Sunday, November 27, 2005

Burning Transistors

All at once, my ol' Socket A machine decided to go dark. Afterwards it could no longer boot. The mobo could POST, but the CPU never quite woke up. Although a new layer of thermal paste and reseating the heatsink might have fixed it... I wasn't able to get it to awaken.

I decided to gut the machine and go with all new gear. Gone was the ATA/166, in was the SATA WD Caviar. Gone was the GeForce 5950, in was the GeForce 7800GSX. Out was the AthlonXP 1700+ (oc'd to 2133 MHz), in was the 2GHz AMD 64. Gone was single-channel PC2700, in was dual-channel PC4000. Out with the 380W PSU, in with a modular 500W PSU.

The case and the DVD/CD drives remained, but the rest was gutted. Since I've had some fun flexing my new vertex-processing muscle. I've been able to add window transparency and drop shadowing to my WinXP and SuSE 10 desktop, thanks to the NVidia drivers, XOrg's composite extensions and KDE. I never realized how nice those lil' add-ons could be, but its quite handy.

I was also able to try out the latest NVidia tech demos, showing all the luster of real-time sub-surface scattering, volume shaders and high dynamic-range lighting. I never realized how nice volume shaders could really be - it's something I need to look into closer. This is especially nice for the low-poly meshes I make... something decidedly low-poly could look very high-poly with the right shader. Add vertex shaders for hair & fuzz, then pixel shaders for lighting and reflection and it's a great combo.

I also tried out Valve's "Lost Coast" demo, showing HDR and the glossyness of their rocks and textures. It was a fantastic demo - and definitely made a solid case for HDR.

Exploring the native 64-bit land of SuSE 10 is interesting. Now I have things actually compiled and optimized for my platform... the closest I was able to get before was a x586 package for SuSE. But with a native 64-bit OS, things are going well. The only problem I've had so far have been interfacing with the old 32-bit Macromedia Flash plugin - I had to install 32-bit browser libraries to interface with it. Other than that, however, things have been great.

Of course, rebuilding a machine, prepping for Thanksgiving and Christmas, finishing the end-of-year strong at work, wrapping up some rather large projects and taking about fifteen days of vacation in December is taking a rather large bite of time out of finishing these Crystal Space & Blender tutorials I'm still writing. Hopefully we'll see a rough draft soon.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


I'm trying not to give up.

It's amazing to me how living corporate life will suck the soul straight out of you. It used to be "us versus them," where "they" were the corporate suits that governed everyone from afar. Now "they" are simply everyone else... people who learned to survive the tough times when the tech bubble burst by being cutthroat and ruthless, then never going back.

I'm tired.

My computer just died... I think the proc overheated and finally went frizzle. I've been working on tutorials for Blender and CrystalSpace, focusing this time on creating a human mesh from reference images, vertex modeling, texture mapping, rigging and finally exporting. I have finished examples for all stages and just started writing the texture mapping chapter when the whole machine went dead. It POST's to BIOS, but after that no dice. So I'm shopping on now. I'm cringing 'cause I can't afford any of this crap... so maybe I'll just live with a 2' brick on my floor.

So... right now, if this were a Shakespearean drama we'd be in the "rising action" section. Bear in mind, this is from my own self-centered, egotistical perspective. But who knows what happens.