Today at the NIPCC, Alex McLaren demonstrated SketchUp, Google's free conceptual building modeling application for Windows and Macs. SketchUp is designed (not for 3D art or animation but) to quickly draft architectural models (buildings) to experiment with ideas, and communicate with clients and builders. (The $500 Pro version can also export to AutoCAD, for professional designers.)
View: You can customize the extensive tool bar and views. Orbit tool (middle mouse button) trackballs view. Zoom tool (mouse wheel) enlarges view. Hand tool pans view.
Modeling geometry: The intelligent cursor makes for easy precise smart sketching and abutting (click on corner using Move tool). Push/pull tool (p) extrudes faces. (It's an easy way to model rectangular objects, or cut holes like doors and windows.)Space selects faces (?) Multiclick to select line, face, object. Option-drag duplicates objects (great for quickly crafting multiple floors, or rows of windows or buildings). Can also fill the space between two identical objects with more copies. Right mouse button deletes face, leaving a hole. Other tools create, move, resize, rotate, or measure your objects.
Alex recommends adding a human model to get an intuitive scale for your building models.
Select from built-in textures.
Create your own modular objects, adding them to the extensive online "Google 3D warehouse" library.
Finally, tweak global controls for lighting and shadows, intuitively presented as selections of time of day and year. You can even render your price models as an apparently crude sketch, for that hand-drawn look.
Sketch up is designed to be easily learnt (so it's simple and efficient, rather than complete and powerful). It includes tutorials that tell you what to do, step by step, and let you practice modeling right alongside expert examples.
Alex presented using iChat so I was able to see his presentation, and participate in the discussion, even though I was 10,000 kilometers away!
As always, it was great fun to watch Alex expertly demonstrate, like a knife-juggling samurai chef, clearly explaining the program's features and usage as he went along. Alex's enthusiasm was catchy: Immediately after the presentation, I downloaded the program and started using it!
NMUG meeting: Alex presents MacOSX.5 preference panes - via video chat!
Today Alex led us on a great whirlwind tour of MacOSX.5 system preferences. Many panes remain the same as in OSX.4, but several have been updated.
OSX.5 adds spaces (multiple desktops) to the OSX.4 Expose pane. Jeff recommends leaving your email etc. running on one space while concentrating on your work on another space; you can then easily switch back and forth, while concentrating on what's in front of you, free from distraction. Jeff colors his various desktop backgrounds (e.g., red, blue, green) to make it obvious when and where he's switched.
Printers are easier to set up; Printer and Fax pane is more logically laid out.
.Mac pane adds Dock synchronization, iDisc fuel gauge.
Completely new is the parental controls big brother pane. Alex uses it as a temporary User, to reduce his capabilities when he steps out of the office. e.g., you can limit who you (or your kids, your staff) can send mail too. You can hide all the "rude words" in Dictionary.app.
Speech adds new voice choice "Alex" (!) which sounds much smoother than OSX.4 voices. Quite comprehensible (even over my 32 kbps aac link)!
OSX.5's sexiest feature, the brand new Time Machine, automatically backs everything up to an external hard disc. You can restore any file to its state on any day! Ernie recommends dedicating a separate disc to Time Machine.
Universal Access adds Text Expander keyboard macros.
The NMUG also continued experimenting with meeting technology. Today we tried our first remote presentation and discussion: Alex ran iChat, and turned his camera to face the screen, so that I could enjoy the presentation from 10,000 kilometers away! Similarly, meeting attendees in Nagoya were able to see my talking head. Further, we IMed (text chatted) during the live and video presentations, making our own Group Support System. Very cool.
Scientists changed a single gene in a mouse, a gene that burns body fat. The resulting "super mouse" eats more but never gets fat, lives longer, and can run for five hours straight, never getting muscle cramps. He's also hyperactive and very aggressive. Humans have this same gene, and so can be similarly modified.
Preheat to 350. Pam miniature muffin tins. Blend for 2 minutes 8.5 ounces yellow cake mix, 3.5 ounces instant lemon pudding mix, 4 large eggs, 3/4 cup vegetable oil. Half fill each muffin tin. Bake 12 minutes, a little past golden brown. Turn onto tea towel.
Sift 4 cups confectioners' sugar into a mixing bowl. Add 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, zest of 1 lemon, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, and 3 tablespoons water. Mix with a spoon until smooth. Dip cupcakes into glaze while still warm, covering as much of the cake as possible, or spoon the glaze over the warm cupcakes, turning them to completely coat. Place on wire racks with waxed paper underneath to catch any drips. Wait an hour, then store in containers with tight-fitting lids.
Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, beat 4 eggs, 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil, 2 cups white sugar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon. Stir in 3 cups grated carrots. Fold in 1 cup chopped pecans. Pour into greased and floured 9x13 inch pan. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack and cool completely.
Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup softened butter, 8 ounces softened cream cheese, 4 cups 10x powdered confectioners' sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy. Stir in 1 cup chopped pecans. Frost the cooled cake.
Chunk cut 6 potatoes, 1 yellow onion, and 2 stalks celery. Add to pot, then cover with 3 pounds chuck beef. Scatter 3 cubes beef bouillon on top. Add 1/2 cup water. Cook covered on low for 6 to 8 hours. Add 1 1/2 cups baby carrots for the last hour.
Heat 3 T olive oil in a large frying pan. Add 1 chopped onion and 3 cloves minced garlic; stir fry until soft. Mix in 1/2 c bread crumbs, and cook and stir until brown. Put aside. Fry 1/2 pound washed, dried, and shredded kale 5 minutes, until wilted. Mix with breadcrumbs.