Saturday, December 16, 2006

Contest Entry For Crestock Photshop Contest


I just entered my entry for the Crestock Photoshop contest. I heard about it on Digg and thought it would be a blast. The idea is that every week 5 images are picked for the contestants to work with. You must work one or all of them into an entry for the contest. It is judged on technical, creative as well as visual merits.

Even though it is a Photoshop contest, I don't have the money for that application. I use it at work VERY occasionally. Instead of using Photoshop I used GIMP to composite material from ParticleIllusion, Blender and Poser. I also used the Gimp to take a provided stock photo of a daylight desert scene and turn it into a night desert scene. I hope you enjoy. I only wish I had a chance in to win the contest. The Mac looks mighty tasty.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Treating Your Customers Like Criminals Is The American Way?

Imagine the following scenario with me:

You walk into your local Best Buy store and every time your hand strays near a product a man pops out from behind the end of the aisle and shouts "Please don't steal that sir!". Fighting your embarrassment you decide you need some blank CDs and DVDs. You pick them up and begin making your way to the front of the store.
Walking up to the register you put products down in front of the cashier. She rings up your goods and the blank media costs $5 more than the sticker price. You inquire from the her, "Why is this $5 more than sticker?"
"Sir, it's the new media tax." She looks at you like you're an ignorant savage. Where have you been? Under a rock perhaps.
You decide to push your luck. Ignoring her look of superiority you say, "What is the media tax?"
"Sir, the record and movie industry lobbied and got congress to pass a tax on all blank media. It's to offset the fact that everyone is using the CDs and DVDs to store pirated media." She looks smugly at you and waits for you to pay.
"But I don't pirate music or movies." You protest but it does you no good. After all, it's the law.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should. Everywhere we go these days we are being treated as if we are criminals. Our media is locked behind restrictive DRM (Digital Rights Management), broadcast flags are telling our DVRs (Digital Video Recorders) what we can and cannot record and depending on where you live you have to pay "taxes" to the entertainment industry on blank media.
On top of this, new legislation is being introduced on a seemingly monthly basis that will restrict our fair use rights. The same companies that used a rich cultural heritage (Snow White, Cinderella, etc.) to create new works of art are now giving absolutely nothing back to the public. It is one of the largest money grabs of the century and sheep that we are, we do nothing to stop them.
In a private "for instance" I submit a story of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon album. I bought it on tape. I bought it on CD. I bought a gold master CD. Then I purchased it on Itunes. How many times do I have to buy the same thing? To the entertainment industry the answer is simple. You have to buy it every time you want to play it on a new device.
In a recent public "for instance", Universal Music's Doug Morris stated (about IPods), "These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it. So it's time to get paid for it." Is this guy kidding me? Does he really believe that all the digital media players are being used to pirate his product? I'll tell you what I think. I think this is another money grab from a greedy industry.
Not that I have strong opinion on the subject or anything.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Early Month Missive

What the heck have I been doing for the last few weeks? Good question. I wish I knew ;-). Seriously though, I have been working on a new product for Second Life.
I was watching a Google Video of the founder of Second Life. One of the things he demonstrated was a product call Starax's Wand. This thing was incredible and sold for around 30000 L$ (around $100 real dollars). Everyone I knew was complaining about how they could not afford one of these wonderful wands for themselves.
I made the mistake of telling one of my in-game friends that I was thinking about writing something similiar. They immediately gave me 10000 L$ (Around $33 real dollars) and said that they would take two of them. This started me on a quest to come up with a list of features and then start creating them. That was 17 days and 34 effects ago. I hope to come up with 6 - 16 more of these and release my "Power Staff" for around 2000 L$ (around $6.50). It won't be Starax but it will be good and cheap (by comparison).
Other than that, I found a way to play Ultima Online for free. Go to http://http://www.runuo.com/ for details. That has been fun and FREE!!! Here's hoping you have a/several good week/weeks until I write again.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Last Day Of Torture

My partner in slime (Phil Henderson) is FINALLY ;-) getting back from England on Monday. He has been out all week and it has been terrifying. My boss is also out which makes things interesting to say the least. I can't wait to have the foxes back in the hen house. Things are so much smoother when our workmates our there.

On another topic, I've been thinking pretty seriously about open-sourcing Guinterface (sans GWAVA (Non-Disclosure stuff)). I'm trying to work up some gumption and get everything cleaned up so the humans can maintain it. I'm not sure if it is worth the effort as Mike Bell (Guinevere, GWAVA fame) is integrating a web based engine for the new version of Guinevere. Still, it may be nice for people to have and the last support contract runs out in January of next year I believe.

I'm still working on my book (barely) and hope to get it out soon. I'm doing more 3D work (for fun and non-profit) and scripting more in Second Life. Having one job is nice but I'm still finding ways to kill my relaxation. I guess I just can't stop being productive. I'm just not used to having free time. Oh well, ciao for now.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Eternal Supplicants And Sentinels


Just a little image I've been working on. The new Blender is definitely the bomb! The 2.42 release adds so much that I would not even know where to begin. Needless to say this jewel of a program is the best thing since sliced bread for those without a $2000 budget. Well anyway, enjoy! ;-)
-Mike

Friday, July 14, 2006

Talking Bout Our Education

Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It's like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won't fatten the dog.
Samuel Clemens, 1900

There is a lot of talk and lip service these days about education. These avenues of discourse range from "No Child Left Behind" to the debate over whether we should be teaching Spanish in our schools. My thought is that it's is all a load of bull. Most of these debates are about politicians using our children's futures for a brief influx of political currency. In my humble opinion there are a few pressing problems with education today (take these with a grain of salt):
  • Parents checked out of their children's day to day lives a long time ago.
  • The system is based on a 100+ year old system designed to create clones suited to factory work.
  • Rich neighborhoods beget rich property taxes beget rich school systems
  • Poor neighborhoods beget no property taxes beget bad school systems
Some of you are gasping in indignation at the first point. "We have not abandoned our children!" is your refrain. I hope those gasping are the ones that this point does not apply to.
When I was a child I truly won the family lottery. My parents were (and still are) married and in a stable relationship, my mother was able to stay at home and they took the time to sit with me every night and help me with my homework. As I said, I was extremely lucky because at the time many of my friends had single parents or were children of divorce. These children's mothers had to work and by the time they got home they were too exhausted to be truly interested.
I'm actually not blaming their parents, it's just a reality of working overtime or two jobs in some cases. When life is a matter of day to day survival, your children's education will suffer. Our children are becoming an unfortunate side effect of the break up of the nuclear family. Some of you are probably scoffing at me. You're saying to yourself, "I don't need no man/woman to help me raise my children." I only have one thing to say to you, unless you're that special .0001% of people with unlimited energy, you're wrong.
There is a reason why the nuclear family worked for so long, it is necessary. It takes two people, to raise children with the attention that they deserve (especially if you are both working). One person simply does not have the energy.
My second point was that the current system was instituted to give people the skills they needed to work in a factory. Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with working in a factory. I come from a blue collar background and I'm proud of it. Increasingly factory jobs are become non-existent in America and Europe. We simply can't afford to pay the salaries and benefits for something we can get cheaper overseas. This leaves us stuck with an education system that was designed to make us capable of excelling in an environment that no longer exists.
Our education today should be tooled to making us knowledge workers, engineers and scientists. Instead it is tooled to stamp out cookie cutter people who cannot see the point of original thinking. If you doubt my point just look at "No Child Left Behind". What is its main premise? I'll whisper it in your ear "standardized testing". Now their is some original thinking for you.
The other two main problems are the ones we have had since the beginning of time, the disparity between the haves and have nots. Rich people's property taxes afford their children a quality (by the standards of our educational system) education. Poor people don't pay any or very little property taxes. This means their children have fewer opportunities.
Well, there is my opinion (whether you like it, want it or care). No amount of standardized testing will fix what ails us. In order to reverse this trend we will have to renew our commitment to each other (husbands, wives, etc.), retooling a broken system and spreading the money around. Unfortunately, that will not happen because we are all to human.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

End Of June Check In

Howdy one and all. Things are going OK (if slowly). I'm just relaxing and saving up some energy to (maybe) finish my book. I think I am going to have to write at least another 40 - 50 pages (I got some new ideas during my hiatus). More details to follow.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Political Hucksterism


This little piece reflects a rather cynical view of Washington politics as they seem to exist today. It seems like everywhere you turn politicians are increasingly turning away from their responsibility to the public and selling out to lobbyists and special interests.
The symptoms of this malaise vary. Repressive copyright measures like the DMCA are being used increasingly to criminalize millions of American citizens. The Patriot Act is being used to (unconstitutionally) to imprison and spy on American citizens without warning or legal recourse. The NSA is spying on the American public (not for the first time). Congress fails to vote for Net Neutrality. Congress tries to close the analog loophole for copying (for personal use) copyrighted material. Millions of tax dollars are given to the phone companies as incentives to run fiber optic networks to American homes and no protest is made when they fail to live up to their responsibilities. Mickey Mouse is about to fall out of copyright and become public domain only to have copyright law extended so the Walt Disney company can continue to rake in millions of dollars a year at the expense of the American public (this is the same company that used public domain to make billions with Snow White, Cinderella, etc.). I could fill 50 blog entries with examples.
The fact is, politicians think they can get away with these abuses of their positions and power. I love America. I think we have one of the best countries in the world. It is a land of opportunity that people still flock to in droves. I love my country and that is exactly why I want it to continue being great. I want our leaders to be accountable. I want to wake up and find an America where more than 50% of the population votes for a president. I want us, as a people, to make this happen. The question is, will we?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Should Have Taken The Blue Pill



Sometimes in life we find that we should have taken the path more travelled. The lady in my latest composition has just discovered this deadly fact at her own expense (or perhaps she escapes to learn from her mistake, I'll let you decide).

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

New Issue Of Punk IT: Account Misrepresentative



It has been a while since the last Punk IT was put out. My wife has had a quiet day today (she just had extensive ankle surgery). She feels better and that freed me to come out with a new issue. Hopefully, tomorrow I'll get to edit my book again.
You can never tell how it's going to be from one day to the next. Saturday, upbeat. Sunday throw up all day. Monday, blah. Tuesday, woopee. I hope she feels well. I hate to see her feel like this. Anyway. Enjoy the comic.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Evil Genius Logo


I recently needed a logo for a "mad scientist" in Second Life to kick off a new line of products. This is what I came up with on short notice. Wow, I wish I had that kind of hair ;-). Posted by Picasa

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Friday, May 12, 2006

May Mid Month Fill In

Well, it has been a weird month. My wife is going in for surgery in the early June and it is going to be quite a strain on our finances (I'll probably have to come up with up to a month's worth of her salary). Needless to say, I have not finished writing the book. In fact I have done nothing with it lately. I'm just not feeling very creative I guess (more overwhelmed and worried than creative).

To compound these problems, a check I was expecting from a customer in early April was unable to be cashed (due to them issuing it from a Canadian bank and my bank being American). A replacement check is on its way but not issued as of yet. On top of that, some work I was supposed to be doing for another client keeps getting postponed. The guy is just too busy to send me an NDA and discuss the project. I'm not sure what that means but I'm sure it will shake out one way or another.

This month is a solid reminder that we are not really in control of our lives. The only thing we can control is our reaction to external stimuli. My response ... pulling out all my hair (look at my profile picture to see what I mean) ;-).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Things Are So Much Harder In Real Life

Well, I finished the first draft of my novel only to come to a shocking conclusion ;-). I need at least two more revisions of what is there and I need to pad (uhhh, I mean add) at least thirty more pages. I've always heard a myth that writing was "easy work". Think again. It is one of the single most frustrating things I have ever attempted.
Oh well, I have to get my nose back to the grindstone. Ciao.

Monday, April 17, 2006

First Draft Of Lambda Initiative Finished

I finished the impossible over the Easter holiday weekend. I actually finished the first edit of LAMBDA Initiative (my first novel). I never thought I would see the day when I finished a novel that I started. It must be my 35th birthday and the resulting pondering of what I had done with my life ;-). It was finally enough to get me motivated.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Mid Month Fill In

I just thought I would post a mid-month infoshare so to speak. I just finished editing the first draft of my new novel (the Lambda Initiative). I have all the changes on a paper copy (yeah, I know, how analog). I am currently working to put them into Word. It will probably take a few weeks at the slow pace I am setting. Then I plan to have take one more pass through and hand it off to another (insane) individual for a final proofread/idea session. Hopefully, by this time next month it will be ready for the final hand off to the publisher.
I don't expect much from it, it is a first novel after all. Why make it? I'd always wanted to. It was my gift to myself on my 35th birthday.
Other than that, not much is going on here. A little bit of Guinterface support, some Guinevere spam engine support and hopefully some contract work for a customer.
If I don't see you for another few weeks then ciao baby ;-)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bored To Tears

Well, it has been a bit since my last post and I only have one thing to say, "I'm Bored!" The last four years of my life have been filled with one project after another. Guinterface kept me so busy that I don't think I had many quiet moments of self-contemplation. Now I am faced with a future with nothing but quiet contemplation.
I have been trying to stay busy, Punk IT comics and my new book have taken up quite a bit of time. After the book is finished (it's in final edit right now), I'm really going to have to find a new and challenging programming project to work on. I know that the project won't come from my day job ;-).
There has not been a request at work that has truly challenged me in three years. It is a really weird feeling when your boss asks you for something that he truly believes is complex and you deliver it the next day. It's as if while he spells out his request I already know how I'm going to do it. Between this and all of the things I have scripted I just don't know what could turn up the heat at the office.
I only have one piece of advice for all you lazy programmers out there (I mean lazy in a good way. As in why do something repetitively that a computer can do for you?). Don't script away all of your daily tasks or you will face termination or worse yet, boredom.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Where The Heck Is Lambert?


If some of you are wondering where the heck I have been for the last few weeks, look no further than this post. I have been working on my first novel called the The Lambda Initiative. I have the first draft complete and I started editing it tonight. Can I just say that editing is for the birds?
I tried to get my wonderful wife to do it but she refused and it is just as well. I am making so many marks on the page that it is a sea of green ink. I know. It should be red but all I had was a green marker. Here is the front and back cover design (preliminary).
If any of you are hurt that I did not tell you, please don't be. I simply did not want to jinx myself ;-).

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Issue 4 Of Punk IT


A new issue of Punk IT, Send In The Clowns, is at dollarprograms.com. Enjoy!

End Of An Era

Well, it's official. We have officially closed down Guinterface Software. The website now points off to my dollarprograms.com website. We are no longer selling anything Guinterface. I'm not quite sure if we'll do anything with TaskTastic. 130+ downloads from downloads.com and still no sales. I'm pretty sure it is a complete and utter loser as well ;-). That's OK. It's been fun, I've learned alot, pressed the edges of my abilities back 100s of miles so to speak.

The really nice thing about all of this is that my evening free time has expanded considerably. I actually have a life again (thank goodness). It would be nice to have the money back but that was declining anyway. Time to get used to a lower standard of living ;-).

I have to admit, it kind of makes me sad. There was a lot of work that went into the building of Guinterface Software. Hopefully, I can apply what I learned to lead some venture to success in the future.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Issue 3 Of Punk IT


Another week ... another issue of PunkIT. Woot! I actually may be doing the web comic thing for real. I never thought I would get to issue 3. I thought it would be a one time thing but I'm finding I really enjoy it. Good thing, because I'm definitely not doing it for the money ;-).

Monday, February 20, 2006

Punk IT Issue 2


I created a second "issue" of Punk IT. I hope you like it. You can find all the issues at http://www.dollarprograms.com.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Punk IT The Comic


I created the first in a series of comics called "Punk IT". You can find a pdf of issue 1 at:

http://www.dollarprograms.com/PunkIT/PunkITIssue1.pdf

I used a mixture of Blender, Poser and the Gimp to create this. I'm hoping to have issue 2 out by next week. We'll see.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Angry Guy Fun


I was messing around with Blender, Gimp and Poser last night and came up with the above picture. I'm kind of thinking about creating a short comic strip with the guy. He looks so imposing ;-).

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

DollarPrograms.com And More Fun

As some of my readers know Guinterface (a business I developed with Phil Henderson) has been foundering for about the last year. We've gone to support only for the most part (with the exception of TaskTastic). Even the support dollars are drying up at this point. When the going gets tough, the tough switch strategies.

I am often working on little projects that just don't seem to fit the mold of full featured commercial programs. I've needed a venue for these "mini-inventions" for a long time. It is with that in mind that I announce the creation of dollarprograms.com. At DollarPrograms we are going to be selling small applications I have created for $1 - $10 (for the most part). It is going to be a simple (Paypal only site).

My future strategy with this site remains to be seen but probably will include "publishing" other peoples $1 programs for a fee of some sort. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Even Cowgirls Should Get The Geek Blues

In this post I'm going to discuss something that most of you true male geeks know ... we are great catches. I know this sounds a bit self-serving but I am prepared to back it up with a little conjecture (facts being scarce).

When I was in junior high school/early high school, I was lucky to get a girl to talk to me, much less date me. I dreamed of the day when I could get my first kiss. I thought it would have to be the best day of my life. When I started dating I was just darn happy that a women would agree to be around me that often. This brings me to my most important point, true geeks are grateful when members of the opposite sex show interest. I think this makes us more thoughtful and hard working boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives.

See, I'm going to let you in on a secret well known amongst my friends and colleagues, my wife is too good for me. She is prettier, smarter and more vivacious than I could possibly deserve. I know this and that is why I won't stray and I will try hard to make our relationship wonderful. It all comes down to appreciating what, in your heart of hearts, you feel you don't deserve. If we all had that attitude perhaps the 60% divorce rate in this country would not be so high. Then again, I'm probably crazy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Star Runner - Chapter 4 Section 3

The next section of my story can be found at the following link. I know it's been a while. Sorry:

http://www.writely.com/View.aspx?docid=badxrfdgbtphb

Monday, January 16, 2006

The More You Tighten Your Grip

"The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers." These words were spoken in the 70s in a little movie called Star Wars. They also happen to remind me of the situation the consumer finds themselves in with regards to the RIAA and MPAA. These "evil empires" are dinosaurs of a previous age in which the power rested in the arms of the distributors. With the evolution of the Internet where the contents of a CD can be transfered for a few pennies and a movie can be tranferred for just a few more pennies their power is ever more threatened.

I think we can all agree that when a entity begins suing its customers, they are suing themselves out of existence. Like a T-Rex in its death throes the recording and motion picture industries will kill some of its customers. This will not save them from death. Like the dinosaurs, the story is one of adapt or die. Sometimes adaptations have been forced down these industries throats and when this happens they inevitably make more money. Like a big dumb animal though they fail to apply the lessons of the past to save their future.

RIAA/MPAA we hardly knew you. Rest in peace.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Spreadsheet::WriteExcel

I often find myself needing to compile reports for management in Excel. In cases where there is a lot of data massaging I have found it easiest to to massage with Perl and export to a text file. I then take the text file into Excel using a standard text file import. This is clunky for reports that you do over and over again. It would be great to automate this process. Now you can with the Spreadsheet::WriteExcel module. Using this module you can write Perl data directly to files readable to Excel including formatting and formulas. Woohoo!