Hello again, virtual worlds (main website back up)

(cross posted from my WordPress.com blog*, creatively titled “Chameleonic Possession)

I stand next to my blob rock what I made

I stand next to my blob rock what I made

Here I am, on my standalone grid Haleakaloha, which isn’t very interesting and isn’t open for visitors, and up until yesterday, it wasn’t working very well because of a texture-reloading bug. Also, I’ve been struggling with Blender again, trying to learn it and not get discouraged.

Yesterday, SUCCESS, after getting some help, I installed an update that fixed my Open Sim grid. Today, SUCCESS, I made a blob. You may not think this is a big deal, and it’s a badly textured blob, but I made it, and I figured out what I wasn’t doing right that made it turn itself inside out (it was something called “flipped normals,” which will make the cool kids smirk knowingly). Tomorrow, SUCCESS at something, even if it’s rearranging the virtual furniture. I am unstoppable now, eh.

I bought a couple of books, and I’ve downloaded some tutorials to make a decent effort to finally teach myself Blender, and also Gimp, and also Open Sim/New World Studio. In the past, I’d progressed to the point where I’d made a mesh object that’s supposed to be a big rock, but got bogged down in trying to texture it correctly. Modeling it wasn’t difficult; where I got freaked out was in the tangle of steps to add a material, ASSIGN it, add or create or load a texture, and somehow get it all on the actual object, in the Blender window, and then to have it show up to the party when uploaded to my grid. I’ve watched many tutorial videos, and what I really need is to make a fricking CHECKLIST of steps and settings, that I can refer to, because so many of the important tips are buried in videos that I don’t want to track down and re-watch yet again.

I’ve gathered the most recent “keyboard shortcuts” I could find (one that’s specific to Blender 2.5, and one that appears to be more recent from an online book, and there’s good info at Kat’s Bits, too). The online book, which I loaded into Dropbox so I could keep it handy on my iPad, is called “Blender Basics: Classroom Tutorial, 4th Edition.” Oh, and here’s another online book I’ll stick in Dropbox: Blender 3D: From N00b to Pro. Finally, I had worked through almost an entire class curriculum via videos at Grylllus.net called “Blender 3D Design,”and that one can downloaded/subscribed via iTunes with an app from Tufts University. In looking at the course chapter headings at Gryllus.net, I see that, yep, I bogged down in the section covering materials and texturing. Insert favorite quaint anachronistic blasphemous oath at will. And that is where I’ll stop in Blender tonight, too – I can’t remember how to get from assigned material and loaded texture to a textured object – remembered to try to UV unwrap, then got lost, but at least was able to paint (crudely) some shading. Meh, tomorrow. I think I needed to save the image, do some stuff with baking shadows, and Gawd knows what all to apply it.

Gathering all these links in one place makes me feel like… yes, I’ve been muddling along for a long time, but I really have tried. And I’ll try to get some kind of step-by-step checklist pulled together this week.

But at least I feel less foggy and angry about it; I’ve given up on trying to attend classes in Second Life from a particular instructor who shall remain nameless, because every time I attend one of [Redacted]’s classes, I end up either quitting in a rage, or having some normal interruption prevent me from getting the concept, or getting it down in written notes clearly. No notes are provided by the instructor, so if you’re not present, on voice, and paying close attention, you’re screwed. I just couldn’t learn like that, but it’s time I stopped blaming myself and just teach myself the way that works best for me. I will say that anytime I was lucky enough to catch one of Eleanora (Ele) Newell’s classes at Builder’s Brewery, I did make progress, but didn’t retain much because the classes I needed are offered infrequently. I’ve got some of her “class in a box” things in my Second Life inventory; even though they point to the older version of Blender, I could still use them for journeyman practice. She also spends a LOT of time in the official Blender/Primstar support groups, answering questions. So props to Ele! I’m her worst student, but I appreciate her efforts.

Anyway. The blob what I made. With Blender. Textured with a tileable rock texture what I made, created from a photo what I took.

As Mr B, the Gentleman Rhymer says at the end of many of his quaint televisual offerings, “I thank you.” MUSICAL INTERLUDE!

The other thing that I wasn’t doing right was kind of hard to figure out; I recently upgraded to Blender 2.67, and when refreshing my memory on the process of creating a simple sculptie, I ran across this at Machinimatrix on their Primstar-0 page:

Short Instructions

  1. Copy this blend file to a convenient place (for example to your Home folder or to your Desktop) and if possible make it read only, so that you never make unintentional changes to the templates!
  2. Critical: Blender 2.5/2.6 uses an advanced color management by default. While this is a good thing for texturing, it will break the Sculpt-Map bake. Hence you must disable color management for Sculpt-Map bakes. You do this as follows:
  • go to the render properties menu
  • locate the shading tab
  • uncheck “Color Management”

It’s a measure of my own cluelessness that following these very simple instructions completely baffled me; for one thing, where is the render properties menu, and once you find it, the shading “tab” (it’s under a twisty arrow) didn’t have a box marked “Color Management” to uncheck. I looked at , Blender.org docs for 2.64 color management, not that helpful and much too technical (and outdated). Still, I started to get a vague idea of where to look and what to look for.

Two years ago, it was a simple matter of unticking a box marked, wait for it, “Color Management.” Most of the rest of the process on that page is handled by the Primstar scripts I paid for 2 1/2 years ago (I know, I checked my customer download inventory just now). But there are a still couple of settings on that I should double check, they may be important later.

It took me a day and a half of occasional Googling around to figure out that in Blender 2.67, the relevant section is this:

Blender 2.67 Color Management settings for Second Life sculptie UV maps

I’m still not entirely sure how, but changing the device setting to “None” worked for me. Also, the bigger problem was “flipped normals,” meaning the faces I was trying to bake the UV map from were facing inward instead of outward, because something was checked that should have been unchecked.

Ugh, sorry about the teeny type. Here’s another helpful tip I ran across, this is on the Object Data tab:

Blender 2.6 Object Data tab - uncheck Double Sided

There. Notice how in this post I’m also brushing up on somewhat rusty Gimp skillz (another excellent program which also got upgraded to the latest stable version lately). I’ve been offline a lot the last few months, trying to deal with some RSI problems which are now on the mend. My next major hardware purchase is probably going to be a decent trackball mouse.

So today after my moment of angelic choral zen when whatever I did made my blob sculpt map go from something that was either completely black, or a rainbow sculptmap with a black background, to this:

Blender sculptmap for Second LIfe Sculptie - a simple blob

I knew it was right, it looked like the ones I’d managed to make last year. At that time, I’d even managed to set up Blender to generate the alpha mask automatically, which is not only a security feature, but is damn handy if you don’t have a sculpty rezzer on your texture organizer.

I’m feeling much, much better about my progress. However, we won’t talk just yet about my complete lack of modeling skills, that’s next on my List of Lists. I can kind of remember some of the basics – S, G, R for scale, grab, rotate. I even remember E for extrude and W for the “specials” menu… and something about how to box model, add an edge loop… and how to load up a background reference image, which helped when I was working actively on a simple mesh rock slab that’s meant to be stuck in the Spirit River in Steelhead St Helens eventually (I’m obsessed with geology, apparently).

And, oh God, every time I try to figure out materials and texturing… well, I’ve been here, too. Looking for just such a step by step guide, that is NOT a series of videos, which neither I nor the OP got.

All this agita over a blob/blog… anyway, getting over these difficulties gives me the confidence to tackle real modeling, like an interesting old-fashioned candlestick in a hurricane glass I spotted on an aetheric televisual show about the U.S. Constitution. I’m not interested in making rigged clothing in Blender (though shoes might be interesting, since the shoes I have in Open Sim are pretty crap). I don’t know if I’ll invest in Avastar, more scripts from Machinimatrix.org that make the process of setting up rigging and shapes and whatnot easier. I’ve dabbled with Qavimator and could certainly use my private island(s) as a convenient way to test uploaded animations, since I tend to get distracted just trying to find a place to be on the Second Life test grid.

Yeah, yeah. I’ve been writing this post, off and on, all day. And updating the now-working main blog with a better theme layout, and goofing around adding widgets from LibraryThing (I’ll probably add the Goodreads widget here, though it leads to a totally different reality).

IT ALL BEGINS WITH A BOX, they say, or in this case, with a mesh cube, some books, and a good graphics card.

My main blog is and ever shall be** at www.lelanicarver.com. But occasionally, I’ll repost things here – today, for example, our webserver was down and I needed to blog about my recent struggles with Blender, with pictures so I can remember what I did to get it working.

Sometimes, I’ll post stuff about GIMP here, or my budding Open Sim build Haleakaloha, or some new product I’ve listed at the Second Life Marketplace. More often, I may be posting reference images or background articles when I’m trying to figure something out for a problem or project I’m working on. I’ve got a Pinterest thing that’s got some cool stuff in it.

The theme isn’t really my favorite, but I’m somewhat familiar with how it works. Why can’t they have a nice Victorian or Steampunk option? I’ll stick with the current theme on my main blog, Weaver II, which is pretty customizable.

In other “hello virtual worlds” news, I got my standalone grid “Haleakaloha” set up again. I use New World Studio‘s
Community edition, although I’ve paid for the Licensed addition for the year to show my support for the project. The paid version allows one to easily connect a grid to the Net and either hypergrid from it to other grids, or open it to the public. I’m not going to be doing that, but a standalone makes a great “test bed” for uploading textures, meshes, and even animations. I’d had some problems since upgrading from the original version – the developer, Olivier Battini, recently resumed work on the project and since then has been working steadily on coding the two versions, updating the new website and forum, staying active on the Facebook page and Google+ community, and updating the blog, too. I don’t know if I have things working completely correctly and by the book, as I bobbled the original installation and was on a buggy early version, but the Community Edition is working now as of update 0006 and the Licensed Edition is supposed to be bundled with it, but I still have the old, buggy, unbundled files in a separate folder.


I’ll probably have to visit the support forum for that later, but it’s not a deal breaker, I can work with it, and Olivier is very responsive to problems (and so are helpful moderators on the Facebook page and forum).

It’s late now, but it’s been a surprisingly productive day; got a footrest, somehow broke the wooden keyboard tray on my desk (oh well! IT WAS CRAP ANYWAY), packed up some stuff to donate to a RL charity, tidied a few things (I’m off this work for my RL job).

I learned some stuffs, and I blogged some stuffs, and I heard the angels sing, for one brief, shining moment. Onward.

*it’ll be used as a backup, for project research, and to stash assets and useful links.
**as a long-time Star Trek fan, I reserve the right to insert the occasional sly reference. JJ Abrams got nothin’ on me.

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