Farmer joe

Ever wanted to render your fresh blender animation in full glory but refrained of doing so because of the long waiting time? Or you just wished you could involve that other computer that’s doing nothing while you’re waiting for your rendering? 🙂

There are several distributed rendering solutions for Blender. I once tried out DrQueue. DrQueue seems like a very powerful tool, but a bit troublesome to set up imho (on windows). I never got a working solution. When reading up on the blendernation post, FarmerJoe immediately seemed a very pragmatic and practical solution to me, accessible for the average joe. 😉 The whole thing is written in Perl, remarkably. 🙂 (except for the blender interface of course, which is python) So I tried it out, and indeed, after a few minutes, I was rendering a movie on 2 computers. It wasn’t a matter of seconds however, since I had some trouble configuring the windows share with non-default values.

The script assumes you use the R drive for sharing between clients/server but this drive letter is already taken in my case. So I put it on S:. Unfortunately, the blender script didn’t seem to adopt my drive letter, even after altering the initialization code in the python source. When I hard-coded the path everywhere, it worked. 🙂

A more interesting thing to me, seemed the support for bucket rendering, as the author calls it. Instead of dividing the frames of a movie over several slaves, FarmerJoe supports dividing a frame into several tiles, which are glued together afterwards (using imagemagick I believe). Unfortunately, there too, I received scripting errors, which I thought would probably be related again to my non-standard setup. I didn’t have the time anymore to check out the source, but I will follow-up on this post when it’s resolved!

UPDATE (20h47)

Heh, I figured it out. 🙂 Of course, it was all my fault. 😉

First of all, it seemed I didn’t see the full FarmerJoe gui. The FarmerJoe gui’s layout is deceiving in that there is a lot of space below the button on the bottom, while I didn’t see the top of the gui! I did try scaling it like the rest of Blender’s gui but I don’t know if that normally works on script gui’s.. So if you see the full gui, you can enter the farmerjoe path in a text box instead of having to edit the source. This doesn’t explain why editing the initial value of that text box didn’t make it work, oh well..

Secondly, I read in the code comments that the bucket render script does not have to be executed separately; it is called from within the main farmerjoe script! So you still need to put it in your scripts folder, which makes it show up in the blender script menu, but you can’t execute it. Also, if you want farmer joe to split your frames into pieces, you may only give him one frame. You can do that by setting your start and end frame accordingly. See here:


Mailman chronicles

ok, so you know mailman? But how to fetch a subscribers list without using the admin interface?

Mailman does not use a database nor does it store a list’s subscribers in some plain text format. So how to start? I searched the mailman mailinglist archive and didn’t find a clue. I looked a bit at the code, but it’s hard to get started if you’re not into python. 😉
By searching the mailman dir I found a .pck file.. It’s a pickled file. 🙂 This seems to be the Python term for serialization. So I found a mailinglist in its pickled state which seemed to contain the subscribers. Mmm, okay, let’s download the mailman source and find the usages of the pickle library.. Got it! 🙂 So hooray, fire up that python eclipse plugin that I’ve been eager to try out on a real piece of code, open up those nice python references and let’s unpickle!

Ehrm.. wait a second.. Apparently, downloading the source code can reveal other interesting parts of mailman. Like, for example, a script that lists all subscribers? =)

Another lesson learned with open source projects: FIRST download the source, before you try to hack it in yourself 😉 Okay, looking at the mailman installation dir would have been sufficient too, but who likes to search some custom installed linux distro over some crappy remote connection? 😉

There is still one step to do: how to get that script’s output on a webpage? One could try cgi or php for example. I looked at how mailman does it, but I guess it uses some precompiled ‘trusted’ executables for that hooked up to apache. After writing a php script, I realised it wouldn’t run on a normal user account, d’oh 🙂
The problem is not the mailman script itself, but the mailman databases it tries to open. The pickled mailing lists are only readable for users in the mailman group. I didn’t want to open a security hole (everyone has already enough spam), so I set up a cron job which executes the mailman script and puts the output readable to the normal user. It is not as cool as having the actual data, but having it on a daily basis is sufficient.

Belgian government fights spam

The Belgian government have set up a web site to inform its citizens about spam and how to avoid it. I think it’s a good initiative as it states some truly useful information a lot people probably don’t know. 🙂

On the first page already (probably the only page most people read ;)), they state 4 basic rules (which I support 100%):

  1. Be careful who you give your address to.
  2. Don’t reply to dubious emails.
  3. When publishing your address on a site, make sure it is ‘camouflaged’.
  4. Protect your computer: use a firewall and virus scanner.

I think they deserve praise for the way they managed to condense the whole spam story and what you can do about it in just one informative page. 🙂

If you understand Dutch or French (what about the German speaking Belgians? :)), read on here.


You may have noticed you have this process running, even if you’re not using Internet Explorer (I want to distance myself from any IE usage by saying I installed the toolbar for my parents :)). This post explains everything in detail. It’s an agent which tries to keep google as the default search engine. You can simply disable it in the toolbar settings by unchecking the item “Notify me on settings change”.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work in my case… I disabled the checkbutton on all 3 user accounts. I did notice I have a slighter newer version than the one on the google system blog: I have 4.0.1020. This version is even not documented yet in the Google Toolbar Changelog?? I decided to uninstall since my parents probably don’t use it anyway. 😉