Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Value of a Conference

With all the kids back in school you may be getting nostalgic about classes as well. One way to cure your back to school blues is to attend a conference that relates to something you are involved or interested in. As you start searching these out you find that everyone is an expert and has a conference for you to attend. Trust me, there is nothing worse than attending a seminar or conference that you paid for only to find out that you understand more about the topic than the person presenting. There are many ways for you to choose which conference to attend, the key is to find one that gives you the most of what you are looking to learn. Werner Vogel gives an interesting approach to how he chooses a conference and has a way to give each conference a numeric value to help you decide between them.

There are several conferences, both large and small, for those involved in the digital media field. Here are a few of the larger ones that I find interesting; Autodesk University, Siggraph, Photoshop World and Gnomedex to name a few of the bigger ones. Most people/companies cannot afford to go to several conferences each year and some can only attend every few years due to the financial burdens of conference fees, travel, loss of company time and various other factors. The key to selecting the right conference(s) to attend is research.

Why did I mention conferences? Because I just made my final trip plans for Autodesk University 2003 (AU). For me this has several learning benefits in attending which all lead to better job performance. If you are an Autodesk product user there is no better opportunity to get insight and understanding of the products(s) of your choice and not to mention the networking you get to have with other cad users. For me this was a great part of attending last year as I had the opportunity to meet and talk with numerous AutoCAD/ADT/VIZ/MAX/(insert your Autodesk product here) users and Autodesk employees. If you use any Autodesk software then you may wish to consider attending this event as there is no better place that gathers the best of those in the industry to teach custom learning sessions on various products and topics that related to Autodesk and their end users.

Happy Rendering...

Friday, September 26, 2003

Complex Simplicity

For software developers it is a double edged sword in delivering a good product. Once a product is brought through the conceptual stage and later completing both alpha and beta stages, the next step is shipping. This is a great moment at long last your product is ready to hit the mass market. "Why is this a double edge sword?" you ask. Mainly due to the nature of the business or improving on an idea.

Let's start with a good idea for a program. In this case we came up with the idea for software that will test the ripeness of melons. Now before we can begin coding on this we need to outline what we want it to do. We decide that to be the best darn melon testing software out there that the use of sound waves can help us achieve this. So we generate some inital concept sketches and create a scope of work defining how to build our machine and how this interacts with the software. Now we have to look for investors to help back us (we are not all willing to max out our credit cards or take on a second mortgage right? ). With a few bucks in hand to cover expenses and development costs we can now flash forward, after many moons of work we have our hardware and software ready to share with a few other users. We open up a testing cycle for alpha to iron out any bugs or procedures we have not caught. Now a few moons later after testing and fixing bug issues we open this up to more users for final beta testing. This pool of people range from all walks of life and their tech savviness varies, which is good for us because this will make show us what even the most technologically challenged user may find or have trouble with. A few moons later we have the software/hardware issues all resolved and have even added a few new features that were wish list items outside of the original scope. Since we had the extra time. :) we now have our final product 1.0 ready for shipping.

Fast forward a few months and several marketing wonders later our software is a hit, we have a good market share of people who are using our flagship product "AudibleMelon v1.0". During the testing phase we had many users submit some wishlist items. These are typically "wouldn't if be cool if it could do this" type of items. What comes next of course is scoping out enhancements of version 2.0 of course and maybe a few minor bug fixes for v1.0 :). Fast forward many more moons and we repeat the process above and we release v2.0. The first version was so well recieved and such a good product now we have those previous users upgrading because of our enhancements and also more new users. Our product is doing great in sales and the user feedback is even better. The planning process for the next version begins and we have noticed that our product interface is taking up much of the melon report screen area. In order to incorporate all the possible new features we need to make some serious decisions about what to do.

This is the point where most companies have a hard decision to make, incorporate a new interface or just keep adding more items to an already familiar interface. Myself, I am a firm believer in the KISS theory. What you have never heard of the KISS theory? It basically stands for Keep It Simple Silly (some refer to the last S as Stupid, but we will keep it PC here for now). How this applies to development is that if your software interface is not layed out in a simple easy to understand manner then you are destined for hard times ahead. The use of a good Product Designer is well worth the cost as they can help to simplify software for the users sake which in turns gives you a better interface for your product. This will allow more beginning users to quickly and easily use your product, which in turns sells more product.

Remember the KISS theory as this applies to all aspects of life. The more complicated something gets the harder it is to deal with later.

Happy Rendering...

Come on in the waters fine

My buddy Miker the Biker is currently working on his new blog, which hopefully will be fully operational in a few days. His idea is a good one that I have not seen other blogs utilize yet, rather than let the cat out of the bag I will post a link when he is up and running. Keep up the great work!

Happy Rendering...

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Post Storm #3

My buddy Cooper took this image during Hurricane Isabel at the oceanfront.

Unfortunately there is nothing to compare the waves to the pier scale wise. Notice the end of the pier as the waves are above the pier level.

Happy Rendering...

Back to Business

With the storm and ensuing clean-up behind us now it is back to business.

There have been a few good cad related updates that you should be aware of:

1. Autodesk Subscription Site update - For subscription members this section of the site has been updated with a few new things including an AutoCAD weblog from an AutoCAD expert, no not me, but Shaan Hurley, e-learning updates, technical support and more on the way I hear. There is also mention of "A New Autodesk University Experience for Autodesk Subscription Members", but I am not sure what that means yet either. :)

2. Architectural Desktop 2004 - Service Pack 2

3. Autodesk Network Installation Wizard - Patch

Happy Rendering...

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Post Storm #2

This is what the landscape typically looks like downtown now.

Post Storm - #1

Unfortunately we are without electricity but the power crews are working hard on restoring service. I had hoped to send a few posts before/during the storm but we had a few more items to deal with than we had planned. We had little property damage but we were more fortunate than others who had trees on their houses. Rather than mention verbally what happened here are a few pics:

This little bundle we found in the evening during the storm (our next door neighbor adopted it the next day).

This is the main road to our house.

This is the city across from ours pumping flood water back out to sea.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Waiting on the Storm

Current Hurricane Isabel conditions are 110mph with gusts to 135mph about . The oceanfront seas are still relatively calm right now. I have been in my fair share of hurricanes and flooding, but for those that have not even if the eye does not directly pass over you the storm winds still extend out pretty far. In the case of this storm the winds extend out 150 miles +/- from the center.

If the center passes near you the other items to worry about is micro-bursts, which are several small tornadoes around the eyewall. I remember seeing the microbursts from Hurrican Emily in '94 while living on Hatteras Island. There was an area that just shredded and twisted several trees. I distinctly remember a 2x4 that was lodged like a spear in a good sized tree.

Today's planning is making final preparations and executing a business continuity plan for work and home. I will try to provide one or two more updates before going offline for a day or so. In the meantime here are a few links to keep up to date with:

National Hurricane Center
Probabilities of Landfall
5-Day Forecast Track
Hurricane Evacuation Routes
Storm Surge Maps

More soon...

Monday, September 15, 2003

Batten Down the Hatches

After a good Sunday of surfing and soccer, we made our trip out this evening to stock up on supplies for the approaching hurricane Isabella. Here is a pic from the oceanfront yesterday.

I just picked up a Canon Powershot G3 from Chris just in time since Thursday is the day the storm will make landfall. Hopefully it will arrive before the storm hits so I can take some good pictures of the oceanfront before/after the storm.

If you are in the path of a storm give some additional thought to your business emergency plan. With a plan in place recovery is much simpler. I have an article in development for Business Continuity Planning but it is not ready to share just yet. In the meantime check out the FEMA Emergency Management Guide.

Happy Rendering...

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Project Management – Part 1 - Time Management

The key to a successful project is project management. As mentioned before it is relatively easy to lose the momentum and focus you have on a project and sometimes it can be out of your control. We all have ways of dealing with how to get work completed. Some people have a project manager to help keep them on track and others rely on themselves.

If you are responsible for getting work completed then you must have an understanding of what it takes to successfully deliver a product or service. In my day job I am part of a team of individuals who manage and provide tech support for an architectural company. My specialty is in CAD, Graphics and Rendering software/hardware. Due to the nature of being in this position constant interruptions are normal.

In order to get larger task done you need to distance yourself from these interruptions. Wait you say, isn’t this your job? Yes you are correct, but getting technology projects planned and completed can be difficult in this type of environment. Which brings us to the first step in a successful project: Time Management. I realize that you work xx hours a week, but that is not exactly what time management is. TM is more of setting aside a certain amount of uninterrupted time in order to accomplish a task.

This can be much harder to do you than you may think. Here are a few tips that can help to get and keep you in the “zone”.

1. Have a clean and creative work area.
2. Turn off e-mail, instant messengers, newsgroups etc…
3. Turn off the telephone, cell phone, pagers etc...
4. Use earphones to reduce outside noise and conversations.
5. If you absolutely cannot get work done where you are, move to another location (even temporarily).
6. In extreme cases you can use a “do not disturb” sign on the back of your chair or office. (A piece of tape across the entrance can also help let people know this as well.)

There are quite a few good books available that you can order or if you are fortunate enough to have a good project manager at your company then spend sometime with them and watch how they handle their time on projects.

Happy Rendering...

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Salvador Dali and Disney


Fifty-seven years after Walt Disney and Salvador DalĂ­ teamed up to develop a short film called "Destino" the 6 minute film has now been completed. As I have been a fan of Dali's work for years. Hopefully his original 150 sketches for the film will be made available on the DVD.

Happy Rendering...

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Book Addiction

I have to admit that I have an addiction, to books that is. I cannot go a week without purchasing and reading a new book. One of the best ways to get better at rendering and animation is to spend time reading and looking at other peoples work. This includes cartoons, movies and books.

My recent purchase is "How to get a Job in Computer Animation" from Ed Harriss. I have had a few e-mail exchanges from Ed recently and I look forward to the arrival of this new book later this week. If you are looking to get into the animation field then this book will share ideas and creative ways to help you break into this field. There is a free sample chapter and content from the book that is available on his website.

Another book that I would like to order is this digital fine art book from Expose. There is a page gallery available to see these great images as well. This is great work that I am impressed with.

If you are looking to increase your skills look at as many books, magazines and other related content as possible. Your eyes will pick up the small details that help these images stand out that in turn will make your own work better.

Happy Rendering...

Blogger Pro gone?

Blogger Pro to be discontinued. Now what this means for me and this blog will be determined by what this does in the future. For one I hate banner ads, that was one main reason for upgrading.

Happy Rendering...

Monday, September 08, 2003

The Small World of Blogging

The more time I spend using RSS feeds and checking out different blogs for information the more you see several of the same names on different individuals "buddy" lists. This goes to show that when you have good content or ideas people want to link to you. I just found out about a blog party next week. As luck would have it I have no plans that evening so depending on where the final venue is I plan to stop by for a bit. Have you been to one of these past events? or plan to attend this one? If so let me know.

Happy Rendering...

Sunday, September 07, 2003

CSS Education

As you may have noticed it has been a few days since my last post. During this time I have finished the training class and now I am back to working on 2 web development projects with a bit more focus that I hope to maintain.

This weekends learning project includes CSS. I have been using some predeveloped CSS in my past web work, but wanted to delve deeper so I could create/work with my own instead of hacking up the ones given to me. I have added a CSS style to the Rndr4Food blog. The nice thing about this is that when I make any site changes this can change the rest of the site globally. The is more that CSS can do so spend some time learning/understanding how to use this feature in your web work.

Happy Rendering...

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Under Development

I have been attempting to finish 2 web development projects that have been in the works for some time. It is funny how each time you get your mind focused on the project at hand how quickly this changes due to circumstances beyond your control. I took some time last week to outline the scope of Project "A" and define each item that needed to be done for completion using MasterList-XL (thanks for the tech support and help Bob, I am anxiously awaiting the full version 2.0). The key item that I hope you take with you after reading this is that the first step to any successful project is planning.

As I mentioned it is easy to get pulled off of your work and now development has been put on hold. I am currently providing a private multi-day ADT/VIZ training session (not bad for a 4 hour notice). So for the remainder of this week Project "A" is on hold. I recently read a great article about development from Joel that explains in a similiar fashion why I am having trouble completing Project "A". It looks like I need to create a solution to this. I plan to write an updated article of some length here soon, perhaps this will make a good topic.

If you have any stories to share or advice, e-mail me.

Happy Rendering...

Monday, September 01, 2003

Another year

In a few short hours I will "officially" be another year older. As I sit and write this, I am now fat and happy after a wonderful Thai dinner enjoyed by some close friends, my wife and I. I have taken a moment to ponder over the last year, but I will not bore you with the details. But I will say that this has been another pivotal year in my professional/personal development.

I did give in and purchase a small present that I have been looking at for a while. Unfortunately it is not the Aibo but with the robotics kit it does have an open programming architecture to build on.

Happy Rendering...

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