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

Google ... not just for searches anymore

Google keeps churning out neat little tools, areas, stats and applications ... oh ... and their search engine is nothing to sneeze at either. If you are a code jockey, like yours truely, or just interested in the state of web code (not sure who you might be if you are not a programmer...), then you may find this area at Google worth the read. It has all sorts of nice details about how the code that powers the web is going.

New getAway system launched

We are proud to announce the launch of the getAway system for destinationwinnipeg.ca/getaway_index.php. The getAway system was built with visitors coming to Winnipeg in mind. However, even if you are a Winnipeg resident, this system may provide the ideal getAway from your normal routine, so don't hesitate to check it out.

We have been working with Lori and the crew over at Destination Winnpeg for the last eight weeks in order to build a system that allows DW and their partners to list special getAway packages. Packages are available year round and the system allows a visitor to query any date range they might be looking for and returns all relevant results. Visitors can also chose a category of interest and view all available packages in that manner.

As with any web application, we are now into the refinement phase. So if you find anything that doesn't work as you expected, please leave us a note here in on this entry. Also, if you like the way the system works, let us know. Enjoy!

V For Vendetta

V for Vendetta is based on a comic book written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd. The movie is adapted by the Wachowski brothers, of Matrix fame, and directed by James McTeigue. I haven’t had the chance to read the graphic novel yet; I wanted to go into the movie without the expectations of the original format. I’ve found, in past experiences, if I watch the film and then read the book, I’ll enjoy both for their own merits. If I read the book first, then the movie will a visual list of missing elements.

First of all, the movie takes a paranoid look at a "Greater" Britain that’s come under religious, fascist control. It wasn’t slow, it wasn’t subtle... it was driven pushed through in a climate of fear under a promise of peace and security. An entire country acted on baser instincts and traded their freedoms over loud, brash leadership.

Sound familiar?

It’s not an accident. The film makers are not subtle about the message, and it detracts from the film a bit. Some sequences which are probably inspired by the comic book, and work there as stylistic and time-frozen panels, hit the audience over the head. This has turned several people off a movie they themselves admittedly would have otherwise enjoyed.

Hugo Weaving is spectacular as V. He wears that Guy Fawkes masks throughout, but his mannerisms and his distinctive voice carries the character. He’s clever, smart, funny; the kind of guy you can’t help but want to be friends with... except for his perchance to blow up buildings and murder government officials. He wants to free the oppressed. "People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people."

I’m sure it was entirely unintentional, but one could almost make the argument that the film is supposed to be a bit blunt. Like V himself, the film is not subtle because the time for that is over. People need loud actions to shake them out of their apathy.

Natalie Portman does a great job after the stiff acting of all the Star Wars prequels. And, personally, I don’t care what everyone else says, she looks hot with that haircut ;)

I’ll hopefully get a chance to borrow and read the graphic novel. I have yet to read an Alan Moore story I didn’t think was brilliant. I’m just glad I enjoyed this action adventure flick as well.

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!

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.

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! :)