Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thoughts on Changes to "Give way rules" on NZ Roads... (A rant on NZ roads)

I remember that a few months ago, they debated looking into these changing the so called "Give Way" rules on NZ roads. Back then, I thought they said they were giving up the idea for "quite some time" still. Fast forward a few months, and bang!

The main changes are the following:
1) At a "straight through" intersection, where one car sits in the middle of the road to make a big right turn through the oncoming traffic, while the other one takes a small left turn around the corner, the left-turner gets ROW (right of way) under the new laws.
2) At a "T-bar", the car in the straight turning into the side road will have ROW instead of the car sitting in the side road under the new laws.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

svn + ssh - A good tutorial for getting rid of those pesky prompts

Recently for Uni, I've been working with a SVN that only works with ssh login (the darned thing will ONLY accept a svn+ssh path), which inevitably leads to password prompts all over the show, every single time you do even the smallest of procedures with svn.

Having done this a few times over the past few days, I became increasingly frustrated with this status quo. Researching this a bit, I read quite a few tutorials which described ways to get around this, but the one I liked most is:

Thanks to this, I now have a really usable setup for this now.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sintel (Durian Open Movie Project) Premiere

After a year of work, it finally premiered. The third Blender Open Movie Project, codenamed Durian, premiered earlier today in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to attend this event due to various commitments. However, I can say that I have seen a version of the film ("pre-premiere screening" copy), but I'll keep quiet on any details about this until the online release in a few days time.

In the meantime, what I will say is that although I can totally understand the team's ultimate choice to choose this as the poster ("to show more drama"), I'd personally have gone with one of the more traditional alternatives instead ( - number 5, i.e. first one on second row).

Anyways, congratulations to all involved. You have done the Blender community proud :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Duck Shooting Again

The weather today proved to be absolutely outstanding again, the ducks were out (loud and clear too) in force, so what a great opportunity to try a spot of duck photography with my 7D. Indeed, bird photography was the thing that got me hooked with taking photos of stuff, and, in lieu of a long telephoto + sporadically available subjects, duck shooting has been my main target in this area so far due to their size and ready availability.

So, armed with camera in hand, and having scoped out some clusters all morning without a camera around (I missed an interesting clash between a bossy magpie and a group of ducks, with two of the ducks being frightened off, but the last one holding its ground and quacking loudly until the magpie left).

Without further ado, let the pictures speak for themselves.

From Spring Ducks 2010
This is one of my favourite shots of the day. There are few more of these ducklings inside...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Springtime photos from around town

After a week of assignment due date crunch (culminating in a 1 day dash to make sure everything was truly completed and submitted in time), it was finally time to take a little break. Especially with the nice weather in town over the past week and extending over the weekend, it was a great time to spend some time playing with my camera. Here are some of the highlights (though there were some even nicer ones which I won't be posting for various reasons)...

From Christchurch Spring 2010
This paddock of sheep is not actually that far out of town. In fact, it's in the middle of a suburb, beside a cemetery. The single sheep staring at the camera was the only one that didn't run as I approached the fence.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Implications of social media - Examining past footprints

From time to time, there is a wave of activity in conventional media circles (if you think about it, don't they frequently campaign on certain issues in periodic fashion before moving onto "the next big issue"), where they start talking about how people should be "more careful about what they post online", especially on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Indeed, there is cause for concern here. What you and I upload is very likely to become entrenched in the web, copied to and from various servers, and butchered and re-posted at some later date. A key example are all those (IMO dodgy and annoying) sites that aggregate/copy/butcher articles from various wiki's and online encyclopedias that always seem to show up when using search engines. Frankly, it gets quite annoying when you end up finding the same (limited) article that appeared on Wikipedia being mirrored by 10 such aggregators, but which often appear as potentially new articles. Surely something more must have been said about a topic than a single Wikipedia article and several thousand unrelated pieces of advertisements.

However, what I really wanted to say here is that you don't quite realise some of the implications until you start seeing your own (long-forgotten) content/posts cropping up during a random search for something years after the fact. I'll admit that on a few occasions, I've done some random searches where I stumble across some posts I made on BA years ago, and think "Did I really write something like that?". Fortunately, I haven't really stumbled across an embarrassing post, but there is a really weird sensation reading stuff you wrote ages ago. Somehow it sounds familiar, and yet looks so darned foreign at the same time.

Now, as the "first generation" of users with access to this technology, creating content in these ways, it's kindof weird to think what will happen one day when our children start browsing the internet, coming across the digital footprints of their parents. Or what about grandchildren, if the internet has not collapsed or drastically changed form by then? Sure, past generations have been able to read diaries/journals and/or old newspaper clippings, but what they're now able to access dwarfs those in comparison.

Footprints are weird.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Coding Fun

Over the past few days, I've been busily hacking away at one of the assignments I've got for Uni: implementing programming language (new and/or familiar) features on top of a basic (read: primitive) language's parser/compiler.

Although the base code we got was initially quite hard to read (go out and have a taste of K&R C, with multiple statements on the same line as each other, hardly much indention or whitespace to be found, and use of integer constants all over, and you might be somewhat close to seeing what the code was like), I can say that I now understand most of it. That is, of course, after going through and coding a cleaned up version from scratch, only to have it backfire with a weirdo error I couldn't debug in time, and then cleaning up a second version of that source code.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

[Rigging FAQ] Porting rigs from 2.4x to 2.5 - What you need to know

So, you've got an "awesome" rig that you set up in the old versions of Blender, and are now looking at migrating to 2.5. Will it still work? Are there any things you need to be aware of?

Saturday, September 18, 2010


From time to time, I'm reminded of some stupidity on the part of some of the software designers out there (aren't we all). The text editors that are fundamentally broken, and cannot handle tabs correctly (fortunately, there are many other functional alternatives out there, that work much better). The web upload forms that time out, and have ultra strict validation, or just plain buggy all the time.

But, that's not what's really inspiring today's rant.

Bullet SoC - Still researching the "brick wall" scenario + Potential Solutions

It's been a while since I've made an update on this project, so it's probably time that I did so. Last time I did, I was still investigating the making sure that "brick walls" could be simulated easily using the Rigid Body tools I'd put in place (including changes/improvements to the brick wall template).

Perhaps seeing so many crumbling chimneys, and fallen-away walls around the place in recent weeks has further highlighted the importance of being able to simulate this. And perhaps, indirectly, suggests a solution :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Spring has sprung!

Amidst all the continuing aftershocks (they had pretty much died out for a few days, at least while I was awake, but have tonight rattled the house several times over the past hour, twice rather violently and for a while) spring has finally turned on its glory.

I'm really starting to love this macro lens now that I'm starting to figure out its focusing tendencies and the beauty of shallow DOF, after keeping it on the camera for the past few days. Here are some highlights :)

From Macro Experiments (Sep 2010)
"Mummy and Baby". I got these two little birdies at different times during festive season sales (Easter for the big yellow one, and Boxing-Day for the pinkie), but it wasn't until after the big shake that I realised that putting them together looks quite cute.

[Rigging FAQ] Basics of the New Driver System in 2.5

Monitoring bug reports over the past while, I have noticed that there appear to be some misconceptions about the Driver system in 2.5. As usual, these seem to stem from trying to carry old Blender knowledge straight across to the new system, which inevitably, will cause some problems as aspects of that old system were backwards/fundamentally broken.

So, as will become a common phrase for you in common weeks: "forget the old, in with the new!"

This is by no means a fully comprehensive guide on the Driver system. There are some things I can't cover here, as they'd probably be fodder for their own posts. So, hopefully this guide is enough to highlight some of the main things that you should know about this system.

[EDIT 2011Jan03 - See the extra notes for this post here]

Monday, September 13, 2010

Matters of Code Indention - Tabs only please

The internet is a place where people can discuss various matters, in particular, the tale of two bitter rivals. There are: Ford vs Holden car enthusiasts, Canon vs Nikon photographers, JPEG vs RAW, Marmite vs Vegemite, AMD vs Intel, ATI vs NVIDIA, and emacs vs vi(m), to mention a few of the many such rivalries I'm aware of.

Of particular relevance to the last one is the issue of code indention: how much, and of what type.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Christchurch Rebuilding - Photos from Out and About a Week Later

Over the past two days, I've been gradually venturing out, exploring Christchurch a week after the great earthquake, and taking photos of damage, cordons, and recovery in progress. I've just included some which give a fair impression of the overall situation, though aren't always the best shots I took.

From Christchurch 4Sep2010 Earthquake

Friday, September 10, 2010

Earthquake Theory

I must say that this earthquake has taught me quite a few things about them:
1) Earthquakes can be scary, especially when they're big and go on for more than 2 seconds. Previously, every "earthquake" we'd had would just be a 2 second wobble once a year or once every few years that'd hardly damage anything. But the longer they get, the greater the chance of damage + power/water cuts.
2) "Aftershocks" are pretty much full-blown earthquakes in their own right
3) Aftershocks are not small shakes that happen once every few days after the "main event". Rather, the earth underneath your feet is just in constant motion more than usual, and that rather regularly (aka minutes in the first 2-3 days, and hours during later days) this constant motion is more vigorous
4) Shallow earthquakes are nastier than deep ones. They feel more powerful, usually with "wide" swaying leading to things falling down.
To illustrate this for yourself, get a goldfish and put it in a large+wide+shallow mixing bowl and observe the way it swims around (my fish tends to like swimming around the rim quite rapidly, half-flattening his dorsal fin, and using the tip of his tail to create large vibrations on the water surface). Next, move the same fish over to a deep tank, and notice how movements "down under" won't affect the surface so much.
5) Standing up in stable stance means that you can't feel any of the smaller shakes at all
6) A good indicator of all types of shaking is the TV antenna, which shakes as soon as some of the more subtle shakes come in. Useful when trying to decide whether it's just your butt shaking, or the ground.
7) Water is not a very good indicator of shaking. It is actually not that sensitive to movement, especially the smaller shakes. Only violent shakes create visible displacement. Floating penguins in the water make interesting diversions during this.
8) After a big shock, your butt often "feels" like the ground underneath it is shaking. Perhaps it really is, and you're sensitive enough to feel it. Or perhaps, you're just starting to get nervous again.
9) Earthquakes are noisy. You usually hear one coming before you see or feel anything (in that order too). They have a low rumbling sound, which then combines with the sound of the house/building you're in creaking as it shunts sideways, followed by the sounds of stuff shaking.
10) It takes a few days, but eventually, you'll become almost desensitised to all but the larger shakes (usually the shallow but with lower magnitude ones), as you'll be sleepy enough to just sleep right through 12-3 aftershocks, some of magnitude 4.5 or greater, and 3.x's generally just aren't felt at all.

New Canon EOS 7D and Macro Photography

As I've mentioned in passing earlier, since a few days before the earthquake, I'm not a proud/happy owner of a Canon EOS 7D.

In a way, the earthquake came at a convenient timing with-respect-to-the-camera, as it does pose some interesting subjects to take photos of (once I can get out and about to do so safely, that is).

I've got the main things I was looking for:
1) fast + responsive digital camera (it's just about if not faster than the old film camera we used to use, before it was retired after film processing became prohibitively expensive/inconvenient, and the long-suffering zoom lens got arthritis which meant it couldn't retract "unaided")
2) comfortable to hold and use
3) manual control when I need it

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

[Rigging FAQ] Constraints and Rotations - What you should know

Just like the aftershocks here, it seems that everything seems to come in waves. Over the past week or so, I've been once again reading quite a few instances of people asking for help regarding working with constraints and rotations, and not quite getting the results that they were expecting. While the root cause of the problem is the same from 2.4x to the 2.5 series still, the 'remedies' I'm going to be suggesting here only really apply to 2.5 where things have been improved significantly to make such things bearable.

A brief warning that some readers may find some of the content here upsetting: there is a "little bit" of math involved here, but I'll try to keep it tame.

Terror Revisited

This morning, I was woken by another strong aftershock just before 8am, after having also experienced a weaker one just before falling asleep. These were quite a surprise after the eerie stillness/lack of shaking for most if not all of yesterday (during daylight hours at least), though by yesterday evening I getting increasingly anxious that another big shake was inevitably coming along as darkness enveloped the land.

Indeed, I was proven correct.

From Christchurch 4Sep2010 Earthquake
(This photo shows a pattern left on my desk by water splashing out of my cup during the aftershock. Eerily it looks like a stylised face in shock!)

It felt almost as bad as the initial quake, lasting 10-20 seconds I'd guess, shaking things off shelves around me and giving the computer table a good battering. Like with the initial quake, the power cut out instantly again (though was restored again after 15 minutes), and I wondered if this time the quakes had really taken their toll.

However, unlike with the first quake, this happened when there was some daylight around, which made things a bit less scary. No doors were dislodged this time (which was also quite a relief). Also, nothing was broken this time, with most glass/breakable objects having been placed on safer ground, and other items having been rearranged to be less likely to fall.

To illustrate the force of this quake, here are a few examples of things that got moved:
1) the fridge was moved backwards by about an inch, perhaps a bit more than last time
2) the printer was just about knocked off its perch, moving about 2 inches
3) a TV being moved backwards by 2cm (again)

Hopefully these aftershocks die out for good sometime soon (preferably sooner rather than later).

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Resuming some normality...

Today I've finally started trying to resume work on all pending projects again that had been interrupted over the past few days.

Throughout the city, people and businesses are also trying to restore a sense of normality, with many people in non-affected areas returning to work today, bus services resuming soon, and parts of the CBD starting to open again. Certainly picking things up again should help in the healing process for the city, though some things will obviously still take time.

What has not really helped though are the aftershocks that passed through last night. After having had rather infrequent though still significant aftershocks for most of the day yesterday, we had a series of rather strong and violent 5 pointers just before midnight. These were quite unsettling, especially just around bedtime, and listening to the radio this morning confirms this, with many people not being able to fall asleep after this.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Aftermath of the quake...

It's been good catching up on some sleep this morning. The aftershocks today have died down quite a bit (in terms of frequency and intensity) which is certainly a relief. Also, the strong winds forecast haven't quite eventuated yet, though I am starting to hear them blowing outside now.

Looking back, I have to say that I'm impressed with the speed and effectiveness at which emergency services have managed to cope with the situation. Hats off gratitude to the linesmen and watersupply guys and gals out there for working so hard and getting our essentials up and running again so quickly. I seriously thought we were going to be stuck without these for quite few days still, which would've been quite nasty with the cold nights over the past while.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Rattle Zone - A Black Day in Christchurch

It is 5:58pm as I write this post, having been up for over 13 hours (and counting) in a sleep deprived and increasingly paranoid state.

You may or may not have heard already, that Christchurch (my hometown) has been ravaged by a 7.1 quake overnight at about 4:35am this morning (September 4th, 2010), centered just ~30km from the city centre and at a relatively shallow depth of 10km. There has been quite a bit of property damage: many shops and buildings, especially in the CBD have been damaged, some to the extent where large parts have collapsed. Here we've gotten off a bit lighter, but with quite a lot of broken glass, displaced stuff, and paper/books soaked when water splashed out of the fish tank during the shaking. Fortunately though, there haven't been any loss of life arising from this major disaster yet.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Holiday Assignments - Some *** time required

It seems that the job of a uni-student never abates until the exams are over - indeed, the term "term break" is really a misnomer the further up you get. At least the work gets more fun at the same time (usually) ;)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Conquering the wobbles - cosc atrium after dark

This evening I had a meeting in the department which ran a bit late. That is, after most people had already left (though there were quite a few active asian communities gathering in corners) and the skies were getting dark outside.

A perfect opportunity to take some snaps of the department atrium with full lighting (and without being disturbed)!

From Uni Snapshots