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New CopperCube WebGL Demo

Because I now implemented so many new features for the upcoming update of CopperCube, I've noticed that most demos on the website are quite old already, some of them even two years now. So I decided it might be a good idea to produce at least a few new ones, and I started with this one here:

Trying to show some character animation, actions and behaviors, the usage of paths and billboards, and also some dynamic light. I'm not sure if I like the demo yet, but it is small and simple, shows everything I wanted and needs just a few kilobytes in size. But try it for yourself, here is the WebGL version of the demo:

I think it also could be a bit more interactive, but I'm not sure how. :)

All this will be in the next update of CopperCube. If you would like to get a mail once this new version of CopperCube is released, subscribe to the Ambiera Newsletter:
Your email adress:

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New Ambiera Office Staff Member

It's summer, and - you know - real news are rare during these weeks. Ok, maybe apart from the fact that our financial system now appears to start breaking down, but that's a completly different story.
Time for some cat content! Well, ok, it's not a cat, but see for yourself:

This little guy now is living - or better: sleeping - in my office. He was found as baby in Vienna in a dumpster. Apparently, someone didn't want him and decided to put him into the trash. He appears to like it better in my office.

IEWebGL 1.0 released

The Iplugin for making WebGL work also in Microsofts browser 'Internet Explorer', IEWebGL, has been just released in version 1.0. It works in IE8, IE9 and the IE10 previews. This is a great step for WebGL, meaning apps using pure Javascript based 3D graphics will now run on all major browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, InternetExplorer, and soon also Opera.

I will start using this plugin on ambiera.com for the WebGL demos soon. I also like the business model of IEWebGL: basically it's freeware, but for showing WebGL content in IE on your domain without overlay, you need to get a relatively cheap developer license.

Sorry, but this is not supported on your hardware

Most of the WebGL demos posted on the web, trying to showing off some of the great effects people can do with their mad programming skillz feel like the NVidia or DirectX SDK demos years ago: Half of them simply won't work on my system because they are using some extension my 3D hardware doesn't support. Not sure why people always need to use the latest and most obscure features of 3d drivers and cards. With a little bit tweaking, you can also do great stuff on the hardware everyone has.

Icon work

I'm currently working on a new feature in CopperCube, which requires some similar icons to the ones already used in the editor. So I have to diversify both a bit, resulting in new icons also for the existing features. Having repainted them about 3 times now, and having looked at them now at least 500 times, I'm not sure anymore if they are brilliant or absolutely crap:

What do you think? Are the icons ok?
I generally have the problem that looking at art repeatedly, I'm not able to tell anymore if the artwork is nice or not. Works the same for icons, logos and website designs. Maybe that's why I'm such a bad artist. :)

My secret Hobby: Applying for jobs

I have a probably unusual habit: I'm applying for jobs as programmer at least once a year. It 's not that I don't have a job, or that I don't like what I do, but since I am self employed and running my own company I have the feeling that I am coming out of touch of what the current job market is like, and so I started to apply for jobs at different companies once in a while. Just to keep in mind how this is like and for the fun of it.
I think this is also a good training should I need to be employed again in the near future: As 'CEO' of your own company, you tend to become a bit arrogant and tend to get an exaggerated opinion of yourself. Doing job interviews helps you to keep down to reality a bit.

So about once in a year I pick an advertised programmers job at a company I like, and in most cases, they invite me to the job interview. Because I'm not actually looking for a job, this sounds maybe like I'm wasting the time of that company, but actually, I usually tell them that I'm currently not looking urgently for a job. Additionally, who knows, maybe the job is surprisingly nice and interesting, and maybe the payment is as well, so if they want me, I maybe still would consider working for them.

Until now, I did quite a few job interviews like that, and most of them were quite interesting. I talked with a lot of interesting people, learned new views, got constructive reviews of my skills and personality, and even built some business relationships in this way.

But recently, I noticed that all this has changed a bit: Human resources divisions of companies tend to treat applicants like meat and recruiting agencies don't even know what kind of people they are looking for. The usual symptoms of this is that the people you talk with in this process can't tell the difference between C++ and JavaScript, and they tend to want to invite you to at least three different rounds of interviews, distributed over several weeks. The time between applying for a job and getting an answer has gone up, and even small companies now behave in that process like they are multinational corporations.

I'm not sure if this is just me, but I think experienced software engineers don't play along with this. If a recruiter seriously asks me for a clearance certificate by the police for a job as website back-end programmer, then I won't apply for the job. If you want me to program a puzzle test for several hours just to apply for your company's crappy underpaid job, then no, sorry. If you want me to fill out your custom online application web form with about 50 fields where half of the comboBoxes don't contain the values which would be correct for me, then I simply apply for a job at a different company.

These companies don't notice that in this way, the good people a driven away, and only the desperate will apply. So I pity those poor programmers who get treated this way today and I am currently quite happy that I'm not looking for a job under these circumstances.

Unrelated Ramblings

Are all people getting more stupid during the summer months? Or is it just me? Fortunately, also the scammers seem to become more stupid...

Playing with Lighting

I'm currently working on unifying the lighting system in CopperCube. Basically, there is a lot of code in it to create lighting in that editor: Static lighting from the lightmap generator and lots of different dynamic lighting implementations for D3D8, D3D9, OpenGL, WebGL and Flash Molehill/Stage3D. While I was ensuring that all of them work and look exactly the same, I also adjusted the lighting method a bit, resulting in the ability to fine tune the lighting quite a bit.

After that, I tweaked the backyard demo scene with the new lighting, and the result was the image above. Pretty nice, I'd say. Looks much more realistic now. But there's still some work to do, for example it looks like I have a bug with the ambient light in the WebGL shader.

All this will be in the next update of CopperCube. If you would like to get a mail once this new version of CopperCube is released, subscribe to the Ambiera Newsletter:
Your email adress:

(will open the ambiera.com website for confirmation)

Amazon.com and my Indie Software Company

Now that a few negative articles about the Amazon App store are popping up up all over the web (Amazon App Store: Rotten To The Core, Game Developers Warned Away From Amazon Appstore), I thought it might be interesting to tell you my short story related to this:

I run a small company which creates a few small, but useful pieces of software, like irrFuscator, an Actionscript 3 obfuscator used also by some quite known developers. A few months ago, Amazon contacted me via email, asking me if I would be interested in selling my products on their site. I'm used to mails like that, but the email was written in a strange formatting (Verdana and Calirbi as fonts? Yellow text? Strange signature? really?) and I wasn't sure if such a big player like Amazon really would send out such mails. So I said, "sure, why not, I'm interested, send me the details". A mail came back from an @amazon.com domain, so obviously this wasn't some kind of scam, and contained the agreement details. The guy sitting there at amazon probably hasn't had much experience with writing mails, but who cares, as long as they would sell my software everything would be fine.

Reading through the agreement, I came across a few strange details. For example, they wanted to collect some 'ingestion fees', what appears to me some money I have to pay to them each time I do a software update. Strange, but ok, maybe I could live with this. Next, the agreement I was supposed to sign tells that I confirm that I am a company from the U.S. Asking back the amazon guy, telling him that we are based in Europe resulted in the answer "that's ok, just ignore that part, and sign it anyway". Yeah, sure. I'll sign an agreement knowingly lying. Of course.

But then I came across this: It appears that Amazon wants to be the one controlling the price of my product. As it seems, they would be able to simply define any price for the product, and change it at any time they want, without asking me about this. I asked back the guy from Amazon if this is true, and he confirmed. This is basically a big show stopper. Sure, maybe Amazon is used to do deals with book authors and publishers, which are used to be dictated the prices they get for their products, but this doesn't work for software developers. Especially not for indie software developers like me. The price is one of the most important thing for your software, and not having any control over it doesn't work. The internet is just a bunch of websites, and I'm not going to compete with my own products sold on another website on the web. Also, if your product is a quite high quality thing, and amazon decides to sell it for 99 cents intead of the usual 40 euro, people will start to view it as cheap. So I'm not going to let other people decide the price for my product, I'm sorry.

You probably realized that this article isn't exactly about the Amazon App Store, but from reading the articles developers are posting about their experiences, they seemed to have signed up to a very similar agreement for the Amazon App Store. From all this, beginning from the guy writing strange formatted emails, ending with the price settings for your products, it appears that Amazon doesn't have much experience selling software downloads, and is trying to use the same model they've been using to sell books - now to sell software. Which obviously doesn't work that nice. Developers seem to get alienated by that. But who knows, maybe they change, would be nice for them.