Excellent Blender session

We had a great session on Blender today at the Isle of Man Code Club. Gary from Mannimation Studio gave us a tour of the sort of things that Blender can do, showed us how the interface worked and gave us lots of ideas of just what can be done in the 3D Animation world. Here are some photos from the session:

I never realised just how comprehensive Blender was and just how deep the subject matter actually is. We’re doing some more next week; really looking forward to it.

Oh yes, Blender is a free package, so go ahead and download a copy.

Try the new Isle of Man Visitor Mobile App

Do you have an iPhone? Have you tried out the Visit Isle of Man App? It’s got a collection of stuff visitors would like to learn about the Isle of Man, but it also have a bunch of stuff all of you should check out. There’s information about places to visit, whether they’re outdoor activities, walking, heritage railways, historic attractions, wildlife watching or anything you’d like to do. The app also does arrivals and departures and also lets you check out what hotels are available and what it would cost to stay in them.

It’s only available for iPhone as I write this post, but there should be an Android app coming soon. Looking forward to trying it out.

To Protect and Serve .. but not to inspire trust?

I came across an interesting website today, that of West Yorkshire Police, which is interesting in that it has an Online Compliments Form and an Online Complaints Form. A couple of things hit me about those forms, which inspired me to put pen to paper (well figuratively anyway).

The first thing that struck me was how much harder the Complaint Form is to fill than the Compliments Form. Not in terms of the amount of information you need to fill, but rather in terms of the extent of personal information needed. The Complaints form requires you to fill in your Date of Birth and Address, while the Compliments Form doesn’t need a Date of Birth and your personal details are an optional section. While seeming inocuous, this sort of different can easily skew and statistics generated by how many forms are submitted, a skew that is not immediately obvious when looking at the results.

The other thing was the Verisign Trusted logo at the bottom. Study the following image and tell me what you think:

If you’re noticed that the website is not actually secure you get full points. The problem with the image is that it implies trust, it plays on the viewer not having the technical wherewithall to check whether the page is indeed secure. If there’s one thing that’s worse than having an insecure system, it’s having a system that claims to be secure and isn’t!

Goes to show how careful you need to be on the Web out there!

Does “the Ribbon” drive you nuts?

Don’t you just hate it when the software you know and love changes all of a sudden. One day you’re happy with the way it works, the next day BANG, it’s all changed. It’s bad enough when you visit a website and find it’s all changed, but when it’s the software you use every day it can be quite disconcerting.

You’ll get this, for example, if you upgrade from an older version of Office to a newer one. The newer versions (Office 2007 and Office 2010) change the whole toolbar paradigm to one called a “Ribbon”. Microsoft seems to be 100% behind this change, as they’re planning to use the same concept in the next version of Windows for the main User Interface.

Luckily, if you’re stuck with Office and just can’t handle the “Ribbon”, there is a way around it. You can download Office 2010 menus adjustment software that will replace the new interface with Toolbars that match older versions of Office. This means that you can upgrade to the new version without needing any training or without losing any time in the switch. It means you can adjust to the new system in your own time.

That’s the great thing about software, you can usually find ways around constraints and problems. Give this a try and see how you get on.

Taking a step back in time with Visio

It’s interesting how some people prefer the comfort of an environment or interface they’re comfortable with. It applies to your old slippers, your favourite spot, and yes, even the menus on that application you’ve been using for years. A lot has been said about the new ribbon interface on the newer version of Microsoft Office, and the truth is, well, not everyone likes it. Well, if this is the case and you’re using Visio 2010, there’s an option for you.

Classic Menu for Visio 2010 lets you retain your old menus in the new version of Microsoft Visio. Instead of having to learn where everything is, you can now install it on your computer, and voila you’re back to the interface you know and love. This might also be interesting to you if you’re a new user. You now can learn how to use visio 2010 the old way!

It’s a great testament to the Internet that a company can find enough used to justify creating a product like this. It feels like a shortcoming to let people operating in the old way, but if that’s what you’re used to, that’s really what works best for you. So go ahead, give it a real try!

The pain of 64-bit – Java SDK, Android SDK & Titanium Developer

It’s been a few years since 64-bit operating systems have been around and you’d expect that by now that would have been properly bedded in. I’ve moved onto 64-bit Windows with my new laptop and I’ve been pretty pleased to find that I’ve had no problems finding drivers for the platform and had no software issues so far.

However, this evening I was going to play with some Android development, so I started loading up bits I needed. First on was the Java JDK. I had a choice of 64-bit or 32-bit, so went for the 64-bit version. All was fine and dandy till I tried installing the Android SDK, at which point I was presented with an error telling me that the “Java SE Development Kit (JDK) not found”

Backtracking, I uninstalled the 64-bit JDK, installed the 32-bit version and lo and behind, the Android SDK is now on my machine.

However, when I proceeded to the actual tool I wanted to have a play with, called Appcelerator Titanium, I just hit a brick wall:

Try as I might, I just couldn’t get the darn thing running on my 64-bit platform. I guess I’ll just have to set up a 32-bit VM and get it running from there, but no more time for play today, so I’ll have to shelf it for another day 🙁

Amazing Books on the iPad

Here’s a great idea that shows the power of electronic devices over traditional books. They’re called Amazing Book and it’s children’s iPad app that is interactive, making sure that kids will remain engaged for the entire reading experience. Kids can read along, or the book can read itself to them, both a great way for kids to learn how the read; and it also works in other languages like French and Spanish, so can also serve as a tool to teach kids a different language. The technology seems amazing, and there’s even a facility to show the appropriate sequences in 3D too. And if you don’t have an iPad, it’s also available as a children’s iPhone app or a children’s iPod app and it’s available on iTunes.

Definitely a must if you’re going travelling and need something to keep the kids busy!