Re-learn Blender!

A few years ago I wrote a guide to learning Blender. But recently they greatly changed the whole UI, so I’ve redone it.

In general I don’t like UI revamps: they break the program and muscle memory for existing users, and this is a big one– things that you used to know are hidden in new places, and it was never very easy to find things in Blender’s overgrown garden anyway. But now that I’ve gone over everything, I actually like the new UI.

  • Now you select things by left-clicking, like every other program in the world, not by right-clicking.
  • Similarly, you can select points by click-and-drag, as in 2-D graphics programs, and click outside your object to deselect.
  • They’ve added a toolbar allowing easy mouse manipulation, as an alternative to the R/G/S keys.
  • They’ve added a widget that allows one-click access to top/front/side views. There are still keypad alternatives.
  • They’ve added a mode that makes UV mapping far easier. (They just open two views for you, which you could have done before, but getting into and out of UV editing is now just one keystroke.)

It’s still not an easy program to use, but all these things are in the right direction. (Some things, like getting the program to display your textures, are non-intuitive… but they kind of were before, and the new methods avoid a few side details I no longer have to explain, like cameras.)

Now, why would you want to use Blender? Well, it’s free, and very powerful, and if you want to make 3-D models for anything, it’s a great choice. I explained some other choices in the Planet Construction Kit, Hammer and Second Life, but those are way outdated.

I put modeling in the PCK for the same reason I have a chapter on drawing things: because visual creation is a huge part of conworlding, and helps bring a world alive. There’s a reason movies, TV shows, and video games engage people so deeply. (I still want to create an Almean walking simulator, not necessarily a game.)

I’d also add: if you avoid visual creation because you can’t draw, then maybe 3-D modeling is the answer. Like,. suppose you want a city scene within your world, or a view of the dwarven ruins, or even a picture of a single room or building. That’s a tall order for drawing, because it requires not just imagination but a mastery of perspective, and good intuition in choosing viewing angle, lighting, etc. Plus, any of those scenes will require drawing dozens of things that you probably don’t know how to draw well.

But with a 3-D modeling program, you can create a scene out of smaller elements, then choose the camera angle that shows it off best. It really is simpler to (say) create a colonnade in Blender than to draw one that looks convincing. And though texturing 3-D objects is difficult, you could always use Blender to do the perspective for you, then finish the drawing in a paint program.

The problem is that 3-D modeling programs have a pretty frightening learning curve. Which is why I made my tutorial! So go try it out. And tell me if you want more, or a guide to creating a game in Unity. (Or Blender, which I hear is now possible…)

ZBB is back

The ZBB is back.

The brief story: Bluehost upgraded the scripting software, php. The forum software, phpbb, doesn’t work with the new php. Bluehost did not bother to inform clients about the upgrade, and only of three reps I talked to even understood the issue. And they didn’t seem to know what phpbb was.

On the plus side: it was clear what to do, namely upgrade phpbb. This went smoothly enough, though it was tedious and took most of the afternoon. Bonus, I have a FTP client now that I know works.

ZBB ongoing…

I heard from Bluehost. The good news: they finally did the restore. The bad news: it doesn’t help.

But, this rep was slightly more on the ball than the others. She said that they had upgraded php, the scripting software the board uses, and that was causing things to break. It would have been nice to get some warning about this, or for other reps to be informed, but whatevs.

The obvious next step is to upgrade the phpbb software. I’ve downloaded the latest version and unzipped it, but I still have to mess with getting it onto the server. If you hear muffled cursing over the next few days, that’ll be me.

Edit: Looks like I got FTP to work. Kind of. Too tired to work on it now though.

ZBB troubles

For those who are smart enough to check here for news…

The ZBB was down since yesterday. Bluehost was of little help; I think the first rep I talked to didn’t understand that phpBB is a program Bluehost supports. I called back and asked them to restore the website from a backup taken last week. They don’t seem to have gotten to that yet.

Now, their support did point to a particular file, deep within phpbb, that was causing the error. Alert user bradrn pointed out that his version (from didn’t match. It looked like a change I had made to that file years ago was suddenly causing an error. I removed the change and lo and behold, the board is visible again.

But, bad news: it’s still borked. In particular, posting is broken, which makes it pretty unusable. A bunch of minor things look wrong too.

I am going to let them do the restore, at the cost of losing a week’s worth of posts. Maybe that will fix things.

If that doesn’t work, I will probably have to upgrade phpBB, which is about as much fun as dental work, only you can’t get Novocaine.

Important zbb news

This is to catch anyone who hasn’t been looking at the ZBB lately because it’s been full of errors.

I’m going to move the board to a new host, in stages.  The first stage is to set up the board on a new host, which is done.  You can get there at

To sign up you’ll need a code, which is 676.

Anything you post there is temporary and liable to go away. That’s because the plan is to back up the database from the old ZBB, copy it to the new host, and point the new board at it.  If all goes well, all the old users and posts will come over with it.

(If it doesn’t, plan B is to keep the old data around for some period.)

I wanted to at least get a temporary board up so people can post things without annoyance.

At some point soon, I will have to take the old board down to back it up.  So if it’s down in the next few days, that’s why.

ZBB problems (fixed)

For anyone who thinks to check here… yes, the ZBB is having problems, I know, and I’ve submitted a ticket with Dreamhost.

(Basically you can look at most threads, but not all, and you can’t post at all.  I can’t log in as admin so I can’t even put an alert over there.)

More bulletins when I know more (also on Twitter).

Edit: Looks like it’s fixed.  Dreamhost, with moderate usefulness, told me I should optimize the database and maybe repair tables.  They suggested phpMyAdmin, which didn’t work. But their page also suggested using SSH, and that worked.

The problem may have been intermittent, I can’t tell, but I can say that I couldn’t post yesterday and now I can. So in good IT tradition I’m going to close this up as resolved.

ZBB logins are borked

Edit: Fixed for now.  (Downgraded to a php version that worked.  Everything will have to be upgraded again at a later date.)

Dreamhost ‘upgraded’ the phpbb on my domains today, which broke the Almeopedia and, even more annoyingly, the ZBB.

The symptom: logins don’t work.  They give some cryptic messages, and you get a success message, but when you return to the main page you are not actually logged in.

If you’re already logged in, it seems to work OK, so don’t log out. If you’re logged out, you’re out of luck, for now.

I’ve complained to Dreamhost, so hopefully they will fix things tomorrow.

Where’s the ZBB?

Good question!  It sure looks like it’s been hacked.  Trying to contact DreamHost to see if it can be fixed.

Edit: It was just me, thanks to a bug from AT&T.  We lost phone and internet connection, and AT&T puts in a cookie that attempts to do a redirect, and fails.