USS Pioneer: These are the voyages of a LightWave starship model I released…

In 2007 I made my own Star Trek starship in LightWave 3D. I’d made a few others before, but this one became a labour of love. The USS Pioneer had a lot of little details, some subtle textures and a fairly elaborate lighting rig designed to make renders look good. The ship was intended to be an earlier-era version of the Constellation class starship.

When it was finished I released it1 for others to use. Then I forgot about it! This is my own rendering of the ship from that time:

USS Pioneer

I also made a video rendering2 showing off the animated textures and shuttlebay doors (the model includes a shuttlebay interior).


Seven years later…

Last night I was Googling my username, as you do, and I saw an image I hadn’t seen before:

A Light in the Darkness by Rob Caswell (April 2012)

A Light in the Darkness by RobCaswell

Someone liked my ship enough to make a nice rendering of it! The comments are amusing too. Not all are complementary as the 4-nacelle configuration divides opinion amongst Treknologists, and as someone put it: “My, what big nacelles she has!”. Later still Rob quips “When you turn the speed dial all the way, it goes to ‘Warp 11′.”

The big engines were quite deliberate. I imagined this ship as a fast response vessel of some kind, but looking at it again I would probably make them a bit smaller. But for every person who didn’t like the concept for its imagined technical rule breaking, there is someone who likes the design. In fact, there seems to be a few big fans of it.

Then I carried on looking to see if there were any more images of my ship out there. Turns out that Rob Caswell had made quite a few…

See more cool USS Pioneer renderings →

SAEM S7: I found my ideal iPhone 5s case

SAEM S7 iPhone case The best case I found for my iPhone 4 was a simple snap case design from Incase. It had that soft rubberised plastic and left the top and the bottom of the phone almost completely exposed, which looked really nice. While I like to use a case, I don’t like it to be particularly bulky.

When I bought my 5s I just went for Apple’s own case, which I do like a lot. However it’s tricky to take out, which I do fairly often.

Later I saw the ‘Incase Pro Snap Case’ for the 5s and bought one, only to be very disappointed. It feels very cheap, with sharp edges and for some reason it has a larger than necessary hole for the camera. I think they designed it that way to show off the detail which judgmental strangers will be looking for that proves you’re not some schlub using last year’s model. I just think it looks ugly. The worst aspect of this new case though is that the top creeps further up the back, meaning you have to hook your finger over the case to hit the power button. Yeah I know, #firstworldproblems, but it annoyed me enough that I went back to the Apple case.

The SAEM S7 iPhone 5/5s case

Today I found this rather snazzy case made by SAEM:

Yup, it has a small 8GB USB memory card in the back. I’m honestly not entirely sure what I want to use that for, but it’s cool nonetheless. That in itself is a novelty that I could have passed up, but at £20 this case doesn’t cost any more than the other extortinate cases without a USB drive! (Having said that, they seem to have a SRP of £35 on the manufacturer’s site, and I spotted them for even more on Amazon.)

Mostly though I’m happy that I’ve found a case that looks as nice as the old Incase thing I liked so much. Of course, I’ve only had this on my phone for a matter of hours so it may fall apart, scratch the phone, set my flat on fire or something over time, but my initial impressions are very positive.

If you happen to be in Brighton, you can get this case from Zoingimage for £20. They had them in black and white and for the 4/4s and 5/5s iPhone models.

Flight test

I went up for a flight yesterday in a small two-seater plane. We flew over parts of Cornwall and Devon, starting in Saltash then heading over, Millbrook, Plymouth, by Rame Head and down the coast to Looe and back.

This was filmed on my iPhone 5S, which didn’t handle all the vibrations very well. It was edited together quickly in Final Cut Pro X to a tune called ‘Golden Days’ from YouTube’s free audio library.

I posted these pictures on Instagram.

The apps that Apple really does not want you to use

The Telegraph’s Richard Gray has compiled a list of ten apps that Apple does not want you to use. In my view, half of these apps are dumb gimmicks that any curated app store wouldn’t want: A game where you throw your phone as high as you can; titillation apps featuring ‘interactive’ girls in bikinis; an app that did literally nothing except cost $1,000.

However, some of the other rejected apps represent far more serious acts of censorship and monopolistic behaviour on the part of Apple, like the Wikileaks app that let users read the Iraq war logs, or Scratch, an MIT project to help teach children programming. I thought it would be worthwhile to compile a more serious list of apps banned by Apple.

Sweatshop HD

These are the apps that Apple really does not want you to use →

Sir, You Are Being Hunted: New gameplay footage

Sir, You Are Being Hunted was the first Kickstarter campaign I backed, and I’m excited to get my hands on the game (and other goodies) in a month or so. The makers have just released a video showing off the current state of the game. I think it looks great.

If you didn’t back the Kickstarter campaign, you can preorder the game on the Big Robot website.


Other Kickstarter campaigns I’ve backed

New blog: Rapid Notes

Rapid Notes Yesterday I launched a new blog: Rapid Notes. It’s just hosted on a free WordPress.com account for now, and will probably stay that way.

I created this new outlet because I wanted a place to store and share the fascinating things I find online every day. I’m not going to put just any old thing up there, but it’ll be a busier blog than many of my others. Much busier. The idea is to help me identify what my real passions are by looking at the common themes of the items I post. I’ll be spending time getting the tags and categories — the taxonomy — just right. Then as the blog grows I’ll be able to look at my archives determine… well… something hopefully.

Follow the @foobot →

Commandments 2.0

For this recent Palm Sunday Erika Hall published a single-serving Tumblr blog proposing an update to the Decalogue she titled ‘The Fresh Ten Commandments’:

Since the original ten commandments seem somewhat narrow and obsolete (too much focus on livestock, servants, and jealous god issues), here is a modest first draft of a fresh set.

Erika isn’t (by far!) the first to attempt to update these guidelines from on high, so I thought it would be interesting to collect a few here, starting with ‘The Fresh Ten’:

The Fresh Ten

  1. You shall treat all people with respect regardless of race, color, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, or national origin.
  2. You shall not kill, assault, nor intimidate with threats of physical violence.
  3. You shall not rape, sexually coerce, nor intimidate with threats of sexual violence.
  4. You shall cultivate intellectual curiosity, be open to new ideas, and respect the scientific method.
  5. You shall not cheat, nor cheat others out of what is rightfully theirs.
  6. You shall not lie, deceive, nor spread lies about others.
  7. You shall not steal, that is to say take or use what rightfully belongs to another person in a manner that causes harm. (Stealing is a trickier concept than it once was. How do you say yes to Fair Use and no to software patents?)
  8. You shall keep your promises.
  9. You shall not waste natural resources nor pollute the shared environment.
  10. You shall take responsibility for your actions and their consequences.

Thou shalt read more →

How to be right all the time

Apple pundit John Gruber was interviewed on The New Disruptors podcast recently about how he made Daring Fireball into a full-time job. Around the 50 minute mark he says:

One of my primary obsessions is with trying to be right about everything all the time. Almost obsessively. Being wrong to me is horrible. I would hate to be wrong about something.

Daring Fireball readers won’t be surprised by this admission, but I really like how this informs his thoughts on transparency:

There is a way to be right all the time and that is to recognise when you are wrong, figure out exactly how you were wrong, say so and now you are right. Nobody is right as they go all the time, but at least in the track record you leave behind you can be right all the time.
John Gruber — ‘No Kind of Work for a Grown Man’

Continue reading

Babylon 1999

Warning: I’ve cranked the geek up to 11 for this uber-nostalgic post.

Buried Shadow (1999)

Buried Shadow (1999)

Recently I was reunited with a computer-generated image I created back in 1999 of a crashed Shadow ship from Babylon 5. I had submitted it as a cover image for the second issue of on online fan publication called Beyond Babylon. It wasn’t used on the cover, but it did get featured in the gallery. At some point I lost my original, so it was nice to be contacted out of the blue by someone who had a copy.

I have fond memories from those days of hanging out at the (now defunct) Babylon 5 Modellers Guild [b5mg.com] and the LightWave Group [lwg3d.org] (which evolved into the still-active Foundation 3D forums). Scifi-Art.com was another great community — I remember really liking their site design.

All this nostalgia got me digging around my old hard drives for more retro LightWave renders of mine.

Babylon 5 images

You can click on the small images below for a closer look. Not that I didn’t create any of these models myself, but the compositions, lighting and backgrounds were all my own work. Also, if you zoom in on that shot of Starfuries engaged in combat, you’ll see some of my own wing art designs. (Yes, that is Daffy Duck!)

The name of the place is ‘Babylon 5′ →

Updating @datahole

Datahole's Twitter avatar Datahole is a Twitter account I have been ‘maintaining’ for over four years. In practice I’ve simply been letting it run itself.

It takes RSS feeds from Ars Technica, Wired, The Guardian and Bruce Schneier‘s blog and looks for stories containing words like ‘leak’, ‘phishing’ and ‘password’.

Then it adds in unfiltered posts from The Register’s security news and The Open Rights Group.

Last night I updated the look and feel of the account with a new avatar, header and background image. Besides these cosmetic tweaks I added two feeds from the blog of security expert Brian Krebs, specifically his categories ‘latest warnings’ and ‘the coming storm’.

How? And why? →

Liberal

Quote

If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”
John F. Kennedy accepting the NY Liberal Party Nomination, 1960

The adoption of the word ‘liberal’ as an insult in right-wing American politics is something I’ve never understood.

Ideas for Minecraft

Skeleton skull For me one of the big appeals of Minecraft is imagining what features I’d like to see added to the game.

The Minecraft developers are actually surprisingly receptive to ideas from the community, often incorporating suggestions and making alterations to the game based on player feedback. And if an idea isn’t really suitable for the game but is very cool anyway, there’s always the thriving modding community to make it a reality.

Personally though, I just like the thought exercise. My outlet for these ideas has been the Minecraft Suggestions subreddit. I recently realised that I had contributed many more suggestions than I realised over there, so I thought I would compile (most of) them here.

Be warned: This post is geeky, even by the standards of this blog!

‘Brain Bats’ this way →

The infographics of xkcd

Log scale Most infographics on the web consist of generic graphics backed up with (lots of) poorly researched text.

When done well these informational graphics use charts, diagrams and illustrations to make complex ideas easier to comprehend. At their best the results can be quite illuminating.

Randall Munroe has produced more than a few great infographics for xkcd. His infographics can be broken down into three rough categories:

  1. Pure gag charts,
  2. Jokey graphics with a serious point, and…
  3. Well-researched highly informative graphics with some jokes sprinkled throughout.

For this post I’ve compiled the more informative types. There’s a list of some (but not all) of xkcd’s novelty graphs and charts at the end of this post.

For science! →

Why the Moon landings couldn’t have been faked

S.G. Collins explains how the technology didn’t exist in 1969 to actually fake the Moon landings in the way most conspiracy theorists seem to believe. Even if you were Stanley Kubrick.

I particularly love his delivery: he’s both monotonous and compelling, sarcastic and likeable.

Important note: I’ve seen people complaining about the ‘unnecessary gay joke’ he makes at the end – a play on the ‘homo’ in ‘homo sapien’. Of course, this is actually a reference to the latin meanings of the words: Homo is the genus of hominids that includes modern man and sapien loosely translates as ‘wise man’.

(via Gizmodo)

The Up-Goer Five Text Editor (and how to use it for SEO)

Up Goer Five is one of Randall Munroe’s more famous recent xkcd infographics in which he attempts to describe the workings of a Saturn V rocket using only most commonly used 1,000 words in the English language. Here’s just a part of it:

Up Goer Five, cropped

Inspired by this, The Up-Goer Five Text Editor is a fun tool (created by Theo Sanderson) that restricts the user to just the same 1,000 words. Anything not in that tiny dictionary will be given familiar squiggly red underlines.

The Up-Goer Five Text Editor

The Up-Goer Five Text Editor

Scientists have been trying to explain the work they do using only this reduced language. Here’s the work of a paleontologist summarised:

I study tracks, trails, places where animals make homes, and shit, both new and old, and figure out how animals do these things.
Tony Martin, paleontologist

Some of these passages come across as quite patronising (“We burn dead black stuff so that we can build things, power our houses and make our cars go.”), but some of the better ones are quite poetic. io9 has a beautiful description of Saturn:

There is a world that goes around the sun, ten times farther away from the sun than the world we live on. This world is really big – about ten times as wide as our world – and most of it is thick air pulled tight together. It has big beautiful rings around it, made of many pieces of ice.
A loving upgoerfive intro to Saturn and some of its moons, by Rachel Klippenstein

It’s worth reading the full thing.

What does this have to do with SEO? →

How to live with introverts

An introvert Dr. Carmella’s Guide to the Introverted is a very astute webcomic by Schroeder Veidt.

Below the comic I’ve also embedded a TED talk by Susan Cain who talks about how extrovert behaviour has come to be considered the norm and how introverts can (often unknowingly) make self-negating choices in an effort to fit into society better.

Read ‘Dr. Carmella’s Guide to the Introverted’ →