Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day and Quakes

Yay! Today is "leap day" - a day that only comes around once every four years, and which poses some unique challenges for kids born on that day :P  To celebrate, Google put up this awesome cute doodle on their homepage  :D

Friday, February 26, 2016

Hot Weather + Last Night's Sunset

The weather over the past few days has been quite warm - hitting 33 yesterday, 32 again today, and a forecast high of 31 again tomorrow. Considering that this is the tail end of February (traditionally the hottest month of the year in Christchurch) this is not too surprising! With the warm weather, we also sometimes get some rather dramatic skies. Last night was no exception!

Monday, February 22, 2016

5 Years On - An Eerie Day of Parallels

It's that time of year again - a day on which we Cantabrians reflect on a traumatic event which caused immense death, destruction, pain, and anxiety... the deadly February 22, 2011 earthquake at 12:51pm which forever changed the face of the city. This year marks 5 years since that event (a milestone of sorts). Somewhat morbidly, there were quite a few eerie similarities between that day and today...

Power out in Lab 2 just after 12:50!  (Feb 22, 2016... )

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Burnside High '08 - Reunion 2016

This evening, I attended a small gathering of former classmates from high school who graduated in 2008. For quite a few of us (and particularly in my case), this was the first time that many of us had seen each other since the "leavers last lunch" in 2008, so it was quite interesting + exciting to see everyone again.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Seminar Summary: "From Nand to Tetris"

This morning, I attended a fascinating seminar by Shimon Schocken about a CS course he co-developed called "Nand to Tetris". Over the course, students develop a full working computer system from the ground up, component by component from first principles.

There are some concessions though (if you could call them that) - instead of physically building these components, the students work through the exercises using a special software-based hardware simulator. As a result, students can through the course in a very modular way, and can experiment with how each of these components works.

Post-Picasa Replacements - Followup Notes #1

As a followup from yesterday's post/rant about Picasa things, I've started doing some digging around about ways to achieve the "Fill Light" technique, as well as started the process of auditioning potential replacement systems.

This will probably be the first of several post about this topic (though how many there will be I don't know yet), and will just be a way for me to keep track of my notes and findings about what works, what doesn't, and what may potentially be useful information.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Impending Demise of Picasa

Today Google announced the imminent demise of Picasa - both the web albums AND the desktop tool. My short reaction is this: Booooooo! Not this again Google!

My second reaction (and perhaps the most important point of this post) is this:
It'd be great if Google could open source the desktop editing app - that thing has a lot of very useful stuff going on there that would be a shame for the world to lose.   (I know, it's a long shot for that to actually happen... but, it's better to have tried and failed, than to never have tried!)

Failing that, what I really actually care about far more are the answers to the following technical questions:
1) How do the 3 exposure correction sliders - "Fill Light", "Highlight", "Shadow" - actually work?   In particular, I'm most interested in knowing about the "Fill Light", since that's one of the tools I use quite heavily, but have been unable to find a full replacement for (not close equivalent, but exact replacement) in any other package I've tried to date.    (In fact, I'm seriously considering putting a bounty on getting source code + running binaries for an implementation of this tool, to be obtained using any means necessary - be it reverse engineering the relevant code, or R&D of a replacement, or perhaps just getting the original devs to secretly leak the relevant code snippets for the public good)

2) What is the format of the metadata used to store the sequence of edits that Picasa performs on each file? These metadata files are stored in each directory, and seem to use some kind of encoded/compressed representation of the sequence of operations + parameters that get applied to files.    (Knowing this will be important for being able to port the non-destructive edits made to large numbers of photos in my library to whatever future tools I end up using)

3) I wonder how its UI toolkit was put together - especially for handling the scrolling of the view, as well as the rendering + storage of all the image thumbnails.  There's clearly some nifty engineering going on here, but most of us will never get to find out how it was all done! :(

(If any of the original Picasa app devs see this, feel free to send a private mail to my GMail or Hotmail - aligorith - accounts with more details of how these things work. I promise that I will not disclose the details of who provided me with this information... given the likely NDA's that some of this stuff may be under :)


4) How can I efficiently duplicate all albums, their content, and all metadata attached to all of those to another online storage solution?  It's clear that I'll need to start looking for a better online storage solution for these things, as the new Google Photos seems critically flawed in quite a few ways :/

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

CNY2016 "Monkey" - Blender Bugs Retrospective

As usual, while trying to actually make some art with Blender, I came across a whole bunch of bizarre and sometimes nasty bugs which got in the way a bit. Since posting the video, I've begun investigating and fixing these - though in a few cases, it's not so straightforward to fix.

While some of these are the big usual suspects (e.g. it would be really great for poor draftsmen like myself to have "autocomplete" working, and the having the ability to parent strokes to objects/bones would really help for doing things like calculating motion paths), there were also a number of interesting "smaller" issues which came up repeatedly.

As this list was starting to get a bit long, I decided to split it out into its own post instead.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Happy Chinese New Year!

It's that time of the year again! Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year celebrations. As you may have guessed from the video above, it's the year of the monkey this year (following on from the year of the sheep).  Who knows, this may well be another very awesome year for Blender ;)

For fun, I put together a little short greeting video this afternoon using Grease Pencil. I'm still quite terrible at doing 2D animation - keeping characters on model, drawing them from more than a few "easy" angles, timing, drawing using a tablet, etc. - but I'm quite pleased with how this turned out!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

First Firefox Addon - "Toggle Autoplay"

This evening, I spent some time hacking together an addon for Firefox (and the first one I've built). Over the past week or so, I'd gotten increasingly annoyed by how certain video players (notably Vimeo's) were having some random playback issues when I've got autoplay disabled globally across the whole browser. The workaround for those cases is to turn autoplay back on while dealing with that page, and then disable again once done (so that the next page doesn't get any wrong ideas about causing a ruckus).

However, that's a PITA right now, as you have to open a new page, navigate to the user preferences page, navigate to the property, and only then can you change its setting. With no obvious way to just "pin" a setting to the toolbar, I was only left with the option of hacking together a simple addon to do so instead!