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Laissez les bons temps roulez! This year I decided to become a Mardi Gras float and join a parade which took place in a Steampunk Variation of New Orleans somewhere around the 1860s. The parade was held by the Crewe of Scribes, the theme was favorite Victorian authors, and I had a tough time deciding between Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. But Verne was fully in the era, while Wells only caught a bit of the tale end of it (not misspelling, just a really bad pun), so that is what I went with. I always enjoyed his underwater stories the best, so when I assembled my float I used coral alpha textures on a transparent prim, some seaweed flexi prims, and one of the best little Steampunk submarines I have ever seen. When it was finished, I put the float on as my avatar and joined the parade; what a lot of fun that was! Thanks to the Mayor of Mieville Perryn Peterson, and all the other good folks of the Steamlands, for a truly fun holiday. In fact, I have to get ready for the Mardi Gras Ball now; I will be back soon.

My Mardi Gras Float 2015
My Mardi Gras Float 2015

In North America in 1982 there were a limited number of companies fighting for the home computer market, and with 20-20 hindsight it is obvious that Apple was the winner of that battle. But my own system of choice that year had the same overall computing power, plus a few dedicated chip sets that meant superior 8 bit graphics and sound processing. Plus it had a built-in programming language that made it easy to create your own audio/visual sequence complete with text overlays. This is the state of the art Christmas demo sequence from Commodore that year, and if you remember what any of the other systems available at the time could do, it will be obvious why I thought this one was the way to go. Merry Christmas!

As anyone who has stood at the bottom of the Earth’s gravity well and pointed their camera up can tell you, the kind of pictures an Astronaut can take from orbit will far surpass that. In this video, Astronaut Don Pettit gives you an idea of what is involved, and what you might be able to achieve. Knowing this, all you have to do now is achieve orbit, making sure to bring your camera with you.

The new release of LinuxConsole 2.3 is good news for those with older computers who still want to get some entertainment or work out of them. This Live Disc build started life as a way to turn an old computer into a working games console, and it will still do that. But what it has really gotten good at is making old computers with few resources work properly. That means a box with as little as 256Meg of RAM and running an old Intel, NVIDIA, or ATI graphics cards can run just fine with a fast boot, and it also supports newer graphics cards as well. They have also built some scripts to help you update packages into local RAM while running the base Live Disc, connect to printers, and so forth. They also support installing it to a LiveUSB stick, or installing it to duel-boot with Windows. They have downloads to make both of those tasks fairly easy, so you don’t have to be a Linux guru to get them running.

There is a very creative guy called Joey Shanks who puts together videos that are tutorials in how to create various kinds of special effects in association with PBS. One of his recent projects was to show how to create a scientifically accurate Black Hole like the one in the movie Interstellar. The video allows you to see step by step how each element was captured by the camera, and then gives you a peak at how they look when all the elements are added to the composite layer by layer. This is not how the effect was actually created for the film, in part because a big piece of Joey’s approach is to do as many elements of a given build using real world objects and a camera to film them as possible. But it does give you enough information that you might get some really good ideas of how to build your own effects. I found out about this series from Cinefex, a great place to learn more about how the effects you see on the screen get built, and who is doing them.

Black Hole creation | Shanks FX | PBS Digital Studios from Joey Shanks on Vimeo.