Category Archives: technology

Eyesight & Oculus Rift

As an old[er] gamer with dodgy eyesight, I’ve been worried that I’d never be able to play VR [virtual reality] games. Well, yesterday I learned that I can. 😀

But first things first: what is Oculus Rift? Basically, it’s a very expensive piece of headgear that makes it possible to view imaginary things as if they were real. The model I tried out yesterday looks like this:

As well as the goggles and inbuilt headphones, the Oculus Rift comes with two handsets that transmit Wifi data to the two ‘receiver’ units positioned in front of the ‘player’.

All of this hardware is controlled by specialist software running on a fairly powerful pc. Without getting too technical, the software sends two, separate, high resolution images to the lens inside the headset. The appropriate image then bounces through one of the lens and into the left or right eye.

To get an idea of how this works, close one eye and look at an object. Close both eyes and move a few inches to the left. Now open the other eye and look at the object again. The object hasn’t changed at all, but the viewing angle has – i.e. you’re seeing a part of the object you haven’t seen before. Put the two images together, and you get a 3D image.

The human brain interprets these separate images all the time using a process called ‘stereopsis‘. But for some individuals, stereopsis doesn’t develop as it should. The brain still gets streams of images from both eyes, but these individuals see depth using a process called ‘motion parallax‘.

I am one of these individuals, and that’s why I worried I wouldn’t be able to see in VR. But I can! I can. My spatial awareness expanded right out, and when a bunch of very large robots suddenly turned feral and loomed over me, I instinctively threw my hands up to protect my head! I also squeaked in fear, but the less said about that the better. 😀

This is a video of a bunch of older people experiencing VR for the first time:

The headset shown in the video clip is the VIVE rather than the Oculus Rift, but the experience is much the same.

I wasn’t wearing glasses when I tried out the Rift, but apparently you can fit your normal glasses inside the goggles by adjusting the fit.

And now a word or two about the quality of the graphics. I wasn’t wearing any of my glasses [I have 3, one each for long, mid-range and close viewing] and that may have made the graphics less than optimal. Or it may be that the graphics still need to be improved. Or perhaps you simply need bleeding edge computer hardware to get the best results. Whatever the reason, I was in no danger of mistaking computer generated graphics for the real thing. But…the sensation of depth really does trick the brain into believing the images are real. One day, we may not be able to perceive the difference at all.

Finally, some unpleasant aspects of the hardware. For starters, the goggles are heavy. Whilst you’re ‘inside’, you tend to forget about the weight because there’s so much there to distract you, but it does feel a bit like carrying half a brick around on your head. It’s also hot. Yesterday was only warm, but after ten minutes playing with the Rift, my hair was wet with sweat.

A big part of the weight of the Rift comes from the glass lenses that make the magic possible. Given how young the technology is, I suspect the mechanics will be improved rapidly. One improvement I would very much like to see is in the handsets. Although they are far more intuitive than the controllers used with consoles, they’re still clunky. Gloves and a full-body suit with embedded sensors would be miles better. They’d also be miles more expensive, but hopefully the price will come down by the time I can afford to buy one. 😉

All in all, I loved my taste of VR, and now that I know I can see despite the issues with my eyesight, I’m determined to own my own setup…one day.

cheers

Meeks


3D printing research – here in Melbourne

My thanks to SV3DPRINTER for pointing me to this interesting article from Swinburne University, right here in Melbourne [Australia]:

https://www.swinburne.edu.au/news/latest-news/2018/08/pioneering-housing-construction-with-3d-concrete-printers-at-swinburne.php

Although Professor Jay Sanjayan wasn’t giving away any technical secrets about his new process, the prospect of new materials to use in the printing process is very exciting. Nevertheless, it’s his comments about disruption to the construction industry that really got me thinking. 3D printing in construction makes it possible to automate construction.

But then what happens to the brickies and steel workers and carpenters whose jobs will become redundant?

I’m excited by the possibilities brought about by 3D printing, but also a little apprehensive. I firmly believe that some form of Universal Basic Income [UBI] will become necessary, possibly even in my lifetime. Sobering thought.

cheers

Meeks

 


CLIP – a new kind of 3D printing

The one problem with printing ‘layers’ of material is that it leaves ridges. Those ridges can be seen quite clearly in this example of super large scale 3D printing:

 

But 3D printing is still in its infancy. Allow me to introduce CLIP, a new kind of 3D printing invented by ‘…two chemists and a physicist, ..[who].. came in with a different perspective.’ That perspective is ‘continuous liquid interface production technology’, CLIP for short.

‘To create an object, CLIP projects specific bursts of light and oxygen. Light hardens the resin, and oxygen keeps it from hardening. By controlling light and oxygen exposure in tandem, intricate shapes and latices can be made in one piece instead of the many layers of material that usually make up a 3-D printed object.’

That’s the gist of it, but if you go to the Washington Post article here, you can get a much better understanding of the process. You can also watch two amazing time-lapse video clips that show the magic of CLIP at work [pun intended]. 😉

cheers

Meeks

 

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2015/03/16/this-new-technology-blows-3d-printing-out-of-the-water-literally/?noredirect=on&pi_adid=48343&pi_clickid=91b86c6b5b584f2fa25fee579eacd5b5&pi_creativeid=173761&utm_medium=email&utm_source=powerinbox-revenuestripe&utm_term=.62c51a7e2952


Microsoft Windows 7 update – ‘known issue’ never resolved

Warning: technical post with rant.

Because I’m a baby geek, I have my Windows Updates set to notify but not install. This gives me the chance to look at all the updates and decide which ones to install and which ones to ‘hide’.

Why bother?

Because of ‘known issues’ such as this one:

 

There is an issue with Windows and a third-party software that is related to a missing file (oem<number>.inf). Because of this issue, after you apply this update, the network interface controller will stop working.

Not ‘may stop working’ but ‘will stop working’. Ut oh.

Note: a ‘known issue’ is a problem introduced into the system by the update that the Microsoft developers couldn’t fix in time for that update. The problem with the ‘network interface controller’ [lovingly known as NIC] not working is that your internet connection stops working too.

Most of these ‘known issues’ get fixed as part of the next round of updates, so it pays not to be an early adopter. Sometimes, however, a ‘known issue’ comes with a workaround, or a fix. The fix for the ‘known issue’ with the NIC is this:

  1. To locate the network device, launch devmgmt.msc; it may appear under Other Devices.

  2. To automatically rediscover the NIC and install drivers, select Scan for Hardware Changes from the Action menu.

a. Alternatively, install the drivers for the network device by right-clicking the device and choosing Update. Then choose Search automatically for updated driver software or Browse my computer for driver software.

I’m not a complete n00b when it comes to my computer, and I do know how to install drivers, but it seems to me that something is missing from step 1. Where am I supposed to launch ‘devmgmt.msc’ from? I suspect it’s the Run command line but I’m not sure.

The alternative might be easier as I think I know where to find the device listing, but if the old driver has been corrupted during the ‘problem’, I have no idea what driver the pc will re-install.

Will I have to dig out the very old motherboard setup disk which I may or may not be able to find?

Or will I have to carry my pc down to the repair shop to get someone more knowledgeable to ‘fix’ the update problem for me?

For all these reasons, I have not installed that particular update, but Microsoft continues to sneak it in under each successive optional ‘quality rollup’. It’s become so ridiculous that I just have to look at the size of the update – 229.2 MB – to know what’s in it.

When I first started ignoring this nasty update, I did so because I expected Microsoft to resolve this ‘known issue’ in much the same way as they resolve most other ‘known issues’. Better late than never, right?

Unfortunately, Microsoft has no intention of resolving this particuler issue. Or perhaps they can’t. Just for fun, I followed the link to More Information today and followed the trail of updates back as far as March 13, 2018 before I gave up. The issue with the NIC, and it’s nasty fix, were repeated in each and every update.

So now I’m wondering what happened to other Windows 7 users out there. Did they all install the original nasty update, fix their pc’s and move on? Or was there a tsunami of outrage that I missed?

I’m never going to install this update until Microsoft resolves the issue because this is a problem of their own making, and no company is so big that it should be allowed to get away with such obvious cheating.

Not happy,

Meeks

 


New tech…rebuilding teeth

As someone who has had more root canal treatments than she cares to remember, this new tech is very close to my heart gum indeed. 😉

Okay, jokes aside, researchers have come up with a way of doing root canal treatments that may allow the dental pulp inside the tooth to re-grow. If the dental pulp does regrow, it radically cuts down the likelihood of re-infection later on.

Watch this video for an overview:

If you want to know more, you can read the entire article on New Atlas

As an ageing sci-fi tragic with temperamental teeth and a phobia about dentists, I can see this treatment totally revolutionising dentistry. Instead of a mouthful of fillings, or those awful, fake choppers, maybe we’ll all have a mouthful of bio-identical teeth.

Bring it on, I say!

Meeks

 


How to digitise real world objects for 3D printing

I’m stuck at home with a bad back and feeling rather sorry for myself, so this post by SV3DPRINTER was very welcome indeed. It not only gave me something else to focus on, it also gave me the tech that would make the world of Innerscape plausible rather than just possible.

Science fiction is always speculative fiction, so I knew that much of the ‘science’ in Innerscape was actually just magic based on tech that ‘might’ develop in the future. Nevertheless, I’ve always tried to make that speculation as close to reality as possible. That’s why I get so excited whenever something in Innerscape turns out to be ‘doable’.

Today, my discovery explains how all of Petra could be scanned and re-created inside a virtual environment. In the video clip below, the section on scanning terrain is only a small part of the presentation, but it made my day. 🙂

 

And no, I didn’t know about these scanning technologies when I wrote Innerscape. I’m only an amateur techie, and I haven’t had a chance to explore the current Virtual Reality technology, so I simply assumed that a digital world would be produced the same way apps like Maya create digital models and gaming worlds now. Since watching this video clip, however, I’ve realised that re-creating the outside world for Innerscape will be a lot easier, and more accurate, than I originally thought, especially so far into the future.

Of course, the downside of each discovery is that my timescale for Innerscape becomes a little bit less likely. I mean, who would have thought ten years ago that 3D printing would become so commonplace so quickly? Or the internet. Who could have guessed that social media would become both a boon and a bane by 2018?

Honestly, the only thing any of us can say with any certainty is that the future will not be anything like what we imagine now. But that’s okay; perfect predictions would take all the excitement out of life. 🙂

Anyway, time to lever myself out of this chair and walk around a bit.

cheers

Meeks


The making of an Iron Age torc

In an earlier post I wrote about the Snettisham Great Torc, and how it had been created by artisans 2000 years ago. Well today I have something even more exciting to share – a video about how these amazingly beautiful objects were made using the simplest tools imaginable. And here it is:

Roughly half way through, the presenter talks about how she experimented with the technique by casting her own ingot of bronze and then patiently hammering it out into a thin piece of wire. The Iron Age artisan who made the torc must have been a master craftsman with a whole bunch of lesser journeymen and apprentices to help with the backbreaking work, but still, can you imagine how long it would have taken? And how many failures there would have been along the way? The skill, dedication and commitment of these craftmen is beyond my comprehension.

Once again, my thanks to Dawn of Dawn Gill Designs for finding this incredible video and sending me the link to it. If you haven’t yet guessed, Dawn is the blogger I call Silversmith because she makes beautiful pieces of jewellery. She’s also my go-to-person when I need information on crafting techniques. -waves at Dawn-

Okay, back to work. Today I upload Vokhtah and its new cover to Lulu! Vokhtah was my first book and the only one I have never been able to physically hold in my hands. Finally getting a print copy will signify the end of a learning curve that began in 2004. So excited. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Online Privacy, Security and Newsletters

I’ve just come from Indies Unlimited, one of my favourite websites because of all the free information they provide to Indie authors. The article that prompted this post concerns the new EU regulations and how they relate to newsletters. One of the key facts in the article is that people who use newsletter companies, such as Mailchimp, will have to ask their European subscribers to formally ‘opt in’.

I strongly recommend that everyone who uses a newsletter to communicate with subscribers take a close look at this article:

https://www.indiesunlimited.com/2018/05/14/authors-with-newsletters-must-get-subscribers-to-opt-in-again-per-eu-regulations/comment-page-1/#comment-3488092908471512056

After reading the article, I was curious to see what Mailchimp had to say about the new EU regulations. What I found was not really a surprise, but it did concern me enough to write the following comment:

Great post, RJ and something all Indies have to look at very seriously, because very few know exactly what the Newsletter companies are doing with their own data and the data of their /subscribers/. This ignorance, and the responsibility that goes with it, will not disappear with a simple opt-in form.
I don’t use a newsletter service but I decided to check out your link to Mailchimp, as it’s a very popular one. The following quotes are taken straight from their various pages:
INFO COLLECTED
‘That information may include your IP address….and other information about how you interacted with our Websites or other websites.’
[the important bit is ‘or OTHER websites]

TRACKING DEVICES & PERSONAL INFO
‘In some cases we may use cookies and other tracking technologies described in this Cookie Statement to collect Personal Information, or to collect information that becomes Personal Information if we combine it with other information.’
[the important bit is ‘that becomes Personal Information if we combine it with other information’]

THIRD PARTIES
‘The third parties that set these third party cookies can /recognise/ your computer both when it visits the website or service in question and also when it visits /certain other websites or services/.’
[the important bit is that Third Parties can include every tech company on the internet including Facebook, Google, Amazon and countless others. Seriously].

TRACKING SUBSCRIBERS
We also enable our users [that’s people who use Mailchimp for newsletters] to employ cookies and similar tracking technologies in connection with their use of our Services in order to allow us and our users to track their subscribers.
[the important bit is ‘to track their subscribers’].

“Do Not Track” or “DNT” signals. Since uniform standards for “DNT” signals have not been adopted, our Websites do not currently process or respond to “DNT” signals. MailChimp takes privacy and meaningful choice seriously and will make efforts to continue to monitor developments around DNT browser technology and the implementation of a standard.
[the important bit is that Mailchimp IGNORES do not track requests. In other words, until they’re forced to obey, your choices don’t matter doodly squat to them].

Now that the EU is bringing in such strong regulations [and other countries may follow], we all have to make choices about how we treat other people’s privacy and security [because data gathered by ad companies can be hacked and used by anybody with the technical skills].

I don’t use any of the newsletter companies, but I know that in the past I’ve signed up for newsletters from online friends and colleagues. Now I’m quietly seething because I am very concerned about my privacy and online security. That’s why I deleted my Facebook account AND deleted everything to do with Google. To learn that I’ve been spied on like this is…not pleasant.

I know that most of you don’t see the privacy/security issue the same way that I do, but I’m asking you to please consider those who get caught up in it without any idea that it’s happening to them.

Not happy,

Meeks

 


Just for fun…a robot kangaroo!

No, not kidding. I’ve been doing some research on bats today and stumbled across a youtube site about robot bats. Then..I found another site that had all sorts of robot animals, including that kangaroo I mentioned. 😉

The video clip is broken up into segments, indicated by the small yellow square as shown below:

The first segment is about ants, the second [circled in red above] is about the kangaroo. If you don’t want to watch through the ants, just let the video buffer for a bit then fast forward to that first yellow segment.

And here’s the actual video. 🙂

Enjoy,

Meeks


3D printed food

My thanks to sv3dprinter for this great post about a company that developed 3D printed food for NASA:

I recommend checking the post out as it contains links to other great videos on 3D printing:

https://sv3dprinter.com/?p=6769

If microwaves brought about a revolution in foodprocessing last century, 3D printing will do the same for this century. I love the tech but I think I’ll stick to home cooking. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


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