Did I mention my new book?

Lampstack-SoftcoverOver the last few weeks I’ve written a book. It’s about how to run web applications in the comfort of your own home.

Yesterday it went live on Amazon! I have an author page and everything!

Turns out that writing was the easy part: formatting it so that it looks good on Kindle devices was a bit tougher. It’s a tech book after all, which means there are several screenshots and code snippets which need to be formatted to stand out from the rest of the text.

Before I call myself “best selling author”, let me describe how this book came to be.


Continue reading Did I mention my new book?

How to create a drape effect in Photoshop

It’s easy to create an effect of draped cloth in Photoshop, like in the image above. We can do this with the Gradient Tool. It’s the icon with an actual gradient on it, sometimes hiding behind the Paint Bucket or 3D Material Drop tool (if you don’t see it, left-click and hold for about one second for the multiple icons to appear, or press the keyboard shortcut G repeatedly).

Once selected, choose Difference as the mixing mode at the top left of the screen, and make sure that the colours are set to back and white (other colours can give “very creative” effects shall we say).

Now start moving your cursor in short strokes from left to right, then right to left. Every time you change direction, the image is inverted. Add a diagonal stroke in every so often. You’ll create magnificent drape effects in no time!

How to run DAZ Studio on a remote machine via RDP

I’ve been playing with Windows Azure the other day, specifically to hire rendering machines. My idea was very simple: if I have a long animation to render, why not pay a nominal amount of cash, but have the result back within hours rather than days?

So I created a Windows VM, logged in from my Mac via RDP (Remote Desktop Connection), installed DAZ Studio and some content… but sadly I couldn’t start DAZ Studio. I remember having had this problem before on my home network, where I have a similar setup.

This happens because DAZ Studio needs OpenGL 1.3 or higher, and with an RDP connection, only OpenGL 1.1 is supported. Quite rightly so, DAZ Studio throws an error message and quits. However, the app works just fine via RDP, so how can we circumvent it closing prematurely? Continue reading How to run DAZ Studio on a remote machine via RDP

What is the /data/auto_adapted folder in DAZ Studio

I was setting up an animation on one system, then transferred the scene over to a more powerful rendering machine. Usually DAZ Studio 4.9 does a good job at installing required content automatically (thanks to DAZ Connect), but this time my scene showed up with several scary grey blocks instead of content.

In addition, I received a long list of missing files, all of which should have been in a folder called /data/auto_adapted.

What’s stored in that folder I was wondering? Of course this phenomenon – like most features of DAZ Studio – are completely undocumented and you have to hunt around like a detective on forums where other puzzled minds speculate.

Turns out that the auto_adapted folder is something in which DAZ Studio stores converted items, like anything that’s not installed as a native .dsf file. Specifically content made for Poser will be converted and stored here. This includes content sold before 2014, including prestigious Stonemason scenes like Urban Sprawl 2.

Should you come across a problem similar to mine, simply copy/merge the contents of the auto-adapted folder and paste it into that of your rendering machine. Should your second system not have such a folder, simply create one inside the data directory (within your DAZ Studio Library).

When you’re done, open the same scene again and everything should look spiffingly fantastic again.

Sadly I have not found a way to ask DAZ Studio to simply recreate the contents of this folder. This appears to happen only when old content is opened for the first time. Should I ever find a way to do this, I will update this article.

Getting started with ShadowBox in ZBrush

ShadowBox is an interesting feature with which we can create 3D geometry from three intersecting masks. Let’s see how to get started with it step by step in ZBrush 4R7.

Select any tool to begin, perhaps something that can serve as a starting point. I’ll use the Dog tool. To do this, hit the COMMA key to open the toolbar, select Tools, and then select Dog.ztl. Drag one dog out on your canvas, then enter Edit mode.

Now head over to the Geometry tab and open the ShadowBox option, then click on the box ShadowBox button. It should light up orange. This will replace your Dog tool with the ShadowBox tool.

Notice how the shape of the dog changes to something much less detailed. That’s because the dog is projected onto the walls of the ShadowBox, and as such, some details are lost. We can combat this to a certain extent by increasing the resolution slider next to the big ShadowBox button. I’ll leave mine at the default of 128 for now.

You can turn the ShadowBox off at any time, and as a result you’ll be left with a new 3D tool (the less-detailed dog in my case).

To modify the 3D geometry in the centre of the ShadowBox, use the mask tool to draw on any of the three sides (the mask tool is activated by holding down CTRL). This part probuablytakes a lot of practice and patience: I haven’t been able to come up with something sensible using ShadowBox. I hope you’re having better luck than me.

To clear the entire ShadowBox, simply drag outside of the box with the mask tool.

How to download previous versions of Marvelous Designer

Marvelous Designer (or Marvy D as some fans call it) receives frequent updates with a plethora of new features. With every round new version number, and upgrade fee is necessary – if you bought the software with a perpetual license (like I have, because I genuinely dislike the subscription model… but I digress).

This means that it is very likely that a new version passes you by, and you have the need to download an older version of Marvelous Designer.

Good thing you can: from the Download Archive. Continue reading How to download previous versions of Marvelous Designer

Where does DAZ Studio store temporary renders

When DAZ Studio is finished rendering an image into a new window, we have the option to save it. But if we don’t do that, and there happens to be a power cut (and your computer is accidentally not connected to a UPS), where does that render go? Is it lost forever? Or is it saved somewhere secret?

Lucky for us, the render is indeed saved in a temporary location. By default, on Windows systems, the full path to temporary renders is

  • C:/Users/yourname/AppData/Roaming/DAZ 3D/Studio4/temp/render

If you can’t see the AppData folder, make sure you’re displaying hidden files and folders in Windows Explorer (under View – Options – Change folder options – View).

On Macs, the full path is

  • Library/Application Support/DAZ 3D/Studio4/temp/render

The Library can be reached when holding down CMD and selecting Go from the Finder menu.

Each temporary render is saved as a random letter or number. Note that as soon as you restart DAZ Studio, this folder is cleared! So the procedure upon DAZ Studio crashes or power cuts is to rescue those renders first, then restart DAZ Studio.

You can change the location of this folder under Preferences – General.

How to play HALO on Windows 10

The other day I bought a brand new copy of the 2001 classic HALO – Combat Evolved for Windows. I really liked this game and played it on the original XBOX quite a bit – even thought I must admit that I neither liked nor got it the first few times I picked it up. A colleague told me to stick with it, and I began to love it over time (probably when I “got” the story and the controls).

Fast forward 16 years and I thought, perhaps I’ll pick it up again. My HP Z600 with Windows 10 next to the TV is extremely capable hardware for this type of entertainment.

Imagine my disappointment however when the game installed fine on Windows 10, but refused to start. Nothing doing! I ran it as Administrator, went through all the compatibility options, but nada – HALO did not want to start up. Monkeytrumpet, I thought.

Thankfully we have the internet, and I soon came across an article that explained that I needed to download Patch 1.10 of the game from the Bungie website. A 16 year old game is still supported with updates? Go figure! Here’s the link to that patch.


How to avoid missing textures in Reality for DAZ Studio

I was playing around with Reality for DAZ Studio the other day, and the above phenomenon occurred. It’s a Michael 6 render that should have worked out of the box – especially because Reality is clever enough to convert his skin shaders to automatically. The render worked fine on one of my machines, but not on another.

Strangely enough though, I could see the textures fine in the viewport. And a quick test render in both 3Delight and Iray showed the textures fine too. But Reality and LuxRender wanted to render the skin tone as some scary metal.

So what’s going on?

The culprit is DAZ Connect. On this second machine, Michael 6 was installed not via the DAZ Install Manager, but from within DAZ Studio via DAZ Connect. This has happened because I loaded the scene (from Dropbox), and DAZ Studio recognised that Michael 6 was not installed, and hence offered to install him for me. I accepted the generous offer, but Reality and LuxRender can’t handle textures installed via DAZ Connect. Continue reading How to avoid missing textures in Reality for DAZ Studio

How to render “Manuel Bastioni LAB” characters without purple skin in Blender

I recently discovered the Manuel Bastioni LAB add-on for Blender. Judging it only by the title you’d never guess it’s an extravagant people generator of the highest caliber! Bastioni was working with the folks from MakeHuman for many years, but The LAB is his own project.

In a nutshell, it creates ready-to-use characters, complete with poses and morphs, as well as many other complex goodies. And as with many complex things, rendering can take a while. I tend to prepare a scene on one machine, transfer it to a faster system and let it render while I setup the next scene.

This workflow usually works a treat with .blend files, but not necessarily with those containing Manuel Bastioni characters. Turns out the skin has a good chance of looking alien purple. Quite a nice effect, but perhaps not all the time.

Lucky for us, knowing why this happens will help us understand how to fix the problem. It’s not a bug, just a question of which box to tick when saving those files. Let me show you which box that is and how to avoid the purple skin effect.

The Purple Skin Phenomenon

Continue reading How to render “Manuel Bastioni LAB” characters without purple skin in Blender

How to hide lights in DAZ Studio with NVIDIA Iray

As with real life objects, lights in the Iray Render Engine are by default not invisible. They’re like a lamp in a film studio: if it wasn’t there, it wouldn’t emit light. But now that it’s there,  it can sometimes get in the way, even though we want it to emit light.

Turns out there’s an easy way to make those physical objects invisible, so that we’re able to film/shoot/render/see right through them. Turning them invisible isn’t going to work, because once they’re gone, they won’t emit light anymore.

So head over to Light – Render Emitter and switch it off.

On means your light will be rendered as visible object, while off means it will still emit light, but the actual light object is no longer rendered.