got hacked – keep your blog safe

It will not happen to me, right? Wrong. This blog got hacked and the traffic was directed elsewhere. It took me a while to notice since having older cookies on my computer I was not re-directed, I saw my site and thought everything was a-ok. When I finally found out, I had to take the site down and it took me 3 weeks of after hours work to build CGmascot anew.

CGmascot is currently still being re-built. Some things like portfolio is missing but coming later.

CGmascot hack found and resolved

August 2011 I had trouble logging in to my Worpress. Having had connection troubles from home before I wasn’t worried especially considering my site was working fine. But then I tried logging again some days later, failed again, and got directed to some russian site I shan’t name here (they will not get anything from me ever again, not even mention of a name). A few nights of research later the results were these: I had wiped my webspace clean and only after, with a tip from a pro, tracked the issue to .htaccess-file. It was hacked, edited by adding extra lines of code hidden hundreds of empty lines below the regular content so I would not find it unless I knew where to look. The file directed CGmascot web traffic elsewhere, to well know sites popular sites like Yahoo, and I imagine brought some cash to the hackers who, again I imagine, are in business of selling web traffic.

How did the hacking happen? I suspect TimThumb plugin vulnerability that has caused pain to numerous Worpress users recently. TimThumb is a plugin that offers very handy automatic image thumbnails and more from your site and also from outside, and stores the files on the server. It is included in numerous Worpress themes like the one I was using. I’m not the right person to explain this, but a loophole in this allowed malicious code to get into your site and then lead to problems. I think whatever got onto my CGmascot accessed .htaccess-file and so re-directed the web traffic.

Naturally Timthumb has been fixed by the author since then.

Got to say I take this all very personally – after all CGmascot is a personal blog, my venue for writing and more. What’s worrying is that this can happen again. Worpress is a very fine platform, but like any such a system built on lots of code, database and use of plugins, it is bound to develop holes. Makes me miss old times: I used to make sites by hand, pure HTML, which is hard to crack as then the hackers have to brake in to the server the site is on, not just send some robot software snooping around for WordPress holes and abuse them in masses.

Steps you can take to secure your Worpress blog

I’m no WordPress expert so I will rely on links here for most part. What I can recommend though, is

  • Keep your WordPress install up to date
  • Make backups of your database and the folder your site is in.
  • Make backups of your plugin settings and your theme settings so getting them up again becomes easy.
  • Consider plugins you install for security, don’t just go nuts with them. Less plugins running means a faster site, too.
  • Read about .htaccess, what it is and how to secure it. My approach for now is to make it unwritable – nobody but me can access it and even I have to edit it by hand from server side.

Following links should be of more help.

What’s next for CGmascot?

CGmascot is back and intends to stay. Sure content updates are less frequent than they used to be, but I do what I can. And now the site is all new. I hope you like the upgraded CGmascot ūüôā

Blogging time out

An update has lately been a rare thing. I feel I should tell you why.

What’s up with CGmascot?

When CGmascot begun yours truly was a freelancer with time to write about my interest; tutorial-like articles and little researchy pieces. The blog was my hobby(still is). I had at least one article per week at start, but things changed quite radically with a steady day job in game industry and lately with a new addition to my little family. Hence the time I have for the blog, or for hobbies in general, is very close to zero.

Also it doesn’t help that before getting employed I took on an extensive tutorial project that is still ongoing. Tutorial takes away what little blog time I have. But rest assured in the end the blog will benefit from the tutorial. As it is rather massive in scope, I can pick things from it to share here at CGmascot. Little sharing also helps the tutorial become known.

Long story short: I will still add do the blog occasionally. Please check back sometime. Better yet, subscribe to the RSS feed or Email Updates – then you will be notified when new content is up. And have no worries about subscribing – I don’t do spam.

Cool stuff

To lighten things up here’s a few things I’ve enjoyed lately.

  • Supercell (as in the company I work at) storm cloud, impressive pictures.
  • Game Development History – All Your History Are Belong to Us, a very good documentary series about game companies and their games
  • Indie Game Revolution – Gametrailers Bonus Round talks with great indie developers about creating games today
  • TED – brilliant talks on various topics – like this one and the follow up

Comments are always welcome.a href=””

Animation Character Creation tutorial update & CGmascot news

Hi everyone. Here’s an update on the tutorial and some CGmascot news.

Animation Character Creation-tutorial update

Creative work is a complicated business, fluid and suspectible to change – and you don’t always know what you’re making until it is done.¬† In the case of my character tutorial, I have had quite clear a picture in my mind, but the more of it I get done the more new things I find – and the more I understand how big a task I’ve undertaken.¬†¬† Which is why it isn’t yet done.

I never had any doubts about my capacity to do this, nor any regrets of taking it on, but it has been 4 months now and good part of it more than full time and I’m starting to feel it.¬† But it has been great, too, and I can see the end.¬† I hope to have it out by christmas eve. No promises, though. Update: Tutorial is delayed by unknown time due to other work taking my time and later more delays than ‘just’ work. I can’t set a date for release.

Animation Character Creation Tutorial final image
Animation Character Creation Tutorial final image

“Why has it taken so long?”, some may ask.¬† Well, recording a complete character creation, all of it with no shortcuts, is a lot.¬†¬† But a far bigger timesink has been my perfectionism and desire to make logical steps out of something that for me normally is an organic freeform process. Especially in modeling I don’t proceed in clear steps – I just go at it until it is done.¬† Recording that would not be any good as a tutorial.¬† So what I’ve done is to break my work down and do it again many times over create a logical whole.

So there’s the update, unfortunately not yet a release.¬†¬† Now something to show you:¬† Here is the end result image from the tutorial.¬† Tutorial -shows how to model a full character for animation, starting from nothing, and how to detail it and finally how to render and make this poster.¬† Click for a larger version.

CGmascot News

The tutorial work is the reason for lack of new articles, but I do have some interesting things to share with you once I’m free from the main project.¬† By the way if you want updates without having to come and check the site, the best options are to Subscribe by Email or Subscribe to RSS, see links at the top.¬† I will not spam you.¬† You will receive brief message when something new is up, and can then decide if the full article is worth checking out.¬† The news are my plans for CGmascot:

  • I want to write more about animation.¬† I have planned this before but not followed on.
  • I plan to use more video in the future.¬† It’s the thing of today and I’m running behind.¬† But the tutorial has had me making about 20 hours of video, so I’ve had lot of practise lately.
  • The site will get a professional redesign and will, I think, be even more usable.
  • The Mascot Service will soon become more exclusive simply because other work takes my time.¬† I will be able to take only a few clients.¬† The service will also receive a new starter package – an even more affordable alternative.

Now you know what’s up.¬† More tutorial stuff will follow, eventually. In the meantime check out other articles on CGmascot.

CGmascot Redesign

CGmascot is back and better!  Took me a while, lots of work and green tea, but now the site is redesigned and up and working.

I hope you like the look and feel.  The visual work is not quite finished yet, will get some polish later.

One thing I am sure you agree has improved is getting around the site and finding things.  One of the most common problem on blogs, in my opinion, is getting to the content.  My old site was like that Рjust one article available on front page and rest you had to to dig up from archives.  This WordPress-theme (The Morning After by Woothemes) and my implementation should offer a different experience.

I’ve also updated and polished the Mascot Service page, with new flashy introductory slider and a PDF.¬† See Maskottipalvelu for Finnish and Mascot Service for English.

So, what do you think?

Mascot Service Release

It is A-LIVE! I am is happy to release the Mascot Service.  It is available in Finnish and English.  Go read and see 4 mascot examples.

Why a mascot?

A mascot gives friendly face to an organization, stands out, communicates the company values and sticks in your mind.  It is the perfect representative, positive and sympathetic figure that can be your trademark and a brand.  Mascot also saves both time and money, often beats regular photo shoots and models Рit really rocks in advertising.

I have looked for a special service I could offer, something that uses my skillset nicely and the software pipeline I have set up, and this is it.  I think it offers lots of value and might do well.   Though the release time is worst possible for Finland:  the whole country more or less closes down for the summer.  Time will tell, I guess.

This is why I haven’t blogged quite as much of late.¬† Well, I’m back and shall keep writing.

What do you think about company mascots in general?  Would you be interested in learning more about them?

Blog Info Spring 2010

This is a look at where CGmascot blog is right now and where I’m going with it.

I started CGmascot in late February 2010.¬† You can read up on the Why of it here. First there was 3 articles per week.¬† Every article takes good deal of time to do, so that pace was nuts.¬† Now I’m down to one post per week, which is reasonable and something I hope to keep up.¬† Personal life and work may intervine, so please understand if I miss an update sometime.

CGmascot has, at this post release, 22 posts.  If you have trouble finding articles, I suggest checking out the Archives.  You also also browse via Categories (page top or sidebar).  Also every article has links to other related articles at the end.

The plan is to do more articles on animation.¬† So far I’ve focused on animation production, modeling for animation and low-polygon work.¬† Animation needs attention.¬† So I’m thinking about something like this:¬† I do a small animation project and then brake the process down for you.¬† Hopefully some weeks from now I have time to go at it.

Now I’m working on a major new section for this site.¬† CGmascot will acquire a commercial dimension.¬† It is not a tutorial shop that some have requested.¬† However I will later make tutorials for sale, too.¬† That is definitely in plans.¬† But don’t worry, CGmascot core content, the blog, will stay free.

Some site additions worth mentioning:

  • Check the links at page bottom.¬† There is a new link to Thadeel’s Animation advice.¬† It is a Youtube channel with some very good animation tips.¬† I need to rethink the links-section, though.¬† It is very hard to find good CG Tutorial or CG Tips Blogs to fill it.
  • Check the Files.¬† I have added two base meshes to the Model an Animation Ready Male Body-tutorial downloads.¬† Now there is the tutorial end result, the big bulky male base mesh, and two others: normally proportioned male and female.
  • I keep updating the articles whenever I notice something needs fixing, better wording or more info.¬† So if you notice something has changed, I promise it is for better.

That’s all for now.¬† What do you think of the blog?¬† What would you like to see more?

CGmascot hiStory

What drives people to blogging? ¬† And what’s up with that CGmascot?¬† Here’s a story about my motivation for both.

Teaching is something I’ve done in one form or another since 1998.¬† Why I was originally expected to be good at it I don’t know, perhaps my calm personality seemed to suit the job, but I found I AM good at it and enjoy it.¬† Still it was the wrong subject(web design) and never became a big thing for me.

3D is another animal entirely – ever since I became reasonably capable in it I’ve wanted to teach it.¬† I’ve been developing a learning material concept for dvd-rom, but as planned it would have been a one year project, full-time.¬† Several reality-checks later I came across a person that is far more ‘hip’ on web 2.0 than I will ever be, and she suggested blogging.¬† And what do you know, it suits me well.¬† So here we are.¬† This is not the material I planned for the dvd, but it is a venue for me to share what I know and also to let my skills be known.

So why the mascot? It goes back to my childhood and drawing what little boy thought was cool, which, at the time, was Lord of The Rings, Tripods, The samurai, and many other things including some ever awesome animals.  We got to design an ex libris for ourselves in art class, and I went for an eagle.  Since then the eagle sort of stuck even though I (later) knew it is cliché as a symbol.
Origins of CGmascot, ver 1. 2001.

In 2001 came the first 3D-eagle (I started doing 3d in the year 1999 or 2000) .¬† I made this head with a mascot in mind, but didn’t like the result enough to continue.

In 2005 I rebuilt the bird and experimented with some rather odd clothing.¬† And please don’t even mention the eyebrows.¬† Didn’t shape up to a real mascot yet.¬† The pictures have CG nudity, so don’t click on them if that’s an issue for you.
Origins of CGmascot, ver 2. 2005.Origins of CGmascot, ver 2. 2005.Origins of CGmascot, ver 2. 2005.

Origins of CGmascot.  Final version. 2010.Finally in 2010, my mind set on the learning-blog, I decided on CGmascot-name partly because I always wanted to finish the damn bird and it seemed like an original title.  Hence I rebuilt the 2005 eagle to CGmascot.  So there you have it:  Childhood fixation becomes something usable later in life.

What got you writing?  Please, share your story.

Welcome to CGmascot!

I feel there is a lack of 3D-learning blogs. Sure the web is full of tutorials and there are some great podcasts, but analysis, breakdowns and general comprehensive tips are harder to find.  I will to do my small part to change that.

Aim is to create learning material. Main topics are characters and animation. I will be doing articles(analysis, breakdowns, thoughts) and shall write tips and tutorials. Also sometimes I may give away other resources as well. On a rare occasion I may also write about some personal project, but they usually connect well to blog topics.

Browse, read, enjoy! And when you have something constructive/informative to say about an article, please don’t hesitate to comment. I will listen to topic suggestions, too.¬† You can also send me an email.