I’ve long been an avid fan of 3D modeling, but the software is usually expensive and takes hundreds of hours to learn.
For those who don’t want to invest quite that much money and time, there is Sculptris from Pixologic. The basic application is free, with a more professional version available if you want.
It takes a much more artist-friendly approach to 3D. You start off with a big sphere, and use the mouse (although it works MUCH better with a graphics tablet, even a simple one like my entry-level Bamboo works great) to stretch, pinch, grow, and contract. It feels very much like sculpting clay. A bit of pulling and smoothing later, and you can create a very organic-looking 3D mesh. Here’s my first attempt at modeling my Ke’ea race of intelligent avians:
The program also includes texturemapping that works with the mouse or tablet to "paint" textures right on the surface. It’s very cool, and the price is right!
On this episode of Knotty Geeks, we talk about software startups and how they might use various methods of marketing. Terry insists that viral marketing isn’t, and also disdains DropBox, which he will definitely live to regret.
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New comic uploaded! Go here: http://jeremyreimer.com/comic.lsp?c=Star%20Gamer
There are a couple of things I always wanted to do but never did.
One of them was to have the courage to play Starcraft, 1v1, on the ladder.
Another one was to have a TV show.
So I've combined the two into a show I call "Overcoming Ladder Anxiety", a show on Twitch.tv:
It's basically my journey through playing ladder for the first time ever, talking about my anxiety and dealing with how reality doesn't quite match up to your expectations. It's about how Starcraft can teach you lessons about life.
The show runs Monday to Friday at 2:00 pm Pacific. Please join in live, or watch the videos! Thanks!
For the first time, Apple’s iBookstore has included independently-published books in its "Breakout Books" feature, and Edge of Infinity is one of the 55 titles selected by iBookstore UK and iBookstore Ireland!
This is really exciting for me, not only because of the extra exposure for my novels, but also because it shows that independent authors are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the market.
Edge of Infinity can be found in the Apple iBookstore at the following link.
You can learn more about this promotion here:
Thank you, Apple, for your support of independent authors. Let’s make a dent in the universe!
Glad you could make it!
I’ve converted my old blog (old as in circa 2010!) to a new one. The main change was moving the pages from being hosted on the Dragonfly web framework (written in newLISP) to my very own newLISP on Rockets framework (which, as you may have guessed, is written in newLISP as well!)
The primary reason for this change was to get all my websites on a single platform and to "eat my own dogfood" in terms of the newLISP on Rockets framework. Also, the Rockets framework is based on Twitter’s Bootstrap and thus has a nice responsive design that works much better on mobile devices. Go ahead, try it on your phone!
Not everything is converted yet (the user profile page, for example) and there may be some bugs over the next few days as I work all the kinks out. Please let me know if you have any issues.
Enjoy the new site!
I know I'm late to the party on this, but I'm really loving Amazon's EC2 cloud computing service. I'm saying this as a guy who loved to build servers with my bare hands, often blessing them with my own blood after touching a sharp corner. I literally bled for these things. Now, I'm not sure I ever need to set up my own server again.
My startup project, JetCondo, runs on a "Micro" instance, which is a paltry little thing by server standards--a whopping 8 GB of storage space and 612 MB of RAM, and whatever amount of CPU they feel fit to dribble out. Still, it's faster than my home server ever was, and it's cheap. At current rates it works out to about $10 a month. My home server ate up about $7 per month just in electricity.
But the value you get out of that extra $3 is immeasurable, especially for a startup. Today I wanted to create a new server instance so that I could start building a web application for my very first consulting client. I had almost resigned myself to going through the half-day dance of installing Ubuntu, configuring Apache, setting up newLISP, etc... and then I realized: hey, wait a moment! I can just copy my existing instance, can't I?
Turns out you can. You have to save an image of your current system first, and by default this shuts off your running server while it makes the copy (it's kind of scary when this happens!) but in a couple of minutes it's back up and running and now you have your own personal image file for your server. Then creating one is a matter of a right click, selecting "Launch More Like This", clicking Next a couple of times, and choosing your own AMI image from the list of "My Images".
In a minute or so you have cloned your server, and it's exactly the same as the one you had. It's like magic. Instead of half a day's work it took a few clicks and a couple of minutes. And of course you can launch as many as you need or even script it so that new instances are launched as needed given incoming traffic, but that's something for the future. Right now it's just cool to report that it works, and it's a great time saver.
Launching a startup on your own can be quite lonely at times.
At this delicate, embryonic stage, you don't even really want to discuss what you're doing with anyone, except maybe your wife. It's too early. None of the stuff is ready yet, it's all existing in your head, and there are a billion and one things to do to get it ready.
I've found a little solace in reading other startup blogs, although you start to realize just how greatly the odds are stacked against you. Most of these startups fail for one reason or another.
So you have to be okay with the idea of failure. Personally, I'm completely fine with it. I've got a set deadline and a set of things I want to accomplish in that time. After that, I'll be going back to more traditional employment, barring the extraordinarily unlikely chance that I'm bringing in enough money from the startup that it's not necessary.
It's more of a personal thing with me, a chance to prove I can do something and create something great on my own.
But it's definitely lonely sometimes.
I'm trying to expand my efforts in book marketing, and much of that involves fumbling around trying things at random, hoping that something works out.
To that end I've started a blog at GoodReads, which you can read here: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6479441.Jeremy_Reimer/blog
This brings up the number of blogs I have to three: my personal blog, the newLISP on Rockets blog, and now my GoodReads blog. Once JetCondo.com gets going that will increase to four. It seems a bit weird, like casting a wide net in hopes that someone reads at least ONE of my blogs, but in truth I never felt that comfortable talking about everything in one place. I have a lot of things on the go, especially now, but they aren't all connected. People interested in my science fiction probably don't care too much to learn about newLISP, for example.
So after the end of this week, I might actually stop blogging every day on my personal blog, and alternate between the the three instead.
The final part of my semi-review of The Lean Startup deals with the lesson about Engines of Growth. Startups need to grow or they run out of money and die.
There are basically three engines of growth: Sticky, Viral, and Paid.
The Sticky engine relies on some sort of lock-in to keep customers using the product. For example, people would stay on Facebook because all their friends and family are there. Another example would be a proprietary database or file format that people would stick with because the cost of switching would be too great. You don’t have to have 100% stickiness, because you can still search for new customers, but the rate of gaining new customers has to be higher than the rate you are losing them.
The Viral engine is the trickiest but perhaps the best bang for your buck. Basically, users tell friends and family about your product and you get new customers via word of mouth. Basically you need each customer to bring in more than 1.0 other customers to have steady growth. If customers bring in only one other person each, growth will be steady but slow. Lower than 1.0 and growth will slow down and eventually stop. This number is the viral coefficient.
The Paid engine is the most traditional: you buy advertising, and if the cost of gaining a new customer via advertising is less than the money that customer brings in, you’ll make a profit. Traditionally, companies fed that money into more advertising, in a kind of feedback loop that ended up with national ads in every magazine and on every TV show. This is how big-name brands like Coke and Tide became popular, not because the product was actually that good--in fact, the two are pretty mediocre--but because the advertising was very effective.
The Viral engine is probably better for startups who can’t afford a lot (or any) advertising, but the challenge is that you have to build a compelling product that people will actually like so much that they will evangelize others. Tivo made good use of this method, as do a lot of web-based startups.
The important thing to remember is that no matter which engine you choose, you need to be able to measure whether or not what you are doing is working. So for the Sticky model you need to know your customer retention rate and your new customer acquisition rate. For Viral you need to know the viral coefficient. Finally, for the Paid model, you need to know how much it costs to get a customer and how much each customer brings in.
It sounds simple but a lot of startups don’t bother to analyze all these things and thus end up growing too slowly or not at all.
Speaking of startups, I did a little work today on JetCondo.com, installing the Solr 4.0 database. It’s not much but it’s something. I also made a new comic. Go read it!
I'm a writer and occasional programmer. I write science fiction stories and novels.
I also write technology articles for Ars Technica.
I'm the creator of newLISP on Rockets, a web development framework and blog application.