Being a course rep, St Fagans, personal website

It has been quite a while since I did one of these summary update posts (at least half a year now), so let’s get into this!

Kicking this post off; for this year of studies, I decided that it was time for me to take a more active role with responsibility at my university. Since Wednesday 22nd November 2017, I am now functioning as one of three course representatives for Year 2 Computer Games Development. Basically, I’m here as the first layer of the “student academic representation network” (there are then student voice reps (SVRs) and full-time student officers above me). I am here to represent all students in my year group – they can come to me with feedback that I can then bring up at meetings with other course reps and the course leaders to improve the quality of the course. Since getting into the role, I have taken part in an initial training event thingy, a course rep assembly (involving course reps across the University), and a course rep meeting (just Game Dev and Computer Science course reps and leaders). So far, it feels great to be part of this and I hope I can be an effective and contributing course rep!

This Saturday, I went to St Fagans with my parents! They went mainly for the bread, Bara Birth, since it is literally the best bread ever! I took some photos in the subsequent walk and tried to play around with them when I got home, doing the best I can with just a mid-range smartphone camera. Some came out pretty nice, although a lot of the finer details were somewhat ruined by JPEG compression. I did some post-processing on a few of them in Photoshop to improve them as much as I can. One thing notable about this trip was that the place has changed quite a bit since the last time I went. The front museum part has been modernised and expanded, and it looks great! And they also added this cafe/workshop (pictured below) building outside too!

Finally, my personal website is online! See it here at http://khalidali.co.uk. It will serve as my online portfolio and general hub. It’s source code is essentially a fork of Starfleet’s Path to 2265. Speaking of which, the next update is due next Sunday for that website!

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Using version control and forking, reviews are now overviews, SS Polaris delayed (again)

So I haven’t been making good on my Sunday updates in a while. In fact the last update was the 5th November! However, there are some big updates for today (Tuesday since I was busy this Sunday).

The website’s development is now being tracked and controlled with the version control solution Git, which in the simplest terms allows me to log every change I make to the website and reverse them if I made a mistake. It’s a huge safety net that gives me more peace of mind in case something goes wrong and effectively allows the core files of the website to be mirrored in the cloud somewhere. Git also allows me to branch the website into two separate solutions where I can work on multiple things without them interfering with each other.  When its time to compile the final product, these branches would be merged into one with the differences of each branch carefully accounted for.

Traditionally branching is used to allow multiple people to work on one project at the same time, but I have used it to fork the website into two branches:

  1. master: main website source. The layout and design of master is considered stable and I can add new website content without fear of issues.
  2. designDev: design development source. Here I am free to experiment with layout and design changes without fear of messing up the content. When a compiled change is polished to the point I want to apply it to master, I can merge the two branches’ stylesheets so the changes can be rolled out to public view.

The GitHub repository for Starfleet’s Path to 2265’s complete code and assets is hidden (a necessity since the PHP code of the website contains sensitive information such as the MySQL database password etc.), but you can view master as it is by simply using the site as normal or view designDev‘s progress by navigating to it via the link under “Site development” on the homepage. Whilst version control for the website was not necessary, I think its a cool thing that can really help the website’s development in the long run! Practicing version control is also an industry gem for software and game development.

In other news; Ship Reviews has been renamed Ship Overviews, a decision made in order to reduce any “authoritative” connotations from my opinions. These overviews are intended to give a brief about the ship in canon or non-canon, some basic background information, my opinion on the ship, and (if applicable) how I integrated the design into the website. To launch the change, the overview of SS Valiant is now up! SS Polaris has also been delayed again due to time constraints.

There are a few upcoming changes/fixes as well. A gallery of the website’s development progress will be up in Articles soon, intended to showcase how far this website has come! The search results are kinda messed right now and grossly out of date, so that needs fixing. Some layout fixes and improvements to the side menu will be rolled out soon as well (some of the first major things to come out of designDev).

New site colour, upgraded search, SS Polaris delayed

First thing first: weekly updates will be on Sundays now since my week is getting busier and busier.

So after finally realising the issues with contrasting red and blue, the side colours are now red and medium grey for the time being. For now I think the colours look nice and modern, but it is likely going to change in the future.

20171105_desktop

A change that you will not notice from looking at the site is the upgraded search. I finally upgraded to using PHP data objects (PDO) instead of using raw MySQL calls. Chapter 1 has gotten a few updates too with the inclusion of UESPA-9 (FINALLY) and ship sideviews packed with the narrative.

UESPA-20 (SS Polaris) designing has been delayed for a week or so whilst I make changes to the website elsewhere. I am also working on my personal portfolio website as well, which is taking up some of my allocated website development timeslot within my week.

That’s all for now anyway. Have a good bonfire night everyone!

Rapidly building a design from scratch

Apologies for missing Thursday’s update. I was quite busy that day.

Anyway. So this is the second ship I’m designing for Starfleet’s Path to 2265. It is required for Chapter 2, and it’s a small UESPA ship designed to fill a void.

UESPA-20 (SS Polaris) of 2085.

The design borrows some elements from Masao Okazaki’s designs at The Starfleet Museum, with the nose being inspired by the Bison-class and its offshoots. But the rest of the design is still overall primitive compared to any 2150s ship. The design is not complex, and was developed very quickly. It actually started as two different design concepts I made about a month ago in preparation for its eventual inclusion in Chapter 2. My spec called for a small UESPA ship designed to be fast for its era and undertake early escort duties. As long as the ship was small, there were no real size specifications.

polaris_stage_1
Original study drawings

Yesterday (after a month of waiting), I finally continued with the design by computerizing both drawings into scaled models with fixed deck heights. Minor design adjustments were made.

polaris_stage_2
CAD designs (2D Design V2)

And now today, I jumped straight onto detail with the second model married to the upper structure of the first model. The nacelle was also moved to the vertical center of the ship

polaris_stage_3

I tried to project a small design via large windows, and I made the design seem long to convey a seek and fast design. Hopefully, it will be finished in time for the next Thursday update!

UESPA-9 finished, early warp reactors added

Well, I’ve just finished my UESPA-9 design in time for today’s update! Take a look at the development of the design:

uespa9_final
Late-August to mid-October 2017 development

I should make it clear than not everything about the design is finished. An orthographic and internal schematic is yet needed to give a complete picture, but this complete sideview will be enough to allow me to begin incorporating the design into the website fully. By the end of today, I should have most of the ship’s database entry done. By this time next week, I should also have a few paragraphs about the ship written for insertion into chapter 1. For now, you can read more about the design here!

Another significant addition to the website is a section of the (currently only UESPA) database dedicated to warp reactors. Since reactors are probably the single best way to signify technological development in starships, I decided it was time to put some attention there. Currently, information on the Cochrane-type fusion, Yoyodyne-type pulse fusion, and Cochrane II-series fusion reactors is present (which are written in chapter 1 and 2 to be the most prominent reactors in the mid-to-late 21st century). A Yoyodyne II-type pulse fusion reactor page will be done within the next few days to compliment the completion of the DY-732-class ship database entry next Thursday.

Have a good evening!

My first original ship

15th October.

That’s the date my Star Trek-themed website will be fully launched and online. As that day approaches, I will be continuing to refine the website’s design and adding launch content. Today, I am currently working on my first original ship design for the website. But before we get into that, I think it is about time I brief what this website is all about.

“Starfleet’s Path to 2265” is as nerdy as it sounds. It is mainly a creative written piece on the subjective fictional history of starships belonging to Earth and Federation design. It’s based around the Star Trek’s prime universe and conforms to canon (mostly). My biggest intention is to fill in the blanks in the timeline between Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Enterprise. Over a year ago, I wrote a small piece about SQL and PHP (In the deep end: MySQL & PHP) that demonstrated an older project called the “Federation Starship Database”. It is kind of like a continuation of that with a refined goal and scope. Pre-TOS and TOS ships are my favourite from Star Trek, and this website is dedicated towards them.

Now, the ship design.

This first of many starship designs I am creating is an early explorer of the United Earth Space Probe Agency, SS Voyager (UESPA-9). I have designed and written the ship to be an early ambitious failure – a complex deep space explorer design in a period of Earth’s history where it is still suffering from the effects of a World War. A recipe for disaster. The design is largely based on a successful canon design from the same period, SS Conestoga (which I have given the registry of UESPA-8).

SS_Conestoga
The canon SS Conestoga, the ship my design is largely based on. Image from Memory Alpha, used under Fair Use.

In order to explain my process, I have briefly documented the design process here. The first thing I did was sketch up some small low detail forms for the ship based on a few well-known references from the same period (SS Valiant of 2065, SS Conestoga of 2067 and DY-500-class of 2076).

uespa9_stage_1

I found that the last form I did was the one I liked the most, as well as the most unique. So I took that form, refined the details, and did some basic annotations on the design.

uespa9_stage_2
Correction: the size measurements should read “145 (length) x 20 (width) x 30 (draft), 50,000 metric tonnes”. In hindsight, the width is far too small anyway and should logically be around 50 to 60 metres.

I then roughly recreated the form on a CAD software (I use TechSoft’s 2D Design V2) so that the design would be confined to a proper scale. I then made a copy of the form and revised the layout of the ship to better suit the length and draft I specified in my annotated drawing (although my specified width of 20 metres will likely cause problems and I am now presuming the width to be around 50 to 60 metres to accommodate the “wing” span of the nacelle pylons).

uespa9_stage_3

Finally, I produced a colourised detail basic render of the ship as a current progress preview for this blog post.

uespa9_stage_4

I hope to have this design completed by the end of the week, and it will be included in my next week’s blog update for the website. Have a good day!

Ironing out “Starfleet’s Path to 2265”

After an interesting birthday on the 27th where a bunch of friends and I had a debate about the merits and dangers of artificial intelligence, it is time to get back on with life. My Star Trek-themed website is nearing the point where it is polished enough to go on the interwebz. Hopefully, it should be online around the middle of next month once I have purchased the domain name I need.

I have made some considerable chances since my last post about the website (Library, Rain & ul/li menus). I rebuild the code and styling of the website in a complete mobile-first approach, implemented the ul/li menu, and generally added more content ready for launch. For this week, I am currently working on refining the style of the website. As it currently stands:

So far, creating content has been thought-provoking and fun to do! Whilst it may take years to complete everything I want to do, the motivation to do this has allowed me to create a fair bit of launch material ready for next month. Here are some examples:

(Please ignore any spelling, grammar or word flow issues. Everything will be proof read eventually before launch.)

Developing the design to suit the content has been interesting too. As shown by the example of a ship report above (and below in far more detail), I have been developing these ‘boxes’ for different types of content to give the page an LCARS-like (the interface of TNG-era Starfleet computer terminals) feel. I avoided completely copying LCARS due to the fact that this website is based around pre-TOS and TOS content (the similarities are just a ‘tip off the hat’). These boxes do collapse on mobiles and tablets in order to free up space for words.

So that’s about it for this update! Most of the changes from here on will be refinements and additions to the CSS stylesheets and adding more content. One thing to be revised is the colour scheme – the blue seems too intense on some displays. Adding more HTML (except when headings and paragraphs are needed) and PHP code is unlikely.