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Following on from my previous entry: the other day, ibneko (to whom I am duly indebted) was able to drop by the aforementioned friend's apartment, and found the doorbell answered by someone else, who passed on the worst news. He wasn't a fur, but was entirely fine with me being so. We met at a previous gig, working on a personal media player - the project was one that drew me in immediately on finding out about it, as you might imagine. The company was wondrously wonkily organised, though, with seemingly the majority of the company being vice-presidents and other grandiose titles, and my involvement with the project was off to a less than auspicious start when I discovered that the firmware supplied by the vendor had.. well, one or two shortcomings. Like discovering that opening a file would open a file - just, not necessarily the one you'd asked for. And that closing any file would cause a crash; their response was "don't close files". *cough* I had the delight of spending three months as a houseguest at his place in North Beach, January to April 2011, with more than a few fun memories from that time - nothing that would amaze, simply enjoyable times like sharing in some superb sake, or watching TV and films like Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Hustle on Dandelion's 17" display, or concocting a wondrous dish of lamb shanks gently simmered for hours in Trader Joe's finest two buck chuck and plenty of garlic. Ye gods, that was good.. absolutely brimming with flavor, and so tender that the meat needed but the gentlest nudge with a fork to simply fall off the bone. I managed to lure him along to one of my favorite haunts once or twice, too, notably the Magnolia Cafe, in yonder Upper Haight - where, indeed, this photo was taken, in February 2011. (A little blurred, unfortunately, which can perhaps be explained by the ample beer we enjoyed that night =:) A good friend, and a damn sharp programmer. Goodbye, Gareth.





A little while back, after being frustrated yet again by Hugin, I sought recommendations for superior panorama stitching software. I'd used PTGui previously, entirely successfully, but its UI felt not much less clunky than Hugin's. One recommendation was Kolor's Autopano Pro, which handled this London panorama happily and quickly. With money beginning to be less tight than previously, I wondered if they offered any academic pricing - and lo, Pro is 69€ vs the usual 99€, and Giga is 99€ vs 199€. Kolor duly obliged with a code for the appropriate discount, and Autopano Giga now sits on the SSD, fully licensed. =:D It's a worthwhile package, certainly - not only will it happily work on projects Hugin fails comically with, but it's even somewhat refined. For example, if you drop photos belonging to two separate panoramas onto it, it'll detect that, and present them correctly as separate projects, rather than just throwing up its hands in defeat that it couldn't find any common points between some of the images. Thus, if you want, you could drop the entire day's shots onto it, if you happened to take multiple panoramas, and let it sort them out. Needless to say, there's no extra effort involved in telling it to fuse different exposures from a bracketed set - again, it detects that, and does the right right, though you do have good control over just how the fusion is performed.

The long-awaited MLP:FiM title from Gameloft is now out. ^_^ Free, iOS Universal. A note of warning, if it's going to be played by a child: they've apparently seen fit to include quite extreme in-app purchases in a few places, up to $100/£70. As far as I'm aware, that's all purely optional, not at all necessary to enjoy the game, but not something you want to wind up with on your bill through some playful experimentation.

A new project from Occupy: the Rolling Jubilee. Typically, if you buy debt, it's at a fraction of the amount in question - as an experiment, they spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt (eg medical bills, the cause of the majority of personal bankruptcies in the US), which they then erased, rather than hounding people forevermore. If you're in New York, they're holding a fundraiser to help with this, featuring folks like Janeane Garolfalo, The Yes Men, Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth, and Guy Picciotto of Fugazi.

Per UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's announcement, Saturday, Nov 10 2012, was to be noted as Malala Day. "On Friday, November 10, the UN special envoy for global education will visit Pakistan and present President Asif Ali Zardari with a petition signed by over one million people asking that he make girls education a reality in Pakistan. Observing Malala day, Ki-Moon hoped, will build on the momentum of UN’s Education First initiative and show that education is a right of everyone, and not a privilege for a few."

As you probably know, the Cybermen have long been my favorite of the Doctor Who villains. And, I've previously noted that Neil Gaiman was going to be writing another episode this season.. and lo, it's the Cybermen's return he's writing. =:D I'd love to see a more layered take on them, but that might fall outside existing canon. But, who knows? If anyone were given the go-ahead to alter the Doctor's universe, it'd be someone of his calber.

Interesting choice! Seems Star Wars episode VII's screenplay is being written by Michael Arndt, who recently became known for his screenplay for Toy Story 3, having previously written Little Miss Sunshine.

Immediately one of my favorite leporine images, as noticed by ysengrin, by Leopold Kanzler, recognised in the 2012 European Wildlife Photographer of the Year in the "Mammals highly commended" section. This illustrates the non-technical difficulties in a truly noteworthy shot - being fortunate enough simply to see that special moment! Here, not just a handsome hare, but with an engaging expression, including those quizzical ears. Superb. ^_^

Here's an unsubtitled torrent for Oct 26's debut of the new incarnation of Iron Chef. And there's more to be found.. much more. ^_^

I hadn't even heard of this before now, but Reaction Engines' Skylon spacecraft looks highly nifty indeed. Being a British project, it's perennially lacking funding, but it seems to be proceeding through the design stages successfully, with ESA money coming to the fore. It's a much more interesting design than others around, as the engine design is a novel blend of technologies from precooled jet engines, rockets, and ramjets, permitting efficient operation both within the atmosphere, and at orbital altitudes. Being much lighter than other craft opens up other big design wins, such as being able to use wings for stabilisation, all making for a payload cost on the order of 5% of current methods - they claim a reduction from £15,000/kg down to £650/kg. If attained, I imagine there might be some commercial interest. =:D

One of this year's better Halloween pranks: a troll emerging from one of the Clifton Suspension Bridge abutments.

I think I've stumbled upon it before, but if you need a good reason or ten for facepalming, try Literally Unbelievable. There, you'll witness the fine spectacle of Onion stories cited on F*c*b**k, and being taken entirely seriously.

A drawing for UK peeps: a week in Austin for two, including flights from Heathrow (albeit with United), accommodation, a helicopter tour of the city, a $600 gift card, and some other goodies. (Bonus points to the Grauniad for defaulting the "let us spam you" checkboxes to not ticked - genuine opt-in)

Open worldwide, this is rather an interesting photo contest: Michael the Maven's 2012 International Photography Contest. Free entry, open to all skill levels (though he asks pros not to enter in the category of their specialty), with the grand prize being a fully paid trip to Hawaii for a photography workshop. Various other prizes too, with category winners each receiving $1k.

With the recent revelations over Jimmy Saville, this brief excerpt from Chris Morris' Boxing Day show in 1994 seems more than a little coincidentally prescient..

With the new Time Machine drive received on Thursday (a 2TB Hitachi, with USB3, making it the first such device in the warren), immediate commissioning was in order. First, copying everything from one of the existing media drives over onto it, as that one is 1.5TB, a good match for the capacity I need, given Dandelion now has 1.25TB inside (1TB HD, 256GB SSD), leaving me with that much extra capacity on the AirPort's drive cluster, plus the old 1TB drive that had been used for Time Machine. Yay, space! 'Course, the initial backup took a little time - about 15 hours. ^_^; With a full backup in paw, I was ready to make the move to Mountain Lion, but before that, updating from the couple years old copy of Fusion I'd been using for Windows 7. Between this overall comparison between Parallels 8 and Fusion 5, and this set of benchmarks, I opted to migrate back to Parallels, using their sidegrade discount, making for a purchase price of $50. Nicely, Parallels seems to be introducing experimental (and seemingly useful) DX10 support, though I doubt I'll take much advantage of that. Finally, the OS upgrade itself, which was boringly painless, and cheap. Haven't really had it running long enough yet to pass much opinion thereon, but my initial impression is that it does indeed seem more sensible about releasing memory as free, rather than retaining it as inactive.

California may have something to celebrate in a few weeks: seems the US Supreme Court's going to be deciding shortly on whether or not to hear the case surrounding Proposition 8, on Nov 20. It's likely to be a few days later before any public notification is made. Either the case is accepted, in which case Boies & Olson will be submitting their arguments by April 2013, with a final decision expected around June 2013; or, it's denied, finally killing Proposition 8, and restoring marriage equality.

If you have 21 minutes to spare on some beautifully explained mathematical contortions, this video on how to turn a sphere inside out is a real joy. ^_^ Part 1, and part 2. (Via avon_deer)

If you fancy your chances at impressing some judges with your photography, the Nikon Photo Contest 2012-2013 has just been announced, with entries accepted between Dec 1 2012 to Feb 28 2013. Grand Prize is 1,000,000 Yen of equipment, with many other levels available, in the various categories. Participation is open worldwide.

Some interesting furry comic offerings coming in the future, from Russian studio NARR8.

Today's Kickstarter of interest: Michel Gagné wants to produce an animated version of The Saga of Rex. Come, now, that's not a tough sell, is it? ^_^ It's met its minimum of $15k, which is enough for a 1.5 minute version, but there are other levels the project is aiming for: $30k for 2.5m, $45k for 3.5m, and $52,500 for the full four minute version. Currently, it stands at $35,746, with 12 days to go.

Or, if gaming's more your thing, consider a new Elite, from one of the co-creators of the original, David Braben.

A guy finds a pregnancy test kit his former girlfriend must have left behind. Just for fun, he gives it a go. But, the real kicker? Read on.

So, apparently, there's a surprisingly good cider pub in the heart of London, with around sixteen real farmhouse ciders available, at perfectly normal prices. Not only that, but it's right outside Euston. Which was wonderfully convenient a discovery on heading back from the fireworks at a friend of the housemate. ^_^

A good little competition folks with access to London might want to toss their names into the hat for: as part of the BFI's celebration of Ealing Studios, they're offering a rather nifty bundle of related goodies, including a tour of the studios, Blu-Rays, tickets to the underground Churchill War Rooms, and more.

The bun is becoming lithe once more. ^_^ With the move accomplished, the stress level's way down, so I'm able to resume what I briefly commenced last September, only to be rudely interrupted by employment. (Still, what an amazing gig it is..) The method's very, very boringly simple: just keeping to around 1000 calories a day, with Saturdays exempt. (Such as tonight, where dinner will be steaks of camel, zebra, and wagyu, accompanied by wondrous beers such as La Chouffe) It's too early to tell what the rate of loss is proving to be, but the early indications suggest I'm within my ideal of 10lb/month. Not entirely coincidentally, this makes for rather a saving on food and drink expenditure, which also doesn't hurt at all. Perhaps next summer will see me able to bring my SL self into reality?

Sorry about the length of this entry. ^_^; I'll now be catching up with everyone's entries, as well. The news above rather knocked me askew, followed by being fairly busy with getting more renderings prepared for next month's CVMP conference. (Not sure if I'll have much/any time to hear the speakers' talks, but ye gods, that's some roster) As the partner's being a bit slow in getting back to me regarding delivery of the files, they now get to receive special bonus features - not just one version of their cut-down showreel, but fifty, at ascending levels of detail. Which, I feel, ought to make for a more interesting demo clip.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Take a look at the new Cybermen design!
Aahh, interesting! Edging back toward a slightly more organic shape.. I'd love to hope their mindset will, too. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed their redesign post-2005, I wasn't taken by their reduction to wind-up sentries with seemingly no greater capacity for reason than a clockwork toy. (No disrespect to the designers of the Fireplace droids =:)

Indeed, I just got to see The Tenth Planet a few days ago, and was quite impressed by how cogent they were - just utterly without any compassion for others beyond their kind.
Take a look at the new Cybermen design!

...damnit, where do I sign up? :)
It's such a cliche to have invasions, where the populace is killed or taken over - why not mount one that results in a waiting list instead? =:D

I kept thinking - people might've had terrible diseases, now irrelevant. Maybe even spinal injuries, resulting in paraplegia or quadraplegia. Hell, just the look! I so very hope Neil's explored even a little of such possibilities, beyond just the "assimilation!" aspect - fun enough, but not nearly as engaging.

Agh, and it'll still be another few months before we find out! Still, at least it's only six weeks until the Christmas special. ^_^
I kept thinking - people might've had terrible diseases, now irrelevant. Maybe even spinal injuries, resulting in paraplegia or quadraplegia. Hell, just the look! I so very hope Neil's explored even a little of such possibilities, beyond just the "assimilation!" aspect - fun enough, but not nearly as engaging.

That would be interesting, although I figure it'd also be treading into dangerous territory. I'm sure there's more than enough busybodies who'd take GREAT offense at the suggestion that someone suffering from, say, quadriplegia might actually be content with a transformation of that sort — see e.g. the enduring controversy surrounding Anne McCaffrey's "The Ship Who Sang".

But OTOH, one can't give in to distractors and concern trolls (and that's what these people really are), right? And it'd definitely be interesting to see a take on the cybermen that goes beyond "gotta convert 'em all". :)

I definitely think the suits (if you can call them that) are quite fetching, myself. ;)
Really sorry to hear about your friend. He sounds like very much on of the good guys. *hug*

The Skylon looks very nice -- and it gets an extra point from me for its name! Something both futuristic and truly British. =:)

Whew, that Chris Morris piece is strong stuff, from the perspective of 1994 anyway -- I suspect something like that wouldn't be allowed on air these days.

Blu-Rays

Ooh, talking of which: MLP Blu-rays in March... in Germany, anyway. Still, they should have an English audio track -- and no customs charges from the UK! =:)
Indeed, very much so. He'd certainly had a richly experienced life, with highs including business class at the nosetip of a 747 from the Bay to Japan, with his own sushi chef, to.. well, he felt and knew the depth of pain in Johnny Cash's version of NIN's "Hurt".

I notice the UK space admin's received a £60m boost, or at least, so go the headlines. One can hope some of that will go to ensure Skylon's progress. It does seem like such a groundbreaking concept, especially in the engines, yet with a weighty base of evidence that it's a sound and practical design, judiciously combining the widely disparate behaviors at sub, super, and hypersonic speeds.

I've got to try asking CM and Armando Ianucci if that was purely a harsh satirical piece, or with some knowledge - it does sound as if the word was out, just not being publicised at the time. And as we know, especially from authoritarian regimes, satire can be an effective means of getting the truth out under the nose of the censor, and without falling foul of libel, even with the UK's rather dreadful legislation in the area.

I suspect that even now, IA/CM could swing some special stuff. ^_^ Remember they came up with Paedogeddon, and on a commercial front, the lack of advertising within Jam, on Channel Four, so as to avoid disrupting the surreal, dreamlike atmosphere of the show.

Oooh! I'm no fan of physical media, but those would be sorely tempting, especially if they had a commentary track, as I recall the DVDs do. (For whatever reasons, iTunes downloads never seem to bother with more than a single audio track, whether language or extras. It'd be easy enough to do, but it seems the studios maintain that plastic shall be the way they permit, if you want all the goodies)
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I really hope that venture succeeds. ^_^ There's certainly some good talent involved, but the funding seems all rather "we'll get people to pay for it later, sometime!" at the moment.. =:/
Ah, I'm terribly sorry to hear about your friends' passing. My condolences — and hugs. *hugs*

Autopano Pro is quite neat; I've used it before (the trial version), and if I needed a panorama stitcher more often, I'd consider getting that. It does work better than all the alternatives I've tried (not that I've tried many). Good to know they offer academic discounts, too, I'll have to remember that, just in case.

That "highly commended" hare is neat indeed! And how nice to see a hare properly described as such instead of being labelled as a rabbit. :)

"Literally Unbelievable" is fun, but just a few entries down there's already one where it's far from clear the Onion article was actually being taken at face value by anyone. The poster may well have just shared it for its amusement value; the commenter, meanwhile, only took offense at the word "supreme" and said that he'd have preferred Paul over Obama. I know sites like that need content, but they should go for quality, not quantity.

Oh, interesting story about that pregnancy test! Good thing that the cancer was noticed early; and even if he ends up losing that testicle, well, he'll still have the other. (Granted, that's not MUCH of a consolation, but surely losing one beats losing both, or having the cancer spread to the rest of your body for that matter.)

I should get that checked, too. I'm about due for an all-around check-up, anyway, so I've just added a note about testicular cancer to my list of things I want to talk to the doc about.

Yay, litheness. ^^ 1000 kcal a day isn't a lot, I think, but then it depends on your size/weight and how much you usually need. As long as you're not going below your base metabolic rate. :)
Thanks. It was a terrible revelation, but something I admit I'd been fearful of hearing for a while - he'd taken some bad falls in the past, usually at home, sometimes out and about. (That said, I don't yet know what finally happened) I'll really miss him. *hug*

Indeed, I'm very pleased I thought to check for an academic discount - easy, too. Just had to email them with a request, noting my spot on the establishment's site where I was confirmed as staff, and was sent a discount code that would bring Pro down from 99€ to 69€, and Giga from 199€ to 99€.

Oh, quite - sometimes, the articles are shared fully aware that the articles are satire. It's the earnest responses that make it so.. worthwhile? Well, something like that. =:/

Indeed, testicular cancer isn't any walk in the park. As I recall, that's what Gareth's elder son (not this Gareth, but one I worked with afterwards) was diagnosed with, and was felled by only about seven months later. His confrontation of his situation was, nonetheless, quite sobering - always hopeful, though realistically aware.

I'm enjoying being able to shove my paws down the jeans, without the belt. ^_^ I've found 1000 pretty easy - something like 250-400 for lunch, 400-500 for dinner, and a bit for genuinely modest snacking. If I can really sustain 10lb/mo, I'll be very pleased, though if it's more like 8lb/mo, that's not much of a difference, all told. As long as it's meaningfully downward, that's what counts. ^_^

(Of course, jessie_pup keeps teasing, especially with those recent shots of Cherry.. but she can't compare to the cuteness of tall ears. =:)
For panoramas, I just use Hugin. Do the expensive programs do anything that makes them worth the money?
Unfortunately, yes. I kept winding up with projects that Hugin just wouldn't handle - either well, or at all. My first fall-out with it was an admittedly difficult project, of some 200 images across the Bay. Hugin persisted in curling it downward. So, I spent several days adding vertical controls per the buildings, and eventually wound up with a project that took several days to run, was only slightly droopy, and went from white to black four times across the width of the image. PTGui's demo managed a sane rendering in a few hours.

With a wide, but not single (triple, ISTR) height pano looking west one time, it wound up with some amusing replications - the stitching was fine, but I had buildings appearing in the sky.

I forget what the problem was with the city panorama I had, but Hugin failed immediately - true, it was a large project, of some 700 source images, but PTGui handled it happily.

What finally brought on dirgruntlement, I think, was the South Bank pano, where, yet again, Hugin felt it necessary to droop the horizon. At that point, I just gave up on it for anything major. I asked around for recommendations, and had a good vote for Autopano, which happily and quickly rendered a perfect stitching, with a pleasing UI to boot.

Yet, certainly, I've also had some good results from Hugin, such as the evening HDR from a hilltop a few weeks ago - but there wound up being just too many problematic projects, which Hugin would require extensive manual intervention to solve, if even then.

(As an unexpected bonus, when I gave Autopano a sequence of bracketed files from some forestland amblings a fortnight ago, it said there were actually two scenes, and automagically presented them as two projects, rather than just throwing up its paws in horror at the lack of control point commonality)
I confess I put that MLP app on my iOS device of choice the moment it went live. Having played it on and off for the last few days, I have a few observations that need to be shared. To wit:

I'm dismayed with myself at how easily, nay, compulsively, I'm able to pick this thing up and play it, poking and tweaking it from many angles. Especially considering that the tasks it offers are so simple that it doesn't take long for its novelty to wear thin. Weren't computers brought about in the first place to relieve us of mind-numbingly repetitive tasks? Perhaps part of us missed having that in our lives.

Most issues I have with the way the game plays are secondary to its biggest flaw thus far, and that's to do with its social aspect. There are elements of the game that can't be passed without forming a circle of Gameloft friends to exchange virtual gifts with, or invading Facebook to do the same, like an adorable candy-colored virus. I can say, having gone over that ledge, that the Gameloft server used to connect FiM players has been completely unreliable. I'd like to think that this is because Gameloft is simply choked with a stampede of bronies, and certainly not for more dubious reasons, like herding the lot of us to bypass the tasks by buying the in-game currency.

And speaking of the in-game currency, sweet Jesus. I mean, they're entitled to make a buck, and this is hardly the first "freemium" game I've been part of. But it is the first one I've played that isn't much fun on its own, or even playable at all, without dipping into some serious money. It's awfully cynical, bearing in mind that the primary audience for this thing is still children. And while the graphics may be adorable, but there's just not much to enthrall its adult fans. Furthermore, I'm reluctant to advance the game at all, since they actually have a Jesús pony from The Big Lebowski. Wasn't he a pederast in the movie? Am I going to have to send his alter ego door to door in Ponyville to announce that he's a ponyrast?

Whatever. I have much higher hopes for IDW's MLP comic book, due to ship this very month.