this, I’m not using ODE rigid body dynamics, which are supposed to be pretty fast. This video from the opening credits of film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button demonstrates someone using ODE in Houdini… with some pretty nice results, like this…

Although, with a little more research, it looks like Bullet is the way to go. Oh… oh yes, this slightly more powerful. 😛

Voxels at Siggraph 2011

Real quick, I wanted to point out the many recent uses of voxels demonstrated at Siggraph. I can’t help it, but I get pretty excited every time I hear about voxels. Even the developer at Atomontage states that we need a voxel “revolution”, and I couldn’t agree more.

Apparently Blue Sky’s “Rio” used Voxels for terrain and the rendering of large crowds. I hope the talk is released soon so I can see the details, first hand.

I was made aware of a game engine called Atomontage, which uses voxels [thx Ruslan].  In the video below, you can see the potentials of (for example) truly destructible terrain, as the user unearths rocks from the sand or strips the plaster from the walls, revealing the bricks underneath.

SideFx’s release of Houdini 11.1 allows for the integration with Sony Imagework’s open source project, “Field3D“, a format for working with 3D voxel data.

MRI: Not Yet Given Up… Yet

I just about gave up on this MRI cloud thing, when I discovered this blog post by a fellow Houdini user, where he mentions a Volume from Attrib node that will allow me to alter a volume using point attributes. I think this may be the answer I have been looking for in order to avoid using metaballs. We shall see.

On top of that, he mentions a major performance issue in Houdini 11 when dealing with instanced shaders. Specifically, it’s an issue with the displacement being calculated, even when it’s not needed. And he posted a link to a fix in the SideFX forums.

And on top of that… through his Vimeo profile, I found this slick MRI plugin for Lightwave.

I also have the opportunity of getting my own brain scanned.  How creepy is that?

3 Days Till Lift-Off

In about 4 days I will be in Vancouver attending another Siggraph. I have not been since… 2006? This will be my 4th Siggraph and the first time it has been held in Vancouver. Luckily I have a light laptop this time around. Damn am I excited.

Below is a video that I recorded from Siggraph 2004 in Los Angeles. I finally put it online.

Tickets acquired and RSVPed for parties.

This calendar should give you an idea of all the parties I plan on attending. That’s right, I have my priorities in order. 😉

After Siggraph, I’ll be attempting to get things organized in Vancouver before heading off to Burning Man.

Seems I was smart to purchase my ticket far in advance, because they are currently sold out.

Thought for Food: Brain Cloud

MRI slices for a cloudy mind.

Multimedia Travel Bag

Lately I find myself running around with my camera, some lenses, an Olympus sound recorder, laptop & notebook. It’s probably a good idea for me to start looking at something that will accommodate all this stuff.

This video review is giving me some ideas.

*update*

I bought this bag and am very happy with it!

Digital Cameras Write Speed on SDHC Memory Cards

I recently purchased some Patriot 32GB 10speed SDHC cards for my Canon 60D. I was excited to see some improvements over my current 16GB 4Speed card…   but I was sadly mistaken.

Problem Symptoms

I can only record a few seconds before I get a “Movie recording has been stopped automatically” message. Apparently I’m not the only person experiencing this problem. This may be an issue with the 60D, as it seems that SanDisk & PNY users are experiencing the same issue on their 32GB 10Speed cards.

The problem is intermittent.  When it occurs, you can see the SD write status light on the camera flashing, but then the flashing will temporarily hold.  At this point, you’ll see the buffer bar pop up on the LCD.  Sometimes it will stall here, or continue.  If you are still recording after 4-5 seconds, you’re golden and it should continue on for minutes of recording.

In this thread, a user recommends using a special SD Formatter, which is specifically designed to comply with SD & SDHC standards.  What’s the difference between this and a standard Windows format?  Well, we’re about to find out. According to memin1857’s posting:

Sd cards are flash devices just like ssd’s. By using it (filling it with data) it will get slow by time. Because overwrites to sectors will be slow compared to fresh sectors as sd controller does not know actually which sectors are free when you delete files.
By formatting with the above utility and setting erase: ON it will instruct sd controller to release all charge from all flash cells so future writes will be much faster. (On par the day you bought your sd card)
This is comparable to MANUALLY TRIMMING an SSD.

NOTE: Do not confuse Overwrite ERASE with Flash ERASE. Overwrite ERASE is just overwriting sectors with zeroes so data is not recoverable but may not necessarily make your card faster, a real Flash ERASE is a command sent to the controller and will make your card freshly fast in short time. (discharging all sectors is a quick operation compared to overwriting them with null data) Also do not confuse with quick format. ERASE:ON is what you want for performance. (Smaller, older sd cards OR some sd card reader/controllers may not support real ERASE function, you will be notified by the format tool if this is the case

THIS IS AN HARDWARE ISSUE, NOT LOGICAL/SOFTWARE.

This may also fix if hardware sectors do not align with logical sectors. This will affect performance.
You may have trouble finding a configuration that can do flash erase.

Conclusion: Formatting with this tool may enhance your sd card performance and there are no negative affects. Worst case senario is you get do benefit.

I tried the SD Formatter, but am having the same results. However, I was unable to get the “Erase” option to work on my Sony VAIO laptop.  This funky movie recording stopping problem seems identical as when I use the Windows formatting.

I am attaching 4 text files which show the resulting recording sessions on the 3 unique Patriot 32GB cards of the same type.

videoSessions_02_cardA.txt    – Repeating test on first card. Attempting to record full 30 second sessions (file sizes greater than 175MB). Red marks auto-stopped recordings.

02/22/2011  09:09 AM       176,652,568 MVI_1156.MOV
02/22/2011  09:10 AM       177,215,652 MVI_1157.MOV
02/22/2011  09:10 AM       178,358,460 MVI_1158.MOV
02/22/2011  09:11 AM       176,667,328 MVI_1159.MOV
02/22/2011  09:11 AM        31,602,912 MVI_1160.MOV
02/22/2011  09:11 AM       178,501,696 MVI_1161.MOV
02/22/2011  09:12 AM        26,168,012 MVI_1162.MOV
02/22/2011  09:12 AM        32,185,552 MVI_1163.MOV
02/22/2011  09:12 AM        31,843,188 MVI_1164.MOV
02/22/2011  09:12 AM        21,323,728 MVI_1165.MOV
02/22/2011  09:12 AM        32,406,284 MVI_1166.MOV
02/22/2011  09:13 AM        32,109,836 MVI_1167.MOV
02/22/2011  09:13 AM        32,208,380 MVI_1168.MOV

02/22/2011  09:13 AM       177,901,300 MVI_1169.MOV

videoSessions_03_cardB.txt    – Testing a unique second card. Attempting to record full 30 second sessions (file sizes greater than 61MB). Red marks auto-stopped recordings.

02/22/2011  09:22 AM        61,924,480 MVI_1192.MOV
02/22/2011  09:23 AM        62,234,256 MVI_1193.MOV
02/22/2011  09:23 AM        62,047,496 MVI_1194.MOV
02/22/2011  09:23 AM        62,473,264 MVI_1195.MOV
02/22/2011  09:23 AM        26,144,048 MVI_1196.MOV
02/22/2011  09:23 AM        32,028,496 MVI_1197.MOV
02/22/2011  09:24 AM        32,117,764 MVI_1198.MOV

02/22/2011  09:24 AM        62,037,244 MVI_1199.MOV
02/22/2011  09:24 AM        26,262,360 MVI_1200.MOV
02/22/2011  09:24 AM        32,228,560 MVI_1201.MOV
02/22/2011  09:24 AM        32,203,492 MVI_1202.MOV
02/22/2011  09:24 AM        32,324,280 MVI_1203.MOV

videoSessions_04_cardC.txt    – Testing a third card. Attempting to record full 10 second sessions (file sizes greater than 58MB). Red marks auto-stopped recordings. Lens cap was on during these sessions.

02/22/2011  09:36 AM        58,113,676 MVI_1228.MOV
02/22/2011  09:36 AM        60,127,292 MVI_1229.MOV
02/22/2011  09:36 AM        60,470,144 MVI_1230.MOV
02/22/2011  09:36 AM        60,958,272 MVI_1231.MOV
02/22/2011  09:36 AM        31,874,880 MVI_1232.MOV
02/22/2011  09:37 AM        61,413,000 MVI_1233.MOV
02/22/2011  09:37 AM        26,051,140 MVI_1234.MOV
02/22/2011  09:37 AM        31,969,860 MVI_1235.MOV
02/22/2011  09:37 AM        31,953,048 MVI_1236.MOV

02/22/2011  09:37 AM        62,914,432 MVI_1237.MOV
02/22/2011  09:37 AM        62,286,076 MVI_1238.MOV
02/22/2011  09:38 AM        25,760,912 MVI_1239.MOV
02/22/2011  09:38 AM        61,450,564 MVI_1240.MOV
02/22/2011  09:38 AM        26,067,636 MVI_1241.MOV
02/22/2011  09:38 AM        31,970,588 MVI_1242.MOV
02/22/2011  09:38 AM        31,785,792 MVI_1243.MOV

02/22/2011  09:38 AM        60,489,452 MVI_1244.MOV

I find it interesting how, on a freshly formatted card, I’m able to record exactly 4 full sessions. On the fifth session, the recording stops recording automatically after 4-5 seconds.  After 5 sessions, I start to get intermittent failing sessions.

Another detail that I should note: On successful recording sessions that follow a failed session, the buffer bar will pop up and display 2 bars before the bar disappears and the session continues to record as normal. This behavior is consistent on recordings that follow a failed recording session.

My Advice

First, avoid 32 GB cards if you have a Canon 60D. If you have already purchased a few cards (like myself), make sure you have some freshly formatted cards on hand. When the time comes to records some critical moments, just pop in a fresh card and you should get a few good recording sessions before things start failing.

If anyone has better luck with this, please let me know.

**UPDATE**
In the comments Henry Levenson wrote,

The issue with the movie stopping automatically with the 60D has to due with the buffer capacity of the SD card used and the info transfer rate which has to be equal or > than 40 MB/second. If the transfer rate is slower or the buffer capacity for video’s on the card is exceeded.


If this is true, it leaves me wondering just how useful the speed rating of the card is. Henry’s explanation will potentially disappoint many 32GB SD card owners.
Thanks Henry!

Taking Video w/ Digital SLR Cameras

I am upgrading my DSLR for video.
A pleasant situation occurred that put me in possession of a Nikon D300. I LOVE this camera, but it’s making me a bit of a snob when it comes to image quality. Please keep in mind that I am NOT a professional photographer, but I can recognise washed out colors and artifacting when I see it. This camera has neither.

So that brings me to the point of this little post. I currently have a JVC Everio HD camcorder and a Sony MiniDV. I love my Sony because it is feature rich (i.e. time lapse video & night vision) and has been very reliable till recently. Since I’m working with tape, it sometimes gives me some digital artifacts. Also, due to the mechanical moving parts, it’s not as light as my JVC and the battery life is about 1/5th that of modern camcorders.

I’m seriously thinking about purchasing a DSLR that takes digital video. Some key things that I am focusing on is the quality of video taken in low lighting conditions, weight, price and the severity of rolling shutter.

Big questions I’m asking myself is do I want to consolidate? Can I find a single camera that would replace my Nikon D300 camera, my JVC and Sony camcorders? Something that takes pictures as good as my D300 (“good enough”), yet can record video and be relatively light weight.

The D5000 has video capabilities and seems very comparable to the D300, though is about half the price ($700). This article compares the ISO quality of the Nikon cameras. From what I can see, the D5000 is approaching “good enough”.

This article
compares the the latest offerings from Canon, including video examples of the rolling shutter. They recommend the Canon 7d ($1500 USD) for those on a budget. Gizmodo also has a good articles showing the 7d’s capabilities.

Comparision
The Canon 7d and the Nikon D300 are both around 2 lbs. The D5000 is about 1.25 pounds.

This forum thread seems to be doing a great job of doing a comparison breakdown of the Canon 7d vs the Nikon D300.

A perfect example of rolling shutter. Notice the vertical lines bending as the camera moves side to side?

What about video on the cameras vs the camcorders? Do the camcorders also suffer from rolling shutter? Most do not. Most camcorders use CCD sensors (Charge-Coupled Devices), while digital cameras, including the famous Red cam, use CMOS sensors. According to Wikipedia, “CCDs use what is referred to as global shutters which take a single snapshot representing a point of time and do not suffer from these motion artifacts.” Therefore, camcorders using CCDs don’t suffer from this bendy rolling shutter effect.

Conclusion
I’m going to hang onto my D300 and look into purchasing a better camcorder that will be a good substitute for my JVC and Sony. This article discusses how I can record video from my D300 using an attached PC.

*Update*
I decided to purchase a Canon 60D for video and have sold my D300. I have manual lenses for my Canon for video and everything is looking great. The manual focus is helping train my imperfect eyes as well as building respect for nice “glass”. The rolling shutter effect has not caused me any issues with my 3D tracking using Syntheyes, so far. A review of my Canon D60 is overdue.

Scattering Ray-Projected Metaballs

Why I love this program. I cannot remember the last time, if ever, I made a mistake in a 3D application and got usable results. However, in Houdini, it happens almost daily.

I cannot look back and cannot image even trying. Sorry.

Linux (Ubuntu) Notes

Houdini

Installing Houdini 10 on Ubuntu 9.04 was pretty simple. Extract the TAR file and run the installer with
sudo houdini.install
The options let you decide which license server to install, as well as whether or not to create the start menus for you.

Once Houdini is running have to remember to disable the Alt hotkey in the Window Manager control panel, otherwise your Alt+clicks will not work. This can also be completed with the Compiz Settings Manager in 12.10, but it needs to be installed first.

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

Shake 4.1 (64 bit)

Here’s the stripped down simple instructions for installing Shake 4.1 on Linux, specifically, tried this on Ubuntu 10.10. More details can be found here.
mkdir -p /usr/nreal
cat shake-linux-v4.00.0607.tgz | (cd /usr/nreal; tar zxvf -)
ln -s /usr/nreal/shake-v4.00.0607 /usr/nreal/shake2

install getlibs from…
http://frozenfox.freehostia.com/cappy/

sudo getlibs -32 libXext.so.6
sudo apt-get install csh

Besides the libX11.so.6.2.0 => libX11.so.6, you will also need libXi.so.6 => libXi.so.6.0.0. You can get this from the libxi6_1.2.1-2ubuntu1_i386.deb package. Details here.
/usr/nreal/shake2/bin/shake

Keyboard & Mouse Setup

After a reboot and test of the new key, I remapped my mouse buttons with some help here.

I first use “xinput list” to get the name of the device.

I next use “xev” to find out what my mouses Middle and Thumb button positions were (2 & 9). In the command below, positions 2 & 9 have a value of 2, which is equal to my middle mouse button. Yup, I want two middle mouse buttons, so I can alternate when I feel like it.
xinput set-button-map "Evoluent Vertical Mouse 2" 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 2

And for my IntelliMouse Optical (best mouse EVAH!!)
xinput set-button-map "Microsoft Microsoft 5-Button Mouse with IntelliEye(TM)" 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 2 2
To save my wrists from tension, I’m lowering the mouse speed.
xinput -set-prop "Microsoft Microsoft 5-Button Mouse with IntelliEye(TM)" "Device Accel Constant Deceleration" 1.5

Trackball settings for left and right-handed use. Hmmm… a shell script file for switching hands would be even better…
xinput -set-prop "Logitech USB Trackball" "Device Accel Constant Deceleration" 1.5
xinput set-button-map "Logitech USB Trackball" 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 2 1

Joystick / Gamepad

Found this link which contains info on how to install Microsoft SideWinder digital joysticks and gamepads (along with many others.
sudo modprobe sidewinder

Microsoft xbox controller then the command is

sudo modprobe xpad
then
jscalibrator

Skype

Next step… getting Skype to work properly. I can use my microphone, but noticed that Skype isn’t receiving any input. I’m hearing that I should first install Pulse Audio.

Hmmm… so now I can still record (luckily) but not in Skype. Gah! K, now for Skype’s Linux sound FAQ.

More specifically, I”m going to try this thread that talks about Skype V2 and PulseAudio support (the solution seems to be downgrading..

Wacom Intuos4 drawing tablet

Lastly (I hope) I needed to get my new Wacom Intuos4 tablet working. The Wacom drivers built in to the 9.04 build work with all devices, prior to the Intuos4. Luckily, I didn’t have to run through the full install of the latest drivers supplied at the Linux Wacom Project. I only needed to compile some of the files and replace existing ones. This info was very helpful in getting everything working. Specifically I used the “animone” post to get the Wacom pen working. However, I have not yet setup the pad.

Running a dual monitor setup, I wanted to restrict the tablet stylus to the left screen. According to this thread (thx Ben Simmons), I had to do a matrix transform. Luckily, I didn’t have to do any math to get it to restrict it to the primary monitor.

xinput set-prop "Wacom Intuos4 6x9 stylus" --type=float "Coordinate Transformation Matrix" 0.5 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1

or, if you want to use your Wacom on the right monitor:

xinput set-prop "Wacom Intuos4 6x9 stylus" --type=float "Coordinate Transformation Matrix" 0.5 0 0.5 0 1 0 0 0 1

You can even get a little creative by having the eraser control one monitor and the stylus controls the other. Just use “Wacom Intuos4 6×9 eraser” instead.

Firefox

First, gotta get the middle-mouse scroll enabled so I can casually slide down the pages. You might have to first disable the auto lookup URL thingy. While lookin around also found out about the middle-mouse paste. Nummy : middlemouse.paste

Synergy – Control the Desktop of Two Computers.

To install it I just ran apt-get synergy to install it. I then used these instructions to setup and run the server.

Simon – Simple Speech Recognition

Hmm, judging by this demo, it doesn’t look like it’s really “speech recognition”, but “voice commands”… ? Will have to look into further.

Plastic Animation Paper

Trying to get Plastic Animation Paper working on linux is going to be a bit tricky. I can see that already. There are minor issues with the Wacom tablet, but much larger issues with the sound drivers. Also, noted that with 9.04, PAP couldn’t find the libstdc++5 libraries, but I got the package here and all is good.

So, with the sound stuff, it appears that I’m not the only one having issues.

I think I’ll just stick with Pencil for now at is suits my animation needs… on Linux. Just came across this MyPaint app too.

USB Network Card (DLink DWA-130 v B1)

Used this link in order to download the necessary ndiswrapper packages from another computer that had internet.

DLink had the drivers on their website, including 64 bit versions.

Then made sure to blacklist the built-in drivers that might conflict, using this link, and this one.

echo -e "blacklist bcm43xx\nblacklist b43\nblacklist b43legacy\nblacklist ssb" | sudo tee -a /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist
blacklist rt2400
blacklist rt2570

Not sure if I needed this, but I put the below lines in, based on this thread.
sudo gedit /etc/NetworkManager/nm-system-settings.conf
under [ifupdown], change managed=true

Copy CD/DVD

Fire you must unmount the drive that you plan to copy, i.e. :

sudo umount /dev/sr0
next you can use readom to make an iso image of the drive.

readom dev=/dev/sr0 f=~/Desktop/myImage.iso

Shared Network Folders

When right-clicking a folder on the server machine and trying to share it, it will automatically ask you if you want to install the services for sharing. Do it!

Next, you will need to install smbfs on the client in order to mount to this new share.
sudo apt-get install smbfs
Finally, we will need to create a folder then mount to this newly created folder.
mkdir ~/othertunes

sudo smbmount //192.168.1.14/music ~/othertunes -o username=bill,password=nooneknows,uid=1000,mask=000
So that both machines have the same relative references, I can make a symbolic link. For example, on the server machine I would type the following command.
ln -s ~/music ~/othermusic
This thread seems to be a good location for tips on mounting shares and securities.

Zipped Files – Staying Compatible with Windows Systems

sudo apt-get install p7zip

Compiz

Compiz is installed by default in 10.10, but you have to activate the extra plugins in order to get the sphere of awesomeness.
sudo apt-get install compiz-fusion-plugins-extra
For Ubuntu 12.10 (specifically to disable the Alt-Click window movements) I installed the compiz settings manager.
sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

terminal shell cheat sheets

http://www.pixelbeat.org/cmdline.html
http://files.fosswire.com/2007/08/fwunixref.pdf

Pocket Watches

For years I’ve wanted a pocket watch. Not a fan of a watch that wraps around your wrist, as this is a JOINT area that is designed to MOVE (not to mention the discomfort when working at a keyboard).

For a few years now I’ve just had my wristwatch attached to my belt loop via it’s velcro strap <insert image here>.  However, I think it’s time for something a little more stylish, perferably with a built in chronograph.  I am in animation after all.

http://www.ipocketwatches.com

http://www.ewatches.com/Pocket.html

http://www.pocket-watches.us

Wind Up Stop Watches and Sports Timers from Camero

This Omega 1932 looks beautiful & sounds like da shit and is impossible to find.  This Charles Hubert watch looks slick & it’s cheap.

Tons of great watches here too, though not the best browsing format.

If all else fails (which it seems that it is) there’s always ebay.

Home Theater Projector… screen

So I picked up a Sony projector the other day.  FINALLY!!  It’s an older model that I got for about 1k (including cables & tax).

I’m projecting it on the wall for testing… but it’s actually not bad, and considering I’ve got a forest green wall.  Hah.  Neat.

Anyhow, I’ve been told about this refletive paint.  Or some recommend using “blackout cloth“.  They say it’s used to line drapes to completely block out light.  Looks like you can get it in grey, which sounds good for contrast balancing.  Some guys even recommend paper (which wouldn’t survive in my place).  Or whynot skip the middle men and just go right to China.  “Can we get it by the yard?”

This Lumanlab thread has some good info, till you hit the expired MSN links.

I thought abot a screen, but now I’m thinking a strip that goes across the whole wall.  If it’s just the right grey, it might even help blend these walls.  Hmm…

I’ve gotta start digging a deeper than just the first page of a Google search.

Twitter Tools Hacked for Identi.ca

Alex King made Twitter Tools for Wordpress.  Basically allows you to make tweets from your WordPress blog or create Daily/Weekly digests from  your tweets.  

Here is a hack to get this to work with Identi.ca.

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