retrofuturism sketches

On twitter and artstation I’ve came across Sheng Lam. An artist with a quite fascinating way of sketching. Take a look and be inspired:

Concept artist with AAA experience. Currently working on Star Citizen at Cloud Imperium Games. Mostly draws and likes to eat delicious food.

Sheng Lam on ArtStation

a red triangle on the window

When you walk around in Tokyo you will find that many buildings have red-triangle markings on some of the windows / panels on the outside.

some of the windows have red triangles pointing down
do you see the triangles pointing down on the upper right wall?

I noticed them as well but I could not think of an explanation. Digging for information brought up this:

Panels to fire access openings shall be indicated with either a red or orange triangle of equal sides (minimum 150mm on each side), which can be upright or inverted, on the external side of the wall and with the wordings “Firefighting Access – Do Not Obstruct” of at least 25mm height on the internal side.

Singapore Firefighting Guide 2018

The red triangles on the buildings/hotel windows in Japan are the rescue paths to be used in case of fire. All fire fighters know the meaning of this red triangle on the windows. Red in color makes it prominent, to be located easily by the fire fighters in case of a fire incident. During a fire incident, windows are generally broken to allow for smoke and other gases to come out of the building.

Triangles in Japan

グランツリー武蔵小杉 and Park City Forest Towers on canvas

I’ve blogged about those pictures taken day- and night-time before. I’ve also blogged about how they where produced.

With a picture spot freed at one of the walls in our house we decided to print the day and night pictures on canvas and have them side-by-side. And it looks great, I think.

I might want to take the night picture again with the slightly different perspective
close up on the canvas structure

Bitmap & tilemap generation with the help of ideas from quantum mechanics

You can get a grasp at the beautiful side of science with visualizations and algorithms that output visual results.

This is the example of producing lots and lots of complex data (houses!) from a small set of input data. It is widely used in game development but also can be helpful to generate parameterized test and simulation environments for machine learning.

So before sending you over to the more detailed explanation the visual example:

This is a lot of different house images. Those are generated using a program called WaveFunctionCollapse:

WFC initializes output bitmap in a completely unobserved state, where each pixel value is in superposition of colors of the input bitmap (so if the input was black & white then the unobserved states are shown in different shades of grey). The coefficients in these superpositions are real numbers, not complex numbers, so it doesn’t do the actual quantum mechanics, but it was inspired by QM. Then the program goes into the observation-propagation cycle:

On each observation step an NxN region is chosen among the unobserved which has the lowest Shannon entropy. This region’s state then collapses into a definite state according to its coefficients and the distribution of NxN patterns in the input.

On each propagation step new information gained from the collapse on the previous step propagates through the output.

On each step the overall entropy decreases and in the end we have a completely observed state, the wave function has collapsed.

It may happen that during propagation all the coefficients for a certain pixel become zero. That means that the algorithm has run into a contradiction and can not continue. The problem of determining whether a certain bitmap allows other nontrivial bitmaps satisfying condition (C1) is NP-hard, so it’s impossible to create a fast solution that always finishes. In practice, however, the algorithm runs into contradictions surprisingly rarely.

Wave Function Collapse algorithm has been implemented in C++PythonKotlinRustJuliaGoHaxeJavaScript and adapted to Unity. You can download official executables from itch.io or run it in the browser. WFC generates levels in Bad NorthCaves of Qudseveral smaller games and many prototypes. It led to new research. For more related workexplanationsinteractive demosguidestutorials and examples see the ports, forks and spinoffs section.

Tilt your head, be more aggressive

“We show that tilting one’s head downward systematically changes the way the face is perceived, such that a neutral face—a face with no muscle movement or facial expression—appears to be more dominant when the head is tilted down,” explain researchers Zachary Witkower and Jessica Tracy of the University of British Columbia. 

A Facial-Action Imposter

Look me in the eye

As tools get better artists really polish out what technology enables them to do with computers nowadays.

This eye above made me awww. It’s from a user “ChrisJones” in the Blender Forum who posted his progress on modelling a human head in upmost detail.

Go there and be awwd as well. And while you’re there grab a copy of Blender and give it a go.

絵描きさんの作業環境が見たい – I want to see artists’ work environments

We are using computers every day and we are doing this in many different environments. Some of us give their desk space and work environment some more thoughts.

If you want some inspiration regarding your desk and work space, take a look at this great Twitter Hashtag: #絵描きさんの作業環境が見たい

It means “I want to see artists’ work environments” and is used for some years now for japanese artists to post pictures of their work environments…

I also had posted mine, yet not being an artist.

N8.5 – Tokyu White

It always seems to me so much easier to meet a Hackers in Japan than anywhere else. Maybe social-gravity works different there. Or there are more of them.

Whatever the reason, I keep crossing paths with people that more or less deep-dive into topics and understand systems in ways and in details that you would normally not expect.

And todays example is a detail you would normally not think about:

The footbridge that was newly built in Shibuya was painted in N8.5. This is commonly known as “Tokyu White”…

はらしょ‏ on Twitter

“Tokyu White”, N8.5, … of course…if you would need a bucket of this you can order it online.

technical visualization tools

There’s so much happening in this field as visualizations become more powerful and easier to create.

WaveDrom

WaveDrom draws your Timing Diagram or Waveform from simple textual description. It comes with description language, rendering engine and the editor.

WaveDrom editor works in the browser or can be installed on your system. Rendering engine can be embeded into any webpage.

https://wavedrom.com/

MermaidJS

Generation of diagrams and flowcharts from text in a similar manner as markdown.

Ever wanted to simplify documentation and avoid heavy tools like Visio when explaining your code?

This is why mermaid was born, a simple markdown-like script language for generating charts from text via javascript. Try it using our editor.

DLG Gütesiegel in japanese TV commercials

Catching up to some YouTube things during dinner made us see a Japanese TV commercial sporting the German DLG quality seal. Funny to see that these kind of quality seals carry over even to Japan…

The German Agricultural Society (Deutsche Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft), commonly known as DLG, is an international non-profit organisation for agricultural industry in Germany. DLG was founded in 1885 by Max Eyth, has over 23,000 members as of 2011 and is headquartered in Frankfurt am Main. Its main purpose is to promote technical progress and scientific advances in the food and agricultural industry, including setting standards.

DLG

look at the earth

Watch sunlight and weather patterns move across Earth throughout the day, and bask in the glory of our blue marble in real time.

Every 20 minutes (or every hour, you pick), Downlink updates your desktop background with the newest images of Earth.

Choose from 8 different views of Earth, including stunning full disk images from 3 different geostationary satellites.

Downlink is a macOS application which downloads the most current image taken by earth orbitting satellites. So what you see is as accurately depicting reality as technically possible right now.

Interestingly all this data comes from public domain sources. And the makers of the app have documented their sources:

Thanks to NASA, NOAA, JMA, Lockheed Martin, Harris Corporation, ULA, MHI, and everyone else who designed, built, launched, and operate GOES-16, GOES-17, and Himawari-8.
If you’d like to use the sources Downlink is built on top of, here is the file pointing to those resources. Use it, and tell me what you’ve built!

I am using macOS as well as Linux as my main desktop operating systems. My macs are set with Downlink. But what about my Linux machines?

Easy! The file referring to the sources looks like this:

With some simple steps on Linux we can grab the URL we want, download the image and update the desktop background.

Step 1: Getting the URL from this JSON.

Install jq, curl and xargs and in your shell run this:

curl -s http://downlinkapp.com/sources.json | jq -r '.sources[2].url.full' 

This will give you the URL “full” of the 2nd source in the list (Hiwamari-8).

Step 2: Download the image.

curl -s http://downlinkapp.com/sources.json | jq -r '.sources[2].url.full' | xargs -I{} curl -s -o background.jpg {}

By simply adding the xargs and curl call it will take the URL output from the command in front as input to the second curl call and download it. It also will store the file as “background.jpg”.

Step 3: Setting as background image.

Setting the background image of your desktop depends on what desktop software you are using on Linux. Depending on that you will need to look up in the manual how to set the background image from the command line.

But for most use cases there’s a tool that helps. It’s called Variety.

Variety is an open-source wallpaper changer for Linux
Variety is packed with great features, yet slim and easy to use. It can use local images or automatically download wallpapers from Unsplash and other online sources, allows you to rotate them on a regular interval, and provides easy ways to separate the great images from the junk. Variety can also display wise and funny quotations or a nice digital clock on the desktop.

Earth, Moon, Spaceship.

As you might know humans are going to go “back to the moon“. At least when you ask a certain eCommerce mogul.

We have been there already. 40+ years ago. And since then we have unlearnt how to do it.

Just to give an impression of what we as humans where capable to achieve 40 years ago:

Moon (below), Apollo 16 Command Module (left), Earth (right)

There’s a whole collection of these photos freely available for further digging. Go there and spend a day!

Imagine: Humans flew there and back. With 60s tech. What can we do now when we want it?

Of course. The important bit is not really flying there and back. The most important thing for me is perspective.

Look at that small blue-white marble. We should reset our perspectives regularly.

80s code editor theme

The beginning of the decade saw the continuation of the clothing styles of the late 1970s and evolved into heavy metal fashion by the end. However, it had a lot of changes considering that, this fashion became more and more extravagant during the 80s.

The 80s included things like teased hair, ripped jeans, neon clothing and lots of colours and different designs which at first weren’t accepted for a lot of people.

Popular Culture in the 80s

Do you remember that endless summer back in ’84? Cruising down the ocean-highway with the top down, the wind in our hair and heads buzzing with neon dreams?
No, I don’t remember it either, but with this experimental theme we can go there.

Synthwave’84 theme

Things you do with Microsoft Excel

Many of us are happy when they can accomplish the most simple tasks with Excel without pulling their own hair out.

And then there are these people who do something entirely different with Excel:

Finding engineering work quite unchallenging lately I decided to start this blog in which to share cool ways of solving engineering problems or just interesting modeling of natural phenomena in MS Excel 2003. I use mainly cell formulas with minimum of VBA in order to take advantage of the ease of “programming” and the native speed of the Excel spreadsheet.

http://www.excelunusual.com/

“Around Tokyo” project

If you are interested in even some older video recordings, pictures and impressions about some areas of Tokyo this is a good time-sink for you.

Lyle Saxon has several old-fashioned looking websites (wonderful) with lots and lots of browsing content as well as a YouTube channel with recordings from earlier times:

Tokyo resident since 1984. Video material from 1990-93, as well as newer material from 2008 onwards.

The “Around Tokyo” project was and is to document life in Tokyo and the surrounding areas, as well as some material from other areas of Japan.

YouTube Channel

QR codes – how do they work?

I came across a very nice explanatory piece for QR codes. If you always wanted to know the basic principles this is a good chance to get a grasp.

QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional barcode) first designed in 1994 for the automotive industry in Japan. A barcode is a machine-readable optical label that contains information about the item to which it is attached. In practice, QR codes often contain data for a locator, identifier, or tracker that points to a website or application. A QR code uses four standardized encoding modes (numeric, alphanumeric, byte/binary, and kanji) to store data efficiently; extensions may also be used.[1]

Wikipedia

I am using QR codes in several of my projects – one example: Miataru uses QR codes to encode the device ID and help with the device handshake. You scan the QR code of your friend with your Miataru client app and immediately will be able to see his location in Miataru. Without the need to enter long rows of numbers.

Japanese Highway Junctions

Highways allows us to travel long distances and interchanges, or junctions, connect those highways so that traffic can pass or change direction without interruption. And in Japan, where heavy mountainous terrain and dense cities create unique constraints, interchanges are, simply put, magnificent feats of structural engineering that we sometimes can’t appreciate through the typical vantage point of a car window.

Spoon & Tamago

Of course, go ahead and browse the highway system on Google Maps.

from now on console emulation will look much better

A modder going by the handle DerKoun has released an “HD Mode 7” patch for the accuracy-focused SNES emulator bsnes. In their own words, the patch “performs Mode 7 transformations… at up to 4 times the horizontal and vertical resolution” of the original hardware.

The results, as you can see in the above gallery and the below YouTube video, are practically miraculous. Pieces of Mode 7 maps that used to be boxy smears of color far in the distance are now sharp, straight lines with distinct borders and distinguishable features. It’s like looking at a brand-new game.

ArsTechnica

procedural generated traditional Chinese landscape scrolls

{Shan, Shui}* is inspired by traditional Chinese landscape scrolls (such as this and this) and uses noises and mathematical functions to model the mountains and trees from scratch. It is written entirely in javascript and outputs Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format.

https://github.com/LingDong-/shan-shui-inf

This is quite impressive and I am thinking about pushing that into the header of this blog :-) It’s just too nice looking to pass on.

file from the far future

I ran a VVV job to catalog a storage array I have. To my surprise at least one file had a very very strange timestamp:

Apparently the file in question was generated on an action cam which had lost its correct date and time setting at the time of recording…

The tool I am using to catalogue the storages is also worth a mention:

VVV is an application that catalogs the content of removable volumes like CD and DVD disks for off-line searching. Folders and files can also be arranged in a single, virtual file system. Each folder of this virtual file system can contain files from many disks so you can arrange your data in a simple and logical way.
 
VVV also stores metadata information from audio files: author, title, album and so on. Most audio formats are supported.

about VVV

let AI convert videos to comic strips for you

Artificial Intelligence is used more and more to achieve tasks only humans could do before. Especially in the areas that need a certain technique to be mastered AI goes above and beyond what humans would be able to do.

In this case a team has implemented something that takes video inputs and generates a comic strip from this input. Imagine it to look like this:

Input
Output

In this paper, we propose a solution to transform a video into a comics. We approach this task using a
neural style algorithm based on Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs).

Paper
click to read the paper

They even made a nice website you can try it yourself with any YouTube Video you want:

Thanks for 55997 hours of continuous service

Every once in a while a hard drive fails in our house. Since all is setup to tolerate one or more failed drives no data was lost with this incident.

This drive especially gives reason to look back as it is more old with more than 6 years of continuously being powered up.