Blog for September 2006

Awesome Photography

If you are remotely interested in photography (and these days, who isn't) do your self a favor and check out File Magazine. I visited the site when it first went live and then promptly forgot about it. I returned today via a long forgotten bookmark. Am I ever glad I did.

Since I was last at the site, there are hundreds of beautiful photos that have been added. Take a few minutes. Wander around the galleries. Check out some of the series by various artists. Some truly inspiring works can be found.

When you are done, grab your camera, go find something "unexpected" and capture it forever. Enjoy.

Flexi-Display on the way!

Over the last year or so we have been seeing prototypes for flexible lcd displays with the idea that eventually we may someday have items like electronic newspapers which we could roll-up or fold just like the current paper version, however with less of a post use environmental footprint. Wouldn’t it be cool if instead of having your paper delivered every day, you just hook up your flexi-display to your computer, download the day’s news, roll it up and take it with you on the bus? They have been working on it for awhile now, and one of the issues for the flexible lcd display was the fact that it was still pretty fragile, and therefore not too great for the rough and tumble that your standard newspaper goes through on a daily basis.

Well according to an article at the BBC it would appear that the fragility issue may be on the brink of being solved. Researchers at the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering have come up with morphing metal which can be contorted and rolled up without the regularly occurring stresses of deforming metal. These engineers see a future for the flexible yet sturdy metal to be the backbone for flexible displays among other applications. Imagine everyone with one of those cool flexidisplays that we first saw in the movie Red Planet. All I can say is cool!

Steve Irwin

Over the past 5 or so years, the guys and I would occasionally chat about silly things at lunch or while grinding through some element of the day. These things would range from crazy gadgets to things we had seen recently, daily minutia all the way over to the truly bizarre. Occasionally one of us would bring up the Crocodile Hunter and something insane he had recently done. It would always prove an interesting conversation, with someone always taking the stance that "That dude is just asking to get killed" while the rest of us would defend his actions for various reasons.

Now, if you talk to any sane person and mention the Crocodile Hunter, they almost always say that he is crazy, or nuts, or both. I love the debate this brings on. My position is that he is just passionate. Passionate about something to a point that most people will never experience.

Think about it. Steve Irwin dedicated his life to trying to preserve the environment. He worked tirelessly to educate people on the things that meant the most to him, animals.

This is just what we do to get our minds thinking away from our current problem so that when we refocus in a few minutes, we are coming back at a different angle.

We consider ourselves passionate about what we do. We fight for web standards. We believe in our abilities. We trust in our years of learning and our processes to get us to the bottom of the problem and then work our way back through to the right solution. This is what we do as web designers and programmers. 

Steve Irwin, while in an completely different field, did much of the same thing we do daily. He tried to shed light on problems that needed attention and then by doing so, work towards finding a solution. To Steve, we tip our hats and say thank you for all the memories.

Madness...? This is SPARTA!

Frank Miller’s award winning comic, 300, is coming to the silver screen. Starring Gerard Butler and directed by Zack Snyder, the film is taking the same loving approach as Sin City before it: recreating the comic panel for panel, design and color and all. Literally, it’s like the book was blow up to gigantic proportions and started moving!

If you’ve never read the graphic novel (and you should, it deserves all the acclaims it’s received) or never heard the story of the 300 Spartans (shame on you), here’s’s summary of the movie:

Based on the epic graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300 is a ferocious retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army. Facing insurmountable odds, their valor and sacrifice inspire all of Greece to unite against their Persian enemy, drawing a line in the sand for democracy. The film brings Miller’s (Sin City) acclaimed graphic novel to life by combining live action with virtual backgrounds that capture his distinct vision of this ancient historic tale.

It’s a movie of ultimate Greek bad-asses being ultimate Greek bad-asses. Still don’t think this movie looks great? Check out this ultimate bad-ass promo trailer at iFilm! :)

Red Hot Chili Pepper concert review (with photos), Winnipeg Manitoba September 20th, 2006

The Red Hot Chili Peppers finally made a Winnipeg appearance after forming 23 years ago.

We had fantastic seats for the show as the photos (off my camera phone, the new Sony/ Ericson 810i) show. It is nice to see that there are still musicians around these days that actually can write, create and play there own instruments while entertaining us as well. Bands like this should be supported as you will never see them lip syncing or playing along to a click track.

Bassist Flea shows why there are few that can equal is slap funk style. Guitarist John Frusiante shows why the RHCP lost fans when he left. His funk rhythm, tight in the pocket feel was a perfect compliment to Flea and rock solid drummer Chad Smith. His solo's cut through with passion that showed his Hendrix influence. Great musicians tend to stand out and have a sound of there own, which these guys do.

Singer Anthony Kiedis, while a great front man, didn't seem to be all there last night. I had seen the RHCP in 1999 at Woodstock.This one just seemed to miss the mark.. At times he seemed to struggle vocally and was not half as animated as I'd scene him before. He wasn't the focus of show for me as I'd be watching Flea and John a lot more than him.

The reason might be that the concert relied heavily on new material. As a fan of them since 1988 I was hoping they would pull a lot more of the older material out of their bag of tricks. In fairness thou, they have such a brilliant catalog to choose from I didn't leave disappointed.

One other note I'd like to point out which is both good and bad. I'm glad they didn't "ROCK STAR" it up to the crowd but doing the typical...."lets hear this side......let's hear you on that side" crap, that is only cool if its your first concert ever. On the flip side it would have been nice to acknowledge the appreciative crowd. It left a kind of impersonal touch in my mind and a "we are just playing another show" kind of feel at times.

The sound and lights were great. Thank you MTS Centre for giving us the ability to actually hear the band. There was a clean sound mix which added to the whole experience. The light show was incredible and original. No fewer than 12 track spots were used and the rotating video wall created an interesting effect. The stage was minimal and uncluttered which left the focas on the band.

The final verdict was the concert itself was great. I would give it a 4 out of five star rating and most importantly I'd see them again.

Red Hot Chili Pepper Photos September 20, 2006  Winnipeg MB







Battery / Capacitor Hybrid

I wrote a while back about the changing idea on energy storage in the form of batteries to that of capacitors. Well it seems a couple of researchers at Brown University working with some new energy storing materials have come up with a hybrid of the two. These two engineers, Tayhas Palmore and Hyun-Kon Song, publishing in Advanced Materials have described their new work as a hybrid of a capacitor and a battery allowing for long term storage of energy while maintaining a large supply of energy, on top of which is the ability to recharge an a very short space of time. They have indicated that there are a few issues involving consistent recharging that must still be overcome, however the initial foray into this new area of energy storage looks very promising.

Some pretty big names (NASA, U.S. Air Force) are showing considerable interest in this technology, and hopefully in the not too distant future we will be looking at this technology showing up in the consumer marketplace. Imagine an electric car that you could recharge in 10 minutes and drive for 1000km before having to think about recharging again. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

FortWhyte Alive Launches

This past week the FortWhyte Centre here in Winnipeg launched the latest version of their website to the public. The latest version was designed by Deschenes Regnier and coded by we here at Visual Lizard. This version provides the people at FortWhyte with access to freely modify their content at will. The new site includes a new events calendar, a news article archive, a photo gallery system, and a message forum.

We are already working on additional features which will make the new site even more user friendly. We are developing a map feature which will allow the administrators of the site to add and remove points of interest from a map of FortWhyte. This new feature will allow FortWhyte to highlight temporary events on the map giving the viewer a visual key to finding the events which they are interested is seeing.

We have worked with FortWhyte in the past to make their website a central feature of the FortWhyte Centre. They returned to us this year and we have succeeded once more at providing them with an online centrepiece of which they will be proud.

Pandora Internet Radio

I was introduced to Pandora today, the free web radio. I'm certain there's been something similar to this before, but I have to admit, this one works pretty well.

The basic concept is easy to understand: you make a "station" by choosing a song or artist you like. You then listen to that song/artist, and rank it (like/dislike). Pandora will compare that information to their Music Genome Project, their six year project where they broke thousands of songs into individual music qualities. Then, you get an unending series of songs that will, theoretically, be in the same vein you like. If you like a song, rate it up. If you don't, rate it down.

Best of all, you can have more than one "station". Currently, I have one primed with Tom Waits and one primed with White Stripes/Franz Ferdinand. I'll shortly add a third, this time using Monster Magnet as a base. Definitely not stuff I want to get mixed up :)

The interface could use a little loving, though. Once someone helped walk me through it, it was very straight forward. Lots of useful help text, letting me know what it was doing every step of the way. But if I had stumble through it the first time, I would probably have given up in frustration. The interface is designed to be compact, but suffers from "what am I supposed to do now" -itis. Also, their song licensing is a bit limiting, as you cannot rewind or go back to songs, nor can you skip ahead more than a handfuil of songs an hour. If you think of it as a radio rather than a CD player, it makes more sense.

If you hit the site for the first time, I recommend reading the FAQ and the About page, both links annoyingly tucked away at the bottom of the homepage. Oh, and it only accepts USA postal codes, so us canucks have to be creative :)

iMacs Get Bigger

Apple announces a change to the iMac lineup. They upped the processors and added a 24" model. Tough choices lie ahead. Notebook or iMac .... hmmm... what to do?

September Means Work

Wow, can you believe we are already into September? Unreal. We can't get our heads around the fact that summer is already over. Time is flying by. I have a theory on this, but I'll save that for another post.

As with everyone else in the country, the start of September means back to work, or school, and we are no exception. Over the summer, while everyone else was outside playing, we have been reading, learning and occasionally playing. Our tans are a lovely mid-November pale.

So what can you expect from us over the next 8 months until summer 2007? Projects, lots of them. A new application, several web sites, some new tools to the site and even a hockey pool application that we will be rolling out in the next 6-8 weeks. We will also be updating with greater frequency as we are back at our keyboards for the foreseeable future.

Keep your eyes on the screen and don't forget to take small breaks now and again. Stretching is good.