23 June 2009

DDD update

Well it may be that all is not lost. I have confided the drive to a friend who has an industrial-grade data recovery package that may be able to find my stuff... - update, yeah, all was lost. :( Had to start again from scratch.

19 June 2009

Dickhead data destruction

So yesterday (or rather the early hours of yesterday morning) should have been great. After months of trying I finally cured a problem I had where I had had Vista installed on two drives and the one that was D: wouldn't relinquish being system even though everything was done on the C: drive, even to the point where D: was absolutely necessary for the booting of C:, without D: on the bus the computer wouldn't boot. After hunting around for ages and having tried all manner of things to fix the situation I found this intriguing thread and piped up with my problem wondering if it could be resolved using the same method as hnyman on the forum had cured his similar-seeming problem. Pages of thread ensued, complete with my photographs of the monitor for situations where copying pages of info out by hand was not a realistic idea. So 4AM 18.06.09 I finally solved the issue, not using the software that the forum was for: EasyBCD, but another tool called BootIt NG, commonly known as BING. It's a scary tool for neophytes like me, but with handholding and patience from the marvellous Jake Johnson - Coolname007 on the neosmart forum - I got it so that D: was no longer necessary to my machine! Yay!

I should have left it at that I retired to my bed, fatigué mais heureux, but oh no. In my exhaustion the thought obviously meandered through my brain that I needed to teach D: a lesson - mess me about for months would you? I am your master now.

So what did I do? What the fuck did I do?! I formatted D: HA! That'll teach this inanimate bit of electronics a thing or two about the real boss of the computer... Great, I even felt satisfied. I could definitely go to bed now... no, wait a minute. Let's call this partition "NewTek:" and put all my NewTek-related stuff on it! Yes, great idea, I can just go to that temp directory I set up on E: and copy everything out of it onto the defunct D: That way I'll have my LightWave on there (ooh look, peak speed of 89MB/s), plus all the documents and images I've worked on for the company (hey, nearly done now, just another 500 MB to go) and what else? Oh yes (the copy has finished), I know I'll put my LW Content folder on there, complete with the lighting plan I made of our living room when we wanted to move stuff around, and the very important project I'm working on for Nelson Mandela, and all the example content I can learn fr... hang on, where's the lw content folder? The blood drained from my face and I could feel an incipient duodenal ulcer just ready to spring into blood-curdling action. The fucking. lw content. directory. Containing about 5GB of assets and material. Was. on. D:!

And so started the day for me. I went to bed thinking that things would look better in the warm light of day, but after about ten minutes of thrashing around and gnashing my teeth I got up again and tried to recover my fuck up. And here I am at nearly 3AM the next day thinking to myself over and over "why don't you need qualifications to run a computer? A licence or some kind of training to make sure you don't charge around like a bull in a china shop as I had done"

So here I sit, writing this blog post as I wait for GetDataBack for NTFS to go through all the files on the drive, knowing inside that it won't do any good and that I could probably have recreated my work in the time I've wasted trying to repair the damage I did. So, I'm going to bed. This saga will end in one of two ways: the worst, but most likely I fear, is that I've lost ten years of work and had better get a move replacing it. The sunny alternative is that a program, perhaps even GetDataBack recommended by my good friend Peter Jespersen, will completely recover all my lw content. I'd like to say a big thank you as well to everyone that has helped me with this, as much for their shoulders for me to cry on as actual technical help.

That's it. My eyes have gone woggly. It's a technical term. G'night. I shall keep y'all posted on progress and make this post a little purtier with pics, etc. maybe even dancing girls, I don't know.

15 June 2009

Review: Superplexus

Superplexus is a 3D maze toy that involves you turning a plastic ball around and around on all axes trying to get a ball bearing from 1-100. Although it was a flop for manufacturer Tiger Electronics when released in 2002, it's an excellent pastime for "grown-ups" who are waiting on a render, or want to concentrate on something away from the dreaded computer. I will do a video to put on this post as soon as I can figure out the best way to do it - I'm currently thinking of strapping the camera to my head - because with the ball bearing not being very big, it can be difficult to see in the crowded interior of the ball. All I can say with certitude is that this is something that everyone ought to have a go at.

I've had a look on eBay in the US, UK, France and Germany and there are all examples available there for less than 30 (£|$|€), so go to it!

To learn more about Michael McGinnis, the inventor, or Superplexus itself, go to: http://www.santarosa.edu/~mmcginni/myart/invention/superplexus/

Wii Homebrew

I've hesitated for a long while before posting this because, well just because, but it's all info freely available on the web, I just Googled for things (I did not "Bing" them). Since System 4 came out for the Wii, with obstruction of the famous Zelda save game loophole, it was thought that the Homebrew Channel was dead and buried, but it may be easier to install than before (I didn't try before System 4, but since I don't own any Zelda games I would think that method would be harder).

To start off, all you need do is visit this site. It provides you with details of how to go about installing the Homebrew Channel on your System 4 Wii. Why would you want to? Well, it's not for piracy, despite what official sources say. There are a growing number of independent applications that a) don't require official licences or packaging and b) this is the way new developers start, without the learning avenue of independent thought all we'll get is ever-safer sequelitis or movie tie-ins from the few remaining established publishers at huge prices.

You will need an SD card for this to work, and SDHC cards and MicroSDs in SD card adaptors work for me having tested an 8GB SDHC card, a 256 MB SD card and a 2 GB MicroSD.

Once you have this, visit the site I listed above and get the software you need to get it installed. I used the Bannerbomb tool and the first piece of software I installed (after the Homebrew Channel, obviously) was the Homebrew Browser, a self-updating browser of all the games and apps that are available directly through the channel - My faves include the 2D Portal games Portii and Still Alive; Picross for the Wii (since there isn't an official one); Google Earth for the Wii in WiiEarth; various utilities for loading and saving games and Miis and the not-very-useful-but-good-demos of Balance Board tools and Spirit Level. The Homebrew Browser is available on the same site as the Homebrew Channel itself. There are also numerous emulators of games (like Scumm, Quake and Doom) and platforms (including the NES, SNES and N64 obviously, but also the Amiga and even Mac, although I haven't tried any yet).

Anyway, the Homebrew Channel will doubtless be "cured" with the next system update again, but it's a great thing to have. Publish your homebrew game to the Homebrew Browser and let me know so I can try it out!

4 June 2009

Review: Canon Digital Ixus 95 IS

We've had a Pentax Optio for a few years now. It replaced our Fuji that was our first digital camera, so the immediate leap in resolution, screen size, speed and image quality amazed us. This replacement comes faster on the heels of the Pentax, but even so, amazes us in its own way. One of the reasons we needed a new camera was that the Pentax's startup time was seemingly an age - when most of your photos are of kids it's very easy to lose the moment, so the fact that the Canon is ready to go in less than a second is more a necessity than a luxury.

We're not photographers so by leaving it in full auto we don't feel limited and actually appreciate the speed at which it reacts to new subject material (such as going into portrait mode when it detects one or more faces). It does mean that the camera is never silent as it busily whirs to change the focal distance and aperture, but it's good that it's busy trying to make sure I get the photo I want.

The camera is smaller even than the Pentax we had before, but feels very solid in use. The zoom control is the twist-around-the-shutter-button type, while I preferred the Pentax's dedicated button, but by the same count, the switch on the back between full auto, program and video means you don't have to go into menus to video something like you do on the Pentax. The screen on the back of the camera is also accompanied by an optical viewfinder if you'd rather make the battery last as long as possible, but since it's not TTL and you don't have the same info overlay you do with the screen, I don't think it's really a worthwhile addition to the camera. The macro on this camera is from 3cm compared to the Pentax's 10cm, which makes for better shots of insects and the like (not that I've photographed any yet to find out if the autofocus places emphasis on just the wrong part like the Pentax did). The camera apparently has the same Digic 4 processor as Canon's high end DSLRs looking for faces and other subject types the whole time and the camera certainly feels responsive. There is also red eye correction while shooting or afterwards that works very well in most cases, although eyes that are side on get left a little red, as is usual. Lastly for me, the fact that the camera supports Canon's PictBridge system (as might be expected) means that you can hook the camera directly to the printer and print out perfect shots.

I didn't install the CD that came with the camera, but it's the usual mix of Canon stuff: the picture navigator and so on. They are okay as far as manufacturer software is concerned, but I have no need of them. So let's turn to the way the camera's UI is organised. First off the Play button on the back allows you to simply turn on the camera to show pictures you've taken, without "extruding" the lens and when in program mode, the different settings are easy to reach through a simple menu system. It's a shame that you can't do a rule of thirds display in auto mode (seemingly) since that would really help with composition since you no longer need to worry about exposure, white balance or anything else, but this is a small exception to an otherwise well-organised camera.

picture taken with Nintendo DSiWhen you're connected directly to a PictBridge printer, a new screen pops up to allow you to select one or more shots to print out. My only gripe here is that although the printer displays a panel saying "let your camera choose settings" you still need to set the paper tray on the printer, otherwise you get lovely photo prints up in the corner of an A4 sheet if you're not careful, this however is almost certainly an EBKAC rather than a problem with the camera. Even so, what's the point of asking what paper size you want in the camera without at least verifying that there's paper of the requisite size in the printer, and where?

We bought the camera for 199€ and it came with a Canon case and 4GB SD card, about the same price we paid for the Pentax four years ago, and half what we paid for the Fuji in 2000 and it's certainly a fine camera for the money - lightning fast in use and producing some great-looking images, particularly when printed. One of the reasons we settled on this specific camera was thanks to a very in-depth review on the Photography Blog website and I recommend you go there to see example images taken with this camera since they set up specific test cases including chromatic aberrations, macro tests and more that I really don't have the time or inclination to do. Overall, this camera is great. There is very little to complain about if you have a PictBridge printer as well for very quick, good-looking snaps. For more serious photography, why are you even looking at a compact camera? 4/5