Saturday, August 30, 2008

New Raytracer ideas

(contd from the previous post)...

Onwards and upwards to the next thing on the list. On my bike home from work today I decided (somewhere in the Presidio amongst the eucalyptus trees) that I should start working on my Waterloo Raytracer again. This is obviously a bit of a pipe dream since I've wanted to do that for ages but never had the time (or made the time) for it. I think it would be great to do it. Who knows when this will start, but I want to add it to the things I want to revive at some point. Maybe this will wait until my sweeeeet new Desktop computer in January, or maybe sooner... depends on how much time I have for it. :) I was thinking about some specific features I'd want to add:

General Infrastructure
  • Bug tracking/reporting system - maybe linked by RSS feed to my blog or Raytracer website
  • Web Forum for comments from the public/friends/visitors
  • New revision control system

Specific feature ideas (from my bike ride home) :)
  • Port to Windows
    -This involves getting LUA and PNG libraries to compile on Windows
    -Would be cool to learn some of this porting stuff and what's required
    -Considerations: Visual Studio 2008? Eclipse with cygwin and gcc?
  • Port to Mac
    -On that note, why not?!
    -This would be a freakin' GREAT project if I get a MacBook Pro some day
    -Talk about a perfect idea for REALLY learning how to program on a Mac
    -Considerations: Re-writing Raytracer in Objective C is too much work, would just want to re-use C++ code and learn Mac architecture, get some experience using XCode
  • Windows GUI
    -Browse button to load file
    -Add time estimate/percentage bar.
    -Long shot would be to add image as it is being created and have it draw onto the screen as it is going. (Actually, that might not be that hard)
  • Mac GUI
    -Again, a perfect opportunity to learn Mac and Cocoa and XCode
  • Convert PNG Library to something else
    -Haven't thought about this much
    -Ideally would want to convert Waterloo-supplied libraries to my own code so that I can own the whole thing
    -PNG actually sortof is ideal, maybe JPG or TIFF instead?
    -Could support JPG or TIFF or RAW save formats or something, but do it as a conversion at the end using a command-line converter inside of the Raytracer
  • Convert LUA interpreted language to Python
    -This is probably a lot of work
    -This is a core part of the system
    -This is a major part of the Waterloo-supplied code that ideally I'd like to remove and re-write
    -Python is much more extensible/powerful than LUA
    -Python opens up a wealth of insanely sweet possibilities, like also importing the Maya Python standalone libraries, and building and .ma/.mb mesh/normals/UV coordinate reader into my Raytracer!!!!!!
  • Modules
    -Right now it's just about 20 .h/.cpp files in one directory. I should probably make modules instead that would turn into .dso files for Linux and .dll files for Windows, then link those together. It might be a bit small for that now, but if this gets bigger, I'll be happy that I made it organized and modular when it wasn't a total mess and insanely inter-dependant.
  • Open Source it?
    -This might be a problem with ANY Waterloo-supplied code still in there
    -I need to be careful that other people taking that class at Waterloo could download the code and cheat on assignments, so I don't want to cause that.
  • More optimizations
    -Actually I don't need a LOT of optimization, I spent ages doing this for the course
    -Maybe fix hypertreading thing to take a number of processes and generalize this rather than hard-coding it
  • Bug fixes
    -There was an error in my loop which caused the last column of pixels to overlap on the first frame of pixels, need to fix that
    -General cleanup and re-structuring might be a good idea
So most of that stuff is pretty infrastructure-y, but a few more random actual Graphics code things that might be cool... basically stuff from the Jensen and Pharr books that I never had time to write during the course:
  • Photon Mapping
  • Caustics
  • Global Illumination
  • Subsurface Scattering
  • Networked/Distributed rendering (only have 1 machine in my house, so maybe not) :)
  • More materials, better surface representation, learn more about reflection functions
All of this stuff generally is interesting and could lead me to newer ideas and interests within Computer Graphics, so I think it's totally worth a shot!! I guess this is a pretty long-term idea, and it would take a while to do even a subset of this stuff since I have so much else going on and it's also probably not healthy to program for 10 hours at work, come home, eat dinner, and program for 8 hours at home. :) So I might do some of this stuff eventually, this is sortof just an outline of general ideas, and we'll see where we go from here.

Whew, ok that's enough for now. I've been going to bed at like 3 or 4am for the past 2 weeks, there is way too much going on lately and a rediculous amount of stuff on my mind and things I want to do. Crazy! The election is awesome, watching all the speeches and lots of commentary on CNN and John Stewart and Colbert and it's all exciting.

Busy day tomorrow, I'm going to Nick's wedding so I gotta get some sleep so I have lots of energy to help Nick set up tomorrow.

Mint, financial planning, reading, raytracer, staying up too late, election

A bazillion things going on so I'll just chat quick. :)

Matt Parrott came over last night and we hung out, congrats to him for finishing up his Grad School!!!!!!! Awesome times. So anyway I was up until 4:30am last night just reading stuff, and generally thinking about financial planning (seriously). My buddy Joel in New York recommend which is a new financial aggregator service. It's pretty sweet - collects all your banking, 401k, savings, credit card info in one location, and then makes automatic spending charts, bar graphs, pie charts etc to show you where you spend your money every month. It's pretty cool, you can see very clearly "How much do I spend on restaurants per month", and then "drill down" more into the question, for example, "How much do I spend at Starbucks every month". Pretty sweet. So I am clearly going to find out I am spending too much on Indian Food and Pizza for delivery... I know that's gonna be the case. How much? I don't know. But last month was probably pushing $100 or $120 easily for delivered food. What an expensive habit. So I am gonna try to "curb" this (haha), but seriously I am going to focus on what I spend the most money on and see where I can tighten things up. Also I don't get ANY rewards on my current MasterCard, so if I switch it up I can probably get at least $250 per year just in a cashback rewards Visa card. Crazy. So I should obviously be doing this.

Why all the focus on financial planning? Well, cost of living is insane in San Francisco, and now that I am paying for rent and not in the gloriously free Pixar Intern Housing anymore (as was the case in 2005 and 2006), I have a LOT more costs and bills and rent is expensive living on my own too. So I need to be a bit more careful than just a free-for-all with my expenses so that I can save faster. I am rockin' my savings account again with automatic weekly payments, but I am sure I can do even better than this. I made a general goal for the year back on Dec 28th to be smarter financially. Quoting myself, "Save, save, save: stop spending on stuff I don't need, delay those purchases until later." This was mainly so that I could afford my recent trip to South Africa, and that went well but still I need to continue on this trend (and improve on it). Ideally I still could be saving a lot more than I am right now, and I want to work on that.

After chatting with Matt Parrott and over-analyzing my knowledge of the world compared to him and some of my other insanely brilliant and successful genius homeboys, I've decided that I am doing a good job in the "current news" department, and I've been working hard to keep up on politics, world issues, and the like. This is great, but I am spending SO much time on this (along with other "current news" stuff: Box Office results, upcoming film news, movies in the works, etc) that I am not spending NEARLY enough time just... reading. I have bought a few books over the past few months from Amazon, and it's literally taking forever for me just to get through Barack Obama's book. It's awesome, but man I am a slow reader. And given the opportunity, I'd rather spend 8 hrs on the computer at night (after spending 10 hrs on the computer at work all day) :) Crazy. So I need more balance in that aspect. And I have some books on the queue, I just need to put some more time in, specifically, to read them.

This blog is getting too long... splitting it into 2 posts.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Most recorded visitors ever to my blog

This is nuts.

As reported about 10 months ago, Google Analytics claimed that I had 930 visitors that month from 44 countries. I haven't looked at it in a while, but I noticed over the last few months that readership has grown from 1000 steadily to 1500, sometimes pushing more. Most of these seemed to be spikes when I sent out a link to photos on my blog to friends at work or something. But this month it has just been a rediculous increase in readership?!!! Thanks in part to some links from PixarPlanet and my posts on Wall-E toys and Siggraph 2008, it appears.

Anyhow... according to Google Analyics, this month I have had:
2,946 visits came from 77 countries/territories

That's INSANE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
As expected the top 2 countries are USA then Canada, with most of my visitors coming from California, followed by New York. So thanks California friends and apparently Joel (in NYC) you read my blog too much?!?!?!

Anyway this is super interesting, and I am again completely taken by surprise that this many people in the world (seriously, France? Australia? Thailand?!) care enough about my goings-on that they would read my blog. Pretty re-donkulous.

So anyway, folks... thank you kindly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Much appreciated, and thanks for continuing to visit. I will certainly keep this up with this kind of readership. Crazy!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

XKCD does it again

I love xkcd's comics. These are always spot on. :)

And... yep.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Texas A&M Viz lab at Siggraph 2008

Sweet, I made it into the Texas A&M Viz lab at Siggraph 2008 photo gallery. :)
Check out the bottom row in the middle!!

Thanks Kurt for sending me the link!!

SFMOMA and John Mayer's new album

I went to SFMOMA yesterday with Frizzle, Jess, Fiz-Bam and Stephan Schteeeeinbaachh and it was sick. I liked the Art of Lee Miller photography exhibit, that was really interesting and the WWII photos were the most intense and probably the best part of the exhibit. Also there was a Frido Khalo exhibit which was great to see. I enjoyed it and it definitely made me more interested in seeing the movie to get an idea of some of the history of Frida Khalo, and what brought her to style her art in the way that she did. The best part of SFMOMA is the European section, with some of my usual favourites: Matisse, Kandinsky, Chagal, Picasso and Braque. Awesome times.

I got a creme brulee at the museum cafe which they blow-torched in front of us, that was cool!! We went to the park afterwards and chilled out, and Stephan and I talked about some SLR camera stuff. I think actually he had the Canon 20D. It was nice and fun to play with it!! I just talked to Matt on the phone and he told me some details about the new "Prosumer" Nikon D-SLR and it sounds siiiick too. So I am not sure what I am going to end up getting, but I am going to start researching this stuff now. Hopefully I can get the camera before Christmastime and then take it back to Canada to get some iconic Winter shots. :)

Today just spending some time cleaning the apartment, catching up on lots of stuff - sleep, emails, relaxing and drinking coffee, the usuals. :)

Also I'm listening to the new John Mayer live album called "Where the light is" - this is INSANE. Seriously this is absolutely ingenious. His solos are just nuts, and this album definitely brings you back to the John Mayer style of his earlier albums. I feel like John Mayer is a lot like Dave Matthews Band... in that his talent is really, reaaaaaaally clear in the Live albums, and although the studio albums are enjoyable (and awesome too), the real power of John Mayer's disgustingly insane guitar skills is more more evident in a setting like this. This album has 3 sections: John Mayer + band, John Mayer Trio, and a John Mayer acoustic section. The John Mayer Trio section shows off the skills of John with the two other guys from the "Try!" album and the blues riffs are like a glorious bluesy punch to the face - they are SO awesome. He calms down a little with some of the "Radio friendly" versions like the band version of "Why Georgia", but this is the case with all live musicians that rock so hard at live music. I guess all the songs can't be 15 minutes long... although I certainly wouldn't mind. :)

This album is beautiful, and shows off so much ridiculous talent that you can't help but love it.

Digital SLR purchasing

Seems like buying a D-SLR is on everyone's minds these days. :) I was talking to Stephan about his Nikon D80 yesterday and looks like Joel is in the market too.

I'm pretty set on a Canon since I love Canon and also I have my Mom's old Canon 75-300mm lens sitting here just waiting for a camera body to be attached to. :) It looks like Canon released a new Rebel XS, a cheaper version of the Rebel XSi - and I'm trying to figure out if it's worth the difference. I could also fall back to the Rebel XT or Rebel XTi but based on the CNET reviews the XTi was not a significant increase in features over the XT... and the prices are all reasonably similar so it might be worth getting the newer one with updated features.

This website seems really helpful, it's a cross-section of all the Canon D-SLRs on the market at the moment, and I think this will help my decision. It is sounding like the XSi probably makes the most sense, since I just looked at B&H Photo and it appears that the XS and XSi are actually selling there for the SAME price?! ($699 with lens). I could save a few hundred by going with the older Rebel XT, but some of the features of the XSi are pretty sick - bigger screen, faster burst time, faster RAW file writing, Live View and the fact that it takes SD cards rather than CF cards (finally!) :)

Anyway this is one of my bigger purchases on the way, just gotta decide which one to get and then enrol for an SLR camera course. :)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Friday, August 22, 2008

The end of a musical era

Sad news this week... LeRoi Moore, brilliant Jazz/Rock Saxophone player and founding member of the Dave Matthews Band died from injuries he incurred earlier this summer from an ATV accident. Very sad news as he had been in and out of the hospital all summer and starting a lengthy rehabilitation program.

The Dave Matthews Band has been playing shows all summer with a guest Saxophone player, and they actually had a show scheduled for the same night they found out the terrible news.

Interestingly, they decided still to play the show to honour LeRoi's memory in the best way that they could - by playing music together as they have for the past 17 years "as a family".

Here's an interesting comment from their tour blog:
As we sat this afternoon contemplating the loss of our brother, we wondered how we could possibly do a show today. Dave put it into perspective stating, "There's no place I'd rather be than here with you guys right now." We cherish special memories of our lost friend. Tonight, Dave told a story about LeRoi at a bar in Virginia where the cash register was near the stage and LeRoi leaned on the register because "standing had become a chore". Roi proceeded to play the most beautiful version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Dave said, "that was the day I fell in love with him. And I'm still in love with him." It's safe to say we all were in love with him. "It's always easier to leave, than to be left." -DM

The DMB Crew
Wednesday, August 20
12:27 AM PDT
Very sad news. The band is brilliant and talented , but we have surely lost a musical legend. Those long, intense riffs and tight coordination with Boyd Tinsley on Violin will be impossible for another Saxophone player to match. Someone else may be able to emulate the sound, but I don't think anyone could bring the energy and improvisational power to the band's music as well as LeRoi has since the band started.

My thoughts go out to LeRoi Moore's family and to the members and families of all the band members. This is a big change for them, and it must be tough.

Best wishes to the band on the road ahead. They certainly have been an ispiration to me in many ways since I started listening to them over 10 years ago.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Breakfast in Burbank, then heading home

Sunday I went out for breakfast in Burbank with Arend and Kurt and we went to this super busy but super good place called Aroma. It was glorious and the food rocked. We were going to go to the beach but we were sooooo tired from all the sun the day before at Universal Studios so we just chilled out and played Halo 3 and then watched The Big Lebowski on Kurt's ingenious projector setup. It was great. Then I got a headache from eating too much candy, and then Kurt dropped me off at the airport. It was such an amazing trip to Siggraph and also to LA, and great to see so many great friends and old colleagues. Awesome times!!!!!!!!

Kurt and Arend at breakfast

Arend and I at breakfast

Phelpsiiiin' itttttt!!

This lemonade was awesome

The food was so good too

Kurt really excited for a huge bite of food

Kurt gave me one of his extra teapots from 2004!!!!!!!! This was soooo cool. On the floor they gave out R, G, B teapots, and at the RenderMan User's Group they gave out the "A" Alpha Channel teapot. :) This is the Alpha one (obviously) :)

The RenderMan Users Group teapot for 2008

The Pixar booth teapot for 2008

Awesome Renderman 20th Anniversary walking teapot hat, and sweeeeet Clone Wars shirt

Amazing Maya 10th year Anniversary shirt that Julien got got me at the Maya User's Group

Sweet Autodesk MasterClasses shirt I got

Stuff I bought at DreamWorks

Universal Studios

On Saturday Kurt and I went to Universal Studios!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MAN I LOVE THAT PLACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It was insanely amazing as usual. We actually got "Front of the Line" passes which were totally great but also awesome awkward as you walk in a special line away from everyone else, and you have to flash your fancy "Gate A" pass in front of everyone and then you walk right into the show or ride. Insane. It was sweet, and made it so we could go to everything and only spend 6 hours (and not 12) in the sun at the park. :)

It was amazing, then we met Kurt's friends in the evening to watch The Dark Knight in IMAX. It was incredible and the city scenes in IMAX are just glorious.

Also... THE SIMPSONS RIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was new, and (unfortunately) the replacement for the old Back to the Future ride. It was hilarious, tons of inside jokes, and I loved it loved it loved it loved it loved it!!!!!!!!!!!!

In the evening after the movie we just went back to Kurt's and played some more Halo 3. :)

Me at the Universal Studios Hollywood sign!!

This place is amazing

The dude at the front standing up in these sculptures is a real person!!! The rest were sculptures. Crazy!!

Kurt going to town on his lunch

Waterworld show

The dude putting the plane back after the Waterworld show


Fake Comic Book store from The Simpsons

A Kwik-E-Mart!!!!!!!!

So coooooooool

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! This is SO AMAZING I can hardly take it!!!!!!!!!!

Enough said. This ride was made for me.

Hilarious signs

Hahahaha check out the sign that says "Give it a shot... then GO AWAY!" :)

So, so classic.

The gift shop


Tons of Simpsons stuff

HUGE Lard Lad Doughnut

Kurt bought a Flaming Moe energy drink

Kurt and a frozen banana

Back at The Simpsons Ride again

Using our "Gate A" pass

Kurt back at The Simpsons ride after getting soaked on the Jurassic Park ride

Back lot tour


DeLorean from Back to the Future!!

The Bates Motel from Psycho

Sooo coool

Haha crazy actor guy coming at the tour with a fake knife

War of the Worlds set

More of the War of the Worlds set

Huge blue screen

Arend rockin' the Hard Rock Cafe neon guitar


Amazing Monsters, Inc. figures

Sooo cool