Competition: Does Your Daughter Love Ubuntu?

Are you the parent of a young girl that likes to play with technology? If so, this competition from the Ubuntu Women project is ideal for you.

To celebrate World Play Day, the Ubuntu Women project is running a photography competition, with the prizes including a Dell Mini 10n netbook!  To enter, just submit photos of the young girl in your family having fun with Ubuntu.

The competition aims to bust the stereotype that it’s only young boys that enjoy playing with computers, and to show young girls that they can play with anything they want – be that dolls and dressup, or the household PC.

The competition is open to everyone.  You don’t have to be an active member of the Ubuntu / Ubuntu Women community to participate (although you’re always welcome to join us on IRC or the forums if you have the time!).  We’re looking for a wide range of entries from all kinds of family.

The pictures will be judged on how well they promote the image that “girls love computers”.

Read on for full details of the competition.

A pivotal issue within computing cultures of today is the overemphasis on boys and men as the primary consumers of technology. Children learn by example and since the majority of media images consist of boys playing computer type games and girls playing with stereotypical princess type dolls; this contributes to the lack of involvement in science and technology by our young women.

It hurts us all to have this subconscious of pigeonholing of our children, and to help counter this for Ubuntu’s community, we would love to have a collection of examples of young girls (toddlers through to 12 years old) playing with — and loving, and being encouraged to pursue — Ubuntu. This would allow parents of girls to demonstrate that it really is ok to be intrigued by the shiny screens, blinking lights, tappity-tap of keyboards, and faint whirs of computer fans.

The girls do not have to be alone in the photos, and photos taken prior to this announcement are eligible. We are not expecting any particular pose, but we would much prefer candid shots — they say SO much more. We do prefer that the images come at a large resolution, in a standard
format (JPEG, PNG) and not embedded in documents.

Please email your photos (or links to flickr, etc.) to ubuntuwomen.competition at gmail.com by UTC 23:59 14th of May 2010.

By submitting a photo, you acknowledge that it will be posted on the Ubuntu Women Website under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works license, with special considerations for use within the Ubuntu Women and Ubuntu project (please see Photo/Model Release waiver). If you prefer that your photo to be posted under a less restrictive license such as Creative Commons Attribution or Public Domain, then feel free to let us know when you submit. As this competition involves visual depictions of people, we will require that a “Photo/Model Release” waiver be signed for each person in the photo. A parent or guardian of minors must sign this waiver form for their children or charges.

There will be two (2) prizes up for grabs. One (1) prize will be given to the photo that the community feels sells the “girls love computers” line the best. One (1) prize will be given to a randomly drawn entrant.
Jono Bacon, the Ubuntu Community Manager will be drawing this entrant in a videocast, and announcing both winners to the world on May 28th.

We will celebrate World Play Day by announcing the two winners. The first of whom will be the popular voted Community Choice, and will receive a Dell Mini 10n (or equivalent net-book based on availability).
The second winner chosen by random drawing will receive a Canonical Sponsored Ubuntu SWAG collection that includes: Mouse- pad, Silly putty, Recycled Ubuntu Notepad, Ubuntu pen, Ubuntu lanyard, Ubuntu pack of 3 pin-badges and 1 Organic Circle of Friends Ladies T-shirt.

Good Luck!

Funambol Open Source from Packt Publishing

Packt Publishing have released a book on the Funambol Mobile Open Source system. I’m not going to write a review of the title, because I worked on it, so I can’t be completely impartial.

However, I will say this – I really enjoyed working on it. I use Citadel for my email, and it can easily integrate with a Funambol server. If you’re looking for a PIM and push email system that works with a variety of mobile clients, then you should definitely check out Funambol – it’s free and open source, and can scale to suit anything from a small business like mine to a much bigger enterprise.

The book takes you through the basics of setting up a server for personal use and scaling it for more users, then goes on to explain how to create Funambol extensions. You can check out the book here.

Review: Blender 3D – Architecture, Buildings and Scenery

Packt Publishing sent me a copy of Blender 3D: Architecture, Buildings and Scenery to review. This came at a great time for me because I’m working on a game in Multiverse, and I’m spending a lot of time tweaking assets in Blender.

I’m a programmer, not a graphic artist. I can get by with 3D software, but I wouldn’t call myself an expert. I hate online tutorials. Sure, some of them are good, but many of them don’t specify what version of the software they’re for (which is annoying when you get halfway through and realise an option has moved). Some of them are written by people who have customized their menus, meaning things are in a different place for people who are using a fresh install, and some are incomplete. I don’t say this to criticize the people who wrote the tutorials. Indeed, I’m grateful to anyone who takes the time to share their knowledge, but sometimes a book that has been tested, peer reviewed, and edited, is a lifesaver.

The back of the book says that you don’t need to be experienced with Blender in order to follow the book. I was dubious at first, but the first few chapters of the book do actually give a good introduction to the program.

Blender 3D: Architecture, Buildings and Scenery starts off by explaining the tools that will be used in the book: Blender, Gimp, and YafRay. The author, Allan Brito, also offers some useful links for building up a library of 3D objects.

Chapter 2 is spent learning the basics of the interface – keyboard shortcuts, modes, and working with objects, while Chapter 3 takes a quick look at modeling and some of the tools that are available. Experienced Blender users would probably skip these chapters, but they’re a great refresher for someone who has been using Blender but doesn’t have any formal training.

Things start getting more interesting after this. As you work through the book you learn to model walls, scenery, furniture, and decorative items such as lamps. You also learn about textures and lighting – both spot lights and ambient lights. There’s lots of architecture specific advice given, such as marking seams to help with UV mapping. The precision modeling section is useful too.

The examples are very detailed and easy to follow. Each step is carefully explained and there are lots of screenshots. Unfortunately, the screenshots are black and white. Since the default Blender interface is so dark, this makes it hard to pick out the details.

The chapter on Post Production with Gimp has crisp, clear screenshots, so I don’t think the printing is at fault, just the fact that Blender’s default interface is so dark. It would have been nice if the author had changed the interface to some colours with more contrast in order to make things stand out more.

There is a chapter on animation. The author does a good job of explaining the basics of keyframes, timelines, and camera management, so you can make the kind of animations he talks about in the chapter (for showing off buildings and interiors). I would have liked to have seen animation covered in more depth, but to be fair I think that the things I wanted to see were outside of the schope of an architecture focused book.

People experienced with Blender may find that there aren’t many suprises for them, but I think that the author achieved his goal very well.

Overall, I was impressed by this book. I had hoped to pick up some tips to use for making buildings for my game, and also for making benches, barrels, and other interior items. The book isn’t designed for people creating game art, but there was still a lot of useful information. If you’re interested in architecture but new to Blender, or have some experience with Blender and want to learn about the extra considerations that go into making architectural art, then you’ll get a lot out of this book.

Blender 3D: Architecture, Buildings and Scenery

Packt have sent me a copy of Blender 3D: Architecture, Buildings and Scenery to review.

The book arrived in the post today, and I’ll be working on a review of it over the weekend. My first impressions are positive, however.

I’m looking forward to working through it – some heavy duty rendering should be a good way to put my new quad core PC through its paces!

Slow Windows 7 Install – Expanding Windows Files

My main PC suffered a series of related failures last week – the PSU died, and it took the motherboard with it.

I had to wait until I got paid to get replacement parts, and that turned out to be quite a challenge.  My PC was an early dual core – one of the socket 754s.  It had four RAM slots, and two PCIe ports (which were used for SLI).  It also had three PCI slots (which were used for various cards), and two IDE + several SATA ports.

Finding a similar socket 754 motherboard from a store that offered fast delivery was almost impossible.  In fact, the only one I managed to find didn’t have the listed board in stock.

I ended up buying a new motherboard + processor + RAM bundle  because it was inexpensive, and the only way I was going to end up with a working PC that could take all my bits.  So I’ve upgraded to a quad core and got some faster memory 🙂

Of course, this means I had to reinstall Windows 7, which has been an interesting process.  The installer ran incredibly slowly the first time I tried it – taking several minutes to bring up the first screen, about half an hour to copy the files, then hanging at 0% on Expanding Windows Files.

I tried restarting the process a few times, and also removing all extra drives, but that didn’t help.  Then I saw a post on Technet which offered a simple suggestion – disable the Floppy drive in the bios.

In my case, I hadn’t wired up my floppy yet, but in the bios the “Drive A:” option was set to 3 1/4 Floppy.  Setting that to Disabled made the Windows 7 install fly by at the speed you’d expect of a Quad Core.

If you’re encountering similar problems installing Windows 7, try disabling your floppy drive before doing anything fancy or unplugging any of your drives.  There’s a good chance it will help.



Reminder for UK People – Tax Returns Due This Month!

This is just a quick reminder for any self employed UK people – the deadline for filing your tax return online is the end of this month!

I hope you’ve all been more organized than me, and you have your books all filled out. I still need to work mine out – my internet banking has been broken for several months, and the bank can’t figure out why I can’t log in, so I’ll be doing it the old fashioned way, leafing through paper reciepts and invoices 🙂

Make sure you file on time – the fines are hefty if you miss the deadline.

NaBloPoMo Day Two

Well, it’s day two of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), and I’m already unsure what to write each day.  Usually, I only blog if something important happens, or if there’s an idea worthy of an in-depth discussion.

Rather than churn out 31 “What I did today” posts, I’ve decided to spend some time thinking about interesting topics – both for this month, and for the future, after all, nothing looks worse than a blog that goes un-updated for months on end, so it’s always good to have some ideas tucked away.

So far, I’m taking inspiration from the world around me, and that’s something that I think a lot of bloggers could do.  I plan to post more on things like Security issues, software updates, Identi.ca discussions (and Twitter discussions), things that show up on Freenode / OFTC and other IRC channels, and the results of things like Ubuntu meetings.

There’s enough going on in those areas that there’s always something to say, and blogging about those things doesn’t mean leaving out the occasional how-to, introspective, or “this is what I’m up to”. It does, however, mean that there’s no need to fall back on the dreaded Top 10, or journal style post!