Category Archives: Life

Behold: Pac-Man

Specs: ASUS M5A97 AM3+ USB3 mobo, AMD Vishera 4.2GHz (OC) octo core, 16GB DDR3 1600, Radeon HD 7970 3GB 384-bit GDDR5, 128GB SSD, 15x Blu-ray Burner, 750w midtower, 1080p 22″ triple monitor, Windows 7 Pro 64bit

This marks my triumphant return to ASUS and AMD. Staying with my home network’s recent nomenclature (networks, servers, and devices being named after Pac-Man characters), this is the birth of Pac-Man. I have retired my old 2.7GHz i7 quad core to a certain someone, where it will be a welcome replacement for her Mac Mini. It shall henceforth be dubbed Ms. Pac-Man. I’ll let her have this new video card after it becomes unsuitable for Bitcoin mining (which should be any month now). I’m not finished with it yet, either… the next purchase will probably be an external RAID (4TB Blinky is running out of space, and Inky died awhile back). Other future purchases might include a more elaborate tower, card reader, additional USB, an additional 16GB of RAM, etc. but this is more than enough for now. After I finally got everything hooked up and troubleshooted (took me more time than I’d like to admit to find out the CPU power wasn’t plugged into the motherboard), I pretty much immediately set it out to mine for BTC with the 7970, so that maybe the card will pay for itself assuming the market doesn’t crash for another few months. The thing sounds like a jet engine when it’s mining, and the LEDs turn my room bright blue at night, but that’s the price you pay for being awesome.

What I’m glad I did:

  • Went with ASUS and AMD… the price on the 8 core was fantastic. This should last me a good many years.
  • Not maxing out the RAM quite yet. When I need it, it’ll be cheaper.
  • Splurging on the 7970. This is the first time I’ve bought a real video card, and since I don’t play games much, it was hard to justify the $400, but I’m somewhat confident I can make the money back with the high hashrate.
  • Didn’t upgrade to Windows 8.

What I would have done different next time:

  • The LED fans look cool, but they’re silly and annoying mostly.
  • I severely cheaped out on the case. Like, only paid $30 cheap. It’s a good case for the price, for sure, but it’s a bit flimsy and lacks USB 3 in the front.
  • With half the space on the SSD gone already, I’m wondering if I should have gone for a 256GB. Ah well. Once I buy an external RAID, that will take care of the big files.
  • I underestimated how difficult it is to keep a 7970 cool. Three fans doesn’t really appear to be enough. I’ll add more, and I might even have to liquid cool the card.
  • I also underestimated the power requirements; if I end up wanting to add a second 7970, I’ll have to swap out the 750W PSU with a 1100W.

It’d been three years since I’d built a computer for myself, so this was an interesting re-learning exercise.

60 things I’m ashamed to admit, and other unfascinating facts

  • Although I see the icons 1000 times a day, I have no clue what Delicious and StumbleUpon are, and I’m fairly confident nobody actually uses them.
  • I don’t own a flat screen TV. If I ever watch TV (hardly ever), it’s usually on a 13 inch CRT.
  • I have been known to put olives and french dressing on caesar salads.
  • I have owned the same Android phone for over 2 years, and have built more apps than I’ve installed. There are very few apps I feel like I need.
  • I have never owned any vehicle other than Nissan trucks.
  • My dream car is a 1983 Datsun 280ZX. Well, besides a DeLorean of course.
  • I got to level 25 in QBASIC Nibbles once. It was on a 386, but I still think it oughta count.
  • This is the first time in my life I’ve ever had roommates. I have four of them.
  • I have no clue how to change the oil in a car. Actually, I’m not sure I could identify much of anything under the hood of a car.
  • Two rooms of my house are taken up by 22 arcade games and a pinball machine. They’re for looking at, not playing.
  • I like Corona and Hawaiian shirts more than anyone ever should. Hey, I’m a Floridian.
  • I don’t really play video games anymore. The last console I ever bought was a Nintendo 64.
  • I’m not sure I remember how to write cursive or read an analog clock. I haven’t had to since third grade.
  • I’ve used Windows since 3.1. I have skipped upgrading to the following: Windows ME, Windows Vista, and Windows 8.
  • I’ve never used Netflix, Hulu, or Redbox in my life.
  • Twitter is useless to me. I’m not sure I could tell you what I ate for lunch in under 140 characters.
  • I’m a designer and I hate MacOS.
  • I don’t own a DVD or Blu-Ray player, besides the ROM drives on my PC. I own 4 VCRs for some reason.
  • I have twice as many LinkedIn friends as Facebook friends.
  • I have never seen the following movies: Titanic, Avatar, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Star Wars 1-3, Citizen Kane, Casablanca.
  • In high school, I was pretty well-behaved. I had my first beer at 22.
  • I recently considered buying a MacBook Pro. But I didn’t.
  • I share the same birthday as Mark Zuckerberg (May 14th, 1984).
  • I’ve been an eBay member since 04/25/1999.
  • I’ve never seen a single episode of American Idol. The only way I learn their names, is when I ask people how that awful singer on the radio got signed.
  • There were times in my life when I spent entire weekends drinking Mountain Dew Code Red and playing Goldeneye.
  • I am mentally incapable of using a Dualshock to control a FPS. I think it’s to do with being left-handed.
  • I don’t always wait for a pot to boil before dropping in the pasta. I’m convinced it makes no difference.
  • I’ve been creating t-shirt art for clients nonstop since 2005.
  • Sorry, but I didn’t like Inception. It dragged on too long, the plot holes were too large, and the backstory was lame.
  • I’m still using a ball mouse, apparently. Not because I hate laser mice or anything, but because I haven’t needed to replace it.
  • I don’t think Adobe Illustrator is a very intuitive program.
  • I think Digimarc and Shazam are witchcraft.
  • It’s really difficult to get me angry. Xcode manages to do it consistently though.
  • I was a liberal in high school. In college, I had a libertarian polysci professor that changed my life.
  • I’ve never seen an episode of Lost, 24, or House, but I have seen every episode of Twin Peaks.
  • I like the Japanese pop band, Perfume. I have no idea why.
  • My favorite movies are UHF, Spaceballs, and Gentlemen Broncos (look it up). I guess you could say I like lame comedies.
  • I spent the night in my truck on Christmas Day last year. Long story.
  • At some point last decade, I had every episode of The Simpsons downloaded nothing but KaZaA, Gnutella, Usenet, and IRC.
  • Besides spam, I never delete email. My Thunderbird inbox goes back into the late ’90s.
  • I’d rather have wires on my mouse and keyboard than spend money replacing batteries.
  • I caught a fish with my bare hands once when I was little.
  • I own a massive amount of vinyl. Not sure why, when there are 600gb of MP3s.
  • I have an extensive collection of classic handheld consoles. And their official carrying cases.
  • Most sentences I write are statistically likely to start with “I”. I wonder what Freud would think.
  • I once read Fast Food Nation. It took 3 years for me to eat McDonald’s again.
  • I’m not sure I could survive without Stack Overflow.
  • I’ve been a lurker on FARK.com for 12 years, and never once posted or submitted anything there.
  • On my IBM Thinkpad I’ve had since middle school, I’m on day 5,828 of my 30 day trial of Paint Shop Pro 4.
  • I have never beaten the original Super Mario Bros. Got all the way to Bowser though.
  • I wrote a couple of ASP Classic pages last year, for the first time in years. It was all the client’s server supported.
  • Thanks to Trillian, I’m still running AIM, ICQ, YIM, and MSN messengers.
  • I accidentally used mid-grade gasoline once.
  • I never had a Myspace. I have had my Facebook account since 2005, back when it used to be cool.
  • My favorite non-casual video games ever are Super Metroid, Ocarina of Time, Goldeneye 007, Half-Life 2, Metal Slug, and I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.
  • I’ve never once bought anything from Amazon.com.
  • I am allergic to nothing, and never get sick. …Not entirely true, but basically.
  • I’ve had the same eyeglasses since 2002. That would make them over 10 years old. Perhaps I should buy new ones.
  • I hate computers.

My Very Own Wall of Shame

I got to thinking today about all the trends I’ve shamefully exploited in my years as a designer. It’s not that I was trying to be trendy (actually I’ve never been into following trends), but that in the real world, you have to be competitive with other websites, and your clients often want to be trendy. When you look back through the years, it’s pretty amusing. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you (yet another) nostalgic blog post that nobody will find interesting.

Notepad & Netscape Era (RIP 1994-1997)
During this time, nobody really built websites in Photoshop. Typically, you built the website first using Notepad, then spread around some graphics you made in Paint Shop Pro regardless of how well they fit together. Perl, or at least CGI, was pretty much your only backend option, and servers weren’t fast enough to run every page of your site like that. Javascript was around, but wasn’t very compatible in IE, there was no DOM, and so it didn’t really do much. Frames were extremely popular.
As far as design, there really wasn’t much to speak of. Graphics were mostly an afterthought, as images, backgrounds, and fonts had just been introduced to HTML. Usually there was a heavily-compressed banner, a tiled background, an “email me” icon, and would be it. Comic Sans and Arial were the only alternatives to Times and Courier (and we liked it!).

Tables & Photoshop Slicing Era (RIP 1998-2001)
At this point, Photoshop was becoming the standard for web mockups. However, due to limitations of CSS1, we would slice up the images in Photoshop, then export them directly as tables. As far as I know, you can still do this in Photoshop, but nobody is dumb enough to do that anymore. The problem with tables, of course, was that it was a nightmare for semantics, and they were a little tricky to edit directly. Also, there was very little you could override with CSS.
During this time, the dark “cyberpunk” look was huge. Backgrounds were almost always black with white or neon text. It was also popular to use Japanese text for no reason at all, both as the cyberpunk look and because anime was at its peak of popularity. In this era, we found ourselves spending more time editing the website in Photoshop than actually using the HTML. WYSIWYG editors were also popular at the time, but they all quietly went the way of the dinosaur.

Flash Era (RIP 2002-2005)
Also known endearingly as the “Web 1.5” Era. Flash had been around before this, but it really started taking over around this time, stemming from cross-browser frustrations and a desire for interactivity that Javascript, at the time, was incapable of. Flash moved on from splash screens and menus to running entire websites. This of course was bad SEO, but nobody cared. We all spent our time in online arcades playing Flash games. Video was finally working on the web using Flash.
Throughout these years, the designs were typically flat-shaded, abstract Illustrator creations (like what you’d see on a hipster t-shirt), as well as Photoshop manipulated people and landscapes. It was common to see art that was complicated and “overprocessed”-looking.

Web 2.0 Era (RIP 2006-2009)
Although Flash was still being used sporadically, this was the first real coming-of-age for web design. Javascript frameworks started becoming more prevalent. IE5.5 was dead and CSS2 was now much easier to utilize. Table layouts were officially dead. XHTML was the new standard, and AJAX was the new way of hooking into the backend. Tons of new backend languages were being introduced. The iPhone introduced a new way of thinking about mobile websites. The headset hottie was behind every corner.
Because most of the designs in this era were running in CMS’s now, and CSS2 still didn’t enjoy 100% support, websites were incredibly clean and simple. Backgrounds were always white, and the glossy glassy gradient look was popular to say the least. Also, nearly every website was a wholesale ripoff of Apple’s. Flash started dying out during this time due to many factors, the biggest factor being it was not allowed on Apple devices, so it was no longer the silver bullet for animation it once was.

Framework Era (RIP 2010-)
During this time, designers were growing impatient with HTML5’s slow adoption, and decided to take matters into their own hands. In order to get HTML5 working in all browsers, however, it required your Javascript framework of choice and polyfills such as HTML5Shiv or Modernizr. Also during this time is the adoption of CSS fonts, CSS preprocessors, CSS grid frameworks, which led to the popularity of boilerplate templates such as Twitter Bootstrap to ease the installation and integration of all these crazy add-ons.
Designs that dominate in this era are the handmade/indie movie poster look, cut paper look, and stitched leather look. Which is ironic considering the frameworks are now doing much of what used to be done “by hand”.

Predictions
Since these trends all seem to come in 4 year blocks, I predict 2013 will continue in the Framework Era, keeping the same indie look with handmade sketches and shiny happy animals all over the place. Trends such as the “massive wall of text” and “giant photograph” look will continue to get popular. In 2014, I expect to see a new era in which canvas, SVG, and retina graphics up the ante, and some library may come around to tightly integrate Javascript on the front and back, allowing a much more application-like experience, like where we left off during the Flex days.

My Life in the ’90s.

Just a brief trip down memory lane, of what was quite possibly the best decade to be alive in, and the greatest peak of the golden age of civilization since the Renaissance.

In 1990, I was in Kindergarten. My life revolved around the playground. I didn’t get an NES until 1991; before that, the family rented it from the local VHS rental place (Movie Time). I used to love going there and browsing their NES games while inhaling the smell of stale buttered popcorn. There used to be a portable computer lab that would come to the classroom. I can’t remember if they were Commodore or Tandy, but they were color. Meanwhile, we were saving up Campbell’s Soup labels so we could get our very own Apple II in the classroom. Word Munchers and Oregon Trail on 5 1/4 floppies for the win.

In 1991, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie came out. I was a huge fan of the cartoon at the time (as well as He-Man, Transformers, and the usual suspects). I owned the t-shirt, the action figures, the breakfast cereal, the wallet, the cups,… even the lame concert cassette tape. Snap bracelets were a huge fad at the time, though it was short-lived (the inner metal part would get exposed and slice up kids’ wrists, so they got banned from school). My mom made me lunch every morning, and it was pretty consistent. Tuna sandwich, PB&J, deviled ham and crackers, Handi-Snacks / Dunkaroos, or Lunchables.

In 1992, I was in 2nd grade. We had to keep a journal. I wrote some boring entries, and did some particularly bizarre drawings. My best friend was John Maz. We were obsessed with The Ren & Stimpy Show. I also liked Salute Your Shorts, Family Double Dare, and Welcome Freshmen. We moved into a new house this year, an old Antibellum home from 1848. I found an old gold coin from the year the house was built, and slowly got into coin collecting. We also got a computer later in the year. It was a 486 SX20, with a CD-ROM drive and Windows 3.1. I discovered how to use a tape recorder, and had a lot of fun creating a “radio show” and other nonsense.

In 1993, Aladdin and Jurassic Park came out. I saw them, but wasn’t really obsessed. I was still playing NES a lot. John Maz got expelled from school. I can’t remember why… probably for cussing out the 3rd grade teacher. Walter was my new friend. We had the most bizarre projects, like the time we built a “quilt” out of Fruit Roll-Up wrappers. My dad somehow got a hold of a 4 CD shovelware collection that you would normally use with an online BBS server. I played a lot of Apogee, iD, Lucasfilm, and Sierra games. Wolfenstein 3-D blew my mind. I spent a lot of time at the Putt-Putt Golf arcade, playing Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II. After school, I’d hang out with Eric May and Chris Smith, and we’d watch Disney cartoons (Goof Troop, Talespin, etc.) and play NES. Spy Hunter, California Games, Rad Racer, Punchout, TMNT, Super Contra, Paperboy….

In 1994, I got my SNES. Super Mario World and Clayfighter were the first games I had for it. I would later buy Super Metroid and Donkey Kong Country, two of the greatest video games ever made. My dad’s friend owned a BBS with a secret pirate channel. I had access to the registered version of every Apogee game, and pretty much everything else. Doom was my favorite game. By this time I was playing PC games and video games all the time. I discovered the joy of Photoshop, Deluxe Paint, PC Paintbrush, and Paint Shop Pro. I would make pictures of President Clinton shooting laser beams out of his eyes to kill aliens, among other things.

In 1995, After years of designing games on paper, I finally built my own video game. It was a first person shooter called Ultimate, that involved killing ninjas and orangutans. It was mostly an inside joke with some friends in 5th grade. Hidden in the game was a digitized image of my little brother in a poorly-drawn Deluxe Paint disco suit, and an audio clip of him singing an improv song about Kool-Aid. You could blow his head off. He was not pleased when he found this out.

In 1996, I was 11-12 years old and starting middle school. I released another version of my game on my website that I created last year. I was a full-on Internet addict, downloading every game I could get my hands on. We were still riding the wave of Seattle-esque grunge music, which had killed off the soft rock fad that had been around since the late ’80s. The music had gotten a little harder though, with Silverchair, Nine Inch Nails, etc.

In 1997, my friend Walter left. I found myself friendless, so I crawled into my shell and started getting a little weird. I invented my own alphabet so nobody could read my writing. I created another violent video game about a robot mercenary. I started drawing bizarre things again. I got a Nintendo 64. I’m pretty sure I spent the entirety of next year playing Goldeneye 007. Like most kids, I was briefly, shamefully, into anime (it was called japanimation then). In case you’re wondering, back in my childhood it wasn’t common to give kids medications for acting weird. And that’s the way it should be, dagnabit.

In 1998, it was my last year of middle school. I was addicted to Valve’s Half-Life. I graduated from Trinity Catholic School and never talked to anyone there ever again. I went to Comdex this year, and I’m actually wearing the lanyard as I type this (it was cooler than the boring government one). I was only 14 at the time, so my dad had to sneak me in. Canon had the best booth babes, that’s about all I remember. Otherwise, lots of virtual reality gadgets that never saw the light of day. I also got a laptop for my birthday. It was a 486 DX40, but hey, laptops cost a small fortune back then. Last I checked, this laptop still works. IBM Thinkpads are built like tanks.

In 1999, I started high school and wasn’t any better off socially. A girl in my class kept passing notes to me, wanting to be my friend. I never wrote back. I relaunched my website as slawdog.com, and started focusing on productivity software. I was the first sophomore in school history to join Journalism class, though I wasn’t particularly into it. I spent most of my time sketching out ideas for video games, productivity software, and websites. This was probably the start of when I really got my creative output up.

Afterward, into the aughts, I graduated high school and never looked back. I went full-force into college and had a really good time. Moved to the east coast and lived there from 2005-2012, and here I am in Atlanta, trying to figure out how the ’90s happened over 12 years ago.