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Sunday, July 07, 2002

Geek Log

(choose your favorite caption)

"Yeah, what do you do in your spare time?"

"Though still tethered, a major milestone is reached when the Cyber-Simon successfully executes the look."

"Hi, my name is Simon, and I have a class-7 rig. For the best cyber-sex you've ever had, enter your cyberware IP, port number, and a rendezvous time, and press SUBMIT."

"Light the fuse already."

"For people who won't exercise of their own volition..."

Actually, I was helping Doug test his motion capture setup...

Which sort of worked and sort of didn't. We eventually figured out that the rotations were coming in backwards. Doug has since recalibrated and is getting much better results than this.

(Click or Save for the mpg)

Meanwhile, I've been resurrecting all the old computers in my garage...

(Sadly after all that it turned out the problem was in the cable)

Isn't this clean? It's got built in ethernet (10T and coax), scsi, laser-printer port, serial, video, audio in/out, and a floppy, all on this clean, simple motherboard -- over ten years ago. Progress is a funny thing:

Yeah, it's a NeXT.

I've since hooked up the laser printer, and written a script that hangs on a unix pipe waiting for input from the Linux CUPS printing system which thinks it's talking to a serial port hooked to a postscript printer when in fact my script performs some translations (taking the postscript back in time!) and passes the file to the NeXT via rsh and lpr... with the net result that I can now print from any application in Linux and it pops out on my NeXT laser printer. :)

Next I'm going to resurrect the franken-modem so the NeXT can also double as a programmable, net-accessible telephone interface (and hence answering machine among other things...).

On other fronts I had my mp3s playing through my main stereo via a wireless link earlier today. It sounded great except when I walked through the path of the transmitters -- microwaves don't like big bags of water in the way! Back to the drawing board. (Hmm... perhaps if I dehydrate myself and any house guests...)

Also just wrote a translator from my old image format to png. Before jpeg and png existed, I wrote my own image format not too different from png (though both simpler and more general--did I mention progress is a funny thing?). But since png's lossless and now nearly ubiquitous it seemed finally time to convert my old images. Here's a sampling (note I started with a C compiler and not much else to make these -- no off-the-shelf 3d software available to me at the time...):

I hacked a little code to translate an altitude map of earth into colors and transparency and wrapped it on a sphere. A friend of mine hand-entered the coordinates of the polygons that make up a keyboard, and we fed it to my ray-tracer with a fractal-generated background.
DNA made a nice test of the raytracer... But I like this protein molecule better.
The data for this nerve cell was created by freezing the cell, slicing it, and hand-tracing the magnified images. I got the slice data and had to put it together into a picture. This was just a test of various renderer features I was working on. Most notably refraction (the glass) which was really really slow. Today this image would probably render in a few seconds. This is actually one of a stereo pair. It looks really cool in stereo!
This was a test of my hierarchical bounding algorithm. The tree is made entirely of spheres -- including the trunks and branches! Something like 3000 spheres total. Not normally something you want to subject a ray-tracer to, but it did just fine. Other people published papers on similar techniques in the years to come -- who'd have thought it wasn't obvious? Same tree, now testing normal-permutations on reflective textures. I had an animated version of this where the spheres fly around and the waves propagate... But I can't find it. :(
I'm actually not sure what this was rendered with -- might have been Dore' instead of my renderer. Another friend of mine wrote code to generate the pedals of the rose, parametrically. I wrote the cloth simulator which was originally for a flag but he turned it sideways and made it into a tablecloth. This is one frame of an animation he made with the tablecloth blowing in the wind and the rose animating a bloom.

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com