Interférences (String Network) | Alexis Langevin-Tétrault

Had the chance to see last night the performance of Alexis Langevin-Tétrault at “Visions of the Future III” and was blown away by the playfulness and dynamic aspect of it. It’s a perfect combination of powerful sound, subtle lighting and choreography working very well together. If you get the chance. Don’t miss it.

On stage, an audioreactive play of light unfolds gradually: Alexis Langevin-Tétrault (CA) builds a network of strings with which he interacts to create a sound universe between the industrial noise, electronica and acousmatic music.

Source: Interférences (String Network) | Alexis Langevin-Tétrault

(video link )
(Photo credit: Nicolas Bernier, 25/04/17, Salle Claude Champagne)

Highlights of the Blender Conference 2016

Here are three video recordings of presentations done at the latest Blender Conference that I think are worth watching.

Mad Entertairment Studio

I’ve never had the chance to attend the Blender Conference, but they have always provided live streaming and published recordings afterwards. The diversity and quality of the presentations invite me every time to go through it. There is a lot to discover in the field of 3D creation and, as with any open source software, people have used the tool in many different ways for the purpose of their research. So, after watching a few videos, here is my selection for this year.

Paul Melis uses Blender to demonstrate how path tracing works. Path tracing is a rendering method based the physical properties of light and thus simulates realistic lighting of a scene. Blender Foundation has developed a rendering engine called Cycles using this method. But how does it work? Paul Melis has modified Blender to literally show us how the rays are moving around in 3D before being turned into colored pixels. Along the way, he shows us how and why certain things might influence the final render.

For her PHD in media studies, Julia Velkova is focusing on open-source animation film production. She does not uses Blender, so this is not a technical presentation. Instead, she is focusing on the community, economy and mechanics behind the production of free culture using free / libre software. Her presentation puts in perspective contemporary media production with the history of art and technology. She also raises good questions for the Blender community and the free / libre art and technology practitioners as a whole. I’ll be looking forward to the conclusion of her PHD in a couple months.

MAD Entertainment Animation, is an Italian based animation studio that has gradually switched to a full Blender production pipeline over the last couple years. While this is more and more common in small sizes studios across the world, Ivan Cappiello presents here the latest projects they have been working on and shares the methodology they use when you don’t have big production budgets but still want to make big feature animation films.

I’ve singled out their presentation because of the particularly poetic look and feel they have achieved in their work (the illustration a the top of this article is a still from one of their production). But also for the Kinect based motion capture they use to help animators quickly set up poses for secondary character animation. All very inspiring.

There is of course a lot more presentations to watch if the subject and software is of any interest to you. So let me know which are your favorites from this year and why.

A patch for the Github centralization dilemma

Github 404

Github, with its 75,000,000 repositories, has become a central place for open source development and is well-known for having popularized Git among programmers and other code hungry fellas. The irony is not lost on anyone that we are again relying on a centralized service for our decentralized Git workflow. And as with any centralization comes the risk of giving too much power in the hands of just a few.

Of course, a central service such as Github has its benefits. We all know where to search for code. We all also potentially know how the service works and can jump more quickly from one project to another. Third parties can even build upon this resource and push things in new directions, maybe attracting faster early adopters.

But… Centralized services can turn against you. They can censor and be censored. They also can disappear. Maybe Github will not disappear soon, but a user on Github could decide to delete all its repositories and there would not be much you could do about it. You don’t think that has happened? Check RGBDToolkit or Gravit, for example. (You’ll have to put those urls in your preferred search-engine to verify that I’m not bullshitting you and that these projects did exist on Github at some point.)

So, in order to restore balance in the force, I’ve decided to adopt a few habits that I want to share with you. They are not going to solve the centralization problem. But they can maybe provide some safe guards against the major risk exposed in the previous paragraph. These tricks apply for projects you have not created. For your own projects, it’s up to you to decide where you want to host them.

The solution I’m using is based on the mirror feature from Gitlab. Gitlab is an open source clone of Github. It provides the same functionalities, but you can install it on your own server. And many groups are running public instances across the web. Gitlab.com itself, as a company, develops the software and offers hosting of public and private repositories at the same address.

So now, every time I find a nice open source project on Github, and especially the ones with few stars, forks or developers, I create a mirror of it in a public Gitlab repository. The advantage here over just a git clone on my machine or elsewhere is that I’m not just creating a copy of the project at a certain time. The mirror feature will keep watching the original project and pull all the changes that happen after I created the mirror. So I’m confident, that whatever happens to the original repository, all the history and changes will be saved elsewhere.

Because those repositories are just backups, I also disable issue tracking, wikis and any other unnecessary feature that could mislead visitors. The point is not to divert development. There is also a clear mention that those are mirrors and link back to the canonical repository.

So next time, instead of starring a project you like, mirror it. You’ll do everyone a favor. The ones I keep are here. But feel free to choose any other hosting service elsewhere. Let’s keep things distributed.

Git versioning and diff visualizing tools for designers

Git for Designers (1st slide)

Here is the video of my presentation at the Libre Graphics Meeting 2016, in London. For the most part, I expose my quest for a Git based visualizing tool that could help designers integrate a version control workflow.

The slides are viewable from here. You can also download them from this Gitlab repo.

If you find this video interesting or lacking more in-depth information about the subject, please have a look at these detailed blog posts:

  1. Collaborative tools for designers – Part 1
  2. Collaborative tools for designers – Part 2 : Dropbox
  3. Collaborative tools for designers – Part 3: Pixelapse
  4. Collaborative tools for designers – Part 4
  5. Collaborative tools for designers – Part 5: Adobe Creative Cloud
  6. Collaborative tools for designers – Part 6: the Githosters
  7. Github, why u show no more media files

 

“Pointillism”, live coding at #PdCon16~

IOhannes M Zmölnig is an active member of the Pure Data development scene. So it’s of little surprise that he was attending the Pure Data Conference that just happened last week in NYC.

Pointillism IOhannes PdCon16

Pure Data (Pd) is a visual programming language […] for creating interactive computer music and multimedia works.
Wikipedia

You also might have heard about Pd as an alternative to Max/Msp or VVVV.

The conference brought a panel of enthusiasts from all over the world to discuss the development and future of the software. I was especially pleased to hear Mark Edward Grimm‘s experience teaching Pure Data as a multimedia creation tool to some college students here in the US. (See Mark Edward Grimm’s website for more info.)

At night, the same people gathered at the Shapeshifter lab in Brooklyn to enjoy live experimental music from some of the participants. And this is where IOhannes blew my mind, friday night, with a performance he calls Pointillism.

There is a recording of a previous event from 4 years ago that you can watch online. But seeing it live, not knowing what to expect, with a big projection over IOhannes shoulder, was a totally different game. Also, since 4 years, IOhannes has played it multiple times and thus perfected the set up and process at each iteration. (The video here is not doing justice to the performance.)

To explain what is going on, IOhannes is using Pure-data to create a musical instrument. He does this by adding boxes with distinctive functions and linking them together. Everything is done live, in front of the audience, and we can all see what he is doing on a screen cloning his own computer screen. Nothing is hidden.

So far, nothing new here. This is often referred to as live coding.

Where IOhannes plays a trick here, is that he is writing all the boxes by heart and uses a braille font to display their names. This means that nobody in the audience, and barely him, can read what is going on. Nobody reads braille on a screen anyway. Mistakes in the process are almost not permitted because it would be hard to find where they happened. The music itself fiddles around a theme inspired by morse code (IOhannes told me afterwards the music is actually a reading of the dots of each boxes). And sooner or later, the musical and graphical composition becomes a giant knot of boxes, dots and lines, moving in erratic ways. But all ends beautifully in a rapid deconstruction and closes on a black screen.

Needless to say the performer was greeted with a warm applause and had to come back on stage as the crowd would not stop. I’ve rarely seen such joy and amazement in the eyes of the audience at events like this.

IOhannes respects all the rules of the genre but with a twists that makes it accessible for people outside of the community. Pointillism is clever, brilliantly executed and a pleasure to watch. I could not recommend it more to any tech festival looking for a original performance and do hope you’ll be able to experience it live some day.

#IOhannes right side up

A photo posted by Sofy Yuditskaya (@horus_vacui) on

Conversation avec ma banquière

Aujourd’hui, j’ai appelé ma banque pour un problème de carte. Une fois le problème réglé, j’ai eu droit, comme toujours, au petit speech promo sur le dernier produit qui pourrait m’intéresser. Ça s’est déroulé à peu près comme ceci:

− Seriez-vous intéressé par installer l’application EasyBanking pour smartphone et tablette?

− Non merci, ça ne m’intéresse pas.

− Vous savez que vous pouvez faire toutes vos transactions via l’application et ce de manière complètement sécurisée.

− Merci, mais je fais plus confiance à mon ordinateur pour la sécurité de mes données qu’à mon téléphone. Un téléphone, ça se perd facilement.

− L’application est protégée par mot de passe et si vous fermez l’application, il faut le mot de passe pour la réouvrir.

− Merci, mais ça ne m’intéresse pas.

− Vous êtes sûr que vous ne voulez pas essayer, c’est très pratique.

( Comme elle insiste, je me dis que ça va être peut-être intéressant de faire pivoter la conversation. )

− Pouvez-vous me dire quelles sont les permissions demandées par l’application lors de son installation?

− L’application permet uniquement de faire des transferts entre vos comptes personnels ou vers d’autres comptes préalablement sauvegardés. Il n’est donc pas possible de faire des transactions vers des comptes inconnus.

− Non, je vous demandais quelles sont les droits de l’application sur les données de mon téléphone. Là, je suis sur Android et quand j’installe un programme, il demande l’accès à certaines fonctionnalités…

( J’en profite pour regarder en même temps sur le Google Play store et continue. )

− Je vois que l’application demande l’accès aux coordonnées GPS, l’accès aux photos, médias et fichiers, la possibilité de faire des appels téléphoniques et l’accès à la caméra du téléphone. Vous trouvez normal que l’application demande toutes ces permissions?

− Ha, vous avez déjà installé l’application?

− Non, j’ai obtenu ces informations à partir du Google Play et je vous demande  surtout si vous trouvez ça nécessaire que la banque sache constamment où vous vous trouvez et puisse accéder à vos photos?

− Bin, c’est comme avec l’application Facebook.

− Peut-être, mais pourquoi la banque aurait-elle besoin de ces informations?

− Je n’en ai aucune idée.

− Cela ne vous dérange pas que la banque puisse activer la caméra de votre téléphone sans que vous le sachiez?

(Elle hésite.)

−  Je comprends. Vous n’êtes donc pas intéressé par essayer l’application?

− Pour toutes ces raisons, non merci.

Make sharing bookmarks delicious again

Del.icio.us shaarli theme

One of the pioneers of the web 2.0 was the amazing del.icio.us website. It made sharing bookmarks an incredibly rich and fun experience. With its catchy domain name and well conceived minimalist interface, it attracted a horde of web enthusiasts ready to share their best links with the rest of the world.

Although Flickr is often mentioned as the inventor of tagging, del.icio.us ingeniously applied folksonomy to bookmarking, making it the first social network that could compete with search engines in terms of content discovery. And yes, we’re talking about a time when Facebook was not even born, baby.

As you can feel, 12 years later, I’m still excited by the possibilities and the experience del.icio.us offered. Unfortunately, the rest of the story is a sad slow descent into crappy interface design choices and consecutive owner changes. Although it was fun for a while, by 2011, I was actively looking for an alternative. One that for sure I knew was not going to be sold. One that I could keep control over its development.

Luckily, when you’re angry at something on the web, there is a good chance other people are. And hopefully, something good pops out of it. I found my angry creative man ruling his own corner of the web under the name Seb Sauvage. Seb was angry at del.icio.us, stumbleupon, diigo and all the social bookmarking clones he had tried. So he coded his own in the way he always crafts his tools, in a Keep-It-Simple-and-Secure manner. Then released it to the world.

Shaarli, as in share links, is an open source bookmarking application written in php that allows you to keep, tag, organize and share your collections of bookmarks without hassle. It also does import from del.icio.us, so you can switch service easily. All you have to do is export an OPML file and import it in your Shaarli.

Why am I bringing this subject today?

Because, since the beginning of this year, del.icio.us has been actively pushing advertising without anybody realizing it. See this Twitter search (and screenshot), where hundreds of people are sharing the same link to sponsored content. Yes, people linked their delicious account with twitter and forgot about it.

del.icio.us spamming twitter

I had kept my old account alive as a trace of the past. But seeing that it was now used to promote products under my name, I went out to put an end to it and decided to inform others about it.

Ricardo, from Manufactura Independente, picked up the info and moved his account to his own instance of Shaarli. Then, we chatted with a few other designers on how the old delicious user experience needed to be revived. And Ricardo spent last Sunday to make our wish come true: making a delicious theme for Shaarli, like it’s 2004 all over again.

Shaarli is an amazing project now supported by a community of developers on Github. New features and improvements are added regularly. Although it does not have the same convenience as competitors in terms of social functionalities, it does provides an RSS feed so you can subscribe to your friends valuable links or connect it through IFFT or any service that supports it.

The web still needs to be organized. And more than ever it needs to be done in the open. Keeping notes and bookmarks is valuable information not just for oneself, but for everyone. Let’s just not make this a profitable business for one company by keeping it behind walled gardens. It does not have to be complex. The web from 2004 still works great today.

So here are my booksmarks, free for all, since 2004.