A few more...

Due to lack of enthusiasm from the picture viewing public, I ended up doing some more work on ol' Pac-Man and his pals. The image is not only more dramatic, but also more accurate (stupid ghost colors).

The images continue to be too large for this page, and I remain too lazy to do anything about it.

...and this was the result of some experimenting with subsurface scattering. I didn't quite get the glowing effect I was after, but it's definitely serviceable.

Finally, an update on an older picture... The Long Commute 2.0.

I'm inching closer to the redesign, but nothing's ready for prime time just yet. Mostly due to that laziness mentioned above.

Now back to watching Top Chef. Until next time, keep it on ice, hep kats...


Eight Months Later...

Hard to believe it's been so long... I'm older, grayer, but oddly none the wiser. I think I'll be rolling out a new design for the Roblog in the not-too-distant future, but it's not ready for prime-time just yet. In the mean time, how about a little bit of gallery goodness?

These pieces were all modeled and rendered with Blender (that fantastic piece of open source software that I love so very much), and post processed in some combination of Photoshop and Illustrator. Most of these were for weekend challenges at Blenderartists.org, and a few of them even won.

On with the show

These first few are too large to post in-line.


Under New Management

The StompMaster

Fat Fight!

...and these are apparently small enough to squeeze in.

Anyway, that's enough for today. With any luck, the next update will take less than 8 months. ;)


Behold... The Day of Excitement Has Arrived!

It's here. The day has arrived. Can you feel it? Is your heart racing? God, I know mine is. Cha-thumpa, cha-thumpa, cha-thumpa, cha-thumpa... Yeah. Like that.

Look! Up at the top of the screen! It's a bird. It's a plane. IT'S A NEW BANNER!

I know what you're thinking... "Doesn't that look an awful lot like the old banner?"

In fact, it does. But this one is newer, shinier, and 100% Adobe Illustrator. Frankly, that banner gives me wood. A little. Like half-mast.

The old banner can still be seen here.

But That's Not All!

My other announcement? I've just opened my own Cafe Press store front! That's right! Now you too can buy sweet freakin' shirts with my wicked awesome designs on them.

Look at you! You're naked! It's REPULSIVE! You need shirts. I need cash. Give me cash for shirts!

Buy my shirts! Tell your friends to buy my shirts. Con old ladies into BUYING MY SHIRTS!

http://www.cafepress.com/spectre7 <-- Go now, before it's too late...



A Friendly Introduction to the Command-Line

This past week, I wrote a little introduction to the Unix command-line, and I liked it so darned much, I thought I'd reproduce it here. If you don't have any interest in Unix, Linux, or the command-line, this will probably bore the snot out of you.


Having just a little knowledge of the command line can go a long way, and if you learn the right tools to begin with, you'll be better equipped to teach yourself the rest.

Let's start with the basic stuff...

A Unix command-line is a user interface that allows you to control the computer by entering commands, which can be refined by the addition of arguments -- i.e. text entered after the command. Additionally, you can cause one command to feed information to the next (called piping), and thus accomplish complex tasks with only a basic toolset.

In this primer, we'll be covering the use of the BASH shell, which is the default command-line interpreter on most Linux systems.

What's the very first step? Learning not to be afraid. The command-line may look scary, what with all of its weird names and arcane symbols and giant fangs and claws, but it really just wants to be your friend. In fact, the command-line is more afraid of you than you are of it.

Useful Commands

  • man -- displays a manual page for a command/program. Takes a program name as an argument. Example: man man <--shows its own man page.
  • apropos -- displays a list of programs whose descriptions match your search term, sort of like your own personal google. Example: I'm searching for a text editor on my system, so I type apropos editor at the command line and hit enter.
  • ls -- lists contents of current directory (or a directory specified as an argument).
  • cd -- change directory. This is your primary method of "moving around." Takes a directory name as an argument. Example: cd /home/spectre/text-files
  • cat -- Meow. Err, umm... Asks the system to spit out the contents of a file. Not very elegant, but gets the job done. Can also be used to combine 2 or more files, but that'll wait till later. Takes file names as arguments.
  • less -- a text-reader of sorts. You can use less to read text-files, and you can also use it to make it easier to read another command's output. We'll cover this a little later.
  • grep -- search for a specific string of text. Takes two arguments; search item and file. Example: grep jenny phonebook.txt <--should return the line with Jenny's phone number on it.
  • pwd -- tells you which directory you're in right now. Think of pwd as the "You are here" command.
  • cp -- copy a file from one location to another (or from one name to another). Takes two arguments: the source file and the target.
  • mv -- move a file from one location to another (or from one name to anoher). Takes two arguments: the source file and the target.
  • ps -- lists currently running processes. More informative with the x argument --> ps x
  • kill -- tries to shutdown a currently running process. Takes a 4-digit numerical process identifier as an argument, which you can find with ps (see above).
  • rm -- removes a file. Be careful; rm is permanent.
  • mkdir -- make a directory.
  • rmdir -- remove a directory. Only works on empty directories.
  • clear -- clears all the junk from your screen, leaving nothing but a lonely little command prompt. Useful when you're feeling frazzled.
  • su -- Super-user! Type this in and the system will ask you for the root password, then POOF! Now you're root. You are the master of all you survey. Use with care; the system assumes root knows what he's doing.
  • logout -- for when you're done with the terminal. This will not restart the computer, only log you out. Can also be accomplished by pressing ctrl-d

Tricks & Shortcuts

These are some symbols that the command line uses to make your life easier.

  • * -- means "anything and everything." For example, if I wanted to see every file in a directory that started with the letter a, I'd enter this at the command-line: ls a*
  • ? -- means "any single character." In this example, I've got a bunch of files in a directory, but I only want to see a list of numbered photos I know I left in there. ls picture?.jpg
  • . -- I know it's hard to see, but that's a period. He may not seem like much, be he can be pretty darned useful. All by itself, the period represents the current directory. How's that useful? Let's say I want to copy a file from another directory, I might try this: cp /home/spectre/some_useful_file ./
  • .. -- Seems those periods have ganged up. Two periods means the directory above this one. So, if I cd .. from /home/spectre/files I will end up in /home/spectre
  • | -- That's not an I like India or L like Lima. It's a pipe, and can be found on the same key as the backslash. A pipe tells the command-line to take the output of one command, and jam it into the next one. This allows you to do things like use less to read a really long directory list: ls | less
  • ~ -- That's the tilde, which can be found (usually) just left of the 1 key. On the command-line, it's a shortcut to your home directory. For example, if I want to return to my home directory (/home/spectre) I would type cd ~ and hit enter.
  • > -- tells the command-line to write the output to a file. I want a list of all the files in my current directory, so I'll type: ls > list_of_files.txt
  • >> -- Great, now the brackets are ganging up too. This tells the command-line to add stuff to the end of a file. Continuing the example above, I've already got a file with a directory list in it, and I want to add the contents of another directory: ls /some/other/directory >> list_of_files.txt

Hints and Tips

  • Tired of typing so dang much? Try out auto-completion! Once you've typed in the first couple letters of something you want, hit the tab key. The command-line will try to fill in the rest for you, and it's pretty good at guessing. If it doesn't fill it in, you probably haven't entered enough letters to make it unique. Hit tab twice quickly to show a list of items that match your current entry.
  • Want to repeat the last thing you typed? Hit the up-arrow. The shell keeps a record of everything you've done, and you can scroll through it with the up and down arrow keys.
  • Not sure how a command works? You can always try the man page, but if you're in a hurry, type the command name followed by a space and --help then hit enter. Example: cp --help

Unix Directory Structure

To get you started, here's a quick map of some key directories.

  • / -- This is the mother of all directories. Also called root.
  • /bin -- short for binaries. This is where many of your programs/commands live.
  • /sbin -- like /bin, but full of programs you probably won't find interesting.
  • /etc -- this is where system-wide configuration files live.
  • /boot -- where the kernel lives. Don't fool around in here.
  • /root -- a little confusing. This is root user's home directory.
  • /var -- this is a home for stuff that changes frequently, like log files and what-not.
  • /usr -- not what you might think. This is where nearly all of your installed programs live.
  • /home -- this is probably what you thought /usr was. This is where your personal stuff, and the personal stuff of any other users on the system lives.
  • /lib -- libraries. Not real interesting to you as a new user.
  • /opt -- basically like /usr, but not as frequently used.

Parting Words

That should be enough to get you started. Everything else, you can either find on your system or online with a little search in your search engine of choice. Of course, you can also ask me if it tickles your fancy. Good luck, and may the source be with you!

See... wasn't that exciting? Damn straight it was. That's not the end of it, either. In the next few days, I'll have some even more pulse-pounding news, including the premier of the brand new Giant Roblog logo! Stay tuned, true believers. I promise it'll be worth the wait.

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Using a Remote Windows Printer in KDE

I don't print things very often. What can I say? It's just not a paper world anymore... at least not for slackers like yours truly. When I do, I have to wrestle with one of the least pleasant parts of the Linux world, namely interoperating with Windows. I'm gonna tell you right now, it's not pretty.

The problem is that KDE's printer dialogues are, to put it eloquently, friggin' retarded. What follows is the unofficial procedure for getting your Windows printer to spit out your Unix document. If you're having problems, hopefully something here will be helpful.

First Things First...

What follows are some of the wonderful error messages you might see while trying to setup that windows printer. I'm reprinting these so all you penguin-heads out there in cyberspace can actually find this page.

If any of the following look familiar, you're reading the right page.

Error returning browse list: NT_STATUS_ACCESS_DENIED

Unable to change printer properties. Error received from manager:
You are not authorized to access the requested resource.

So, WTF do I do?

Warning: To anyone with half a functioning brain, the following walkthrough will look stupid. You have been forewarned.

  1. Go to the K-Menu -> Control Center -> Peripherals -> Printers

  2. Click the Administrator Mode button in the lower-left corner and enter your root password when prompted.

  3. Click Add at the top and then Add Printer/Class...

  4. Click Next, then choose SMB shared printer (windows) and click Next again.

  5. Choose Anonymous (no login/password) and click Next.

  6. Click Scan and then browse to the computer that the printer is attached to. Don't bother trying to browse to the printer itself. It won't work.

  7. Click Back, choose Guest account (login="guest") and then click Next.

  8. Now browse to the printer, select it and click Next.

  9. The rest should be pretty self-explanatory. Select the make and model of printer, etc. Next, Next, Next, ad infinitum.

And that's it. Constabulations! You've just installed a printer which should now be generally accessible from programs in KDE... at least, until the next time you reboot, at which point you'll probably have to repeat this procedure. Ugh. I suppose it's not really that bad, but as I mentioned, it's pretty stupid. Hopefully this little kink will be fixed in one of the upcoming releases. It would probably help if someone entered a bugreport.

In Other News...

Man, it's been a long damn time since I made an update to the Giant Roblog. 3 months. Jeebus, where does the time go?

I've got a bunch of things to talk about, so expect some updates in the not-too-distant-future (hahahahaha).

Until then, keep it on ice, kats...


Nolo Contendre

It's been a while, Giant Robloggers (all bleeding one of you). Seems my last post was back in August, and I can gladly say that quite a lot has changed since then. Like... stuff. Stuff has definitely changed.

shut up...

What's new, Scooby-Doo?

The biggest news is that I'm now involved with an excellent project called Extinction Level Event, which you can check out at www.extinctionlevelevent.com.

The project manager has some very keen ideas about open production and business, which long-time Robloggers know I'm all about. I'm assisting the project in a writing capacity, which while lacking the glamour and glory of the art departments, is still a necessary evil. ;)

Open Season on Writers

In other news, I'm going to be super busy for the next month. Maybe even tear-my-hair-out busy. It turns out there are a ton of short fiction contests with December 1st due dates, and very few accept simultaneous submissions. That means I have a metric assload of work to do. I've also decided to stop posting my fiction up here, since A) No one reads it anyway, and 2) Some publishers get antsy about stories that have previously been "published on the web." That's not ambiguous or anything.

On a fairly related note, I'm also going to be applying for a fellowship. "A fellowship?" You ask.

Yep. I found a school that offers fellowships for first time authors with unfinished manuscripts. That description smells and awful lot like me. Terms of the fellowship include room and board on campus for a period of nine months, as well as a $10,000 stipend, under the conditions that the author is expected to finish the novel during his residence, as well as make some time available to talk to kids who're interested in writing. I think I can handle that.

I expect competition to be fierce, and I think I'm probably at a disadvantage, considering the fact that my trouser-combusting novel is both genre fiction and violent as hell. On the plus side, it does set pants on fire, and that's bound to impress somebody on the review committee. Here's hoping that the committee wears unusually flammable jockies.

From the Promotions Department

An old friend of mine has his second book coming out in November. The author is Simon Read and the book is In the Dark: The True Story of the Blackout Ripper.

Simon's an outstanding fellow, and he writes about some truly gruesome subjects. Show him some love and buy a couple copies of his book(s). Read them. Enjoy them. Give them to friends and family. Nothing says "I love you" like jamming a true crime book in someone's christmas stocking.

All Hallows Eve

Looks like I don't have any real plans for Halloween this year. That's another perfectly good, spooky holiday down the drain. All I can do is plan for next year, and hoo-boy, am I planning for next year.

Initially, what I wanted to do was get 10-20 friends together, dress everyone up as zombies, and shamble down the streets together in character for several hours on Halloween night. Now, I want more.

Imagine, if you will, groups like this in every city in the nation. Halloween night will be a simulated zombie apocalypse. What the hell could be sweeter than that?

How can you help? Spread the word. Organize a local zombie group, and prepare yourselves to scare the crap out of the country next year. The zombie apocalypse is coming to get you, Barbara. MuhuhAhaHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Wrapping Up

That's about all for this update, Robloggers. As a final note, I've got the finished renders of that Wii-Mote I was working on. All-in-all, I think it came out pretty well. Linkage below.

Cool pic

Bigger, less cool pic

Also, in case y'all didn't notice, I've updated the page graphics again. This pass was mostly just to sharpen and expand on the original update. Let me know if this isn't working for you... or lie to me. One of the two.

Keep it on ice, hep kats...


IN 3D!

Today's topic is software. Don't attempt to change the channel. You have no choice in this matter. Just sit back and take yer medicine, damn it.

Can I tell you something personal? It's sort of embarrassing. The thing is, I have an obsession; one which isn't entirely healthy. You see, I'm obsessed with computer generated 3D graphics. I have been for the entirety of my short, strange life, and I don't expect it to end anytime soon.

If I had to guess, I'd say it probably started the first time I saw Tron, and then got progressively worse with release of The Last Starfighter and the many thousands of CG laden blockbusters that followed in their wake.

This obsession of mine grew and mutated with time, eventually driving me to a video gaming addiction - the refined heroin to 3d animation's crude opium. I gaped in wonder at the rendering that gave those games life, and I ruthlessly shot those renderings to pieces with all sorts of digital weaponry. More than anything, I longed to be part of that process... Not just a consumer or virtual destroyer, but an actual creator.

So I tried. Year after tedious year, I'd dig into this or that graphics program, but it somehow never stuck. I couldn't produce anything that satisfied my urge, and the frustration routinely sent me off into month-long video game benders. I shudder to think what terrible things might've happened if there weren't countless legions of hapless gamers to slaughter online. I absolutely shudder.

These (mostly) weren't half-hearted efforts, either. I *ahem* acquired a number of different 3D apps by one method or another and gave them each a fair shake, but for some reason, not a one of them clicked. My first experiments were in Caligari Truespace, but I can't say I took that very seriously - and I'm not alone in that. Later, I bashed my head against Kinetix/Discreet/Autodesk's 3D Studio Max, all the while spending hundreds of smackaroos on very well regarded textbooks. That was all for naught - I never constructed anything more complex than a pair of dice.

I seem to recall looking at the Maya interface once. I have vague recollections of what it looked like in the brief moment between loading the app and when I clicked the X in the corner. Good times...

Which brings us up to the present. This past week, I dove head-first into Blender - The 3D Program everyone loves to hate. I kid you not. I've never run across a user interface that inspires the kind of animosity that Blender's does. Artists who are well acquainted with better known packages such as Max and Maya tend to view Blender's interface as a personal insult... It's as if Blender looks them dead in the eyes, curls its lip and calls their mothers whores.

I find it more than a little hilarious.

Considering my life long devotions to swimming upstream and laughing in the faces of nay-sayers, it was only a matter of time until I started working in Blender. Oh yeah. It's also free. As in speech and beer. Perfect for someone like me, who's both in love with open source software and flat broke.

I messed around with it a couple months back, but not enough to get a real handle on it. This time's been different. I got myself hip deep in articles, tutorials, videos, and forums. This time it clicked. I'm really getting the hang of it. All it took was the single most maddening interface in computer graphics and my own bull-headed obstinance.

So, on to the candy. Anyone who knows me at all knows what a giant Nintendo fanboy I am...... *cough cough* Sooooooo.... It's only natural that I'd have a keen interest in the Revolu^H^H^H^H, errr, Wii. As part of a project I'm working, I produced this:
I still like the name Power Wand better...

It's rough, but considering my utter inability to produce anything in 3D before, I think it's really something. Remaining tasks include adding the battery-cover on the bottom, texturing the top, and making some of them buttons transparent. That'll have to wait until I get some more coffee in me.

That's all for this update. Next installment, I'll be talking about some wicked graphic sites I've found in the past couple weeks. Until then, see you, space cowboys...