You are reading Digital Ramblings, an educational blog that endeavors to deliver information on today's technology and the computing world in a detailed but easy-to-understand manner. In this blog you would encounter information involving computing in general and other related areas of interest, such as audio. This blog is currently run and maintained by 0612, a young enthusiast in technology.

This blog is inactive, but may be repurposed soon! For now, head over to my YouTube Channel to keep up with what I'm doing!


Friday, 22 January 2010

0612 Is Still Alive

OMG, 0612 is still alive!?

Well yes, I am still alive and kicking, though unfortunately the same cannot be said of this blog.

You will be pleased to know that I am still (somewhat) active in doing what I love - That is, by sharing knowledge and passing on whatever little nuggets of information I may have. The only difference being that I've now turned to a different host and a different medium - My work now takes the form of YouTube videos.

Please visit my channel here: http://www.youtube.com/lcc0612

Quite a few educational videos have already been put up since my last post here, in addition to some of my artwork.

From this point on, this blog will probably not be updated much (well, it's been this way for the past two years anyway), but I will definitely keep all the content right here (unless of course, my blog host somehow decides to pull my content down).

In addition, this blog won't be completely quiet - I may post links to my videos as they come up.

To those who consistently read this blog (all five of you), I thank you for your continued support, and I hope you will extend the same towards my youtube channel and my videos!

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Personal plug: During this time I have also picked up a DeviantArt account right here: http://lcc0612.deviantart.com/ Do drop by if you have time

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Did You Know? #51

Did You Know...

That the "Fn" key on some laptop keyboards is a pretty unique key?

For one, your computer generally doesn't even know it exists - Pressing the Fn button does not send a message to your operating system at all. If you have a laptop or Ultra Mobile PC, you can try it, let your screensaver run. Technically any button press would stop the screensaver, but you can press the Fn key as many times as you like, and there would be no effect.

Of course we know what the Fn key does, it changes the function of certain keys on your keyboard - This allows normal buttons such as the arrow keys to do other functions like change the volume or brightness in the case of laptops.

Knowing this, and that the works of the Fn key is transparent to the operating system, this means another thing: Your operating system isn't the one changing the functions of the keys when you press Fn - Instead, the keyboard does all the work: When you hold down the Fn key and change the volume, for isntance, your operating system thinks your keyboard has a special volume button (like many keyboards do), and thinks you're just pressing that button.

Here's a little more trivia, if you're interested: Some laptops or Ultra Mobile PCs especially allow the user to choose to boot into a little "Quick Boot Operating System". This means we're not running Windows at all. If it is a software program that changes the functions of keys when "Fn" is pressed, then you may find that the special keys don't work because the quick boot operating system likely does not support the special driver software - But this is not the case.


There you have it, that's two did you knows rolled into one post!

Monday, 6 July 2009

Hitting the Right Gold

Have a quick look at this:



For 3D artists, one of the type of objects you'll probably be faced with making once in a while is Gold - The precious metal isn't so easy to reproduce in 3D programs, and, if not done properly, the material either looks dull yellow or dull orange. So here's the trick to creating a gold material in any 3D software that will pass off as pretty convincing.

In this post I will refer to a number of technical terms with regard to materials in 3D programs, and, in case you don't understand any of them, I will make a short explanation, but if you need more details you can refer to one of my older posts, Coloring in 3D.

As mentioned, I have tried my best to write this tutorial in a way that is not program-specific. However, to aid the discussion, I will use screenshots from my favorite 3D program Blender.

So let's dive right in!


So that you have an idea of what the screenshots will look like, here's a screenshot of the original, unedited material provided by my software. Your software need not have the same default settings, but through experience, it should not differ much.



For any material, you usually can define a number of different colors. The first is of course the actual surface colour of the material. So first we'll go ahead and give the surface a nice yellowish colour, like so:



The color I picked is #FFC83D - A colour that emphasizes red and green, but gives a little blue to. Depending on what program you use, I'd recommend that you do not set any colour to 0. Even if you completely do not want a particular colour, give it a small value greater than zero, for more natural effects.

Next, we move on to the specular highlight. Very quickly, that refers to the glow a material experiences when light hits it:



Most non-metallic materials have white specular colours - As long as white light hits it, the glow is white. For gold, however (and other coloured metals), this wouldn't do - The specular highlight should be a colour similar to the actual surface colour. I have chosen a deep orange for the highlight. However, since none of the component colours (red, green and blue), have been set to zero, the glow is white at its brightest spot, like so:



The specular colour I've chosen is FF6D33, which , compared to the surface colour has less green, thus creating a deeper shade of orange. As you can see, this change hasn't done much - It has only made the specular spot less distinct.

In actual fact, gold is far more shiny than this - We need to give the surface a greater specular value. Note that this is different from what we set just now, which is the colour of the specular hightlight. Now we will change the amount of specular highlight.

I had to increase the existing specular value more than threefold to get the desired effect. Experiment and see!



If your 3D package allows it, you can also try to experiment with the spot size of the specular highlight (this setting is known as Hardness in Blender). I personally prefer a slightly larger spot, thus reducing the hardness parameter, giving this result




Now we've come to the most crucial part of the material - Reflections. Gold is shiny, and while it's not mirror-like, it still is reflective, and some mirroring of the surroundings will give your gold a better look.

If your modelling program does not support raytracing (the ability to simulate the behaviour of light in real life), then life will be more difficult - The tutorial becomes irrelevant from this point on, but not all hope is lost since it is still possible to acheive the same effect using reflection maps. However, that is beyond the scope of this tutorial.

Without preamble I'm going to go ahead and make the material about 60% reflective, producing this result:



No - not very convincing. In fact, it looks bad! Completely washed out! The reason for this is that the surface reflects all colours, and we know that's wrong - Gold should reflect yellows only, and less of blue. Thus, search for a mirror colour option, and set that colour to an orangey-yellowish hue, which produces this result for me:



And yes, that is pretty much it!


While you can have the best material, the setup of your scene is also important. Know how to set up your lighting (use high powered omni-lamps to really bring out that specular spot), and make sure the scene is well lit. Don't be afraid to tweak the material too.

Since we're dealing with reflections, there also needs to be an environment to actually reflect. For example, the default scene in Blender isn't going to make the reflective material very useful since it is a solid colour!

Instead, add a background or walls and floor, to take full advantage of the gold's reflectivity!

And there you have it - Some nice convincing gold!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Did you Know? #50

Did you know...

That you can extend the contents of the right-click Context Menu? This has been proven to work on Windows Vista, but I am not sure if it works on Windows XP or earlier.

Instead of right-clicking, hold down Shift, then right-click.

Additional options will appear in the context menu, depending on what you've right clicked. There are two options which I find particularly useful.

First is the "Open Command Window Here" option. While it is usually easy enough to start an MS-DOS session, you can do so by going to Run and typing "CMD", it usually starts in a certain default folder - Which is probably not where you have stored the files you want to access.



As you can see, it starts in my default folder. If I want it to start in, say my desktop, all I need to do is to hold down shift, right click on my desktop, and choose "open command window here", which puts it in the correct folder:





Tada!



Another right click feature I like is the "Copy as path" function, which lets you copy the direct path to the file. If I do the following:



This is what I get on my clipboard:
"C:\Users\0612\Pictures\roflmao.gif"



Depending on what icon you're right-clicking, other features may also appear. Explore and have fun!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Digital Ramblings - Now with a Tiny URL!

TinyURL is a web service that takes a URL of any length, and gives a new URL that points to the same location.

This is particularly useful for long URLs, or URLs containing messy hash code (such as the code for YouTube videos). TinyURL makes accessing these sites by memory much easier, since you only need to remember a shortened URL, which can have any name you choose.

Digital Ramblings' URL is unfortunately not very easy to remember either (especially the 0612 at the end, standing for my pen name), so we now have our very own TinyURL:

http://tinyurl.com/digital-ramblings

So, go ahead and give this link to your friends! No reason to forget it now!


Just to be clear, the original URL still works. This is true for any site that tinyURL is used on, because tinyURL doesn't actually do anything to the original site - It only adds an entry in its own database, such that accessing the entry redirects the user's browser to the original web page.

So there you have it - Many thanks to tinyURL for making this possible. And if you ever need your own tinyURL, just visit their web page (the link is the first word of this post!) - Making tinyURLs is a completely free process!

 

Please note that any information posted within this blog is not guaranteed to be correct. By reading this blog, you agree that any information you may choose to use is to be used at your own risk, and that you will not hold the writer responsible for any possible outcomes for your use of the information.