Choosing The Best RAID Level

brlThere are many RAID levels one may choose from, they all have their good and bad sides, and it all depends on what the user needs. It is very important to know what to look in RAID, and how much the repair can cost, because RAID 10 recovery may not be as convenient as Raid 5 recovery.

The first thing to consider is the performance one needs, since some features may be more important for certain business areas than others. In addition, some RAID choices have more capacity, so that is another thing to look for. Moreover, some business cannot afford for their system to be down, so they choose more available types. Just like with any other purchase, cost matters, but it does not mean that expensive RAID must be the best one. On the other hand, the repair can also cost a lot, and RAID 10 recovery may be more complicated than RAID 5 recovery, so it would cost more, as well. It is hard to tell which level is the best one, since some are better in performances, other in speed, and so one. However, it is hard to find the one that has all necessary features one may need.

Tips When Conducting RAID Recovery

If you have confidence in your ability to carry out a successful RAID repair, there are a number of things that you ought to remember. These tips will help make your effort towards recovery less bumpy. First, when you have proof that one of the member disks of the RAID array is showing signs of damage, you ought to be sure that you will not use it for recovery. If you do, your efforts might just go to waste. Hence, it is important for you to watch out for any symptoms of a dysfunctional disk. It may usually make unusual noises.

In the event that it is beyond your means to not use a physically ruined disk, you will need to take an important precaution. You may wish to create an image file in the event that you are using recovery software, which allows for this feature. It is also important to label the member disks, controller ports and cables which will come in handy in assembly after recovery. It is also important to remember that in RAID repair, you will have to make an allowance for the amount of data to be restored in a free disk space. When you follow these directions, the recovery process should not be complex.

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Open Source Help Desk To Generate Customers’ Goodwill

gcgwEvery company survives or flourishes only with very sound customer service. Invariably, we find customers complaining that they had put in the request and had not received the solution or support in a timely manner. We have all been the victim of poor customer service at one time or another. If something like open source help desk, one can alleviate these problems, it is no wonder that people would rather use the software than hire a number of employees to perform the same tasks.

For instance, the help desk is where your requests are logged. If it were to follow the old process, the support can reach the customer anywhere between 24 hours to 4 days’ time. That is a long time to wait for help. This is true of people calling in with their problem or sending it out as an email. This type of time lag has cost companies dearly in lost revenue and good will. With open source help desk software, the basic structure or work flow from the customer to the service center has been smoothed out. Therefore, efficiency levels improved and customer satisfaction was ensured. Of course, open source help desk is only one such software that offers the possibility of higher productivity.

Open Source Help Desk To Improve Work Flow

The usual workflow to the help desk is from customers through emails, phone calls, or directly from the web site. The departments that are reached include the general staff, the sales team, tech support, and accounting. In each of these cases, there has to be an effective process so that queries are address within a certain time frame so that the customer is loyal to the company. You can say that help desk is crucial for the success of any enterprise. This is why open source help desk has achieved the popularity it has. The advantage to it exists in the availability of the source code. On the one hand, we have software that we can only use.

On the other hand, we have software that can be manipulated to address our own specific requirements. Naturally, we would prefer the latter.  This allows a certain level of customization that is always welcome.  For instance, if you can customize the open source help desk software to cater to the needs of a single proprietorship company just as well as a large enterprise staffing over 10,000 employees, there is a higher chance that people would choose the open source help desk instead of any other previously availably software.

Use As You Wish With Open Source Help Desk

The global economy has thrown open a plethora of enterprises producing and marketing a variety of products. Each one of these enterprises depends on good will of the customer. The only way to achieve this is by remembering the importance of serving the customer to his or her satisfaction. Providing support through open source help desk may go a long way towards generating that good will. The reason for this is that there is a substantial difference between the earlier help desk software and the more current open source.

Thanks to the Internet, we see a number of users across the globe seeking the latest software that is also well documented. In some cases, people download help desk software that has to be used as is with regard to design or its uses. In other cases such as open source help desk, you may be able to download it and use it as you wish. In short, you can make the changes to it because you have the source code in your hands. Of course, someone who is not technologically savvy may not be able to do anything but use it as it is. Therefore, all it would need is to have someone in the company who can make changes to the source code so that it can best serve your own particular needs.

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Choosing Between Various RAID Levels

rrRAID 2 functions using a technique called striping. In this type of arrangement, the information is allocated to multiple disks within an array. Unlike RAID 1, RAID 2 does not produce a duplicate of the information that will be stored in every disk. This level is considered to be suitable when transferring large volumes of information. Nevertheless, this type of arrangement is considered out-of-date because there are already hard disks that can function in the same way but are not too intricate. RAID 3 is just like RAID 2 in the sense that it is no longer considered by many people. This type of arrangement has a certain complexity and is classified on the outdated category. RAID 3 works by striping the data and allocate these to a specific disk. This disk will hold the parity information. The computer system can be slow because this type of set up cannot handle multiple requests for data access. RAID recovery is required if the data becomes inaccessible. RAID 4 works through a method termed as block level striping. This type of arrangement permits every disk within an array to work independently. One of the pros of RAID 4 is that it is efficient in handling several requests. Thus, the computer system that uses this set up can have better performance.

Gathering Information About RAID

You have to gather more information about RAID if you are planning to this kind of storage device. It is essential to understand the capabilities and limitations of this technology before making a final decision. Many people depend on the RAID technology for data storage and data backup. Nevertheless, it is vital to know that RAID comes in different forms. There are various RAID levels. Each arrangement works in a distinctive way. The method that each uses to RAID level store and back up data can influence the performance of the computer system. You have to understand the function of each RAID level and as well as its corresponding advantages and disadvantages. This information will guide you in choosing the most suitable RAID level for you. You will not find it difficult to gather information about RAID. This is because there are a lot of sources that are readily available. Searching the internet is the most convenient way to gain more knowledge about this storage technology. You will come across thousands of articles that discuss RAID levels, RAID recovery and many other topics that are related to RAID. There are also community sites that are dedicated in helping people understand modern technologies like RAID.

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Lifestyle Changes As Part Of Remedies For Snoring

rfsLifestyle changes are mostly likely to change your state of snoring; more effectively than any other remedy. Take for instance loss of weight, for those who have fatty tissues all over their bodies, reducing a bit in the back of the throat ease snoring. Doing some exercise is part of the lifestyle changes that serve as remedies for snoring. Take a walk everyday or jog around for some hours and see the difference that is going to occur in your lifestyle; no more snoring as this tones your muscles at the throat. For the smokers, you are advised to quit smoking to make sure that the airways are not blocked. This causes irritation of the membrane in both the nose and the throat hence leading to snoring. Many people like drinking alcohol during evening hours, for the snorers; it is advisable to quit drinking at those hours or even completely. Sleeping pills are not advisable because they leave you sleeping all night and snoring all night; the best advice is, if you can, stop taking the pills, playing a good lifestyle change as part of remedies for snoring. You may want to consider a good mouthpiece, of course, like: as a prime example of a quality one. Choose a good and better sleeping position. Avoid sleeping on your back as it does block your breathing airways. Lifestyle changes being part of the remedies for snoring will always come fast in a situation that is not chronic. Make use of the guidelines for the best sleep.

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Tips Towards Stopping Panic Attacks

Statistics have it that in United States of America there are ten million reported cases of panic attacks per year. This is somehow consoling to the people who suffer in silence with the thoughts that they are alone. They should note that there are very many people who would love to stop panic attacks and are really struggling with it. Any time that you experience a panic attack it is important to make sure that you are composed and you can then take deep and controlled breath which will help stop panic attacks. Your body will loosen up and you will feel relaxed at once.

Other than that, it is important to isolate yourself for it will be quite hard to stop panic attacks with people all round. Get a serene and quiet place to make sure that you can concentrate and manage to stop panic attacks. If you drink lots of cold water, you will also feel relieved and relaxed. Being prepared all the times is important; having water with you will make the process to stop panic attacks easier. As you do all this, you should be focused and determined to stop panic attacks that are a major threat to your health. If you follow the stipulated steps, you will definitely stop panic attacks effectively.


Medication Free Ways To Stop Panic Attacks

Nowadays, there is great deal of interest of trying to stop panic attacks without use of medicine. The sole reason is that the victims do not want to be dependent on depressants and the tranquilizers. People love to handle fear and anxiety situations naturally. A counter-intuitive approach is one of the best measures that ought to be taken. This just implies that instead of evading or running from the real panic attack problem, you face it head-on and try to figure out solutions. You can try inducing the feelings of fear and anxiety then managing them appropriately. This will help prepare you for future incidences of the same scenarios.

If the same feeling befalls you in the future, recognize it, know its causes and remember that it cannot harm you. You can recite the problem and reassure yourself that you are not in danger. You should keep an outer focus and avoid concentrating on the inner symptoms. There is no doubt that you can stop panic attacks using only natural techniques. Understanding that the attacks cannot cause harm and it is your fear holding you will get yourself on a better position of dealing with the whole issue. This will restore back your freedom and keep you away from fear of attack, travel, getting stuck in traffic and avoiding existing in a trapped cage.

What To Do In Case Of A Panic Attack

It is no joke when you see or hear someone go into a panic attack. So when you see first-hand someone experiencing such, then you should do your very best to stop panic attacks while it’s still early on. If it is possible, take the triggering factor away from the person or get the person away from the causative factor. But that is not the only thing you can do to stop panic attacks. The next thing is to intervene and control the physical symptoms brought about by the attack. Usually he or she will experience shortness of breath and chest pain. It is best that you first rule out the possibility of a heart attack. Repeated shortness of breath is synonymous to hyperventilating wherein too much of your carbon dioxide has already been released from the body. You must give him or her a paper bag to breathe in so that carbon dioxide will be taken back in. If left untreated, it could lead to an imbalance in your blood’s pH which could further lead to tingling sensation all over the body. With these in mind, even if you are just a regular citizen walking down the road and there is something in a state of panic on the other side of the road, you will know how to stop panic attacks.

Use Of Self-Help Groups To Stop Panic Attacks

images-15Suffering from panic attacks is an experience that makes people to lose a bit of control of their lives. For example, when a person does not feel at ease going to a mall where the attack gets him often, he can be said to have lost a bit of control of his life. The feeling that one gets when under attack is not a good one either. Such people are usually motivated to look for help from all quarters that may seem able to guide them.

To stop panic attacks, somebody may choose to go for qualified help from a doctor. This is a good step as the condition is treatable. However, a lot more people look for help from self-help groups. This is an avenue that has a lot of benefits to sufferers. The motivation of working in a group usually gives all the confidence that is needed to overcome the challenge. Also, the identity that one has with others who share in the fate is more like a factor that creates cohesion that builds the spirit of  wishing to defeat the problem. Thus, this may be a good bet for people who need the extra push in motivation and those who do not have much to spend on treatment. These groups may just help you to beat the problem while costing you very little.

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Siggraph Highlights The Importance Of 3D

Aside from the professional culture of high-powered computer workstations and whiz-bang 3-D graphics that have, in recent years, dominated the space at the semi-annual Siggraph trade show, another culture exists, one whose roots date back to the ’70s where not just technologists but scientists, mathematicians, digital artists and teachers came together to exchange ideas and co-mingle in a vat of cyberculture. “It’s the closest thing I have to a tribe,” says David Warner, founder of the Center for Really Neat Research (CRNR) at Syracuse University.

For him, Siggraph is more than a workstation show. Rather, it’s a place to keep the cyberculture alive. “I’ve been coming to Siggraph for many years, and last year I noticed that there was a profound lack of human-focused technology.” By this, Mr. Warner means technologies for people with special needs, such as the disabled or children. In search of such technologies, Mr. Warner founded CRNR in 1996 to develop computer interfaces. Soon after, he teamed up with Ed Lipson, a physics professor at Syracuse University. The two later co-founded MindTel, a limited liability company focused on developing intelligent communication products for healthcare, education and recreation. While the two organizations are not directly related, CRNR is one vehicle for MindTel technologies. Cyberarium is another.

Housed within a retired fraternity house at CRNR, Cyberarium is a sort of think tank for a number of elements from programming to design, electronics and writing. The common goal among the researchers there is to rethink and reinvent communications technology and to apply it to social interaction, both personal and professional. At one end lies interface systems for the disabled. At the other end lies medical communications technology, where interface ideas are applied to telemedicine.

At Siggraph this week, CRNR will bring parts of Cyberarium to the masses, showcasing Web-based educational software and low-cost science-exploration kits for grades K-12. “Siggraph is our coming out party for our technologies,” says Mr. Lipson. In a building far from the commercial venue of high-powered workstations, kids will get hands-on experience in computer graphics and interactive technologies. “Our model is to lead by example,” says Mr. Warner. “We take our human interface technologies, which are pretty much giveaways, and empower kids with them at prices less than video games.” Such activities this week include building computer interfaces out of inexpensive components, computer programming, and a community outreach center for educators.”

As earlier noted, Cyberarium is also a hub for telemedicine research. A medical doctor schooled in neuroscience, Mr. Warner, early in his career, latched onto telemedicine as a way to help the disabled. “The disabled taught me a lot about how the human mind could communicate its intentions to the outside and modulate biological energy,” says Mr. Warner. MindTel was formed in 1997 in order to bring such technologies to market. The company develops cost-effective hardware and software products for people with disabilities so that they may use computers and the World Wide Web. “Computers are becoming more important, and we don’t want people to be denied access to the Web just because they can’t use a mouse,” says Mr. Lipson.

Ol skool times - 2005 At Siggraph!

Ol skool times – 2005 At Siggraph!

MindTel’s technologies are either in beta or the prototyping stages. The hardware products include sensors, transducers, and computer interface modules. In conjunction with the hardware is beta software called NeatTools, a visual-programming environment for interfacing hardware and software modules. The NeatTools system was designed to be more flexible and cheaper than existing technologies, with which Mr. Warner had previously experimented at a cost which he said fell in the tens of thousands of dollars. Once it is commercially available, the NeatTools interface will look simple. One example could be an interface that resembles the panel of a stereo receiver.

As part of the entire NeatTools system are generic interfaces called TNGs (pronounced “things”; it is an acronym for “totally neat gadgets”), which were built with electronics from Radio Shack and other components suppliers for less than $200. A current product, TNG-3, which was designed by Mr. Lipson, is a 16-channel device that receives both digital and analog signals. At its heart lies a microcontroller circuit that lets TNGs capture signals created by body movements, such as blinking eyes or twitching cheek muscles. The signals are converted into a stream of data that NeatTools understands, and then translated into computer commands.

Evidence of this technology is in use today by a young disabled gentleman by the name of Eyal Sherman. When he was five years old, Mr. Sherman suffered a stroke, which left him a severe quadriplegic. His communication is restricted to yes and no questions or lip-reading. In 1996, Messrs. Warner and Lipson developed a headset for Mr. Sherman that consisted of several sensors stuck to Mr. Sherman’s face with a sticky substance. The sensors registered muscular impulses and sent the information to the initial TNG then called TNG 1, which ported the information into the computer. Each sensor registered a channel of information.

Today, Mr. Sherman works on a computer by way of a chin joystick, and cheek sensors, which is attached to TNG-3. The joystick system uses mathematical principles and continuous flow of data from TNG-3, which lets Mr. Sherman control the computer mouse in a virtual manner; that is, he positions the cursor on a virtual keyboard.

Currently in development is TNG-4, which has additional digital channels that sense bi-directional signals. Under the control of NeatTools, TNG-4 can specify where signals go and dynamically change them. The underlying goal at MindTel is to make affordable products. “We don’t focus on the disabled as a market,” agree the company’s founders. Aside from helping people, the other goal is to make money via the education and healthcare markets, which could disseminate the technologies at affordable prices. For example, TNG-3 could realistically sell for about $100, says Mr. Lipson.

MindTel isn’t like traditional high-tech companies that operate on a specific business model. Even though certain projects are close to becoming commercially available, the company isn’t focused on attracting the high-tech community. “Right now we are waiting to be discovered, and are not taking an aggressive role except to develop our technologies,” says Mr. Warner.”But, we are poised for a rapid ascent if we find suitable partners.”

And, don’t mention the word patents. MindTel is adverse to them. “They make sense when you are ready to go to market,” says Mr. Lipson, who notes that the company’s approach is to get its technologies, such as software, into the public domain by way of freebies. He isn’t worried about others infringing on their products, but rather is more concerned over someone preventing them from their goals.

MindTel is privately funded. Additional monies are coming by way of various organizations. One is a $1.6 million contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to build wearable computers for detecting landmines via body sensors. “Our thing is to take signals from the body or the environment and process these to make something happen within the realm of the computer,” says Mr. Lipson.

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Area 51 Studios – Kickin’ Space

Area 51 artists had already done a version of the Gemini capsule for another television project, so they brought some images to their meeting with Farino. Tim McHugh, visual-effects supervisor at Area 51, says, “He looked at the image and asked, `That’s a model, right?’ And I said, `Well, yeah, it’s a model of sorts–but it’s a CG model.’” A few days later, Farino called and asked McHugh if the studio would like to build a CG version of the Mercury.

The trickiest shot Area 51 worked on, says McHugh, was of Buzz Aldrin riding on the Gemini capsule. “We built a complete astronaut suit. It was all done by hand,” he says. Their first thoughts were to digitize the astronaut suit, he says, so a glove was sent out for scanning as an experiment. “But the data we got back was so messy, it wasn’t worth it.”

spacepicInstead, Dave Carlson hand-modeled the suit. McHugh says they sold Hanks and the executive producer, Tony To, on the CG version of the astronaut by first completing the glove, then shooting an actor in an astronaut suit in front of a blue screen and replacing his hand with the CG version. “We sent it over in the daily. Tom and Tony looked at the image and were wondering why they were even looking at it. When we told them the glove was CG, they backed up and looked at it again” says McHugh. “They couldn’t believe we had pasted in this synthetic glove.”

For a shot of the Mercury flight, Area 51 created everything from the ship to the launch tower, says McHugh. But his favorite part of the sequence was the reentry when the ship’s parachute opened, and it plunged back to earth. “They were going to take a capsule to the desert, launch it off a tower, blow the parachutes, and hope it landed OK. It was a very expensive proposition. But we did some test shots, and they decided to do it all in CG. I don’t think the shot would have been in the show if we hadn’t figured out this technique for doing it,” he says.

To create the cloth for the parachute, artists used a combination of bump maps, surface deformations, and morph targets. “To make the shot even more challenging, the parachute had to travel through a cloud layer, which was multiple planes of transparency” notes McHugh.

The results, however, were more than worth the effort that Area 51 artists put into the shot. “We’ve had people ask us, `What exactly did you guys do in those shots?’ And we say, `Oh, everything.’”


In the movie Armageddon, an asteroid is threatening to destroy the earth, and it’s up to actor Bruce Willis and his crew to save mankind. Over at Dream Quest Images (Simi Valley, CA), the CG artists had their own mission for the movie: create an asteroid, shuttles, and other space effects so convincing that viewers will buy into the story line.

As it turned out, the toughest part of this challenge was creating the asteroid. To start, Dream Quest made a two-foot maquette, according to Richard Hoover, visual-effects supervisor for Armageddon. The maquette was scanned and turned into a “huge” NURBS model. For further modeling and adjustments, artists used Alias/ Wavefront’s PowerAnimator. But to create and render the particles and gases emitting from the asteroid, Dream Quest wrote proprietary software (Jim Callahan was the primary developer, notes Hoover). “With our software, you can fly right through the particles without them getting grainy,” he says. “It also does object recognition. Plus we put a bunch of different animation handles on the particles. We also did some spectacular things with turbulence and forces that move the gas around. It was a learning curve. Every week we were able to do more.”

Another seemingly simple but actually quite difficult effect was handling the star fields. In fact, Hoover says, Dream Quest wound up developing its own star renderer, written by Sean Jenkins. Says Hoover: “Typically, when you render stars and you have to apply motion blur, they don’t work well together. The stars get dim when you blur, and then when you stop, they get bright again. So Sean developed this program that alleviated the change in between motion and stop and made it an even exposure.”

All the stars are accurate, too, says Hoover. “If an astronomer looked in detail at the sky, he would see that the stars are correctly positioned.”

The shuttles in the movie are a mix of physical and CG models because it was often easier to motion-track the CG shuttle, notes Hoover. He says they took extra pains to make sure the two looked exactly the same. “We did a shot with two shuttles–one was a model, one was CG. We put them onscreen and compared and figured out what we had to do to make the CG look exactly like the physical model.”

One step was to take a different approach to texture mapping, an endeavor headed up by artist Mark Segal. Says Hoover: “Instead of photographing the model with still film and scanning in those photographs to create textures, we took the motion-picture camera and shot frames of the shuttle 360 degrees around, horizontal and vertical, and scanned them like we would a plate. Then we tiled and loaded them in.”

The results? “We showed the [CG and physical] models to people who didn’t know which was which, and no one could tell.”


Two huge comets are on a crash course with the Earth. How does the U.S. government and the population at large deal with impending doom? That’s the question posed by the movie Deep Impact. But over at visual-effects house Industrial Light & Magic (ILM; San Rafael, CA), CG artists were dealing with a different question posed by the movie’s producers: How do you make a CG comet look both real and menacing?

“We were told up front that the comet is a character,” says Bill George, co-visual effects supervisor for the movie along with Scott Ferrar. “It’s `the bad guy’ so it had to be mean and nasty and frightening–yet the producers wanted it to look realistic. We did a lot of research. Basically, a comet is a big fuzz ball. So we started following down that path, but after awhile, we realized it just didn’t look threatening–it looked fluffy. So we decided to make the rock more visual and stripped away some of the layers.”

While it may seem like particles would be a natural choice for a phenomenon such as a comet, ILM instead used a patch system (although some particles were used for extra detail). “We initially started using particles, but then we discovered that just a teeny adjustment changed the look of the whole thing,” says George. “We found that the patch system worked a lot faster.”

As such, the comet is actually a wireframe model layered with transparency and other maps. ILM used fractals to impart motion, explains Ben Snow, computer-graphics supervisor. “If you’ve got a texture map, you can change the way you look into that map using a fractal-change technique. If you’re indexing into a texture map, you can use a fractal to modify the point that you’re sampling in the texture. And if you’re animating with fractals, which we were, it changes even more.”

ILM did use particles extensively for one scene, notes George, when the astronauts land on the comet to try to blow it up. The surface of the comet needed some element to give it a sense of energy and atmosphere. After several trials, the producers decided to use fake snow. But as it turns out, just as stars can seem deceptively simple to produce, so can snow. “Scott and I thought, `Let’s shoot and we’ll add the snow later.’ The problem is, you set all these procedural things, like speed, movement, and jitter, and then the snowflakes looked like they were alive–kind of like bees. It was really hard to make them look like they were just being randomly blown around by the wind.”

Trial and error paid off, though, and ILM got the look it was after for both the comet and the snow. Overall, ILM artists created about 129 comet shots for Deep Impact. Of the work, George notes, “All the shots were challenging.”


Several special-effects houses worked on Lost in Space, the movie version of the popular 1960s sci-fi TV series. The Magic Camera Co. (MCC; Shepperton, England) created one of the movie’s more extensive scenes, the opening 3 1/2-minute space sequence in which Major Don West (Matt LeBlanc) and crew go to battle in CG Bubble Fighters against terrorists, also flying in CG ships called Sedition Raiders. The mission was to protect the Jump Ring, a structure under development for transporting spacecraft. That, too, was computer-generated.

MCC created all the spaceship models from scratch using conceptual artwork supplied by the Lost in Space production department. To model the Jump Ring, MCC artists used NewTek’s LightWave. The Bubble Fighters and the Sedition Raiders were modeled and animated with Kinetix’s 3D Studio Max.

Actually putting the actors in their CG fighters and matching the 3D animation and film proved to be tricky tasks, however. First the actors were filmed on a green-screen stage using a specially built remote-control gimbal rig that served as the cockpit, says Angie Wills, digital-effects line producer at MCC. MCC artists then constructed the rest of the Bubble Fighter around the cockpit using 3D Studio Max.

To match the 3D animation and film footage, MCC developed a special plug-in that lets artists take data from the motion-control rig and import it into Max, says Alan Marques, digital-effects supervisor at MCC. “The rig came with its own unique, specially written software that gives you the virtual camera position in space. Instead of building an entire replica of the rig in the computer model to try to get that data, the software can tell you where the camera is in meters from a zero point. It will give you the xyz coordinates of the camera position in space, and it also will give you the xyz for the camera’s target.”

Max supports a target-based camera but, unfortunately, cannot load in raw ASCII data, which is what the software provided–”literally, a stream of data for the camera position for every frame,” says Marques. So to get that data into Max, MCC wrote a plug-in.

The sequence was shot with an anamorphic lens, which squeezes the image horizontally, adds Marques. “If you load that into a CG system, it has no idea about lens curvature and nothing will line up” he says. “To remove that, we basically made up a black-and-white grid that we shot for every lens on the shoot. We positioned the grid a set distance from the lens so that we could see how the grid lines distorted with curvature for each shot. Then we used Elastic Reality and made a warping mesh based on the distortion of the grid. It tracked each curved line and made an appropriate line that was straight.”

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Animated GIFs Making A Comeback???

GIF files are capable of displaying only 256 colors at a time. At first glance, this limitation appears to be unfortunate. But in practice it isn’t. By intentionally restricting the number of available colors, file lengths are kept to an absolute minimum and the smaller the files, the faster they will transmit over the Internet. Also, the ability to select the smallest possible color palette within a GIF comes in handy when creating images that have far less than 256 colors. If a GIF image has only four colors, its color palette can be dropped from 256 to four colors without sacrificing color fidelity And smaller palettes mean smaller files.


That's right. It's awesome.

That’s right. It’s awesome.

A wide variety of free GIF animations are available on the Internet. However, for those wanting to create their own, personalized animations, the animation-building process is relatively simple, especially when a few basic rules are observed. They are: 1) keep all Web-based animations to the smallest possible size; 2) use the least number of colors; 3) optimize before saving animations to disk; and 4) and use animations sparingly.

Making animated GIF files from scratch is a two-part process. It initially involves using an image-editing application like Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, Picture Publisher or PhotoImpact to create a sequence of frames. Each of the frames in the animation differs slightly from the preceding one. The differences may involve color changes or the movement and size of objects or text within the frame. The logo animation, for example, is made up of text that changes colors while moving across the frame from right to left. For this example, the animation consisted of 10 frames.


For Internet compatibility, the individual frames are converted into the form that is most often used by Web browsers. This procedure also sets the best possible dither pattern in addition to defining sections of the image that will become transparent. The animated sequence is then saved to disk as individual GIF files, each file representing one frame of the total animation. At this point, most of the hard work has been completed.

In step two, the individual GIF files are combined within an animation-building application to form a single GIF animation file with a header, color palette information and two or more control blocks, depending on the number of frames. While this may sound complicated, the actual process has been automated by applications like Automation Shop by JASC, PhotoImpact GIF Animator by Ulead and Alchemy Mindworks’ GIF Construction Set.

Ulead’s GIF Animator, for example, uses two wizards to walk novice animators through the procedure. The Animation Wizard begins the process by selecting the individual GIF files that will be included. It then determines whether the graphic content is text-based or photo images.

The final step in the process gives users the option of choosing how fast the animation will run. Once the animation has been assembled, it can be previewed for speed and content.

Following assembly, the Optimization Wizard reduces the color palette to the smallest possible; it automatically removes any unnecessary data or comment notations and then saves the completed GIF animation to disk. That’s all there is to it.

In addition to offering wizards, most animation packages include provisions for using file formats other than GIF89a. They also let users incorporate video, resize frames, choose sophisticated transitions between frames and add text. Animation Workshop, for instance, provides zoom tools for a very close look at individual frames and transitions.

In addition to providing wizards, several animation applications also offer automated utilities that create banners with moving text. In the GIF Construction Set, for example, creating an LED sign of the type used in video stores and the stock exchange is as simple as supplying the appropriate words and choosing how fast it will display.


Applications like 3D Studio Max, LightWave and Ray Dream Studio come in handy when more sophisticated GIF animations are needed. These high-end programs provide numerous tools and utilities for the professional animator, including ray tracing to simulate accurate lighting details, inverse kinematics for integrated human motion and extensive texture mapping capabilities. Spaceward Graphics’ Satori FilmFx 64 is also an ideal choice for creating complex animations.

For those not wanting to create their own animations, free GIFs are available at numerous graphics sites on the Internet. For instance, Andy’s Art Attack, offers three categories of animated GIF files, covering everything from 3D objects to animated text and words.

Additional animations are available at Brown Bag Graphics, the Venus Animated GIFs Archive and Animated GIFs Online. For a nominal monthly fee, Club Unlimited offers over 6000 GIF animations online, with an interactive bulletin board, chat room and animation tutorials.

Once created or downloaded, GIF files are easily integrated into internet Web pages. They’re simply placed within the page, just like any other graphic. No special parameters have to be set. Nothing has to be uploaded to the host Web server.

One or two well-placed GIF animations add sparkle and verve to otherwise static Web pages. They focus attention to the important features of the page without distracting from the content.

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Bringing 3D To The Game

There are also numerous plug-ins available for most image editing programs that automate the shadow creation process. They can be used to create very complex shadows, including various types of drop, perspective and color shadows. It’s amazing how effective drop shadows, particularly very subtle drop shadows, are in creating the illusion of depth.

Besides simulated 3D, there’s true 3D. To understand how true 3D can be used in imaging, it’s important to understand the fundamental differences between 2D, which is generally considered imaging, and 3D, which is frequently referred to as modeling. In a 2D composition you can’t change perspective. When something is cut from a 2D composition, there isn’t any digital data behind it.

With 3D, you can actually move around within the dimensions of the composition. When working with 2D imaging being composited in a program that supports layering, you’re actually working in 3D. Cutting an object on one layer reveals whatever is on the layer behind it. But 3D goes well beyond that, to the ability to navigate within the composition without being confined to layers.


Imagine controlling a small remote camera that can venture directly into the composition. That is, in effect, the fundamental concept behind any virtual world. You don’t actually step into it, but you can maneuver around in it, visually. In a virtual world, it’s possible look behind any object in a composition to see what’s blocked from view. As long as the virtual world is still in the computer, the viewing course, content, composition and lighting can be varied as desired. Virtual worlds for scientific exploration and entertainment are built with 3D modeling programs.

On the screen, a 2D and a 3D image may appear to be identical. That’s one of the things makes 3D effective for imaging. Another is that electronic photographic images, called bitmapped images, can be mapped or “glued” onto the various elements in the composition. A three-dimensional cyber-room could be created, with actual family photos on the wall. As you take a virtual walk through the room, the images would change perspective, just as they would if you walked through a real room.

Another example might be to take a beach ball and map a toddler’s face on it. The image would look like the photograph but have all the shape characteristics of the ball. It’s even possible to paint directly onto these objects, with special 3D paint programs. With 3D, it’s simple matter of building the scene and capturing it, including the various bitmapped images that might be part of it, from different angles. The result is a series of 2D images that look like they were taken from different perspectives. Once captured in 2D, these individual frames can no longer be explored in 3D, but all the 2D imaging capabilities would work on them.

On the high end, programs like 3D Studio Max can cost several thousand dollars. They can be used to create complete movies where all the sets are virtual and the actor’s faces are bitmapped in video onto mannequins. They can generate projects with tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of individual frames. But they are difficult to master and require sophisticated Windows NT systems.


But there’s another category of 3D programs that are considerably less expensive than the high-end programs yet are very effective for certain types of 3D imaging. Not only are they less expensive, but they are also easier to use and require considerably less processing power.

Live Picture recently introduced Reality Studio, a Windows-based software package designed to produce interactive 3D environments. It’s a comprehensive package that has been optimized for the World Wide Web. While it makes it easy to work in 3D, that’s not the main reason that it’s being mentioned. The real point here is that it’s targeted at traditional 2D graphic users, such as photographers and graphic artists, that are interested in transitioning to 3D.

Seriously frekay action.

Seriously frekay action.3d

Reality Studio has some of the characteristics of traditional 3D programs and some characteristics of imaging programs. It can build 3D elements and it can take electronic still images from different sources, including digital cameras and scanners, and combine them into virtual scenes. Reality Studio makes it simple to build impressive Websites that let visitors navigate in cyber-environments. It can be used to create home pages for such things as real estate walk-throughs, online catalogs, promotional pieces, entertainment, education and a variety of other business and personal applications. It has a lot of power for less than $400.

Reality Studio includes Live Picture’s PhotoVista, a panoramic scene builder which is also available as a stand-alone program. PhotoVista and another panoramic scene builder, Enroute’s QuickStitch 360, use imaging techniques to represent and manipulate 3D objects. They make it possible to take a series of individual photographs and create panoramic scenes. While these programs are relatively inexpensive, around $70, they are very sophisticated. They analyze each image in the series to determine common areas. They then adjust perspective variations, correct motion blur and create a single image of the various overlapping shots. The final image is one continuous scene that looks like it was taken with a 180 [degrees] or 360 [degrees] camera.

While they use images as their source, rather than 3D modeled elements, these stitch programs can also be used to create 3 objects. Rather than shooting a series of images that can be combined into 180 [degrees] 270 [degrees] or 360 [degrees] scenes, it’s possible to shoot around an object from all sides. Those images can them be “stitched” together to come up with 3D object. It’s possible for a viewer or Website visitor to rotate that object to see all around it. That makes it an ideal way to illustrate products or other objects on-line.

These are just some of the options available to add depth to an otherwise two-dimensional image. Whether using a comprehensive 3D modeling program or a simple stitch program, both figuratively and literally, 3D capabilities add a dimension to imaging that just wasn’t there before.

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The Common Causes Of Hard Drive Clicking Noises

(It’s the bane of every graphic designer – a hard drive failure that wipes out your images. But you can help yourself before something bad happens)

"Clean room is where it's at, says Weathers, pictured here as an Alien ;)

“Clean room is where it’s at, says Weathers, pictured here as an Alien ;)

The hard drive is probably one of the most sensitive parts of a computer. It is also the one which can give you the most headaches when it has decided to die on you. And why not; it is the thing storing all your data – all those important files, photos, videos and music. In one instant, once your hard drive has failed, you could lose all those things – sometimes, without the hope of recovering them. A clicking hard drive problem, along with other different kinds of hard drive noises, is indicative that there might be a problem with your system. This is now time for you to do a backup so you can hold on to your files once your hard drive becomes inaccessible.

Aside from creating backups of your files, you can also try to recover your hard drive. You just have to be able to tinker with the insides of your hard drive. Most importantly, you need to be able to determine the cause of the hard drive clicking noise. This will make it easy to look for the correct solutions.

“We never suggest people open a drive that has clicking or buzzing sounds,” says Jason Walters, data recovery technician for Irvine, CA’s Hard Disk Recovery Services. “Trying to open a very sensitive piece of electronics like a hard disk is a recipe for disaster.”

Walters says that the most common cause of a clicking hard drive is when the drive heads are hitting an internal head stop. This is often called the click of death. This could also be due to a faulty circuit board. So, if you are using an external hard drive, a clicking noise may be due to a loose connection. Be sure to check for a faulty data cable or adapter. Some graphic card drivers are also known to cause clicking sounds in the hard drive. It can be resolved by changing your card drivers.

The Effects
Hard drive clicking can sometimes be fatal to the functioning of your PC. That is why it should not be overlooked. Hard drive clicking is a herald that complications are on their way. The clicking sounds are to be considered as a warning or a way of acknowledging that immediate attention is required on the issue. Hard drive clicking occurs due to problems related to either hardware or software of the PC. The condition is a situation which often leads to bad or failing drives. The Click of Death normally occurs when the hard drive heads cannot read where the required tracks are, on the platters. In such a situation, the heads keep moving until the actuator arm hits a physical stop. Actually, this is the sound of the actuator arm hitting that physical stop. This stop prevents the reader head from leaving the platters. The reason for such a situation is normally a fault with the head or a fault with the hard drive circuit board. When the clicking is identified as a click of death, the best option left for the user is to use a data recovery system to get backups of whatever information possible. It will enable the user to take the platters out of the faulty drive and recover the data. Replacing the circuit board of the faulty hard drive is another option. If not, the platters should be moved from the defective hard drive to a working hard drive. Prompt action will minimize the damage that a Click of Death would cause to a PC.

The hard drive is one of the most important components in a computer system. After the motherboard and processor, the hard drive keeps the operating system and all programs installed on the computer. All the data on the computer is stored here, which makes it very important to keep it from getting damaged. If the hard drive develops any problems, such as a clicking hard drive, the computer does not as well as it should, and in the worst case, fails to run at all.

There are different programs and utilities that can be used to scan a clicking hard drive for problems and then attempt to correct the identified ones. The commonly used are the disk cleanup tool, error checker, disk defragmenter, and error scanner programs. All these are freely available on the Internet, though their use will require one to follow instructions. In many cases, one can run the initial diagnostics to varying degrees of success. If the problems are indeed able to be handled by these programs, the better. It save you time on having to call the professionals, and money you would have spent on the service.

However, some clicking hard drives mask deeper and bigger trouble. In such a case, only an expert computer technician can help you out, even though it may cost a pretty penny.

It is possible to stop that hard drive clicking sound from your computer. It is a very bad sign that can lead you to a computer crash that can make you lose a lot of information and data that can be imperative in your business. It is not proper to say that a clicking hard drive is in bad shape or it has already crashed. There are noise repair services that can repair such a problem .You can repair the clicking hard drive on your own or you can also take it to some expert of which it is the best option for you stand a high chance of getting your data retrieved.

With a clicking hard drive, you need not worry anymore for there are very many service providers that can help you out in your problem. The market has been over flooded with very many service providers that help you out to make sure that your hard drive problem is solved well and solved on time so that your life can continue well. There are very many websites that are a guide to fixing the problem at home but it is insisted that a professional need to be at your call to make sure that you succeed in fixing the problem.

“Calling a pro is basically the only surefire way to recover your failing drive,” says Walters. “Any DIY move is probably going to do more harm than good.”

The hard drive is responsible for storing all your information on the computer such as programs, music, pictures, and documents. Inside the hard drive is a stack of platters, which look like CDs or DVDs that are sold at the local store. The platters are the components responsible for storing all the information, and if they get damaged, the result is a clicking hard drive. The platters can spin at speeds of up to 7,000RPM (revolutions per minute), making those very sensitive pieces of equipment. As such, even a small fall can cause irreparable damage.

Many a times, a crazy sound is the first sign of a failing hard drive. It is a sound that one cannot miss; a grinding or clicking sound that persists every time the hard drive is accessed. Now, the clicking hard drive comes to be as a result of bad read heads. The read heads are responsible for moving back and forth across the platters, reading the data. Once these heads fail, the clicking noise starts.

When such a scenario happens, shut down the system and call a professional hard drive repair company to come help you out. Any further use will cause data loss, sometimes permanent.

Read more about clicking and buzzing hard drive remedies here.

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