Guest Book

          Home 2010

This website is a log of my hobbies, passions and projects. It will hopefully over time fill up with helpful advice to
encourage, inspire and guide others with similar interests. rab by the way are my initials Robert Andrew Burke

November & December 2010:
Back in 2008 I added a post about music on the PC, I had just brought a midi keyboard and was starting to learn the piano.

Extract from that post:

My reasons for searching for a music program dates back to an accident I had a few years ago which needed a 5 hour operation to reconnect tendons and repair a knuckle in my left hand. The surgeon made a great job of the repair but passed the comment that I probably won't be able to play the piano again. I don't know why but whenever I am told I can't or won't be able to do something I have to have a go to see if I can prove them wrong.

Having learnt a few basic melodies using "The Complete Keyboard Player" books by Kenneth Baker, a few months ago I decided to have a go at something a little more challenging.

With the sheet music freely available on the internet, I downloaded Beethoven's Symphony No 14 in C sharp minor. The music instantly exposed the limitations of both the midi keyboard and my playing. So it was off to the music shops to choose an entry level electric piano. I chose the Korg SP250.
Korg Sp250 Stage Piano The real weighted hammer action keys and carefully sampled concert grand piano has made this a very sensitive instrument. Having never played a piano before purchasing this, it has taken a lot of experimentation and learning to get used to the feel of the piano keys. But I am really pleased with the the feel and sound of the piano.

The sheet music which can be downloaded from here was at a completely different level of complexity to anything I had
attempted before. The animated score available from musanim really helped check the music is being interpreted correctly.  Not being able to read music I made a notes primer to make it easier to identify the position of the notes on the staves correctly.
Using the primer: middle C sits between the base and treble clef. Notes shown on the treble clef are normally played with the right hand, notes shown on the base clef are usually played with the left hand.
Notes Primer
Click on the image for a larger version.

Learning to play the piano has been quite a diversion from Blender. I am still keeping an eye on the progress of blender and am hopeful that the Blender Foundation will be able to port over all the modelling functionality from the 2.4 series in the next couple of months. Once stable and with all the tools working I hope to restart my tutorials projects updating some of the old tutorials and adding a few new ones.
Blender Books & DVD's
I was pleased that my wife brought me a copy of both Sintel and Chaos & Evolution for Christmas and look forward to exploring the tutorials and techniques over the next few months.

My collection of Blender products has grown recently and I am happy that proceeds from these books and DVD's goes a little way towards supporting further development of Blender. 

October: This month saw another release of Ubuntu with the operating system now up to version 10.10. As with all the previous releases the upgrade went almost without a hitch. As usual all but the dreaded Aldi
Sunset Mat Painting
graphics tablet (the re branded Aiptek U1200 tablet I think) worked out of the box.

As I have had a number of issues in the past with support for this hardware I have finally decided to give up on it and invest in a Wacom Bamboo Pen. Seeing the Wacoms are now under �50.00 it was a no-brainer really. Even though it is a much smaller tablet the high resolution easily makes up for the size and the responsiveness makes it so much easier to use.

As a quick test I have drawn this stylised sunset using Gimp and the gimp paint studio ad-on brushes and tools.

I am now looking forward for the time to experiment with Blender 2.54's sculpt tools, to see how different it is sculpting with a graphics tablet rather than a mouse.

September: For the first time in over a year I have managed to find some time to do a little bit of productive work with Blender. My time away from the program shows, but it is still good to see just how fast the modelling process comes back and creating images soon becomes a quick and efficient process again. The modelling was completed in Blender 2.49

The opportunity has arisen to create a number of technical illustrations of wood burning appliances with external air supplies. The drawings need to show the passage of air within the appliance.

Seeing I am so rusty with  the modelling process I am quite pleased with the outcome. Especially seeing I have moved the model over to Blender 2.54 beta to try out the new render features. It still needs some work but the fire and flames look a lot better using blenders mesh lights. The flames are made from image billboards because at the moment there just isn't enough time to learn Blenders new particle system.
Appliance Cutaway

August: Following an email from Blender underground about updating the 608 bearing tutorial I have had a look at how the Blender 2.5 development is progressing, specifically to see if a sufficient number of the necessary tools have been ported across from Blender 2.49 to be able to update the tutorial. Whilst I am very impressed with the new way of working in Blender it is still missing a some of the key tools needed to make precision modelling totally feasible. This isn't a knock at Blender, the developers are doing a sterling job at rewriting the program. It's just the realisation that if you want a full set of modelling tools you still need to at the moment use Blender 2.49. Once I am happy that the tutorial can be done in an efficient way I will rewrite it for the 2.5 interface.

One of the main tools i use for modelling is the knife constrained to a straight line or axis with the ability to snap the cut top a reference vertex. Currently I cant find a way to do this. No doubt this functionality will be added later.
Blender 608 Bearing Cage
Blender 2.53

Congratulations Lottie

This month I am dedicating my blog to my daughter Charlotte (Lottie), who after three years of extremely hard work has graduated from Bishop Grossetest University College Lincoln with a BA (Hons) Primary Education. The graduation was a great and memorable day at both the University and Lincoln Cathedral.

Well done Lottie we are all very proud of you.

Lottie's Graduation

June: In April I updated my operating system to Ubuntu to 10.4 and reported that it was another seamless installation. On the whole that was correct but I hadn't bargained on my cheap troublesome Aiptec graphics tablet. I don't use the tablet that often and the first time I had plugged it in since the Ubuntu upgrade was in June, typically it didn't work so the March set-up instructions are no longer valid for the current version of Ubuntu. Fortunately the remedy to get the tablet working was much simpler this time and worked by just following the  guidance on the Ubuntu community documentation page

On another of the websites I am building there was the need for a click through rolling banner to different sections of the site. As an experiment before the site goes live I have added the same banner functionality to this site, it's my first experiments with Java scripting and I think it works really well compared to the small tabbed navigation panels that were originally there. The banner is based on a script written by Jon Raasch, details are on his site at Slide Show

Pine Kitchen

One of the things keeping me away from completing any more Blender projects over the past few months has been the refurbishment of our kitchen. About 15 years ago I made a farmhouse style pine kitchen machined from 6" x 2" planks. It was beginning to look pretty dated and tired, though still much more solid than most of the flat pack kitchens currently available.

Painted Kitchen
Rather than ripping it out and replacing it I have re-hung the doors and given it several coats of paint. Now it is finished it looks much smarter than the original pine units.

I have managed to find a little time to do some work with Blender recently and rather than starting a new project I have decided to return to an old piece started back in March 2008. Needing a scene to house the ruined priory, I have decided to build a mountain range. The mountains are based on Snowdonia and constructed around a contour map of the area.  It should give the background a realistic appearance. Snowdon Height Map

May: I was doing a little bit of clearing out in my pottery this month, which has been used as a storage shed for the last few years whilst I was doing building work on the house. I was pleased to find in a couple of old banana boxes full of 12th scale chimney pots. There were enough of the chimney pots to be able to complete a couple of the Chimney Pot Chess Sets I used to make. Its been a really rewarding process putting this set together.

Chimney Poat Chess Set
It has been a few years since the pieces were made and the box parts were all cut out ready for assembly. Its taken quite a few hours this month to complete the set.

When I was making the chess sets as part of my hobby pottery business (Robert Burke Studio Ceramics) I had estimated each set took around 110 hours to complete. With that amount of work they weren't intended to be made in large numbers This one is number nine in the series.

I think it will look good displayed on my lounge window ledge.
Chess Set Draw

April: It's that time of year again when a new release of Ubuntu becomes available, though not releasing it until the last day of the month means there is no time to test out any of the new features. As with previous versions the upgrade to Ubuntu 10.4 went without a single problem.

Whilst I was impressed with Mypaint last month, I was even more impressed this month by how easy it was to build Gimp with the Gimp Painter add on tools and then upgrade the set-up to use the full Gimp Paint Studio pre-sets. If you use Gimp for computer paint work and you haven't made the upgrade yet, I would seriously recommend you have a look at some of the Gimp Paint Studio demo's. The extra tools and pre-set brushes make the creation of pictures so much easier.

As a quick trial this Bob Ross type landscape took little over an hour to create, which incluses the time to find and experiment with many of the preset tools.
Gimp Paint Studio

On the web front, I have been creating a couple of new websites for HETAS, one for the HETAS Technical Committee which includes a private forum using the open source PHPBB Bulletin Board software. This has proven to be an extremely organised piece of software making the setting up of user permissions relatively straight forward.

March: Having gone back over some of the projects started over the last few years but never progressed to completion, I notices the ruined Priory model played with in March and April 2008. This project came to a standstill because I had an idea for a mat-painting for the background, but couldn't get my graphics tablet working in Ubuntu 9.10. I must admit I have tried several times since but never succeeded. having seen the tremendous work being done with Sintel the new Blender open movie project using Mypaint, I decided to try the graphics tablet again this month and am pleased to say I have had a bit more success than previously.

See June above for details.

The tablet is a cheap Aldi Medion tablet which has turnd out to be a re badged Aiptek tablet (1200U I think). To get it working I loaded the the xserver-xorg-input-aiptek package using sinaptic package manager and then created a "10-aiptek.fdi" file in the etc/hal.fdi/policy folder with the content:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<deviceinfo version="0.2">
    <match key="info.product" contains="Aiptek">
      <merge key="input.x11_driver" type="string">aiptek</merge>
      <merge key="input.x11_options.SendCoreEvents" type="string">true </merge>
      <merge key="input.x11_options.USB" type="string">On</merge>
      <merge key="input.x11_options.Type" type="string">stylus</merge>
      <merge key="input.x11_options.Mode" type="string">absolute</merge>
      <merge key="input.x11_options.zMin" type="string">0</merge>
      <merge key="input.x11_options.zMax" type="string">1023</merge>
      <merge key="input.x11_options.KeepShape" type="string">On</merge>

After rebooting it was just a matter of setting the pressure sensitivity in Mypaint and Gimp. Some of the button functionality isn't working, but it is a lot better  having a graphics tablet that can draw with pressure sensitivity than one that doesn't work at all. There is still the reported bug that when disconnecting the tablet from the usb port it crashes Xserver requiring you to log back in to Ubuntu. It is advisable to shut down before disconnecting the tablet until this problem is fixed in the Aiptek drivers.

Previous attempts to get the tablet working hadn't succeeded and the only difference in the setup was the Ubuntu Community page tells you to call the .fdi file "10-linuxaiptek.fdi" and place it in the /usr/share/hal/fdi/policy folder, which for my machine didn't work.

February: For the first time in almost 12 months I have had the opportunity to brush the dust off Blender and make a couple of simple models for use on a Renewable Energy Website I am working on with other Trade Associations.
Log Boiler

The website is aimed at showing how different forms of renewable energy heating systems can be combined to get the best out of the new technologies. The site is initially being constructed by interactive solutions and based on the open source Joomla content management system. I must say I am impressed with the features and ease of use of Joomla and given time may port my website onto this system.

Using Blender for the first time in many months made me realise just how much you need to learn the program to be able to use it, but once learned never forgotten.

The images of boilers and appliances are quite basic but were very quick and easy to produce. I am looking forward to doing more Blender graphics as the year progresses.
Pellet Boiler
My kitchen is progressing nicely this month, I have painted all the kitchen units and have progressed onto re-tiling the floor. All that will be left to do soon is fit new beech worktops and tiled splash-backs. Hopefully when this is done I will be able to concentrate on the more enjoyable engineering and graphics projects that this website was setup to log.

January: Its the start of another year and we again live in hope of finding time to progress further with my knowledge and use of Blender. It is good to see the progress being made with the development of Blender 2.5, it shouldn't be too long before a stable version is available. Hopefully over the year i will get time to port the Precision Modelling Tutorials over to the new 2.5 interface.

Though work is still taking up much of my time I am usually managing to find at least one day a week to try and finish some of the DIY needed on my house. The structural work was finished last year and as we are experiencing one of the coldest Januaries for several decades I am pleased that the work on improving the house's insulation has paid dividends and we are now living in a much more comfortable environment.

I am planning on adding some home brew solar panels this year to try and reduce the heating bills further. I will be reporting on my experiments and progress with the solar panels as the year goes on.

The major project I am working on at home at the moment is upgrading my kitchen. About 15 years ago I made my own pine kitchen units which are now looking a little worn and dated, so following a little encouragement from my wife I have decided to rehang the doors with stronger hinges and paint the units cream. As usual this is proving to be a much more time consuming process than I first thought. The process of undercoating, filling sanding down, undercoating, sanding down then top-coating seems to take forever, though the end result is worth the work.

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