Dropping firefox.

After the recent blunder from Mozilla I’ve decided to remove Firefox completely.
It’s become too centralized, and it’s kinda crazy that the issue happened.
What happened was that they let a certificate expire, then all addons got disabled for everyone. This even affected the Tor browser – which is very scary for those who actually depend on that for circumventing censorship, and for many their lives depend on the tools they use. I have tested tons of browsers over the years, but the one I feel like switching too is Iridium ( https://iridiumbrowser.de/ ) , one of the things I like about Iridum is that it has a very strong focus on privacy, and it also has support for all the platforms I use, and it’s very fast, does not feel sluggish at all. So, if you are a Firefox user, just think about what happened, and then consider what to do about it.

Dropping Google and limiting phone data harvesting.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the use of android VS apple for example, and the more I’ve thought about it the more worrying it gets. They track and hold data (Apple is probably the lesser evil here) about your every single move, it’s insane how much data google has about your daily life, and one way to fight back is to get a dumb phone, without any ‘smart’ functions.
Also I’m just tired of being so connected all the time, reddit, diaspora, twitter, mastodon, snapchat and so on, just tired of having it all in my pocket. So I looked around on ebay, wanted to buy one that’s cheap and does the job, and also I wanted a small phone. So in the end I bought this phone:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/iFcane-E1-Quad-Band-Mini-Card-Phone-Bluetooth-2-0-MP3-FM-Alarm-Clock-Black/253684497776

The reason why I bought this specific one was because of the price and features.
It has regular phone call feature, sms, fm radio, bluetooth, calendar, alarm, and is dirt cheap.
Also it charges very fast to full capacity, so if I’m out and about a power-bank will last a long time. I have to work around not being able to send\receive mms, I do that by using the online service from my provider on my computer. Same goes for email – no access to that, just from my computers at home. Also I take a lot of pictures ( https://mediagoblin.stigatle.no ) , but I do bring my digital SLR with me most times anyways, so that will not be a big issue.

It’s fun to see how it all works out, and I might have to bite the bullet down the road, but for now I’m going all in on not using a android device, if I’m ever going back to a smartphone then I will definitely save up some cash and get a Librem 5 phone next time.

Gentoo

I’ve been wanting to set up Gentoo from scratch for a good while.
I have tried in the past, but failed. I decided to try again now since I have time to sit down properly with it.

Now, I will say I spent about 4 days in total on all this, multiple install attempts. I will now explain what went wrong, and what I ended up doing.

So, what I did first was to install regular Gentoo from scratch, without full-disk encryption, the initial install went fine, most things worked as they should, I then wanted to install a desktop, so I went on to installed Xfce4.

One thing during the install that wasted a lot of my time was figuring out that after you ’emerge’ a package – you then often have to do ‘etc-udpdate’ to merge the config file changes, I did not know this, so it was very confusing when I tried to install some thing over and over and it never started the install.

After doing all this I wanted to reinstall and see if I could get full-disk encryption to work. I tried the guides I found, but no matter how many times I tried it failed. And each install took a lot of time, so after trying 4 times I gave up on that.

I then looked into other distributions that are gentoo based. I have tried sabayon before, but I did not feel like that was what I wanted this time, I want something minimalistic, and ‘bare bones’ – not something bloated.

That’s when I found CloverOS https://gitgud.io/cloveros/cloveros/

This is a pure Gentoo with binaries as a alternative, but the beauty here is that it’s super easy to install, and you can choose between almost all desktops during install too, everything from tiling window mangers to gnome and KDE. And after install you can disable the binary repo with a simple command, so that it will pull everything from source after that, by running the ./cloveros_settings.sh script that is installed along with the OS.

The only downside with it is that it does not currently have full disk encryption in the install script. But If I can figure it out I would contribute to it.


Planck mechanical keyboard.

When I saw the ortholinear mechanical keyboard named planck I just knew I had to have one. Up until that point I did not really pay any attention to mechanical keyboards, and especially not custom ones. At first I was a bit skeptical to the whole idea of getting one, because it is  a DIY compact 40% ortholinear keyboard, and I had no idea if I would like it at all.

After a while the keyboard got sold on massdrop, I had some money in my savings account and decided to buy it. I placed the order for the sum of $141.97.

I ordered the version that has two separate keys where the spacebar is located.

The order details are :
CNC case color: Silver
Plate style: MX compatible (Cherry MX)
Keycaps: Beige XDA PBT blanks (MX Compatible)
49 switches: Gateron Clear (Linear) (+$9.99)
sleeve: Yes (+$7.99)

I did order blank keycaps, I did not want to shell out cash for keycaps with print on then, since I can write all day long without looking on a regular keyboard. The parts arrived, and I found my soldering iron, soldered everything, assembled it all, and here is the result:

This is where I have to admit the first mistake, and that was to order blank keycaps, it was really hard to learn how to type properly on it, I hated it at first. I struggled a lot learning how to use it efficiently.

So what I did then was to find ortholinear keycaps on amazon, I found some good ones there, ordered them and it was fantastic. Made it so much easier to use.

The keycaps I ordered was these:
DSA 40% Ortholinear dye-subbed keycap for mechanical keyboard.

Also I had to create my custom layout for it, since I’m Norwegian and need some extra letters like æøå, and also easy access to brackets and such that you use a lot when coding. That was very easy to do, I ended up using EasyAVR I stripped away to standard layout, removed all the default fancy key macros that came with the planck, and added what I needed.

I ended up only needing two layers, and they now look like this:

This was the key for getting the planck exactly the way I needed, and I have now gotten rid for my old keyboard and use the planck keyboard exclusively.

My planck now looks like this:

 

 

 

Blender PBRT exporter test scene.

I got contacted on twitter by @Cao_Jiayin on twitter today, and he asked about a scene that I had posted previously, specifically the ‘glass monkey’ scene.

I have now re-created that scene, and exported it, zipped it, uploaded it so that you can render it out if you want to test a bit. You have to adjust ‘”integer pixelsamples” [32]’ to something much higher if you want a clean render. I rendered it over night, I set it to low by default now
so that you can quickly get a look on how the render will look.

The ply mesh is pretty dense, that’s to prevent any artifacts in the smooth surface. You can download the zip from from here:

https://stigatle.no/owncloud/index.php/s/TFDVs2enSk4TF95

Install Centos 7 with libreboot.

I really wanted to have CentOS on a laptop with libreboot. I had some trouble getting things to run after install, later I found a post on the libreboot website that said what to do. The same solution can be used for redhat \ fedora installs.

So here is what I did:

Download latest CentOS, boot from usb stick or some other way, personally I use drivedroid all the time , very nice app to have installed on the phone, grab the iso, copy it to phone, emulate usb cdrom and boot from that.

I downloaded the ‘CentOS-7-x86_64-LiveGNOME-1804.iso’ from here:

http://isoredirect.centos.org/centos/7/isos/x86_64/

Boot it up:

Start CentOS live:

After starting CentOS – run the installer as usual, I choose to have full disk encryption.
When installation is done, reboot the machine.

Choose this menu entry:

Hit ‘E’ to edit the command for booting, this is the important step in getting it to run.
In the text editor – change ‘linux16’ to ‘linux’

Like so:

Same goes for the line that says ‘initrd16’ – change it to ‘initrd’:

When the modification is done – hit F10 to boot up your system.

On mine I then unlock the encrypted disk:

Then accept the license and such for first boot of CentOS:

When that’s done you have a fully working CentOS with Libreboot.

Learning vulkan.

I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, what should I focus on next.. I like to choose something then go for it, spend a lot of time with it until I know how it works and can use it for the things I want to do. I’ve been working with Ogre3D for the last 7 years, and now I feel the need to dive a bit deeper into real-time graphics, I never really spent time learning Direct-x or OpenGL, so after giving it some thought I decided to spend time with vulkan instead.

It feels natural to do that, because it’s new but already used by major companies.
Feel more like the future. The best part about it is that it’s fully open source and cross-platform.

I have now gone through the tutorial at https://vulkan-tutorial.com/ , awesome resource if you want to get started.

The result from going through that is loading this model from .obj file and show it on the screen. You get a great introduction to all the basic things that has to do with vulkan development.

 

Status and info on my PBRT exporter for blender.

I want to write a bit about my first blender development project, if you follow me on twitter then you probaly already know its a renderer exporter for PBRT render engine.
You find the source code and samples scenes here:
https://github.com/stig-atle/io_scene_pbrt

The reason why I wrote it as an exporter is because it was the easiest way to get started. The project started when I decided to stop using 3dsmax and go to blender full-time, so I needed to learn everything I needed about blenders C/Python API while making this.
It has not been as hard as I feared, 16 years of 3dsmax daily + many years of maxscript and 3dsmax c++ SDK experience helped a lot.

I’ve spent a lot of years on the luxrender project working on the 3dsmax plugin, but after I stopped using 3dsmax it did not make sense to me to continue working on that, also the integration of luxrender in blender had already been done, so I took a look at my PBRT book and decided that I wanted to spend time with that, also later on I want to dive deeper into render engine development, so it makes perfect sense to me to use pbrt as boilerplate. But first it deserves a proper exporter, which is what I’m developing right now.

The way the exporter works right now is that it exports the scene to the format that pbrt can read, and you render the resulting scene with pbrts command-line client.

Currently the shader GUI are written in C, the reason is simply that I was not able to make it work the way I wanted in python. The downside of this is that I cannot release it in its current state as an add-on, I need to fork blender instead. So right now I’m at a crossroad, rewrite the c parts in python to make it an add-on, or do full c implementation and have it as a fork, then later do a full implementation like any other internal renderer in c, like cycles for example, that would also mean render properly from inside blender and not externally like I do now.

I’m leaning towards doing a full c implementation, but I also see the benefit of making it with python as an add-on, so Ill think a bit more about it before I make my final decision.

So, here’s a list of what I have already implemented:

*Custom shader guis with all their settings.
* Mesh export
* Camera export, with DOF setting.
* Texture map export.

Currently I have no light support except a hard-coded hdri light source, the plan is to add all lights including environment map support next.

I will openly admit that I wanted to sell the add-on, but I decided against it, the reason why I decided not to was because the market for such a thing is very small, so there’s no reason to earn maybe 100 dollars and go trough all the hassle of selling it, id rather make it open source and free for anyone to enjoy, and maybe inspire others the same way I did when I worked on the luxrender plugin.

I also earn enough at my regular job, so I have no reason to do this for money, its my passion and I love to code and help others in my free time, so it makes perfect sense to me to do this.

So, now you might wonder when the source will be released – I will do that shortly, just some more features to add (lights, render settings panel), and Ill decide if Ill rewrite the C code in python first.

Time to show some test renders, you might have seen these before on twitter, but I figured it would be nice to collect them here in this blog post.
And as you will see – some of these are grainy, I simply did not render them long enough
PBRT is CPU only, so rendering takes a lot of time.

Switching to blender on all personal projects.

So, in December (2017) I decided to leave 3dsmax and switch to blender full time for all personal work. I’ve been using 3dsmax for half my life, and still use it at work (our whole workflow there is based around autodesk software), byt at home it enabled me to completely ditch window – which has been a goal of mine for a long time, it was only 3dsmax holding me back.

Blender has been on my radar for a long time, but I never found the proper motivation to learn it – since I was quicker in 3dsmax anyways. But now I have taken the time to really learn it, and the more I use it the more I like it. I’ve spent a lot of time learning the hotkeys, I use the default blender hotkeys, and that was the key for me to really learn it. Now after just a few personal projects I’m as fast as that as 3dsmax.

My next step is to focus a lot on plugin \ addon development for blender, this is where I struggle the most right now, I’m very good with the 3dsmax SDK, but not with blender’s API yet. I do however develop a exporter in python for a external render engine, and by doing that I learn what I need.

There are many advantages for using blender, but for me the biggest reasons are the following:

  • Fast development.
  • Open source \ free.
  • Cross platform.
  • Very easy to compile from source.
  • PBR workflow in viewport (EEVEE).
  • Great documentation \ online resources.
  • Great community – all about sharing.
  • Open roadmap and planning.

There are many reasons to leave 3dsmax behind, and for me it’s these things:

  • No more free home license when we have 3dsmax at work.
  • Subscription only (200 usd a month).
  • Removed Mentalray , and nvidia stops development of mentalray.
  • Added Arnold, which cannot even do texture baking.
  • Iray cannot do texture baking either.
  • Slow development and a focus that’s not clear.
  • Not cross-platform (the only one that’s windows only..).
  • Closed source.
  • Do not care about the ‘small’ users.

There is one downside as well, and that was stopping the development of LuxMax, that was the hardest project to put away and stop working on. It’s been my pet project for many years, and I’m very proud of it, but I decided to stop working on it since I do not use 3dsmax anymore and want to focus on blender.