Tuesday, December 29, 2009

GIGABYTE Radeon HD 4670 Review

I was looking to replace my old ATI 2400HD card, criteria was something cheap, a big improvement, which wouldn't have been hard and preference to not requiring a new PSU.

The card I got was the Gigabyte Radeon HD 4670 512MB GDDR3 from New Egg.

It's certainly not the most sexiest of graphics cards, but it hit all the points I was looking for for under $50, can't complain about that.

Some rambling thoughts about the card, starting with the good points-

Price, can't beat the value for money
Spec, great features, could have done with more memory compared to other cards but it has gddr3 which can't be sniffed at either
Size, it's a fairly small card and only takes up one slot unlike many, but barely
Power consumption, it really does run well on a 300/350W supply, without needed an extra power connection
Sound, it's very quiet, marginal increase to the old one but hardly noticeable really

Cons about the card-

Would be nice if the fan was idle until it was needed, would make it silent during regular use
Box content, I've seen OEM packages include more this, no cables, screws, connection converters or anything, not that I needed them
Manual is a bit generic and rubbish and the drivers on the CD are a little out of date
Connections, HDMI is a little close to the DVI socket so could be a problem for some

Over all, this is a great little card, nice Windows Review increase by a couple of points, games certainly look a lot more impressive and very easy to install and get going and it's CrossfireX ready for those who want to join up a couple of cards though you'll need to get your own bridge connectors.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Eating out at American Girl Bistro

American Girl Factory, going for lunch at the Bistro, certainly an experience.

Cute as the place was, lending you a doll with a high chair if you don't have your own, it's still an over priced treat.

$16.50 for a fixed starter and main course plus drinks and $7.50 for a kids menu, which is a main meal and ice cream.

The food is good, but the descriptions were a little deceptive. Fondue of strong cheddar cheese with crusty farm style bread turned out to be what appeared to be melted Velveeta cheese and soft chunks of normal bread.

It was good but not quite as expected, but better than the veggie skewers, which consisted of a piece of pepper, a tomato and cucumber.

Main meal, the macaroni and cheese had the same cheese as fondue, the side of fruit was a couple pieces of melon. This contrasted with the kids version which did have a good portion of fruit and vegetables on the side.

The salmon meal was fantastic on the other hand, good portion of salmon, nice side of steamed broccoli and carrots with a good serving of mashed potatoes.

Another odd thing about the place, no booster seats, only high chairs.

Certainly a fun afternoon treat with the little one, but some how I think it would be better for icecream and coffee kind of break.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Transferring Software Licenses?

For anyone interested, there was a pretty good article about this in this months 3D World Magazine, current in the US, being number 124.

It mentioned that a court ruling in California allowed someone to sell a license of AutoCad on ebay that was purchased from a architectural firm. This is being appealed by Autodesk however.

The point being Autocad and other software are being sold as products with a set fee, which is different to being sold as a service where there is continual payment, so the subscription services for 3DSM etc would not be included in this.

Various companies allow you to transfer your product license to a new user after sale, some with more ease than others. Some packages the license can be transferred when both the old and new user get in contact, others where the seller gets in contact. Some were free to transfer, some had a transfer fee ranging from $50-200

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Boston Post Mortem Round up and the IGDA

This months meet up of the Boston Post Mortem was a round up of what has happened to the chapter during the year as well as highlighting plans for the future.

These plans included organising elections to the board of the chapter now that it is an official chapter of the IGDA as well as highlighting a few of the planned chapter meet up events, which have been provisionally arranged for the next few months, which for the most part do actually sound pretty interesting.

Also at the event was Joshua Caulfied, the executive director for the IGDA.

He talked a little bit of what he is hoping to accomplish and what has been happening at the organisation, but much of the evening was just a question and answer session, which he seemed to hold his own at and certainly a very pleasant, well meaning person who made himself very open to communication, staying for over an hour after the event to answer more questions from people.

One accomplishment he touched on was the medical health insurance pool being offered to those in the US, but he didn't go into how they would filter those who just joined the org for this benefit without being a developer. He did say that if people found better rates or plans on their own that he would be able to go to the brokers to find out why those better rates weren't on offer to people though. These rates might not necessarily be cheap, but the group rate should offer better rates for many people, especially those with families or pre-existing conditions.

Liability insurance as a group rate was also being offered to members which a lot of smaller start ups were interested about but he wasn't able to give any details at the moment, certainly regarding those outside of the US.

My main question to him was what he was doing to get the "I" in the organisation to have any real meaning and value to the members outside of the US via promoting communication, attractiveness to join or stay as a member as well as what advantages were being offered to those aboard.

His answer consisted of organising events aimed at those aboard, starting with web seminars with topics to help indie devs, going over local cultural differences, how to market to various other markets, how to go about localisation and distribution. These web events to begin with are being aimed at those countries who have shown most interest, such as Japan, China, Spain and Mexico.

To make the most of these events, they were being planned on being time shifted so that they could be viewed at a decent hour for those in the countries these events were being aimed at so that they could be involved in the discussions. These events should then be made available as streaming media for the rest of the membership afterwards but in a none interactive format.

Another way to help bolster the organisation through the ground up was giving more value to local chapters, such things that happen in the BPM, speakers doing practice runs for larger conferences. He was hoping to get in touch with people who do these speeches and arrange for them to do talks in their local chapter areas, perhaps offering to help out subsidising any out of pocket expenses if they had to travel beyond a local destination.

Bringing chapters together was another aim, but getting chapter organisers to provide event feedback after events and highlights of information and talks held so that they could be provided to the organisation as a whole so that every one gets to benefit from these hubs and if nothing else to act as a starting point for discussion for those smaller chapters.

A big issue of contention was the whole board of directors election process. The plan is now to lead a more structured approach of having each candidate answer 10 standard questions as part of their manifesto and information blurb. There is plans to also arrange a video conference some how where each candidate gets 10 minutes to talk about themselves and go over anything they feel appropriate as well as to answer question fielded towards them. How this is all done hasn't been sorted out yet, but is high on the agenda to be finalised soon.

The whole web problems. Part of the problems with slow responses to communicate with members were down to custom features implemented by the previous ED, Jason, who never documented how functions worked so that the board would have to get him to fix issues or to explain how to get things working such as the whole group email system is still tied into his little system.

The four years of development of the website, using two developers, he did mention who they were but I don't feel I should mention who they are so if your interested, email him. The reason for this, at the start they had cost estimates of $150K for a AMS system and creating their own being considerably less than this, though he didn't give an exact figure of how much they saved.

What they wanted from the system, not just a BBS, but the whole backend to the database, keeping membership information sorted by types, automating sending out membership dues and discount coupon codes to various events as well as opening up the studio membership so that those in the studios knew they were members.

The frontend at the moment is being handled by 20 volunteers, only 4 of whom have any decent experience with Drupal, this is part of the problem with slow responses and glitches with the site. They are looking for a proper web developer to help fix these issues and are interviewing a few companies to help out. One particular place is offering the hosting of the site on much better servers as well as 80 hours of development time to work through and fix the whole site. What Josh wants is a timeline to work with so that he can inform the membership what is happening, which at the moment is 3 months to get everything fixed and working properly or they'll revert back to vB.

He also said that they were limiting emails to the members to a maximum of 2 per week and he was trying to prioritise what kind of information is being sent out. Something that would help him would be members directly contacting him with any particular issues so that he is personally aware of them so that they could be addressed, for instance he wasn't aware what people were thinking about with the whole ghosting of posts and the time delay of them appearing or not appearing if you weren't logged in. This was a system glitch and not an attempt to censor posters which is something he is very against doing, as long as members follow the rules of the forum, more from a legal side as well as not being abusive to others. So he should hopefully address this and other concerns in further communications.

If anyone wants to get in contact with Joshua, his email is - joshua @ igda.org

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

iPhone Dev Resources

Some sites everyone should have bookmarked - The Ultimate Toolbox for iPhone Development.

That site is such a great resource covering tools and tutorials on getting you started, heavy slant on the app side rather than games but it does also cover the basics of doing games.

iPhone Dev Made Easy - Short slideshow going over some tools.

35 Free Icon Sets for your iPhone projects - Does what it says on the tin...handy collection to get you started.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Storing those Plush Toys!

Found the perfect answer on Think Geek - The Otto Plush Animal Bag

Store all your plush animal toys in this big blob plushy.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Family Photo's and the holidays

Well it's that time of the year again and time to get another portrait photo of the little one.

Last year we used JC Pennys' but this year we opted to give Target a go.

Using their coupons they offer on that gallery portrait site, it's a great saving, about $100 it saved us.

Really liked the service, much more laid back and easy going getting the pictures done, also very quick in getting the pictures back, a week turn around.

They do offer all the extras like cards and multiple pictures on a print, but they were far less pushy on offering those services. They do have 3 of these extras that they offer for half price, so $8 when you pick your pictures up but you don't have to take them.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Baby Monitors

Here's a short review of a few baby monitors because we had to finally replace our original monitor because new neighbours below our apartment has caused some interference so we went for an upgrade.

Our original monitor was a Graco Respond which we managed to find at Big Lots for $10 and has been a fantastic bargain as well as a great product.

It is well built, very sturdy and can be thrown around lots without breaking. The receiver has a battery built in that can be charged up and gives you great usage which is handy when when you've got to run around the house as the range is also very good. The signal also is generally very good, except when placed around a phone or router.

Other features of this monitor include a recording option so that if your baby cries it can play your recording, or it can play a few nursery rhymes.

Very happy with this unit and give it 4/5

The replacement unit we got was a Graco iMonitor Digital Vibe - What we liked about this, it's very simple to work out of the box, comes with a built in battery for the receiver which charges from a cradle and the base monitor can use batteries as a backup, which aren't included but the power adapters were universal for both the base and receiver.

Also the receiver has a power socket so you don't need the cradle if you don't want. This is a nice mobile unit, small, well made, light and sturdy with a pretty good belt clip. The battery life on this isn't as good as other monitors but it is good enough to get you around a long nap time.

The range on this is advertised as 2000 ft, I haven't confirmed that, but it has been crystal clear through out our apartment which is lovely, and it really has been crystal clear with no static or interference, being a digital unit really does make a huge difference here over the older analogue systems. The receiver also has a vibrate function to let you know your baby is crying if you have the volume turned down which is a nice idea but not something I use.

We'll give this a 5/5 rating.

Before we got the above, we tried and then returned a couple other units, the first was:

Safety First Go and Glow Monitor - Looks great, quite cheap depending on where you get it, $25-35 and nice and sturdy design. The major problem we had with this unit was interference, it wouldn't work anywhere at all in our apartment, the receiver was just bleeping out static which was horrid. Other things that dinged this in our minds, the belt clip was rubbish and this didn't include any batteries. The base unit was nice and stable though and had a thermometer. Finally the nightlight feature didn't really light up, so was a bit pointless.


Fisher Price Sound's n Lights Monitor
- Another cheap unit around the $25-35 price range, analogue and returned because it also suffered heavy interference, it was better than the above unit in that it would work if the receiver was placed close to the base unit or in certain parts of the apartment but not anywhere that was useful for us.

This does advertise itself as being "green" with the power supply, the irony being that it was least environmentally friendly in the packaging having the most disposable rubbish. The antenna is not built in on this either, which potentially means it could be unsafe as a large protrusion, certainly something easy for the baby to grab and throw. The base unit was very light and didn't feel sturdy, but it did have a nice night light feature, which wouldn't automatically shut down incidentally which is a shame. Also no built in batteries for this unit and if you wanted to place your own batteries, the compartment comes with screw fitted fixings which isn't very convenient, this is aimed at the parents and not the child after all.

A nice feature about this unit though, the light indicator is visible from both sides of the receiver and the belt clips is quite sturdy.


Other units we looked at but didn't try out, but you can read the reviews on Amazon, which came highly recommended were the:

Safety 1st High-Def Digital Monitor

Sony 900 MHz BabyCall Nursery Monitor

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

From the discussion last night

The "Jobs in 3D discussion" was interesting because it came from the view points of someone in education trying to place students, an internal recruiter, someone who hires contractors, a art director and someone who runs a small business.

From the perspective of the small business owner, having all round skills were the most important factor because there wasn't many resources and projects keep changing that you had to be able to work on whatever came in and a great way of getting a foot in the door was as a school/college internship or offering to help out on a certain project for free.

From a contractor perspective, Lane Feuer at Hasbro just wanted to see good looking sculpture work, doesn't matter about the quality of the model or texturing, just the final sculpture because that is all they are interested in, which is quite different to a lot of other fields. Also because a lot of the contractors work remotely from as far as Brazil, communication is key in being able to understand the requirements of the project. Being a contractor for 6 months is also looked as a probationary period, much like an extended interview, if they like you and you work out there is every possibility of them offering you a full time position at the end of the contract.

Thom Ang, the art director at 38 Studios was a very interesting speaker, talking about working to your strengths, if you aren't the best artist out there but are able to manage projects he said work to those strengths, gets you working in a art position but where you can help out the most as an example.

As a side note to the discussions, Brad Porter, who organised the event mentioned that Maya 2010 with a subscription included would be $4100 or a stand alone license of $3500 and this version combines all the versions of the past so no more 3 flavours.

They are also offering an "Entertainment Creative Suite" which is $5000, this includes either Maya 2010 or 3DSM 2010, Motionbuilder and Mudbox.

He highlighted the main advantage of the subscription model, apart from cheaper future upgrades, it allowed the artist to remotely use the license on their home personal computer at no additional cost, which is a great way to play around with the package on your own time.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jobs in 3D Panel Talk

NEDAG have arranged a panel discussion focusing on jobs in 3D -http://nedigitalartists.org/?p=87

Location - 32 Vassar Street Cambridge, MA 02139

Date - 29th September

Panelists include:

Thom Ang: Art Director, 38 Studios
Kevin Fanning: Manager of Strategic Staffic, Harmonix
Kristin Casasanto: Director Career Services, NEIA
Gael McGill: CEO of DigiZyme, Harvard Lecturer, Medical Visualization Specialist

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cool Toddler Crockery

The Loopa Gyro Bowl - This thing is awesome, a gyroscopic bowl that will always face up, so hopefully reducing the chances of spilled food when your toddler is on the move.

Bed Bath & Beyond has it online for $8

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Video Game Innovation Day

Just because it's amusing that there's now a Games Day in Mass.



Just a couple of links that are worth a read on it.

Nice token gesture, but doesn't really mean anything, doesn't get any benefits to the companies or people involved in the industry.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ludum Dare

The Ludum Dare 15 - 48 hour competition is happening again - August 28th-30th

Always interesting seeing what gets created for this and a good chance for people to get involved with a quick competition.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Boston Game Loop

For anyone on the East coast, especially around Boston, check out the Boston Game Loop

GameLoop is organized by Darius Kazemi (Orbus Gameworks) and Scott Macmillan (Macguffin Games) who are great characters who do a lot for the local scene and are instrumental in the success of the local IGDA chapter, the Boston Post Mortem.

The event this year is the second to be organised and has a much wider reach of people attending from all over the country, but obviously with a more local slant of attendees.

It's a "unconference" which basically means people talk about what they know to those who are most interested. How it works, people turn up and introduce themselves and what they are interested in at the beginning. With that information, people can suggest topics to talk about that they have knowledge in and that other people are interested in and can contribute towards.

This means that there might be micro niche topics with only 5-8 people being involved, but they will all gain and give so that they all benefit.

The whole point is to have a more intimate setting, people aren't putting on massive GDC style talks which only hold interest in parts for some people.

There's also a $20 suggested donation for this event to help the organisers cover the cost of the event which other wise would be out of their own pockets, cover costs of coffee and snacks etc.

Location, the "NERD" centre on the first floor of the Microsoft Office, Kendal Square, MA

Go, enjoy, learn and network!

Edit: to add, this event is on the 15th August, and for industry people only, so no students.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Back pain during work?

Bit random this, but just got a pair of Fit Flops - Freeways

Just really nice to wear while walking around the office or home when having a break from the computer. Could be purely coincidental, but it does appear to have helped relieve a bit of lower back pain whilst taking a break from things. If nothing else, they do help tone up the calf muscles a little.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Maya 2010 Deal

Bit spammy I supose, but I got sent this and thought others might be interested -

Autodesk has combined Maya Complete and Maya Unlimited into Maya 2010! If you were planning on buying Maya, you have a very short window to be able to save some serious cash... From today until August 10th, you can buy Maya Complete ($1995) and subscription ($595) for a total of $2590 and still have access to Maya 2010 when it is released on August 12th.

Maya 2010 is one Maya, one value. It will include all the functionality of Maya Unlimited 2009, with Maya Composite, Autodesk Backburner and Autodesk Matchmover. The Network (NLM) version will also come with 5 Mental Ray batch nodes.

Maya 2010 will retail at $3,495 (SLM) and $4,370 (NLM). Subscription will be $595 and Gold Subscription will be $895.

Call Dawn at 800-875-0025 or email dobrien@get.com for more details.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Developers Rally Round Colleagues Besieged by "Trademark Troll"

In an unprecedented show of support, members of the game development community from several countries have come together in support of French independent game developer Mobigame. Mobigame is involved in a legal dispute with former publisher Tim Langdell, who conducts business as Edge Games. Langdell has a history of confrontation with game companies using the word "Edge" in games titles.

Dispute Between Langdell and Mobigame

On July 15th, Langdell forced iPhone platform-holder Apple's hand to block the sale of the award winning and triple IGF award nominated iPhone game 'EDGE'. Langdell's claim was that the product infringes on his trademark of the word 'Edge'. Initially, when Mobigame voluntarily removed the game from the store they were receiving several emails per day from Langdell; some of which even went as far as threatening to sue the owner of Mobigame (David Papazian) personally, stating that it could cost David "millions of dollars".

Mobigame actually own the trademark 'EDGE' in France, and the registration is on-going in Europe. Despite this, Langdell threatened to sue unless they remove the game from the AppStore entirely, even in the regions where Mobigame own the trademark. On May 14th, Mobigame proposed renaming the game to 'EDGY' for the UK and the US market, stating that their trademarks could co-exist since Mobigame will have the trademark in Europe, and they would rename the game to 'EDGY' for the UK & US markets. Langdell refused to accept this, and on May 16th he applied for the trademark 'EDGY' in the US.

As a small company, without access to substantial legal resources, Mobigame was keen to avoid a protracted legal dispute, and have tried on many occasions to reach an amicable solution. Unfortunately, negotiation with Langdell proved fruitless. Mobigame is currently evaluating their options, but are denied the income they were depending on from iPhone game sales.

Langdell's History of Threats and Litigation

Langdell has a history of similar tactics with other small companies. He lists credits for games containing the word 'Edge' on his website, and claims credit for their development. In reality his involvement is limited to demanding money for the use of the word 'Edge'. His legal relationship with renowned British development magazine EDGE is unclear, but claims that he "spawned" the publication were recently removed from his website. Even after the outrage among the international community of developers began to rise, Langdell applied for a trademark on the phrase, 'Edge of Twilight', days after Australian company, Fuzzyeyes Studio announced they were soon launching a game of that name.

Community Reaction

Game developers around the world have taken a dim view of Langdell's actions, as trademark disputes have a far more profound effect on small game companies with limited resources for legal support.

To try to combat this, members of The Chaos Engine, a game industry professionals' think-tank/forum have started a fund to aid Mobigame in what could be a lengthy legal dispute, during which time sales of EDGE are being restricted. There is also a Facebook group set-up to show support for Mobigame and EDGE.

"We think it's important that Langdell not be allowed to bludgeon small companies with esoteric trademark laws," says Paddy Sinclair, CEO of Proper Games Ltd. "Games may be a fun and light-hearted product, but this is still a professional industry. There's no room for schoolyard tactics to extort money and claim unearned fame."

Finding no support from their professional association, the IGDA, developers have taken the case into their own hands - organizing creative ways to help Mobigame with their plight. They hope to see industry luminaries speak out, and are galvanizing all their supporters to stand up against this unethical use of trademark law.

"Langdell needs to be stopped and anyone else who thinks it's okay to take advantage of small game companies needs to know we're not isolated, easy targets," said Yacine Salmi, an industry veteran and current IGDA member.

IGDA Controversy

In further controversy, Tim Langdell is also a board member of game development advocate body International Game Developers Association (IGDA). Here he has a hand in guiding the professional association's policies on aiding small game companies and improving the industry for all developers. So far the IGDA has officially taken no action and made only a short statement saying they don't see a need to act.

"Just because Langdell managed to bluff his way onto the IGDA board doesn't mean we as members support his unethical strategies, and we're doing what we can to have him removed," said Corvus Elrod of Zakelro Studios, an IGDA member and part of a small game company himself. He has started a petition for IGDA members to sign, calling for a special meeting where Langdell could be voted out of the IGDA board.


Paypal donations to mobigame@gmail.com

The Chaos Engine is a virtual community of game developers from around the globe. Launched in 2003, it has grown to include 7,000 game developers representing views from across the industry.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Logitech MX Revolution Mouse Review

Well after years of service, my old MX1000 Logitech finally died.

The replacement, a MX Revolution.

At $100, it is pricey, but figuring how much time spent on the computer it was money well worth spending.

The construction is very good, the mouse looks nice, has a good weight to it and feels nice. The ergonomics make it very comfy in the hand and the buttons are right there at your finger tips as well as having a nice feed back when you press them.

One of the unique selling points was the fast scrolling wheel which does feel a little surreal but quickly becomes appreciated. It allows you to free scroll at speed for those long documents but intuitively applies a break that slows the wheel down for that click, click type of scroll depending on the application. So far this has worked really well.

The mouse software does allow you to customise the mouse well and one recommendation was using the thumb rocker button as a volume control instead of the default of scrolling back and forth between apps, which is currently what I have left it at. The downside to the software, which you do need to install other wise the middle mouse button click doesn't work, is that it is 58mb and took me a half hour to install, seriously, wtf?

The battery life is very good and the charger is nice and small, certainly compared to the old mouse and more importantly, it doesn't need to be plugged into the back of the computer as there is a small usb receiver for the wireless aspect. This works fabulously well, I was able to use the mouse across the room with out any problems. There also isn't a need to select a channel, search for the mouse or anything that potentially was a hassle with my old mouse, just plugged it in and it worked.

To summerise, this is a great mouse for someone who sits at a computer a lot, very easy to use and set up but the software install really needs to be streamlined and you better be right handed.

Because of that, I'll give it 4/5

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Indie Handheld Gaming?

Just looking at the GP2X Wix - At $180 it's not a bad priced open source handheld gaming machine, touch screen and what is basically a dual d-pad set up, this could lead to some interesting projects.

There is also the Pandora, which does look promising, but far to clunky I think to take off.

Another alternative is the Dingoo A-320 but this looks even less appealing as a device.

Ultimately, this is a great arena for home game makers to get some easy exposure, release something fun that'll get you possibly noticed, it will even play flash games as well as be a emulator so you can get some of those old home brew projects you wanted to make out there on this platform. The makers are also launching a digital online store similar to Apple's, which would allow you to sell your creations if you didn't want them released as freeware, which could be a nice bonus feature for anyone who might have released a game on any other platform.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

No more wallet nappy bags?

Skip Hop have discontinued the best little nappy changing wallet bag, so get one where you can, Target still had a few, they are awesome bags!

There are other mini wallet bags around, but they are all rubbish in comparison.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Steve Meretzky

Steve Meretzky is a great character and designer in the Boston dev scene who has produced some great games in the past, especially The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

He gave a really interesting talk about fun in games called "Bring Back the Fun" at the Boston Post Mortem. This wasn't about how to make games fun, but about how to help make making games more enjoyable looking at past trends and how other industries have done things to change a slump.

The whole talk was filmed, but it wasn't very long so it would certainly be worth taking the time to watch it when it comes online, probably later in the week, a link will probably show on the BPM site and on Steve's.

It was a very inspiring talk too and certainly one of the most amusing events held for quite a while.

It's just a shame that the area will be losing Steve as he is moving on to the west coast for a new adventure.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

3D Stimulus Day

The Digital Northeastern Artist group as part of Great Eastern Technology held a day long art event today called "3D Stimulus Day" at the Ida Mount College in Newton, MA. The host of the event was Brad Porter.

The free event had talks about success in animation, which was more of a selling event for the person giving the talk of her books and the classes she taught and wasn't that useful for many there.

Intro to 3DSM Mental Ray Rendering was next, this was about architectural rendering and covered the basics to global illumination and final gather and was pretty informative and the talk was very amusing, given by Ted Boardman, who has a good blog which has many tutorials and good information here. It was also a chance to see 3DSM 2010, which had a new user interface which is a bit different to previous versions though how good that is I didn't get to see. The main things of note were the simplifying of Mental Ray for the basic features and how quick it was to get them working to make good quality renders and yet still have all the tweaks you would expect. Also the new Quadify modifier looked pretty nifty too, which as it suggests, quadlifies your model rather than the tessalate feature.

Elliott Mitchell did a talk about realistic Mental Ray Skin Shaders in Maya, showing off Maya 2009, which had a few issues of stability, but compared to 2008 and below seemed to have simplified the whole process of creating shaders that work by automating the setting up of them, though there was still a lot of tweaking and rendering to get a good result.

Gael McDill of Digizyme Inc, talked about molecular and cell visualisation in Maya. This was very interesting showing how they are able to use custom scripts using Python to help them make tools as well as using cloth and hair adapted to show cell interactions. Molecularmovies.org was a really good resource they created to share the knowledge of what they do and includes a lot of videos and tutorials that can be applied to many aspects of art and animation.

Michele Bousquet, from Turbosquid talked about how you can maximise your sales and make money from using the service. Most of the things were comon sense such as providing good quality thumbnails and a good description of your work and what is included in the sale as well as how to best price your work by comparing to other works on the subject and looking through the highest priced pieces to gauge your price point.

Following this talk was a raffle of goods from the vendors who sponsored the event, the highlights included a new Wacom Intuos 4 tablet, a licensed copy of ZBrush 3 and one upgrade. All these things were being demoed during the breaks and especially the lunch break as well as a 3D scanner.

The last part of the day was a SIGGRAPH animation festival screening.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sippy Cup Reviews

It's now time to try sippy cups, well for a while now, but there's loads about to try out, so we got a bunch and here's our thoughts on them, all of which are BPA free by the way.

Avent Insulated Cup - $7 cup, for cold drinks only, but that's fine. Easy to take apart and clean and also the parts are interchangeable with other Avent cups. What is nice about this cup, the flip top lid, so you don't have to worry about losing the lid, which makes this very handy when on the move and out in public. It is also very easy to hold and a good sized cup and the spill proof valve works very well.


Avent Magic Cup Trainer - $5 which isn't bad value for money, like the above cup, well made, functions very well and very practical, dishwasher safe and the training handle can be removed once unneeded. There is a plastic cap lid for this, but the spill proof valve works very well so it isn't really needed. The squat size makes this easy for small hands to hold and also tilt back far enough to drink from.


Born Free Training Cup - $11 so getting a little expensive for one cup, but very sturdy and well made. This is dishwasher safe and easy to assemble, but there are more parts in this than the Avent, so more likely to lose pieces, but they do fit together nice and easily. The handles can be removed and the parts are interchangeable with other Born Free products which is nice.


Munchkin Mighty Grip - $7.50 for two cups, which appeared like great value for money. The reality is, this was rubbish. This isn't dishwasher safe, so more hassle to clean, also the parts are very flimsy and the rubber seal only fits in one way and has to be lined up into 3 notches which aren't equally spaced and not clear in which way to line up the valve. The valve is also very flexible and doesn't take much shaking or squeezing of the bottle to cause a gap in the valve and a big leak. The bottle is also very flimsy and weak and looks very cheap. There's no cap to cover the top of this and given how easy it is to cause it to leak, this is a bit of a over site.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Nintendo DS Homebrew!

What this is about, creating your own projects, applications or games and there's a lot of great homebrew stuff around. Getting set up for this does allow you to play pirated games though which isn't so great for the industry and a reason for bad press on the home brew scene.

Cyclo DS is my choice for cartridge which I got from Abotcity. The reason, this is updated on a regular basis and it auto patches, which means you don't have to mess around with application roms, stick them on a micro SD card and away they go, it is also nicely made and can handle larger than 2GB cards. I use a 8GB card that I got from Newegg.

Apart from being updated regulary, what makes this the best card to use, you don't have to stick your roms in the root of the card, you can stick them in folders so you can organise your apps how you like and stick photos and media files on there and play them with a media player.

Okay, your set up, now what, a couple sites to start you off are NDS Homebrew and NDS Hive. You'll find applications ranging from audio tools and painting tools to maps, weather tools and other apps that use your wifi connection as well as home made games.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Child Safety Gate

Well it's gotten to that point where we really needed one for our crawling tot.

Our criteria was based on:-
-Recommendations from friends/family
-Ease of use and installation; not requiring it to be hardware fixed because we rent

With that in mind, we went with Safety 1st Perfect Fit Gate - $35 so the price was good considering how expensive some are, also it is a sturdy gate, not the best looking but it can be pressure fixed against the door frame.

Over all it works as a safety barrier, but as a opening gate, not so good because you do need to use the hardware for that to work, screwing it into the wall and using the mounts, which does take the point of the pressure fit away some what.

The auto fit system which seems good on paper, and when watching it work, does seem to work well, but it is only on one side of the gate so I can see how this might not work so well for people who have base board heat on both sides of a corridor or other things that could be in the way against the wall.

It is also quite heavy too, so definitely make sure you have it installed securely.

Over all, I think it works quite well and worth the money, though if we had our own house and could install a proper gate I would perhaps look at another option.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

IGDA - Board Elections

The 2009 election for Board of Directors is finally open to IGDA members.

If your a member, it's worth voting for someone who shares your views or will do something you believe in.

The list of nominations are quite large and there's a lot of information to shift though.

My criteria, someone who is in the industry rather than out of the industry, who is able to try and improve what the IGDA stands for and what they hope to accomplice and make it have more impact for people in the industry with less student focus. I also would like someone who isn't based in America to help give the board a little more balance and a view from aboard. Not having a stupid photo is a bonus, this is supposed to be serious after all and you are supposed to be representing and helping the industry.

Adam Martin would be my first choice

Gordon Bellamy a second choice

Jared Eden a third choice

Thursday, February 5, 2009

More Boon Products

Following on from the Boon Spoon which is awesome, we went and got more of their product line up.

Fluid - A toddler cup, nice and chunky, easy to hold and doesn't spill so in theory should be a great cup for the baby to get the hang of, but the tip is a bit unwieldy so baby isn't finding it that easy to drink out of, shame.

Catch Bowl
- This is a great little bowl with a lip that is supposed to catch dropped food, there is also a sucker on the base that is supposed to keep it securely held in place on the table. The reality is, the sucker doesn't actually hold the bowl down that well and nor does the catcher actually catch the food that well, it's a little to flexible and the baby just pushes it down. This also isn't machine washable, but it is easy to wipe clean.

Benders - This is a spoon and spork combination, the heads bend quite easily so that the baby can hold them in either hand, which ever they are most comfortable with. These are great, they are easy to hold, not sharp and the head has a nice dip that allows the food to slide off into the babies mouth nice and easily. This is a superb product!

Snack Ball - We thought this would be a fun little container to hold the snacks. The reality is, it is a bit rubbish. It's a round sphere, no dimples or rubber pads to hold it in place so it rolls all over the place when you put it down. Also the sliding top that opens isn't all that secure so it is quite easy for this to slip open and dump the snacks in your pocket. Bit of a disappointment.

There are other products in the line up to check out, more for the toddler age and we will probably give them a go later on.

For now, we highly recommend the Boon Spoon and the Benders, some of the best small baby purchases we've made. They are available all over the place too which is handy.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pixel Pushing

Those interested in Pixel pushing and the old school, there's a lot to chose from, especially free programs.

It's something well worth playing around with, especially handy if you are doing tile maps for hand held devices.

Tile Studio - This is a nice open source freebie

mtPaint - This is also open source and works well, just doesn't appear quite as polished.

fishEd - This is great and recently released as a freebie. Lots of resources here on the site too.

Graphics Gale - A nice little animation pixel program. Not free though, but not expensive either.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

January Boston Post Mortem

This months talk was given by Randy Smith who was the designer that helped shape the Thief series of games for Looking Glass and recently of EALA.

This was a talk he gave at the Montreal International Game Summit, called "Games Are Art, and What To Do About It."

It was interesting and to summarise the talk, he went into how game mechanics have progressed over the years talking of the parallel of how peoples comprehension of movies have grown, so you don't necessarily have to be blatantly obvious with every detail to show emotion or the progression of time, people know a day shot followed by a night shot in a movie means that time has progressed, even though they didn't when film first came about. This kind of evolution is happening and how it needs to continue so that the game users experience can be more engaging. The slap in the face uninteractive cut scenes, overly forced sound and facial animations to show emotion fail because they aren't engaging, they break the flow of the experience that takes the game player out of the continuity of the expeirence much like if a movie director had a statue roll up in the middle of the cinema at a particular moment to show an emotion would be breaking of the flow and feeling of the movie.

He also talked about design decisions and different genres of games, how best to engage emotion out of the game player so that they have a feeling of accomplishment, how they can care about an outcome so that they have the desire to replay the game in to see a different outcome. It all comes about asking the question "Why?" at every stage of the design process. What you think will be a good idea, question why. What way of having a game mechanic do such and such, question why. Continually questioning these decisions brings about a more layered mechanic to the game so that you can see and show how engaging and what responses you are looking for. It also can lead to interesting spin off thoughts that could lead to new avenues to explore.

Friday, January 16, 2009

TrendNet TEW 424UB Wireless USB adapter - Update

An update to the original review of the TEW 424UB Wireless USB Adapter -

They released a new driver on the 16th of December 2008 -here

This driver seems to have fixed the device from BSOD'ing your system, especially when you lose a network connection, it is able to reconnect without needing a restart or causing a BSOD. Also doesn't seem to lose a network connection as often either, so a much needed driver update makes this a very solid and cheap wireless network adapter.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Baby Teethers

There are loads around, but the best so far has been the set of Crombi Training Teethers

They are just nice and easy for the baby to hold on to, nice bright colours, has a nice little rattle to them and the baby is able to easily use these to gnaw the back teeth with, which many other teethers fail to do.

Those gel ones that you stick in the freezer or the fridge to get cold do relieve some of the teething pain, but they are usually to chunky to be practical, the baby can't hold them very stably and isn't able to use them to sooth the rear teeth.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Seagate Barracuda 1TB Hard drive review

The Seagate ST31000340AS 1TB Barracuda

A sata 7200rpm drive with 32MB cache and 8.5ms seek time and a 5 year warranty.

It's a great drive, really quick and also very quiet which is lovely. This being an OEM box, you don't get any screws or any cables nor instructions though which probably isn't a problem for most people. Do jot down the serial number before installing it though as it's a mare to get to other wise and you'll need it for the warranty.

Amazon ship it in one of those "Ready to Ship" boxes, which means the box they send it to you in is the box of the product.