Blog for August 2006

Team Fortress 2

After being gone or "in progress" since the original Team Fortress, Team Fortress 2 is coming, and it looks great. It’s moved away from the mostly realistic styles that most Half-Life mods strive for, instead going for an Incredibles-esque appearence.

Here’s how Alex Simmons at IGN introduces it...

With its stylised graphics and arcade-focused gameplay, Team Fortress 2 is a world apart from the gritty realism of Counter-Strike, at least on the surface. But beneath TF2’s cartoon façade lies a team-based first-person shooter that’s surprisingly familiar, with players choosing from a selection of defined character types before working as a team to overpower the enemy.

You can read the IGN article for more details, and I recommend you watch the teaser video to get a feel for all the character types. I love the look, I love the style. If the game retains that feel, it’s sure to stand out against the numerous mods trying to be the next Counter-Strike. It’s a shame, in my opinion anyway, that it’ll never have a single player component.

I’ve always enjoyed a good first person shooter, but in terms of multiplayer, I always preferred co-op play rather than head to head. Shrug. I never got into player versus player aspect... except for a short stint with Return To Castle Wolfenstein’s team multiplayer; I liked the team aspect of it. It was like a compromise between real co-op and full out deathmatch.

I diddled with that and I tried Counter-Strike, but eventually I let it pass me by. It wasn’t that it wasn’t fun, I really liked it, it was just that I wasn’t interested in putting the amount of time and practice required to keep up with the playing field. Same goes for any MMO that eventually tries to enforce an us-versus-them mentality on a player... when a game goes from being plain fun to being competitive, when it requires me to stop enjoying myself so I can learn the indepth strategies and key combinations and battle tactics, I lose interest.

But hey, that’s just me :)

Google Talk Upgrade

Google has recently upgraded it’s instant messenger client. For those of you who are using it, just right-click the Google Talk icon in your taskbar or system tray, and choose "Check For Updates Now".

First of all, if you use the voice chat options, you now have the ability to leave voicemails to your contacts. Useful if they are not immediately available. When they get back, the message will be emailed to them with the recording as an attachment.

A regularly requested feature that finally appears is file transfers. This ability not being available has been the reason I’ve most often heard from people using MSN Messenger. It’s good to see it here.

Finally, something I wasn’t expecting, but I like: being able to set your status to automatically update with the current band name and song title your listening to. Works with iTunes too.

There’s an official write-up on the changes here. And if you don’t have Google Talk yet, click here to try it out. It’s free. :)

Daily Links

Red River College Relaunch

Visual Lizard is proud to be part of Red River College’s recent relaunch, officially unveiled on July 26th, 2006.

Red River College’s website represented a massive amount of information across separate layouts and structures. by developing the new site on Visual Lizard’s Catalyst content management system, the porting over of the content was a smooth endeavour, making future updates and edits relatively painless.

The new site is broken up into multiple audience areas, divided up by content type. From the home page, users may click the colored tab that best describes them. This will lead to a color-coded section with content and links suited to specific audience interests. And an expanding sidebar navigation and dynamic breadcrumbing links ensure visitors get where they are going!

The new site also sports a robust search feature. By typing a key word or phrase, visitors can easily find the content they are looking for no matter where it resides. With this Quick Search field available on every page, nothing gets lost or buried for long!

Of course, all this was built on the new site design provided by the bright boys and girls at spacecadet design, who worked tirelessly with College Relations department and endorsed by RRC’s Web Management Committee. The redesign freshens the site appearance while also bringing it in line with the College’s overall visual identity.

Ford: Leave Global Warming to the consumer

We have known for some time that the motor companies under the influence of Big Oil have been denying global warming. Now, however, with the mounting evidence that pollution and greenhouse gas emissions are causing the problem the motor companies are finally coming around and saying "yeah, you were right" to the scientists and environmentalists. In a BBC news story in July 2006, the executive vice president of Ford of Europe and the Premiere Automotive Group, Lewis Booth basically stated that in order to turn around global warming it was in the hands of the consumers... that is to say that if we want to fix the global warming mess we are going to have to ask for the greener products before the auto industry should build them. He also went on to suggest that governments should offer incentives to the auto industry in the form of business tax reductions to promote green technologies, and that the consumer should be taxed for not buying green.

While he does say a few things about how we as a consuming society have to change our way of thinking about greenhouse gas emissions which are very true, he does not think that the automotive industry should take the leading role in that change. I have a suggestion for the automotive industry. Change your thoughts on you overall market. Instead of relying on the consumer to slowly come around to a more green way of thinking, assume that the demand is there and provide the greenest options possible. Given the opportunity, most people will choose the greener option provided that the price is similar. If the automotive industry took a stand and pushed for the green option, Big Oil would have no choice but to fall into line. Of course this won’t happern, because *whine* "that would be hard" *whine*.

Honda and Toyota and even Ford are already starting to provide the green options, and an article for is showing that the demand is already there. Its time for the American Auto Industry to grab hold of the green bandwagon before it slips out of sight. If the auto industry takes the lead, other polluting industries may take the hint, and maybe the global warming problem won’t seem so insurmountable.

Apple Announcements at WWDC 2006

Apple’s WWDC 2006 announcement went out. They used the time to announce the new Mac Pro and to preview some of Leopard’s features. I’m not going to go into too much detail, there’s a hundred better articles out there that already do that. Instead, I’ll give you a sampling and my impressions.

The new Mac Pro, replacing the G5 PowerMacs. I admit I’m disappointed the rumours that a new enclosure was coming out turned out to be false. Personally, I think the titanium look is nice, but I’m yearning for a new look from Apple. The white Macbooks are sweet!

The new Mac Pro’s are Apple’s top end machines, and unlessy ou have serious coin to drop and really need the extra horsepower, you’ll give this a pass. Let’s face it, I do not need 16Gb or RAM or four harddrive bays :)

The juicy bits I was waiting for came with the Leopard preview. I might have mentioned it before; I want to buy a Mac as my next machine, but I’m holding off until Leopard is released. Looks like that won’t be until spring 2007, but with what they showed today, it looks like it’s going to be worth the wait.

Mail got a bump, making it a little more like Apple’s answer to Outlook. Addition of Notes and a To-Do list, which integrates with other apps. I preferred Mail when it was fairly stand alone, and I worry about it starting to do too much. If the To-Do integration with iCal and other apps are solid, it’ll probably work out all well, but I’d have to hands-on it to be sure.

Time Machine is Leopard’s built in backup software. Don’t let the fancy name and graphics fool you, there’s some solid thinking behind it. I’ll have to read up in more depth to form a full opinion, but right now, three things spring to mind. One, great idea, love being able to retrieve past versions of documents I saved or deleted outright. Could be useful. Two, how much drive space and resources does this constant backup take? How much can it be configured. Or outright turned off? And three, the 3D effects are cute, but can they be turned off?

Another feature in Leopard is Spaces, virtual desktops. It’s like the tabs on your web browser; open a new blank desktop for apps, to reduce clutter on screen. You can tab between desktops, and easily drag apps to and from Spaces. For some people who work with a dozen apps open, this will help keep things easier to manage. Move iTunes and Mail in one Space, then open browsers, editors, etc in a workspace Space instead.

In my opinion, the coolest feature in the set was the Dashboard upgrades. Not only did they add Dashcode, allowing for faster and easier creation of widgets, but they also added Web Clips, through Safari. Basically, on any webpage you view in Safari, you can press a button, choose an area in that webpage, and make it a widget... instantly. For those of you like me who would love very specific widgets but never had the time to learn the nitty gritty, this is magic.

There were more announcements, of course. Core animations, to make slicker apps, iCal upgrade to match up with the Mail upgrade, Spotlight upgrade, better accessibility through text readers, and more. Also, there were some unannounced bonuses on the Apple Store, like the one-third price drop on Apple’s 20inch, 23inch, and 30inch Cinema Displays.

For full information, I recommend you check out this article at Engadget, who provided excellent coverage live from the keynote. Or, if you missed it completely, watch the entire keynote in Quicktime.

Launch of Original Pictures

We have just launched the latest edition of the Original Pictures Inc. The graphic design of the site was provided by Spacecadet Design. The graphic design provided some small challenges to our use of cascading style sheets in the site’s dynamic database driven content. With a little effort we were able to produce the interpreted design, and still manage to follow W3C standards.

Original Pictures Inc. now has a place to showcase their productions and the customized content management system we built allows for staff to keep their site up to date without needing a working knowledge of html.

Original Pictures Inc. makes use of the Visual Lizard Catalyst Content Management System.