Posts tagged software

A couple of weeks ago I led a workshop on ‘analog software’ during the FuturePlaces media lab here in Porto. Influenced by Casey Reas’ articulation between creative coding and conceptual art I had expected participants to be interested in sketching procedural graphics on paper or canvas. Instead, I seemed to have struck a deeper chord by mentioning in passing SocialFiction’s .walk. Participants became more interested in ‘coding’ performative behaviour and questioning the way software is eating the world, which was a very welcome surprise.

A more detailed debriefing is up at the FuturePlaces website. Please also be sure to read Sara Moreira's Coding as Cooking essay which is a very interesting personal testimony, relating the Analog Software workshop with the great Frugal Food Challenge we had both attended and had a lot of fun at.

Sublime Text is… sublime. Since most software is so bad, one doesn’t even notice it until something comes really good along. Running Sublime Text 2 for the first time felt like the first time I tried Google Chrome 1.0 and admired how a fully featured web browser was faster than Windows Explorer (Chrome did put on some weight in the last few years, though), or my warming up to Enso and finding the whole concept of a ‘Start Menu’ laughable and hardly to be missed when Windows 8 comes along. In fact, I gave Sublime Text’s developers their money after just minutes of minor tinkering which is probably a speed record in my opening-wallet-for-bits department. ST2 feels like an extremely good piece of palpable engineering, carrying the same transcendent Quality of intelligence and solidity one finds in a 1970s Bang&Olufsen stereo or a Voigtlander Bessa camera. One just feels respected by the makers of these things, and are given reliability and an ease-of-use of the intelligent and demanding kind (for instance, Sublime Text doesn’t have a UI for preferences and presents you with an auto-updateable configuration text file instead — but if you are a programmer who feels an UI is needed to set his editor’s preferences, perhaps you should take a good hard look at your choice of career or hobby).

Sure there are plenty of other programmer-oriented text editors. Notepad++ is okay and it was perhaps the piece of software I used the most until now, but always with a suspicion it wasn’t good. Vim on the other hand felt like it once was a good piece of software but is now locked in its community esoterica, while Acme looks like it might actually be good but at the same time like too little too late. How did I survive before multi-selection and without a command palette? Indeed.

Fifty years into interactive computing history a text editor attains greatness. How many centuries does this mean we’ll have to wait for good video editing software?

Well-Placed Pixels, a blog showcasing well-designed user interfaces. Quite a bit heavy on the iPhone side, but still worth browsing.

Content-Preserving Warps for 3D Video Stabilization (via CDM): This is just an incredible presentation. Camera movement is one of the things that sets apart low budget from ‘professional’ filmmaking and it’s good to see the potential for yet another gap narrowing. Indiependents sometimes waste so much time and resources on it, it’ll be nice to let computers handle it so we can do some actual filmmaking.

Software engineer Shamus Young documents how he created a generative city. This is the sort of project I have to think about at my master’s, I wonder if you can do it in Flash (of course you can, so let me rephrase it: I wonder if I can do it in Flash). Anyway, Shamus predicted he’d spend thirty hours in this, so with my knowledge of software engineering I predict I’d take… twenty times as much? Not taking into account things always end up taking twice as much time, no matter how lenient, the original prediction, this means I’ve better be more modest in my goals… A procedurally generated house?

Twenty-five tutorials for getting started with Blender

Proper 3D modelling is, like Russian, welding or fencing, the kind of thing I would like to learn in my next life, because I just can’t feel the definite tug of motivation in the current one. But should I suddently feel up to it now, this looks like a good starting point for learning Blender.

A good-looking website that lists alternatives to well-known commercial software. However, the lists aren’t that well informed. For instance, Notepad++ (a terrific open source text & code editor by its own right) tops the Adobe Dreamweaver replacement list, which is a bit like proposing steering wheels as a replacement for car tires. Dreamweaver is big and slow and will suck bigtime if you use it as a text editor, on the other hand Notepad ++ is not a WYSIWYG application — which is the exact thing Dreamweaver is intended to be. And what’s with Handbrake (a video transcoder) as an alternative to Adobe Premiere (video editing)?