Archive for May, 2005

There was a report today from the Wallstreet Journal about Apple looking into using Intel processors for future Macs. I find a conversion from PowerPC to X86 processors highly unlikely. This rumor has been floating around for a number of years, and I’ve never had much belief in this happening.

There have been rumors that Apple has a version of OS X running on Intel hardware. I think that this is probably true, the core of the OS is open source (Darwin), and much of the system is Unix based. It wouldn’t take much work (considering) to make the OS run on Intel hardware. It probably make sense from a corporate stand point to have a “backup plan” in case something ever happens and they are forced to use Intel hardware (we’re not there yet though).

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New Age of Movies

Posted: May 21, 2005 in General, Movies/TV/Music

I was just watching the new Fantastic Four trailer over on Apple’s trailers site, and I was thinking about how Marvel is making a big push into movies (they’ve started to go beyond licensing into actual production). I was wondering if they (or others) are worried about diluting these movies. We’ve had a number of excellent comic books turned into movies in the last number of years (X-Men, Spiderman and Hellboy). It makes financial sense to continue making these movies as well as new properties, however how many Catwomans will we see for every X-Men?

I think the power here is that the special effects have gotten to the point that they can be secondary to the movie, and a filmmaker doesn’t have to make the effects the “star” of the show.

It wasn’t that long ago when we were talking about the number of minutes of effects work in a film (count the number of effects shots in something like Star Trek II (1984) compared to Star Wars Episode III). Good CGI is so approachable now that it is just another tool to use, and not this 800 pound gorilla in the corner. Of course, you still have to use it properly.

Star Wars Sadness

Posted: May 20, 2005 in General, Movies/TV/Music

I haven’t seen Episode III yet, but I was reading about how well it did in the first (Thursday) day opening and it got me to thinking, why did episodes I and II suck so badly? I don’t mean what made them bad, but why wasn’t there more care put into the most important aspects of the film (the story and script).

I doubt Lucas decided to write his scripts because he didn’t want to spend the money on writers, so I have to imagine that he thought his writing was the best thing for the film. So either he didn’t feel that he could trust anyone else to write, or his ego is so huge that he was oblivious to the fact that he can’t write (or most likely both reasons).

This is sad. Maybe because if it were my project I would want to make sure that the script was as solid as possible. That the characters were as lifelike as possible. I would have spent millions of dollars if needed to be assured that I had the best possible script in my hand before I shot a frame of film (or a pixel of digital video).

I guess what saddens me the most is that ultimately there will be very little penalty for the poor scriptwriting, and all the movies in their “retouched” glory (or lack-thereof) will always have a special place in our hearts. Not because they are great films, but because they could have been great films.

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Posted: May 20, 2005 in General

Cara and I spent the better half of yesterday night (add that to the number of hours I’ve spent in the last couple of weeks), to finish up the wedding invitations. The good news is that the majority of them are out the door. Another major set done, and a slight sigh of relief.

Funerals

Posted: May 16, 2005 in General

My grandfather died last week after battling health issues for about four years. I asked Cara to go with me up to Vermont to attend the funeral with my family. Cara arrived at my place at 4AM on Saturday morning to get a couple hours of sleep after working an overnight shift (which included an emergency room run after she played chew-toy for a Jack Russell Terrier).

I never spent a lot of time with my grandfather. Most of my childhood was spent 1500 miles away in Kansas and even when we moved to Connecticut I still lived 100+ miles away. I don’t have any strong memories of him, so I felt a little out of place at the funeral. What is most interesting (or perhaps sad) is that I heard stories about my grandfather that made me what to know him better.

Another aspect of the funeral bothered me a bit. More than twenty years ago my grandmother died (from lung cancer I think), and shortly after my grandfather became friends with a woman who lost her husband about the same time. This relationship with Barbara lasted up to the day he died. I don’t know why they never married, but for more than twenty years they were partners. In the end though, she is treated as little more than a friend. Referred to as “friend” or “companion” by the church and the state. I can’t imagine how this made her feel.

example A
example A

example B
example B

example C
example C

example D
example D

While developing the website for PWC I wanted to generate the title graphic using the latest covers for the issues of course my design called for rotating these graphics and scaling them with a drop shadow (example A). The problem that I encountered was that PHP’s rotate function loses the alpha channel information filling it with white instead (example B).

So I decided to use some of PHP’s functionality to overcome the issue. I was however disheartened when I discovered that there isn’t any functionality available to read alpha information from a file (you can read RGB info, and write alpha data, you just can’t read the data from the file with existing graphic functions).

All is not lost though. Because the alpha channel for my graphics were always going to be the same I was able to work around the issue.

Because you are able to read the RGB information from a graphic I created a grayscale image to represent the alpha mask (example C). I then take both the mask image, and the RGB image (example D), and rotate them into place.

Then, pixel by pixel, I read the gray value of the mask image and RGB value of the color image and apply them to my background image. You still have to worry about positioning of the the graphic, and you should make sure your RGB and mask image are the same size (so if you wanted to place an image inside the stamp, you should first scale your replacement image over the RGB of the stamp “background” before rotating and applying the alpha).

This process is slow (the pixel loops are slow), so it’s not something you’d want to be doing often, but for creating images that are saved to disk it works well.

Code example:

   $rgb_image = imagecreatefromjpeg('stamp.jpg');
   $mask_image = imagecreatefromjpeg('stamp_alpha.jpg');
   $background_image = imagecreatefromjpeg('background.jpg');
   $rotate = 20; //rotate 20 degrees

   //rotate the two images
   $rgb_image = imagerotate($rgb_image,$rotate,0x000000);
   $mask_image = imagerotate($mask_image,$rotate,0x000000);

   //loop through all the images
   for ($theX=0;$theX < imagesx ($rgb_image);$theX++){
      for ($theY=0;$theY > 16) & 0xFF;
         $g = ($rgb >> 8 ) & 0xFF;
         $b = $rgb & 0xFF;

         //get the Alpha value from the gray scale mask_image
         $rgb = imagecolorat($mask_image,$theX,$theY);
         $a = $rgb & 0xFF;
         $a = 127-floor($a/2); // The alpha seems to be 7 bit not 8 bit

         //set $myColor to the RGB+A
         $myColor = imagecolorallocatealpha($rgb_image,$r,$g,$b,$a);

         //set the pixel on the background image
         imagesetpixel($background_image,($theX),($theY),$myColor);
      }
   }

   //save the image as a JPG on the server
   imagejpeg($bacgkround_image,'new_image.jpg',100);

Stealth car

Posted: May 11, 2005 in Automotive, General

Although I’ve seen a variety of snake-oil “laser absorbent” coatings in recent history, Veil appears to be the real deal. Applied to the headlights and front license plate of your car it can cut the effective distance of a laser gun by 50%. The only thing more effective is the active laser jamming Blinder m-20.

The nice thing about Veil is that it’s completely passive (because it’s a coating and not electronic,) and the “installation” is a lot easier than anything electronic. In addition it costs about 1/4 of the price of the Blinder, and about 1/2 the minimum cost of most speeding tickets.