Category Archives: Computers

SketchUp Three (Part Two) – Adding Details

Framework

Framework

If you’ve been following this series (Part OnePart TwoPart Three), you should now have a framework of a house. Now we shall add some extra features, and introduce some new techniques.

So, open up your House file, and also the blueprint you are working from, and we’ll jump in!

Doorways

To get into the house, we are going to need some doorways. My research tells me that an average door is 36″ by 80″ (about 1m wide, 2m tall). On my blueprint, the front door is about two feet from the left corner, so lets start marking out these measurements:

Guide Lines

Guide Lines

Snap Effect in Action!

Snap Effect in Action!

Now draw a Rectangle for the doorway, and use the Push/Pull to create the doorway! The Snap-Effect will keep you lined up properly:

Now that we know how to make a doorway (Draw Guidelines using Measuring Tool, then Push/Pull to create gap), we should make all of our doorways.

By now, we will have covered our Scene in guidelines, and rather than helping, they will be getting in the way! We could go round and delete them one-by-one, but there is an easier way! The “Delete Guides” entry on the Edit Menu!

Delete The Guidelines

Delete The Guidelines

Window

Window

OK, that’s the doors … we need to do the same for the windows! For the purposes of this tutorial (and simplicity!), I will be having all of the windows start three feet from the floor, and the tops be level with the top of the doors (80″, remember? This is 6′ 8″, or about 2 meters in new money). Again, put some guides in place. I’m making the front window 6′ wide, placed approximately halfway between the door and the right corner. Then draw the rectangle, and Push/Pull it. Again, continue around the house, putting all of the windows in place.

Doors and Windows

Doors and Windows

Actual Doors and Windows

Now, we want to put the actual doors and windows in place! Now, we can design our own furniture, and we already have most of the tools to do so (Draw a rectangle 6′ 8″ x 3’6″, Push/Pull to 1″ thick, BAM! Door!). Or we can rely on the kindness of strangers!

The SketchUp Warehouse is a repository where anyone can upload their creations, for other people to use. Maybe you will upload something there one day? For now, head to the File Menu -> 3D Models -> Get Models …   This will open the Warehouse, and allow you to select items to insert into your scene! Enter a search term (e.g. “Door”) into the Search Box at the top, press Enter, and Presto! Doors appear! Take some time to browse around, see what people have uploaded. If you find a design that you like, select it, and you will be taken to it’s Page, where you have the options to view a 3D render of it (note: can take a little while to load), or to download it into your Scene. Scrolling down should reveal other items, including collections and models that this item has been used in. I’ll not get into the complicated sections for now: Find a door you like (I’ve chosen “Flush Door” by user: “Luncai”), hit Download, and load it directly into your model.

You will notice that the door is now free-floating, and you can move it around. Find some free space, and click. Note: Do not try to place it in a doorway yet! Drop it near the house, and we’ll come back to  it …

Interlude …

SketchUp Three: Building a House

In my previous two posts (One, Two), we learnt some basic techniques for creating models in SketchUp. Now, I am going to jump directly to using these, and other, techniques to build a detailed Scene.

Don’t worry if you struggle to follow this on the first time through! You can always start over, and slowly build up bit-by-bit!

Design Stage

Firstly, it is a good idea to have a plan in mind! Sure, we could just throw a Scene together, adjusting things as we go along, but I prefer to be building towards a Goal! With this in mind, we need a Plan! Searching Google for “royalty-free house floor plans” led me to http://anyaflow.com, where I downloaded this image:

Floor Plan

You may download it directly from me by clicking to show the full Image, and then Saving to your Downloads folder.

Now we can open SketchUp, and start to build!

Start at the bottom

Base

Base

First, we need a surface to work on. Draw out a Rectangle, and size it to be a little bigger than the House will be. (In my example, we can see that the house will be 44’11” wide and 38’7″ long, so I will  make my Base 50’x40′. Remember that we can get exact dimensions by typing them!). I like to give the base some Thickness, so use the Push/Pull tool to bring it up by 1′.

Outline

Now we can start to build the outer walls.

New Tool: Tape Measure. Draw guide lines 1′ from the Right and Top edges.

Offset Tool

Offset Tool

Using these guides, and the Snap Effect, we can draw some of the outer walls. Draw a Line from the intersection of the Guides, about 40′ across the top, and 30′ down the side. Then Select these two lines (Tip: Select one, hold CTRL and Select the other). You can now use the Offset Tool to drag a 1′ ‘copy’ of the Wall. You should have something looking like this:

The Walls So Far!

The Walls So Far!

Now, using the measurements supplied (or worked-out/guessed-at!), we can fill in the rest of the walls.

I used a combination of Drawing straight lines and Rectangles, using Snap Effects, typing Measurements, and Guide Lines (from the Tape Measure tool) to produce this:

Draft Floorplan

Draft Floorplan

Cleaning Up

Now we can get rid of the Guides, and extraneous lines. The Guides are easy. Edit Menu -> Delete Guides! Trickier is erasing all of the extra lines, without clearing lines we want to keep!

Using the Eraser tool, trim the lines back, and also delete the lines “inside the walls:

Erase these bits!

Erase these bits!

We need to check that all of the Lines are connected. Select the Push/Pull tool, and hover over one of the walls. You should see that the entire wall section, and nothing else, is the familiar Spotty Blue. If this is not the case, draw over some of the lines, to make sure they are correctly aligned. You should have something like this:

Ready to Build Walls!

Now use the Push/Pull to raise the walls to exactly 8′ high.

Walls

Walls

Here is your basic building!

in Section 3a, we will move on to detailing it to actually look like a house. Doors, Windows and textures! We WILL be seeing our old friend the PushMe/PullYou again, and I will also be introducing the Sketchup Warehouse!
Until next time!

Part Three, Section 2

SketchUp Two. Copying, Scaling and Detailing.

In my previous post (SketchUp – A Beginner’s Guide), I introduced some basic concepts of the 3D modelling software. How to make and move basic objects.

Now we move on to slightly more advanced (don’t worry, not very advanced! We’re taking baby-steps here!) techniques.

Copying

Once you have an object, it is a simple matter to duplicate it. Actually,. it is several simple matters, depending upon your preference.

Select your object. You may notice that only part of the object is selected! We need to cover this first!

Selecting Objects

The Select Tool - Top Right of screen

The Select Tool – Top Right of screen

Using the Select Tool, you can select a single line or face. Or you can drag a box around an area, selecting everything withing this box. WARNING: This may accidentally select hidden sections! To avoid this, we can try several options:

First, extra-clicks. A single click will select a single item, such as a Face or a Line. Double-Clicking will select a Face and surrounding Lines. A Treble-Click will select ALL connected items! This is very useful fro a free-standing object, but care must be taken when you  have interconnected objects!

A way to avoid interconnected objects is, as mentioned before, to make your objects into Components. This will stop them from interacting with other objects, and make them easier to select individually.

A third way is to drag a box around your object, but this has the danger of selecting unseen items, such as the rear faces and lines.

I recommend Components.

Back to Copying

Cut Copy Paste

Cut Copy Paste

Now we have selected an Object, we can use controls that are very familiar to some people, as they are the standard Windows Copy/Paste functions. On the Edit Menu, choose Copy. Simple as that. This stores a copy of the object in the computer’s “buffer”, ready to insert into the scene. To do this insert, back to the Edit Menu, and choose Paste. (For those unfamiliar with the terms “Cut”, “Copy” and “Paste”, they refer back to when work was done on pieces of paper, and literally Cut with scissors or a knife, and then stuck into place with a glue or paste.)

The more eagle-eyed of you will have noticed the Control Keys noted at the side of the Menu Functions. These are keyboard shortcuts that you can press, instead of moving the mouse to the Menu, clicking on the Menu, moving the mouse to the correct option and clicking on that option! E.g. instead of choosing Copy from the menu, you can hold the CTRL key, and press the “C” key.

Now we have a copy in the buffer, either use the Edit Menu -> Paste, or press CTRL-V to Paste the Item into the scene. To begin, it will be “floating”, and you can move it to the required position, before clicking to actually place it.

Scaling

The Scale Tool

The Scale Tool

You may create an object, and then want to make it a different size, or have a copy of an object as a different size. This requires the Scale Tool. Select the object you wish to Scale, and then click the Scale Tool. You will see lots of yellow “handles” appear over the object. These can be use to drag/stretch the object.

Scaling Handles

Scaling Handles

Some handles will only stretch in certain directions, while the corners will stretch all dimensions. Try some, and see how it works!

As with other functions, the Dimensions box in the very lower right of the screen will keep a track of how much you are scaling the object. And, as an added extra, you can type a Dimension to set it exactly! Start pulling a handle, and then type 2 <Enter>, and your object will be Twice the size! type 0.5 and it will be half as big as it started! Useful for when exact ratios are required. And an extra bonus feature, you can scale it to an exact distance! Try stretching and then typing 6″<enter>  or 3m<enter>. You should see the object become the size you indicate!

Detailing

It is quite rare that all you will want in a scene is a plain cube, or even several cubes of different sizes. So we need Details. There are so many different ways we can alter an object that I can only discuss a few in this article.

We shall start with the

Push/Pull Tool

Push/Pull Tool

Push/Pull Tool

A very useful feature, this allows you to move a face, or part of.

To Push/Pull a complete face, simply select the Tool, and hover over the Face you wish to move. You should see the familiar blue spots, showing the selected face. Holding the left mouse button down, you can Push/Pull the face. Notice how the Snap Effect can be used to line up the face with other Objects in the scene.

Push/Pull Examples

Push/Pull Examples

To move just part of a face, you must section it off using the Pencil tool. Draw a line splitting the face, and then proceed as before.

The examples (right) show (l-r) a cube with the whole face pushed back, one with a line splitting the front face in half, and the right pushed back, and one with a design Drawn on, and then Pulled forwards!

NOTE: If you are working on a Component, you must first double-click the component to make sure you are working within it, rather than on the main scene. Also, be aware that alterations made to One component will affect all copies of that component!

This tool can be used to create many effects, including removing a section from an object by Pushing it until it is level with the opposing face (Snap Effect!).

We’ll leave it there for today.

Practice with these tools, and experiment with creating your own Objects.

Let me know how you get on, and the best examples I receive might get featured in my next post!

Happy SketchUping!

Part Three

New Fangled Gadgets

Why, back in my day …

The height of sophistication!

Trimphone! The height of sophistication!

… we didn’t have mobile telephones. We had one “land line”. In the hall. (Actually, due to Dad being paid “in-kind” rather than in cash for one job he did, we were one of the few families who had multiple phones in the house, but I digress). It had no “speed-dial”, or saved numbers. Just a ring of digits that you could dial individually to make up the required Number. If someone else was using it, you had to wait. If you were using it, you had to endure a parent glancing at their watch, and tutting (especially if it was before the 6pm cheap-rate!). The lack of privacy became noticeable as teenage years arrived. I recall changing my pound notes(!) into 10p coins and going to a local “phone box” in the village, rather than have my family overhear conversations with my friends. Ah, good times …

Or was it? It may sound like the moanings of a pre-Millennial, but we did get by without them. Mostly. Sure, I missed a few good parties because people couldn’t contact me. I failed to talk to a local girl I fancied because both of us were being eaves-dropped on by parents. I annoyed some friends because I missed the bus, and they had to wait around, not knowing whether I was on my way or not. But we got by. Mostly.

These days …

iPhone - new-fangled gizmo

Dang new-fangled gizmo

… I see too many of my generation (and previous generations) bemoaning the very existence of Global Communication Technology. They take that last paragraph I wrote, and turn it into a crusade. “Kids these days are not social” … “they don’t play outside” … “they have no real friends” … “We got by without mobile phones!”

Who do they think kids are talking to on their phones? I understand the dangers of ‘strangers on the internet’ (better than most, my alter-ego being PC Wizard), but mostly, they seem to be communicating with their school-mates. Arranging when to meet down at the local park. Checking who is going to the football match at the weekend. Apologising for being late, and finding out where people will be. Checking that their mate who hasn’t arrived is OK. Swapping gossip, and giving out #spoilers for the latest TV shows (“Netflix”, I think they watch, these days).

Yesterday:

I went to my niece’s first birthday party. It was a wonderful affair, with family and friends gathered to wish my niece and her parents the best for the future.

I got my invite via Facebook, and texted Lucretia to arrange our attendance. I checked the location, and driving directions, from my mobile phone. We kept in touch with everyone, complicated by Lucretia’s recent illness*, via TXT, Facebook, voicemail, and email.

Would I have attended without mobile phones? Probably, but it would not have been so easy.

The Future:

Mobile technology is not going away. People who are new to it will get used to it. The newer generations will have grown up with it, and wonder how we got by without, in the same way that we wonder how the world worked without radio, motorised transport and frozen food.

It seems odd to think that the iPhone is only 10 years old. We have come so far, to be able to carry a mobile computer, capable of linking to the Global Superhighway, and processing data faster than our forefathers thought was possible. The main question it leaves me with is: What next for mobile technology?

3d Printing is becoming more common, but feed-stock currently precludes it from being truly portable. Bio-monitoring (heart-rate, pulse, sugar levels etc) is advancing. Augmented Reality may attempt to surface again, although Google Glass failed to take off, and Pokemon Go is ‘only’ a game. The veil between the “real world” and “cyberspace” is breaking down, and who knows where that will take us!

We should not mourn the loss of the past, but rather celebrate the onrushing Future, and grasp it with both hands, lest it slip past us!

*Another example of how Modern Technology helped us to communicate! Her days at the hospital were greatly eased by being in constant (txt/Facebook) communication with her nearest and dearest, even though they could not be physically at her side.

More Redesigns

To try to keep a coherent feel cross the Mad Dwarf brand, I have begun rebuilding the PC Wizard website.

Taking the main Mad Dwarf site as a template (as I have with Crystal Wizard and TechNo Prisoners), I have kept the blue and white of the original PC Wizard, giving a level of continuity.

PC Wizard

PC Wizard redesign

I still have a few details to iron out, but it has been a reasonably easy job, copying text from the existing site into the new template, and tweaking to account for the design differences.

It will soon go live, at which point there will be an announcement, and possibly a Grand Re-Opening!  Watch This Space!

Another New Redesign (Again!)

As you may have noticed, the main site, thecrystalwizard.co.uk, has undergone a redesign.

This is part of the recent re-acquisition of our Mother Site, maddwarf.co.uk. Mad Dwarf Productions (MDP) was the original “umbrella organisation” for all of my projects, but due to circumstances beyond my control, the website fell into disrepair. My recent projects sprang up without the guiding light of MDP to keep them coherent, and the designs all went in their own directions.

Now that MDP is back, I am slowly bringing all of the wayward children back into the fold. TechnoPrisoners was designed alongside MDP, and actually sits as sub-site, befitting its station as the first incarnation of MDP-Online. Crystal Wizard has now been brought in line, and the other sites will soon follow.

While I do not profess to be a Master Web-Designer, I have put no small effort into both the technical and aesthetic sides of this design, and I hope it works for you!

The colour schemes have been colour-matched, using a different scheme for each site, to represent their unique flavours, while relying on a common template. The base concept of using labelled Image Links aims to make the site both visually attractive and easy to use, giving quick recognition to each area. Rounded corners softens the look, giving a slightly more informal feel.

Behind the scenes, files have been tidied, renamed and optimised, stripping away unused clutter. The code for the pages has been almost entirely rewritten, incorporating labelled areas (DIV and SECTION tags), and many design elements moved to separate Style Sheets, for ease of maintenance.

I have tried to follow Best Practices for accessibility, incorporating ALT tags to describe images, and making the pages compatible with screen-reading technology for text-to-speech systems.

The Dark Art of SEO (Search-Engine Optimisation) has featured, but as this Alchemy involves tainting ones soul with the ever-vain search for Impressions, Clicks and Likes, I have kept it to the minimum required.

Analytics are run through Google’s offerings, tracking page hits, entry and exit pages, user flow and interactions. This anonymised data is useful for gauging interest, and locating faults, and can be used to suggest area that can use more attention.

Instead of creating a separate Style for mobile devices, the base theme has been written to automatically adjust, allowing the device to display content appropriately. An important design consideration, as people have a wide range of technologies to view the Web on, with a variety of screen-sizes available.

I hope this will lead to a comfortable, coherent experience for my readers, and welcome any feedback regarding the new design!

The Dark Art of Java Programming

To add another string to my bow, I have decided to learn how to write apps for the Android operating system (For those not in the know, there are basically 3 types of smart-phone/tablet: 1) Windows Phone/Tablet (Microsoft), 2) iPhone/iPad (Apple) and 3) Android (made by Google). if your smart-phone is not an iPhone, and is not Windows, it is almost certainly running Android).

Android

Android

The base code for writing programs for Android is called Java. You may have seen Java Updates in the corner of your PC screen. It is a well established computer language, and is used in all manner of ways on web-pages. You may also have seen this chirpy fellow on phones, apps, and elsewhere. He is the mascot/logo for Android. Wherever you see him, you know that you are looking at something for the Android system.

So, back to writing apps. I learnt some basic programming a long time ago, in a language known, appropriately, as BASIC. While it still exists, BASIC is not used very much any more, as languages have evolved, and new, better ways of writing code have been developed alongside new technologies.

Java was originally called Oak, and was developed for Interactive televisions in the early 1990s, but was far ahead of its time. It was renamed in honour of the large amounts of coffee drunk by the development team, and published by Sun Microsystems in 1995. Quickly included into most Web Browsers, Java Applets (small sections of Java code) became very popular for adding interactive features to web pages.
But enough of its history. What of its future? In particular, its future in my hands!

First, I needed a goal. What was my App going to do? I decided upon a Character Reference Sheet for D&D.* To play the game, each player needs to keep track of their Character’s capabilities and skills. Each Character has a Profession, which gives them access to unique abilities (such as a Wizard’s ability to learn Arcane Spells, or a Warrior’s rapidly advancing combat capability). Add in their Power Levels, Hit Points (how many times they can be ‘hit’ in combat before succumbing to their injuries), and several other things that need recording, and it seemed like a reasonable task, that could be built up piece by piece.

Character Sheet App

Character Sheet App

So, I’ve been reading through tutorials, looking over examples, and typing up my own code. After what seems like months of tracking down error messages, figuring why what looks to be correct code produces garbled output (or no output at all!), and generally hammering my head on my keyboard for hours on end, I have produced a simple program that records and displays some of the more important facts and figures needed. I have learnt a lot along the way, including many ways NOT to do things, and as the app grows, I find myself having to rewrite it from scratch, trying to reuse as much code as possible under new structures, as the old code becomes tangled and unwieldy.

I did have a chat over a beer with a friend who knows a lot more about this that I do, and he has pointed me in the right direction in several parts of the program. Hopefully, the next version will be tidy, efficient, and cover most of what is required!

If anyone is interested in a copy of the App, they can contact me at the usual email address: support@thecrystalwizard.co.uk

(Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Photos and names blagged unceremoniously from one of the tutorials I found very helpful: )

*Dungeons and Dragons, a tabletop Role Playing game where players take on the roles of Warriors and Wizards to do battle against Evil foes such as Goblins, Orcs and Dragons.