« September 2008 | Home | November 2008 »

Entries From October 2008

October 24, 2008

And Then There Was One...

Filed under 3D, Animation, Software

Wow! Autodesk purchased Softimage.

There was a time when there were 3 companies that battled in high-end 3D animation software. The competition was fierce and every year brought new features meant to outdo the other packages.

No more...all three software packages (Maya, 3ds Max, and Xsi) are now owned by Autodesk.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. It seems silly for one company to keep all three packages since they have so much overlap.

My prediction: Maya will become the only 3D package Autodesk sells, with features from the other packages integrated into Maya.

What are your predictions? Post your thoughts in the comments. First with the correct prediction wins a prize!

October 20, 2008

New Phone: Palm Treo Pro

Filed under Gadgets

imageI ordered my new phone today, a Palm Treo Pro.

It is going to replace my current phone, the AT&T Tilt.

The phone is not available from any carrier. You must buy it unlocked (no contract!) directly from Palm.

What I like...

  • Perfect phone form factor: physical keyboard that you can access without flipping open. Also, you can use the phone with one hand and type with your thumb.
  • 320x320 display...no need to rotate
  • Higher res than my current phone (320x240)
  • Thinner than my current phone and much lighter
  • Button for disabling ringer
  • Button for WiFi access
  • Supports 32 GB MicroSDHC cards
  • Can see time, missed calls, voice mail status without turning the phone on
  • Window Mobile Pro 6.1 (the new texting client is really good)
  • Full Exchange support (email, contacts, calendar, task list)
  • 3.5mm stereo headset jack...you can use standard headphones
  • Can be used as a modem for a laptop, either wirelessly (via Bluetooth) or via USB
  • GPS (although I almost never use it on my current phone)
  • Uses MicroUSB for charging (which is what my last phone used, so I can use the same cables)
  • Touch Screen

October 18, 2008

SIGGRAPH Day 1: Autodesk User Group & Party

Filed under SIGGRAPH


It's unfortunate that the Autodesk User Group & Party is at the same time as the SIGGRAPH Fast-Forward Technical Papers Preview.

I *really* like the Fast-Forward session because it quickly gives you an idea of what papers will be interesting and helps you plan out your schedule.

But, the Autodesk User Group is important for learning about the new things that Maya and 3ds Max can do.

What to do? I ended up arriving early at SIGGRAPH and picked up the Full Conference DVD-ROM the day before the conference started. I spent the day studying which papers I should visit. Problem solved! No need to go to the Fast-Forward session.

The User Group/Party was at the Shrine Auditorium.

Here is the schedule:

  • Ubisoft on the convergence of film and games
  • Industrial Light & Magic on Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • Lucasfilm Animation on The Clone Wars
  • LucasArts on The Force Unleashed
  • DreamWorks Animation on Kung-Fu Panda
  • Blizzard Entertainment on StarCraft II and Diablo III
  • The Third Floor on previsualization
  • Sony Pictures Imageworks’ Rob Engle presenting a sampling of the SIGGRAPH® stereoscopic 3D screening
  • Demonstrations of Autodesk® 3ds Max®, Maya®, MotionBuilder®, Lustre®, Mudbox™, Toxik™ software, and more
  • An after party featuring the interactive art of Massive Black and ConceptArt.Org.

One of the more interesting observations about the event was how little information there was about 3ds Max. The host of the User Group essentially glossed over the new release of 3ds Max 2009 because "it had been covered elsewhere." The focus was definitely on Maya.

It has been 3 years since Autodesk acquired Maya. Autodesk already had 3ds Max. So what happens when the #1 and #2 3D software packages are owned by the same company. Kill Max? Kill Maya? Keep them both? Merge them? It's an interesting conversation topic and everybody has their theories on the fate of Max and Maya.

I think the SIGGRAPH User Group made it pretty clear what Autodesk's direction is: Maya *is* the 3D package for the film industry. Check out the Autodesk User Group t-shirt they gave out...it is all about Maya (Maya dragon logo, 10 is for the 10th anniversary of Maya/10th version of Maya):


The new announcements for Maya 2009:

  • Support for Stereoscopy films
    • Can use 3D view in "3D glasses mode"
    • Autodesk seemed to really push the importance of stereo viewing
  • nParticles - for simulating liquids, clouds, smoke, spray and dust
  • Soft Selection (selection with an editable falloff curve)
  • FBX (Maya's file exchange format) is "open"

Autodesk announced they acquired REALVIZ (image based modeling, motion capture, panoramic photography). REALVIZ demonstrated their motion capture software called Movimento. They showed how the software could extract motion capture data from 4 handheld cameras on a set (not using a motion capture stage).

The *coolest* part of the user group was a screening of several movies in 3D.

We were all given some Dolby 3D glasses. These glasses were different than any 3D glasses I used in the past. The lenses appeared to be clear (not red/cyan anaglyph). The lens were not polarized (I put two lenses on top of each other and rotated them...if they were polarized and not aligned you won't be able to see through them). They were not LCD shutter glasses.

P1010654 P1010660P1010661

You can see from the pictures above that white light gets either a red or green tinge to it. I also noticed I could get *either* lens to do red or green depending on the angle I looked through the lens. When watching the film, you see perfect color.

So what are they? I found this article that explains how Dolby 3D uses color filters for each eye.

I was *amazed* by how good the 3D glasses work. It is *much* better than anything I've ever seen before. Do yourself a favor and check it out. Here is a list of theaters that support Dolby 3D.

The coolest 3D demo we saw: Star Wars Episode 4 (the original). The film was converted to 3D by In-Three. They showed the opening sequence with the Star Destroyer chasing the Princess Leia's ship.

Also shown in 3D:

  • Monsters vs. Aliens (looks really good...coming out March 27th)
  • Disney's Glago's Guest. A short that will proceed the upcoming Bolt (Nov 21st). Definitely check it out...it is well done.

The User Group started at 6:30 and ended after 10pm. That's almost 4 hours! I loved it...but I wished it was half as long...especially since we don't have time to grab dinner between the last class at SIGGRAPH and running over to the User Group. And there was no food at the User Group.

Next up was the party. It was also in the Shrine Auditorium, but in another room that I didn't know existed.

I was *starving*...and the party had plenty of great food. Everybody was running to the food as if they had been stuck on a desert island for several years.

Massive Black gave the party a unique look with various stations with live models painted by artists. Huge screens let you watch the art as it was created.

P1010663 P1010669 P1010665 P1010667

October 14, 2008


Filed under Music, Reviews


I dumped my iPod's and now I'm all about Zune.

Why? I tried out the Zune software first and was *very* impressed.

There are three main parts to iPod:

  1. iPod hardware
  2. iTunes music player for your PC
  3. iTunes store

Similarly, there are three main parts to Zune:

  1. Zune Hardware
  2. Zune Software for your PC
  3. Zune Marketplace

Here's what I like about Zune/don't like about iPod...

Zune Hardware

I bought the new 120GB black Zune.

  • The included Zune headphones have magnets that make the ear buds stick together so tangled chords are less of an issue.
  • I bought the premium headphones (also have magnetized ear buds) and they do an amazing job of silencing external noise so you can listen at a lower volume. Bass is surprisingly good.
  • Photos automatically synced
  • Videos automatically synced
  • I *hate* the iPod clickwheel. When I want to choose the next song in a list via the clickwheel, I typically overshoot by a few songs and must resonate back and forth to get the proper selection. I also don't like when I have to constantly rotate my finger around the clickwheel to move through a long list.
  • Zune has a slick 4-way direction pad/touch pad called the Zune Pad. Want the next song? Just press the bottom of the pad once. Done! Need to scroll through a bunch of songs, flick your finger over the pad and songs will scroll past very quickly...just tap when you get close to stop. The Zune Pad is both better at precise selection and quickly traversing a long list than the iPod clickwheel. Check out this video to see it in action.
  • Built-in FM radio (iPod has no radio). If you hear a song on the radio you like, just click the Zune Pad and you can buy it and add it to your collection...very cool!
  • The directional pad/touch pad works well for games. The directional pad works just like a standard up/down/left/right navigation on a standard gaming system. It works great for games like Pac Man. The Zune Pad gives you mouse-like control (like for Missile Command or Centipede). The clickwheel *sucks* for games.
  • Speaking of games...XNA allows writing a game once and deploying on Windows, Xbox 360, and now Zune.
  • I can sync my Zune wirelessly (Zune has built in WiFi). This means I can leave my Zune in a charger/dock that is connected to my home theater system (for music, videos, and photos). While my Zune is charging in my living room, it wirelessly syncs with my PC that is in my office. Very slick!
  • The Zune User Interface is very polished and fun...much nicer than iPod.
  • Zune's 3.5" screen is much better for watching videos than iPod Classic's 2.5" screen
  • Zune can use WiFi to listen or purchase music from the Zune Marketplace

Zune Software

The Zune Software is *amazing*! Here it is in action. It is the best looking software I've ever seen...


iTunes looks like (ahem) an office productivity app in comparison...


Even Zune's installation is worth checking out. It doesn't use the standard InstallShield wizard setup. Some of the dialog boxes have very subtle geometric animations in the background...nice touch.

I recommend anybody that creates software check out Zune Software...they clearly had artists involved in the development of the software and it shows.

You can get the software here.

Here's what I like about Zune Software over iTunes

  • iTunes is slow. The UI bogs down while downloading. I haven't noticed any slowdown's with Zune Software.
  • iTunes doesn't support forward/back buttons on mouse, Zune does
  • When playing a song, Zune Software defaults to a mosaic of album covers from your collection in the background that constantly change:image
  • For some artists, Zune does a montage of color-shifting photos mixed with informative text:image
  • If I update iTunes, Apple tries to slip in Safari *every* time. Unchecking the checkbox gets old fast. Also notice how the Apple dialog doesn't follow the Window's dialog box guidlines that place the least disruptive action on the right (they are following the Mac guidelines). Best Windows app ever written? Puhleez!
  • If you sync with a cable, you can just unplug your Zune at anytime...no need to tell the software you want to "eject" your device (which you have to do with iPod/iTunes).
  • With Zune, you can delete a song while it is playing. With iTunes, you can't.
  • If you delete a song via explorer, it is instantly removed from your Zune library. With iTunes, the song is still there, but gives an error because it can't be found.
  • Restoring music from the recycle bin instantly updates the Zune library.
  • As soon as you update the tag information for an MP3 via explorer, it shows up in the Zune library automatically. For iTunes, you must do "File->Import" each time your music library changes outside of iTunes.
  • Rating system for music is stored *in* the music file for Zune. For iTunes, it is not. So if you copy your mp3 to another system, you will lose the iTunes ratings, but not the Zune ratings. With Zune, you can set the rating in explorer and Zune will recognize the rating (doesn't work for iTunes).
  • Zune's rating system is simpler than iTunes (3 levels verses 6). I'm more likely to use the 3 levels (like/don't like/unrated) because the difference between levels is clear. I'm not sure how to tell the difference between a song with 1 star verses 2.
  • Zune music rating nicely integrated with explorer. Zune's three ratings map to explorer's 5 star rating like this:
    •   like = 4/5
    •   don't like = 1/5
    •   unrated = no rating
  • The Zune UI is filled with subtle fades and slide animation that give it nice polish
  • You can view your photos in Zune, you can't in iTunes.


Zune Marketplace

Zune Marketplace is where you can browse music and videos for purchase.

  • Uses same "point" system as Xbox 360. You can purchase music with your Xbox points.
  • Zune Pass (which I got) lets you listen to any song you want on your PC or your player for $15/month. iTunes doesn't have a subscription model.
  • MixView helps you find music you might like based on music you do like. How does it compare to iTune's new Genius Playlist? Here's one view.
  • Picks: Zune Marketplace will suggest music you may like and connect you with listeners that have similar tastes so you can browse their playlists
  • Channels: playlists that are updated every week by professionals that know what they are doing


I didn't even get into the social aspect of Zune, which is completely missing from iPod.

One example of the social component is the Zune badge.

If you click on my home page, you can see I have a Zune badge on the right. This badge tracks what I'm listening to, which artists I like, what my favorite songs are. I don't have to do anything...it automatically stays up to date as I play music. If you click on the badge, you get the more detailed version below:

So far, I *really* like my Zune. I still use my iPod Shuffle for jogging, but with Mediafour's XPlay, I don't need/use iTunes at all...which is wonderful!
Highly recommended!

October 13, 2008


Filed under Programming, Reviews, Web


Stackoverflow is an interesting new (still in beta) website for programmers.

You ask programmer-related questions and the community answers. No registration is required. Better answers get more votes and move to the top of the list. More about how it works here.

I tried it last night with this post...

Locking Executing Files: Windows does, Linux doesn’t. Why?

I got some decent answers from the Linux-side about how Linux works without locking a file. However, I *really* want to know why *Windows* locks files. Do you get better performance with locked files? It seems like there has to be a reason...but I still don't know it.

In any case, stackoverflow is a site I plan on using for casual reading about programming topics and to help out when I get stuck or want the opinion of the programming community. Recommended.

October 9, 2008

Update on Secret Stash

Filed under Blogging


Check out the stash for a new post.

Don't have access? Let me know about it.

October 8, 2008

Vegas Trip: Fremont Street Experience

Filed under Photos, Travel, Video


My favorite attraction in Las Vegas is the Fremont Street Experience (FSE).

I saw this once before soon after it opened in '96...it still gives me goose bumps.

Fremont Street is located downtown, away from the The Strip. It has a very different vibe than the The Strip...it is more intimate and classic. The FSE is a canopy that runs for 5 blocks down Fremont St. The canopy is a ginormous video screen that shows amazing 10 minute videos after sunset on the hour until midnight. We caught two shows: American Pie and Tribute to Queen.

I love how all the casino lights go out just before the show starts.

The sound system rocks, with speakers everywhere that allow the sound to follow the images across the screen.

Here is some of American Pie...


Here is the tribute to Queen...


October 6, 2008

Vegas Trip: Hoover Dam

Filed under Architecture, Photos, Travel

A short 30 minute drive from Las Vegas is Hoover Dam, probably best known as the structure built to contain Megatron.

We drove out to the dam and I walked across it. It is amazing and worth the trip.

The drive out to Hoover Dam...







A casino in the middle of nowhere



The descent towards Hoover Dam



Power lines from Hoover Dam


New bridge to bypass Hoover Dam







Lake Mead side of the dam




A giant spillway for overflow




The other side of the dam




Arizona side









Nevada side





Trip back to Vegas (strip can be seen in background)






About October 2008

This page contains all entries posted to David's Blog in October 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

September 2008 is the previous archive.

November 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.34