How to make things smaller

No, you won’t need a hammer to do the things I write about in this article. You will need a camera and a special lens.


this actually IS the Roman Colosseum

“To create this effect, Barbieri uses a tilt-frame camera to shift the plane of focus so that it is out of alignment with the film. Normally, this allows wide-angle aerial views to be captured in proper perspective. But used incorrectly, an optical illusion occurs.”

Source: http://www.discover.com/issues/jul-06/rd/toys/

Kings Quest 3 remake downloadable for free


It’s the year 1986 and Kings Quest got it’s 3rd episode. An adventure in 16 colors. But now it’s 2006. And Infamous Adventures did a remake:

“Infamous Adventures is proud to present a Remake of Roberta William’s classic 1986 hit, King’s Quest III. Remade in VGA color to match later Sierra releases, and using the AGS engine by Chris Jones, IA promises to make an enjoyable 1:1 remake of King’s Quest III. In the tradition of recent remakes, King’s Quest I and II+ by Tierra/AGDI, Infamous Adventures hopes to create a new classic of the Beloved Series.”

  • All 16 color backgrounds remade into stunning VGA graphics
  • Enhanced Close up cut-scenes and dialogue pictures help immerse you into what is known as the first plot driven chapter of the King’s Quest series.
  • Original music by professional music composer(s)
  • Re-experience the adventure with a stunning new interface (no more typing) And if you never played well, you’ll probably enjoy it anyway.

You can download Kings Quest 3 here for free. You can even get the soundtrack there.

Source: http://www.infamous-adventures.com/index.php?page=kq3

High Dynamic Range display available…

BrightSide is the name of the company that announced their High Dynamic Range display recently.

“BrightSide introduces the DR37-P, a pectacular breakthrough in display technology that uses an array of LED backlights to deliver 10 times the brightness and 100 times the contrast of existing televisions and computer monitors. BrightSide’s Extreme Dynamic Range displays deliver more vibrant images and allow you to see your data in
vivid detail.”

  • Extreme Dynamic Range
  • Over 3000 cd/m2 Brightness
  • Contrast Ratio > 200,000:1
  • High Definition 1920×1080
  • 37” Screen
  • 16 bits per color
  • IMLED – Individually Modulated Array of LED backlights

There are some movies available where you can get an impression what HDR really means. It’s a bit heavy…”less than 72 kg” says the spec. But it looks cooool:


Source 1: http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/2005/10/04/brightside_hdr_edr/1.html

Source 2: http://www.brightsidetech.com/products/dr37p.php

discovering the “Wizard Wizard”: Canopus ProCoder 2

A couple of months ago we got us a Canopus ProCoder 2.0 educational version. Because we, well had to convert a shitload of MPEG2 and DV movies into several different formats. And because Canopus is telling us that their product is by far the best you could probably get on this planet, we were in.

There is a free demo version available which does not require the red glowing, blue plastic HASP hardware USB dongle key’i thing we got with the full version. Those kind of dongle stuff is really nasty. First of all it bugs you right after you got your Windows started up with an error message, just because you probably haven’t plugged the dongle in. The point here is though: Why checking this at the system start, why not when ProCoder 2.0 is started. And heck! Why a dongle key’i thingy anyways?

ProCoder 2.0 has a neat little feature, the only feature why I would use ProCoder personally, which is called “Watch Folders”. You take a ProCoder 2.0, set it up to watch a folder on a network storage or anywhere you like, and after you setup’d some target movie formats it’ll start to convert everything that appears in those Watch Folders and transcodes it to whatever you configured as a target. Great feature!

But here comes the dongle right back in: You need to go to the server room, find your powerful number crunching server park and stick the… well dongle… into… great. After you recovered from the headache and tinnitus (dramatisation!) you got your ProCoder “server” up and running. The point here is: Why all that fuss with that dongle usb stuff. What’s wrong with serial numbers which are necessary anyway for ProCoder 2.0? Piracy can’t be the answer here. Maybe they want to pretend that it’s worth even a dongle, like AutoCad was back when we called our operating systems DOS.

So back to the Canopus ProCoder 2.0 test: After the setup it comes in two different flavours: The fast and the furious, called “Canopus ProCoder 2.0 Wizard” and the all-inklusive one, called…you get the idea.

So first of all let’s cover the Wizard because the workflow of the Wizard is likely the same as in the ProCoder 2.0.

Step 1: Welcome dude!


oh there it is…Watch Folder!… but we want to convert a single file…

Step 2: Load a Source

I used the current Halo 3 Trailer for demonstration…it’s a WMV HD.

Step 3: Set Source In and Out Point

You can specify where the movie starts and where it ends. So you have some kind of cut-editing capability…well not really. I flinch from calling it cut-editing actually.

Step 4: Advanced Settings

Well Canopus things that Crop-Settings are advanced. But hey, there is a “Select Settings” button which opens a dialog where you can specify alternat audio, specific aspect ratio and so on. Nothing to yell about there.

Step 5: the fantastic and well thought of… ProCoder 2 Wizard Wizard (!!!1!)

Why hasn’t anybody else thought of this before? Use a wizard for the wizard. A master to teach the apprentice. A … oh well, it’s nothing special really. Because if you choose to use it just another dialog box comes up:

Step 6: Select Target

Tricky decision here. We want it HD!

Step 7: a question of format.


[don’t forget to put some text here]…

Step 8: High Definition Format…

Again the very tricky format decision. Rather than recommending a format you have to choose. I did not try what’s going to happen when my source has 29,97 fps and I select 25 fps here (or the other way around). Canopus says ProCoder can do a 3:2 pulldown. Great…

Step 9: Saving your file


Save the day.

Step 10: Job Summary

In the end the wizard sums everything up and you can press some more advanced output setting buttons. And if you’re done, you click “Convert”, finally.

Step 11:

And the evil boffins in your number crunching server park are starting to convert your source movie into whatever target you selected. If it doesn’t do this. Well you will never know why it didn’t do it. Because Canopus choosed to not use any error messages or logging. You can be lucky if you get a dialog box telling you that it just won’t do it. In 9 out of 10 cases it just wasn’t telling anything.

It’s not particularly slow. In fact, if you just transcode something and you’re not using any additional filtering it’s as fast as any other transcoding tool (which come sometimes without dongles, you might have heard that).

So that’s quite everything what’s to be told about the Canopus ProCoder Wizard. Finally let’s take a look at the one feature I love: Watch Folders.

So let’s fire up the ProCoder 2 (watch out to have the dongle plugged in!):

I just want to say something about the GUI of ProCoder 2. About GUI design in general. And I want to start with a simple question: What is wrong with standard system controls?

Why are many software companies are writing their own scrollbards, buttons, dialogboxes, tabs. Why can’t they just use the system wide available ones? The ones that actually work. The ones that draw correct on any machine. The ones that I’ve never seen blinking or be drawn incorrect. In case of Canopus ProCoder 2.0 the custom-made scrollbars sometimes even disappeared and you could see that they where just drawn above the system scrollbars. You software companies. If you take an advice from me: stick to doing the user software and leave the multi-purpose GUI elements to the operating system.

Back to ProCoder 2 and to the precious Watch-Folders. If you click on the “Watch” button you get this dialog box:

Nothing really to write more about than: Everything is intuitive and works out of the box. Select a folder. Select a target. And you’re done. It just works as promised. And if you’re in luck and your movies are in a format that ProCoder 2.0 can read without hassle it even will work with your movies.

The target in this case, if you are curious, is a pre-configured format specification. You can use the wide variety of available pre-configured targets, or you can configure your own. (this is quite tricky and not so intuitive)

Since there’s nothing to complain about the pre-configured formats you are certainly not going to have much fun setting up very very custom things. Like the time when I wanted to just setup my own MPEG-4 target. Which isn’t that easy because when you select the MPEG format you only can choose from MPEG-1/2 formats. Or the other time when I wanted to do it in H.264. That format is available, but you have to find it. It’s deeply burried into the third dialog-layer.

In the end you get quite a good transcoding application with this neat Watch-Folder feature. You also get an awfully rubbish GUI with no error messages at all. If something goes wrong you’ll never know why.

In our case everything went fine and in only one case in my testing I found something that the Windows DirectShow could decode but ProCoder 2.0 could not. I really recommend it for video encoding servers. It’s one of it’s kind when it comes to that discipline and the money is well spend.

Source: http://www.canopus.com

I guess… I guess I am wrong…


What happens when an API uses guessing to identify which character encoding is actually used in a text file:





  1. Open Notepad

  2. Type the text “this app can break” (without quotes)
  3. Save the file
  4. Re-open the file in Notepad


And the explanation: Notepad uses as windows system method called “IsTextUnicode()“. In the MSDN Library article on this method you can read:


“This function uses various statistical and deterministic methods to make its determination, under the control of flags passed in the lpi parameter. When the function returns, the results of such tests are reported using the same parameter.


The IS_TEXT_UNICODE_STATISTICS and IS_TEXT_UNICODE_REVERSE_STATISTICS tests use statistical analysis. These tests are not foolproof. The statistical tests assume certain amounts of variation between low and high bytes in a string, and some ASCII strings can slip through. For example, if lpBuffer indicates the ASCII string 0x41, 0x0A, 0x0D, 0x1D (A\n\r^Z), the string passes the IS_TEXT_UNICODE_STATISTICS test, although failure would be preferable. “


That simply means, that the method fails on detecting the correct character encoding. Aftermarket Pipes tells us:


“It actually runs a couple of heuristics over the first 256 bytes of the data and provides its best guess. As it turns out, these tests aren’t terribly reliable for very short ASCII strings that contain an even number of lower-case letters, like “this app can break”, “


Source 1: http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/intl/unicode_81np.asp?frame=true
Source 2: http://apipes.blogspot.com/2006/06/this-api-can-break.html

High Dynamic Range Imaging… my first steps…

I don’t own a 600 Euro digital camera. Mine was cheap and does the job well so far. And now I’ve found something more to play with. I like to do panoramic views, as you might have mentioned before. But the technique I am now discovering is far more interesting. It’s called High Dynamic Range imaging.

Here’s an excerpt of the wikipedia article on that subject:

In computer graphics and cinematography, high dynamic range imaging (HDRI for short) is a set of techniques that allow a far greater dynamic range of exposures than normal digital imaging techniques. The intention is to accurately represent the wide range of intensity levels found in real scenes, ranging from direct sunlight to the deepest shadows.”

Since it’s night here at the moment I could only experiment in the dark, where my camera creates, beside dark pictures, very much picture noise.

So, what to do, you may ask. Well grab a camera where you can control at least the exposure time. Than take at least 2 (the more the better) pictures with different exposure times. I started with 3 pictures per HDR image. As you can see above:

When you have those pictures you need a software to combine them to an HDR image. There are many sites that can provide such tools, I recommend hdrsoft.com. They provide a tool called “Photomatix” which is specialized on HDR imaging. If you have a Photoshop CS2 available, well, that will do the job as well. Just go to the “File->Automate->Create HDR” dialog.

If you downloaded the tools, throw the pictures inside and let the magic happen. You get a 16 or 32 Bit per pixel image. You can control the exposure and saturation, the white and the black levels and so on. To save the picture as a standard-JPG like I did, you have to do some Tone-Mapping. Photomatix can do that as well.

Expect more on that subject here tomorrow. Then with some pictures of the sunny nature…well if there is sun tomorrow…Till than: Enjoy the HDR images I’ve got so far:

First the 3 source pictures:

And then the HDRI:

First the 3 source pictures:

And then the HDRI:

Source 1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_dynamic_range_imaging

Source 2: http://www.hdrsoft.com

Windows Mobile 5 Starter Kits available…

“Windows Mobile Starter Kits are fully functional sample applications. Each sample is complete and contains its documentation, so you can get started right away.”

And the Starter Kits for Windows Mobile 5 is available for download. Featureing this three samples:

DexMobile, a game. A tabbed web browser and a today plugin that displays the mediaplayer status. Go and grab it and start coding.

Source: http://msdn.microsoft.com/mobility/windowsmobile/howto/starterkits/default.aspx

Persistence of Vision is not only a raytracer…

Yesterday I wrote about the bike mounted POV display. And today? Well. It’s a real huge display:

“Spin uses Persistence of Vision to create the illusion of a cylindrical
digital display (computer screen), 12 feet tall and 12 feet in diameter. Vertical
columns of multi-color LED (light emitting diode) clusters spin around a vertical
axis at 90 revolutions per minute. At a radius of 6 feet, they move at 41 miles
per hour. 2880 LEDs are turned on and off by a computer in precise synchronization
with the rotation of the columns, creating the illusion of a cylindrical digital
display. Spin has a vertical resolution of 16 pixels (picture elements), each
of which can display one of 8 colors. As horizontal position is determined by
time in Spin, the horizontal resolution is theoretically infinite, but for the
sake of data manipulation efficiency it is be limited to 360 pixels all the
way around the cylinder.”

more robots! this time: Face Robot

Hmm…those things get more realistic than you would expect…

“Face Robot v.1.0 dramatically increases face animation productivity and allows animators
to achieve realistic, lifelike face animation for high-end film, post,
and games projects. Based on extensive anatomical research, Face Robot
uses a groundbreaking new computer model of facial soft tissue to mimic
the full range of human emotions. Designed with input from leading
animation experts, Face Robot gives artists an intuitive way to
interact with their characters while providing control over details,
including wrinkles, frowns, flaring nostrils, and bulging neck muscles.”


scream!

IIS6 and Apache syscall graph

SanaSecurity created these two graphics:



Apache syscall graph


IIS6 syscal graph

What’s this? You may ask…it’s an API dependency graph of the current Apache webserver and the current IIS webserver.

As some people try to interpret those graphics to the favor of their loved one. I cannot see anything discussable about these graphics, so I leave it to you to just enjoy them as they look quite nice :-)

Source: http://www.sanasecurity.com/

the world championship live…in your telnet terminal…

When you don’t have the chance to watch the football world championship live on tv, you can watch it on a very nerdy way: ascii-art telnet livestream.

You cannot deny the similarities to the actual tv picture…but you need to be very nerdy and/or very desperate to watch it this way…

Source: http://www.ascii-wm.net/#

new holographic display technology…

Wow this looks awesome compared to any holographic display technology I could take a look on to this date. Now I do know what 50 Gbytes of storage space could be useful for…

“Invented by Tibor Balogh, these flat panel “holo TVs” are capable of displaying images in 3-D — or so it seems.”

Source: http://www.techeblog.com/index.php/tech-gadget/video-holo-tvs

ActiveSync 4.2 beta preview available…

As of this weekend the beta version of ActiveSync 4.2 is available for download.

“Microsoft ActiveSync provides a great synchronization experience with Windows powered PCs and Microsoft Outlook right out of the box. ActiveSync acts as the gateway between your Windows powered PC and Windows Mobile powered device, enabling the transfer of Outlook information, Office documents, pictures, music, videos and applications from your desktop to your device. In addition to synchronizing with a desktop PC, ActiveSync can synchronize directly with Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 so that you can keep your e-mail, Calendar, Notes, and Contacts updated wirelessly when you’re away from your PC.”

No change-log so far. So please try for yourself on a non-production machine with a non-production Windows Mobile device. Thank you.

Source: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/downloads/activesync42.mspx

Microsofts Robot Invasion

“Microsoft is challenging developers worldwide to create conversational robots, or BOTs, for MSN® Messenger and Windows Live™ Messenger. The most original, useful robots collect $40,000 in total prizes.”

“Robots or “BOTs”, are software programs that you can add to MSN® Messenger and Windows Live™ Messenger. If you add a robot to your contact list, it can chat, give you customer service support, perform searches, make suggestions, play games and more.”


Source: http://www.robotinvaders.com/main/Default.aspx

Nintendo treasury

Sorry for the caps…:

“ON A TRIP TO THE HAMPTONS THIS WEEKEND I STOPPED AT A GARAGE SALE. AS I WALKED UP TO THE HOUSE I NOTICED A BIG PILE OF SUPER NINTENDO/NINTENDO GAMES. AFTER SELLING ME AROUND 100 GAMES FOR $40.”

“THE SELLER TOLD ME HE WORKED AT NINTENDO FOR 10 YEARS AND PART OF HIS JOB WAS TO GO AROUND TO THESE NINTENDO COMPETITIONS. HE SOLD ME ALL TYPES OF GAMES THAT HE SAID WERE PROTOTYPES(INCLUDING 5 COPIES OF THE STARFOX COMPETITION GAME.””

What a serious find!

Source: http://pixpipeline.com/users/jollerancher

the Super Mario Bros. hype continues…

It’s a real classic. It’s a great game and I am waiting for it’s newest incarnation: The New Super Mario Bros. for my also awaited Nintendo DS lite. Besides that: my apologies that the animated gif is 10 pixels wider than usually.

“Walljump is when you jump towards a wall and somehow Mario’s foot catches the wall
and allows to jump again, boosting from the wall. In the example image on the right, three walljumps are performed.

Theory: Walljump happens because the game does a floor check (a simple “is position divided by 16 even? Is there a solid block below him?” test) even during a wall-ejection. Wall-ejection is SMB’s mechanism to adjust Mario’s horizontal position properly when his left side and right side have a different inside-wall status. The game ejects Mario towards the opposite of his steering.”

To perform a walljump, you need two things:

  • Some horizontal speed (towards the wall)
  • Mario’s feet must hit the wall exactly at a block boundary (every 16 pixels)

It’s possible to perform walljump from any non-lethal solid material (bricks, pipes, etc).”

Source: Super Mario Bros. Tricks

TechEd 2006 starts tomorrow…attend it virtually!

Tomorrow the US TechEd takes off. If you cannot attend personally you can attend it virtually.

Microsoft hosts a website called “Virtual TechEd” where you can watch talks and keynotes via streaming video.

Beside watching the talks you can listen to the TechEd radio livestream.

Source 1: http://virtualteched.com/
Source 2: TechEd radio livestream

the quiet revolution

“An elegant vertical-axis wind turbine, quietrevolution has been designed and developed by XCO2, an established low-carbon energy consultancy and engineering practice.

Virtually silent and vibration free, quietrevolution is ideally suited to both urban sites and exposed locations.

The simple and robust design (patent pending) has just one moving part, maximising reliability and minimising maintenance requirements.”

Vertical-axis wind turbines not only look very sci-fi, but when you add LEDs to the border of the turbine you can use them as a display:

So I leave you with a patent pending revolution which produces power and is virtually silent…whatever that means.

Source: http://www.quietrevolution.co.uk/

the Wikification of the MSDN

“The
MSDN Wiki site experiments with ways we can integrate community
contributions into the Visual Studio 2005 and .NET Framework 2.0
documentation.This is phase one. On
the current site you can add content and edit other people’s
contributions in a wiki-like fashion around the official
Microsoft-authored docs.In the future we want to take this further by allowing people to edit the Microsoft-authored docs directly.Let us know what you want to see!”

— Molly Bostic, MSDN Wiki PM

Hurray! The MSDN has it’s own wiki… I personally really like the wiki idea, when it’s used properly. So let’s hope it is used properly in this case.

Source: http://msdnwiki.microsoft.com/

help Project Gutenberg to celebrate their 35th anniversary…

Michael Hart wrote in a newsletter:

“As most of you are aware, it is 4 weeks until we complete our 35th year of Project Gutenberg history, and we have about 380 eBooks left to make it to 20,000.

This would be about 95 per week. . .we did 82 this week.

So it’s not such a Big Push as we did to get to 10,000, but a rather smaller push, which is why you haven’t heard me say an awfully lot about it. . .things are working out much a closer match to reaching 20,000 on our 35th anniversary than anyone, myself included, would likely have predicted.”

If you want to help to achieve this goal, go to the Project Gutenberg website and contribute, for example as a proof-reader.

Source: http://www.gutenberg.org/

.NET Framework 3.0 was WinFX…

The .NET Framework is an immensely successful programming model that has strong positive connotations among customers, developers, and partners. Effectively immediately, we are renaming “WinFX” to “.NET Framework 3.0” because of the strong affinity developers have with the .NET Framework brand name. All WinFX components will now be included within the .NET Framework 3.0. There is no change to the ship schedule of Windows Vista or the .NET Framework 3.0 and the .NET Framework 3.0 will still ship in Windows Vista. Apart from the branding change, the plan of record has not changed whatsoever.

The change is in name only and will not affect the
technologies being delivered as part of the product. The .NET Framework
3.0 is still comprised of the existing .NET Framework 2.0 components,
including ASP.NET, WinForms, ADO.NET, additional base class libraries
and the CLR, as well as new developer-focused innovative technologies
in WPF, WCF, WF and WCS: