Friday, December 22, 2017

Getting Redshift3D to run on a macbook pro

Getting back into more houdini out of work, and thought I'd try out the Redshift gpu renderer.

It took me several hours, but I finally got it workingon my 2014 macbook pro.
- Purchase Houdini Indie (Apprentice does not allow 3rd party renderers)
- Install CUDA Drivers
- Install matching Nvidia Web Drivers
- Setup houdini.env file
- Install specific version of houdini to match the compiled dso.

And... then I found out I the mbp's 2GB GT 750m had insufficient vram left over to run anything heavy. Just a few toruses and I was out of vram >.>


I guess I'll have to research egpus tomorrow.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Kurious : 1 minute

I had the privilege of attending a session of Circ du Soleil's Kurious this fine evening, and my words are simply inadequate to describe the spectacle I saw.

For the first twenty minutes or so, I was somewhat put off as I could not find any narrative to the amazing performance. Hey, one of my hobbies is writing, ok?

But when the show ended, it came to me there... perhaps there was a narrative. What we experienced over the two-hour long performance, was really an expansion of possibilities for every minute in our lives.

If you watch the show, watch the clock.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Advent Children Complete

Holy Crap. Netflix - Canada - recently included Advent Children in its lineup, and I was like... eh, I've watched it nearly every day for years, might be good to catch it again later.

Finally watched it tonight and I was like... wait a second. I don't remember many of the scenes in this film... has old age finally caught up with me?!

This is because: It's Advent Children Complete. Ah.

Complete solves ties up several loose ends the original film, such as, how did Denzel suddenly become part of Tiffa/Cloud's family? Why would he suddenly go off with a random stranger to be cured? (He still does it but at least there's improved context). The final battle got revamped halfway through it, there's proper blood now, and Sephiroth really gives Cloud a good beating. And Cloud's new omnislash takes it to a new level.

Lots of detail has been added as well, more dirt during fights, and scratches on the 'cycles.

Still, I wished when the did complete, they would just friggin' fix the "people running in circles around a monster for ten minutes and not running away" scene. That's so beyond lame. And let's not get started with the water hydrant scene. Laaaaaame. There is absolutely ZERO chance of that amount of water forcing back a summon that probably weighs a ton or two.

Music wise, they've changed the edit a fair bit, and I personally prefer the pieces chosen in the original. I also question some of the edits, it just doesn't cut as well at times. Originally, Cid's entrance was him saving Tiffa. That scene is totally gone, and it's very jarring to watch him suddenly appear to just introduce the High Serra.

Overall, super pleased to have watched it. Always nice to catch up with kid memories.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Serious Sam 3: BFE and Borderlands 2

These two are _seriously_ old games, and I'm just gonna write some thoughts on them because I'm on holiday, and I got them last week. Us OSX players don't really get much choice, eh?

So first, Serious Sam. This game was a very different experience from the first game, and overall I probably won't want to play it again. The first Serious Sam is frikkin a bag of laughs and a simple, endless gorefest. I don't think it's _that_ fun playing solo, but in multiplayer it's amazing, especially with friends.

I didn't feel the same way in BFE. First the maps are a pain in the ass to navigate. I found them overly large, and I'm supposed to hunt down keys to open gates. That just threw off my pacing. Sure, we need some things to break up the endless waves of enemies, but I felt the "fetch quests" were just slowing down the game and I didn't feel any need for them. There were also some underground maps that were dark, and I could barely see anything at all. I'm wondering if there's a calibration problem on my screen as my friends were able to take down those chittering space monkeys in the dark with seemingly no problem. Gah.

And oh, those gates that stop you from progressing until you found a key? Seriously? As unfit as I am, I am certain I can climb over them. That totally breaks whatever little immersion I had of the game. I also didn't like that you had to press E to climb ladders. Like... what?

In any case, this is a game from 2011, and gaming has progressed tremendously since then. I'd hope Since I rarely spend time actually playing games these days. On the plus side, the frame rate is amazeballs even when entire regions are clustered with smoke/dust sprites. The SBC cannon brings back so many memories, and having them split apart a werebull down the middle is lol-tastic.


Borderlands 2 released a year later, is a serious eye opener. Now these days, while I don't actively play games, I do watch playthroughs on youtube. I'm personally more interested in how the story works, rather than wanting to actually play a game.

Now borderlands blew me away with how well developed and thought out the UI, controls and levels were. From my no-longer-a-gamer perspective, it is a game that's really well polished. I am still amazed when I can walk up to a tiny little object on the floor, and am able to read the text on it. Like... is this the mega-texturing thing I've read up from before? Totally, mind blown.

Story wise, I found it quite passe. Fetch quests all over the places, and there were some plotholes (how could Roland die?! He was a vault hunter too!!! And one shot KO? It wasn't even a headshot!!!) My first run through I tried to blaze through it without any side quests and found it nigh impossible for certain missions - my level was just too low, and was taking forever to do damage to enemies. After reading up some hints, I finally got around to doing quests, which both boosted my levels and gave me some equipment that was super useful against specific enemies/bosses.

The final boss I was a bit non-plussed - for a warrior supposedly able to destroy everything on the planet it's... actually quite small in stature. And the amusing part was taking it down with just a plain old pistol lol.  That said, if we ignore the story, in terms of gameplay the pacing was superb, and the bosses, I really enjoyed lots of the boss fights. Many pushed me in the corner, but I was still able to break out of it.

I've played 4 of the 6 classes in the game, and a few days ago I decided to just uninstall the game because I could not help myself wanting to play it. Definitely a game to play for sure.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Neato D3

I bought my original Neato XV11 late 2013, and it sadly gave up the ghost around mid 2015. I got it repaired (took close to five months to get it fixed), and it continued to run till a few months ago when it suddenly shut down, and only had a half-glowing led around its "run" button. It'd come alive again for no particular reason at times, and was perplexing to come home to a robo vacuum just lying in the middle of the room.

According to the interwebs, this is likely a sign of a failed capacitor, aka the C10 fault. A capacitor should be an easy thing to replace, or so I thought, but taking apart the XV11 was far more of a chore than expected. In the end, there were some screws that were inaccessible as I didn't have screwdrivers long enough, so I decided, it's time for a new vacuum.

My choices were simple, Neato is basically still top of the pack for robo vacuums. And I definitely wanted a vacuum that had Li-ion batteries. That boiled me down to a few vacuums, and thought I'd just pick from the latest crop.

The D3 is the cheapest of the pack, and I choose it as it did not have a side brush attachment. Less things to fail, or maintain. It also has a smaller bin capacity as well as battery size. Given how "large" my "apartment" is though, those are non issues.

I've been running it for a few days and it more or less functions the same as the XV11. There are a things to note:
  • Not as loud as the XV11, which is nice.
  • "Gentle Navigation" mode keep a bit more distance from objects, and the Neato moves at a slower pace. I've noted that this mode bumps into stuff much less, but it seems that it causes the Neato to occasionally avoid small, tighter areas. 
  • Have to use a phone app + wifi (2.4ghz, specifically!) to setup the Neato. Seriously? It even requires you to create an account with the Neato website. wtf. The XV11's firmware was more than enough to setup a schedule to run 3 times a week. That's all I need. If I want to run the robot, I can just.. you know, walk over and press the run button. I can't see me needing to, oh, I'm in Europe right now, but I _really_ want to vacuum my room. They could have done it like with some security cameras; each camera has a unique QR code that the app uses, and doesn't need to create an account for.  I personally think this "connected" business is just marketing stirring RND's pot of stew.
    If, I could say, have a visualization of the slam algorithm as the robot does its chores, sure, maybe, it'd be a cute thing to have for show and tell. But not required for a domestic robot. Bleh bleh bleh.
  • li-ion batteries. These are the good stuff, and while I would have preferred to get a cheaper, last generation robot, I spent the extra moola for them.
Overall though, I'm still rating it pretty high. These robots save me untold amount of hours just cleaning up the dust and detritus, and they have pretty low maintenance The XV11's probably going to craigslist to be sold for parts. It works... when it wants to, so hopefully it's next owner can sort it out.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Defold Game Engine

I haven't fooled around with game engines in a long while, and I recently learned about Defold. It's an engine bought over by King (of Candy Crush fame), and it's primarily for 2D development, though it's a 3D engine at heart.

I've been playing with it for over a week, mainly learning Lua and going through the various tutorials. For what it's designed for, it's superb.

However, when I started to deviate from its roots, I found it quite challenging to work with.

For a start, the camera. In Unity for example, it's quite straightforward to setup/position the camera, ortho or 3D, and do stuff like space transforms from screen space to world. It's all worked out in the api.

In Defold, things get a little more tricky.

The camera is pre-defined to work in a certain way, with the camera centered at the bottom left of the screen, which is perfect for what the engine is designed for. Given the genre of games that King develops, as well as a fair amount of games I've seen in the forums, this is perfect. It works out of the box, not much tweaking required.

For me, I wanted to try something different, a camera centered at 0,0 and that's when things got tricky.

To do so, you'll need to figure out a projection matrix for it. It's challenging, as I'm not a strong maths person. Embarrassing, considering what my job is. Hours were spent on Scratchapixel trying to understand exactly how it all works. I've definitely walked away with an improved understanding of the rendering pipeline, as well as a refresher course on matrices :)

On the flip side, the html 5 export is an interesting thing, it would be cool to dev mini games for my chromebook and stuff like that. I'm also quite fond of the way they handle input, some of my basic tests for mouse/keyboard input went flawlessly. Haven't yet tried touch, but given as I'm not as fascinated with mobile game dev as before, I don't think I'll bother.

I think the key draw for me is the engine's dev team. Defold was original developed years ago before it was bought over, and the development team, including the original developers, are active in the forums. That's houdini-like levels of awesome!

I've read many arguments why not to use an engine by King, (Banner Saga trademark thingy). That's really icky, but you know what, the engine itself was created way before King, and the folks developing Defold are responsive on the forums. For that reason - plus I'm not a game developer - I've decided to stick with Defold as my fun engine for choice for the time being.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Visualizing airflow!

This is beyond cool, Schlieren Photography. My first thoughts were, "Hey! Would be awesome to visualize the airflow over diy rc wings."

Upon closer scrutiny, it's setup requires a fair bit of space, and needs a few pieces of equipment that are probably not so easy to obtain.

Still bloody cool though!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

BV141 Inspired Flying Wing

First up, I want to be clear that this little side project has been stopped as it's far too complex for what I'd like to achieve. Without further ado, here're a few snapshots of my BV141 inspired flying wing.

The BV141 is highly unique in that the pilot sits on a separate pod that's not obstructed by the prop, allowing great visibility in its proposed role as a recon aircraft. I thought this would be a fun to tackle, as such a wing design would provide many advantages:
  • Plank-style wing would be very easy to construct from dollar tree foam/readi-board
  • Tractor prop would be quieter than pusher
  • Pod could be used for a camera with no obstruction from prop
This is where I decided not to continue it further:
  • To connect the pod securely to the main fuselage (or wing), would require additional weight a traditional pusher prop wing won't require. Such additional complexity would mean more work in the event of the crash.
  • Spinning blades of doom in the front. Nuff' said.
  • Wetted area of the addition pod, would pose much more drag than a single in-line fuselage on a pusher wing.
  • The flight characteristics of my kfm4 wing were superb, and I thought that it would be better to start from an already good design.
Even so, based on my estimates, it should be possible to get the design completed under 250g, and it'd be legal to fly here in Canada.

250g is truly a challenging limit to build to. Not only do we need to use lightweight components, we have to decide between spending the weight on batteries for longer flight times, or for payloads.

Lightweight aircraft also have difficulty flying in the wind. 

I'll be reverting to a pusher chevron wing design. It's long been my wish to have a wood fuselage alongside foam wings, and with my canard project stalled, this will be my new target.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Can't fly my designs anymore.

I've been extremely busy this year. I've been spending lots of time trying to making a life outside of work, and it's not easy. For some reason, I found it easier in Adelaide/Montreal/London, but here I'm finding it difficult to meet people who share similar interests. That, and I'm working loads of overtime, with only Sunday off. Blargh.

Anyways, with summer approaching, I thought it'd be good to complete and maiden my canard design, but I came across some new laws regarding drones that were just announced over a month ago:

First, I'm nonplussed to have my fixed wing designs lumped under the blanket term "drones". I'd like to think that drones are self-guided autonomous vehicles, and none of my aircraft can fly on their own!

But never mind that. First, there are restrictions for aircraft between 250g to 35kg. Aircraft that fall within this limit can't fly close than 75m from buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals(?!) and people/crowds.

Last I checked, dust mites and waterbears are considered animals. So basically, the entirety of Canada is off limits unless you are a commercial operator, or fly sub 250g aircraft?

The distance, 9km from an airport, heliport etc or anywhere that aircraft take-off and land, also basically says, you can't fly anywhere. I mean, where can't a helicopter land? And for places helis can't land, they _have_ got to be animals around. What are we supposed to do? Use a space-based microwave beam to remove all trace of life before we fly our models?

The final one, name/address/phone number on your drone is just asking for malicious people to cause issues. Violate any of these, and there's a 3k fine waiting in the wings.

There's more I can write, but I finished work just an hour ago, and I need to be in bed shortly before I have another long day tomorrow.

I'm not a hardcore rc hobbyist. I am simply someone who is innately passionate about learning about new interesting things, and I also love creating things. I'm very proud when I can create something of my own design that flies and works.

This law limits my ability to design, create and fly larger models. And this means, I won't be buying parts and components from my local hobby shop - or any hobby shop at all. It does not help the hobby businesses here in Canada.

 Hopefully, saner minds will come up with a better set of rules.

In the meantime, I'll be designing smaller sub-250g airframes when inspiration strikes.