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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

Yahoo! Relaunch... failure

Considered by some to be the world’s most popular online destination, Yahoo relaunched it’s site today. The look and feel are much nicer than the old late 90s look that had followed it around for way too long.

Apparently new look doesn’t mean new standardized code. Being web developers here, we decided to take a look at the coding behind the new look, and boy are we disappointed. One of the things we pride ourselves on is creating our code to follow web standards. We are a small company who take the time to build properly. I would have hoped that the big guys (like Yahoo!) who are such a huge presence on the internet would have taken the effort to promote the high standards that the web development community is trying to bring to the world. Apparently that was too much for which to hope.

Nice Job Ford

Being in the market for a new car I have been visiting the car dealers online. I'm looking for something with 4 doors and perhaps 4 wheel drive - because we actually use it to get into small lakes out near the cottage - and I would certainly like it to be more environmentally friendly than my current SUV. Hybrids are the talk of the environmental world, so naturally I'm checking into all of them.

To give you a little technical background, I am a MAC OS X user. I work on the internet for a living and have the following web browsers at my disposal: Firefox, Safari, Opera and several otthers. I am WAY more tolerant of web site errors than 99% of the people online. In fact, I'm even taking the time to tell Ford directly that there is a problem via this post. Most people would just move on and not bother.

Ok. With that out of the way, lets have a look at what the "Build and Price" system on ford.ca does in my browser(s):

  • Safari - v 2.0.3 - I can not get past page 1. Dead transaction.
  • Firefox - v 1.5.0.3 - Again, nothing past the 1st page. Dead transaction. Firefox also fails in the same manner on the PC, which I tested from home and from in the office.
  • Opera - v 8.54 - Opera works but the internal option links fail. I could not open information links on options. Nothing happens. At least I was able to use the build and price system to a point and get some rough ballpark pricing. However, this was the 3rd browser I tried and most people don't even have 2 on their systems.

Now, lets pretend for a minute I know nothing about Ford's web site traffic. For easy math, we will round out their visitors and say they get 2,000,000 visitors a month, which would not be far off given they average 1,000,000 page views a day. If we make the assumption that Firefox and Safari account for 10% of the browser market (and recent stats show this is much higher than 10% - another sample - and another sample), then Ford is missing 200,000 people with their Build and Price system. Regardless of the actual numbers of visitors Ford is excluding, if we agree that Firefox and Safari are 10% of the browser market, this number is going to be huge. For Ford to release a component of their web site that is not working to this degree, in my opinion, is completely irresponsible to both their dealers and their shareholders.

I know, this is only a web site and you can't actually buy the car online. But you know what, you can get pre-qualified for credit, which basically makes the sale for the dealers. So missing this significant portion of the market with their system means less sales. How many north american car companies can survive with 10% less sales per month? Would you eat in a restaurant that only served 90% of their patrons? Would you go to a mall that refused access to 10% of the people trying to get in? You might go once, but you wouldn't go back again.

I have been a Ford owner for 10 years. I've had issues with the workmanship in the last 6, but nothing that would prevent me from thinking about them as a possible source for my next vehicle, given all the variables. However, by making it hard for me to build and price a car with their web site, I'm automatically viewing the Ford Escape Hybrid in an unfavourable light. If their web site doesn't work, how reliable can their hybrid be?

On another note, Toyota's web site works for me in every browser I tried. Guess what I am thinking of buying?

Theforks.com on CSSremix

Neat! Theforks.com has been picked up by CSSRemix. This is quite an honour, as CSSRemix only showcases the best in design and programming.

Actually, we might have never know had it not been for the 240+ visitors that popped up in our stats in the first 12 hours.That makes CSSRemix the second most popular repeat referrer (so far) to theforks.com. The first most popular is this story over at the CBC.

If you are interested, you can visit the CSSRemix's posting on theforks.com and leave a comment and/or vote on the site.

Launch #4 in 7 Days - collegiatemall.com


Having worked many, many hours on collegiatemall.com, we are very pleased to announce that it is now live and ready for your shopping needs.

We have been working with spacecadet design on this one. They have provided their expertise in the design department.

Under the hood, we have built a custom catalog management system. Layered on top of Catalyst 3.8.4, the new catalog system allows for import / export via CSV files of product data, management of all products within the site, detailed statistics on product views, adds to the shopping cart, completed transactions and a complete review and administration system for orders past and current.

Needless to say, we are very excited about collegiatemall.com going live. We have some more to do yet, but it is live and we couldn’t be more pleased. Congratulations to Collegiatemall and spacecadet for a job well done and all the effort everyone has put forth has yielded a terrific product.

Look for a detailed project write up in the near future. All comments and suggestions are welcome, use the contact form or the comment form below.

We will see everyone after a few hours of sleep! ;)

Video of Wii in Action at E3

Here’s a video at Kotaku, from Nintendo’s E3 2006 announcement. It shows Reggie Fils-Aime, Satoru Iwata, Shigeru Miyamoto and one lucky contest winner playing Wii Tennis live.

No, the graphics are not your top-par, HD-DVD, Xbox360-slash-PS3 killers, nor were they ever expected to be. If you’re bitching about that, your not paying attention to the four people and the way they’re playing the game.

Tell me that isn’t the coolest damn thing you ever saw. I know it’s the damn coolest thing I’ve ever seen! :)

Is Sony's PS3 A "Me-Too, Me-Too" Machine?

Above is a press photo of the upcoming PS3. The most apparent thing about it is that it seems to resemble a familiar Sony console you may already have. And it seems to have functionality you've heard of before. And it will play games you've probably played before.

My main reaction concerns the controller. I think most people who read this article remember the original controller design. It was a cross between a dildo and a boomerang. I never got to hold it, so it may really have been the most comfortable thing to use in the world, but I would be embarrassed to be seen with it.

"Hi Wil, I just dropped by to.... what are you doing?"

"What? What? I'm playing video games! I'm playing PS3!"

"Video games?!?"

"It's a controller! Seriously, it's a controller! Oh god, don't tell anyone!"

The internet community completely slammed Sony on the controller design. Sony apparently took this to heart and redesigned the controller. After months of silence and research and development and focus groups and whatever else multi-million dollar corporations do to design controllers they decided on...

The PS2's controller.

Okay, I know we were hard on the first design, but what happened? Did you fire your entire hardware design department? This isn't a new controller design, this is lazy. They can tout it's "reliable design", "comfortable familiarity", and "industry standards" all they like. As far as I'm concerned, this is the same as Hollywood's habit of pumping sequel after sequel at us: it's financially safer to give people something the market has already proven is successful than to try to be innovative.

And hey, on the theme of "if it's getting a lot of buzz, let's jam it into this machine", it seems the "new" PS3 controller has some motion sensing capabilities.

However, built into the mechanics, the new Dual Shock will offer a promised six degrees of freedom for gamers. Bringing out the Producer and Director of Warhawk, Dylan Jobe of Incognito, Harrison explained that with a tilt to the left, players will be able to turn their jets in the same direction. With a quick raise of the controller, players can jump in altitude, or move forward and backward. What does all of this mean? Finally, those overexcited gamers who move to the left and right when turning in racing games will be able to make it really, really happen.

Hey that sounds cool. That's a neat concept, being able to control a video game through your actual actions, rather through pressing pads and buttons. It makes the interaction with what you see on screen more "real". Wow, if only a company would develop a whole system around this concept, and focus entirely on this type of gameplay!

Sigh.

So the XBox launched early, with comparable power levels, comparable graphics capabilities, an established online presence, and a hard drive. Then Nintendo completely bowls people over with the Revolution, now called the Wii. Say what you want about those two consoles, they are succeeding at their endeavors. Xbox was the console to have in North America at Christmas, the graphical wow factor HD TV early adopters' wet dream, and currently the only next gen console on the market. Nintendo skipped the whole more power, better graphics, next gen fight and introduced a console that has, over the past couple months, become the biggest buzz machinery in years. I don't know anyone who isn't interested in the Wii.

That kind of leaves Sony on the sidelines. Sure, they dominated the last two generations and have an amazing library of titles. So did Nintendo with the NES and the SNES. Then, with the N64, they tried to be everything, promise everything, missed everything, and people moved on. This console, though it may have a couple "must have" exclusive games coming out for it, comes across as an also-ran. It plays DVDs and it plays games and it plays music and it uses Blueray and it goes online and it has a PS2 controller you used to like and it does that Wii motion thing and it has a hard drive and and... really, it's good, honest, please still be interested!

Financially, I'm in a position where I can afford a next gen console, if I'm interested in it. I'm 20-30 year old geek with cash, I'm the target audience. But Sony also mentioned how much this puppy will cost.

The PS3 will be priced with two SKUs. One system will have a 20 GB hard drive, the other will feature a larger 60 GB hard drive. The system will launch in Japan on November 11th, and will launch on November 17th in North America, Europe, and Australasia. In Japan, it will retail for ¥59,800 for the 20 GB SKU, and a retailer-determined open price for the 60 GB. The North American system will retail for $499.99 ($549 Canadian) for the 20 GB and $599.99 ($659 Canadian) for the 60 GB.

Five hundred and fifty dollars for the base unit? Six hundred and sixty dollars for the full unit? Are you guys insane?

I thought the XBox 360's dollar figures were nuts. If they are looking to get "early adopters" with that, then I am not interested. Maybe all this "this is not working, rework it" and "this is getting all the press, cram it in" mentality is getting expensive.

The Wii is rumored to be launching at a sub-$300 US price range, and we all can expect the Xbox 360 to price drop near Sony's launch to steal it's thunder near Christmas. Good luck with your PS3, I'll might catch you a couple years later when the hype has died down and I can afford your console without taking out a loan.

Read the Gamespy.com article on the Sony announcements here.

The Move to XP

This is it, the beginning of a new era. Welcome to the world of Microsoft XP at work. It only took me 8 hours to format and install XP and reload all of the base programs I need to work. Once that was done I had to pull all of my work files back onto the system. Now I am taking a break to write this post and showing my love for being updated. This is also a reminder not to do this very often. Pain in the butt! But now that I am here work should be more efficient with a clean harddrive and no excess files. Hopefully the next upgrade will have me learning OSX.

Iconbuffet Free Deliveries

If you’re into icons for desktop, application, or web design use, you should head over to IconBuffet and sign up for their free deliveries.

It works like this: You create a free login, and every month-ish, IconBuffet sends you an e-mail letting you know you’ve been given a free icon set. The catch is they release more sets than they give you, and it’s random which set you get. The idea is you convince others to login in (as I am attempting now) and trade your randomly received sets for their randomly received sets. It’s like trading cards, with the advantage of IconBuffet getting free advertising.

It’s a great idea, and the free icon sets are open for many uses. The problem I have is that I don’t have them all. You can help! If you’re signed up, let’s trade!

I’m looking for (as of June 28th):

  • Durango Research
  • Helsinki Hi-Fi
  • Mallow Buzz 1
  • Mallow Buzz 2
  • Manhattan Finance
  • Manhattan Night Life
  • Manhattan Veggie
  • Marseilles Cafe
  • Modena Alfanumerico Cold
  • Modena Simbolo
  • Shanghai Tech Smilies
  • Shanghai Tech Vector
  • Taipei Buddies 1
  • Taipei Buddies 2
  • Tower Grove Melee

I can offer (as of June 28th):

  • Alexandria Architecture
  • Blinksale
  • Dresden Tournament
  • Farewell Snow
  • Manhattan Metroplex
  • Manhattan Symbol
  • Modena Alfanumerico Cool
  • Modena Alfanumerico Molten
  • Oslo Atmosphere
  • Oslo Easter
  • Oslo Finance
  • Shanghai Tech
  • Taipei Monkey
  • Taipei Night Market
  • Taipei Plastic Primates
  • Tower Grove Promenade
  • Tower Grove Wedding

If you’re not signed up, please sign up and trade! Send me an email through the contact form or leave me a comment below!

Jet Set again!

Wow...the power of the Internet. Jet Set Satellite message board stalkers picked up a note on my blog.

As much as I'd love to start rumours on this here are the facts. Basically that post was put up to test this blog page.

I have not been offically "hired" to remix anything. One of the guys asked me to put a spin on one of the tunes so I'm doing it on my own time for shits and giggles! It gets done when it gets done which means in about 3 years and probably will never be released. (unless it gets suspiciously leaked to the Internet...muhahahahahah)

Nothing is official other than I dislike blogs and that yes...Visual Lizard is an Internet development agency. (and a damn fine one at that!)

Doug

Launch #3 for the week

Well, if you read the previous post Double Launch Day, then you already knew we had some more sites coming live this week. Today we launched our third one of the week for The Winnipeg Children's Festival.


We have realigned the site for 2006. Karen and Rose from Ugly Duckling Productions (ladies, where is your URL??) are managing the site and event this year and our friends upstairs at neuhaus provided all the graphic love and support for the site.

This year will be a lot of fun and if you have kids or like kids or just like to do fun things outside, the event will be great. It takes place at The Forks June 8th - 11th. Come out, have fun and Act Your Shoe Size!

It's Pronounced Newkleearrr!

With the world’s addiction to oil being at the top of everyone’s environmental hit list, many people are talking about alternative energy sources. Some old some new. I found an article on Newsvine about looking at the possibility of bringing nuclear energy back into the mainstream. As someone who grew up in a town where the primary employer was Atomic Energy Canada Limited, I learned a few things about nuclear energy. I am by no means a nuclear physicist so I am no expert, but I did learn a few things about nuclear power and radiation. The article looks at the cost effectiveness of nuclear energy, and the possibilities of using alternative nuclear fuels like Thorium.

While I understand the concept behind a nuclear reactor, I find it hard to understand how proponents of Nuclear energy can say that a nuclear station would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The large steam stacks associated with Nuclear plants are spouting greenhouse gas on as large a scale as any conventional power plant. Some people seem to forget that water vapour is a greenhouse gas. It isn’t as polluting as the various toxic gases that are pumped into our atmosphere, but water vapour is extremely good at holding the heat which radiates from the earth’s surface thus causing global warming. As for the storage of nuclear waste, it doesn’t matter what the primary material is for nuclear fuel. It is still radioactive. Storage of this material is difficult at best. Burying it is an answer, though not a very good one as the earth’s crust is an ever evolving entity. While we on the prairies don’t get earthquakes (knock on wood) we are able to measure the results of an earthquake in the depths of the Pacific Ocean here in stable Manitoba. As the crust moves and settles, underground storage becomes vulnerable. Leakage of nuclear waste into the ground water would have disasterous consequences.

Personally I think that the world’s energy companies and leaders should be making a concerted effort to develop solar, wind, hydro, and any other non-polluting power. Our dependence on the world’s non-renewable resources has led us to the brink of our own extinction. The world is over populated, our environment is a mess, and we are destroying the biosphere of our planet at an accelerating rate. Scientists are already saying it is too late. If we keep going as we are, it will be.

An Inconvenient Truth

Al Gore, former vice-president of the USA, has been traveling around the world since his loss to George Bush trying to raise awareness and educate people to the fact that we are directly responsible for the current state of the planet. On his own dime no less.

Over the course of the last six years he has been working hard to impress upon people that we do not have much time left before we are at a point of no return. The actions we have been taking over the last 100 years will spiral our planet into a catastrophic environmental melt down that will cause flooding, droughts, temperatures 10 degrees Celsius above current temperatures, famine, floods, killer hurricanes and storms, all of which will displace close to 1/5 of the worlds population, leaving their homes underwater, destroyed or in areas so inhospitable nothing can survive there.

Having no doubt heard about global warming over the past 15-20 years, this may come as no surprise to you. However, what should hit you like a slap in the face is how little time we have left.

An Inconvenient Truth is a film documenting what Al Gore has been doing. It also pulls together some of the greatest minds in science on the planet to provide details, facts and analysis of where all this is headed if things don't change. If you see nothing else this summer, make sure you get out and see this movie. It starts in select cities around the world on May 24th (see the link in our events calendar). You can also view the trailer from Climatecrisis.net