Friday, September 30, 2005

OpenOffice 2.0 ... Microsoft Office Replacement

I'm a big fan of open source. I use a lot of open source products in my work (Inkscape, Blender, Perl, JGraphPad, etc.). Yesterday, I needed to do some SQL queries on some customer data (to email the problematic message I blogged about yesterday). I needed to create a distinct set of customer email addresses for this mailing. I could have worked up a Perl script to read in this file, parse it, and then use a hash (associative array) to find the distinct items. That being said, I had heard that OpenOffice 2.0 had a database included with it called Base. I decided to try it. If I liked the experience I thought I might take Microsoft Office off my system and stop paying them the lucre.

OpenOffice 2.0 is currently a release cantidate (not complete ready for its first point release). I must tell you not to hold that against it though. I was up and running in a few minutes and had my distinct list in Base before I knew it. For most operations (word processing, spreadsheeting, etc.) there is no appreciable difference in features. Things are however in different places than Microsoft Office and it takes some getting used to. I think the learning curve is reasonable however and I suggest this product whole heartedly. After all, why pay for something when you can have it for free.

I let you know about my "switch" experience in later entries ...

Thursday, September 29, 2005

A New And Sicker Day

Not feeling well today. Got my wife's ickyness (whatever that means). Well, I sent a missive to Guinterface customers about the new strategy. There was only one problem, instead of BCing the people I put them in the To line. Yep, that's right ... I'm an idiot. Now everyone has our customer list. I hope they enjoy it ;-). I'm going to bed. Good Night.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Guinterface Software Issues Settled

Well, as my readers know, Guinterface was trying to figure out what to do when we wind down operations here. The answer is simple. We will be giving Guinterface away for free. We will not be giving out source code. I will make a promise that if I ever truly stop supporting Guinterface I will make my source code open source at that time.

The question of how to make money has been answered. I will be selling support contracts for $250 for 10 resolutions or 1 year. I think this is a very competitive price.

My business partner and friend will be staying on with Guinterface on a consultancy basis for the rest of the year, after which he will be totally transitioned (sounds like management speak doesn't it?). I will miss working with him but look forward to just hanging out with him and being "just friends" haha.

I really struggled on this one and am so happy that it is finally over. I hope I never have to make this kind of decision again but I suppose that is too much to ask ...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tearful Prayers Answered

Anyone who knows me for more than 5 seconds (maybe 10) knows that I love a good first person shooter. I have met my new "dark master" as of last night. About 9 months ago I bought a little game known as Half-Life 2. I bought the "Gold Version" of the game because it came with a game called Day of Defeat Source. When I ran Steam (Valve's online delivery system) for the first time I discovered that Day of Defeat was not out yet. I wept (just a little though).

I thought "That's OK. I'll pick myself up, take myself out of my straight jacket and move on with life." Finally, after 9 months of waiting my tearful prayers have been answered. Day of Defeat Source has finally come out. You can see what I'm talking about at

I knew I was in heaven when I played my first game last night. I snuck underneath a guy who was sniping and tossed a grenade up into the window he was using. A few seconds later, WHOOSH out he came flying through the air like a ragdoll. I was in love.

Seriously though, I think this game was worth the wait. The system demands are a little high but if you have the UMPH you definitely want to check out this little gem.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Guinterface Software And The GPL

Guinterface Software recently decided that we were going to publish 2 of our commercial product under some kind of "Free" license. The reasons for this decision are numerous but boil down to the fact that we simply don't have time to support products that have generated 2 invoices in the last 6 months. That being said we don't want to screw customers and we also do not want to "waste" 3+ years of development by throwing the products out.

This led to a decision to shop for a Free license to publish these products under. We still wanted the option to sell the products at some future date or license their technology. This meant a dual license was in order. What to make the "open source" license though. The first license to come to mind was the venerable GPL.

I love using GPL and other "free" programs. I use several of them to generate my daily output of work. That being said, I'll tell you a horrible little secret, I don't pay for any of them as a rule. Nope, no clicking on the ubiquitous PayPal button for me. Why is this you might ask. Well, the answer like so many things in my life is complicated. In the main however it boils down to the fact that I got my start in the IT world in a small business.

The small IT shop is definitely its own animal. Often they run without a budget (in other words, stealing liberally from other departmental budgets). In the company I worked for the IT budget was basically our salaries plus whatever we could beg, borrow or steal. Now, I think a large portion of businesses are not to dissimiliar to this model.

This begs the question, if we release these 2 products as a "free" program how do we make money. Richard Stallman's answer seems to be what I call SSS, "Sell Support Stupid". I personally think this a crock (no offense to Richard who I think is a beautiful person with everyone's best interests in mind). The problem is, Richard does not live in the real world. He grew up in and is immersed in a world that begins and ends in academia. Richard, while espousing that we give our software away for free and coming down on commercial software, has no problems taking money from corporations to maintain his lifestyle.

The fact is, most GPL products make their owners next to no money. There are always exceptions. I am not talking about these however. I am discussing the rule. The other fact is "People Need Money To Eat."

I know this will come as a shock to people ... I need to eat. That and the fact that I know myself (the fact that I never pay even indirectly for GPLd products) lead me to one conclusion. The GPL is not for me. I think it has its place, but in the main I don't believe its place belongs with a small group (or one) coder who wants to make a living. Once again, there are copious exceptions but I'm a realist. I need food and shelter for me and my wife to live.

We still have not come up with a solution to the dillemna of releasing the software and still making a living. Perhaps a dual license is in order, perhaps not. It all depends on what the end goal will eventually be. Stay tuned, I'm sure I'll let you know ;-).

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Sometimes the prison we are in is one of our own making and the key to getting out of jail is right in front of us. In this picture I wanted to evoke this message.

As usual I used Blender, Gimp and Poser. The concrete floor texture was generated in the Gimp with the Allegorithmic Map Zone PhotoShop plug-in which can be gotten for free. Then I posed the Poser default Don figure in a thinking pose in which he is sitting. Next, I boxed him in a room in blender using the stucci texture plugins for the walls. I then created the floor and mapped a Map Zone concrete texture onto it. Then I created the bed from a set of extruded mesh circles. I displaced the bed using a Perlin texture and using the nor texture displacement operator. I stole a key off of the Turbosquid web site and positioned it in front of the man. Then I colored it gold and took the color of the key and created a light with that color behind the key to illuminate the man. The bars were created with extruded cubes (horizontal bars) and extruded circle meshes (vertical bars). I finally used a shadow lamp to cast the bar shadows onto the man and jail cell. The scene was too dark so I added another white lamp to the rooms upper right area.

Then a render and voila, the project entitled "Freedom".

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Rock And Sasha's Wedding

Well my two friends in SecondLife tied the knot. Congrats Rock and Sasha. Have a good life together. As an aside the ceremony was online and I forgot it. Yeah, that's right, forgot it. Never have me as your best man is what that tells me.


Just a little something I was working on today. I was thinking about the difference between what we feel is important and what truly is important. Then, being a complete and utter geek, I decided to create a 3D drawing to match my mood. A little while later and voila. Don't you feel sorry for the poor silly hobbit about to stick his finger in the ring?

This was a simple one actually. I took a mesh circle in blender. Cut off half of it and then scaled the circle down until I had a basic "U" shape (more spread out of course). Then I connected the mesh so that it was closed and rotate/copied it 120 times around a point (thus creating a ring). Then I set the material properties for the ring to a goldish color and increased specularity a lot ;-). Here are the material settings in Blender:

Then I made the ring a ray trace object and boosted it's reflectivity. Voila, the one ring. Then I took a map I found of Middle earth and mapped it to a plane to make well ... the map. Finally, I imported a hand trying to grasp something from Poser. After positioning it all in Blender I rendered with a light positioned to make a cool shadow. That is it. Hope your having as much fun this weekend as I am!

Friday, September 23, 2005

This Goes Out To My Buddy Claudia In SL

Here is Claudia Sondergaard's new place. She is planning on selling homes and other building in Second Life. I predict good things for her future as she is a talented individual.

My "Work Product" Revelation

Let me just say up front that I believe in hard work. I think that America would not be the place it is today without the blood, sweat and tears of a bunch of hard workers. That being said I have recently come to a shocking conclusion. You can put in all the hours you want, stay up until 3 every night, bury your personal life in a pit and still you may NOT be successfull.

I have spent the last 3 years trying to build a business called Guinterface Software with my business partners. We have grown the business 400% every year ... until this year. The bottom just dropped out of the business due to various twists and turns in the Novell world and out of a lack of advertising (to be honest).

Say what you will, I just could never bring myself to spam people with my product information. I guess that puts me in the minority these days.

Well, to make a short story long the days of Guinterface software are probably coming to a close. My partner is moving on to do other things and I have finally realized that my parents lied to me (I'm not as special as they would have me believe) ;-).

Seriously though, I am strangely not bitter about all of this. Guinterface Software has been a great ride. I've learned management, business, programming, payroll and all kinds of other issues I never had a clue about. The weird thing is that just about the time we decided to call it quits we negotiated a new support contract for a SpamAssassin plugin that we developed. It now looks like we will do no worse than last year in the current fiscal period. If only it had come sooner ... sigh.

Customers of our products need not worry. We are going to do some kind of open source for our Guinterface and Guinevere products. Tasktastic is going to be folded into my own private software company called Lambert Software (how original!). I just worked up the logo for Lambert Software the other day. Not as nice as the Guinterface Shield but it will do for now. We will probably be selling Guinterface Support packs under the guise of Lambert Software as well. We might make more money doing that than we ever did selling our product ;-).

I've learned a lot about running my own business. The most important lesson by far is about positioning your products and organization for success in the marketplace. We probably ran Guinterface Software too long like a family company and did not make some important moves we should have to spare our business partner's feelings. Inevitably, this led to us not being positioned to place our (then very innovative) product into other markets and become a de facto standard (at least in the GroupWise space). Lesson learned. Personal feelings are best left out of business. We can all be each other's friends outside of business ;-).

The short and long of this story is that I will be taking up the reins of Guinterface Software's products for the time being and try to push our flagship product TaskTastic out into the water. I think I know enough about business now that it will not "sink". I will also be looking for full time employment. If you are interested in a skilled knowledge worker let me know.

The Evolution Of The Limitless

Well, when it rains it pours. I just wanted to show you guys something I have been working on in the 3D arena. I have been doing basic 3D work/logo design kinds of things for 5-6 years now. I'm not great at it but my stuff will pass as advanced amateur fare possibly. Here is a piece I have been working on called "Limitless Possibilities". It has a long way to go but the basics are all there. Here is a 320 x 240 version of it, the detail cannot really be seen here (and that may be a blessing):

I used a combination of free and commercial tools on this project. The tools used are:
Blender -
Gimp -
Glitterato -
Inkscape -
Particle Illusion -
Poser -

How Did I Do This:
Basically, I created the star background in Glitterato. This is a GREAT Photoshop plug-in that also works in Gimp with a little work. I exported this as a 1600x1200 png file. Then I mapped this to a large sphere in Blender (a free 3D program). I expanded the size of the sphere to be a reasonably large size.

Next, I exported a human head from Poser (a great figure designer) as a Wavefront obj file. This I imported into blender. I mapped a decent skin texture to this in Blender lit it with one light above the skull and to the right of it. These items I placed in the sphere that I mapped with the stars texture in the first step.

Next, I rendered this in Blender (with a little material tweaking of course). I saved this as a large png and added a sun, planet and a comet to it.

Then I found a free 3D model of a brain on the Internet and got back into Blender. I placed the brain into the head and then mapped the texture from the last step onto the brain and made the material for the brain transparentish. Then I turned on ray traced transparency on the brains material. I then cut a hole in the head.

Next, I place a mesh square in the brain parallel to the camera. I mapped the texture used on the brain to this sphere. This will show through the transparent brain material kind of like a painting inside a glass brain. The ray tracing will do interesting distortions, etc. to the texture on the mesh. I rendered and exported this picture as a 1600x1200 png file.

I then used Particle Illusion to create a texture of glowing "particles". Then, I imported the 1600x1200 texture into Inkscape. I created the text "Limitless Possiblities" at the botton of this picture and left the inside of this text empty. Then I imported the glowing particles picture into Inkscape and turned it into a pattern. This pattern was used to fill the inside of "Limitless Possibilities" with ... well, glowing particles ;-)

There you have it. A quick save later and we're done.


I Got Myself A SecondLife

Well it's been a while since my last post. Since March I've been busy playing a multi-player online game called SecondLife (SL). For you coders out there (the good ones anyway) this is a great way to make a little extra spending change. I'm currently making anywhere between $3 - $9 a day selling my inventions in this game to other players.

Why is this great you might ask? It pays for my awful online gaming habits I answer. Typically, I was spending $15 dollars a month on City Of Heroes (CoH). After dropping CoH and switching to SL I am spending the same amount of money but I make that money in game in 2-5 days. The rest of the days in the month are pure profit which pays for lunches ;-).

SL is well worth your time checking out. There are definitely blights on the rose that is SL but all in all a good, social multi-player online game.