BotsWorkshop Blog: Workshop Blues

This is a blog post from my other site botsworkshop.com which I am letting expire:

In my head I thought I could bang this out in a small amount of time. Making a post from a beach log.

After I setup the center line on the ends of the log, I forgot the important step to connect them to check for curving and a sanity check. But I went ahead and snapped the lines for the posts edges and they went wild.

When you're working in the shop you need to keep in check of your emotions.  I wasn't feeling well that day and so I put down the tools and walked away.   The only problem is I haven't made it back.

WordPress Godot Web Game Plugin

Godot Game Engine is a free and open platform for making games. Some people use unity to make 3d and 2d games. Other people like me are learning Godot. Find out more at https://godotengine.org

I want to host games I create on my WordPress blog. I know I could add a static page and load the game that way, and it would be easier. I do want to eventually make an income from my games and having the game integrated into WordPress would allow for more control over who plays and how they play my games.

Why do I want control?
* to present the game with navigation buttons to browse the site
* observe who is playing the games
* receive feedback on games in the comments section
* protect my game assets
* create communication channel with players
* potentially make this plugin available to other indie game developers

I will make a demo available if/when I have one. For now this will be a space to record my progress.


Zen Huts – What happened

I was driving back from Tofino BC along the windy highway, my kids were quiet in the back of our Westfalia camperized 1986 VW Vanagon. We were well rested from a beautiful weekend retreat at a Long Beach Resort. My beautiful wife beside me as we sat listening to the drone of the engine. Across the dash, Vancouver Island rolled up before us, it was beautiful.

Something had been bothering me. What is the answer to it all. How am I supposed to raise a family, be successful at my job, keep the passion lit in my marriage, and be happy. Not only that, but the world was hurting. This was during the era of George W Bush as president, things looked bleak for world politics, and where we were going as a society.

A single word was bouncing around in my brain, and I wasn't sure what it meant. Sustainable. At first the idea was a little cloudy, but as we rolled on, the idea got louder and louder in my head. It was as if all the VW driving hippies were all chanting a mantra, a single idea, and I was tuned in. Sustainable. Sustainable.

Then I had an epiphany... "Sustainable!" I proclaimed. My wife looked at me as if I was having a stroke. "That's it!", I turned to my wife. "Sustainability is the answer!". Still the concerned puzzled look. I could read her eyes "what was the question?"

The key to life is sustainability. Modern society has given us all the illusion of sustainability. We get our food from the grocery store, we earn an income from our regular jobs, and we live in lovely over engineered homes. We have it all figured out.

That is until something upsets the balance. Perhaps a natural disaster, or economic meltdown, or any number of potentially mini catastrophes that could upset that balance. Then we find ourselves in trouble. The house that kept us warm is now a prison, unable to buy food, or pay for electricity, even water becomes scarce.

What will keep us alive, and even thrive in that situation? Sustainability.... and I was going to find it and grab a hold of it while life is good.

Thank you for visiting Zen Huts. This is a side project for me, Billy Baker. I live on Vancouver Island, Canada. I'm excited to share this adventure and all of it's ups and downs. Please subscribe to get notified of my updates.

When Electricity Was Invented

B.E.E (Before electricity event)

Before there was 55 inch 4k HD OLED TVs, or before the television, before the lightbulb, or electric motors, before the battery, before wires, as far back as before there was electricity.  There was none. A candle, or oil lamp was used for light, instruments provided musical entertainment. Books, letters, and spoken word were the internet of the day, a performance or play would be the closest equivalent to youtube or twitch.

So how did this all come about?  Did electricity evolve from magnets? Like humans evolved from the neanderthals.

A man wrote a book and electricity was invented

This is a story about science, the scientific method, a story about curiosity, questions, hypothesis, tests, documentation, and more.  So what happened? Well let’s go back 418 years ago to 1600 when William Gilbert released his book on the magnet. William was a physician, curious about the properties of natural magnets called lodestone.   William had devised a number of experiments with magnets, and in his books he described these properties.

Magical Rocks

By Chris Oxford [CC BY-SA 4.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Like when a line of lodestone are put in a line there is a natural order, front to and back.   He described how when one rock is move or turned around, it will spin and align itself back in perfect order.   This was very curious, and he believed that there must be healing properties to these stones. His book went on to examine materials of similar properties of attraction.

For my next trick

Amber is fossilized tree sap from prehistoric ages.   At the time William wasn’t certain of the source of amber, but he did examine the properties of amber’s ability to hold a state of attraction when he rubbed it with a soft cloth.   This was well known and was a common trick of magic. When the amber is charged by rubbing the amber with a cloth, it attracts light objects like feathers, or small bits of dried plant material called chaff.

Similar to these experiments, Bill Nye demonstrates with balloons:

Elektron becomes Electrica

In his book, William Gilbert named these charges and the attraction properties of these materials as electrica.   Inspired by the latin name of amber, elektron. Years later another man, Sir Thomas Browne refined the name and electrical properties were referred to as electricities.  Not exactly the electricity as we know today, but that is the current understanding of the birth of electricity.

While his original book was released in 1600, you can read an english copy from 1893 from the archive of the internet.  In the english transposed book below, the english common terms for electricity are used fairly frequently. The Second book which starts on page 142 is interesting as he describes his findings.

So what?

So electricity is about 418 years old. Actually it has always been around, but it wasn’t until 418 years ago that we started playing seriously in the realm of this physical science.  So here we are, looking at our devices and worrying if our phone’s charge is going to last the rest of the day. How does this help us?

When approaching understanding how our electrical devices tick and work.   It’s important to understand that this is not any more magical than magnetic rocks attracting each other, or rubbing amber with a cloth.   As our understanding for electricity and other areas of science improves so does our capability to build smaller, and faster devices. As we explore the world around us our discoveries are not new, they have always been with us, we are just learning to see them.  

Electricity is fundamentally simple.  When we use electricity to create machines it is marvellous.  Learning to work with electricity is not magic, it just takes time.

Electric Art: Studying Illuminated Signs Around Town

This post was copied from my other site BotsWorkshop.com which I am letting expire

I’m interested in making art that has a life of its own, and I realized that we are surrounded by some very impressive pieces.  You see them everyday, illuminated signs beckoning you to come inside and do business or buy food. Recently I started exploring art and light, and how to combine light, images, and text to create cool pieces of art.   We dismiss the significance of signs because they are for commercial purposes, and we get the point rather quickly. Yet if we change our perception as to appreciate the work gone into them, then you can see another world of artisans that surround us.    Let’s take a look at some of the electric art around my town, Nanaimo, BC, Canada.

Signs, Electric Art

McDonalds

You can’t miss the 40 ft golden arches rising from the side of the road.   If you’re a parent with hungry kids in tow, the dread you feel as you approach slowly through traffic only to hear the pleas of hungry voices behind you.  Even at a couple of miles away, their radar can pick it up faster than you can find a detour.

The sign is not technically marvelous, unless you tried to recreate it yourself, then you might ponder where you’re going to find a 3d printer that big.  Or how do you prevent it from toppling over, year after year in the high winds. McDonalds has had a sign there for the past 36 years that I’ve been in town, an icon in a sea of other signs competing for our attention.

Around the world travel

Around the World Travel Service has the last of the revolving signs in Nanaimo, BC

This is the last of it’s kind in Nanaimo, the revolving signs.  I’m not sure if mechanically moving signs are a pain to keep up, or a bylaw was passed to prevent moving signs from being a distraction or an eye sore.   Nanaimo area has had others, but most have been torn down. The one exception is Around The World Travel, they have been in business since 1958. The signs looks to be from another generation, but I am amazed that this continues to look great and spins year after year as it did when it was new.

There are a couple of items that I want to mention.  The convex plexiglass on each side. I believe that the sign would have to be hand painted on the inside of the glass, which would be tricky enough.  I have a hard time drawing straight lines on a piece of paper, so how they managed such well formed letters on the inside of a bubble is particularly a neat trick.

Also what is the mechanism that revolves it?  If a motor drives a belt on a pulley then I would believe the belt would wear quite easily after a while and would need replacing.   A motor driving gears would allow for longevity but wouldn’t allow for slippage during high winds or other interference, causing the motor to blow out.  Either way, each would need maintenance, and this is a testament to how great the sign continues to look today.

Electric Neon Signs A GoGo

Still one of the coolest signs made today are signs made with Electric Neon Tubes.  They allow for bright vibrant colors, that stand out after dark. The tubes are simple glass tubes with a mixture of Neon Gases that when an electric charge is run through them, the gases glow brightly in different colors.   Glass tubes are heated until red hot and the glass easily bends, but it takes a dedicated artist’s hand to do it right. Thanks to Wired magazine for creating this video with an artist to demonstrate this delicate procedure.

The Avalon

The Avalon went over the top when they remodelled the theater in town.   The have blinking lights, tall towering lights, neon tubes, even the token burnt out tube around the A.   When they first put up the sign, I thought the Avalon Signage was busy and a bit hard to take, but the theatre does well to live up to the hype, and it certainly feels like a night out when you visit.

Devlin Electric Sign Co

A significant contributor to the signs on Vancouver Island.   Devlin Electric Sign Company has been in business since 1963, and have one of the best neon signs in town.   The sign has the deepest red neon that looks amazing at night. The camera had a hard time picking it up in the low light conditions.   The design and colors are very effective and I’ll be keeping an eye out for this sign as I pass by.

Castaway Motel

There is a motel close to downtown on the highway, I’ve never stayed there, and would not be in my top five options to stay in town, but I do love their sign.  The Castaway Motel sign is a neon sign portraying a character that has been castaway on an island and and enjoys the company of the twinkling lights from a treasure chest as he kicks back on a beach.  The sign is an icon in Nanaimo, and I worry that the Motel will one day close shop, or stop keeping up with the sign, but they have managed to do a decent job keeping up with the sign.

Modern Cafe

This sign is another icon in town and also uses a ribbon of flashing light bulbs to create a daylight experience.   The restaurant itself has been recycled from it’s original coffee shop to a chic modern eatery. The sign has remained unchanged, although it has been kept up.   I have seen it go through some hard times in the 90’s, but is now bright vibrant and calls you in, once the sun goes down.

Northridge Village

This strip mall uses a mixed media representation of sculpture and light to create stunning symbol in the night sky.   Unfortunately this side of the sign has a couple tubes burnt out. Which is a persistent problem with neon tubes, either the gas in the tube has escaped, or the electrode burnt out.   Either situation means the tube needs to be recreated and replaced. At 40ft in the air, that is not as simple as replacing a light bulb.

Electric Art is all around us

Why did I dip into this odd exploration of commercial signs in town.   I had fun photographing the signs and processing the images, and I learned that companies work hard to make and keep their signage looking good and working well.   I also learned the power of electric signs. They are visually stunning and draw people to their businesses.

What about you, do you have signs that give you a lift when you see them?  Or perhaps there are signs that have the opposite effect. When considering art, and presentations, some simple electronics can really amplify your message.

I will be exploring adding art, light, and motion to my work, and I hope you will come back to join me.  

Welcome to Bots Workshop!

Hi I'm Billy Baker.   I created BotsWorkshop.com to share my ideas and experience working with computers, electronics, and art. 

I have always loved to tinker and create things, sometimes they are just computer programs, or just a small electronic gadget, or a piece of art.  When the three of these come together is when the magic happens.   The idea comes to life and inspires more creative projects.  

My day to day work is technical support for a university, and I love to share my expertise and solve problems.   This web site is an extension of that work, and a channel to bring out the artist in me.

This is not a portfolio of my work though, I want to share my projects with you, so you can take them and develop your own master pieces.  I will do my best to make the projects accessible, easy-to-follow, and functional. 

This site is also a blog for me to share what I am working on and what I am excited about.   The blog may be a bit of a mess at times, but this is all part of the project building process, getting dirty, seeing what works and what doesn't.

Skully Mambo II, 5 color screen print by James R Eads

The Skully Mambo II print is a great culmination of illustration coming together after a couple years of tinkering.   The original Skully Mambo released a year earlier had much of the same elements, but was added to and refined for this year.   This 5 color screen print captures its original inspiration very well.

What prompts an artist to create a work such as this?  For this image, I am really glad that James shared a link to the old timey Disney animation silly symphony - the skeleton dance 1929 disney short

The video is an early animation of the Halloween theme, and after watching the video you can see many of the elements in the work by James.  Elements like the church and the more unique dance moves of the skeletons have been reproduced, creating a light but appropriately themed image celebrating the dead.

There are two skeletons in the background, one appears to be holding another by the ankles,  I missed this in my first viewing, I couldn’t figure out what they were doing or why James included this odd part.  After watching the video again, I had an aha moment as I saw one skeleton ride another skeleton like a pogo stick.  Where did the Disney animators get that inspiration?

This is a 5 color screen print, yet there are many more layers to the image than the five colors.  The starry night in the shadow of the church pulls you into outer space, the ghost amebos flying around, and the rich layering of textures all comes together in this celebratory image.  I missed the  window to purchase this print, but am looking forward to seeing more from James R. Eads

How to beat Windows networking issues

While I was on the road this week, I had a terribly frustrating time trying to tether connect my netbook to my phone.   Windows 8.1 was working perfectly normal except that it was unable to connect to the WiFi network aired by my phone.   Even finding the hotspot required patience.    Other WiFi hotspots would appear, but not my phone, when it did appear the connection would fail with a simple message ‘Could not connect to network’.   Windows system logs were not helpful.

I had tried forgetting the hotspot to reconfigure it, I even tried re configuring the mobile WiFi hotspot on my phone.   There was nothing I could do.

Fortunately I found my sons Ubuntu netbook in the car, I booted it up and was able to get online to search for an answer.    I tried to phrase the question to Google in a way that it would get past the easy stuff and get me to the results I was looking for.  Microsoft popped up a promising lead, “Troubleshooting tips for connecting to networks”.  A quick read through found it was the very basic stuff, with no links to more advanced topics.

A techy’s insider tip, search technet.microsoft.com instead, content of technet is kept from general searches as it is more advanced and has a potential to break systems.    Once I updated the Google search to include “site:technet.microsoft.com”.  Bam! I found what I was looking for.

The fix I found was new to me and I wanted to contribute it to the collective memory as it may help future me and others if they have network issues with their windows computers.

Windows 8.1 Troubleshooting: Fix WiFi Connectivity Issues - plus more than just wifi

Reset TCP/IP Stack

Misconfigured TCP/IP settings might probably cause the issue of irresponsive Wi-Fi connection. It can easily be reset or Auto tuned through the Microsoft Windows very own Net Shell utility (netsh.exe). Have a look at the procedures below for the practical implication of this utility.

  • Click Search icon on the Charms bar and type Command Prompt in the search box
  • Right click the search result and choose to Run as administrator
  • Type the command NETSH INT IP RESET C:\RESTLOG.TXT and press Enter key

 

 

How to be cool by listening to CBC Radio 3

Where I live we have a public broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  Say what you will cbc3-doorseabout state run media, but when it comes to a voice for the small independent artists the CBC's Radio 3 online content is hands down the best way to be exposed to independent bands and artists from this dark frozen nation of ours.

The CBC has introduced many great bands to me.  Such as Metric, Arcade Fire, Buck 65, Shad, Grimes, Braids, Stars, Shout Out Out Out, Crystal Castles, most recently Faith Healer.   Many more, dozens... like a hundred.   I've never had a good memory for band names or song titles, so CBC has made it easy for me to remember my favorite bands and songs.   Using the web player you can explore, and listen on demand to their entire collection of Independent Canadian Music.    I like that they give voice to aboriginal music as well, check out this cool band from Nunavut, Scary Bear Soundtrack.

Here is a link to my CBC Radio 3 Profile.  I have recently started to add the music I like.   I hope that I can link my playlists here for you.   More on that later.

CBC Radio 3 is in a state of survival recently.   Unfortunately under the Harper regime the CBC's funding suffered and the dedicated staff of CBC radio 3 paid the price.   The station is mostly just a computer these days.    The star of the station, Grant Lawrence has reached singularity and appears as automated bits of personality.

Hopefully, Canada and the CBC can get it's act together and restore funding to this much loved service.

Hey there world!

Let's start a blog.   A blog about me, and all the things I do and find interesting.   Who am I?  What do I do?   Let's find out.

Welcome to day one of blogging.   I hope I'm here for a while.  🙂

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