Introducing Project Mini-Me.

Wherein our humble author attempts to recreate a caricature of himself through the medium of silicone.

If all goes according to plan with regard to our equipment requests for next year, we should [amongst other things] be getting some new materials to work with for the Character Design unit and doing a bit of silicone casting.

Now, back in the black’n’white days when I was a young jackanapes at art college and subsequently a slightly older jackanapes working in design, things like casting silicone were a futuristic pipe-dream, like hover cars and self-removing trousers. If we wanted to make a model, we had to bloody well carve it out of pig manure with our bare teeth.

So, in the finest traditions of ‘trying to look like you know what the fuck you’re talking about, while teaching’, I thought I’d better run a bit of silicone casting practice up the old flagpole and see if anyone saluted. Hence “Operation Mini-Me”, an audacious plan to create and cast in silicone an animation puppet of everyone’s favourite jug-eared Irish half-wit… me!

So pull up a chair and a bag of popcorn and let’s see how this goes….

[BTW-the picture at the top has bugger all to do with this , but I thought I’d better stick something visual in there to lighten up my turgid prose.]

Meet BoxComp

It’s been a while since I posted anything here.

In my few minutes of ‘me time’ during recent weeks, I’ve tended to do do more ‘left-brainy’ stuff than ‘right-brainy’, so there’s not been a lot to show for it, outside of my vacant skull.

Anyway, part of my weekend tinkering of late has been to do with cryptocurrencies: I’ve become quite intrigued by the whole ‘digital goldrush’. As well as working on my own altcoin, I’ve been itching to do some hardware tinkering too. So, over the past week or two I’ve been hammering the credit card a bit, buying various components from Amazon and eBay and, last week, I was ready to join the ranks of them big fellas like Dell and Apple, by building my own computer from scratch [or rather, from off-the-shelf components made by other people which, let’s face it, is what they do!].

Expensive jigsaw pieces. Just add keyboard, mouse, screen and hard-drive

I’ll not bore you with the details of what individual bits I needed to buy and how I stuck them all together. You can dissect the photo above or, failing that, It’s all covered in depth in CryptoBadger’s excellent tutorials. Instead, let’s skip straight to the action shots.

Behold, BoxComp©

I stuck everything together, which took about 45 mins, using a fetching cardboard box to house most of the components. Then I attached an old keyboard, screen and hard-drive and hit the “ON” button, waiting for a shower of sparks and the smell of my burning dreams. To my astonishment, “BoxComp©” sprang into life and I was presented with the BIOS setup-screen.

It's alive!

So far, so good. But if I wanted more than the computer equivalent of the body twitching on the slab, as the current was passed through it, I needed to install an operating system. CryptoBadger’s aforementioned tutorials recommended Xubuntu, a stripped down version of Ubuntu. I’m not a big fan of Ubuntu [might be something to do with the name sounding like the noise a mountain gorilla might make while having an anal orgasm], so I opted instead to install Linux Mint Debian Edition.

I made an LMDE live USB and twiddled BoxComp©’s BIOS settings to boot from this and he finally achieved digital sentience by booting into a ‘proper’ operating system.

LMDE Live intro screen

There then followed the tedious business of actually installing LMDE to an old 1TB hard drive, rescued from a now-dead NAS I used to have. Whenever I install Linux, I always somehow manage to fall flat on my stupid face at the final hurdle, by installing the boot-loader wrongly and leaving myself with a computer which will only boot to the ‘All-Time Unfriendliest Interface Ever Conceived By The Warped Mind of Satan’©, namely the Grub prompt. This time was no different and it took several goes before I finally managed to head-butt Grub into obedience and [finally!] enjoy the delights of a functioning computer.

BoxComp© –aerial view

OK. the above pic is a bit of a cheat, as it was taken before the LMDE install, not afterwards. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it did eventually work.

Now, I for one think that BoxComp© in his cardboard guise does actually have a certain rustic charm. I find the idea of a computer which looks like a box of spare parts fairly amusing. Unfortunately, however, this casing doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in its durability. So next challenge was to fit BoxComp© out with a slightly more hard-wearing set of duds.

In keeping with the example of CryptoBadger’s tutorials, I looked around for an old crate or plastic container of some kind to rehouse BoxComp©, but couldn’t really find anything suitable. Then I remembered that there was an old defunct PC in the spare room. I dug it out and started the fun task of dismantling it.

Old PC and donor

Everything came apart pretty easily and I was soon left with an empty framework and a big pile of obsolete PC components

Old PC stripped 'bare nekked'

First of all I mounted BoxComp©’s motherboard on the main side panel of the old PC, where its motherboard had lived. I had to move a few spacers around to line up with the holes on my new motherboard but, apart from that it fitted really nicely. I then moved onto installing the PSU and graphics cards. To my pleasant surprise, I found that all my new components fitted perfectly into the old PC framework, even though that was about 15 or more years old and the new components were about twice the size of the old ones. Thanks be to the gods of standardisation! [are you listening Apple?]

BoxComp© in his new armour

And so, in about another half hour or so, BoxComp© was reborn in his new metal shell. I’ve deliberately left off all the facings to maximise ventilation, as cryptocoin mining makes the graphics cards run very hot.

Well, that’ll do for now. Tune in same time some other day, when I’ll bore you with the tales of my first mining expedition.

Blockchain Basics

Marley's Ghost
Marley’s Ghost, sporting an early version of the Bitcoin blockchain.

Google bod and author Ilya Grigorik has written a great piece explaining the concept behind the Bitcoin blockchain and how the whole thing works. Beginning with a simple analogy featuring our good old hypothetical friends Alice and Bob wanting to swap items from their stamp collections, it gradually builds up into an overview of how a cryptocoin blockchain functions.

It’s certainly the best-written and most clearly explained piece of writing on the subject that I’ve come across, since I started dipping my brain in the CryptoCurrency waters.

Enlighten yourself here: https://www.igvita.com/2014/05/05/minimum-viable-block-chain

Bracket Beauty Contest

Bracket Babe Boogaloo
Bracket Babe Boogaloo

Corger.nl has a nice interactive graph showing the relative popularity of various programming languages. The data is based on a measuring a combination of GitHub commits and tags added to posts on StackOverflow. The data upon which the graph relies is refreshed every four hours in order to keep it up-to-date. Pretty cool –and some surprising contenders for ‘Top of the Pops’.

Mind you, given the sources used for generating the data, being a chart-topper might be more a reflection of the fact that a language generates more bemusement [StackOverflow] or is more prone to needing bugfixes [GitHub] than an indication of Geek-Love.

Kick the tyres here: http://langpop.corger.nl/

Michael Sayman, The Self-Taught iOS Coding Kid

Michael Sayman ©pando.com
Michael Sayman ©pando.com

Pando.com has a story about Michael Sayman, a 17 year old kid, who taught himself iOS coding at the age of 13, through Googling for online tutorials and is now author of one of the best selling word games on Apple’s App Store.

His earnings from his foray into app programming helped his folks keep up payments on their mortgage, when they were in danger of losing their home during the recent recession. Michael is now being head-hunted by Facepuke and has even been ushered into the hallowed presence of ‘The Zuck’ himself.

And, according to the article and various comments on it, he’s also a nice humble kid and not yer typical precocious teenager. Sounds like a nice heart-warming© story.

More here: http://pando.com/2014/04/30/how-a-florida-kids-stupid-app-saved-his-familys-home-and-landed-him-on-the-main-stage-of-facebooks-f8/

Did Leonardo Da Vinci Invent 3D-Imagery?

3D Spex
3D Spex

Er…. no. Next question?

An article posted on sciencenews.org, posits a theory that a couple of researchers in Germany have come up with [presumably after one-too-many tokes on the crack pipe] , suggesting that subtle differences in perspective between the original Mona Lisa in the Louvre and a copy in the Prado in Madrid suggest that Leonardo may have been experimenting with 3D-imagery.

Mona Lisa x 2
Mona Lisa x 2

In a move that is sure to delight readers of The Register, the Krazy Krauts have even used Playmobil figures to mock up the deduced positions of the painters of the two masterpieces.

The re-creation has da Vinci standing to the right of the other artist, and a little farther from the subject. “They did not stand just side to side. This would have changed the perspective dramatically, because a body is about 60 centimeters wide,” Carbon says. “So the first person stands a little to the side but also a little bit more ahead of the other,” Carbon says. This setup would have minimised the perspective distance between the artists.

Eat your heart out, El Reg!
Eat your heart out, El Reg!

Duh! –or maybe could it possibly be that Leonardo placed the student slightly in front and to the side of himself, so he could look over his shoulder and keep an eye on how he was getting on?

 

Ingest the drivel here: https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/gory-details/leonardo-da-vinci-may-have-invented-3-d-image-‘mona-lisa’

Duplitecture –China’s Copy-Cat Cities.

Paris, Shanghai
San Carlos, Shanghai

If you thought the Americans were bad for copying classical architecture from abroad and rebuilding it in their own image, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The Chinese have been building entire city sized conurbations, based around a variety of classical architectural styles and iconic cityscapes from around the world.

Thames Town, Shanghai
Thames Town, Shanghai

TheAtlantic.com site has an interesting article about a forthcoming book by Bianca Bosker called “Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China” in which the author examines this Chinese fascination with copying the urban environments they admire from elsewhere and recreating them bang in the middle of their major cities. Apparently the Chinese attitude to such ‘photocopying’ differs from the Western, which tends to see such unoriginality as ‘tacky’.

Even in pre-modern China, the country’s leaders saw copycatting as a way to assert their status to both their subjects and rivals. Bosker explains in the book that in the third century B.C., the First Emperor celebrated his conquest of six rival kingdoms by rebuilding their palaces within his capital city.

In the time since then, “China has cultivated a more permissive and nuanced attitude toward copying,” Bosker says. “Though China also prizes originality, replication is not only permitted, but also valued as a marker of skill and ability.”

Read the article and find out more about the book here: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/02/duplitectural-marvels-exploring-chinas-replica-western-cities/273366/