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Boxcat in a Catbox

Useful information stuff:
You cannot become an SY0-101 or N10-003 professional until or unless you clear 642-812 as well as 70-431 and 350-030 with flying colors. An extra 220-602 would not hurt either.

With the ability to now use my fingers (yeah, I have 96 fingers) to count the hours before my holiday ends, I’ve decided to do something useful so that people would actually say, “yes, my good sir, that is an accomplishment.” So, my good sir, what is an accomplishment? (I would reply) and they would post a comment (hint).

In unrelated news, I’ve noticed that once I post something that doesn’t show you one of my creations, you don’t even bother to leave a comment. That’s right, you ungrateful ******** (starts with b, ends with s, plural). In any sense, I’ve learnt (actually, learnt isn’t a word, the correct usage is learned – but I don’t go to English class anymore, do I?) that I should spoon feed you more crazy stuff of mine.

Boxcat! Oh, Boxcat, the wonderful cat friend of Catface, star from weebls-stuff’s catface series. So, in a small tribute to boxcat, I have built Boxcat. Well, actually, here’s what happened.

Problem: I have a 10 year old computer that randomly crashes (well, Windows, what do you know), and the only way to fix it is to whack it repeatedly (not joking).

Solution: take it apart, find out what is causing the loose connection or whatever, and put it in a box.

Ok, Image fun fun time now (in no particular order):

So, the final product even had a tail (trailing power cord) and some eyes (LED), and a fashionably marker-pen drawn mush. Oh, I also found that a simulated whacking does fix it. (and yes, I did find the loose connection). Also, in the making of Boxcat, the original power switch was broken, so now to turn it on I have to simulate “pressing the switch” by touching two exposed wires together with precise timing. Awesome, is it not?

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Back to rock your world

Yes, I’m quite literally back from my month long excursion around the world! I will post about that another time, but I’m jet-lagged and tired because my A levels will be starting in a short while. So, I believe it’s time to let you do the work. (I know you love my stuff, but I love your stuff better). *modest blush*

Ok. Here’s the thing. I want to compose something grand and epic for the ThoughtScore. This’ll become the official film music for it. It’ll be orchestral, grand, epic, awesome, *checks thesaurus (of sorts)*, great, fantastic, awe-inspiring, fabulous, superlative, magnificent, incredible, so on and so forth.

Here’s where you come in.

I want you to give me four notes. Four notes that you feel like. Notes like C, D, E, F. You’re allowed to give sharps and flats. And from those four notes, I shall create, little by little, (and update you on it), this film music. I shall record my piano brainstorming session for you to check out.

Leave your notes as a comment to this thread. I will choose one to start off with, then other suggestion I will likely use for other themes.

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Watch the Time

…or rather, only if you can understand that contraption on your wrist. Or on other parts of your body.

I’ve been having my holiday, hence the complete lack of discipline on adding posts here. However, being in Australia (after visiting Manchester, Paris and Amsterdam), I’m obliged to write something to keep you guys occupied whilst I enjoy not doing anything. Of course, when I’m back I will chain myself to creative slavery and produce such whoo-ed stuff you’d probably hit that refresh button the whole day.

Seems as though some Japanese company has been taking the initiative to show that not only is Japan the leading country in providing toilets that have more knobs that provide a list of features longer than my … well, a lot of features, Japans is also the leading country in providing Watches that look as though ThinkGeek should be shamed at their amateurish geekware.

Not only do these watches tell the time, some help train your math skills, your resilience to oscillating images, your ability to easily wrap a large cloth around the arm, and even your ability to read binary. Not saying that the watches are completely just for fun … I’d gladly wear (some of) these if I had them (for free).

Well, don’t just listen to me, it’s time (no pun intended) for you to watch (seriously) it yourself.

Which is your favourite watch?

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Music Composition: The Spice of Life

It’s that time for my third of three music compositions. This one featuring a wonderbar double bass player and myself cranking on the piano a jazzy snazzy tune to brighten up your day.

I would suggest you pile up the volume for your bass otherwise that double bassist is going to be quieter than that bloke in my math class I never knew until graduation. Also please excuse the double bassist not-so-jazzy-sounding-playing as he is actually a classical player and isn’t used to Jazzy pieces. (Yes, classical and jazz D.B players are very different).

Full of fun and ad-libbing in this piece! Lots of jumping octaves for the piano, lots of chromatic scales to brighten up the day (for both piano and DB), and this piece contains some nice chord combinations that would frighten some pianists. Syncopation is seen throughout, yet the piece maintains a classical jazz feel to it nonetheless.

A nice break sometime in the middle where the DB player gets to touch his bow (he’s plucking the rest of the time), and I get to rest my hands from jumping around all the time.

CLICK: “The Spice of Life” Music Composition

You know you want to hear it.

Of course, there is a lot of potential development, extended melodies, more variation, etc. However, this being my first for a double bassist and also note that this was the very first rehearsal with the bassist: it was a go there, show score, play, record – so on the whole I think it turned out pretty well. This piece in fact I had a lot of trouble due to a brain block being unable to decide how to extend it in a way that would have a nice solo for the piano and the bassist, so also due to time restraints (examination), this was scrapped and instead the instruments tend to complement each other a bit more than I intended to.

Again, my music analysis goes back to this being a very fun piece to play (though quite challenging – I might release the score later) – as in, really fun. Lots of jumping around, and it also gives areas where you can change it to whatever you want, as is the custom in most jazz pieces.

A final reminder to turn up your volume and especially bass speaker (or equivalent) as if you don’t hear the bass it might sound like somebody’s plucking a rubber band instead. (not a very nice sound). Of course, the usual note: yes, I composed this piece myself and I’m playing the piano.

…and if you missed the two previous compositions, you might be interested in hearing “Surprises“, a very modern and abstract piano solo, and “From Midnight Until Dawn“, a very lyrical and emotional piece featuring a violin.

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ThoughtScore Updated!

Ahh! ThoughtScore! The finest of all my projects (the slowest, too). Well, it’s been updated!

View the ThoughtScore update!

You know you want to check it out.

Note: the update is my last post on that page. The first post was a pretty old update. You can also check out pages 1 and 2 of that forum thread to see how far the project has progressed.

Well, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are some wallpaper sized renders (also available in the thread) to entice you to click that link up there. If you’re too lazy to register an account on BlenderArtists.org to comment on that thread, just leave a comment to this post ;)

One of Cicero:

And one of Taras:

And one of the station:

On more unfortunate news, I will be overseas and there will not be an article until the 16th of August. However, I promise sometime on very early September there will be another really huge release by me … something so big it might even shadow ThoughtScore. Now that’s just scary.

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Music Composition: “From Midnight Until Dawn”

Since quite a lot of people enjoyed my first composition “Surprises”, I’m going to post up my second composition. (Now recorded with proper stuff, not my phone).

This is a duet between piano and violin. Again, I composed the whole piece myself, and I am the piano player. For this piece I was going for a very lyrical and flowing melody full of emotion. The echoed sounds at the beginning are meant to symbolise the striking of a clock, followed by the soft chimes that one hears from such grand clocks. The violin goes for a more saddened approach, backed up by the piano giving a very rich harmony. Though sounding very simple, the violin is actually horrendously difficult to play, and requires much understanding and feeling into the piece. I myself feel that the piano playing is not expressive myself.

The constant changes of harmony throughout are meant to express restlessness during one’s sleep, where a climax follows to express waking up, and calming down again. The melody then becomes more mischievous, tricking the user into expecting long flowing phrases by the violin, but instead dying out rather suddenly. This leads to a more happy tone, which again fades out into the original chiming of the clock. The ending then features a very special melody change at the very last chord, giving the piece a very interpretive feel.

Short and sweet, I really enjoyed composing this piece.

CLICK: “From Midnight Until Dawn” Music Composition

You know you want to hear it.

All feedback is very much welcome! Whether or not you liked the style of the piece or if you have any suggestions, I’d be happy to hear it!

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Music Composition: Surprises

As many people know (wow, ego flaring!), I do animation, artwork, graphics design, programming … and also, music. To be honest, the main reason online people don’t know I do music is because I never bother to record myself playing. However, suffice to be said that I play the piano, violin, and I do music composition.

Last sometime, I was required to compose three pieces for an exam. Since they were required to be recorded, I have digital copies and I’m able to show them online! Unfortunately, I rushed all of these compositions (I took music as an extra subject – so no actual time allocated to study/work for music exams) and I think they could’ve been much better. However, needless to say I satisfied the criteria for the exam (if not surpassed) and it’s all gone and done with!

Here is the first piece for your listening pleasure. It does not contain off-key wailing and the sounds of dying animals like my infamous music jams. Therefore, you are not required to use ear-plugs when listening. The title of the song, is “Surprises” – thought up within 5 minutes of having to submit piece titles. Each piece had to have a unique style, and at least one piece had to have an accompanying instrument. This piece has no accompanying instrument, has a very rhythmic and modern feel to it, and is meant to be played as a joke, meaning that the undeveloped ideas (again, due to time restraint) in the pieces are intentional (hah!) in order to induce some interest in the piece.

What am I waffling on about?

CLICK: “Surprises” Music Composition

You know you want to hear it.

All feedback is very much welcome! Whether or not you liked the style of the piece or if you have any suggestions, I’d be happy to hear it!

Note to self: I need to work on an orchestral piece for my movies!

Edit: yes, I composed, performed (I’m the piano player), and recorded (with a phone recorder – sorry for the terrible quality) all by myself.

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10 Reasons to use Linux

Useful information stuff:
Professionals who have done 156-215 and 1Y0-456 usually advise the same tips to all the 1z0-042 and 642-892 candidates. They also say, that had they done 70-272 or 70-528, they would not have needed these tips.

Edit: you might be looking for:

Should I Use Linux?

What is Linux? Some people use Windows, some use Mac, and the rest use Linux.

OK. Well I’ve never heard of it before. So it can’t be popular.

Darn correct you are. Linux is used by a tiny percentage of computer users. The main problems with that is that there are so many versions (distros) of Linux, it isn’t considered “easy to use”, and the blokes at Windows and Mac have money to advertise.

However, I would like to personally say that I love Linux. Not because I believe it’s better than Windows and Mac, but because Linux has proved to me almost daily that it truly is better than Windows and Mac. However, let’s skip my geeky recollections of how Linux has saved my life, and go straight to 10 reasons I believe it is better.

Linux is free.

Yeah. It doesn’t cost a single cent. Not like Windows and Mac where you have to break your bank just to buy it, then break it again to buy support, then break it again to upgrade, then … you get the idea. Even if you only spend 10 bucks at your neighborhoods pirating firm .. well, I wouldn’t even think Windows is worth 10 bucks.

Linux is open-source.

This means that the development isn’t confined to a bunch of nerdy folks in a company’s building. Everybody can contribute to it. Of course, that means that Linux gets its share of the crud that some people create, but those are generally just lost in the wave of the really good other stuff. However, the net result is that it gets improved at an astounding rate.

Linux is fast.

Yeah. It’s so speedy it makes Windows look like myself on a Monday morning at 3AM. Nobody can argue this point.

Linux is secure.

If you’re looking for vaccine to protect your Windows from the evil germs and viruses you get when browsing the web, downloading illegal content (yeah, don’t try to pretend you don’t), or opening a random disk you bought … Linux is the ultimate answer. So say good-bye to having to dump gigabytes of anti-virus software on your machine.

Linux is customisable.

With Windows and Mac, you’re limited to having your computer work the way you want it to by dialog boxes, wizards, third party apps and other sort of freakish registry editors, etc you can find on the flea market. With Linux, there’s no hassle. All the pieces of the puzzle are laid out for you, and its up to you how you want to arrange it.

Linux is easy to use.

OK, before half of you out there cough %$*!* at this, think again. Linux has many versions. Each of them are suited towards different purposes. So if you’re looking for an easy to use Linux, don’t pick something like Gentoo Linux. Pick Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu Linux is so easy to use I swear the hardest thing I had to do in order to get everything working (eg: start working just like I would on a Windows or Mac) was open my CD Drive. Seriously.

Linux is pretty.

Aha! I caught you! Pretty is a relative term, that means what I find pretty might not be what you find pretty! Doesn’t matter. In Linux, you can make it look like anything you want. You can have the fanciest graphics and special effects in the world (search up compiz-fusion on youtube), or the most minimalist environment (google up ratpoison), or anything in between (google up Gnome, KDE, XFCE, Fluxbox, Enlightenment) … or even hybrid mixes of everything.

Linux does not stress your hardware.

Linux can be run on that old piece of junk you just threw out last month. Yes. You don’t needs hundreds of gigabytes of space or 10gb of RAM, it’ll work on your old machines. Now here’s the cue for the more Linux savvy people to say “wait a minute, with the development of modern desktop environments including more features, the hardware capabilities are severely tested by … ” Yeah. Use your brain. If you want something that has more visual effects than Vista and Mac put together, don’t expect it’ll work without lagging (if at all) on your stone-age computer.

Linux’s community is supportive.

There are hundreds of Linux users helping each other every day. Just hop onto the IRC channels #linux (or your distro-specific channel) and they will explain everything you need to know, and will help solve any problems you encounter.

Linux is stable.

Yes, I can leave my computer on for a year and use it constantly and it wouldn’t crash. If that isn’t awesome I don’t know what is.

And many more reasons too!

Just Google up reasons to use Linux. Or if you want the other side … why not to use Linux, there’s plenty of information here and also here. (Warning: sarcasm alert!)

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Music Jam – This is my banana!

Many people like to have session they call “jamming” where their friends meet in in a stereotypical basement, grab some drums, a guitar or two, some microphones, and probably an electronic keyboard.

Using that as a guideline, some friends and I decided were bored one day, and met up in a tiny room (think bathroom), with an upright piano (yes, there are non-electronical pianos too). The urge to create music filled our heads, and soon we had created an instrumental backdrop to the most popular Fruit and Vegetable song.

The result? Here you go. This is 100% ad-libbed (that means made up) on the spot. Completely spontaneous. Do not mind the out of tune bits, because none of us really knew where the tune was going.

CLICK: Banana Song Jam

You know you want to hear it.

The lyrics are as follows:

This is my banana, tra-la-la-la-la. (hand action depicting really large object)
This is your banana, la-la-la-la-la-la, (hand action depicting really small and short object)
CHOP your banana, la-la-la-la-la (violent slice of hand through the air, accompanied by a short jump)
and you have no more banana! (victorious pose – use imagination)

There are variations on the type of fruit and method of mauling it, including but not limited to: rambutans (peel), papayas (squeeze), kiwi fruit (shave), coconut (smash), sugar cane (suck), cucumber, etc.

This is completely work-safe and has no sexual connotations at all, no matter what you may imagine.

If you are interested of some of our earlier tries, you can listen to take onetake two, and take three.

I swear, one of these days I’m going to compose a proper song for this. Feel free to give suggestions on what you might think will make the song more enjoyable.

Note: a school teacher walked in during the final jam. Needless to say she walked out pretty fast again.

Note 2: Yes, I played the piano the whole while. Again, I had no idea where the song was going.

Note 3: There were about 4 other people singing.

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Kraft is for sissies!

Some remember my last attempt at perfecting my cookery skills. Obviously, poaching eggs aren’t my thing. (those Emacs folks quipping up with C-x-poach shut up). This event actually happened a couple months ago, but that’s irrelevant. The fact is, a friend and I decided to team up and tackle the hardest of all culinary skills: cooking Macaroni and Cheese. As you can see, it is such a complex process that it is hard to find detailed documentation on it online. Unfortunately, we ourselves were not able to get snapshots of the early stages of creation for fear of the camera getting wet.

We started off by purchasing the necessary materials, this being in order of importance:

  • Baking gloves (I swear the pot has a mind of its own)
  • Cheese
  • Decoration (this included various leaves we could get from downstairs)
  • Macaroni (Remember kids! Use real macaroni from the packets. Kraft is for sissies!)

Well, after several hours of image editing cooking, this is what we turned up with! Click on the image to check out the full size!

This was taken with my phone camera. Yes, I actually cooked that without messing up!

Edit: some people asked me whether I really cooked this. Yes, I cooked that, and no image editing was used except for adding the “italiano” text. Also, I cooked it using proper macaroni, not the instant stuff Kraft gives you.

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GIMPup A Webdesign

Seem as though The GIMP has finally gotten on my list of “Awesome Applications”. That list is basically all the stuff on the computer which I know I cannot live without. They already include Vim, Blender, Apache, MySQL, PHP …. etc – but I’ll save that for another post. All of the applications I use are open-source and completely free. Except for Adobe Photoshop.

But Photoshop rules! Why switch to The GIMP?

You’re right. No way saying The GIMP is more powerful than Photoshop. Not saying the switch over to learning The GIMP wasn’t filled with “argh! Where did my other kabillion windows disappear to“. Also not saying that all the industry professionals should switch over to The GIMP right now.

However, I like to place my faith in open-source software (Blender being an excellent example) – the main reason being that open-source development is crazy fast, and the community in general is great. So I wouldn’t be too surprised if 5-10 years later The GIMP is the ultimate graphics tool.

So, how to learn The GIMP? Simply by using it to do what I would otherwise do in Photoshop. Some methods of working I have developed is that my two panels are always set to “Always On Top”, and my window manager set that a double click on the windows title bar will shade the window. One of the external window contains the toolbox, and nothing else, and the other contains everything else that I use frequently in tabs. This way I get quite a lot of screen space for what I’m working on. I’d also like to mention that learning the hotkeys for the tools in The GIMP is definitely something really useful to do for a beginner.

Here’s a design I churned out after 4 hours of working out how stuff is done in The GIMP. I hope you like it. Click the image to get a full size picture.

Of course, comments welcome.

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Python steals XKCD Comics – snippet

Useful information stuff:
After 70-640, the students who are enrolled for 640-822 start preparing for their 70-236 as well as 640-863 so that they can be exempted from 642-436 and 1Y0-259 and can appear directly in 70-536, saving time and resources.

When somebody asks a programmer:XKCD Comics

Dude, why do you program? There’s nothing useful that you can make that hasn’t been made already. It’s like making your own hand-phone when you could just buy it at a shop. Go get a life and do something productive.

Then of course, the programmer smiles and replies:

Why, for:

  • The money
  • The girls (“ooh that looks terribly complex…”, oh yes, it is…“)
  • Nobody can check whether or not you’re really doing your work.

However, I personally think that programmers do it because they like to communicate with their computer. Since I’m learning Python, I like to learn it through making small things to speed up my day. I’ve made a blackjack game (OK, that slows down my day), a program that executes series of shell commands to speed up boring tasks, a to-do list program, and my latest creation:

“Something-that-finds-the-latest-comic-on-xkcd.com-and-downloads-it-to-a-file”

Of course, all you need to do is setup a cron-job to execute the snippet every time XKCD updates (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays) and bingo, you’ve just got yourself a personal archive of missed XKCD comics!

Here there be snippet:

#!/usr/bin/env python
import urllib
source = urllib.urlopen('http://xkcd.com/').read()
linebyline = source.splitlines()
found = 0
for value in linebyline:
    if found == 0:
        check = value.find('http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/')

        if check != -1:
            found = 1
            # find the next occurance of the " to find end of URL.
            next = value.find('"', 10)
            image = value[check:next]
            length = len('http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/')
            print 'Comic found: ' + image
            length = length + check
            filename = value[length:next]
            print 'Saved under: ' + filename
            path = '/home/dion/documents/Projects/Python/' # change this!
            image_file = urllib.urlretrieve(image, path + filename)

    else:
        break

Amazing, isn’t it? Here’s the latest one I grabbed:

…and oh yes, it was terribly complicated.