paint it (very) black

You might, or might not be aware of my passion for black clothing. I like the simplicity and absence of noise.

Anyway. You might not be aware of the wonderful world of black as-in paint.

Apparently the current record holder in blackness (measured in percent absorption of visible light) is a product called “Vanta Black”.

Wikipedia: Wrinkled aluminium foil with a portion—equally wrinkled—coated in Vantablack

Vantablack is a material developed by Surrey NanoSystems in the United Kingdom and is one of the darkest substances known, absorbing up to 99.96% of visible light (at 663 nm if the light is perpendicular to the material).
The name is a compound of the acronym VANTA (vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays) and the color black.

Wikipedia: Vantablack

Unfortunately this blackest-of-black coating is not readily available for purchase. Export rules apply and so it’s usually not sold to civilians at all.

“What is the next best thing?”, you ask. Well it’s BLACK 2.0.

color assimilation grid illusion

The image [..] is a visual/artistic experiment playing with simultanous contrast resulting from other experiments these days. An over-saturated colored grid overlayed on a  grayscale image causes the grayscale cells to be perceived as having color.
The processing needed to create the above image happened along with unrelated but significant code improvements In the last couple of weeks. I have been visiting mitch – a prolific GIMP contributors for collaboration – and lots of progress has been – and is still – being made on babl, GEGL and GIMP.

original article
See the effect in a video

You can now play with this effect and experiment for yourself. Get Gimp and enjoy!

a wild Ma.K (Maschinen Krieger) appears

The franchise was started by Kow Yokoyama in the 1980’s. Yokoyama-san was a scratch-build modeller, artist and sculptor. Among his works he built machines of war that would fight in the 29th century, but took their visual cues from early 19th century weaponry and the early NASA space program. All his models were pieced together from numerous kits including armor, aircraft, cars and found objects (like ping pong balls).

Ma.K

Often described as WWII machinery in space, these kits are the perfect blend of sci-fi modelling with AFV weathering and finishing techniques…

There is also a longer article with high-resolution pictures here.

PixelFed – Federated Image Sharing

In search of alternatives to the traditional centralized hosted social networks a lot of smart people have started to put time and thought into what is called “the-federation”.

The Federation refers to a global social network composed of nodes that talk to each other. Each of them is an installation of software which supports one of the federated social web protocols.

What is The Federation?

You may already have heard about projects like Mastodon, Diaspora*, Matrix (Synapse) and others.

The PixelFed project seems to gain some traction as apparently the first documentation and sources are made available.

PixelFed is a federated social image sharing platform, similar to instagram. Federation is done using the ActivityPub protocol, which is used by Mastodon, PeerTube, Pleroma, and more. Through ActivityPub PixelFed can share and interact with these platforms, as well as other instances of PixelFed.

the-federation

I am posting this here as to my personal logbook.

Given that there’s already a Dockerfile I will give it a try as soon as possible.

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

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.

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.

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.

staying in Tokyo off-center (武蔵小杉)

Ever since I’ve first visited Tokyo in 2012 I fell in love with country, culture and the city. On average I was there 4 times a year to do business.

After leaving Rakuten I went back to Tokyo for a vacation together with my wife in October 2017. The idea was to show her what I was enthusiastically mumbling about all the time when I came back from Japan.

When staying in Tokyo I’ve stayed in different areas across the city. From very center to not-so-much-center. Given the great public transportation and taxi system in Tokyo it always was a great experience.

So after a couple of times I developed a preference for an area that was in walking distance to the Rakuten office, was well connected to the public transport system and offered all sorts of starting-points for daily life on a longer term. It ticked a lot of boxes.

You can follow my foot-steps from a route I had recorded in 2015 in preparation for a presentation I’ve held at the Rakuten Technology Conference on my pet project Miataru.

this is in real-time – from Hotel to Office

The areas name is Musashi-Kosugi (武蔵小杉). And it actually is in the city of Kawasaki in Kanagawa prefecture. Effectively just across the Tama river from Ota-city in Tokyo prefecture.

Like any great neighborhood everything is conveniently close and the service everywhere is spotless. The hotel of preference is fairly priced and extremely close to the two train stations. So you can get anywhere quick by train.

You can see the hotel location and the train tracks pretty well on this next map. The red portion shows the viewing direction of the night-picture below.

And like any great neighborhood there’s loads of current information available and lots of community activities around the year. In the case of Musashi-Kosugi you can have the more official website and the more up-to-date blog.

If you plan to visit Tokyo I can only recommend you take a look at more off center options of accomodation. I’ve always enjoyed being able to leave the center of buzz like Shibuya, Ropongi and get back into my bubble of quietness without compromising on everything else than party-and-entertainment options. Actual longer-term daily-life is much more enjoyable off-center – as you can imagine.

And for the end of this post: Let us enjoy a sunset with parts of the Musashi-Kosugi skyline:

I see artificial people

When people think of artificial intelligence, AI, they think of Alexa, Siri, Google Home and self-driving cars.

When an AI dreams of humans it dreams up their faces. No really.

Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN) are a relatively new concept in Machine Learning, introduced for the first time in 2014. Their goal is to synthesize artificial samples, such as images, that are indistinguishable from authentic images. A common example of a GAN application is to generate artificial face images by learning from a dataset of celebrity faces. 

Style-based GANs – Generating and Tuning Realistic Artificial Faces

This is some highly impressive stuff given that the system does produce fairly believable results without lots of distortions. You can see some distortions if you click on the image below and keep refreshing. Evertime it will generate a new face for you…

You definitely will not know this person:

“kachung” + shutter sound

When you take a picture with an iPhone these days it does generate haptic feedback – a “kachung” you can feel. And a shutter sound.

Thankfully the shutter sound can be disabled in many countries. I know it can’t be disabled on iPhones sold in Japan. Which kept me from buying mine in Tokyo. Even when you switch the regions to Europe / Germany it’ll still produce the shutter sound.

Anyway: With my iPhone, which was purchased in Germany, I can disable the shutter sound. But it won’t disable the haptic “kachung”.

look ma! no mirror! (yes this is an iPhone 6)

It’s interesting that Apple added this vibration to the activity of taking a picture. Other camera manufactures go out of their way to decouple as much vibration as possible even to the extend that they will open the shutter and mirror in their DSLRs before actually making the picture – just so that the vibration of the mirror movement and shutter isn’t inducing vibrations to the act of taking the picture.

With mirror less cameras that vibration is gone. But now introduced back again?

Am I the only one finding this strange?