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Computers & Technology

¨  How much time is appropriate for a child to spend playing games on the Internet?
¨  Why are there so many different formats for digital music? (MP3, WMA, M4A etc) ?
¨  What computer programs does Dan Maas use in his animations?
¨
  Can you suggest some affordable beginner's computer graphics programs?
¨
  How do I know if I have a real virus or if an email warning is just a hoax?

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QUESTION:
How much time is appropriate for a child to spend playing games on the Internet?

ANSWER from Michelle Mock on 28 August 2006:
First, it depends on the age.  Second, it depends what you are doing.  If you are only "playing", I would say that you should not spend more than a very small fraction of the time you spend playing outside or exercising.  The Internet is not for "playing".  The purpose of the Internet is for communicating information.

Finally, it is our opinion that children under the age of 13 should NEVER play alone on the Internet.  They should always be under the supervision of their parents or teachers.  Playing on the Internet is like playing in the streets of any large city.  It is dangerous.

On our disclaimer page we state:

"If you are a kid who is visiting Imagiverse for the first time, we hope you are doing so with a parent, teacher or other grownup.  If not, please go get them NOW and we want them to read this page with you!  The Imagiverse Team believes that no young children should be surfing the Internet (even educational sites) without parent or adult supervision.  If you are not old enough to be dropped off at a shopping mall, movie theatre or amusement park by yourself, you should not be on the Internet alone.  The Internet is a wonderful place, just like New York City or London or Tokyo or any number of places on our beautiful planet.  Unfortunately, just like those wonderful cities, there are many dangers out on the Internet too.  Be careful and be safe.  Don't trust a stranger on the Internet any more than you would a stranger on the street."

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QUESTION:
Why are there so many different formats for digital music (MP3, WMA, M4A, etc.)?

ANSWER from Michelle Mock on 16 August 2006:
Are you familiar with the expressions "build a better mouse trap" and "re-inventing the wheel"?  In many situations, it is a waste of time to build something that has already been created.  Unless it is significantly different (and better), there is no point in "re-inventing the wheel".  It's been done.

Competition drives people to "build a better mouse trap".  They seek to improve on something or develop something better and garner their share of the market.  Technology develops so fast, there is always something better.  There are plenty of opportunities for people to improve on something.  Digital music formats is an example.

Another example is disposable diapers for babies!  The leading brands are continually striving to come up with something better.  First, the invention of disposable diapers was wonderful for busy parents who didn't have time to deal with cloth diapers and found a "diaper service" too inconvenient.  Early disposable diapers were much like cloth diapers in function.  They served the purpose and all was good.  However, it seems a diaper can always be improved on.  Changes in shape, gathers, absorbency, colors, etc., etc. made one brand overtake another in popularity and then another brand would come up with something even better.  The competition to be best is beneficial for the consumer.

Recorded music used to be played back on vinyl disks and reel to reel magnetic tape.  Before that, it was recorded on a type of cylinder.  People wanted to play their own music in their car, so there was a new market for something portable.  The answer 8-track tapes and cassette tapes.  The cassette format won out and 8-tracks became historical artifacts.

Video was another medium in different formats ... Betamax and VHS ... VHS won that competition.  Computers ... you have Macs and PCs.  For all these things, there are probably several other formats that never gained sufficient popularity to be remembered.  Camcorders, digital cameras and cell phones all have different features.  Look at all the different types of recording devices for cameras... mini-tapes, mini-DVDs, and a wide variety of data cards.

Look at film... so many different types of film are available (if you have a camera that uses that sort of thing)!  Different types exist because there is a market for them.  If people don't purchase the product, it will cease to exist.

Different music formats have their own markets.  You may want to do a search on the Internet using words like "music format difference".  There you can learn more about the different formats and understand better why there are so many.  As long as something has a market and can be successful, it will thrive.  At some point, something new and better will come along.

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QUESTION:
What computer program does Dan Maas use in his animations?

ANSWER from Dan Maas on 11 April 2004:
The short answer is Lightwave 5.6 with a few (small) custom plugins.

There is a detailed explanation at:
http://www.maasdigital.com/mervideo-tech.html

Dan Maas
Digital Artist
New York State

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QUESTION:
Can you suggest any affordable (less than $400) software packages I can use to learn to do computer graphics on?  In addition, can you suggest any books on the mathematics used in the creation of CGI?

ANSWER from Luis Flores on 21 January 2004:
The best imaging software on the market, in my opinion, is the Adobe brand of products.  But as you may have noticed, they are also the most expensive.  So after that it really becomes a question of what direction you need to go and putting together what you need to get there.  Sometimes the most rewarding projects come from combining unlikely methods of achieving a quality result.

Jasc Paint Shop Pro sells on Amazon.com for 84.99.  This is the product most similar to Adobe Photo Shop on the market, it has a price that can't be beat.  I honestly don't use the program all that often, but I remember the interface to be very intuitive and easily mastered.  If you do a little hunting on the web, you'll find many other users who have created nifty "tricks" to make this product do almost everything that the Adobe counterpart is able to achieve.

http://www.eovia.com/ has purchased the products that used to be under the name Meta Creations.  Their introductory product Carrara is a wonderful start in the field of 3D CGI.  It has a suggested retail price of $99.  I have used their previous application "Ray Dream Studio" and loved the feel of the environment.  It was again, easy to adjust to, and the 3D models were easily molded with little "true" math.

If you are a student, by all means look into purchasing your products either through your campus book store or through http://shop.efollett.com.  They have very generous discounts!

As far as books dealing with the math of computer graphics ... you've kind of thrown me for a loop.  I did a search through Amazon.com and found a few products that might interest you.  (Honestly, if you're talking about design in 2D -- just jump in and begin your artistic journey!  If you're interested in 3D, find a program, begin modeling, and you'll soon learn what you need to read up on.)

3D Math Primer for Graphics and Game Development
        34.97                ISBN: 1556229119
Geometric Tools for Computer Graphics
        69.95                ISBN: 1558605940

I hope I was able to help in some small respect.  If you were looking for a more specific response or recommendation, please don't hesitate to contact Imagiverse again!

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QUESTION:
How do I know if I have a real virus or if an email warning is just a hoax?

ANSWER from Andrea Daroff on 19 March 2003:
First of all, NEVER panic when you receive a notice like this.  ALWAYS, regardless of who sent it to you, CHECK IT OUT before you act on the instruction or forward it to anyone else.  There is always plenty of time to THINK before you act.  Visit the McAfee or the Symantec websites to find out whether the message you have received is real or a hoax.  If it is a true virus, follow the instructions on the website.  And if you don't have time to check it out before you forward it to your friends, then be a true friend and don't forward it at all -- no matter how urgent it sounds.  Nine times out of ten, these notices are hoaxes.

For Urban Legends and Hoaxes, I like this site: http://urbanlegends.about.com/ and for Viruses (real and otherwise) I like the Symantec (Norton AntiVirus) site http://securityresponse.symantec.com/.  Both sites are easy to search and both are trustworthy.

Second, always use BCC (not TO or CC) to address messages that are sent to more than one person.  Why?  Because it protects the privacy of your e-mail friends (especially when your message is forwarded by the recipient).  Moreover, the newer e-mail programs automatically collect e-mail addresses and add them to your address-book.  These days we have no idea how many people have our e-mail addresses.

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Last Updated:
25 June 2007
 

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