Computer Graphics

Computer Graphics

One of my long-time passions is computer graphics. Being nostalgic, I have been spending some time lately remembering how to do all of this stuff. I do most of my work on the JVM these days so I wanted to see what I could do with it.

So I hunted around and found a ton of options.

Here is a recording I made from n-body sample code in the aparapi-samples project on GitHub: The first few seconds are a recording from the original sample code which was originally presented by Gary Frost from AMD at the 2010 Java One Conference. The last part of the video records numerous enhancements I made as I learned aparapi and OpenGL on the JVM.

My next post will talk about some of the API's I tried before I settled on one I liked. Enjoy!


Hardware Programming

CPU Cooling

tl; dr;

Make sure your fans point the right way and you apply thermal paste properly.

When I bought my PC, I stuck am AMD 3900X 12/24 core processor in there and used the STOCK heat sink and fan. Out of the box, the processor ran anywhere from 40-60° C and I was pretty happy. Then I added a GPU and stick a few MORE fans into the case (at the top). When I was finished, the CPU was regularly overheating, spiking anywhere from 75-100° C.

This was annoying since my GPU was reading relatively cold 30-40° C.

I was ready to drop $200 for a water cooler, which I know would bring it down to 40° C (or less) even when in heavy use. But I obviously didn't want to spend the money on that since my upgrade list includes a second M.2 card and a second bank of 32GB of RAM.

I was talking to my son and he said that I'd put in t he top fans wrong. He said the best-practice is to draw air out from the top. I knew this was a best-practice too, but I decided against it because I wanted to see for myself and my intuition said that blowing cold outside air right onto the CPU heat sink was the way to go since those topside chassis fans are right next to the CPU heat sink.

Turns out I was probably wrong.

Another thing was to install those topside fans, I needed to re-set my CPU heat sink since it was "in the way". When I did this, I believe I didn't use enough thermal paste since I used the last bit of a syringe and had no more.

To make a long story short, I re-applied thermal paste and flipped the fans to blow out and now the PC idles around 45° C and heats to about 80° max under heavy load. That's still hot, but lowering peak temp by 20° C seems like a big deal for a minimal investment in thermal paste and a little elbow grease flipping those fans.

I wrote a simple Java program to saturate my CPU's. It just adds a counter so my gut tells me that lots of transistors in the CPU are unused and the program may not heat up the CPU even though the OS is reporting 100% utilization.  It's possible a program that either access more memory or more registers/logic gates on the die could theoretically cause the CPU to be busier and thus heat up more. If anyone knows about this, I'd love to learn more.

I may still spring for a water-cooler down the road, but if this configuration remains stable then I guess I'm happy with it.


Space Render

From the archives: I made this sci-fi spaceship battle rendering in Bryce 4 way back in 2011.

Kung Fu Life Media

Easy Glass Buttons and the Greatness of Your Life

Way back in 2005 I wrote this blog post about how to create easy glass buttons in Adobe Illustrator. I remember this post being popular and still to this day it turns up as one of the top hits on Google search. I did this search Incognito just now, but curious if you see the same results or if the result is machine learned from my habits.

Go ahead, search, and click on the green button and see if it leads you to my post.

What I love about this post is that I was a relatively young 35-year old man who still had dreams about doing something big with technology and I strive to always retain that wonder. Now, almost 15 years later, I didn't do anything big by the standards I set for myself at that time, but I did make a living for my family, raised four gorgeous children, loved a beautiful wife, made some amazing friends, learned a lot of cool Kung Fu, and still manage to stay up to 3am bumping into walls wearing a new VR headset I have no idea how to use.

As I turn the corner on 50, I try to look at the young man who wrote that post and I try and see what made him tick. What I've come to realize is that it's not always the size or impact of your accomplishment and more about the journey. That's not to say I don't harbor disappointment at not doing more, or regret at not working harder. What I strive for is not to be so enveloped by disappointment that I throw my hands up, giving up and becoming a bitter old man. To this day, I still cling to that feeling I had when I was 35... that the best is yet to come. I hope I always feel that way, regardless of the quantifiable greatness of anything I do or don't do.

Hardware Virtual Reality

VR is here

I mean, virtual reality is here in my home. I bought a Rift S. The price was so good as I got $50 off the $399 list and I had two $50 gift certificates. At $250, it was a no brainer. Of course, the week before I went and dropped down eleven Benjamins on a Nvidia 2080 TI graphics card so my sense of bargain-hunting is a little off-kilter.

Now the "server" I bought for cluster research, Kubernetes administration, and low-latency programming explorations has, as originally envisioned, morphed into a pretty good gaming PC and a suitable VR-ready playground.

I think everyone knows that someday VR will take off, but the take off date seems to be a moving target. By take off I mean, everyone will have it like everyone has a smartphone. Well maybe everyone doesn't believe this but I sure do.

But the take-off date is similar to that of AI's take-off date. Everyone knows we'll figure out Artificial General Intelligence one day but the date of discovery keeps moving forward. Of course, VR taking off is a lot more likely to happen in the next decade than AGI but no-one really knows.

So while the movie Ready Player One was disappointing, the book written by Ernest Cline painted a fantastic vision of a VR future, albeit the story chose a dystopian narrative. I think it will be impossible to create a truly immersive VR experience without extensive AI assisting in world-creation. A human artist, or even a team of human artists, can only place so many trees and boars before they go insane. A computer will need to do that and do it well.

I've wanted to get a VR headset for years, but either the tech didn't seem ready or the desire to obtain such a magical possession never exceeded my budget for frivolous purchases.

Yet here we are.

One of the tipping points for me was my current crusade to interest my kids in programming. My kids are avid PC gamers yet VR hasn't been on their radar so getting some VR gear and forcing it on them seemed like a good idea or at least good enough excuse for me to finally get something at home.

Rift S

I chose the Oculus Rift S over the Oculus Quest because while the mobility of the Quest was tempting, the device's image fidelity is inferior to the PC-powered Rift. The Vive seems very high-end, expensive, and while I was tempted to get a headset that would stress our my powerful 2080 TI, the cost was prohibitive. So here I am.

I was pretty bored during setup as the Rift S installation makes you watch these boring safety videos. I mean, yeah, yeah, yeah.

They make you trace out your real-world play area very carefully through their Guardian setup and have a lot of customization options on how to tweak the Guardian system's sensitivity parameters. This is the way the virtual "box" of your real-world play area is projected into your virtual reality so you don't smack furniture, your dog, or your child while immersed in the virtual environment du jour. It seemed like unnecessary precautions to me because of course I knew what I was doing and I'm not a dumbass.

Then I played one of the free games Spider Man: Far from Home, and nearly fell on my ass due to the VR was so disorienting! It was at this time that I remembered my friend, who has a lot of experience in VR, told me a story of this guy he knew had a VR-induced accident. Evidently this chap suffered from the same disorientation I felt when I played Spider Man and he lost his balance, fell, and broke his fucking nose!

So now I'm careful and I tell my children to be very careful.

More VR experiences are coming and I can't wait to write about them.