I’m pleased to announce the formation of my new multidisciplinary design studio, Studio Les Bêtes.   For more information and updates on that enterprise, please visit

This blog will continue to support my software development work – I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus lately, focusing on my design work.  Pantograph is currently on hold until the new Blender 2.5 API stabilizes – after that, I’m still deciding whether to work to support Freestyle as a Blender vector-rendering option or to continue to develop PantographFreestyle shows a lot of promise, has the weight of solid developers behind it, and also is able to create vector (svg) output – the style modules seem to have enough flexibility to add features pretty easily.



I’ve been reading this blog by some graphic designers in Brussels, and have found some of their writing on the use of open-source tools particularly interesting.  I carried a copy of this article around in my briefcase for several weeks:

I would like to see a similar discussion started with architectural software – our profession, at least in the States, is equally bound to the fate and profit motives of one software company (Autodreck).

Here’s the link to the main blog:


Its been an exhausting month – my son was born on October 7, and everything takes longer when you’re trying to bounce a baby with one hand and type with your right hand!

I’m moving to a slightly different system – putting out a pretty stable release and keeping a less-stable bleeding-edge version as well (basically, the version I’m using). YMMV. So, without further ado:

Pantograph 0.5 changeLog (yeah, we’ve got that too)

  • the GUI has been thoroughly replaced by a Blender user-interface.  Its a little spare, but its growing on me and the experience is much smoother running it from Blender.  pyGTK is no longer required.
  • The clipping has been re-written  – with the hopes of dealing with the memory hole for larger meshes.
  • There’s now a “raster fill” option – you can use a rendered version of the scene (a PNG file, to be exact) as a clipped fill – you get sharp linework but also soft shading, textures, shadows.  You could take this into Inkscape and poTrace your way back to resolution independence.
  • There’s now a proper frustum cull – things outside of the camera view are clipped and not rendered.

Known Bugs:

  • The Blender GUI doesn’t yet work properly in Windows – to get changes in buttons to register, you have to raise another window and then go back to Blender.  Works fine in Linux.  Upstream bug?
  • There’s a mysterious, unrepeatable seg fault that happens every once in a while, though I’ve only noticed it in Linux.
  • SWF output is broken.  No, its just not hooked up yet – I’ve been developing on a 64-bit system, and Ming is only 32-bit… if people are clamoring for this, it might happen sooner.

Happy Halloween,


I have a new full-time job (yay!), which means I haven’t had nearly the same luxury of time to work on Pantograph (boo!).  I have, however, been patiently working through the debugging of Pantograph 0.5 – I’m hoping to have it done by the end of the Summer, if not sooner.

Spurring things on is the discovery that pyGTK doesn’t seem to work with Blender 2.46.  Since 2.46 hasn’t hit the Ubuntu repos yet, I didn’t realize this until people started complaining.  The new version will have a Blender-native GUI, so this should fix the problem.

I’ve also started to look at re-coding parts of it in C or C++.  Very preliminarily – I haven’t written much C since college, and the thought of all those semi-colons makes my head hurt.  At some point it would be great to get help/advice from somebody who has experience cross-compiling between Windows and Linux, or even just somebody who has experience compiling from source in Windows.  I have a copy of MS Visual Studio, though I have to admit I’ve never even installed it.

monkeywenn250506_300x450.jpgI updated Ubuntu to 7.10, despite my previous encounter with its untamed ways. My wireless problems seem to be gone, and things generally run smoother overall. The CPU frequency adjusts correctly according to the temperature, but I miss the raw power and slight burning smell from before. We’ll see how it goes…

I wonder if my previous problems were strictly related to the kernel that Feisty Fawn was built on – my past experience is that changing kernels can have unexpected consequences with hardware functioning or not – and not in a linear, always-improving progression. The nice thing about Gentoo is you got over the fear of replacing your kernel – sometimes, problems just went away with the next version or even the next release.

I picked up a book in the bargain bin a few months ago, “AK-47: The Weapon That Changed the Face of War”, because I thought that I had heard the author interviewed on WNYC. I don’t know if its the same book – it seems to be written more for in “Newsweek” than a “New Yorker”. (Such a snob I’ve become!)

I’m fascinated with the parallels with Linux, however – open-source (or at least unprotected IP), incremental development, a reputation for being ugly but indestructible. The AK-47 seems to have thrived over the years because it was simple and unbreakable enough to be used by a child, the lack of IP protection meant the design could modified according to local manufacturing processes.ak47

What does this mean for the future of the Linux Desktop? Putting aside the horrific legacy of the AK-47, what lessons could be learned? I think the future for Linux is really in the developing world, and Microsoft knows this (look at the battle over the OLPC). I think the future lies in ubiquity – situations when the user is not aware or does not care that they are using Linux. I think Linux could deliver the seamless, bulletproof experience that Windows and Mac claim if we started to think of the desktop more like an embedded application. Focused user environments with limited scope. Fast, cheap, and (in/out?) of control.

I guess the big question is whether this is a Linux that any of its current users would ever want to use?

I was in Istanbul recently, and when I went to check my email on the hotel computer, I was suprised to discover they were running Linux. It made sense – greater security, and all it really needed to do was surf the web. I asked my wife later (we’ve been having an extended…discussion…over switching the home computer to Linux recently) whether she had noticed that the hotel computer was not running Windows, and she hadn’t.

feisty fawnI think I may have found the fatal flaw in Ubuntu – not enough gurus! After posting to the forum and to the Launchpad bug tracker about my mysterious NetworkManager bug (my laptop has been freezing inexplicably on Pratt’s wireless network – found other people with the same problem, but no solutions ), my post and my bug have been untouched, going on 48 hours or so. The forum posts that get reponses? Mostly basic installation questions (I fried my, help!) and discussion of new features.

This is not acceptable! Maybe I’m spoiled by the Gentoo forums, but you could at least get flamed for not posting the correct log file with your bug! I’m wondering now if Ubuntu’s vaunted “community” is very broad but very shallow.

Next Page »