Garstor's World, My realm of 3D art, LEGO and atheism

Ending The Hardware Blues…For Now…

Posted on Saturday, August 29th, 2015 at 8:12 PM in Personal by Garstor

The story continues…

Ever since I built the 3D-dedicated machine, I had heard nearly constant clicking sounds. If you know anything about computers, you are already shaking your head…

It turns out that the Seagate Barracuda drive that I had purchased is notorious for this. Ugh! I was using this drive to store the My Documents folder as well as some apps so that the 1 TB Samsung SSD would not be used up too quickly.

Big mistake! Reads and writes to the drive took hours – that is not an exaggeration.

The computer went back to not booting. This time it was the POST detecting the S.M.A.R.T. drive failure. So it was actually trying to protect the system.

Tonight, I removed the power and SATA-3 cable from the drive and replaced it with my older 110 GB Ocz SSD drive – what I was originally blaming all my problems on!

So things seem to be completely stable for now. I have most of my applications reinstalled.

It will be great to get back into 3D and Photoshop again!

Singin’ Some Hardware Blues

Posted on Saturday, August 29th, 2015 at 8:52 AM in Personal by Garstor

At the beginning of the year, I built a dedicated computer for 3D and Photoshop work. Previously, I was using my primary server because it had 24-cores and 64 GB RAM. Rendering with GPUs is the wave of the future, so I wanted something capable of that.

Things have slowly crumbled since building that new machine. Occasionally, it would not boot properly – often going through the Windows Automatic Repair process. Usually a reboot would fix it. Despite all of this, I managed to get many, many hours of playing Dragon Age: Origins again as well work with LightWave, Carrara and Photoshop.

But the degradation continued. For the last month, I have barely used the machine at all. It became a risky bet whether the machine would even switch on. Very frustrating!

I blamed many things; the Texas summer heat (the bedroom that the computer is in does get hellishly hot) or the SSD that booted Windows (I have had bad past experiences with SSD drives) were my prime targets. Enter my chummer Brent!

Brent is the best damn troubleshooter I know. He is tenacious too. With his help, the BIOS was updated and Windows 8.1 was replaced with Windows 10. But the Automatic Repair was still all-too present.

The Q-Code from the Asus motherboard strongly suggested RAM problems. It appeared that I could boot with just 16 GB of RAM installed but adding more would fail. We played Musical Chairs with the DIMMs and every combination of two DIMMs resulted in successful boots. Perhaps it was a power issue, even though I had a 1300 W power supply? I didn’t have a properly matching power cable to provide more juice to the motherboard.

The less-than-useless Asus phone support blamed my RAM since it was not on their qualified vendor list. I bought new Patriot RAM that was on their list – still no boot. It wasn’t the RAM. Also, I won’t give Asus another dime of my money in the future.

Brent was undeterred and he kept researching. There is no way I would have committed so much time to this. I owe him an entire brewery of beers for his effort.

Eventually, it became clear that it was the second video card. I could boot the computer with my full 64 GB of RAM using just the first video card. Brent even worked with the Gigabyte support team (who are about a billion times more helpful than Asus) to help start the RMA process so that the defective card can be replaced.

Thanks Brent!

The Josh Duggar Schadenfreude

Posted on Friday, August 21st, 2015 at 7:32 AM in Atheism, News, Religion by Garstor

Although we should not take pleasures in the misfortunes of another, sometimes it simply cannot be resisted. The Duggar family has done such spectacular damage to basic human rights and dignity that I won’t hide the smile on my face caused by their so-called plight.

The revelations that Josh Duggar – in addition to being a child molester – has also cheated on his wife obviously gave a speed boost to the downward spiral ride for the family.

Duggar epitomy of conservative values

This sniveling worm’s public statement tries to put the blame for his actions on an “addiction” to pornography. There is no such thing as porn or sex addiction according to the DSM-5. This is just another way to shift responsibility instead of being a real man and owning one’s actions.

Friendly Atheist commenter Holytape puts it far better than I though:

Not true, Joshy. Don’t beat your self up like that. Sure you’re a hypocrite. Sure you’re a miserable piece of dog shit with the moral compass, of… well you. Sure you campaigned to make people’s lives miserable for no other reason that your narcissistic desire to control other people’s happiness. But you’re not the biggest hypocrite ever. You’re not that important. Most people don’t know about your work at being an asshole. They only know of your existence because you were the first one out of that clown car they call your mother’s vagina. So people really don’t care enough to make you the biggest hypocrite ever. And don’t worry, by this time next year, everyone will have forgotten your transgressions, because they will have forgotten about you entirely.

It will be wonderful when the world has completely forgotten about this brood of hypocrites. That day cannot come too soon – I only wish that all the other asshole Christians would be forgotten too.

Society would benefit tremendously.

Adios Avanade!

Posted on Friday, August 14th, 2015 at 8:58 PM in Personal, SharePoint, SQL Server by Garstor

Well it has been an interesting and decidedly bumpy ride. Earlier today, I stopped working for Avanade Managed Services (or UCCMS – or whatever fucking acronym they’ll call it next week). I gave an entire month’s notice because I wanted the extra paycheque.

A little over three years ago, my chummer (and former colleague) B. helped me join Azaleos. I was about to get hit by a bus during performance review on the Microsoft SharePoint PSS team. Joining Azaleos was how I dodged that bullet.

Azaleos was a small but growing company that provided managed services for Microsoft technologies. Since they had expanded into SharePoint and Lync, they needed a SQL Server expert. So for a time, I was a big fish in a medium pond. I developed a ton of training videos and gave lots of live talks and demonstrations – I loved that part of the job.

Avanade – a giant British consulting company created by Microsoft and Accenture – bought Azaleos. Cue the drums of doom… But there was some really good people in Azaleos and we all worked well together. However; between Accenture and Avanade, things deteriorated. They wanted bigger contracts and allowed the smaller contracts from Azaleos atrophy.

People began leaving but the management chain refused to pay attention. That only accelerated the attrition rate. When B. told me that he was leaving, I knew it had gone too far. The writing was on the wall. As it turned out, two other major gurus also announced their departure. With my own announcement, that made four subject matter experts leaving in as many weeks.

Management noticed then. But it was far too late. They’re screwed and more people have left since and more are still planning to leave. Avanade has made their bed and now they have to lay in it.

I’ll end this now. There is no need to turn this into a 20,000 word bitch-fest. I hope that the good people still there can escape as well. They deserve far better than Avanade.


Posted on Friday, August 14th, 2015 at 8:46 AM in Personal by Garstor

This past week has been made a bit more difficult due to the damage I suffered in last week’s bike accident. The human body is a marvel of evolution though!

Walking is much easier now that the road rash over my right knee is nearly gone. The chin wound finally closed up and seems to have made excellent progress.

Additional (unrelated) news to follow later tonight…

Another Bike Accident (Warning: Gross Pictures)

Posted on Sunday, August 9th, 2015 at 7:53 PM in Personal by Garstor

Michael Garstin's woundsLast Thursday, while riding back home from my lunch break, I had my third major bike accident thanks to idiot Texas drivers. Essentially, if you are not another car or a truck, drivers in Texas simply do not give a rat’s ass about you at all.

You are in their way goddammit! The nerve of your existence!

I typically ride on the sidewalk – call it twice burned. I was taking it easy since I had a Coca-Cola Slurpee in one hand. Just beyond the corner of MacArthur Boulevard and Valley Ranch Parkway is a parking lot for a dentist and a dry cleaners. I was approaching that driveway when all of a sudden there was a minivan immediately in front of me.

Of course hitting the brake with my one available hand sent me flying over the handlebars. The Slurpee was an immediate write-off…

The scene of the accident with my spattered bloodDazed, I still managed some damage assessment. Bike lamp was knocked off, retrieved that. Found my glasses and noted that the lenses appeared to be intact but covered in blood. No obvious broken bones. I could stand up.

The elderly (near as I could tell without my glasses on) couple had exited the minivan by now. The gentlemen gave me his handkerchief; that was when I noted blood was flowing down my face. I pressed that above my left eye.

WP_20150806_003I declined the ladies’ offer to call 911. I guess it looked pretty bad – I didn’t think it was that big a deal aside from the extreme annoyance and immediate pain that would surely subside. After a few minutes, I decided to walk back home.

The cut above my eye was quite clean. I realized that the edge of the left lens must have been pressed hard enough into the skin to slice it open.

The chin wound was actually quite a bit worse. It is several millimeters deep and probably should have required stitches.

I went to a walk-in clinic on Friday (and snapped the sidewalk picture as I hobbled past the scene) but there was no doctor that day. I had to wait until Saturday for an appointment. By then, the wounds were closed up or scabbed over. Well – except for that chin – it was too late for stitches, but the doctor stated he would have put some in if I had gone straight to the clinic on Thursday.

I wasn’t thinking entirely straight. Maybe it’s a macho, guy-thing.

I’m still keeping the chin wound and a nasty scrape on the side of my left hand covered with bandages.

Faith No More

Posted on Saturday, August 1st, 2015 at 8:59 PM in Entertainment, Music, Personal by Garstor

Last Monday, July 27th, I caught the Faith No More concert at the Southside Ballroom in Dallas!

It took at least 2 full days for my ears to stop ringing.

Faith No MoreThe opening act was Napalm Death and I can’t say that I enjoyed that. At first I didn’t believe their singer when he described themselves a “impenetrable fucking noise.” But with 20/20 hindsight (and Wikipedia), that is exactly what they were.

Fortunately, Faith No More put on a great show that more than made up for the opening. Of course they played their big hits from the past but also added in the new material from the Sol Invictus album.

The lighting was great – almost mesmerizing. Most of the stage and the band were in white, so the light show took full advantage of that.

Alas, my cellphone camera could not do justice to the event.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing FNM performing together again.

New Toys!

Posted on Monday, July 20th, 2015 at 6:34 PM in Ray-Tracing by Garstor

This past weekend, I bought 3D Layout Pro and the Allegorithmic Substance Live products.

I confess that the $300 price tag for a tool that looks very much like a DOS program emulating a windowing environment was initially off-putting to me. But after watching some videos of UV Layout in action, I was sold on it.

space_fighterThe proof is in the pudding as the saying goes. So I had to dive in and try it out myself. I used a spaceship model from one of Adam Gibson’s tutorials.

Even though I have only scratched the surface of what UV Layout can do, I found that the often tricky business of UV mapping was greatly improved by this tool. The $300 price tag makes sense once you get in gear with it.

This is not my final UV map that I created – indeed, it is not even complete yet – but it was produced rather quickly and painlessly.space_fighter_uv

UV Layout has several advanced tools for unwrapping meshes. I may take to YouTube in the future to show off some of these features as I learn how to take greater advantage of this application.

I’ll have to write another post about Allegorithmic. There is too much to those tools for me to fully comprehend right now. It is like drinking from a fire hose.

These are formidable tools for the 3D artist’s arsenal.