Linux netbook in demand

LXF121.netbooks.elonex4-623-80
I recently wrote about Elonex laptops preloaded with Linux being made available at the Carphone Warehouse. They are in such high demand that thieves stole a shop display model, but ignored the larger laptops sitting nearby which were preloaded with Microsoft Vista.

This was obviously a planned robbery as they used bolt cutters to steal the laptop.  So even thieves don’t want Vista it would appear…

Makehuman and Blender using Ubuntu Hardy

[stag_columns][stag_two_third]Makehuman Wikipedia article:

MakeHuman is a software application that generates 3D humanoids; similar to Poser or DAZ Studio. It is written in C++ and Aqsis is necessary to produce a render. The MakeHuman team work towards correctness both in programming (using common file formats) and anatomy. MakeHuman makes extensive use of university research in accurately modelling the human form.

[/stag_two_third][stag_one_third_last]Makehuman Man[/stag_one_third_last][/stag_columns]

I’ve been learning character animation with Blender and found Makehuman. Here’s the MakeHuman to Blender Part I tutorial on Blender Underground, follow the links to part 2 and 3. Also check out the Blender Underground video tutorials. The videos and tutorials are awesome.

[stag_columns][stag_one_third]Makehuman Woman
[/stag_one_third][stag_two_third_last]There was one problem I had installing Makehuman and that was with Aqsis.

The MakeHuman project uses Aqsis to produce realistic renderings of the human body.

I stuffed around trying to compile from source then found that the problem was a bug with Ubuntu Hardy, Aqsis fix on Ubuntu Hardy.[/stag_two_third_last][/stag_columns]

It is a lot of fun playing with settings. Watch this makehuman video on youtube.

What I found really interesting was when you import your model to blender, I did this using the collada import plugin. I’ll try to explain a little using the screenshot below.
makehuman_blender.jpg
By default the skeleton and armature are placed inside the body, I moved them out of the body to show you. Im sure having the armature already set up will save a lot of time, armature is kind of skeletal structure used for animation. Watch Super3boy’s 20th Blender Tutorial(Using Armatures) on youtube for a good introduction to armatures. The other at the back is the human skeleton. The other thing you can’t see here is the skin, I still have a lot to learn and texturing/skinning the meshes looks difficult. On top of all the 3d stuff theres so much I’m learning about the human body.

The other thing I’m enjoying about learning Blender this time around is the community at blenderartists.org.  The way the more experienced guys explain things, the terminology they use is really helping me along and of course being able to use some of their source files is incredibly useful.

Checkout this forum post “Skin with multilayered sss experiments” by Pixelvore, he’s 16 and been using blender for around 3 years, look at all the things he knows and what he can do.

Another gem I found in the forums was “2008 Adelaide Uni Short Film Festival Entry *Winner*“.

I use Blender for making sculpties for secondlife, mainly my gnu head and horns and a few other things. Useful links:

I recently noticed Blender to SL BVH Animation Exporter. Looks really good. Read the tutorial, here’s the update.

I almost forgot, hopefully I can get one of my mates over so we can strap bra’s to our heads and create our perfect woman.

Introducing the Webbook

webbook-nq8
I was taking a look at The Open Sourcerer website and was pleased to read that The Open Learning Centre has been working with a household name hardware manufacturer and a well known high-street retailer to deliver an innovative product to the consumer market.

The webbook is manufactured by the UK electronics company Elonex and is being sold exclusively by The Carphone Warehouse.

The webbook is a high specification UMPC that has a 1.6Ghz Via C7 processor (x86), 512Mb of RAM and [currently] an 80G HDD. The screen has a very usable 1024×600 resolution and it has the usual assortment of USB, LAN and an SD socket, plus built in WiFi too.

The really cool thing about the webbook is the software. The webbook comes pre-loaded with Ubuntu 8.04.1, Hardy Heron, and some new software written especially for this application that delivers broadband connectivity over 3G Mobile networks.

With Ubuntu you get pretty much everything you will ever need included right out-of-the-box. You don’t need to go out and pay several hundred pounds to get legal copies of a word-processor, spreadsheet and email client. The webbook comes pre-installed with the fantastic OpenOffice.org applications suite and the Evolution mail and calendaring client. Web browsing is provided by the most excellent Firefox 3 and there are many more high quality and fully functional applications provided on the hard disk. A couple of examples are The Gimp for photo editing and Pidgin for Instant Messaging. Of course you also have access to Ubuntu’s on-line software repository where there are literally thousands of other programs and applications to choose from. And they are all free and are not “demo” or limited functionality versions either. Open Source gives you freedom, not restrictions.

At the moment the laptops are available in-store, and are going to be on the website shortly. I might have to go shopping tomorrow….

Yo Frankie! the Open Game

yofrankie_psp
You may remember project Orange’s open movie “Elephants Dream” and project Peach’s open movie “Big Buck Bunny“, they’ve continued with a new open project Apricot. This time it isn’t a movie but a 3D game! These are all projects by the Blender Foundation and the Institute for Open 3D Projects called the Blender Institute.

Elephants Dream:

Elephants Dream is the world’s first open movie, made entirely with open source graphics software such as Blender, and with all production files freely available to use however you please, under a Creative Commons license.

Big Buck Bunny:

As a follow-up to the successful project Orange’s “Elephants Dream”, the Blender Foundation initiated another open movie project. Again a small team (7) of the best 3D artists and developers in the Blender community have been invited to come together to work in Amsterdam from October 2007 until April 2008 on completing a short 3D animation movie. The team members will get a great studio facility and housing in Amsterdam, all travel costs reimbursed, and a fee sufficient to cover all expenses during the period.

The creative concept of “Peach” was completely different as for “Orange”. This time it is “funny and furry”!

Yo Frankie:

After Orange and Peach, Blender Institute continues with a new open project: Apricot. This time it isn’t a movie but a 3D game! Starting february 1st 2008, a small team of again the best 3D artist and developers will develop a game jointly with the on-line community. The main characters in the game are based on the short 3D animation open movie Peach

At the end of July 2008 the production ends and August is used for DVD and documentation making. Releasing the game at end of August.


Apricot Blender Game Engine Work in Progress 28/July from Campbell Barton on Vimeo.

Grab the OGG Theora file (46mb)

Wow how awesome does that look. Recently I’ve been using Blender for doing my video sequencing. Basically putting a collection of video clips in order to some syncronised audio. I wasn’t aware it was so easy to do this with Blender 😀

I’m going to buy the Essential Blender book.

UK government blunder

The UK government have been running their new website on WordPress, they seem very keen on being viewed as supporters of open source software. However it would appear that they have using the Networker theme and apparently removed all traces of the theme’s source, author attribution and licencing from its website source code. The Networker theme, which is available at antbag.com, was created by Anthony Baggett and is licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

So it appears that they have removed the attribution notice that was in the original footer, and have broken the license conditions, and are therefore in breach of copyright. Thanks to The Open Sourcerer who brought this to the attention of the British public. Suggestions that the government may have paid £100k for a ripped off theme which runs on an Open Source blogging engine really does worry me on a number of levels!

Photo credit: Hightech.Blogosfere

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Open source scripts in Second Life

I have found a couple of scripts which may be useful to educators and builders in Second Life.

The Linked Prim Animator Lite (LPAL) is a set of open source scripts which enable you to animate linked objects and attachments . LPAL is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation.

Open Babel Fish is an open source babbler, the scripts run on Google Translate and a php script that must be placed on your own web host.

Both scripts can be purchased free from SL exchange. Its really awesome to see such useful tools being released under the terms of the GNU General Public License, so that we can freely modify them to suit our needs and in doing so contribute to the project.

Informal and Lifelong Learning

In recent years, there has been a growing surge of appreciation which supports the notion that learning in non-formal and informal settings is seen as crucial for the realisation of lifelong learning.

Informal learning generally results from daily activities related to work, family life or leisure. It is not structured and usually does not lead to certification and in most cases it is unintentional on the part of the learner.

Take a look at schome.ac.uk for a good overview.

Lifelong Learning has been called a variety of names including liberal education, adult education, and continuing education and continuing professional development. It can be interpreted ideologically in different ways. On one hand lie the central tenets of personal development, inclusion, equality of opportunity in society. Seen this way informal and lifelong learning may be personally rewarding for the participants but have no direct economic benefit to wider society. Alternatively there is a more instrumental and internationalist approach that seeks to make explicit the links between learning and the economic health of the nation by focusing on outcomes such as employability and productivity and efficiency.

In the UK we have a few developing strategies and initiatives designed to encourage lifelong learning, one of which is Sure Start it is aimed at early years development.

Whilst on the subject of learning and education, a quick mention about MobilizeThis 2008 it is a yearly held, free event.

MobilizeThis 2008 provides a snapshot of a cross-sectorial range of contributions to discussion involving the practical and constructive use of ICT’s in the education and related industries.

This is a free event with limited spaces for participants no matter where you are located.

MobilizeThis 2008 is about getting connected, exploring and resolving challenges facing organisations as they seek practical means to realising social dividends with clients, creatively engaging in real learning experiences that embrace the horizons and enable others to access what we would otherwise take for granted.

I am pleased to announce that I willbe presenting at this years event, his subject matter being – User Freedom and Autonomy As They Relate To Network Communication Technologies In Education. Alex Hayes will also be presenting. The event will be held on the 22nd – 24th October 2008, check out the webpage for further details.

child at pc

DRM down under

Source: DRM down under

The Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) is Australia’s Federal Government-funded public broadcaster, and has responsibilities under the ABC Act 1983 to provide services to the Australian people.

The new ABC Shop has recently launched, with downloads of TV programs made available — but only to Windows users willing to install Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) software on their computers. Like the BBC iPlayer, and Channel Four’s “4OD”, ABC is using the Kontiki platform — Kontiki uses peer-to-peer technology to deliver the show to other people, so as well as locking you into its restrictions, ABC is using your computer, and your internet connection, to distribute programs.

ABC claims it has a commitment to “respecting legitimate rights to privacy and confidentiality”, yet it is well-known that DRM is vehemently anti-privacy, and forcing Australian citizens to install proprietary, secret software from foreign corporations does not seem a good way to uphold privacy of its viewers.

We do not object to ABC charging money to download programs, only to their use of DRM. DRM isn’t necessary for enabling sustainable production and distribution of media — you don’t have to look any further than our own guide to DRM-free living to see that plenty of artists and businesses are doing it.

Please contact ABC Online, and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Telephone ACMA (toll free) on 1-800-22-6667 or write to them at PO Box Q500, Queen Victoria Building, NSW 1230. If you’re sending any emails, please CC them to us as well at info@defectivebydesign.org.

Let the ABC know you’re writing to them from Defective by Design and that you don’t want these restrictions on programs you’ve downloaded!

Point out that the DRM:

  • locks out people who use free software. A public service should not require citizens to install software that takes away their freedom in order to access that service.
  • forces ABC, a public broadcast service, to become dependent on Kontiki and Microsoft — private, proprietary, secretive and profit-motivated corporations. These corporations, by turning off their DRM systems, can deny people access to the media permanently. This has already happened with Google Video, Major League Baseball, and others.
  • prevents citizens from making legitimate use of the media they’ve funded, such as taking clips for reviews and articles, or sharing interesting programs with friends.

Thanks to Andrew for bringing this to our attention. We try to keep up to date on as many things as we can, but we rely on readers and supporters to keep us informed and tip us off about things like this. Please keep sending tips and updates to info@defectivebydesign.org.

BadVista campaign

BadVista
In January the Green Party and Greenpeace issued warnings about the tremendous threat posed to the environment by the disposable computer mentality promoted in Microsoft’s $500-million Windows Vista marketing campaign. Vista has steep hardware requirements which in turn means that to use it, most people will have to throw their current computer into a landfill and buy a new one.

Vista is essentially designed to monitor what people do, and in particular to limit what they can do with digital media files. These limits obstruct common and legally protected uses like sharing news story clips and copying text from government documents. Vista has been engineered from the ground up as a DRM and Treacherous Computing platform.

Vista has also been designed for easy updating from a central authority, so that new restrictions can always be imposed, disabling certain features or programs.

Fortunately, people do not have to accept these restrictions on their freedom. Instead, they can reject Microsoft Windows Vista in favour of a free software distribution of GNU/Linux.

The FSF has a petition for anyone who wishes to join them in speaking out against these restrictions, as organizations or individuals.