Tuesday, April 27, 2010

About.com Security Course

I recently took an About.com "course" on network security which you can sign up for here. I first found it from another website which lists interesting sources for free computer technology education:

To use the "course" you simple sign up for the "newsletter" then, every day you recieve the next part of the "course". Each part has a couple pages on various things relating to networking and keeping you computer secure. It talks about the TCP/IP protocol, viruses, worms, trojans, firewalls, antivirus programs and more. If you don't know what any one of those words mean, I suggest you take the "course". Even if you do consider yourself a little bit of an expert, it can still be slightly informative.

There are a total of 10 parts, and after each you can take a small quiz. At the end you can take an "exam" which tests you on everything you have learned (or not) throughout the "course".

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Christmas Blend

I thought I'd show the "Blender Render" I did over Christmas, which I'm hoping to, along with the spring render, turn into a seasons series. I am expecting to do a render for summer and fall, and then have a complete collection. The blend itself was fairly simple, I used some reflective spheres for the ornaments and used a beveled curve with a cloth modifier applied for the two strings which are resting on the floor. The one moving had no modifier applied.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Before I started using Blender as my main 3D program I used a program called Anim8or. Anim8or is a small 3d modeling suite written by R. Steven Glandvill. Although it is not open source it is provided for free. The latest supported version is v0.95 although you can get the "preview" of v0.97d which is the latest released development build. In v0.97d you can use three renderers the openGL renderer, a Scanline renderer, and the newly added Anim8or Ray Tracer(ART) which allows reflections, ray traced transparency and other cool features.

Anim8or also has an animation system which allows you to make an armature(skeleton) and then animate it. As well as a scene system where you can place your cameras, lights, animated models, stationary models, ect.

Anim8or has a friendly forum on the main website, as well as an external one called Animators Anonymous(AnimAnon).

On the website there are a number of galleries showing work from as far back as v0.1 all the way to the latest v0.97d. The two best(IMHO) are here and here.

You can download the program and learn more about it's features here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Story of Building a Computer(Part 2)

I had asked my friend to help me because he knew a lot more about computers then me, so he came over when I had all my components. He was also the one who gave me the motherboard and the power supply. Then we were ready to put it together. First we UNPLUGGED THE COMPUTER!(Don't forget otherwise you may get a shock..) We had cleared the desk, so we had lots of room, then we started taking out all the frontal components like the floppy drive, the dvd drive and the two hard drives. After we had gotten those components out of the way we were able to get the fans out, since they were very loud we put some WD-40(A type of oil) in them, this however was only temporary and for a more solid oil it was suggested to put sewing machine oil in.

We also took out the power supply to make it easier to get everything else out. Then we took out all the pci/agp cards, like the modem card, network card and GFX card. Next the CPU(The fan was already off), and finally we took out the motherboard itself. Then we had to put everything in.

We put in the motherboard first, screwing it down tightly to the case. Then we put in the heart, the CPU. It looked much newer than the old one (for good reason), and the fan also looked much nicer, it was all round and smooth instead of square. The one thing to be careful of when putting the CPU fan on is the amount of pressure you put on. It can take a lot of pressure to push the "clips" through but you have to be careful not to break the motherboard, my board for example was bending a lot, so we put a screwdriver or two underneath to help support it.

After that we put in the HDD and DVD Drives, the HDD, almost the same size as my old one, contained more than 20x as much space. Technology has improved a lot. Once those were in we hooked up the GFX card. Everything was in place once we put the power supply in. Then we hooked up all the wires. Plugged the power supply into the motherboard, the DVD and HDD Drive, and plugged the fans into various places. We also hooked the HDD's new SATA cable into the motherboard and with a sleek, new, black IDE cable hooked up the DVD.

Finally we had to figure out where to put all the front panel cables. There was about 8 to 12 of them and they all looked identical except for little text at their side saying things like, "usb0(-)","usb1(+)","pwr sw(+)" and so on. We had no clue where to put them, but after a bit of trial and error (on the Internet) we found the correct manual (my friend hadn't brought his with him), and then we were able to plug it all in. Finally the computer was built! I plugged in the monitor and the power chords, and then pressed the button.

It didn't work.

I pressed it again.
It still didn't work.

I pressed it a couple times in quick succesion.
It still didn't want to work.

I got down on my knees and pleaded. (well not really...)
It didn't work.

We rechecked the power switch and other cables from the front panel, they all seemed fine. Finally my friend touched the screwdriver to the two power switch pieces and it started to start up!
Then it died.

We finally figured, either the switches were broken, which it didn't look like, or something else was broken, like the power supply. We got a couple tools to check the power supply, where you plug the plugs in(no pun intended), and test to see the voltage. With it we determined that the power supply was either dead, or had some dead cables(we saw one), so we got a new one(my friend had 2 spares). We took out the old supply and put in the new one, then plugged it all in. This time the computer booted fine.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Blender is a free(as in Open Source) 3D Modelling suite, written in C with some C++ extensions and Python as a embeded(I believe) scripting language. Although many people are put off by its interface there are many tutorials out there to get you started. Blender is, in some people's minds, almost as advanced as some commercial programs out there such as lightwave, Maya or 3D Studio Max. It has many cool features such as:
  • Fluid Simulation: Not very good for large scale sims but very good at small scale
  • Particle Animations: Lots of cool particle effects from boids, to strands(hair/grass/...)
  • Mesh modeling: This may be one of the weaker features as there are no n-gons(multi vertex faces) and things like boolean subtraction are very weak, but still a solid system.
  • Sculpting: Along with multires it allows you to create some stunning images
  • Sophisticated Rendering and Materials/Textures: A variety of procedural textures, and quite customizable materials, including Ray-traced reflection, ray-traced and other transparency, sub-surface scattering, Ambient Occlusion(Approximate and Ray-trace), ect.
  • UV-Editing: A very comprehensive UV-Editing tool as well as texturing painting( even directly onto the mesh).
Blender includes many other cool features as well which can help you do things like make games( a game enging), edit video(A non-linear video editor) and more. A new version is being developed and is just leaving the alpha stage, this includes many new features like better/faster sculpting, a new mesh api(this means better modeling and n-gon support), A new Python Script API, many internal changes, Volume Rendering, Smoke Simulation and even more advanced fluid simulation. This new version is called 2.5(the development) and 2.6(the release). You can check out the latest version of 2.5 here:
2.52 Download Page
And look at the development process by joining the bf-commiters@blender.org mailing list, or checking out graphicall.org which shows the latest builds/commits/ect. To get involved in development poke around the development tab on blender.org.

I started using Blender after hearing a couple comparisons between it and a much smaller(but still lovable) 3D Package called Anim8or. At first I thought the comparisons were unfair, but though they may have been slightly stacked the comparisons did show that blender was a far more advanced program. I mucked around in it, quite confused, for a while until I found The Essential Blender. A book(which you can download the text of and browse on the web), made by the Blender Foundation to introduce Blender 2.48(much different from 2.5). The text alone was invaluable, and when I bought the book much later it helped me to understand Blender a lot! I would definitely recommend this book to beginners.

Also just surfing the web for tutorials will help you come up with all sorts of stuff. A very good site that started a while back is Blender-Tuts which is a listing of many tutorials around the web. BlenderCookie is another website which has very comprehensive tutorials, although they are all video which can be a show stopper for low bandwidth users...

I hope this has helped you all to understand blender a little better. :D

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring Render

Here is a spring render I did for a weekend competition on BlenderArtists forum. I used a particle simulation to get the grass, then a colourband with alpha to make it look nice.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cloud 1

I am really into 3D as you'll soon find out, and I thought I'd share my latest "adventure". I called this piece "Cloud 1" for the obvious reason that there are a lot of clouds in it. I started off following a point-density texture tutorial using a 3D graphics program called Blender, which I'll tell you more about later. If you want to try it you can download the free(and only) version here:

Here is the render: