Star Trek + Social Commentary (context in the captions)
THIS is what the original Star Trek TV series and films were about. Not just about blowing up things in space and snazzy lens flares with a side order of casual sexism -.-‘.
A new version of AlphaVend is now available! To update any of your vendors, new or old, use the Updater Disk. The old ‘transition disk’ is no longer necessary to update vendors older than r333.
To use it, just rez or wear it, and then click a vendor’s main panel and select “Upgrade”. If you have many vendors on the same region, click the updater disk and select “Upgrade All” to automatically update them in sequence.
For this release, there was only one feature addition. If a slideshow display prim is omitted, then the main panel can serve as one instead, treating the product texture as the first slide.
Next up, there have been several fixes and optimizations that have been made:
- Several internal functions have been rewritten or replaced to take advantage of new scripts functions in the latest release of InWorldz, which I had contributed. This has resulted in significant improvements under the hood for performance and memory usage. Some internal functions that are called frequently are now running more than 50x faster.
- All dialogs have been made “V2-proof”, so that when using V2-style viewers, the chat and notice chiclets in the top right do not cover up any of the text in the dialog.
- Fixed a convoluted bug which would cause single-product vendors to fail to correctly show changed item data unless reset.
- Fixed a problem with the Test Buy function in the Owner Menu not working for non-free items.
- Some fixes applied to utilizing the GROUP_KEY setting.
- Fixed an issue where the “Upgrade All” option in the updater disk would sometimes activate again if you run it and then teleport to another region after it is finished.
- Fixed an issue where linking and unlinking panels from the vendor would cause it to fail to acknowledge a change in page size, resulting in missing or blank pages.
- If a fatal error occurs because the -ITEMS notecard was missing or incorrect, the vendor will attempt to automatically reload it when you change it.
Special thanks to Shaggy Collins for the reports that lead to these issues being fixed:
- The COM script was not properly updated, so emails still said “Primitive” for the object name.
- Fixed an issue where emails would report a discount of z$1 on all discounted purchases, instead of the discounted amount.
- Fixed an issue where payment processing was incorrect on overpaid transactions, which would lead to (A) split-pay partners being overpaid on their commission, and (B) delivery emails for discounted items would show the amount paid instead of the product’s discounted price if they overpaid.
- Fixed an issue where the updater would not work on vendors which were shutdown. The same issue would also cause the updater disk to crash.
Terraria Lava Trap for Pixies
So, the past few days I’ve found myself distracted by Terraria, which I had started playing again for the first time in a long while, and was pleased to see that there was quite a few new things added.
Though, despite all that, I found myself repeating old habits. Namely, constructing my base as a tower and surrounding it with two lava traps on either side. These traps each included a lava pit that was 1 pixel deep, and would damage & kill mobs that entered them, but without destroying their drops.
When hitting Hard Mode, however, these traps were ineffective against pixies, and I would usually wind up surrounding the pits with dart traps to (eventually) kill the pixies either through damage or poisoning. However, due to the changes in how hammers work, you can create slopes. So, I devised a simple variation of the lava pit trap that would be fully effective against the pixies.
Below, you can see the trap, which already has a pixie in it. Platforms are used to prevent it from being able to escape.
When the pixie hits the sloped area, it gets forced downward, causing it to hit the lava pit and take damage. It’ll take a few hits before reversing direction and flying back, but won’t be able to escape. If it gets hit by darts, it’ll immediately reverse direction again.
Once it has reversed direction back towards the lava side, it’ll hit the slopes again and be forced back down into the lava pit, and generally its second dip into the lava will be enough to kill it, and then it’ll drop its loot.
Combine this trap with a water candle, battle potion, and a blood moon, and you’ll be getting plenty of pixie dust for crafting holy water, greater healing potions, and other items. Or you could just sell all the drops to make some money. This trap is also effective against other flying mobs that can appear during hard mode, such as gastropods.
Major Improvement to Cycles in Blender 2.71
For a while, high levels of noise have been a major pain point for Cycles, a raytraced rendering engine used in Blender. A variety of techniques have been used to mitigate noise, many of which sacrifice realism for speed.
Things got better with the ntroduction of the branched path trace integrator. This alternative integrator, instead of performing an equal amount of samples for differing material or pass types, allows you to selectively increase the amount of samples of each pass. As well, for direct lighting samples, it would sample all lights instead of random lights, resulting in a reduction in noise.
Blender 2.71 adds an additional option to the branched path tracing integrator: it makes the ability to sample all lights for direct lighting optional, and adds an option for sampling all lights for the indirect lighting pass. That second one, when used, does increase render time a bit, but it comes with a substantial reduction in noise.
The image below is rendered with Sample All Indirect Lights turned off, and is a composite of the indirect lighting pass.
As you can see, it is quite noisy. Now, let’s see what happens when Sample All Indirect Lights is turned on.
Still noisy, but the amount of noise is substantially less. Of course, this is just with a low sample count. The Branched PT settings are 2 AA samples, 16 glossy samples, and 1 sample for everything else.
The first image rendered in 3.19 seconds, while the second one rendered in 5.63 seconds, so it was roughly a 75% increase in rendering time. However, the reduction in rendering time required is significantly greater. In order to obtain a similar amount of noise reduction, one would need to increase the AA samples to 8 and Diffuse to 16, which increases the rendering time to 40.46 seconds, an increase of nearly 13x to the rendering time for a small improvement. And that’s just with a small 400x300 image, for something larger (like a desktop size) it’ll take 12-16 times longer, or more.
But with the Sample All Indirect Lights option enabled, I was able to get a 99% clean render in close to the same amount of time (41.63 seconds). Earlier today, I had been working on a noise-removal node for the compositor to get rid of the noise. With this improvement, I can scrap the de-noising node entirely!
This was the result of me staying up until 2:00am while working on a comic update in blender. The first frame for this episode had to be rendered at x4 resolution, as a workaround for the beard on Ianos getting rendered abnormally thick.
This panel depicts all five of the Spell Breakers, shown together in the same panel for the first time since the art upgrade. They’re all walking along to meet with Cyrus Redmane, to find out more about the contract they’ve been offered. Meanwhile, Hassad runs to catch up after he critically failed a booty call: http://lordofmaelstrom.com/content/main/42
Green Uranium in Minecraft
In Minecraft, several mods add uranium ore to the game, and almost always depict it as either green or lime green. I thought this was a little silly and innaccurate, but understandable given the widespread myth that radioactivity emits green light (it actually emits blue light).
However, while randomly browsing on wikipedia, I discovered that several crystalline sources of uranium actually are green! The ones I found were quite interesting:
As well, the first one on the list, Autunite, will glow green when exposed to ultraviolet light. I believe this may be a property of the uranium itself, as the same thing occurs with uranium glass. This is probably also where the myth that radioactivity emitted green light originated, though obviously the myth is still untrue since it typically depicts the light being emitted under ordinary conditions.