lunedì 28 giugno 2010

Possible conflict between 3ds Max 2011 and JDownloader?

I'm working on an architectural visualization with 3ds Max 2011 x64 (DirectX 9, Windows 7) and JDownloader is downloading a couple of free hdri maps.
I'm experiencing an odd bug: if JDownloader is minimized to a button on the taskbar, right-click menus don't work in Max: they flicker and then disappear. If the taskbar button is hidden, so that it only shows as an icon in the notification area, menus work fine.

Best regards.

mercoledì 23 giugno 2010

Viper MK II is done

After the Cylon Centurion, the second homage to Battlestar Galactica is done. Viper Mark II is finally over: it is "the Colonial Fleet's primary space superiority fighter / attack craft during the initial Cylon War. 40 years later, they are used by Galactica to effectively combat the Cylons and their more advanced fighters  during the exodus from the Twelve Colonies".

The model is highly detailed and was totally redesigned: browsing the internet, specifically flickr, I found out these terrific photos of the original Starbuck's viper. aharvey2k's hi-res photos were a great start to understand and model all of the details and to extrapolate textures and the original font. I used Maya 2011 Hotfix 2 to model the Viper and Mental Ray to generate some test images:

As for the shaders, I used mi_car_paint_phen to simulate the unique characteristics of a mild car paint. I decreased the weight for the primary specular color and  modified the parameters for the flakes to match the aharvey2k's  photos. A mia_exposure_photographic was plugged into the MR lens shader slot of the camera. This shader is a tone mapper that converts actual pixel luminances (in candela per square meter) into image pixels as seen by a camera, applying camera-related parameters (such as f-stops and shutter times) for the exposure, as well as applying tone mapping that emulates film and camera effects. mib_blackbody light shaders were connected to the color parameters of the light shaders. I used a light probe image to illuminate the viper with measurements of real light. Below a couple of quick render tests.

I made an attempt to plug layered textures into dirt_color and dirt_weight to cover the underlaying paint and clearcoat layers in order to to get variations in the dirt across the surface. The dirt texture was painted over the UV map in Photoshop. The focal length is obviouslly wrong but this attempt helps me to notify some problem: probably I have to decrease the reflections and, in any case, the image should be modified into a compositing package.

Last, but not  least, homage will be the Cylon Raider.

Best regards.

sabato 19 giugno 2010

Fixing GRUB errors on Ubuntu Lucid Lynx 10.04

Sometimes getting GRUB to work properly on our computer can be a painful process. In my experience this difficulty often derives from the complexity of multiple hard drive system. For example, my brother has an old pc with 2 hd drives, (SATA and IDE). The SATA disk is the main bootable drive, the IDE one is used for storage purposes.
It should be easy to get GRUB to work properly on a pc with 2 drives on 2010. Well, it's not.
When setup finishes to install Ubuntu, we reboot the machine and we should be presented with this screen:

Unfortunately it doesn't happen. We could see a lot of different errors, no matter what, the result is that GRUB isn't capable of loading our preferred OS. Anyway there are good news: if the Ubuntu installation went fine, we don't need to install the OS again, we have to fix GRUB, specifically its configuration file.
First of all, a preamble: this guide cannot be exhaustive since there are such different configurations, systems and situations. We need to pay attention to play with hard disk drives. We have to back up all our data (for example a preexisting Windows partition.
So what's the point? The point is a generic way to mount our filesystem, fix GRUB and install it again. Probably we will need additional informations to get GRUB to work properly and fix the issue in the right way, but internet is great and Google is our friend.

So, without further ado, let's get started.
  1. We will use Ubuntu LiveCD to access our fresh install of Ubuntu. So, let's boot Ubuntu LiveCD as usual: we want to try Ubuntu without any change to our box, even though it's has been installed properly.
  2. At this moment we need to retrieve a couple of informations. We have to know the name of the partition where we installed Ubuntu (available as /) and the filesystem type. We can use GParted to retrieve these parameters:

    In the above example,  /dev/sda3 is our root device, the filesystem is ext3. Run the terminal from theUbuntu LiveCD and execute these commands:

     stefano@SERVER:~$ sudo mkdir /mnt/root
     stefano@SERVER:~$ sudo mount -t ext3 /dev/sda3 /mnt/root
     stefano@SERVER:~$ sudo mount -t proc none /mnt/root/proc
     stefano@SERVER:~$ sudo mount -o bind /dev /mnt/root/dev
     stefano@SERVER:~$ sudo chroot /mnt/root /bin/bash
     root@SERVER:~$ cd /boot/grub/
     root@SERVER:~$ nano grub.cfg

  3. nano is a simple terminal-based text editor. The Page Up and Page Down keys, the Arrow keys, and the Insert key and Delete key all work as in most other text editors.
    Now, before continuing this procedure, we have to understand that GRUB uses a different way to classify the hard disk drives: (hdX,Y). More specifically we  have (hdX=drive where Ubuntu has been installed,Y=partition where Ubuntu has been installed-1). sda = 0, sdb = 1 and so on.
    /dev/sda3 is written as (hd0,2) in grub because Y is always one digit less in (hdX,Y).
    We have to find all occurrences of (hdX,Y) and replace them with (hd0,2).
  4. After that, we can save grub.cfg and install again GRUB executing the command:

     root@SERVER:~$ grub-install /dev/sda
This guide is a work in progress so if you find something wrong, please let me know it.

Best regards

mercoledì 16 giugno 2010

QWidget: Cannot create a QWidget // Maya exited with status 1

Yesterday I've seen this error, for the first time, using batch rendering with Mental Ray. The problem was a plug-in (Maxwell Render plug-in for Maya 2011) never used in my scene but oddly loaded opening the file. The plug-in could not be unloaded because of a reference to maxwellpreviewdata. If I "forced" Maya to unload the plug-in, I got an error that stated:

Plug- in cannot be unloaded because it defines a MPxData derived type that is still in use.

Uninstalling the plug-in is the easiest thing to do, it's a temporary solution that fixes the problem, allowing Mental Ray to work fine again.
As a matter of fact, if I reinstalled the plug-in, the problem came up again.
Next I tried to delete unknown and locked nodes, running the MEL commands:
  1. lockNode -lock off `ls -type unknown`;
  2. delete `ls -type unknown`;
to clean up the file but it didn't work, Maxwell Render Plug-in was loaded again opening the scene.
The last step I made was a "brute force attack" to the scene not to waste my time.
I saved the scene as Maya Ascii file, opened it with Wordpad, deleted the line:

requires "Maxwell Render 2.0.39"

and saved the ascii file.

It worked, the plug-in isn't loaded opening the file and Mental Ray can melt again my cpu. This solution is very rough and I'd like to find out a more elegant fix.
Anyway I hope to be helpful.

Best regards.

domenica 13 giugno 2010

Installing Bonus Tools for Maya 2011 [win64] on Windows 7

In my humble opinion, Autodesk should change the way to automate the building of packages for Windows. I've never seen so many errors and requirements to install a very small piece of software like Bonus Tools for Maya.
"Bonus Tools is a free collection of useful Maya scripts and plug-ins. After installing Bonus Tools, users will have a pull-down menu for easy access to the tools that cover all aspects of everyday use: general UI, modeling, animation, texturing, rendering and cloth." 
Cool! Unfortunately installing this piece of software on a fresh install of Windows 7 x64 is very hard, at least for me.
Double click on the msi file and the first problem appears:

"The InstallScript  engine is missing from this machine. If available, please run ISScript.msi, or contact your support personnel for  further assistance."

What's Installscript? It's a system to create Windows setup files:according to InstallShield,, it should keep "customers happy". Actually I'm not happy and Installscript acts like a virus: you can install it, you can't remove it, you have to live with it. No way to uninstall it via Add/Remove Programs or using Windows Installer Clean up.
InstallShield explains here how to determine the version number of the ISScript engine we need, download it, and install it.
Unfortunately  I could not use the procedure explained to determine the version number I needed, so I tried it out myself.
Version 8 works for me.
It seems that installing multiple ISScript versions doesn't affect pc performances.
Ok, another problem:
"Registry Error: Module path is empty. Unable to set up Registry details to configure Bonus Tools." 

Unable to set up Registry: it seems a problem due to system privileges. I ran a dos command prompt as Admin. I navigated to the location of the msi file and typed:

msiexec /i MayaBonusTools2011_win64.msi

This procedure avoids the registry error. Finally Bonus tools have been installed.
Now I have to figure out how to install them on Vista x86. Other kind of problems on Vista.