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T-shirts and other things for wannabe astronauts

Monday, May 6th, 2013

I prepared, as a surprise for my space-fan child Paul, a T-shirt featuring the ISS – International Space Station.

The International Space Station on a toddler T-shirt

While I was at it, I took a bit more time and decided to make more, maybe some people will like it. So there are various ISS T-shirts, some Soyuz-based T-shirts, and some gadgets.

A Soyuz spacecraft T-shirt

I made a “My other ride is a Soyuz (I wish)” bumper sticker and will get one for my scooter :) I also made a version without the “I wish”. I would love to see it on a real astronaut’s car. Who knows!

My other ride is a Soyuz

All of these are available on this Astrothingies Cafepress shop.

Panorama, Hugin, Stellarium and three.js: Creating equirectangular panos

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

It’s been a long time since I didn’t post any geek stuff here, so here we go. At last!

I’ve recently installed Stellarium, which is a great planetarium software, helping a lot to figure out what’s above our heads at a given time, what will be, or what has been, which is great  to learn the sky, figure out what will be enjoyable on the next clear night, or what that was the other day.

Stellarium has a nice feature that allows users to use their own landscape instead of the predefined ones. The predefined ones are nice, but they don’t really reflect reality for me, because I’m usually in my little garden, surrounded by walls and trees and other view-blockers. So I decided to make a landscape of “my garden” and went out and took pictures, rotating about myself.

360° worth of garden

I then imported all these pictures into Hugin, another great free software that helps stitching panoramas. Some years ago, the process was long and painful, filled with control points settings, corrections and this kind of things.

Nowadays, you can launch Hugin, click Load images…, select them, click Align…, wait, and click Create Panorama…, and wait. This thing just rocks and does everything by itself.

Here’s the Fast Panorama Preview window that Hugin opens after you click on Align, showing the result of its calculations. Most likely, you can just close that window and proceed with Create Panorama.


Now that you have a 100MB TIF file containing your 360° equirectangular panorama, you can open it with the Gimp to fix some of the details that Stellarium wants right. First, make sure that the image ratio is 2/1, and that both dimensions are a power of 2. (4096 pixels wide by 2048 high, for example). The ratio is for the panorama to look right, and the power of 2 is an OpenGL rendering requisite.

Last but not least as you’ll want to see stars in the sky, you have to remove the sky from your panorama. The best is to take the picture with a clear sky so that the sky’s colour is homogeneous. I’ve used the Gimp’s Select by Color tool, which is much greater than the Fuzzy Select tool for that job because it will also select the isolated sky pixels inside a tree’s branches, for example. In case some of the rest of the picture is sky-coloured too, just exclude these bits from the selection (using Ctrl + any other Select tool). When your selection’s right, make sure you have an alpha channel on your image (Layer/Transparency/Add alpha channel if it’s not already grayed out), then get rid of your selected sky (using Cut or the Delete key, for example). Here’s the result :

Panorama in Gimp

(You’ll see that the ground is bad, that’s because my original pictures didn’t include enough ground. Also, I cheated with some tree tops, because my original pictures didn’t include enough sky).

There just remains to export the file, and create Stellarium’s landscape.ini file, as described on their wiki. I suggest you use their Moon landscape’s landscape.ini file as a basis. The only information you need to have is your latitude, longitude and elevation, which you’ll get out of any smartphone, GPS or Google Maps; and the angle to use to point North in your landscape, calculated this way.

Aaaand, here we are in Stellarium, showing the perfect International Space Station transit that could have been observed on the 28th here (you can know when and where to look for the ISS easily, with NASA’s Spot The Station service or loads of smartphones apps):


(Of course, it’s after sunset but you can still see it). The end result is not downloadable because it’s too big (45MB).

Added bonus

You can also export these panoramas to be viewable in HTML-5 compatible browsers, using the nice three.js library. Here it is (with a fake sky re-added) :

Use Right-click/This Frame/Show only this frame inside the image, then View source if you want to try that at home.

Gaspard, 18 months old, and the rest of things

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

It seems I got somehow overwhelmed with real life these last days, months or even years… I just realized I didn’t even mention here that my second son, Gaspard, is born on June 1st, 2011 !

So, as a matter of fact, Gaspard’s born on June 1st, 2011 :) He was a healthy boy, 52.5 centimeters long and weighing… 4.5 kilograms!


He’s since growing up very well, maybe faster than his big brother due to the “big brother pull”. Contrary to Paul who slept complete nights (8pm to 8 am) very soon, as soon as two months old, Gaspard had a lot of difficulties finding a good sleep pattern and we got really, really tired as monthes went by. In the end, he finally found his rhythm after around 14 monthes, much to our relief, and things are going much better since :)

Paul is a really nice big brother, although of course there are times where screams are distinctly audible from their bedroom, when both focus on the same toy.Paul’s growing up, too, and even if some times he’s still a bit dependant on us for things we’d like him to do by himself, like dressing up, he’s getting more and more autonomy, he’s now able to have great conversations with us including a very logical process of thought, which never ceases to amaze me, except when it’s reasoning against Dad’s orders just before leaving – late – for school :-)

Paul’s now four years old, and I’ve been able to share more and more of my passions, interests and tastes with him, which is a very satisfying thing – I’m able to give him other centers of intersest than Disney’s Cars or Spiderman which he heard of at school, and he’s also fond of the aviation pioneers, space exploration (and the “swimming astronauts in the space station“), bicycling, Beastie Boys or other real cool music, or climbing – although he’s still a bit wary of these heights above two meters :-)

In other news, I’m now able to work more than last 18 monthes on Claws Mail, and although that beast is almost feature-complete (for my usage) there’s still a lot of work to do! I missed it a lot hacking on that code-base, fixing bugs and implementing things to help our users get streamlined workflows. I had mostly put any development on hold since Gaspard’s birth and until he made complete nights – I think there’s a clear causality showing there, and I missed that a lot.  Anyway, to make long stories short, I’m now able to hack on Claws when the children are asleep, and also one day per week on Wednesdays. That just rocks :)

I’ve been able to put in some work in the Windows port of Claws Mail, too, which was in desperate need for attention since a while. Unfortunately I’m having problems building GPG4Win, which is a great cross-build infrastructure, basis for our official Windows port since a few years. I’ve been, as a matter of fact, “forced” to fork it at least until I manage to build the official build. At least our Windows users get the fixes and new features :-)

Also, we moved in July, and we’re now renting a little house which is really, really nice compared to our previous cigarette-paper-thin-walls flat. No neighbors noises, a little garden, more place for the children (who still share their room, but it’s now 16 square meters instead of 8), a garage for the bicycles, scooter and tools, that’s great :)

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