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Amplify your Creativity

   
Adobe creative event
Today, May the 14th was the Adobe amplify your creativity event in Sydney, Australia. Here are my thoughts on it as it went down.
Adobe seems to be really pushing the integration of the mobile device as an everyday tool, which, is no longer considered a dumbed down version of the main app, but an essential part of the process. 

It’s quite amazing that diversity of new apps coming out that are part of the creative process. From storyboarding, to sound recording on the fly, you can easily see how Adobe has absorbed many other smaller companies with niche applications.

One particularly exciting addition, is that you can use the creative cloud for high end processing. For example, if you need to apply a filter to a large image, which Wijk be impossible on iPad, then you can send it to the cloud for processing and it send you back the processed image


I was very happy to see the onus shifted from technology to creativity, where many peoples speeches accentuated the importance of creativity and the importance of storytelling over anything else.
To many of us, Lightroom always seems like it was designed for mobile. Well now it is a fully functional iOS app, which for me makes much more sense in this format. The only thing we need now is iOS to run on higher end photographic devices.
Another main focus of the new apps, is creating color tables. Using photos or video, either live or pre saved, you can create color tables for design projects and also for video (also called a LUT). It’s all pretty dry stuff but essential to any successful project and unlike image capture, which is often not good enough on mobile, color palettes need to be mobile, and cloud synced , so your design team can all reference the same color theme simultaneously.
For those who like little animatics of their holidays, or need a simple parallax style presentation, Adobe slate will be your go. It’s actually quite a nice way to make a little storyboard. It’s not revolutionary, but nice that it’s built into the creative cloud as you can access all you online assets.  That’s basically the main reason people will drop their current apps for these same jobs, and move to the Adobe version. It will also homogenize the way we see projects delivered from now on.

Overall, I think the most significant changes for desktop apps were for video editing and production. Lots of very powerful tools from speed grade and prelude are woven into premiere pro. As I have been doing a lot of video work lately I was very excited by these. Unfortunately not a lot of new information about photoshop.
Another pants creamer for video peeps will be real time feedback for after fx. You no longer need to render video when you make changes. Even live compositing. It’s incredibly powerful and a major time saver. In face that’s the reason I stopped working mainly with video and 3d, is wasted time during rendering. Can’t wait until 3d gets the same, although there are many tools for that in.  3d too.
The new Adobe character animator that will be built into after effects is possibly the most mind blowing. I can see a lot of animators out of a job with this one. You can make any 2d character animations as long as you can use photoshop.And morph cuts will also change interviews forever. After fx and premiere have never been in a better place.  
There were a few image changes like haze reduction and mock ups that instantly export to your desktop versions of photoshop, Indesign and illustrator.Many of the tools were not integrated into any app yet, but were test versions, which will be integrated in the future. 
So that’s my round up. Hope that shows a little of what was on show.i will add links this after the fact.

Another important understanding

I think for many people, the final frontier will be, “can I publish from a mobile device?”. This blog post was written on the fly as I saw things at the conference, but even I was thinking that I need to upload the draft, fix the images and  get it moving. 

After seeing the upgrades to all the mobile apps and the future, I am dedicated to finishing and uploading this blog post on mobile, and I hope everyone else now understands that the mobile revolution is truly coming.

iMac 5k retina . Is it the right solution?

iMac Retina – My observations

Now I must say that i road tested the standard out of the box iMac retina. No upgrades like listed above. I got the $3000 2GB graphics card and 8GB RAM. There is no way in hell i’d ever stick with a machine with only 8GB RAM. I have that on my upgraded MacBook now (which also has a 256SSD and 1TB HDD), So i want this computer to be significantly faster. I have to assume that with the extra grunt on the upgraded model it tackle 3D challenges at least somewhat faster.

The first obvious thing is that screen is absolutely epic, and for many this will be enought reason to buy it. The only other 5k screen currently is a Dell, which costs $2500, which is almost as much as the iMac. If you work with hi-res video then it is amazing. If you work in high end 3D only, you are probably better off with a PC. If you do both like me, then you need to decide what is more important to you.

I have written my needs and then the results of some simple tests that I did below. I have basically compared it to an equal spec PC and seen how I could make an identical machine for a cheaper cost, either running as a hackintosh or natively.

iMac retina specs.

ACD-imac-retina-review-mac-details-1

ACD-imac-retina-review-mac-details-2

 

 

My goals/ needs in a computer

So its coming to the point where my old laptop cannot satisfy my needs to get all my work done and i’m in the market for a new computer. My main work is graphic and web design, but I do dabble in 3d work and also make the odd video now and then. I am totally obsessed with Virtual Reality and the Oculus Rift, which i have, and the performance of 3D on my laptop is absolutely horrible. I wrote a blog post about setting up your Oculus Rift on OSX (see here) which goes into a lot of detail about that.

I am a total power user on the computer, and have much bigger needs than the average user.

So here are my needs

  • Photoshop – complex and large image files
  • InDesign – Multipage magazines
  • Illustrator – Detailed illustrations for various purposes
  • 3D – either Maya for OSX and Mudbox. Also 3DSMAX using Bootcamp (particle simulations and real time lighting placement hopefully)
  • Video – 360 degree stitched videos (super high resolution) and other drone video shots. Also promo videos.
  • Oculus Rift – 3D gaming and simulations, running at least 60fps rendering both eyes, which is on par with rendering 2 screens.
  • probably some other complex shit

I have a super smart friend who showed me I can make a pretty amazing PC for less than the iMac retina investment. We went through many possible options and I was actually surprised that it cost quite similar to put together a similarly powerful computer. Well that’s not 100% true, as if I bought a PC id definitely get an Nvidia card rather than the AMD card that come with Apple products, which give up to 25% more 3D rendering power within the same cost frame. Another reason the cost was almost similar was that I costed the iMac screen at around $1200, so you could run a windows 8.1 PC on a much cheaper screen.

Here is the technical specs of both the computer I would put together compared to the iMac Retina

ACD-imac-retina-review-compare-PC-and-imac

I apologize that its pretty small, but you can see all the info in there. Ill point out the most obvious differences.Even at Full spec the PC is $1000 cheaper if you are buying in Australia. Australian prices are horrible compared to other countries in the world. As i travel a bit, and i’m a massive eBay fanatic, I tend to consider global prices available to me. Realistically, I may not be able to go overseas to buy a computer, but id be willing to visit Japan or America for the weekend and buy a computer and get the free travel experience.

PC WINS

The main importance is the Video card. Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 (8.6/10) vs AMD Radeon R9 (6.6/10) – These ratings are basically for 3d output. They both prices video lightning fast and wouldn’t see as much of a difference there. Apple would probably be slightly ahead for 2D processing.

Ram speed is much faster on the PC 2400MHz vs 1600MHz on the iMac. Truthfully i dont know much about how ram loads data but as RAM is universal. Higher numbers are better. and this is a 33% speed increase. of course your motherboard need to be able to handle the data flow but of course the motherboard we(he) chose can do just that.

IMAC WINS

Easy to transport
– All in one piece so no extra parts. Screen is the actual computer and weights only 9.5kg.Dont need to buy things like power supply or case. these are not overly expensive and the whole still comes in cheaper for the PC still but its all Apple quality. An extra handy feature is if one component breaks you can take it to apple rather than have to contact each company separately.OSX – While I don’t mind windows 8, id certainly rather stick to OSX as its what i know and love.

Just about everything else is on par with each other. But don’t take some of these number lightly because hard disk speed, RAM speed and Video Card are what really makes a computer tick. Its obvious for the price I can make a better 3D machine on a PC, but having a retina screen and one single enclosure is truly the realm of the mac.

 

 

3D on the new iMac Retina

I installed windows and used 3DSMAX. I also installed Maya for OSX. I tried some particle flow experiments with the new water tool Bifrost. I was expecting them to happen at lightning speed with my expectations for thew new iMac, but i was sorely mistaken. They took ages. They are extremely complex simulations, and I am a novice with it so may not have optimized the settings, but i did leave the settings pretty low. The actual simulations weren’t that slow, but skinning the water droplets and rendering was a very slow process. Mainly the rendering. This is a task where it certainly helps to have many multithreaded cores, so the Mac Pro or a PC would be easier to get to fulfill that task.

Now to accurately rate the performance i would have to run the exact same simulation on multiple computer systems and compare. I didn’t get to do that, so this is a sample size of 1, but is a general indication of what this computer can do.

I also ran a bunch of GPU tests on it.They went pretty well and if you fdo have multiple computers I suggest you use this test to compare as its available on multiple platforms
download it here: http://www.geeks3d.com/gputest/download/ and get more info: http://www.geeks3d.com/gputest/

Next I played some steam games, and also ;played some Oculus Rift demos. In general it was pretty much flawless for the game demos i played. Even the Oculus, that has to render each eye independently (which is like rendering two screen simultaneously) worked at over 60 frames a second most of the time.

So my general consensus is that it renders optimized games well, but maybe not the first choice if you need real-time lighting.I would definitely recommend at least a 4GB graphics card for any full scene 3d work. This is basically due to their choice to go with the AMD Radeon R9 M295x over Nvidia graphics, which scored a 6.6/10 compared to the Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 whcih got a 8.6/10 (for these tests the Nvidia Titan was considered the baseline 10/10 spec).

See these examples
ACD-imac-retina-review-GPU-test

ACD-imac-retina-review-GPU-test2

My particle test animation I made in MAYA for OSX using Bifrost.

ACD-imac-retina-review-maya-bifrost

And this is a simple animation i made

 

Working with Photoshop and Web Images

One of the major advantages of having such a high resolution screen is that you can work on video and images at 4k resolution, and still have room to have navigation and tools, and of course the operating system GUI. There were also a couple of things that stood out to me as being not quite what I am used to.

One thing you will certainly notice is that when you take screenshots, if you paste them into regular documents they will be absolutely massive. In fact i noticed that the screenshots are now in 144 dpi (dots per inch)and therefore are much larger in file size (4 times as the resolution is doubled in two directions). Its an easy fix and you can just drop them to 72dpi in Photoshop, but an extra step you will have to go through. When using some websites, depending on how they are made, you will realize that, if the site does not have retina ready images ( which requires the site designer to have  whole separate set of images) the images will be slightly fuzzy and often the backgrounds will shrink to a quarter their size ( as displaying at 144dpi). This is something that retina MacBook Pro’s will already encounter and be fixed over time as people update their sites. As a web designer it also means a whole lot of extra work to be done in the design process.

In fact the whole resolution thing is quite different on a retina screen. for example they do not give you the regular resolution options for the screen, as the pixels are not actual pixel sized, and do what can be imagined as a more high res version of “pixel doubling” where one display pixel may take up more than one actual pixel on the screen. If you leave it as “best for display” you will not see these options, but switch to  “scaled” and you will see the options. Believe me, you will not need to go any higher than the standard unless you like really tiny text. See the image below and you will see that when you put your mouse over an option it just says “looks like 2560 x 1440″.

As s side note, you can also see that i am using the screen at its almost lowest brightness. Turn it up to full and you will totally get sunburn. This b#&ch is bright.

ACD-imac-retina-review-screen-resolution

 

 

Problem Solving

Mail accounts in Yosemite

So for about one week of the two weeks I had the iMac, I could not understand why i could not add any more gmail accounts to Apple Mail. This was driving me bonkers, until I found this little fix.

I have always had problems with my Apple mail, and to be fair i thought it was due to me computer being overloaded and confused, but it was just the same on the new retina iMac. Mail would not load a couple of my gmail accounts, and would not let me add them. I realzied they got added but not activated. It was an easy fix but took me a while that i had to go to System preferences to “Internet accounts” and turn the mail function on.

ACD-imac-retina-review-internet-accounts

ACD-imac-retina-review-activate-mail

Other changes in OSX 10.10.2

Specific to the Retina iMac

As you can imagine, there are other effects that the retina screen has, and the computer itself has specific functionality. Some of these differences are quite trivial, but also can create a unique user experience, and for someone who lives on a computer most of the time were incredibly apparent. I have included a few differences here, compared to my 2009 MacBook (5,1).

I am not 100% sure that this was added functionality due to it being an iMac retina, but possibly functions that were not added to my MacBook  due to the OSX install being an upgrade rather than a clean factory install. Either way there are a few fascinating discrepancies.

 

Handoff – Does not appear in the upgraded version on my MacBook

This is a pretty big deal to a lot of us and can be extremely handy in particular with viewing web pages. As soon as i entered my iCloud info on the demo iMac, if i used my iPad it adds a small icon to the dock, just left of the smiling Mac finder logo asking me if i want to continue on the iMac. This is handy but i soon got sick of Safari on the iMac, as its nowhere near as nice an experience as Firefox (and never will be in my opinion.. so there). Maps and other things are certainly handy, as well as iBooks, but it only transfers bought items and not all the random PDFs i save into there, at least i haven’t worked out how to do that yet.

ACD-imac-retina-review-handoff

Desktop Images no longer allow you to tile them…. thats interesting. You can also directly access iPhoto images.

ACD-imac-retina-review-desktop-options

 

AirPlay Display built into the main display panel

I don’t have Apple TV (sob!) so I don’t know how advantageous this is, but seems like a seamless solution that doesn not require any more screen real estate and is very simple to use.

ACD-imac-retina-review-display-airplay

 

 The Round up

I must say that Its an amazing machine, runs well, as you would expect any new apple computer, and has a few features that make it quite special. if you are a video editor then it is certainly the computer for you, and is 4k ready for those future jobs. It also cheap enough to be a general office computer, but you could get something cheaper by about $1500 in that situation.

As always, bootcamp is a handy way to be able to run Windows natively, as apple uses intel chips in their devices, so gives you that felxibility, but if you plan to use the computer mainly in Windows id recommend that you just buy a  PC and spend money on the screen and graphics card.

Thinking of buying a new mac?

This post was written on May 16 2013 before the Haswell chip rollout. While this information is now outdated, you can still get lots of new chips

So I’m writing this blog post basically because I’m thinking of buying a new mac. Well if there’s one thing I know about mac users, they fall into two distinct groups. There’s the ones who will go on the apple website every week and dream of upgrading, and there’s the ones who still own their color classic from 1990 and won’t admit that one has been released ever since.

For most of the users, they fall into the first category. That’s basically how they funded the revival of their business, by making their products have such appeal and a design evolution that makes each upgrade fairly distinct, but there is many upgrades that go unnoticed to the untrained eye, and these are the ones that the real number cruncher will get lost in a labyrinth of new possibility.

Understanding microarchitecture and chipsets

Quite often between major releases there will be a chipset or graphics card upgrade. Recently ,as they introduced the retina technology, they released the chipsets with those major releases. By chipset, I refer to what the processor architecture is like. There are many sub levels within chipsets, besides microarchitecture,but for the sake of keeping my blog post readable, I’ll skip that and let you research more if you want, so I’ll just stick to chipset when referring to that from now on.

You may be familiar with the A4,A5,A6x chipsets in the iPads and iPhones as they get people interested in those terms which they can easily grasp without the need of understanding them. Of course a higher number is better in that case. add and x and you’re probably getting something extra. But in this blog post, I’m specifically talking about the desktop. Anne laptop models as the upgrades are not as obvious.

Most people will definitely know when they changed to the intel chips, as they stopped calling their computers PowerPC (made by IBM and Motorola) and started calling them intel (made by, you guessed it , intel), we’ve been through quite a few revisions since that time and most recently are the “Sandy Bridge” and most recent the “Ivy Bridge” chipsets , the ivy bridge supporting USB 3.0 and thunderbolt natively, as well as making the components of the chip slightly smaller each time, and also allowing more cores (CPUs) on the same chip, allowing it to do parallel processes, which basically means its like having two CPUS in the same computer (called dual core). more cores mean faster, as long as the software you use is built for that technology. Cores are also not the only things you need to worry about, but thats a general overview.

So what does all this mean??

It means that’s there’s another hidden reason to feel like your computer is getting old. The chipset upgrades are by no means probably the most important upgrades in your computers. We’re all pretty familiar with the terms i5 and i7 these days, and these represent the chipsets. There’s even subcategories within them if you want to go that far, but you will end up going mental, and want to throw out you computer about a week after you bought it, as opposed to the mandatory two weeks of bliss for the common man/woman/monkey.

One thing to really remember that the numbers they show you are not all equal. Fro example a 2.0GHz i7 will be faster than a 2.0Ghz i5 computer. The Ghz stands for GigaHertz, adn that means (billions of cycles per second), so 2.0Ghz is two billion computational cycles every second. So youd think they would be the same. Well that are the same amount of cycles, but it depends how quickly they can relay that information and get the tasks done you asked it to. thats where the microarchitecture comes into play.

This all sounds pretty annoying to think about you say?

Yes it is. Unfortunately ignorance is bliss in the computer world, but that won’t get you a better machine. You gotta make the right choice for yourself and then put on headphones, or stick you fingers in your ears and say “lalalalalalalala” or something like that for a while anytime someone is talking about it after you just bought a new computer.

And the next news…

As awesome as the new ivy bridge architectures processors (like the i7 macs) are, there is another on its way I’ve been waiting for. It’s called Haswell and will be released on June 4, 2013. Right after that apple is launching the next round of MacBook Pro computers with retina screens, and hopefully all the kinks have been ironed out of them by now, so I plan to wait for that one. The price in Japan for MacBook Pros are almost 1000 dollars cheaper than in the US, so I’ll probably get one from there. There is a shop called pc-bomber that I recommend. Here’s the current MacBooks as of Friday may 17 2013 – http://www.pc-bomber.co.jp/shop/contents/index.aspxyou have to pick it up usually, and so if you don’t live in Japan then you might have some difficulty.

What improvements will the Haswell chip bring?

Well basically its all down to speed, right? The only other thing is physical rendering limitations, but that wont affect most of us. the speed of your workflow is key. Haswell is down to 22nm, which is 22 nanometers (as the later generation Ivy Bridge processors were i believe) which basically means they can fit more on the same size chip. A major amazement factor is the amount of power it needs to run is as low as 20 times lower than chips sold in 2011 (see pic). Intel has promised up to 40% increase in graphics delivery, especially in 3d graphics. This all means you get your shit done much faster> i guess the dream is a machine that runs in “real time”. no progress bars, it just does what you tell it to instantaneously. Were not there yet but you can see by the graphs that the parabolic curve is moving more towards vertical.

Is it just for Mac?

No, not at all. it will be in all computers across the board. Its just there are so many variations in the PC market I have no idea where it will surface first. Macbook releases are much more easy to predict and come in only a few flavors, and as a mac user since 1988, Im pretty happy staying there. That being said. Dont just blindly buy the same thing you bought before. The key is research and armed with knowledge you can vote with your dollar for whoever you think has the best product, company morals or whatever kind of company you want to succeed into the future.

Further reading:

Wikipedia: Haswell architecture click here

PC World: Intel lifts the veil on Haswell graphics click here

ExtremeTech: Haswell leaks: Significant performance boost mixed with odd design decisions click here

The Inquirer: Intel announces GPUs for its Haswell chips click here

So why am I talking about this now?

Because I’m thinking of rethinking my current computer setup, and wonder what’s the best configuration for my needs.i want to get the most bang for my buck, and be as flexible as possible when the time comes, without wasting the current technology I have.

So basically for most of you you can stop reading here. It’s all about me from now on. I’m going to write down my decision making process, party to help me decide, and if it helps any of you, then that’s a good thing..

So now to find my perfect computer setup…

My needs:

At home:

  • Play HD movies (up to 1080p 3D) output hdmi for my tv (actually I generally prefer 720p as I feel it has a “warmer” feel with a few compression artifacts in it, but I’m a nerd that way.
  • Do high level graphics, for web and massive print resolution (I do many banner print projects up to 10 meters or more so need a good graphics card)
  • Make and edit music in Ableton live , with multiple input sources.
  • Make and edit video on occasion ( just simple things for VJ gigs and stuff like that I do now and then)
  • Use Firefox (this may seem simple but it’s by far the biggest memory hog on my computer(you may say switch to chrome but I just don’t really like it))

Away from home:

  • For all of these, I need a laptop of some kind, so I can carry it, and use it (revolutionary!)
  • Do live music and dj gigs (with ableton and multiple USB powered devices, plus enough HDD space for a massive sample library)
  • The occasional VJ gig (so I need composite, VGA and possibly hdmi video out)
  • Make some pretty design mock ups at meetings ( ok graphics card is nice)
  • Be able to do fairly high CPU and GPU intensive graphics work (Banners or high resolution imagery especially)

My current computers:

  • Late 2008 24″ iMac which I have upgraded to 6GB ram and a 2TB are drive.
  • Late 2010 13.5″ MacBook which I have upgraded to 8gb ram and removed the original hard drive and replaced with a 1.5TB hard drive. I also removed the DVD drive and replaced with a 1TB hard drive, giving the computer a 2.5TB capacity.

My current problems and contentednesses:

They are both way to slow for someone like my need graphically. Both play music and video fine up to 1080p, with some delay on IMAX (18GB+ files) but generally fine with anything in .mkv format which I mainly use (and i recommend everyone use if possible). Both are fine for making music with more than 20 channels.

For live gigs my old laptop is fine. As I’m mainly doing more live music and improvised dj hybrid sets these days, I require a tough machine with loads of disk space and enough ram to load the tracks and samples fast. It’s also convenient to work on the same computer I perform on as I don’t have to worry about missing the vital music files, or have duplicates saved into multiple projects. The screen size is way too small and I would rather use my 24″ iMac for making music due to the screen real estate. As it is an older model, it has the tv ratio 4:3 shape, which means i can see more audio channels simulataneously, where the newer 21 inch widescreens allow you to see more of the track length at one time.

(Pic of the current Ahimsa Creative Studios)

My perceived options:

I believe it’s better to split the load, and have computers designated to certain tasks, so I don’t lose focus when I am on one of them.firefox is a memory hog, so doesn’t go too well with graphic intensive apps, but conversely is very necessary for researching label designs and receiving files while for the labels. Alternatives to this are using another computer for Internet and saving the files across wireless or into a Dropbox folder.

So which computer should be for graphics and which for music. I’d like to say I have all the answers, but it’s kind of up to personal preference. One thing I must say that if you can, use the apple screen for graphics as their color match technology is pretty much the industry standard. For any external screens you buy, you would generally have to pay at least 7-800 dollars to get an apple,quality screen if its above 21 inches (these days 27 inches). That being said, most screens these days have pretty advanced controls, so you could put them side by side , open the same image on both, and color calibrate that way.

In my years of experience, actually I think the main problem is having your monitor at the wrong brightness, as you may accidentally make your designs too light or dark. Colors are perceived different by everyone anyway, so there is no real need to have perfect color unless you need to compare printed matter to images your screen, but that rarely works anyway. Room lighting is also an important factor here.

My Solution

Here is what decided to do. Buy a 27 inch Samsung tv monitor to use with my laptop for making music (cost 200 Canadian dollars from a warehouse about an hour from the city). As the music is just CPU and ram intensive, it leaves my graphics card fairly open, so I decided to run all my movies and tv (netflix) from my laptop. Also my main Internet functions, so I now have my iMac pretty free to just focus on the design work. Its also pretty hard to watch a movie while making music, so i cant see myself doing the two simultaneously anyway.

When the Haswell MacBook comes out, I’ll get one of them, and then use the Samsung screen with the new laptop (depending on its color performance), and most likely switch my iMac to being my main music making station. Then my old laptop will be used for live music gigs and VJ events. Then im still in action with no wastage of my current computers. of course these days if you need to get rid of something, craigs list is a great way to sell. If you are happy with a little oilder technology you can buy some great stuff there too

(Pic of close up of the music area in Ahimsa Creative Studios)

Why all this thinking?

Well there’s three main reasons. One is that I’m a bit neurotic when planning this kind of thing. Two is that computers are expensive, and in my opinion, their resale value is not worth the fun and exciting tasks I could put the old computer too.

Lastly I must say that there are scientists out there that really need some computing power. I wish computers were like water and infinitely scalable, so that you could just “add” more power and speed to your current computer and have it for life. That day will come but for now old computers are just minor burdens to us which we generally let sit on a shelf and get even older.

One reason to keep using an old computer is due to the environmental risk of throwing them out. Hey are so complex and made from so many things that they are ridiculously hard to recycle.

Anyway my point is that you can “donate” your computing power to the “world community grid”. You run the program and it goes into a bank of computers that run simulations and other data intensive calculations and they use it to cure cancer, calibrate space shuttle launches, all kind of good things. Of course power consumption is not just a financial but global environment issue, but it’s an easy way to donate to awesome causes like that, and not just directly financially,but you can really feel a part of the solution. Who knows, YOUR computer may have been the one that made the final calculation to solve the cancer problem, or safely land a mars rover on our closest neighbor planet.

If you want to find out to about how they are using it to cure cancer, see this page or watch the webinar on May 29th

[button link="http://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/about_us/viewNewsArticle.do?articleId=301" target="blank" size="small"]News on the cure cancer webinar/[/button]

or just browse their website, and see thier current “research solar power” campaign

[button link="http://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/" target="blank" size="small"]http://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/[/button]

to see how the whole idea works. I bet most of you never even knew that you could make a real difference so easily. Most of science is not glamorous, and just requires massive number crunching, especially calibrating space launches and decoding DNA. Goes to show the microverse is as complicated as the macroverse we observe.

Good luck with your future computer usage. Remember reinvent is better than re-use and reuse is better than recycle. And recycle is the least we can do.

Piratey software

Thought you were going to read a juicy story about how to get free software, well…. no, that’s not what this is about. What I am going to do is introduce two lovely pirate themed games, both of which I have enjoyed thoroughly

Tales of monkey island

The history

Well what can I say about monkey island… It was one of the first pc games I played, and I hope it will be the last. By that I mean that if I die in mid-game in one of its sequels then I’ll be a happy man. Monkey island is the game I compare all other role playing games to. It was my first realization, that games didn’t have to move fast, have a time limit, or require shooting to be fun. The main goal of this game s for the designers and artists to make you giggle about the wacky scenes and hilarious dialog.

The original was much simpler, with text dialogue and blocky characters, but they were so well styled that in your brain was created a lush atmosphere of hilarious piratey proportions.

I’d certainly still recommend the originals, playable on the SCUMM VM virtual platform. They actually re-released the original for play station 3 a few years back with added voices and updated graphics.

The intro

Tales of monkey island is the 5th in the monkey island series, and noticeably their first 3d adventure. While many games have failed to please in a 3d environment, this game loses none of its original style and is enhanced by the freedom to explore your environment. To make life easier, if you touch the screen with 2 fingers, all interactable items get a small circle to show you where to touch to interact with it, which is extremely handy, as it’s hard to tell what is available, especially when your iPad screens brightness is turned down.

This game is split into 5 parts, each playable separately but designed to play in sequence. It’s a great idea, as you can buy each part as you need it,band gives TellTale a constant source of funds to make the next part while gamers were playing the start of the game.

Gameplay

As Guybrush Threepwood, the unusually named pirate wanna-be (well I believe well established but unorthodox pirate by this far in the game), you basically collect inventory items that you need to progress onto further parts of the game. A key, some money, and more often than not some substitution of an item you know you need, where you combine your items to make wacky interpretations of items you need. This keeps your brain busy with trying to unlock the secrets to this puzzle. You will certainly get stuck along the way, and will most likely peek through a gap in your fingers at a “walk through” of the game on the Internet to solve some puzzles. That being said the puzzles are not that hard and with persistence you can work out almost all if them.

The gameplay is non-linear, so you can travel around your environment fairly freely, but the story unfolds in a specifi order, and often as you pass a significant challenge a part of the world which is completed will be removed from the game, by sailing to another island or another easy to understand transition (like being a spirit in the netherword after being murdered for example)

The environment

It’s the little things in this game that make it so great. Even irrelevant items will make you chuckle for their absurdity. Long time gamers are rewarded with bits of memorabilia from previous monkey island references, and new comers will be delighted by experiencing that kind of fun for the first time .

If you are looking for an authentic pirate adventure, then this is not the game for you. It’s more like a “pirate themed” kids birthday party, with a small dog wearing an eye patch, in a family restaurant called “Pirate Pete’s family grog shack”

One of the best parts ofthe game is that the 3D is still fairly flat and most of the effects are painted into the background. This actually makes the graphics more beautiful, in an artistic sense rather than a photorealistic sense, and money island graphics are instantly recogniseable with a style they have used through the whole series, which is impressive seeing that I played it for the first time over 20 years ago.

The roundup

If you are a seasoned game player, or want to have a “dabble” look no further than this game series. Good for home computer or iPad, which works fantastically in touch screen format (point and click games often do). It’s a no stress way to have a lot of fun, and suitable for all ages (except too complex for under 8s I’d say). You could even play it with a loved one watching the story unfold together like an interactive movie. Just play it.

Sunken treasure HD

The intro

This piratey game is very much different from monkey island in many ways. My first impression was uh-oh, I think I’ve been tricked and it’s not a serious pirate game but a pirate themed “find and click” (or touch on the iPad) game. I like these too but that’s not what this game seemed like in the beginning.

I often don’t over-research games I buy as I still like the idea of exploration and the unknown. I remember when I was a kid and going to the video store and choosing a VHS video by the cover and a brief description on the back. I think the feeling of getting a winner when you didn’t expect it is better than when your expectations are so high the game has too much to live up to.

Anyway this game turned out to be not only that but a whole lot more. More enough to the point I wanted to write about it. The first thing that will grab you about this game is the beautiful graphics. Obviously designed in 3D then painted over it has a magic feeling of well sculpted scenes. You navigate by clicking into the distance and move the next camera angle, so no 3D camera moves, which allows them more freedom with the graphics.

gameplay

There are many “mini games” that follow the same story line, but are played out differently. There are also many “find and click” but are cleverly done and take a bit of thinking. There are no penalties, so you might even go on a click/touch rampage to get lucky. A delightful feature is that if you get stuck, you can play a quick game of mahjong to get a clue. Interesting use of a sub game.

Another thing that drew me into this game is the similarity of the exploration techniques that i found when i recent played “the room” which was an exquisite game). i same some similarities wiht the two games and decided to try this game. I cant say the level of detail in this game is like the room but it has so much variety that i understand the reason for this. They actually do very well weh it comes to intereacting with objects and it has a nice feeling when you do. For example, turning a lever is not as realistic but still intuative in its movement.

The environment

One thing i must say is that the characters are pretty weak and the storyline equally thin and unrealistic, but it doesnt really detract fromthe game. Most people want to get into the game, and this game doesnt waste too much time explaining how and why things happen. They just do. The voicees of the characters are mixed too loud and your daughter is so whiney i had to take my earphones out. Once again these are mild annoyances in a fun and exploratory game.

Unlike Monkey Island, this game is supposed to be quite serious, so they aim for the horror/fear end of the spectrum. The music is amazing and gives the game much more depth and so good i just sat back and listend for a while. The serious tone of the game is often failed by the weird interactions you have that remove the fear, like chit chatting with a drunk zombie pirate who doesnt seems to mind your presence on their ship at all, and actually kind of serves as a guide at some point.

The roundup

This game is another good “on the go” game which doesnt require your full attention all the time. that being said, It is much more enjoyable to play in the dark with headphones, so you get a more eerie experience.

its a good game for all ages, and is a nice combination of many other style games, which will keep you interested for quite a while. theres no laughs here, except by the randomness of some events, but a solid adventure that will keep you coming back.

(more…)

Best way to sync and backup your photos

Hi i’m going to show you the ways i backup my photos and tell you why I chose that way and the advantages and disadvantages of that and other systems. I think about this kind of thing often and design systems within my company for how we store data, how we share data and how we back it up to keep it secure.

FLOW CHARTING – UNDERSTANDING DATA FLOW

First of all i create a flow chart of the data. As with all information flow, you can map it out to give yourself a more real understanding of what is happening and where it is going. Humans have superior spacial memory as we live in a 3-dimensional environment (well its actually 11-dimentional but that s a topic for a different blog post). Of course your map will be 2-D but can be expressed in 3-d just as easily. I use this technique for planning out websites in and customer/viewer flow on interactive technologies.

See my diagram below. I made a 2 second simple one and a few minute sketch. Once each is done you can improve them each time and make it easier to understand, for yourself and others.

So as you can see, have 3 main computers I use (Laptop,Home and Work) . I take photos with 3 devices (my iPad and iPhone) and a camera, but I only sync my camera at home. I want them to synchronize so i have all photos available and I want one backup of my own choosing (with my photos and other important data) in this situation.

So i have 3 places to import 3 data sources, making 9 variations of data input, of which ill use 7 as i wont sync my camera using my laptop or at work. To get those seven options aligned, I need them to access a central online location, or “cloud” area to store them, so i don’t get duplicates.

—At this point i must say that i devices can auto backup through the “Photo Stream” which automatically syncs them. this is fine for apple users, but not so handy for others, as i don’t want to be locked into that as i may use various other devices, like a regular camera for example.

SYNC EXAMPLE

So in this example i added the sync component. The most important feature for me about how i store and share these photographs (and videos if you like) is that they are in a regular folder on each computers desktop, so if they internet goes down i can still access them up until the most recent sync. i showed them as folders with a smiley face to show they are identical.

What I wanted to illustrate was the fact that’s its all in an actual folder on the desktop of each 3 computers, so is available even if you are offline if necessary.

Here is the same map sketched in 3d, sometimes this techniques works better for some people.

THE SYNCING SYSTEM

well syncing the images means i now have 3 locations plus one cloud location with these pics. So now if i delete from one place it will delete from all locations. This is so every folder is still the same. PERFECT!

SO MY IMAGE SYNC RECOMMENDATIONS

[button link="http://db.tt/08gSIJTJ" target="blank" size="small"]Get Dropbox[/button]

At the moment Dropbox is by far the easiest in my opinion. It will automatically sync the photos of any device you attach to your computer, no popup screens , just a little notification in the corner about how many pics it is going to sync, or tells you if its all in sync already. It only syncs to the computer, so your device is left untouched. If you allow your camera,iphone or ipad to sync, they automatically give you an extra 3GB of storage. That is pretty handy.

So here’s the fancy bit. You don’t need all your photos all the time, in fact you mainly just need the current ones, so every now and then on one computer move the old ones from your sync folder to another folder. (that’s the unhappy one, or the “long term storage” shed I drew) – and then you cloud backup both of them( see below). lets not get confused. The sync is not your backup system. Although it hassimilar function theoretically its not a dedicated backup. You can consider it a “short term backup” if you like. If you accidentally deleted a picture from your computer, you would have to disconnect the other computer from the internet and then retrieve the lost image before it sync-deleted that same photo.

NEED MORE SPACE?

Also when you invite people to Dropbox you can expand your disk size. This only works if they sign up and also install the software. Don’t try sending it to yourself. It doesn’t work ( i tried a couple of times, but only works on a different computer, with a different I.P. and a different account)

Anyway if you plan to use it, please join through this link and i can get a little extra on my account. woot!
That being said I recommend Dropbox for all online cloud activities not because of this but because its the easiest and most compatible I have used.

SO NOW FOR THE BACKUP

[button link="http://crashplan.com" target="blank" size="small"]Get Crashplan[/button]

From one computer and only one, you need to make a backup. You can do this on the computer, and eternal hard drive or another cloud backup system. I use CRASH PLAN (http://www.crashplan.com) as its unlimited for one computer for $50 a year. I don’t believe in local backup as much (although I do i for very important items) as if there was a fire or other disaster you would lose the backup just as easily as the original. Crashplan can simultaneously backup locally and online if you like. Local backups are free, even if you don’t pay for the online service. This allows you a “try before you buy” to see if you like the software style and they even offer one free month online storage to test that too.

For most effective use of your photo sync folder, you should move older pictures out of the Sync folder. Any time you want to add them back to the sync folder you can. That way you can have access to all your latest photos without going over your storage limits in Dropbox. Every year this improves space wise, so you can keep more and more images there. You can of course always pay for more space too, but you needn’t have to.

In Crashplan you choose those two folders (your sync folder and your long term backup folder) to be synced to the cloud and then you have all of your well loved photos saved into one place, no matter which computer you downloaded them onto.

You don’t have to use Crashplan of course, please choose the backup systems tat works for you. I use Crashplan and recommend it to people I work with as its reliable and affordable.

CONCLUSION

You now have all computers synced and a way to backup all of your photos.