Monday, August 24, 2009

Scaring the First-Years

Run. Now. Get out while you can. Drop out of engineering and go into an arts program. Calculus is difficult. The economy sucks; you'll get a co-op job counting packaging peanuts. Friends, sleep, or work: pick work. The cafeteria food is made of recycled plastic polymers. The Canadian geese will kill you and defecate on... well, you get the picture.

If you're just starting university, all you need to know is that you can't trust anything older students tell you. Except about the geese; that part's more or less true.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I need to get out more.

2021: Projected future physique. Polygons: 861. Pounds: 435.
I'd like to keep my low-res polygon count at least double my weight in pounds.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Woohoo! I just saved a hundred dollars.

I was just about to buy Sketchbook 2010 when I got an email from Autodesk thanking me for registering (when I downloaded the trial version) and informing me that as a student, I could get it for free. Go, Autodesk, go.

Check out those custom brushes. Mmm. And straight edges too! Tasty.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Leaked Logos

Designing logos is difficult. Just ask the University of Waterloo: new logo designs that are allegedly part of a new marketing campaign have been getting lampooned with glee since they were leaked several weeks ago (on Facebook, of all places).

This brings me to the fancy circular thing at the top of this post. It is not a new UW iGEM logo; it's just me continuing to test sketching programs (the ring was drawn in Sketchbook, the lettering is from ArtRage). On the other hand, from what I've heard, the iGEM logo may soon look something like this. The reason for the logo change is due to complaints that the current use of the Waterloo lion dilutes the school's branding (more so than the new 'W' logo, apparently).

Even for a logo as simple as this test, there's a surprising number of considerations that I messed up. For one thing, it should be done with vector graphics so that the logo can actually scale, then there's all the technical errors with the perspective and shape of the gear and the DNA strands. Also, this logo is using some subtle shading that would probably get lost in most applications and having the text on the inside of the ring limits how small the logo can be made while remaining readable...

All in all, I'm really pretty glad I'm not working in graphics design.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Personal Satellites

You can apparently now buy kits to build satellites. And I know what you're thinking: that's just a metal container you can throw stuff in. And that's where you're wrong, because it stops being a metal container as soon as you launch it into low earth orbit (this is included in the $8000 price).

I have to say, I've never been more tempted to buy an eight thousand dollar can. I'm not completely sure what I'd do with one, but any project would have to have some communication component to be useful (otherwise you'd never hear from your super expensive can once you tossed it into space). I sort of like the idea of trying some sort of zero gravity biological experiment, but again there's the problem of recording and sending results, plus you'd kill whatever you sent up so I'd feel bad about sending up a pet fish. Weight restrictions would also probably rule out most other animals, but you could probably do something bacterial...

Anyway, enough of my random fantasies, go check it out.

New Gear

I'm trying out some new drawing apps these days. Most of the existing content of this site was made with Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro, but I'm also liking the look of ArtRage, a very similar looking program which has some awesome paint blending features:

An ArtRage Test Image

From my first (really quick) impression of ArtRage, it seems to be a lot more focused on emulating physical media and painting in particular than Sketchbook is. Where Sketchbook is super streamlined and optimized for a quick workflow, ArtRage is teeming with features -- it's almost difficult to draw anything because it's so much fun just to whirl paint around.

The user interfaces for both programs are both extremely intuitive with a tablet PC and are miles ahead of the ones for Photoshop and the GIMP (although, to be fair, those programs are in a different class in terms of features and intended use). Both programs are reasonably priced, although ArtRage is significantly cheaper.

This second image was created in Sketchbook. Naturally, I did spend more time on this then I did on the rainbow at the top of this post because it's a fair bit more complicated (to Sketchbook's credit, the second image was still a very fast sketch). It doesn't really help ArtRage that its trial version, while functional, non-expiring, and very cool, doesn't enable the layers feature which I depend fairly heavily on in Sketchbook. Also, the 2010 version of Sketchbook has raised the bar slightly with the introduction of rulers of its own and an interesting looking mirroring feature.

I've yet to try Sketchbook 2010 and I still have a lot of testing left to do with ArtRage, but ultimately I think it will be hard to beat the type of productivity I can get out of Sketchbook which has all the tools I absolutely need and nothing else. On the other hand, it's a little bit ridiculous how cool ArtRage is, so I might eventually get that as well.

I can't help but wish for a miraculously free or open source program to appear. I know some exist, such as GIMP and Inkscape, but these really aren't particularly good as sketching programs.