My Latest Discovery

It’s no secret that last Tuesday I started feeling sick like I had the flu. This put a big dent in my ability to get any of my work done. Both Tuesday and Wednesday I barely managed to get videos made for my youtube channel. Thursday I had the “oh so wonderful” experience of discovering that I was peeing blood. Not a lot mind you but ANY is a bad thing. This caused me to end up in the ER.

Fortunately the doc thinks that this is probably just an infection and gave me a prescription for antibiotics and painkiller. A couple days later I’m feeling a lot better.

In the meantime though, I *really* wasn’t up to getting much of anything done. I started watching youtube videos, both to catch up on my subscriptions and because I really wasn’t up to much more than that.

Then I saw this video by a friend about the beginning of an adventure in a game called Minecraft.

It took me only a few minutes to get totally hooked on it. Yep, totally hooked. In spite of the fact that the graphics look sorta like the old blocky 8 bit stuff from back in the early 1980’s. It’s the strategy and unlimited design potential that got me.

Now if I were like the wealthier people whose bank accounts I often envy I would have been glad to cash in a few silver bullion bars if needed to get a copy of it and start playing myself. Fortunately for me it didn’t take anywhere near that kind of resource to get.

As a result of watching his videos about it and the time I’ve spent playing it since Thursday, I am going to be making some Minecraft videos of my own. Partly because it really is an interesting game and partly because I just plain want to show off what I have been building in it.

I’ll be sure to post here when I get the first of those videos uploaded.

How I Blew Up A Planet

Ok, I’m not actually an “Evil Galactic Overlord” who makes it a point to destroy the home planets of those who dare oppose me. What I’m talking about is a cool visual effect that I achieved using Blender, a video editor (in my case, Sony Vegas Pro 8), and my imagination.

This effect has a little bit of a history to it. It all started when I found a tutorial on BlenderGuru.com called Create a Shattered Glass Title Animation by Andrew Price that showed how to take some simple text and make it shatter into hundreds of pieces and thousands of tiny shards. Then when this animation was complete it was reversed in a video editor and a reversed sound of glass breaking added.

The result was a very cool effect that you can see in this video:

Shattered Glass Text Intro from Andrew Price on Vimeo.

Before going further I should note that this will require the latest version of Blender which you can get free at blender.org. He was using version 2.53 which was the current version at the time he made the tutorial. As of this writing Blender 2.56 Beta is current. The old version 2.49b just isn’t going to cut it for this project.

Having seen that video I just had to learn how to do that effect so I took the time to watch the tutorial with Blender running, pausing it frequently to apply what he was showing to my project.

After about two hours of this and some tinkering with settings and materials to suit my own version of the project and another two hours or so to render a video file from it, I ended up with something that looked pretty cool, especially for a first time effort.

I used it in the beginning of this video:

A day or two later I was browsing Blender tutorials on youtube and ran across one called “Easy planet tutorial for blender” that made creating a planet really easy. I found a good planet texture image on the Blender Open Material Repository which is loaded with all sorts of free material textures that you can use in Blender.

With the texture applied I had a very good looking planet. I set my project to 900 frames long and set two keyframes. One at frame 1 and then at frame 900 I rotated the planet on the Z axis 360 degrees and set another keyframe.

Setting the background to show stars the animation that resulted was a planet in space.

Then I got to thinking, “What if I want to blow up the planet?”. Not in reality of course but I’m always looking for cool visual effects that I can use in videos and I just couldn’t pass up this idea.

It turned out to be really easy.

Referring to the shattered glass animation I added an explode modifier and a particle system to the planet object. I set it to start emitting particles at frame 901 and end at frame 905 with a lifetime of 500. I made sure that the particles themselves would not be seen and applied settings very similar to those that were used for the particle settings in the glass project. I also changed the end frame from 900 to 1100.

After a total of about ten or fifteen minutes work, starting with a copy of the planet animation project, and several hours to render the final animation I had an exploding planet. I took this into my video editor and added a bright red flash at the frame the explosion starts and also found a good explosion sound effect and it was ready.

I used it as a key part of the story in the third chapter of a Phat Trek episode that I’ve been making. (This looks particularly good in full screen mode)

I should also point out that BlenderGuru.com is a wealth of tutorials, tips & tricks for doing some exceedingly cool stuff with Blender. I plan to be spending a lot of time on that site for the foreseeable future.

By the way, If you haven’t seen Phat Trek, Here are links to the first two chapters in this story.

Chapter 1 ‘Vendetta’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkFf7Z9Gvjk

Chapter 2 ‘Grudge’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_q20594PQw

I plan to be making at least one of these chapters per week. More if I have time and inspiration enough.

[tags]blender, animation, tutorial, explode, planet, visual effect, phat trek[/tags]

Max-Banner-Ads Plugin Problem Fixed

After recently upgrading to WordPress 3.1 I found that trying to open the Max Banner Ads admin page resulted in this error message:

You do not have sufficient permissions to access this page.

My first reaction was “The HELL you say! It’s my blog on my domain. You better effing believe I have sufficient permissions!”

In searching for a solution to this problem I saw several references to checking the wp_options table but no mention of exactly WHAT to look for.

Also, I remember having this problem a few years ago and at that time the answer turned out to be making a change to max-banner-ads.php. I wondered if it was possible that there is a similar edit needed to be compatible with WordPress 3.1 although I couldn’t find any reference to this being the solution in this case. Besides which, I’m NOT a php programmer, I probably couldn’t spot a problem there if it introduced itself.

After a LOT of trial and error I believe I’ve come up with a fix. At least so far it has worked on three blogs without a hitch.

Note: This works for me but I *cannot* guarantee anything, your mileage may vary, make backups first before you try this, if you break your blog trying this it’s not my fault, etc, etc.

Here’s the fix:

1, get the latest version (1.4) of Max Banner Ads
2. Deactivate the plugin on the blog in question
3. In your phpMyAdmin, open the blog’s database and drop these tables from the database

wp_mban_banner
wp_mban_options
wp_mban_zone

4. ftp to your site, change to the wp-content/plugins directory and delete the existing max-banner-ads directory and it’s contents.

5. upload version 1.4 of Max Banner Ads
6. re-activate the plugin

From there it *should* be working again.

The only downside is that all of your previous banner settings WILL be gone and you’ll have to set them up all over again.

On the other hand, if it’s working, who cares? Once you have your urls and images ready, setting up MBP is a breeze and shouldn’t take more than an hour at the very outside.

Meanwhile, because I believe this problem was largely caused by incompatibilities that resulted from a WordPress “upgrade”, the next time I apply such an upgrade I’m going to do it on a test blog first and make sure that all my plugins work before deploying it on my actual blogs!

[tags]wordpress, upgrade, 3.1, maxblogpress, max blog press, max banner ads, permissions, error, admin, mpb admin, fix, how to fix, fix mpb, fix max banner, fix mpb plugin, banner ads, rotator, banner ad rotator, banner plugin, plugin error, phpmyadmin, database, drop tables, drop db tables[/tags]

Bad Behavior WordPress Plugin Up To No Good

I was taking a casual look at several of my websites and blogs when I noticed that blogs that just a few days ago enjoyed solid PR3 and PR4 rankings in Google were suddenly Unranked. This coincided with a significant drop in traffic that I had noticed starting a few days before.

I logged in to Google’s webmaster tools and checked on my site’s stats and found one glaring factor for each of them. Every single WordPress blog that I have was showing HUNDREDS of crawl errors!

Crawl errors mean that googlebot has tried to crawl the site and was unable to retrieve the pages listed. On looking at several of the error reports for several sites I found a common factor. Each one of them had been blocked by the “Bad Behavior” WordPress Plugin.

Bad Behavior is a plugin for WordPress blogs that I have used for years. It’s purpose is to block automated requests to a PHP based site (like WordPress) and therefore massively reduce the amount of automated spam comments and other forms of mischievous bots trying to access your blog.

It has performed great for a long time. However when I checked the plugin’s logs on the affected blogs I found that it has been blocking googlebot, under the assumption that it’s not really googlebot but rather something else pretending to be googlebot

If you are using Bad Behavior, Go to your plugins page, scroll down until you see the Bad Behavior plugin and click “logs”. On that page, click “show blocked”. If in that listing you see a lot of entries where googlebot is blocked then the best advice I can give you is to do two things.

1. Deactivate the plugin immediately The fastest way to lose all traffic from Google is for googlebot to not be able to craw your site! I don’t know about you but I’ve been steadily getting more and more traffic from Google searches and I’d like to keep it that way!!

2. Go to the plugin site: http://bad-behavior.ioerror.us/2011/02/15/bad-behavior-2-0-42-and-2-1-11/ and let the plugin author know that it is mis-behaving by incorrectly blocking googlebot. If enough people report the error there’s at least a decent chance that it will get fixed.

[tags]Bad Behavior, WordPress Plugin, googlebot, blocking google, blocking googlebot, websites unranked, pagerank, lost pagerank, traffic, search results, search traffic[/tags]

Is Your ISP Getting Ready?

I know that, so far, mine is not. In fact, from what they’ve told me several times over the last year, they have no plans to get ready at all. This makes no more sense to me than handing a bottle of diet pills to an anorexic. It is a just plain bad idea and sooner or later everybody involved is going to regret it.

What am I talking about?

Only a few weeks ago IANA handed out the last five /8 blocks of IPV4 addresses to the RIRs. This means that sometime over the next year or so those addresses are going to run out. When they do, ISPs, Businesses, Governments and so on will have to have implemented IPV6 with is the successor to IPV4 or there WILL be connection problems.

ISPs that choose to keep their customers on IPV4 and simply implement a gateway to IPV6 are going to quickly find a lot of dissatisfied customers when those customers find out that working through that gateway is not the same as connecting directly like they should.

So. Is your ISP getting ready? Call them and ask. Keep asking until they have a good answer.

[tags]ipv4, ipv6, ip address, ip address supply, implement ipv6[/tags]