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July 06, 2009

Designer Toys / Urban Vinyl / Art Toys are expensive and look cool

Hello, it’s me again.

Why am I posting here and not on my real site? Because I’m redeveloping it. And when it’s finally launched, you too will be able to see that it should never have taken as long as it has.

Anywho, in the last couple of years I’ve been slowly exposed to the scary world of Designer Toys / Urban Vinyl / Art Toys (whatever the hell you want to call them). No, I’m not talking about edgy urban music ‘records’. I’m talking about the odd craze where artists take a prefabricated vinyl (plastic) figure and art the shit out of them (yes, that is a technical term). Sometimes they’ll even design their own vinyl figure first, and sometimes they won’t even use vinyl, they’ll make plush toys. What a crazy world.

Anyway, I finally took the plunge and bought one of the cheapest vinyl figures I could find. It’s a “Monskey” and his name is “Teakia”. According the packaging he likes fire and hates noise. He also believes we all have psychic powers. In many ways he’s a lot like me.

Here’s a picture of him:

Unfortunately there’s also a boatload of almost identical monskeys with different designs, this is why I’m going to be very poor. Even more poor than I am thanks to living in London and earning a non-London wage.

Here’s a link to a whole bunch of other urban vinyl monskeys

There’s an unbelievable amount of urban vinyl, so it’s lucky I’m not one of those guys who gets hooked on collecting stuff. No wait, you’re the one who doesn’t get hooked, I’m the one who does… Unfortunately most of it costs a fortune. You can even get a 18 inch tall white monkey thing that you can doodle all over designer toys, art toys, and urban vinyl 18 inch Mega Munny at Forbidden Planet) ... seriously, who comes up with these ideas?

Also, it’s my birthday soon so buy me lots of nice things. Yes Mannion and Widge, I mean you.

June 26, 2009

Sugar on a Stick

Writing about web page http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Sugar_on_a_Stick

Today I had a quick go of Sugar on a Stick, the liberated version of the software that runs on the One Laptop Per Child computers. It’s pretty good and I can see where it would come into its own if it’s wirelessed up with a classroom full of other laptops, all chatting and learning and stuff. For me the best thing was dancing back in time to that day, once a year, when the teacher would drop this round robot on the ground and get us to program it to move forward and turn right. That’s right, the LOGO Turtle. Consequently I had retro fun using the Turtle Art software that’s included with a reminiscent tear of joy trickling down my beautiful face.


Fig 1. Witness my procedural vector text rendering prowess.

There is also a 2D physics playground app where you can draw shapes and watch them fall over and basically smash shit up. It’s pretty good and I’m usually all in favour of smashing things up but I dunno; not sure if kids should be learning science and getting all knowledgeable. They might grow up clever and make us look really stupid.

If you want to try it you can find some old dusty computer that’s not running very well and maybe use this to give it a bit of life, or you can do what I done and use VirtualBox to make it appear as a little virtual computer in a window, inside my real computer. I know, creepy.

April 24, 2009

Star Trek is a good reboot, if slightly inconsistent

Star Trek
4 out of 5 stars

Woo, first entry in over 2 years!

This Wednesday I saw the new Star Trek film, having seen the trailers and casting choices I had high hopes, thankfully I wasn’t disappointed.

The film does its best to be a logical reboot, basically it is designed to transition from the time period (and events) of the TNG/DS9/Voyager era to the date of Kirk’s birth. It’s not a huge spoiler (since it happens in the first 5 minutes), but basically the circumstances surrounding Kirk’s birth change significantly creating a whole new Trek universe without the heavy-handed erasure that happens with most reboots.

There are a few inconsistencies that can’t be explained by the reboot, like why the standard starfleet insignia is the enterprise one before the events of TOS, or why Spock is now the creator of the Kobayashi Maru test when Wrath of Kahn implies he didn’t (debatable though). The way Kirk wins it is changed too, he still cheats but the approach taken demonstrates the difference in his upbringing, and the consequences are very different.

The casting is for the most part excellent, Spock and Kirk in particular. Characters like Uhura, Checkov and Sulu are fleshed out in such a way to demonstrate that they really are the best at what they do – something that never really featured heavily in TOS or the old movies. Leonard Nimoy’s appearance as Old Spock isn’t just fan service, he is fairly integral to the plot. Scotty is very much just Simon Pegg playing a stereotype. Despite being entertaining, he’s character who’s played furthest from the original.

The main issue with the plot is that it basically exists as a method of justifying the reboot, if the events of the film didn’t happen there would be no reboot universe to speak of. What unfolds during the film significantly changes the balance of the Federation to the degree that future films (and even televion series) can be made without the feeling that you’re just rewatching the story you’ve already seen on TV years ago.

Despite the dark events of the film, it’s very lighthearted in tone. It’s very much an entertaining (and humorous) action-adventure that doesn’t really touch on the heavy political issues and serious plotlines of the later shows.

Summary: Watch it, even if you’ve never seen or don’t like previous Star Treks.

July 22, 2008

Today's walk

Distance: 10 miles

July 21, 2008

Stoneleigh, Bubbenhall and Cubbington

Distance: 13 miles give or take

July 19, 2008

Uni to stoneleigh and baginton

Distance:12.5 miles
Ascent: To be calculated

July 13, 2008

Kenilworth Circular

Finished this one off with watching the carvival on Saturday last week and a trip to the fair on abbey fields
Distance: 8.8 miles
Ascent: 120m

That puts me at 60 miles out of the 250 I’m aiming for this year. And the summer hols haven’t even started.

Around Burton Green

I’ll be honest upfront and say that I got lost on this one. But even without a compass I managed to get back on the right track pretty quickly.
Distance: 10.4 miles
Ascent: 125m

Dof E walk 16th May

Walked along with a group of Y10s – they were leading and didn’t get lost once!
Distance: 12.6 miles
Ascent:100m approx

May 05, 2008

Berkswell and Carol Green

Walked with Dan, weather fine.
5.2 miles, 150m ascent

March 29, 2008

A walk around Eastern Green and Meriden from home

29/3 – Home to Eastern Green. Alspath, Benton Green, Eastern Green and back home!
11.4 miles, negligible ascent
Very muddy – got soaked through at one point but dried out before I got home.

March 21, 2008

North Downs Way – Farnham to Guildford

21/3 – Farnham station to Guildford station
11.9 miles 200m ascent
Damp underfoot but otherwise a beautiful day – a little windy in places but largely well sheltered.

January 28, 2008

Animation, the Two

Follow-up to Animation from Half Ninja

Thus endeth the January Monthly Challenge. A slightly more convincing walk; he looks like he’s walking somewhere now… maybe trying to get to Waitrose to pick up some cabbage before it closes.

(3 seconds)

Ankle bending, head bobbing, and a more springy demeanour all make for a more natural walk, even if he does still look like a bit of a goon. There’s always room for improvement though, and the next room contains animations longer than 3 seconds, with things other than a few steps along an imaginary boardwalk.

January 22, 2008


Writing about web page http://www.blender.org/

After quite a while away from doing any 3D animation, I decided to get back into it with Blender, which is free and has come an awfully long way since I first downloaded it 4 or 5 years ago.

I keep getting distracted from actually finishing anything so I’ve decided to set monthly targets. Hopefully blogging it up will encourage me too, and maybe even motivate somebody else who has an interest in 3D but thought the software would be too expensive. January’s target is to make a character rigged up with a skeleton, with a walk cycle. I went with a classic two-legged ball character to keep things simple.

Early model, testing the variable reflection (fresnel) on the eye.
Just got the model rigged, some simple motion to test it out. Also put in an HDR light probe for an environment map, as it’s an easy way to make shiny things look sweeet.
Walk cycle that I did tonight… only has a few keyframes so it’s pretty robotic motion; hopefully before the end of the month I can tweak it to a more natural stride, with a bit more spring. The “antennae” wiggle in the middle of the walk, which is a separate “Action” in Blender; you can drag and drop multiple actions together to make characters wave while walking, etc.

After this I’ll probably start with a new model with arms and a face, as it’s hard to get any emotion out of this little dude. On the other hand, it might be good animation practice to get some interesting actions out of the limited actions available. If Pixar can get an angle-poise lamp to look confused, I’m sure it’s possible.

September 03, 2007


Writing about web page http://www.fortawesome.co.uk/2007/saturday/

August 23, 2007

Grand union Canal – Olton to New street

Follow-up to Grand Union Canal – Hatton to Olton from Garden, House, Walking, Other...

Woohoo! Finished! Last section was done by Lunchtime.
8 miles today brings my overall total up to about 160 miles. Not bad for a summer’s work.

August 22, 2007

Grand Union Canal – Hatton to Olton

Follow-up to Grand Union Canal – Stockton to Hatton from Garden, House, Walking, Other...

14 miles – so a shorter day, and a much shotrer one lined up for tomorrow. Paths were good and the weather was very nice indeed. I want to sleep.

August 21, 2007

Grand Union Canal – Stockton to Hatton

Follow-up to Grand Union Canal – Long Buckby to Stockton from Garden, House, Walking, Other...

15.9 miles. Good paths and I was able to keep to the towpath throughout today.

August 20, 2007

Grand Union Canal – Long Buckby to Stockton

Follow-up to Grand Union Canal – Rothersthorpe to Long Buckby from Garden, House, Walking, Other...

16.9 miles today. (On 4 hours sleep as well)
Footpath quality on the first stretch was terrible and then after that I got to the sign saying that part of the towpath was closed as it was too dangerous, so I did a long diversionincluding lots of nettles and the A45. I was off the towpath for most of the afternoon as well as my guide suggested the paths would be bad and gave a very nice alternate route through farmland.
I’m exhausted now!

August 19, 2007

Grand Union Canal – Rothersthorpe to Long Buckby

Follow-up to Grand Union Canal – Wolverton to Rothersthorpe from Garden, House, Walking, Other...

15/8 – Bus stop at Rothersthorpe to Long buckby station.
12.6 miles
Walked with Mark.
It rained
I got drenched.guc9

Grand Union Canal – Wolverton to Rothersthorpe

Follow-up to Grand union Canal – Fenny Stratford to Wolverton from Garden, House, Walking, Other...

13/8 – Wolverton station to Rothershthorpe (for bus link to Northampton)
Weather fine, path quality excellent
14.7 miles is a fairly impressive stint really – and I didn’t notice that it was that long. Went off canal at two points – the first was a diversion due to towpath repairs, the second was at the Blisworth tunnel where there is no towpath as the canal goes under the hill for two miles.

August 01, 2007

Grand union Canal – Fenny Stratford to Wolverton

Follow-up to Grand Union Canal – Leighton Buzzard to Fenny Stratford from Garden, House, Walking, Other...

9.7 miles and minimal ascent proves that it’s sunlight that tires me out and not the walking itself.
I’m so gonna overheat in rome!

July 27, 2007

Grand Union Canal – Leighton Buzzard to Fenny Stratford

Follow-up to Grand Union Canal – Tring to Leighton Buzzard from Garden, House, Walking, Other...

8.2 miles and minimal ascent made a very easy day of walking.

Grand Union Canal – Tring to Leighton Buzzard

Follow-up to Grand Union Canal – Apsley to Tring from Garden, House, Walking, Other...

26/7 – Tring Station to Leighton Buzzard station.
11.3 miles and minimal ascent.
Weather – showery in the morning but fairly heavy for the last three miles or so. I say fairly heavy because it wasn’t a patch on last week but still managed to soak me!
I discovered my purpose in life was startling ducks.

After the walk, and with horrific blisters built up over the week I hobbled over to baker street and spent £100 on shoes. The shoe shop assistants were bemused that I decided to buy shoes that made me limp when I was trying them on!

March 10, 2007

Time Cat

I’ve just had a text from Natalie from the top of a mountain, standing on a snowboard and loving it. Excellent news.

But to the main topic of this ‘ere written entry. For some reason or another my Duck game hasn’t seen a lot of development; it was going quite well and I can’t remember why I stopped. It’s usually just as I have to code the hard bits and Sam’s asking for extravagant features to do with flapping.

So, anyway, we’ve started on Time Cat. This is a game about a cat; it’s a platformer, and it looks like this at the moment.

Time Cat screenshot
Time Cat is somewhat stuck.

Note similarity to Duck Game, only without the isometric view that’s hard to program. The game is based around an idea that Sam’s had for years, about a cat who aimlessly stumbles through a series of time portals, serendipitously altering the course of humanity.

Please, talk to me about technology

Very well. It’s in C# again using Irrlicht.Net for the graphics and stuff, and part of Tao so that we can use SDL Mixer for sound. Oh, and our data format is JSON thanks to the Newtonsoft library that nicely serialises regular objects to JSON and back again. And we’ve just added NUnit to the project so we can do unit testing (as approved by Kent Beck himself). The unit testing has mainly proven just how difficult it is to properly arrange a game engine so that it’s suitable to be unit tested (without having to initialise the entire engine for every test).

All in all I think we’ve satisfied our lust for using an excessive number of 3rd party libraries. I’ve looked vaguely at just finding a 2D engine that someone’s already made and using that, but Dan calls me a douchebag for suggesting such a thing. Such a thing indeed. But one day.

As far as C# is concerned it’s proven officially fast enough for such a game; we thought it was slowing down massively when adding a lot of tiles but it was just the debug mode causing it to go slow. C# events are also hella useful because the Observer pattern is hott, as are delegates.

Please, stop talking about technology

My pleasure. So what about the game itself? It’s not set to have particularly innovative gameplay other than the storyline; it’s just a platformer basically. But I think it’s good to try and finish something rather than continually drop projects in favour of trying something bigger. An example of this was when Nick and I started making a quick Asteroids game almost purely so we could finish any game, but in the end gave up after we’d decided to make it a networked, multiplayer Asteroids and got annoyed at packet latency and so on. We really are a bunch of idiots.

But the game’s coming on fairly well now, we’ve got it loading levels and it’s got a basic level editor that Dan’s done (with good use of various design patterns thanks to me continually shoving them metaphorically down his programming throat).

In summary then: the end.