Blog

We work on the Internet and are constantly consuming information. There's a lot of it out there. We'd forget it if we didn't write it down someplace…

Visual Lizard's blog covers everything from web standards to the muppets, from php to comic books to music, just about anything we find interesting

Burning Chrome

I am currently reading a short anthology of short stories called "Burning Chrome" by Canadian author William Gibson. My first experience with William Gibson, like that of many others, was a book titled "Neuromancer" which described a future world dystopia of technology run rampant. His writing style is very visual, which brings images, smells, tastes, and sensations right to the surface of your imagination.

The short stories in "Burning Chrome" and Gibson's other books are the colourful setting of what we call the cyberpunk genre of writing. The Keanu Reeves movie "Johnny Mnemonic" was loosely based on the short story of the same name. A number of the other stories in the book influenced the look of that movie. The coffin motels described with such detail you can almost feel the claustrophobic confines. The future vision that Gibson wrote two decades ago has ironically begun to manifest today. The line between human and machine has begun to blur. Implanted microchips, RFID technology, hacker society, alternative fuel sources, and the destruction of the environment. Sometimes I feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up as I see our world moving inexorably toward that science fiction come true.

Movies like Bladerunner, The Matrix, and Johnny Mnemonic and the Shadowrun RPG were prime influences for me to seek out William Gibson as an author. If I had known about authors like Gibson while I was still in school, I probably would have become a more erudite reader. Needless to say, if you like the cyberpunk genre, you should definitely look up Mr. Gibson.

Microsoft vows to release Internet Explorer versions more often

Microsoft announces that they will release Internet Explorer updates and new versions much more frequently than in the past. As often as every 9-12 months for new versions. This can only be good news if you sit on web development side of fence and from an end user standpoint, things are going to get a lot better for a lot of people.

<a href="\" _cke_saved_href="\"http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=183701121&cid=RSSfeed_IWK_News\"" title="\"read" bill="" gates="" keynote="" overview="" for="" spring="" 2006\"="">Read the full article over at Information Week</a>.</p><p></p>

Some National Press Coverage

For the last 16 months we have been under an CTRNET.ca. Last Thursday, March 16th, 2006, the CBC, the Toronto Star, local TV news and others on hand for the press conference, the project was unveiled in detail. After an hour and half, all questions had been answered and many gigs of digital photos had been taken of the entire CTRNET board.

Since the press conference, we have had many national news agencies cover the project. <a title="\"see" the="" related="" links="" in="" sidebar="" for="" national="" news="" articles.\"="" href="\" _cke_saved_href="\"http://www.visuallizard.com/projects/details/3\"">Please visit the CTRNET.ca case study for links to these articles.</a></acronym></acronym></p> <p>Look for further work on this project in the coming months as we move into Phase 2 of development for the site and its systems.</p><p></p>

Nightwatch

I got a call from a friend to go check out this movie. I hadn't heard very much about it, hadn’t checked out it's trailer, didn't really know the plot, and wasn't aware it was completely in Russian until I was buying a ticket. So, needless to say, I didn’t have high expectations for this film.

Actually, I didn't have any expectations for this movie. It wasn't anti-hype, it was the total absence of hype, positive or negative. Nullhype. Hype times zero. It's the way most directors wish everyone went into a theatre... where they can actually show you a film without you already knowing who's acting in it, without knowing the plot in advance, without having seen all the best sequences in the trailer, without reading the rumours and gossips on the internet.

So I saw it. And I liked it. I liked it a lot.

The film, if you are not aware, is a Russian film, with Russian actors, and takes place in Moscow (which, by the way, is a Russian city). This gave the entire film a gritty, high contrast feel, a not-from-your-world urbanity. The editing, the shot angles, and the special effects just rolled into all that.

The standard issue self-sacrificing good versus self-indulgent evil was downplayed; subtle but well done. Our main characters had terrible apartments, standard issue clothes and vehicles, and seemed generally putting up with a lot. But it was something they needed to do. The antagonists, however, were beautiful, drove really nice cars, and enjoyed themselves. It wasn't evil for evil's sake. It was enjoying what you were. It was a different point of view.

Finally, this film wins major, major props from me for the subtitles. Not just slapping the english translation on the screen... the subtitles react to the film! They fade in and out, they slide around when nervous, they jump at you when people are screaming... they are almost a character in themselves. Wow.

I was later informed that this movie was based on a series of novels, and there are plans to make the rest of the books. Excellent. Now, I have expectations. Now, I am hyped. And it is good.

Jet Set Satellite remix

Jet Set Satellite has recently released their new album Vegas. Two singles are getting heavy rotation on the airwaves and the band is currently on an Eastern Canadian tour. Doug is working on a remix of a current single to give it a dance floor vibe. More information is coming in regards to this project.

A Website

Well, this is it. Welcome to the new visuallizard.com web site. Yes. It took long enough. We know.

We could make any number of excuses, such as:

  • the client kept us busy
  • the dog ate our Information Architecture
  • our iPod that had the site on it crashed (sorry Wil)
  • the client kept us busy
  • our designer (me) kept throwing out his designs and starting over
  • our copy writers (us) kept throwing out our copy and starting over
  • did we mention the client kept us busy?

But we won't make excuses. That would be lame.

Over the next few months, there will be a new design on the site (yeah. I know. I\'m insane, but I can't help it. It is in my blood.), we will be posting various articles on design, web development, programming and technology.

We have been working towards this for years and we now finally have a system in place to do everything we had hoped we could do online. It took a long time, but it was well worth the wait.

Comments are open, let us know what you think!

Toronto And Back Again

Just got back from Toronto business trip. I never used to go on business trips. I always imagined them to be a luxury plane trip to a distance vacation spot, two hours of actual work and glad-handing, and then a couple days expense account relaxation.

Wrong wrong wrong.

A late afternoon plane trip from Winnipeg to Toronto, landing tired and hungry. We checked into our hotel, dropped off our baggage in our rooms, and asked a hotel staff member for any good places to eat in the immediate vicinity. He suggested a few, but as we followed his directions, we realized we should have been more specific in our inquiries... it was 11:00pm and all of the places were closed! Luckily, a nearby pub was still open, and had generous food portion. Had a very good philly melt!

Then came work! Up before the sun, and eight to ten hour meetings in a room full of very smart people, organizing, discussing, planning, etc. Taking notes, crossing out notes, writing on white boards, writing on pads of paper... it doesn't sound difficult until you have to do it for a long stretch and with such intensity. By the time we'd break for lunch or for the day, you're hungry, tired, and your head is exploding with new ideas!

We cabbed directly to the hotel from the airport. The pub (which we thought was so nice we ate there twice) was half a block from the hotel. The meetings were held in the same hotel. We broke from the last meeting and jumped immediately into a cab to the airport for a flight back to Winnipeg. Apart from a short stroll down Yonge St, I'd almost believed Toronto was only a movie studio backdrop outside my hotel window.

And, honestly, I prefer it that way. I didn't go out on an expense account to fool around. I went to meet smart people and trade ideas. Even the flights consisted of a laptop and project planning. Work work work. Not what I imagined, and I'm all the better for the experience! :)

Opening for Infected Mushroom

Promoted by Groove204, Infected Mushroom, the most prominant live trance act in the world will be playing April 14th, 2006. Doug has been asked to open for them as one of the DJ's added to the bill. A sellout crowd is expected and this is one of the most highly anticipated shows of the year.

Ultraviolet

AAARRRGH! MY EYES! MY EYES!

What horrible madness! What happened? What terrible dimension did this unknowable, undescribable, unadjectiveable thing spawn from?!?

The first fifteen minutes of the movie was like the most boring intro movie to a bargin bin Playstation video game I've ever experienced! And at least I could skip those!

Worse yet, two-thirds of the way through the movie, it seemed the main character was not only relieved to have died before the film was over, not only filled with deperate despair at being revived, but was considering suicide directly afterwards to escape!

I like cheesy movies. I enjoyed League of Extrodinary Gentlemen! But this was the only movie I almost walked out of.

Almost.

The only thing that saved our sanity was that I went with friends and we played Mystery Science Theatre 3000 throughout the show. Its a testament to the film that the other audience members around us not only did not shush us, but were appreciative of having something entertaining to listen to!

Luckily, I got home and found a new GTP podcast awaiting in iTunes. Ahhh... so cleansed!

PS: Were those hay bales? WTF?!?

Th-is-th-is-th-is-is-sticky Situation...

The full new releases list was finally available to the Canadian iTunes Music Store and, despite the store being nearly unusable due to heavy traffic, I was able to get Danko Jones’s new album, Sleep Is The Enemy.

Some people who are really into music and have better developed hearing than I would compare the discs to older discs, or compare the music to other acts. I am not one of those people. To tell the truth, I had never really heard of Danko Jones before today except in passing. I will say this, though: I love this entire album. The best, kick-ass rock album I’ve heard since Jet.

Ten bucks Canadian on the iTunes Music Store. I highly recommend it!

US Patent Awarded for "Rich Internet Applications"

Well, this is fun news for everyone that has been building web applications (most web sites would actually fall under the scope of this patent) for the last .. oh, lets say .. the last decade. from this article at InformationWeek

All I can hope is that this gets sold to someone who actually cares about making the internet a better, more useful, experience for users and not someone who is looking to put a stranglehold on the entire show.

Conversely, can anyone get a patent for anything these days? It's as if the US patent clerks have never even used the internet if they feel that this patent application is fair and has merit for approval. Maybe I'll run out and try to patent driving. Not the cars people drive, but just the act of driving. Then I can sell the patent for the act of driving to a major car manufacturer and they can enforce a fee every time someone gets into a car, starts it and moves it. Sounds reasonable to me.

Underworld: Evolution

I saw Underworld: Evolution yesterday evening in the relatively cheap comfort of the Towne 8. To summarize, if you enjoyed the first one, you’ll like the sequel. It’s more of the same, only even more-so!

The movie picks up right where the last one left off, at the tail end of a secret war between vampires and werewolves. Our protagonist, played by the scrumptious Kate Beckinsale, has betrayed her kind, killed her group's leader and her father figure, and run away to elope with a freaky werewolf-vampire-abomination fellow she just recently met.

From there, comic book action ensues. The story is as popcorn fluff as the original. Don’t expect Shakespeare here. In fact, before hitting the theatre, me and some friends re-watched the original and went all Mystery Science Theatre 3000 on it. By mocking the original and lowering our expectations, we steeled ourselves against disappointment.

One thing I'll say about this movie, however, is that where other flicks would fade to black and leave something to the imagination, this one goes the whole balls-to-the-wall way! It's like the director thought "We never get to see this sort of stuff. I want to see this stuff. This is my movie. I want to see it!

I can't blame him too much. The hyper violence was offically thumbs-up cool, and Beckinsale gets peeled out of that latex and corset outfit. Final tally, it’s a fanboy movie, made by a fanboy, for the fanboy. If you like the cheese, you'll like the movie!