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Study Opportunities' Blog

DAZ 3D & Blender

One of the things we talk about when describing what computers can be used for - and that often comes up as a factor when deciding on the type of hardware to buy is 3D Rendering. The problem is that we talk about the concept without context - our learners never get to experience the software or understand what it does. This blog introduces you to two free apps that can help you solve this problem - and improve your learner's understanding. On top of it, playing with DAZ especially is just plain FUN!!

3D Rendering is when the computer creates a 2D image (like a photo or sketch) from a 3D model.

A 3D model is creating a mesh of points and lines that represents the surface shape of an object - e.g. a cup or car or tree or person. The mesh is most typically made up of connected triangles but can also be other shapes. The size and quality of the model is usually described in terms of polygons with each triangle (or other shape being a polygon). More polygons = a better quality model BUT also means that the model takes up more memory and will take longer to render.

Before a model can be rendered it needs to be textured and lit.

Texturing is assigning a bitmap pattern that will be stretched over a set of polygons. A model can have different textures assigned to different areas of it polygons.

Lighting happens when you put a 'light source' into the 3D scene. This tells the software where the light for the picture is coming from, how strong the light is, what colour the light is, etc. A scene can have multiple lights in it.

When all of the above steps are completed then you are finally ready to render the scene and create a picture.

If all of the above sounds like a lot of intimidating and technically difficult work then don't worry - we've got you covered. Read on...

DAZ 3D

DAZ 3D is free software that takes a lot of the pain technical knowledge requirements and difficulty out of creating 3D art.

DAZ 3D provides you with pre-created human figures, clothes and props that you load, dress pose and render. You don't have to create the 3D model and textures yourself. It is backed up by a very large store that sells all kinds of 3D assets (that's where they make their money and why the software is free) but the assets included in the free download are enough for you to be able to experiment with and to be able to demonstrate 3D rendering to your learners with confidence and ease.

They can even get the software themselves and use it for their own artwork and projects. It might also be an idea to tell your school's art department about it.

Anyway, here's a video introducing the software and showing what it can do.

And here's a getting started tutorial video.

For the more serious about 3D here's a more serious tool:

Blender

Blender is another kettle of fish. It may be free but it is a very capable 3D content creator tool. You use Blender to create 3D models and texture them. It is a very powerful tool but takes a much greater investment of time and effort to learn and to do anything meaningful in.

The idea is that you can demonstrate 3D rendering to your learners easily using DAZ 3D and if any one of them wants to do more (for example, create their own models) you can tell them about Blender.

Here's a Blender show reel, a movie created with Blender and a Blender tutorial. The tutorial is great because it gives an idea of how much work is involved in just creating a donut and coffee!

News:

Hardware

  • SSD cost vs HDD cost vs Time saved - makes you think....
  • But hard drive capacities will continue to increase (20 - 80 Tb HDD anyone?), making them the cheaper option for storage of large amounts of data.
  • If you are thinking about new hardware maybe now is the time to buy before the effects of the corona virus potentially cause a steep rise in price and a shortage in supply later this year.

Social Implications

Free resources

History

  • Larry Tesler. A name you probably don't know but should. He died this week but he has affected your life deeply by being instrumental in developments that made computing easy and user friendly. Find out more from the New York Times.

Spam, Scams, Malware, Etc.

  • A new form of blackmail for web sites. Many web sites depend on money from advertising for their income. Google (and other advertising services) dont want to pay for fake views (i.e. when you click on your own ads or get bots to do this) - and so have algorithms to check for this. So the criminal comes along and says "pay us or we will get our bots to click your ads and get Google to ban you so you will get no ad money at all". More at Krebs on Security.

  • You've been selected for 'like of the day' cash prize. Really???

That's it for now. Have fun playing with 3D!

Nebo and OneNote

Using digital technology effectively should also include the ability to use it for making, using, reading and sharing notes much more effective and efficient than taking notes by hand. There are two sides to this coin - having the hardware to do the note taking on and using the best software for the task.

The first part of this blog is for those of you who are lucky enough to have learners that come to school with tablets or mobile devices. In this section we take a quick look at ntwo of the best apps available for digital note taking.

Let's start off with Microsoft OneNote (NB: you need a (free) Microsoft Account to download the application - the app can also be downloaded from the Mac Appp store, the Google Play store, the iOS App store and Windows Marketplace).

Q: What is Onenote?

A: A free note taking app that allows you to mix text, pictures, drawings, handwriting and even clip web pages and organise them in a tabbed notebook format.

Q: What devices / OS does Onenote work on?

A: Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android.

Q: Does OneNote sync?

A: Yes - it uses OneDrive for syncing across all devices. This means your notes are available all the time (even on the web).

Q: Can I share my notes?

A: Yes you can - so you can collaborate with your friends.

Q: What are OneNote's best features?

A: Check the bullet list below:

  • You can combine all sorts of media (typed text, pictures, handwriting, drawing, photos, movies, audio recordings and even clips from web pages) into a note.
  • You can write or type anywhere on the screen
  • The maths features are very useful - helping you to solve, understand and even graph equations - even if you write them out by hand.
  • Audio recorded in OneNote synchs with your notes - so you can choose an element on the screen and listen to what was recorded as you were creating that element.
  • Handwritten notes can be converted to text (NB: on WINDOWS ONLY).

Here's a video you can show your learners about how to use the app:

An alternative that I like is MyScript Nebo. Believe it or not, most people still like taking notes in handwriting rather than typing - and Nebo is the best tool available for doing anything you can imagine with handwriting!

Q: What is MyScript Nebo?

A: A R169.00 note taking app that has the best handwriting recognition / conversion features of any app out there.

Q: What devices / OS does MyScript Nebo work on?

A: Nebo it works on all devices with active pens, namely: iPad, Android devices with the S Pen (Samsung) or M Pen (Huawei), Windows 10 devices with an active pen, Chromebooks with an active pen.

Q: Does MyScript Nebo sync?

A: Yes - Nebo syncs with Dropbox, Google Drive or iCloud.

Q: Can I share my notes?

A: Yes you can export your notes as a Word document, in HTML or as a PDF(iOS only) and send them to anyone you like.

Q: What are MyScript Nebo's best features?

A: By far its ability to work with handrwritten notes. Nebo allows you to

  • edit your notes using simple, easy to learn gestures
  • convert hand written notes to text if they are in English or Afrikaans.
  • search through all your notes, whether they are handwriting or text
  • draw diagrams interactively

**News:** ***Robots*** * New York Times on the growing use of robots in agriculture in the USA. The article is useful as it illustrates how data collection can improve agricultural yields and crop production. * How about a robot that draws your blood? ***Social Implications*** * In this time of growing awareness of climate change and the importance of reducing our 'carbon footprint' it should matter to you to know that data centres generate as much carbon as all the airlines in the world! * The problem with License Plate Recognition Software * Artist creates fake traffic jams on Google Maps ***Business*** * YouTube made $15 billion from advertising last year. * Why web browsers are free: * Does anyone own Linux? ***Hardware*** * Hard drives are on their way out. Here's some tongue in cheek stats from the Register to back this up. * A rotary cellphone? Yep. It's possible. Take a look! ***Malware, Phishing, Scams*** * Israeli soldiers catfished by Hamas * Beware the Corona Virus safety measures phishing scam. For interest, here is a site that maps and graphs the virus. * Fake dating apps in SA * Mac malware growing? That's it for now. Happy teaching!

Looking in the Black Mirror

I have been a fan of the Black Mirror series since its debut. I have wondered whether to post about it on this blog - its musings and insights into possible technologically dystopian futures are disturbing but thought and conversation provoking. I can see how watching an episode can be very useful in the classroom - for debate and follow up exercises around which current technologies will develop to make the depicted future possible. Seeing a review of Black Mirror in The Daily Maverick prompted me to include it in this post.

I would highly recommend that if you have not seen Black Mirror you take the time and effort to do so. Even if you don’t include it in your classroom it will arm you with ammunition to pull out when you need to talk about possible future trends and social implications of the technology that you are teaching...

Hardware:


Programming

Malware, hacks, Etc...

AR & VR

Robots

Fake News

Teaching:

Social & privacy

That’s it for this week - really do try to watch Black Mirror (Netflix). Ciao


Comments

Europe trying to break the internet with copyright law

If you thought that Europe's GDPR which came into effect in May had an impact on the digital world, well, you ain't seen nothing yet! Article 11 and Article 13. Both are part of a set of copyright reforms that the European Union plans to pass this year. These two articles have the potential to seriously break the internet / WWW. They passed their first hurdle on the process of becoming law by ONE vote this week.

Article 11 requires that if you even link to a news story you need both permission from the publisher and you need to pay a license fee. That means that this blog, for example, would have to pay for every link included in a post (if the link were to a European publisher / web site).

Article 13 requires that anything posted by anyone in Europe be run through a copyright screening process before it could appear on the web. If it contains any part that appears to contain anything from a copyrighted work the post will be blocked.

I'm not going to go into it in detail, but these regulations create great potential for abuse, censorship and misuse - and could effectively transform the internet from a uniquely free medium accessible to all for purposes of publishing back into the bad old days where only those with deep pockets can afford to publish (putting control of news and media back into the hands of the elite few).

Read about it:

What is interesting is that big media in the states (New York Times, Washington post, etc.) is not giving this much coverage.

Social Implications

Hardware

Malware, Hacks, Privacy, etc

Data comms

Robots and robotics

Social Media

That's it for this week. Good luck with marking and reports...

Comments

Self driving cars and morality

It finally happened. It was only a matter of time. A self-driving car has collided with and killed a pedestrian. The car belonged to Uber and Uber has pulled all of its self-driving cars off the road whilst the incident is being investigated.

Motherboard has a fascinating article on the hard decisions that have to be made when planning and coding the decisions that a self driving car has to make regarding safety and who gets hurt / who dies. This is a great read - and a really great topic for a class discussion / debate. This is an issue which is going to feature prominently in your learner's lives.

You can read about the incident itself here.

The Facebook drama continues...

Facebook is dealing with a massive backlash from the Cambridge Analytica data scandal mentioned in last week's blog. There is a concerted DeleteFacebook campaign complete with hashtag and all. Elon Musk removed the Tesla and SpaceX presence from Facebook. Vox has an interesting article that details 'The Case against Facebook' - taking it far beyond data breaches. CNN AMP points out that no matter how much he promises and how much he wants to, Zuckerberg cannot control or fix Facebook (and he knows it). It's become a monster beyond its creator's control.

It's so bad even their own investors are suing them.

Meanwhile Boing Boing says : Facebook, ShmaisBook --- you should see what your ISP is doing with your data!

Snippets:

Robots

Human Error

This week the SA Post Office web presence did not exist - because someone did not pay the R125 domain renewal fee....!!!!

Amazing Graphics

Meet Siren.

What's really special about Siren is that she is rendered in real time from a motion captured human using the Unreal gaming engine - and a PC with multiple graphics cards.

The video below shows a fish-man (actually Andy Serkis) created with the same technology.

This shows where 3D graphics and video are headed. Soon you will really not be able to distinguish virtual from reality.

World's smallest computer.

The older ones amongst you (those who saw the first PCs in the 90's) pay attention. That clunking desktop computer that you paid an arm and a leg for.. well it is now the size of a grain of salt and cost $0.20. IBM just announced the product and sees it as the ideal way to embed computing power in everything.

Left: 64 motherboards with two tiny computers in the top-left corner. Right: The tiny computer, mounted to a motherboard, atop a pile of salt.

Image: IBM

Mashable has the details.

That's it for this week. Holidays soon!

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