Keep on movin´, it sounds good

the betasound version of sodaconstructor is an extension to the current sodaconstructor beta version, including all new functionality like fixed bar springs, variable model area etc. In addition it offers a new sound feature, enabling hi-fi stereo sound generation in realtime response to model motion.

Soda constructor has been out there for quite a long time (more than I can remember; the first models in their records point to October, 2000). For those who may not know what it is about, the constructor is a java simulator where you can create 2D models made of masses and springs, whose movement you can control by means of a simple interface. Over the years there has been a constant flux of new, amazing machines and critters, with initiatives like sodarace preventing the project from coming to a standstill. The latest of these refreshing ideas, betasound, improves the sound capabilities of the system up to hi- fi levels, by means of two different sound generators which act like choirs, each of their voices associated to an element of the model: “each spring and node of a model has its own voice”. Besides the classic controls, there are some new sliders that can be used to tweak certain parameters in the generators, and are intuitive enough to play with without bothering about the technical details. The whole is still too constrained, since one of the generators uses sine waves, while the other uses “more complex waveforms” (which isn´t saying much, since sine waves are the simplest ones). However, even with these limitations the results are already very interesting and highly promising. It´s amazing to perceive the organic correspondence in between a model´s behaviour and the sounds it produces, which are sometimes cloudy, sometimes percussive, and at least as interesting as the models themselves. Installing the simulator is really simple, and whether you are interested in sound or cOol ideas, it really worths to check it out.

Space Ouija?

The Revolution is our latest concept synthesizer providing an intuitive interface which we feel most accurately represents the principles of time and music (…) We must conclude that music is cyclic, and should so be represented in its natural form. And so it is… the Revolution.

Ok, in fact it´s a synth, but I must claim in my defense that it can make weird songs which will escape out of your control. 😛
Coming from a company named Future Retro, it´s no wonder that the Revolution looks like it could be the synthesizer of choice of the Discovery ship in the movie 2001. I haven´t played the synthesizer myself, but from what I heard in the demos it looks proficient, and it features an “auto pattern variation” (they call it Remix), which must make it a joy to play with, especially if the controls are as intuitive as they say.
The Revolution sells for $699, which sounds fair enough (both the synth and the price), and it would make good company with the perhaps more intellectual evolver.

Look up the lights, you know my number

Design is very often, perhaps even mostly, a struggle in between aesthetics and function. The masterpieces of design would then be those which excel in both aspects without compromising any, but usually though, tradeoffs are made in favour of either one or the other; the success of the result depends on there being a good reason for the imbalance, one which makes the bias worthwhile, and the ultimate proof of its success, the ability of the users to feel, even better verbalize, said reason.

I hope that the paragraph above will give a new perspective on the deep meaning of the at times blamed as shallow term “cOol”, as in: why do I like so much a clock so hard to read? because it´s sooo cOol!!! ;P

Ps: Actually, I found a different breed of “visual clock” that is easier to read : the TIX Led Clock.

Ni Tsan of the day

Ichung has always loved my bamboo paintings. I always paint them to unburden myself. I’ve never had the purpose of reproducing their appearance. I don’t mind whether they have many or few leaves, that their branches are straight or crooked; I limit myself to give brush strokes. The people say that they look more like rushes, or ropes, or any other thing; I don’t manage to make them see bamboos or have interest in my paintings. They may be right. What I don’t understand very well is why Ichung likes them.

Glest 2.0-rc1 released

At last, Glest 2.0-rc1 has been released. The version is not the complete 2.0 though, some icons are missing and some animations will be improved; However it includes most of the features that will be present in the final version.

– New Magic units:

– Tower of Souls: Air defense building, attacks air only
– Golem: Defensive unit, needs EP to walk, can’t attack air
– Daemon giant: Heavy melee unit
– Drake rider: Light ranged unit

– New Tech units:

– Aerodrome: Building for producing air units
– Air ballista: Air defense building, attacks air only
– Horseman: Fast medium unit
– Ornithopter: Light air unit
– Airship: Heavy air unit, can’t attack air

– New Magic upgrades
– New Tech upgrades
– New animations for existing units
– Loads of balance changes

New units really change the way factions are played. The Magic faction now has a new defensive unit, the Golem, that makes them stronger at the early stages of the game. The Tech faction now has air units, but should be less powerful because both factions have new anti air defenses too, which make towns very difficult to attack with air units only.

To play this version, download the data and win32 binary packages from sourceforge. Linux users can still use 1.2.1 source code with 2.0-rc1 data.

Origami Wreaths and Rings

a book by David Petty

In these pages you will find over 100 inventive variations around a circular theme using modular origami

If I were to describe this book in as few words as possible, I would choose these: easy, modular, organic origami. Easy, because the folding instructions are very clear and each of the pieces can be made in a few minutes by people with none to very little knowledge in origami; modular, because you create the models by assembling several small identical units together; and organic, because the result is a whole which looks much more complex than the sum of its parts: actually, many of the spiky stars and rings remind me of living sea stars and urchins. I came to this book after having seen several models a friend of mine had done, and I recommend it to anyone interested in any of the key themes mentioned above, as it will be a pleasing and rewarding discovery.

Update: I just found out that the author has made available several models with instructions here.

The postman keeps on ringing

The goal of this project is to allow people to receive postcards from all over the world, for free. Well, almost. The main line is: if you send a postcard, you’ll receive at least one back, from a random postcrosser somewhere in the world.

Postcrossing comes not long after after the well known bookcrossing, which I would define as an organized trend where people decide to free books they have read, leaving them out in the wilderness, tagged with a tracking number so that their path (with the subsequent readers´ help) can be followed. In this case, the subjects of free trade are postcards that you can start either sending and receiving as soon as you request an address from the aforementioned site. The process is easy, well described, and the site feels both professional and amusing. It particularly worths to say that this is a one person work, that of the portuguese Paulo Magalhães, who confesses to have been surpassed in his expectations by the rapid development of the initiative.
Since a postcard is something you write on your own, sending them to unkowns is a beautiful metaphor of giving oneself to another. My hopes are that Postcrossing keeps on growing, as representative of this spirit and as a kind of poetical justice towards the infamous chain letters. In times of email floods, give yourself a reality bite! 🙂

Serenity: Afterthoughts

Hunted by vastly different enemies, they begin to discover that the greatest danger to them may be (…)

Opposite feelings and a kind of certainty: that´s how I feel about this movie. On the positive side, I have to say that it offers two hours of entertainment, is impressive at times (both in visuals and sound), brings moments of very accomplished music, has some hilarious lines, doesn’t take itself too seriously and introduces a memorable antihero (Mal, the captain). On the negative side, I should say that the plot is kinda fluffy and at times dull, as dull are some of the characters. The villains represent Continue reading Serenity: Afterthoughts