A Random Pattern

Archive for the 'random' Category

MacHeist -> CocoaDuel -> Peace and Joy

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

If you’ve been following MacHeist at all, you know there has been a fair amount of controversy surrounding the bundle sale at the end and subsequently, the whole event.  Most commenters appear to have dug in their heels at this point, on both sides of the issue.  Thus I see little room or purpose in further discourse on the subject.

There is a heart-warming end to the tale though.  A few of the developers / blogs involved decided on a friendly duel to settle the situation.  CocoaDuel was thus born.  Here’s the idea: each developer had something like a day and a half to write a holiday-inspired application and pick a favorite charity.  Then the unwashed masses (us) would get to vote on our favorite in the most meaningful way – with our wallets.  Yes, you get to give money to a charity, and in doing so help a developer win a case of beer (or appropriate substitution, of course).

I also should mention that all the apps are free, and some of them could be fairly useful.  They are also all supposed to be open-source, which means that you can play with or improve any of them you want to your heart’s content.

So yet again, I urge you to go vote.  This time, you’re getting an excuse to give a little extra money to a charity.  And really, who needs an excuse for that?!  

Accidents and Life Lessons

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

My wife hit her dad’s truck coming out of our driveway today. Well, not exactly “hit”, more “scraped”. Not a big deal, but she was a little upset. After we made sure everything was alright, she headed back out to take the girls to a fall festival, while Dad and I did some work on the loft (pictures coming soon).

As they were driving, Sara explained to Tessa that she had a car accident, and that she felt bad about it because she made a mistake. (Can you tell we’re trying to teach Tessa some life lessons? :) ) She explained carefully that this wasn’t the same as the potty accidents that Tessa has sometimes. Tessa thought about this for a minute, and then interpreted it as only a four-year-old can:

“Mommy went poopie on Papa’s truck!”

Mommy couldn’t keep a straight face after this, and laughed so hard that soon Tessa and Selah were also laughing along.  Tessa was quite proud of herself for making mommy laugh.

Tessa wasn’t done yet, though. Since Sara had also explained that she had “been bad” and was “in trouble”, Tessa again coordinated this with her experience:

“Daddy spank Mommy!”

Err, no. I can only imagine how much fun Sara had trying to straighten those things out for Tessa. :D

Fans of incredible machines, Lemmings (the game), and falling dominoes

Saturday, October 21st, 2006

This compilation of japanese advertisements is somewhat mesmerizing. There are some pretty impressive little mechanical tricks pulled off.

On Mis-communication

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

I think this is one of my favorite comics ever.  The over-the-topness and understated-ness of it strike me just right.
See what happens when you don’t communicate clearly, then act like you’re clever (WARNING: this comic is somewhat violent).

Afraid of sharks? Jump in the water.

Monday, October 16th, 2006

I went camping with a group of guys from our church last weekend. It was great, but exhausting.

Saturday morning I jumped in the lake for a swim. None of the guys thought I would actually do it. Several of them couldn’t understand why I would do such a thing. It doesn’t seem that odd to me, but I guess I am a little … different. :)

Now to the point of the story: the entire time I was in the water, I was locked in a mental struggle. Some powerful part of my brain alternately yelled, threatened, cajoled, and pleaded with me to turn around and get back on solid ground. The reason? Well, I might be attacked by sharks!

I can hear you now – “but sharks don’t live in lakes”, you say. Ahh, yes, but this thought did not occur to me until a few hours after I was done with my swim. Strange, no? Either way, when I was swimming sharks were not my only fear. The fear was deeper, more primordial, than that. At times I wondered if giant snapping turtles would attack my legs, or some other “unknown” animal would pull me under.

The fear was strong enough that several times I ceased my freestyle stroke and actually turned back to shore. Never mind the fact that there was another shore not that far in front of me – no, that “flight” instinct actually caused me to physically, unwillingly turn around. I even started back to shore a few times.

At times I switched from freestyle to breast stroke, since freestyle screamed “too much thrashing! You’ll attract their attention!” I can’t say I ever conquered the fear. I grew tired rapidly, and the shore looked further away. I decided to turn around and get back to land. Funny how it seems so hard to get away from the shore, until you decide you want to go back.

This took a toll on me physically. I was already not in great shape. In fact the reason I was out there was to start my swim training for a half-triathlon. Somehow fighting that mental fear actually sapped my strength. This only served to strengthen the fear, as I knew I only had enough energy to make it back to shore, and was sucking wind. “If something pulls you under, you’ve got no chance of surviving” my fear warned me.

Surely by now you’re wondering, “why did you go swimming if you have this strong fear?”  Good question.  :)  Would it help if I say I’ve had this fear for as long as I can remember?  In fact, when I’m swimming in a pool I often face this same fear.

Would it make more sense if I say that I love swimming?  No?  :P  How about this: I love swimming under water, much more than on the surface – and preferably with my eyes open.  Yes, even in pools.

So, why do I subject myself to this fight with such an irrational fear?  I don’t know the exact answer.  I do know that I’m afraid of heights, and insist on climbing up high whenever I have the chance.  I’m also afraid of the dark, though strangely not as much as I used to be.  Sometimes when it gets strong, I go stand in the middle of a room with the lights out, and close my eyes.  I suppose I’m more confrontational than I ever thought I was.  All I know is the fear doesn’t necessarily get weaker when I face it down repeatedly – but my ability to continue functioning through the fear gets stronger.

I suppose one guess would be that I don’t like being controlled by fear.   Care to offer your opinion?  Or confess your secret fears?  I can’t be the only one with a completely irrational fear of sharks, can I?

MDA Semi-finals: The time-restricted voter’s guide

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

last updated 2006-10-12, 16:50 EST

Digg it

If you’re not already familiar with MDA (My Dream App), read my previous post first (American Idol for your (Mac) computer).

Quick Summary:
Here is my two-sentence summary of each application, in reverse alphabetical order. Note that the ideas generally have a lot more to them than I indicate here (skip to the next section if you want the current status of each project), and this summary is the “Cliff Notes” version for those not already familiar with the application ideas.

Whistler: Whistle to your computer, and hear your music converted to piano. Tap on your desk, and Whistler converts it to drums.

Portal: Keep your application settings, and important files, synchronized between two or more Macs. One example would be your browser bookmarks and settings.

iGTD: Use the “Getting Things Done” method on your Mac. Even if you’ve never heard of GTD, iGTD aims to be an easy-to-use version with simple tutorials to get you started.

Hijack: Keep all your favorite forums in one easy place. It’s like an RSS Reader (news-reader) for forums.

Ground Control: Imagine a more powerful useful Dock, combined with Dashboard. With a glance you can see how many new emails you have, or check your calendar without launching the full iCal application.

Desktop Wars: A war rages on your desktop, while you work or play. When you have a few minutes, watch your desktop to see how the battle goes.

Cookbook: Store, find, schedule, and use recipes easily. Order ingredients online, or just print a weekly shopping list.

Blossom: A plant grows (or dies) on your desktop. How well it does depends on how hard you work, encouraging you to stay on task instead of online or playing games.

Atmosphere: Your desktop becomes a window, showing you the current weather outside. Instead of a little icon, you see rain falling on your desktop if that’s what’s happening outside.

Judging Criteria:
A) Innovation and Creativity of the Idea
B) Use of OS X and Leopard
C) Feasibility of Development
D) Mass-Market Appeal

Current Status:
Whistler: The contestant seemed to really get in gear over the last week or two. New mockups, an icon, then a website have helped fuel a resurgence of interest and forum activity around Whistler. One spark for the renewed interest was a technical conversation on the forums (not for the faint of heart) about the mechanics of making Whistler work. That conversation sparked this web post by Rageous. In the last round of voting Whistler sat low, however that was quite possibly due to Digging by other apps near Whistler’s level. (UPDATE: The fan base for Whistler seems to be vocal and growing.)

: Another contestant that appeared to get motivated after a low showing a few rounds ago, Portal quickly developed from a monolithic mockup, to some widget add-ons, finally taking the form of a widget as the main interface. Portal also gained a website. Although Portal always had brilliant eye-candy ideas which will make for a great Mac app, the interface and usability has seen a lot of attention recently. This is now one of the more active contestants, and he interacts not only with his own app idea, but other ideas as well. The last round of voting had Portal in the top three, quite a move for this Dream App. (UPDATE: Portal has added a few more mockups in the forums.  UPDATE 2: Portal has an improved website, including the new “Pro Mode” mockup.)

: Over the last few weeks, iGTD has received plenty of questions in the forums but no answers. The contestant is dealing with life issues, and has only been able to do a little in the way of mockups or defining iGTD’s function. Still, iGTD did decently in the last few rounds of voting, and there is certainly a group that wants to see this type of app come to fruition. One fan has even offered up some better mockups as a starting point (and the contestant has asked for help). That the Omni team has announced a GTD app does make winning a bigger challenge for iGTD, especially without the attention of the contestant.

: This app has been a front-runner for most of the competition. Still, the contestant isn’t sitting on his heels, and just released a second video mockup. Strangely, Hijack still doesn’t have a website. However, the first video garnered praise from MDA creator Phillip Ryu for raising the stakes. The contestant has remained quite active, but is holding back on one answering one of the more popular questions (how to post using Hijack) until the final round of voting. (UPDATE: Continued discussion on smart keywords and folders is happening here.)

Ground Control
: Another very active contestant, with one of the bigger ideas in the competition. Ground Control has gained several mockups and an entire website. The latest, though, is an actual demo (hacked together using Javascript, but enough to get the idea across) and some sample skins. I can’t directly link to either, but you’ll see the big green buttons at the top, with the links shortly after. The last round brought some controversy, both because contestants had to use digg to stay in, and because of the title used to digg Ground Control. (UPDATE: Ground Control was the first with a website, not Cookbook. UPDATE 2: Ground Control made good use of the voting delay by unveiling the collaboration with Portal and Cookbook.  Russell also listed possible modules again.)

Desktop Wars
: DW, as it’s called in the forums, continues to endure much controversy. For awhile, a fan going by Pixel Sage was the only one doing anything with the DW idea. During voting days the contestant shows up, only to disappear again as soon as voting is over. Because of the controversy, the idea still hasn’t made it much past the original idea. However, before Pixel Sage gave up on DW, he did make some great-looking art, mockups, and concept pieces. The contestant showed up again this voting round, rehashing again what DW will be without bringing much new to the table. Still, DW has been popular every voting round. (UPDATE: Pixel Sage sparked one more controversy before ditching DW, with a suggestion that the contestant was throwing in the towel.)

: Cookbook has been neck-and-neck at the top of voting rounds with Hijack. This contestant was one of the earliest with some really gorgeous mockups. I believe it was also the first website(UPDATE: See the Ground Control entry above). Since Cookbook was well-developed early on with strong mockups, the app seems to have enjoyed a comfortable following, but also has been quieter the last round or two. Still, new mockups have shown up for the Amazon integration / shopping cart feature, as well as searching (an often-brought-up topic in Cookbook’s forums). The Full Screen mockups also saw some more refinement.

: Several new mockups and idea refinement have taken place over the last few weeks with Blossom, culminating in a new logo and even a video recently. The feedback has been mostly positive, though several have requested a different plant (for example, more cartoonish). Blossom joined in the controversy last round with a digg to stay out of the bottom results. Blossom did it right, with a nice write-up, telling the users how to vote, and even making easy voting links to Digg, Reddit, AND Netscape. Now that’s being thorough. We’ll see how that impacts this round, as contestants may find it necessary to market and sell their ideas to get votes. (UPDATE: Blossom’s new website is announced in typical, and tasteful, style by Dan.  A poll is even included!)

: One of the most aggressive and straightfoward contestants, Atmosphere is a simple idea meant to look good. With some good support for mockups, Atmosphere last week encouraged the trend of exploring settings panel / configuration options. Several fans helped, arriving at some really gorgeous (and some just plain practical) preference pane options. (Edited) Atmosphere kicked off controversy last round, using a well-timed digg to stay in the competition. (UPDATE: The contestant hasn’t been in the forum for four days, though fans have been keeping the preference panel discussion alive without him.  UPDATE 2: The contestant reappeared to assure us that he was, in fact, still alive and following along.  He blogged two versions of settings panels created by fans, and hinted at information on forecasting soon to come.  So he “forecasted” forecasting for Atmosphere.  ;)  )
Whew! That was a lot of work! Come back soon for my personal favorites, as well as some “Top 6″ lists where I’ll rank contestants and ideas based on things like Most Effort, Prettiest, Most Functional, Most Friendly, and whatever else comes to mind. Suggestions are encouraged. See you in the Forums.

UPDATE: Voting has been delayed for the semifinals, and is rumored to be starting sometime.  :D  Make sure to check the main page at MDA frequently!
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Art LinkLetter: Kids say the darndest things

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

I was supposed to post a few nights ago, but didn’t because I didn’t have enough time to figure out how to put up a video clip in my post. So I decided to skip the video clips and just start getting some content back up for now.

I’m back from myriad road trips, and only a little worse for the wear. Hope everyone out there is doing well. :)

Tonight I was petting the cat, Essie. Selah was opening something she had just seen us open. Sara said “Selah, you’re a smart cookie.”

A minute later, Tessa comes over to me and tries to help pet the cat. “Essie is a smart cookie” she says. Sara and I smile, and I say “no, Essie’s not a smart cookie.”

Tessa says “Essie is a cracker.” Sara and I laugh too loud to correct her. :D

Quick Geography lesson Fun

Monday, September 25th, 2006

Watch this neat little video blast from the past as the Animaniacs take us on a quick tour of the world:

Oh, and go to this Google Map of Belgium to see where I was last week.

Sorry for the startling lack of content. I haven’t been sleeping much, so when that gets back to normal so will my posts. I’m traveling again a little this week, but hope for a chance to recover after that.

Need sleep

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

I’ve somewhat adjusted to the time-change, but other than that I’ve had no time this week.  I’m giving training, and taking care of regular business as well, and when travelling a lot of time is also taken up eating and driving and what-not.  Luckily I was able to get in a good 8 kilometre run with a friend tonight, through a forest even!  That was quite nice.  Now I still need to catch up on sleep…

Oh, and don’t expect much in the way of posts until Sunday or later.  Sorry…if you miss the posts, tell me why in the comments and I’ll muster up the energy to put up another post tomorrow.  :D

Travelling and Travailing

Saturday, September 16th, 2006

Posting has been light the last week, after a last-minute trip up to Virginia.  I’ll still have a full schedule for probably the rest of the month, so don’t expect daily posts.  I do plan to schedule a few good reads over the next week, though.

Subscribe (big orange button on the right, or by email) if you haven’t already, and you’ll be automagically notified when I do write something new!
Quick notes from my week:

Most exciting news: Apple’s big Showtime announcements hold great potential for the future, as well as some fun for now.

Most active community: My Dream App, where I’ve been hanging out the last two weeks while they unveiled the 24 finalists.  It’s been fun, and the American Idol-esque voting segment over the next several weeks ought to be even more fun!  I’m hoping to put up another post on this tomorrow.

On the home front:  Last week we started the balcony railing, the piece necessary to complete our loft (well, besides re-carpeting).  With the kitchen now (almost) completely functional, it’s time to finish up lots of little trim areas, as well as putting in the appliance garages.  Pictures will appear in a week or so, unless I convince Sara to put something up.