Get Android Auto Up and Running

You bought yourself a fancy car, eh? Well, since you’re reading this, I’ll assume everything is not hunky-dory (if it were, you wouldn’t be here!). I feel ya buddy! I’ve been in your place before so I know how annoying long introductions are, so I’ll skip the intro where I tell you how awesome Android Auto is.

In theory, Android Auto’s supposed to be relatively simple to set-up. However, like everything else in life, it often isn’t. Many manufacturers advertise AA (Android Auto) as a “big” feature, often charging you for it (like Jaguar/Land Rover’s “Smartphone Pack”). And you’d be quite disappointed if you just can’t make it work.

To get things working, follow the general process. We’ll show you how to solve common problems along the way. Note that this is meant to be universally applicable, but unfortunately, I don’t have access to every device/vehicle on the planet so I’ll be using a Galaxy S10 and a Range Rover Velar. If you have any vehicle specific questions (related to whatever vehicle you own) feel free to drop a comment and I’d be happy to look into it!

Know What Works

Before we do anything, check if your vehicle’s actually got Android Auto by takin’ a look at this. Found it? Good. Remember how I said it doesn’t always come standard? The only way to know if you car’s really got AA is to either check with your dealer or look through various menus ‘till you find it.

Note: as a certain reader with a Bentley Continental GT pointed out, the “GT” version of the Continental has no support for AA, offering only Apple Carplay. How rude?!

Mercifully, in Range Rovers, it’s located under “Extra Features” (just a swipe away from your “Home” screen).

Common places include, Telephone, Devices, Screen Mirroring, Driving Assistance, Bluetooth (apparently, some Toyotas have it there) and Navigation.

Finding it there’s just half the battle! Next you need a compatible device. Mirroring your screen ain’t cheap, so you’ll need a sufficiently capable phone.

All S-Series Samsungs (as well as the Note-series) running Android 5.1 and above play along great with AA, along with all devices in Google’s Pixel lineup. If your device was not mentioned above, you’ll have to try a more generic search; look for the following (use this app):

  • *Android 6.0 (or higher)
  • *A Quad-core processor running at 2Ghz (or higher)
  • At least 3GB RAM (unless you want it crashing every time!)
  • *8GB internal storage
  • *A-GPS, Accelerometer, Magnetometer, Gyroscope (they’re all sensors BTW)
  • LTE Cat 4 internet connection (that means 4G for all you dum-dums! JK)
  • 2500 mAh battery (this isn’t a requirement, but in my experience anything lower and you’ll have a dead battery in minutes)
  • *300 DPI screen density and an HDR capable display (again, not requirements, but most devices with high DPIs and HDR have good GPUs)
  • Adreno 605 or equitant GPU (or higher) supporting OpenGL-ES 3.0

Unfortunately, if your device doesn’t meet the above specs, you won’t have much fun using AA. If you’re a persistent fellow, see if your device has all the features marked with an asterisk (*). But remember that I am in no way responsible for any damage you cause to your device, vehicle (and/or life!).

BTW, Samsung J-series smartphones (along with other such cheap devices) are known to have issues including (but not limited to) severe overheating, boot loops, frequent reboots, instability and GPS failure reported after long drives. Use these devices at your own risk (even if they meet the above criteria).

Download the App

I know this step seems rather unnecessary, but you’ll be surprised at just how many people give up here.

Follow this link to go to the Google Play Store and….well, you know the rest!

But life isn’t always that easy. Your device might support AA, your car might be support it, but your neighborhood may not be OK. By neighborhood, I mean country. And by country, I mean that AA is pretty limited, geographically. If you live outside the US or the EU (still includes he UK, mind you), you’ll have to get the APK and install it manually.

If you’re wondering, here’s a list of countries where AA is offficially supported:

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Germany
  • Guatemala
  • France
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Puerto Rico
  • Russia
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

Here’s the link to an excellent external repo housing almost all APKs. Simply download the relevant APK and install it on your phone and you’re good to go!

If you’re confused about what file to get, try the ARMv7a variant. Of course, you can always use that app I mentioned before (Open app > System).

(If that link doesn’t work, try this one instead)

Connect It

Now that you know everything works, it’s time for the big marriage.

You might not even have to connect it with a wire at all! As an added bonus for folk with high-end smartphones and executive vehicles, Google announced wireless Android Auto. Yep, you read that right; no more plugging flimsy cables into obscure slots! Because not that many cars support it, you’ll have to check with your dealer to know if Wireless AA is available.

But for everyone else, find a good cable. Why I stress this is ‘cause most problems arise ‘cause of faulty wiring (and not just in your car either!). Use the one that came with your phone or buy a new one if it looks like your granny’s gramophone cable. Here are some cables we tested our self:

As the reader with a Peugeot 3008 GT pointed out, USB-C cables are not yet supported on Peugeots and as such you’ll need to use that converter thingy that came in the box if you have a recent Galaxy (S8 and up). Sometimes, even that may not work.

Now that you’ve got everything, plug it in!

Your car will automatically detect your phone and ask for conformation to launch Android Auto. Say “I do” by tapping “Yes”. If no such screen shows up, try manually opening AA on your car.

Pro tip: close any applications (Recent Apps > Clear All), and be sure to exit AA on your phone before connecting it to the car.

Common issues at this stage include AA not opening up at all, loss of connectivity and constant crashes.

All three are caused by problems on your phone’s side with the exception of the middle one, which can be caused by a faulty cable.

To resolve said issues, check how much memory (RAM) is currently available. AA needs at least a gigabyte of free memory to function.

To free-up some RAM try restarting your phone, clearing recent apps, installing an app like Greenify or maybe even removing that game your kid installed on your phone! (LOL!)

Jokes aside, you can also try disabling MirrorLink (if supported. Check your applications list at Settings > Apps > All Apps), re-plugging your device and restarting your vehicle

If all else fails, try using a different device (one with a Micro USB port as they yield more results) and updating your car’s firmware (via your dealer; NEVER upgrade it yourself).

By now, I hope you’ve figured everything out and you’re at this screen rackin’ your brains out tryin’ to figure out how to get back to your car’s system (press that little speedometer next to the headset on the bottom panel).

To give you the grand tour:

  1. Returns to Google Maps (navigation, specifically!)
  2. Dialer
  3. Home (returns to the page displayed above)
  4. Music
  5. Back to your car
  6. Voice search
  7. Turns your car on and off! 😉

Clicking on a notification card opens the respective app, and sliding removes them.

Additionally, AA is fully integrated with Google Assistant. Meaning you can do this:

Yeah, voice typing’s still a work in progress but it’s kinda cool being able to “talk” to your car.

That’s it folks. Hope your Android Auto related problems are all fixed and you’re on your way to being a careful driver.

If you have any thoughts, suggestions, problems, questions etc. fell free to drop a comment and we’d be happy to help you out.

Runtime Symmetrical Mirroring

In our last post, we showed you how to combine materials into a single texture. And, as part of our 3D model optimization guide, we’ll show you how to –literally- halve your poly count with… (drum-roll, please!)…Symmetric-runtime-mirroring (“What’s that?” you say? Well, read-on).

SRM (Symmetric-runtime-mirroring) is the art of “cutting” your model in half and mirroring the rest in the render. If you have half-a-brain, you should’ve had an “ah! Why didn’t I think of that!” moment (nothing? Give it a few seconds). If you’re still confused; all we’re doing is creating an “instance” of the same mesh (‘cus either way, both sides are the same) from within the game-engine. This massively reduces the number of polygons and lightens the load on your poor graphic card!

Excited? (No? read this to learn the difference between instances and objects) we’ll here’s how you can try it out yourself!

First, you’ll need a symmetric model (trees, houses etc. are not symmetric) like a car, for example. Can’t find one but you still wanna learn? Get this BMW M6 and follow along.

We’ll be using Blender and Unity for this demo (but feel free to use your own workflow) ‘cus both of ‘em are free and easy to use

Open your model in Blender (or 3ds MAX or Maya or Cinema 4D or anything you fancy!)

Notice how many triangles there are. If you do everything correctly, that number should halve at the end of this tut.

Now categories your model’s elements based on symmetricity (is that a word?). So on this model; the badges (BMW, M6) are NOT symmetric. Create a new collection and dump those elements into that collection.

Then hide that collection (untick the box next to it in the hierarchy). Now the real fun begins!

Combine everything into one giant mesh (Command + J) and set its origin to geometry (Object > Set Origin > Origin to Geometry > Bounds Center).

Blender 2.81 users, switch to single material mode if your model starts looking funny.

Go into edit mode (Tab) and cut the mesh symmetrically.

You can do this any way you want (BoxCutter, custom script, Bool etc.), but since this needs to be universally applicable, we’ll be using good ‘ol select ‘n delete!

Simply go into wireframe mode (Z)

Select the half you’d like to delete.

And delete only the faces (X > Faces).

Now inspect your model and see if there are any anomalies (broken mesh, lone edges etc.)

If you’re happy with the result (you found nothing wrong with it), give yourself a pat on the back, and look at the triangle count. Amazed?

With thoughts of polygon greatness (I know! Bad joke), separate the mesh by material, if you want to (Edit Mode > P > Material).

Now for part two; exporting and rendering: unhide that collection of unsymmetrical objects and export your model. Remember NOT to change its origin!

Import it into Unity

Select the symmetrical “half”, duplicate it (Command + D) and give a negative value on the X scale.

Viola! The missing half, at half the triangles!

Well, that wraps up this post. As always, all your doubts, questions, and suggestions are welcome in the comment box below.

Pro Tips:
⦁ Use orthographic view when selecting the “half”.
⦁ View the model from either the front or the top when selecting
⦁ You use this technique on individual meshes (not the whole model)
⦁ You might wanna consider creating symmetrical models in the future (or, if you don’t model yourself, tell your modeler to be symmetric!)
⦁ NEVER join the two halves in Blender using Command + J. it’ll invert all the Normals of your model!

Thumbnails; And How to Delete Them

Ah! Thumbnails! They show us tiny previews of stuff so we don’t have to open each one. Plus they’re tiny, so they hide that crazy look on your face on your Christmas pics. Nevertheless, their internal workings have put some of us in hard places. I won’t go on to tell you that the culprit is an elusive file called “Thumbs.db” (‘cause it’s already on the title, and besides, you’re already here!). We’ll cut straight to the chase and tell you how to delete them –or more precisely; the folders they’re in.

Now hold up! We can’t just tell you how to exterminate them straight out, now can we? You’ve gotta learn why they’re a pain in the you-know-where first! If you’re too busy read, skip the next paragraph.

First, they’re there to help. Problem is, they don’t work right (I reckon ‘tis a bug on Microsoft’s side). You see, they store tiny versions of your files within them (Hence the name). And, when Explorer needs to display thumbnails, those tiny pics’ll be displayed. This is not the problem. The problem is that Windows Explorer keeps accessing “Thumbs.db” even after the source media is no longer in that folder. This can lead to the general “Can’t delete file. Windows Explorer is still accessing this file” error. Now, in order to fix this, we have to refresh Windows Explorer (and no, not right click > refresh, ‘cus that be way too easy?). Truly refreshing Explorer requires an application restart. But you can’t go around all day restarting Explorer every time you delete a folder! That’s where we come in.

Before we begin, note that we’re not gonna be disabling thumbnail previews (personally, I use thumbnails more than actual pictures! But hey, that’s on a Mac, and this is all ‘bout PC). Instead we’ll show you a couple of solutions. Again remember that some may not always work.

The best way to circumvent this nag is by disabling the generation of “Thumbs.db” (nope. Somehow –magically- disabling it doesn’t hinder thumbnail generation). You can do so with a Group Policy flag (given below). But you probably knew that (it’s one of the two key methods that come up on Google when you search “Thumbs.db can’t delete”. Nevertheless, it can still work.

If it doesn’t work for you (it didn’t for me), or you don’t have Windows Pro or Enterprise (heads-up: Group Policy editing can only be done on those two), read on for more ways to delete Thumbs (That’s what I’ll be calling it. Sounds cuter!)

Remember how I said we could refresh Explorer to fix our problem? Well, there are ways to do so without restarting it. You can try toggling “Hidden Files”, “File Extensions” and “Item Check Boxes”. Confused? Here’s your typical problem:

When you get that dialog (or something similar), open a new window and toggle one of the three-circled options in the “View” tab. Then click “Yes” on that Thumbs dialog. You should be able to delete it.

If that didn’t work (perhaps you’re on Windows 7?), you can try toggling “Show Desktop Icons” in the desktop context menu (although this didn’t always work for us).

Chances are, your problem is now fixed. Hurray! But if it still isn’t, you can try to delete them with a privileged file manager, like 7zip. Simply download 7Zip, install it. Then, run the “File Manager” part of 7z with elevated privileges (Ctrl+Shift+Esc > File > Run new task > 7zfm). Or just find the “7zfm” executable and run it as Admin.

A window like this will open up:

Now all you gotta do is navigate to where Thumbs lives and click the big “Delete” button on the toolbar. That’ll get rid ‘o the nasty sucka for sure.

If even that didn’t work, try waiting and retrying every so often, ‘cause we’re all outa ideas!

Well, this is the end. Hope your problems fixed!

Convert Materials to Textures

Last Sunday, I sat down with game-developer friend of mine for a cuppa Joe. Up until then, I hadn’t realized how expensive (in terms of system resources) draw-calls can be. Sure, I’d rendered, modeled and done god-knows-what-else with 3D models, but I’d never thought what it would be like in a restricted environment, say, a normal PC with consumer-level parts. Heck, I didn’t even use back-face culling! So that evening, I learned a lot about little optimizations that can go a long way on consumer hardware, so I thought I’d write a buncha posts –aimed at indie/startup/beginner game developers- on how exactly you can increase performance on little computers.

Our point-of-interest today is, materials. Or more precisely, why you should use less of those. For those of you who haven’t the foggiest what draw-calls are; think of them as tiny instructions sent to the GPU (politely) asking it to do something (stop whining! I know very well what draw-calls are. I’m just dumbin’ it down for the novices). Thing is, the more materials you have per scene, the more draw-calls are needed to render said scene. This might not be a problem on a beefy workstation with a coupla’ A-list GPUs at your disposal, but on a teensy little SOC, it can be the difference between enjoyable and non-playable!

That said, let’s move on to the “how” of reducing draw-calls. There are two ways. One of which; is reducing the number of materials by hand (i.e. using one black material for all black-ish materials). The other, although painstaking, is quite rewarding in terms of quality and performance; it involves converting materials to textures and using just one material for that one texture. Most AAA games (like the Forza series and the NFS franchise) use this method quite a lot. Interested? Let’s begin!

Before we start, a note on what can, and cannot be converted: you’ll need a model with pure materials (AKA non-texture pure color). If you’re unsure what this means, checkout these models:

Nissan GT-R Nismo – Sketchfab

Tesla Model S – Sketchfab

Tesla Roadster – Sketchfab


I’ll use that gorgeous Tesla Roadster for the purpose of this tutorial. You can purchase it and follow-along, if you like.

Since this is an anybody-can-do-thing, we’ll be using Blender. If you would rather use 3ds MAX or Maya, you’re welcome to try.

Open Blender and load the model.

Make a note of what meshes are already texture mapped (you know, tire treads, leather textures… that kinda stuff?), and move them to another layer. If a mesh has more than one materials, separate the mesh by going into edit mode (TAB) and pressing “P”, and selecting Separate by materials.

Now comes the hard part: go through the materials and decide which need to be matte/glossy/metallic etc. Then move the specific meshes (matte/gloss etc.) to different layers. You don’t have to do this, but this’ll make your life a lot easier.

Then, make a color map of all the materials in one texture file, like this:

Now you’re all set to turn material mayhem into a texture tantrum! Select a mesh and go into edit mode and open the UV editor (Shift + (Fn) +F10).

Click Open and select your color map.

Select all the vertices (A), and press “U”. In UV Mapping menu, select “Unwrap”.

Now select all vertices within the UV editor (A) and scale it down (S) to fit inside the designated color strip.

That’s it! Now all you need to do is UV map all the rest of the meshes onto that color map. See? Simple! Don’t worry about overlapping issues ‘cause they won’t be a problem.

Once you’re done, create a new material and assign the color map to that material. Then apply that material to all those meshes you unwrapped. In the end, it should look like this (The lack of, ah… objects is ‘cause I was too lazy to convert all the meshes!):

Now enable texture shading and see your hard work in action!

Done!

Well, most of it, anyhow. You still have to configure the materials properly (‘cause right now, that caliper looks a bit too shiny). Since this is not an exhaustive guide, I’ll leave PBR material configurations up to you. See ya’ll next time in “Symmetrical Duplicate-Rendering”.

Not so fast! Remember how I told you split the model depending on how the material should look like? Once you’re done UV mapping your model, and you’ve imported it into Unity or Unreal (or whatever engine you use!), make a few materials (preferably just 3: metallic, rough, non-metallic shiny. But you can do whatever!) , and apply those materials to your model (I know this sounds rather mediocre, but most folk tend to use materials embedded in the model itself, and then complain about how dull their art looks!).

Remember to untickImport Materials” when importing the model, else all that work would’ve been for nothing!

How to Bypass Short-Links

Ads, eh? At times, they hide the page you’re trying to read behind un-closable boxes, at others they make you buy stuff you don’t need. Whatever you think of them, they’re always an annoying nuisance. But look at them from a publisher’s point of view and suddenly, you need that ad revenue. Up to a point they’re OK. However, cross that fine line and you end up making less than you would’ve otherwise. In our opinion, little banner ads and stuff are alright, but big ol’ full screen ads are just a pain in the you-know-where!
Lately, link-shortners (Adfly comes to mind…) have been using these full-screen ads to make a lot of money. But people just abuse them, often hiding content behind five or six link shortners. Using one is, I suppose, fine (‘cause hey! That’s money to be made just lyin’ there. So why not?). But more than that is just unacceptable. Besides, Adfly’s been using a thing called “pop-ads” to make more money (you click “Allow Notifications” and little pieces of sh*t keep appearing every few minutes). Personally, I think that’s a step too far. So that’s why I’m writing this. To help you kill Ad-flies once and for all! (BTW this is revenge for everyone on the internet who used 5 layers of ads on me!)

Now, before we start we have to tell you that we’re not like other sites. We fact-check every word we write before posting it. So this method is 100% guaran-damn-teed to work. Plus, it’s a lot easier than all the other tuts we’ve found!
Almost forgot! This is the most painless, secure and easiest way to bypass link-shortners. It’s so simple that you don’t even have to copy-and-paste short links, they unravel alone! Confused? Read-on.
Most link-un-shortners make some money themselves by showing you ads on their page and stuff. But Tim Speckhals (AKA timmyRS) made a no-ad fly swatter (get it? ‘cause it kills adfly). Anyway, it’s a small extension that uses magic (just kidding! It’s just brilliant code!) to bypass short-links on the fly (No pun intended). Now hold on, before you start screaming ya head off on how dangerous browser extensions can be, know that; one: we’ve thoroughly checked this ourselves. And two: it’s a FOSS application (source code’s on GitHub so you know it’s legit). And three: it’s on the Chrome web store, and Google scans ‘em better than we do! Firefox fans, relax: Timmy got you covered with his Firefox app.
Now that you know it’s not a virus, let’s proceed. Download the extension from respective stores.

Chrome Webstore

Firefox Addon Store


Click on this link: (it’s Adfly. Duh! We’re checking to see if it works?)

You’ll find yourself back at the start of this page. But did you go through a fly? (Did you see any ads?). If your answer’s “No”, congrats you’re browser’s all set to hit those flies ‘till they drop dead. (And, if you’re wondering, a single short link will earn the publisher $0.05 per visit)

Moreover, it’s not just Adflies it can kill. It can also bypass “Shorte.st”, “Bit.ly”, “Goo.gl”, “T.co”, etc. (in short, it can get you through any link-shortner. Except one!)

Yay! Now you have a top-of-the-line, automatic-fly-killing, no-nag super browser. Have fun skippin’ ads!

If you’re a content provider, and you’re finding life hard ‘cause of this little thing, use “ouo.io”. It’s a “good” link shortner. Meaning it won’t hog a user with a billion ads and kill your repo. Plus, it’s un-bypassable. If you’re interested, here’s the link. (Oh, and they’re also on YouTube’s whitelist. Meaning you can drop the in your video description and Google won’t remove them)

How to Clear Mobile Data Usage History on a Non-Rooted Android Device

I don’t know why you’d ever wanna delete your data usage statistics, but seeing as how you’re here, I’ll tell you anyway.

Before we start the whole process, I just wanna tell you how I found this method (it’s not really important. You can skip this part if you’re in a hurry): ever since I installed Lineage OS 16 (Pie) on my phone (if you have an S10, you’d have had the same problem!), there was this bug that kept resetting device date to the 1800s. This was quite annoying. I had to set it manually before doing anything (literally! Everything from “Sync” to opening a webpage requires the date to be correct). A week with this bug and I discovered there was no data usage history! Groan! Anyway, that’s when I realized that data usage (I’ll drop “statistics” from here on) is directly tied to time.

I knew this (clearing data usage) was a well-asked-never-answered question on every forum, so I cross checked my finding with a couple of devices lying around, and it works! Here’s how to clear data usage history on a non-rooted Android device:

A quick note before we start: One; I could only check this on Samsung devices and generic Android x86 devices, and as such, I have no idea how well it will work on other devices. And two; there’s no way to completely clear usage history. This method will just erase the stats and leave you with empty months.

To start: check your current data usage history. See how many months it goes back. If your phone is new, this will be no use whatsoever (so skip this paragraph). If the list ends at a certain month (on all the devices I tested, 6 months), remember that month and calculate the number of months from then to now. If it doesn’t end (you find that you’ve used a LOT of data when you unboxed your device) [Get it? No. well it means that the list goes on down to the day you bought your phone], then you should probably quit now. No use getting your hopes crushed at the end. 😦

Now comes the tricky part. First, disable mobile data/Wi-Fi.

Set your devices date to something ridiculous (either past or present).

Turn WiFi/Data back on and burn it up (by which I mean refresh the weather widget. Not download a HUGE file). You’ll notice that you can’t open any websites (“Please correct device date” error). Don’t reset date if you’re prompted!

After a few seconds, check-on data usage. It should’ve created a new month (if not, clear recent apps and try again).

Change the date again. This time pick another random month. Use some bandwidth. Check usage.

It should create a new month again. By now, if you had half a brain cell, what we’re doing would’ve made sense (Nothing? We’re filling usage with null entries until it flushes the real stats).

Repeat the process (change, use, check. Repeat) as many times as there were months in the usage dropdown + one more month (if it was six months, then seven cycles).

By the end of it, you’ll be left with a back-to-the-future smartphone. That is to say, you’ll have weird dates and stuff. Hopefully all those real months are gone (they’re still there? Restart your device: Turn it off, wait a few seconds, turn it on).

Congrats! If it went well you should now have zero-data-usage-months on your stats page.

Hopefully that worked, and now you’ve achieved whatever it was you wanted to do with zeros in your data usage history.

BTW: on a rooted device, simply clear “/data/system/netstats” folder (or delete the “netstats” folder, entirely) and restart. Voila! No usage!

AFAIK there isn’t any other way to clear usage history (short of resetting the device). However, if you found a way to do so, drop a comment.

MonoDevelop for Unity

Remember Mono? (No. I don’t care whether you work alone). You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t! so let’s cut to the chase: MonoDevelop was Unity’s primary C# editor for the best part of Unity’s history. Problem was, one, Mono –or more specifically Xamarin , Co.- decided to discontinue MonoDevelop for Windows (if you have a Mac or you use a flavor of Linux, you can still get it the easy way)., and two, Microsoft made their premium product -Visual Studio- free. So Unity Technologies switched to Visual Studio. For much of their customer base, this was a good move (Visual Studio is by far the better solution). But for a few (I really don’t know, but my money’s on newbies), this was a nightmare; not only would they be stepping away from their beloved MonoDevelop, but they’d be stepping into a 2GB-per-update product which they wouldn’t be using most of the time, anyway! Besides, Mono is just 100MB is size, while Visual Studio weighs 7-15GB (fully installed). So for those few who were low on space already, this was a dilemma (partly ‘cause Mono was discontinued).
We’re only hallway to the problem. Part two: Xamarin stopped offering downloads for their product and mirrors hosting MonoDevelop were scarce (with good reason too! Mono was a buggy C# solution). So for any soul searching for MonoDevelop, only disappointment could be found.
If you’re one of the unfortunate few, I offer you salvation. I found a pretty recent version of Mono in a ghost copy of their servers and I thought it’d be a good idea to share it with the world. Not many folk will really want an old, discontinued and buggy compiler, but if you really do, here’s the link:

|MonoDevelop| (40MiB)

Hey! We ain’t done just yet! You still have to install it, remember?
To install Mono, just double-click on the file you downloaded, and specify the location at which you would like to install Mono (it’s a 7-zip self-extracting archive).

Once it’s all done decompressing, open the extracted directory and install GTK# (located at “MonoDevelop > GTKShrp”).

Now, open “MonoDevelop > bin > MonoDevelop.exe” (that’s the actually program).

It’ll take a few seconds and you’ll be presented with this screen.

There you go. You now have a small-size C# solution installed on your space-restricted PC. I will not be guiding you through whole process of attaching the Unity editor and writing your C# script and all that, I suppose you know that already ‘eh?

Happy Coding! 🙂

What You Didn’t Know About Unity 3D

Unity is the most widely used game engine, with its uses spanning dozens of fields, from film and animation to indie games! United we rise!
We’ve compiled a list of lesser-known Unity features that are sure to leave you amazed (or at least prove helpful to your cause). Most veterans of Unity probably know these features, but for newbies, this might just save their day. Let’s uncover the secrets of Unity!


Inspector Debug Mode

We really cannot describe this in words since the Debug Inspector changes with whatever you selected. So just imagine the normal inspector with superpowers (just kidding! It DOES NOT give a cop super powers), it does however grant you a bit more freedom over how you use the inspector (to use the inspector in Debug mode, right click on the inspector tab’s label and in the context menu select “Debug”). For example, take the Vehicle Physics pack: RCC. Here’s how a car looks in the normal inspector:

Here’s how the same car looks in the debug inspector:

Pretty cool, huh? You can even edit the torque curves this way (and I swear; you can’t change curves in the normal inspector!)
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Just checkout the screenshots below

As you can see, debug mode unveils quite some settings that weren’t shown or weren’t allowed to change in the normal inspector. Nevertheless, do note that there’s a reason it’s called “Debug”, it’s meant to be used by experienced users. So take care when changing anything in the debug inspector (change it back to normal mode after you’re done exploring). Keep in mind that the amount of options vary depending on what the component is (some may have hundreds of hidden switched, while others will have a few).


Visual Scripting

Some folk don’t know the first thing about coding when they start using Unity. And, as the time goes by, they either get used to coding or find it to be an even bigger pain in the ass. One might find oneself attracted to the visual scripting style seen in competing engines (namely, Epic Games’ Unreal Engine). What if we told you how you could write (or draw when you put it that way) code using a node graph right inside of Unity! Wouldn’t that be just dandy? Introducing “Bolt” the only visual scripting solution that for Unity, that actually works. Make your game design dreams come true as you use Bolt and design games without writing a single line of code! But something like Bolt don’t come free, it’ll set you back $$$. So carefully weigh your options (Learning to code or buy Bolt? Hmm…) before you open your wallet (or e-wallet or whatever it is).


Asset Store Backups

This is something most people find out within the first few days of using Unity: that all the Assets you purchase (or download free) are stored at some location on your PC.

“%AppData%UnityAsset Store-5.x” -  for Windows users
”~/Library/Unity/Asset Store” - for macOS users

If you’re running out of space on your primary drive or you just wanna back up your assets, simply move them to wherever you like. To import one of those backed up (or even a package still at the default location), click on “Assets > Import Package > Custom Package” from within the Unity editor. This method can essentially be used to import assets you’ve downloaded when you’re offline.
This should also clear the Unity myth (it was a myth back when Unity was in its infancy) that Unity re-downloads assets each time you click “Import” in the asset store.


Unity Package Manager

This is also something quite a lot of people are having trouble with. Unity began to move most of Unity’s own content available in the asset store to the elusive (check the comments on this Unity package to see what I mean) “Package Manager”. It can be accessed by going to “Window > Package Manager”. To show packages that are still in beta stages (Unity recorder, Immediate window, Adaptive Performance (by Samsung), Tiny mode, Vector graphic support, Burst compiler and hybrid renderer to name a few), click “Advanced > Show Preview Packages”.


Unity Recorder

Ever wondered how hard it is to render animated films and stuff? How life must be for the producers and directors who must wait for months to see their ideas come to life? How much time render farms (I didn’t make that up. Those are real!) take to render one frame (worst-case scenario: it takes a few hours to render one frame. I kid you not)? Now imagine renders taking seconds instead of hours and watching a minor edit come to life before your very eyes. That’s what it feels to use a real-time rendering engine like Unity. There are films made with Unity and they look every-bit visually entertaining as their render-farm counterparts (links below).
If you would like to direct a film (of your own making), get the Unity recorder (form the package manager) and the “Cinemachine” (also from the package manager). You can use the Unity recorder to, well…. record what’s happening on the Game tab in the Unity Editor at any resolution (up to 8K, if your PC can handle that!). Get ready to be superstars!

Car Controllers for Unity 3D

Unity 3D might be the second easiest game engine on the planet (the first, in my personal opinion, being, GameMaker). Unity is used in a great many fields. From indie game development to film production to architectural visualization. It even has an awesome asset store to find…. well… assets! Now, in this asset store there are realistic vehicle controllers created by many folk. Moreover, if you wanna make a great driving/racing game, you gotta have great physics. To find the right controller, you’d have to buy (yes, “buy” people don’t code for free, you know?) each (there are around five well known vehicle physics packs at the time of writing), and test them against your idea of how the game should be. Now this is a tedious task, and, unless you happen to have a pot of gold, buying all the assets will not go well with your budget (each packs costs around 40$-70$). Plus it takes quite a lot of time to evaluate each one.

So we did all that just ‘cause you don’t have to! (Yep, we did all that for you!) We bought all the car physics packs and tested them for weeks on end (We even picked the best car controller. Hint: “realistic”’ is in its name!). Then we compared them to each other and wrote it all down for you to read and make your decision. Enough pep talk, let’s drive! (Get it? Drive? Like cars and vehic- forget it)


Unity Vehicle Tools

You might have tried this already. It’s a tutorial project in Unity’s “Learn” section. The easiest (not the quickest!) to configure and has the WORST physics. We DO NOT recommend using this for any games (unless bad physics is your thing, in which case, do whatever). You don’t have any UI elements out-of-the-box (Nope, not even a speedometer!) and has no mobile support OOB (out-of-the-box). Also, we found that the right side’s wheels seem to be inversed (back of the wheel facing outside), bug?

PROS:

  • FREE! 0$
  • Easiest to set-up
  • Nice camera system
  • Made by Unity Technologies
  • Multi-vehicle support OOB

CONS:

  • Horrible physics
  • No touchscreen support
  • No UI
  • Wheel problem (as mentioned above)
  • No skid-marks, tire smoke, lights, exhaust and nitrous
  • Not customizable beyond drivetrain and engine power (literally just those two options in a drop down. LOL)
  • No ABS, ESP, Traction Control, Manual transmission or any other fancy driving aids
  • Your car is perfect! (no damage)
  • No sounds!
  • No steering wheel support

Unity Standard-Assets Car Controller

The script that comes attached to the Sky car (BTW, it don’t fly!). Marginally better than Vehicle Tools (but still has unrealistic physics). It’ll fit right in in an old 80’s arcade game (OK fine! It’s better than 80’s games). It brings some major improvements over VT (vehicle tools) like, exhaust, skid marks… Ooh! And lights. Physics is OK but still not realistic enough. Takes some time to set it up, and you have to use the sky car’s prefab and add your model and stuff. Good news is; it’s free.

PROS:

  • FREE 0$
  • Uses Unity’s Standard-Assets camera kit
  • Loads more customizations
  • Mobile UI available
  • Works with all of Unity’s systems
  • Lights, exhaust etc.
  • Limited sound support

CONS:

  • No multi-vehicle support (though you can code that in yourself)
  • Kinda hard to figure things out (delete “lights_glow” in the hierarchy and BOOM. No lights)
  • Bad physics
  • No manual transmission mode
  • No speedometer, RPM gauge etc.
  • No damage system
  • No support for cockpit steering wheel

Ed’s Vehicle Physics (Developed by Edward!)

The first paid asset in our list is not one to buy. Sure, it has great physics and hundreds of customizations and stuff, but it lacks key elements (like a proper UI and toggle-able driving aids and touchscreen support). It has no support for mobile (and doesn’t look like it can be made to work on mobile devices that easily either). Those minor problems aside, this physics pack is well coded and maintained.

FYI: I know the screenshots show ABS toggles and a speedometer, but somehow the purchased asset lacks these.

PROS:

  • Good physics (I can’t use realistic or accurate here, ‘cause the author himself claims it offers only arcade style physics)
  • Lights!
  • Skid-marks, tire smoke etc.
  • Limited multi-vehicle support
  • Damn easy. 3D model to drive-able car takes about 5 minutes!
  • Limited ABS, ESP, Traction control, assisted steering etc. However, you can’t toggle them with buttons at runtime
  • Mesh deformation damage system
  • Nice sound system
  • Variable grip depending on terrain

CONS:

  • Still no speedometer, RPM gauge or any other informative UI elements
  • Not mobile friendly
  • Material-swapper lights (it just changes the material of the mesh renderer rendering the light object)
  • No camera kit
  • Only automatic transmission
  • 60$

NWH Vehicle Physics (No. I don’t know what NWH means)

Finally! One with a proper UI, exhaust flames, toggle-able driving aids, and multi-vehicle support and all those shenanigans. It features a wide range of customizations. Nevertheless, the simulated physics aren’t as fluid as Ed’s (above). The only reason NWH ranks higher on the list is ‘cause it’s got a proper UI. Keep all that in mind when you click “add to cart” for this 60$ asset. Personally, we think NMW is built for racing games (racing games have a habit of using unrealistic physics. I think they need good handling, flying at 300 KMH, vs. accurate physics).

PROS:

  • Fully featured instrument cluster (Speedometer, RPM gauge etc.)
  • Mobile friendly
  • Features a 3rd person get-in-and-out of car mode (multi-vehicle)
  • Proper lights (except reverse lights. They don’t give an option for reverse lights)
  • Realistic exhaust (varies with RPM), tire smoke, and skid-marks
  • Per-vehicle sound system
  • In-cockpit steering wheel
  • In-cockpit instrument cluster readouts
  • Variable handling (mud, road, grass, sand etc.)
  • Variable tire smoke depending on terrain (oh yes! You can have mud flying out at 6000 revs)

CONS:

  • Physics seem a bit rigid for our taste
  • The camera views aren’t dramatic as they should be
  • Messy/incomplete UI
  • No damage system
  • No nitrous
  • Price is a bit steep

Realistic Car Controller

Our all-round winner of car physics packs goes to RCC (Yay!). This asset is awesome in every sense of the word. You get a full-fledged UI, material swapper AND real lights options (even both at the SAME TIME), realistic physics, cinematic camera views, a vehicle selector, choice of driving conditions (simulator, racing, drift, arcade etc.) and even an engine heat gauge! Plus, it’s easy to configure and requires no coding knowledge (that’s a big relief for all you newbies eh?). We recommend buying this asset to anyone who wants to make a driving game (remember driving modes?). However, it does cost 50$. The price tag might make you hesitate, but rest assured ‘tis a great asset (it’ll hold its rank ‘till VC Pro is released).

PROS:

  • Easy to configure (and understand)
  • Realistic physics (well, duh!)
  • Color change-able instrument cluster (ft. speedometer, RPM gauge, gear indicator, fuel gauge, turbo and a nitrous gauge)
  • Dedicated mobile-friendly hybrid controls (touchscreen and keyboard controls use same UI)
  • Vehicle controllable by keyboard, tilt controls, on-screen steering wheel, buttons or even a joystick!
  • AI car controller
  • Cops-chase-you function (a sub-feature of the AI controller)
  • Mesh deformation damage system (somehow, it even works without a mesh collider!)
  • Vehicle selection screen OOB
  • 3rd person vehicle selection also possible
  • Toggle-able driving aids
  • Manual or automatic transmission (change-able at runtime)
  • Many camera views (hood, cinematic, top-down, chase and wheel cam)
  • Provides necessary API to go multiplayer with your game (Photon or Unet)
  • Works with NGUI and Unity UI
  • Extendable UI
  • Sound effects
  • Collision sounds (and lovely sparks!)
  • Grip and handling varies according to terrain conditions
  • Tire smoke particles vary with terrain (grass is a bit unrealistic, though)
  • Exhaust and, finally, some nitrous oxide! (exhaust flames also available and configurable)

CONS:

  • We’ve noticed a light flickering bug (headlights flicker at high speeds)


Vehicle Controller Pro

Quoting development staff: “Unity’s wheel collider is a joke. If you wanna make a proper car game, you’ll come crawling to our feet” (Okay, they didn’t say the last bit, but the first part is true!). We really don’t know how good this is (it’s still deep in development; hence number zero on the list), but it promises AAA quality physics and jaw-dropping visuals. At this point, we can do no more than speculate and believe what their site claims (which, if true, will smoke the competition). If you thirst for more than what “wheel collider” offers you, you can buy their product (it’s in the early beta testing phase now) and see for yourself, but we thought not to spend any money until they make an RTM release.

PROS & CONS: We can’t say how good (or bad) something is based on what they claim, so until we take this baby out for a spin, VCP will be neither good nor bad (just latently useful). If their claims hold any promise, this’ll be all PROS and no CONS!

Drive On!

NOTE: if you happen to purchase any of the products mentioned above and are looking for tutorials or answers to your questions, these links may help you:

Furthermore, if you have any problems you can drop a comment below and sort things out for you. (Don’t ask for free links to any of the paid products. We are not here to give you free stuff. Piracy is not a victimless crime)

How to Install Windows to a Virtual Disk (VHD)

Ever realized how hassling the Windows file structure is? You install Windows in drive “C:” and that drive is super cluttered. Ever wish you could install more than two or three instances of Windows in the same PC? Fancy opening a drive on a PC and finding just a single file labeled “Windows”, instead of a whole lot of directories? Well, now you can! Install Windows on a VHD! (And no, that’s not the tape thingy you used in the ‘80s).
For whatever reason you decide to install Windows on a virtual hard disk, here’s the how. Do not that only Windows versions from Windows 7 (and its Server counterpart) can successfully boot from a VHD (Personally, I install any new versions of Windows 10 (1709, 1803, 1809 etc.) on a VHD and try it out a few days before actually installing onto my Workstation’s primary disk). Here’s what you’ll need; the Windows setup disc, already installed version of Windows 7 (only VHD) or Windows 8/10 (VHD+VHDX) or Windows their server counterparts and finally a tool called “EasyBCD”.


|EasyBCD| (Password is “hellohelp”)


One more note before we proceed: this is written assuming that you have at least a bit of knowledge at installing Windows and managing computers. Proceed at your own risk. I am not responsible for the loss of your data in case you format any drives. You have been warned!
Open “Disk Management” (the desktop app. Not the CLI version). Create either a VHD or a VHDX file. (Each has its pro’s and con’s. VHD is best if you want to install Windows 7 on the created VHD. VHDX is resistant to power outages. But VHD files are backward compatible. On the other hand VHDX files can be larger than 2TB. Your choice which!) The size is a careful consideration, as is the location and whether it’s “Fixed” or “Dynamic”. The size should be enough to store Windows and all its files (20GB<). Don’t make it too large as it occupies all space in the residing drive at runtime (It grows to maximum size when Windows is running from the VHD). I’d recommend Dynamic for tight-storage users and fixed for performance-heads. For the use of this tut, I’ll create a 32GB Dynamic VHD file.

Next, initialize the disk as GPT (it doesn’t matter whether you have BIOS or UEFI, GPT VHDs work for both. 🙂 ).

Then format it as “NTFS” and give it a label and a mount point. I’ll be labeling it “TEST” and mount It under “W:”. Notice how the icon of a VHD is blue.

The next few instructions are explained in detail in this post.
Mount the Windows install disc and find the “install.esd” or “install.wim” file.

Open a CMD windows with admin privileges. Enter the following command:


“DISM /apply-image /imagefile:O:sourcesinstall.esd /index:6 /Apply-Dir:W:”

A few pointers:
⦁ The location of the “install.esd/wim” file should replace “O:sources…..”.
⦁ The index no. is based on what edition you want (explained in the linked post).
⦁ The apply directory has to be changed to reflect the mount point of the VHD.

After a few seconds (or minutes), it should say “Operation Completed Successfully”. Now unmount the VHD file from disk management.
Install “EasyBCD”. Open the tool and navigate to add new entry. Select “Microsoft VHD”. Change the name to whatever you want. Point to where you saved the VHD file. Then click “add entry”.

Go to the “Edit Boot Menu” tab, untick “Use Metro Loader”, set enough time for you to select an entry and finally click “Save Settings”.

Done! Reboot your PC. Just after POST, it’ll ask you what you want to boot. Select the instance of Windows installed in the VHD. If you did all the above steps right, Windows will begin setting itself up!

Note: ACPI S4 sleep mode (Hibernate) won’t work from within the VHD Windows.