February 16, 2014

Developing for Android

If you're going to develop Android applications, and you've run into a problem with the Android Virtual Device Manager - as in, the emulator is just TOO DAMNED SLOW - I've got two tips for you I found elsewhere on the web:

0. If you're on Windows, even the program recommends setting the RAM to 768 - so do this first - I wasn't even able to get an AVD to run with more than that.

1. http://stackoverflow.com/questions/7430039/android-virtual-device-super-slow-pc-too-slow - Up the VM Heap Size available to apps - the default is just too damned small (I think mine was set to 48).  Edit that Virtual Device and give that VM Heap size 512 - Just this alone sped up the emulator to the point where it could boot for me.  It made a WORLD of difference.

2. http://software.intel.com/en-us/android/articles/speeding-up-the-android-emulator-on-intel-architecture - Install the Intel x86 Emulator Accelerator.  And not just install it from the Android SDK Manager.  This only downloads the tool to your PC.  You will need to go into the SDK's folder and find intelhaxm.exe and run it to actually install the Accelerator.

3. From that same Intel reference: Use the Intel Atom CPU/ABI and choose 'Use Host GPU' for the Emulation Options.

With those things, my emulator was up and running in less than a minute and ran smoothly.

January 19, 2014

Story Time - How Teachers Can Crush the Spirit of Young Learners

Art is a skill that has limited to no association with what I currently do for a living, but has been a quiet passion of mine for many, many years.  Most people that know me have no realization that within me burns a passion for artistic expression, because I have learned to quell this from coming to the fore.

There were two teachers in my middle and high schools that heavily influenced my artistic development, and neither of them for the good.  This is just a story that needs to be told, so I thought I'd share it here on my blog.

In sixth grade, I attended a single-grade annex school of I.S. 24 in New York.  One of the classes we took was an art class that covered a large variety of materials and artistic methods.  We did painting, mosaics using food-colored rice, paper mache', and drawing with watercolors and inks.  One drawing firmly in my mind is a project that we were doing in class where we had copied some artwork from a book using pencils and tracing methods, but were tasked with coloring it with watercolors.  We had to work at a table with other students, and I was stuck at a table where there was this one asshole kid who didn't give a shit about the class or the assignment.  During the class, he decided it would be fun to take his wet brush with watercolors and flick it at other people's artwork, spraying it and destroying the painting.  Of course, I had no choice but to tell the teacher he was destroying the artwork, and I would have expected that she would punish the little jerk-face and at least isolate me from him so that I could finish working on my piece.  However, I was shocked and amazed when she came over and expressed to both of us that his 'flicks' made my piece look more INTERESTING.  What the fuck!?! And then she turned off and went over to other tables!!  No punishment, only encouragement for the asshole's behavior!  Of course, the cackling little fucker took this to mean he could do whatever the hell he wanted.  He and I began a battle of flicks that destroyed both works of art, but of course he could care less about his.  And me, my spirit lay crushed, in the painting that I was proud of was now ruined by a little shit.

In ninth grade, I took a drafting class [mechanical drawing] at South Brunswick High School in New Jersey, led by an older black gentleman with a gruff demeanor and the scowl of Scrooge himself.  I didn't mind his demeanor and thought of him as a talented and experienced drafter who had given up his career to begin teaching and mentoring new students into THE WAY.  The class was glorious! I loved going to the class and developing highly precise drawings of objects in all three dimensions, using the T-Square and Triangles, precisely copying the fonts and measuring to ensure the diagrams were accurate blueprints.  It was fantastic up until the part where we had to ink the drawings.  Now, this was back in 1980/81, so inking drawings was done using ink-well pens.  I don't know if you've ever had to use one of these stupid things, but essentially the first thing you're going to do is blot your work.  Then, you're going to blot some more.  The solution to this is to ink a drawing over a thin see-through film, rather than right on the original.  If you blot, you start the inking process over.  I learned for the most part how to control the pen, but it was a difficult task, and even toward the end of the class, I would occasionally blot my inking and have to restart it.  I was still doing fine, and I certainly had the patience to restart when needed - it was part of the requirement, after all.

It all ended with the final exam.  You see, the final exam counted for half of our grade, and it had an inking in it.  That would have been fine except for two things:

  • There was a time limit of the one hour class, so restarting or redoing the work would not be possible.
  • Just as he handed out the final exam, he made the statement, "If you blot your final work, you will receive an F"
But, hey, no pressure, right?!?!  SHIT, when I got to the final ink, I was nervous as hell.  I got 90% of the way through the final inking before you can guess what happened.  The ink in a freshly welled tip spilled over the final draft, ruining the fine and precise lines I had spent 50 minutes making.

I cried like a little girl.  Yes, that's right, I cried, folks - I was ruined. I turned in what work I had finished (the pencil drawing), and sure enough - that [Edit: there was a REALLY bad word here.  When I wrote this, I passionately considered it and decided to write it anyway.  However, some people may find it very offensive, and they may end up judging me by that one word.  I do not have a career as a writer.  Were I Norman Mailer, I would have left it in.  I am not, it comes out.] failed me just like he said.  The emotional toil of failing a class that I absolutely LOVED and even had the majority of the skill-set for (apart from inking, apparently) was so devastating that I didn't touch a T-Square for 30 years.

I now own a drafting table.  I bought it when I moved into this house and saw a mechanical table on Craigslist.  Some guy had been using it as a mechanical lift in his garage and it was covered in grease and oils.  I cleaned it up and put a new surface on it from a local art store.  When I find time, I go downstairs and I draw using the drafting table for a surface.  I even have a T and triangle.  Of course, the actual art of mechanical drawing is now very computerized.  I like to play with Blender every now and again, but find very little time for those pursuits among all of the other things that grab my interest and require my time, but if I ever had lots of free time on my hands, it would be one of the things I love to do.