It's not quite Easter, but I've found a pretty nice Easter Egg.
I have a guilty pleasure … watching the tv show Parks and Rec. While there are a lot of hilarious scenes, one of my favorite moments is when Leslie discovers that her campaign signs were misprinted (Season 4, Episode 16 – 'Sweet Sixteen').
The signs contain the URL of the image that was intended to be used for the campaign sign (with just a tiny version of the intended image above the URL). This is a hilarious example of how a minor misunderstanding can become a headache.
It occurred to me recently that the URL listed on the sign might actually link to the file. Sure enough, the URL to the campaign sign file opens a full-size version of the campaign banner! If you download it, just be sure to change the file name from .jpeg to something with a complete file name, such as knope2012sign.jpeg, so your operating system can open the file.
This week marks a cinematic milestone. Tomorrow, the 21st of October, 2015, at 7:29pm Eastern time (4:29pm California time), will be the precise moment when Doc, Marty and Jennifer arrive in a flying DeLorean from the year 1985 (as depicted in the film Back to the Future Part II). In that movie, there were some really fascinating technological achievements displayed in that 1989 version of 2015. And with a few exceptions (flying cars, hoverboards), we are living, or on the verge of living, in a world where much of that technology is a real part of our lives.
The smartphone alone accomplishes much of what would have seemed unbelievable 26 years ago. There is not much depicted in that film that we have not yet accomplished or are not working steadfastly towards accomplishing. We might be approaching an 'innovation event horizon', where we are no longer able to be innovative, but instead we focus on being efficient.
Some examples: these technological advances which were once considered futuristic science fiction are all part of our reality: Cloning, replicating materials (a.k.a. 3d printing), life extension, space colonization, time travel, flying cars, giant fighting robots, virtual reality, flying robots, hyper personal advertizing (ie Minority report), etc. It can't be long before even flying cars are a part of our reality...when the technology of drones mixes with self driving cars, self flying cars are sure to follow.
If you have doubts that we're living in a radically futuristic age, then here are some recent headlines to back up my argument:
We are on the verge
of a major cinematic milestone – this coming Wednesday, October
21st at precisely 7:29 pm Eastern time (or 4:29 pm California time)
is the moment when Doc, Marty and Jennifer will arrive from 1985!
It's hard to believe that this date, from the movie Back to the
Future Part II, which once seemed like the distant future, is nearly
One thing that kind
of annoys me in movies about time travel, is that they rarely take
into consideration the movement of objects in space. I guess they
are taking for granted that as they travel through time they are also
traveling through space, and very rapidly, or else time travelers
would find themselves in some interesting places.
Doing some rough
math, and knowing that the Solar System moves 250km per second
through the Milkyway, and that the Milkyway is moving 300km per
second through space in our local cluster of galaxies (and not taking
into account leap days, or that the Earth spins at 1/2 km per
(300 km/s (galaxy speed)
+ 250 km/s (solar system speed)) x 602 (seconds per hour) x 24 (hours
per day) x 365 (days per year) x 30 (years since Doc Marty and
Jennifer left 1985) = 520,344,000,000 km!
...that exact spot on Earth where they left 1985 would be up to 520.344 billion
kilometers removed from the same location in space in 2015, give or take a
few million kilometers (depending on the affects of the
rotation of the planets and the solar system within the
Milkyway)...which would put the DeLorean half way between Earth and Alpha Centauri. Well not really. Alpha Centauri is 41.32 trillion km from Earth but that's still pretty far from Hill Valley. Hopefully
Doc packed some extra oxygen for the ride back! Great Scott!
I just picked up a
copy of The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien after
reading about it in Wired, and I can honestly say, this is the kind
of book that I couldn't love more. Many of these maps and
illustrations were never published before. Included is the first
comprehensive map of Middle Earth.
As a map enthusiast
and LOTR fan, its very interesting to look through the hand drawn
maps and illustrations Tolkien created as guides as he wrote the
trilogy. You get a glimpse of what Tolkein was thinking when he
plotted the course of Frodo and Sam, and Aragorn Legolas and Gimli.
When you consider that many of these maps, though beautiful, were drawn on graph paper, you can appreciate that their purpose was the guide the author as he imagined the world of LOTR. The drawings provide a unique insight into Tolkein's creative
October is a great time of year for movies. Here is a list that all have scenes that take place in or around the Halloween season, or are generally good for watching at a Halloween party.
The Cabin in the Woods (IMDb) (wiki)
All the traditions in your typical teenage horror film morph into an unusual tale with a Joss Whedon sci fi and comedic twist.
Donnie Darko (IMDb) (wiki)
A moody elemental sci fi 80's-era period piece set in the month of October. The scenes of rolling mountains and suburban give it a unique and genuine Northern Virginia atmosphere. Soundtrack alone is amazing! This is the kind of movie you have to watch a few times to make sense of the plot, but there is plenty going on to make it interesting each time.
The Guest (IMDb) (wiki)
A story about a soldier who upon returnign to the states pays a visit to the family of his friend. This one is also set around Halloween and filled with lots of 80s style and references. It also features an interesting twist.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (also a great Christmas movie) (IMDb) (wiki)
From an idea of Tim Burton, this stop motion story is a whimsical and creepy merging of Halloween and Christmas.
E.T. (IMDb) (wiki)
It was not until I re-watched this classic as an adult that I really saw all the layers of context and family drama unfolding. I completely forget that this story takes place during Halloween.
The Karate Kid (IMDb) (wiki)
Is there a better story about an underdog fighting against the odds? Yes there are many: Rudy, The Princess Bride, Revenge of the Nerds, Star Wars, Titanic ... that's basically every movie, but none of them have Mr Miayagi teaching the virtues of patience and practice.
Ghostbusters (IMDb) (wiki)
With a long awaited sequel around the corner, now is a great time to watch the original.
Frankenweenie (original short film, or 2012 feature remake) (IMDb) (wiki)
Now a stop motion feature film, I suggest watching the original live action film that was it's inspiration and launched Tim Burton's career.
If you're interested in learning to code for the web, there are some excellent editors available now. I'm going to talk about four of them: Notepad++, Sublime Text, Atom, and Brackets. The latter two I only recently discovered.
All you need to build a website is a simple text editor, such as the one bundled with your computer's operating system. Notepad on Windows, TextEdit on Mac, or gEdit for Linux will do just fine. If you're serious about coding you should consider trying a more advanced text editor that helps make coding more
intuitive. A good text editor is worth it's code in gold. (But note, the four options I describe below are either free, or low cost).
Clockwise from top left: Notepad++, Sublime Text, Atom, Brackets.
Text Editors vs WYSIWYG Editors vs IDEs
Before I get into text editors I'd like to point out that in the world of web authoring there are primarily three kinds of tools often used: Text editors, WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors, and IDEs (Integrated Development Environments). IDEs manage the whole process of web site management from editing the code, to managing the files locally, to uploading to a web server.
Some software combine various aspects of these functions, such as Adobe Dreamweaver, which shows a view of the code, as well as a live view of the web page being created, making it both a code editor as well as a WYSIWYG editor, but it also functions as a file management tool with FTP capability, making it a full functioning IDE.
If you don't have the code knowledge necessary, a WYSIWYG tool is a great way to learn. This is how I started to learn to design for web. And you don't have to shell out the bucks for Dreamweaver.
Years ago I stopped buying office suite software for personal use because I discovered open source alternatives which were free and capable of everything I needed (I think the last version of MS Office I purchased was Office 2000 in college). I figured the same was true of web editing software and came across
Nvu, a simple but powerful WYSIWYG web editor. I started creating web content using Nvu and later a fork of it called Kompozer. Not knowing any HTML, and not being able to afford Dreamweaver, having an open source tool like Kompozer was a fantastic way to learn code. This was the tool that really exposed me to web design (This website was mostly built using it).
History lesson: Kompozer is based on Nvu, which is based on the old Netscape Composer. Remember Netscape from the first browser wars back in the 90s? So much great open source web technology derives from there; Firefox, for example, is a derivative of Netscape
Choosing a Text Editor
For several years I've relied mostly on text editors to code for the web. I have access to the most recent amazing versions of Dreamweaver and the rest of Adobe's creative cloud at work, and don't get me wrong, those tools are very nice, especially having access to the vast array of applications and fonts, etc, but the freedom of open source appeals a lot to me for many reasons – the being free part in particular. With the new Creative Cloud offerings, an Adobe user has no choice but to essentially pay a $600/year membership fee. If I was primarily a freelancer I could see that being more of a necessity.
As mentioned earlier, you can code using just a simple text editor that comes with your operating system. But to do that you practically need to be a coding savant. My go to text editor for some time has been Notepad++. Its open source and free, highly customizable, and it makes coding a lot simpler with some great features, however it is only available for the Windows operating system. Mac users fret not, I've ready some great things about the freeware TextWrangler that is available only for Mac. In recent years I've heard a lot about Sublime Text, which is not technically free, but does work across operating systems (aka it's cross-compatible) and is designed specifically with web coding in mind. There really are a lot of text editor options out there.
So here is a comparison of four text editor options. One caveat: I am by no means a software engineer, or a computer programer. I only use these tools for coding web (HTML, CSS, JS), so there are many aspects of these tools that I cannot fully evaluate. I'll quickly categorize my findings based on web authoring by: function, operating system (platform) availability, design, and cost/license.
A far as function is concerned, each of the four offer excellent features. The most important function as far as I'm concerned is the highlighting of opening and closing tags in a line of code (surprisingly this was not a feature of Dreamweaver until recently). This helps a lot when traversing code. All four offer this feature!
Code auto completion is a really nice feature of Dreamweaver. It can be a speedy time saver especially with longer elements like <section> and <header> and every keystroke saved adds to efficiency. Its the little things that matter. Notepad++ and Brackets offer this functionality and although it is slightly different from Dreamweaver, it's just as time saving (Note: you would think that since Brackets is an Adobe product it would function the same as Dreamweaver, but oddly it functions like Notepad++).
Document Map/Mini Map
A feature that I really appreciate (that I first discovered in Sublime Text) is the Mini Map (or Document Map) that appears on the side of the editor and allows you to see a birds eye view of the document code. This really helps to find your way around a lengthy document, scrolling up and down quickly. This feature is standard on Sublime Text, and built in as an extension on Notepad++. You can also download and install extensions that provide this feature on Brackets as well as Atom. Note: on Brackets, the minimap will take the place of the scroll bar.
The benefit of using and IDE is that the software manages all of the files for you. All four of these text editors offer some kind of file management functionality. Notepad++ allows the user to set up workspaces (or file architectures) to keep sites organized. I have heard that there are issues with Brackets doing this on a networked environment but locally you should be fine with any of these editors. Personally I tend to rely on my own system of organizing files in Windows to handle my file organization, so taking advantage of an IDE for managing files has never been a real interest of mine.
One important note: as Brackets is an Adobe creation, it does offer some cross functionality with other Creative Cloud apps.
The design/UI of the product is an important consideration. After all you want the place where you do most of your work to be pleasant and effective. Notepad++ suffers here with a fairly clunky appearance overall, although it does offer a decent amount of themes for customization. Sublime Text really raised the bar with a much more pleasing appearance/UI. Atom is also great in this respect but Brackets wins by eliminating the Windows shell all together and having a really clean and efficient design.
Operating System Compatibility
Notepad++ is only available for Windows unfortunately. (Note: TextWrangler, a Mac only editor is often considered very comparable to Notepad++)
Brackets, Atom and Sublime Text are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux
Notepad++, Brackets, and Atom are open source and free applications!
Sublime is free to download and evaluate, but the company states that you must pay if you wish to continue to use the application, however there is no official end of the evaluation software (unlike most applications which cut you off after 30 days), so you could technically use Sublime for free indefinitely, but you do so knowing you are a cheapskate. A Sublime Text license is only $70 and grants you access to using on unlimited machines. Until you license a copy, you will see "Unregistered" prominently listed at the top of the app window.
I'm going to keep using Notepad++ for the foreseeable future because I know it, and I like the functions it offers. But I'm also going to try out Brackets and Atom as two excellent and open source contenders that support more advanced languages out of the box. As I continue to examine each of these editors I'll update this blog post with my findings.
Movies to get excited about - Fall 2015 and beyond!
There are a lot of exciting movies to look forward to! In fact, tomorrow one of the movies I'm the most excited about comes out – The Martian. I read, and loved, the book! Everyone is surprised when I say how much I enjoyed how funny it was; I guess because the movie's trailer shows off how serious the story is, which it is, but it's the humor of the main character Mark Watney that is the soul of the book. Watney is one of the most genuinely funny characters ever imagined in my opinion, and I get the feeling that a lot of author Andy Weir's personality was channeled into his creation.
Here is a list, with some notes, for the rest of the films I'm excited to see this year:
Fall/Winter movies 2015
The Martian (10/2) Steve Jobs (10/23)
A Steve Jobs biopic from the director of Slumdog Millionaire and the brilliant 28 Days Later. Spectre (11/6)
The fourth instalment with Daniel Graig portraying James Bond, again directed by Sam Mendes who directed Skyfall. This will be the 24th official Bond film (26th Bond film if you're counting the two unofficial Bond films, which I do since one of them starred Sean Connery reprising the character. Hunger Games: MockingJay - part 2 (11/20)
The final Hungers Games movie pertains to the more interesting second half of the last book in the series. The science fiction here should be interesting to see visualized. Star Wars Episode VII (12/18)
There was a time when we thought the final, third, trilogy of Star Wars films would live only as highly guarded notes at the Lucas mansion, and as imagined scenarios fantasies in the mind of George Lucas. Then Disney changed everything when they bought the rights to the franchise and announced the third trilogy would be brought to life, along with another sideline trilogy of stories. Who could have guessed we'd be so lucky? To make matters better, this Episode is being crafted by the very gifted JJ Abrams. His excellent revival of Star Trek with the most recent two films in that universe may have only been a warm up for Episode 7. Sisters (12/18)
Any movie with Amy Poeler and Tina Fey cast as the main leads is worth seeing. Creed (11/27)
When I first saw the trailer for this film, up until the point where Rocky Balboa shows up, I had no idea it was at all related to Rocky. Creed will be the 7th Rocky film, and is more of a spin off than a sequel. The main character in this film is the son of the character Apollo Creed from the earlier films, who has come to seek training and guidance from his father's former rival turned friend. The premise for this is exciting enough, but knowing it is written and directed by Ryan Coogler, director of the critically acclaimed Fruitvale Station, makes it a lot more interesting. Joy (12/25)
The next collaboration between director David O. Russell, and actors Jennifer Lawrence, Bradly Cooper and Robert Di Niro. There most recent collaborations include Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. This one tells the true story of Joy Mangano, inventor of the “Miracle Mop”.
Here are some of the 2016 films I am excited about
The Revenant (1/8)
If this movie trailer doesn't excite you, reading the wikipedia page about the real life frontiersman Hugh Glass will. The 5th Wave (1/15)
Based on the popular young adult Scifi novel of the same name, this film features Maika Monroe from The Guest Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2/5)
What would Jane Austin think if she knew her beloved story had been reborn with the living dead? She might just roll right out of her grave and seek out the brains responsible. Deadpool (2/12)
2016 will be a big year for Fox's X-men film universe with 3 films opening: Deadpool, X-men Apocalypse, and Gambit. Ryan Reynolds reprises his role as Deadpool in this sequel/spinoff from the first solo Wolverine movie “Xmen Origins” (which itself was not so great). With the recent time-line resets to the X-men universe that happened in Days of Future Past, most of the unfortunate mishandling of Reynolds' character's fate in Origins can be scraped. Zoolander 2 (2/12)
The original cast and writer are back. This should be just as beautify stupid as the original. Batman vs Superman - Dawn of Justice (3/25)
Why not call this simply 'Dawn of Justice'? For the first time the caped crusader and the man of steel meet on film. The newly formed DC Shared Universe is about to get pretty exiting. I think Batfleck can handle it now that Bale has retired the cape (too bad we didn’t get to see how bad ass Joseph Gordon Levitt could have been as a Robin or Nightwing). Jungle Book (4/15)
Scarlet Johansson and Bill Murray together again for the first time since Lost in Translation Captain America Civil War (5/6)
I tend to prefer the quirkier Marvel Cinematic universe films the best. Guardians of the Galaxy and Antman are my two favorites. The more mainsteam Avenger's films are great too, so I predict this latest Captain America should be an enjoyable blockbuster, with many of the X Men Apocalypse (5/27)
The third film in the prequel trilogy deals with the Xmen encountering arch nemesis Apocalypse Finding Dory (6/17)
Sequel to Finding Nemo Independence Day Resurgence (6/24)
The first of two planned sequels to Independence Day. How is it possible that they made this movie without getting Will Smith to reprise his role? Ghostbusters (7/15)
I thought this movie was an urban legend but apparently it's real, and it has a kick ass cast including Kristen Wiig as well as some of the original cast: Bill Murray and Segorney Weaver (maybe Dan Aykroyd) Star Trek Beyond (7/22)
JJ Abrams has been a bit busy working on Star Wars Episode 7, so Jistin Lin of the Fast and Furious films will be in charge of the third instalment of the Star Trek rebooted timeline. The Bourne ??? (7/29)
The Bourne 'Something' is coming out next year and unlike the most recent sequel, Bourne is a character in this film, so I'm hoping it should be as great as the first three. Suicide Squad (8/5)
The third film in the Shared DC Universe will be like a Dirty Dozen parody featuring super villains as the anti-super heroes. This may be DC's answer to Marvel's Guardian's of the Galaxy. Pete's Dragon (8/12)
One of my favorite movies from childhood is being remade. Gambit (10/7)
Another Xmen spin off film, this one featuring Gambit who was last scene at the end of Xmen Origins Wolverine and portrayed by Taylor Kitch. Doctor Strange (11/4)
A new chapter in the Marvel Cinematic universe. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (12/16)
The alternate new Star Wars trilogy begins with this film by Gareth Edwards, with the third trilogy, and the new alt trilogy were in an era of one Star Wars movie every year for the next 6 years Passengers (12/23)
I don't know much about this other than it's a scifi comedy staring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. That's all I need to know.
Looking way way out ... Ready Player One (12/2017)
I've just started reading this brilliant novel and am excited to discover that Spielberg will be directing the visually stunning book to life. Since much of the subject matter involves virtual reality, it would be the perfect movie to be filmed in VR. Rumor has it that Spielberg is a huge gamer so if anyone would be up to do this, he would be the one.
About 9 years ago I wrote a blog post predicting why the Nintendo Wii would win the war of the 7th generation of video game consoles. And it kinda did, at least in terms of hardware by selling a tremendous amount of units, over 100 million (by comparison the Xbox360 and PlayStation 3 each sold around 84 million, which was not too shabby).
This was great but in itself is not really winning, because the real money comes from licensing the software that runs on the platform. Where the Wii excelled was in it's innovative controls, specifically thanks to the Wii remote and nun-chuck. The wii remote opened all sorts of exciting new interactive opportunities. Problem was, the only games you really needed to make the most of the Wii experience were the ones that came bundled with the product. Development from third party game creators never really materialized for the Wii due to the systems limitations. The Wii hardware was a success, but revenues for games licenses would never match that of Microsoft or Sony.
Now that we're a couple years into the 8th generation of consoles, the Wii's successor, the Wii U has only sold a tenth of the original Wii's numbers, which is sad because the Wii U is a fantastic machine. The Wii U's controller contains a second screen making the experience of using it more like the two screen experience of using Nintendo's very popular DS portable gaming device. However, Microsoft has already caught up to Nintendo, and Sony has more than doubled Nintendo in units sold.
This time Microsoft and Sony's approach is as it was for their 7th generation systems – build high powered consoles, to appeal to the hardcore gamers. The PlayStation 4 differs in that it is focuses more on the just that, a high power system for gamers, and the Xbox One is attempting to be an all purpose media center. But overall, these systems are essentially improved versions from the last go around.
While many analysts and video game industry insiders have forcasted Nintendo's inevitable demise as a hardware manufacturer, and conversion to being just a game developer (much like what happened to Sega following the Dreamcast), I believe they are seriously underestimated the companys tenacity for innovation and producing games that are fundamentally enjoyable on the most basic levels (and remain so decades later). Nintendo has a certain magic in it's game making ability that few competitors can match.
Nintendo machines may not have the same horse power as their rivals under the hood, but they don't need to, because their great strength is in the story telling and that highly enjoyable nature that is ingrained in the games Nintendo has been crafting for decades. Their catalog of intellectual properties are a museum of the best of video game history.
I think as a software and hardware manufacturer, we can expect to see Nintendo in it for the long haul. Fans are already excited for what the next Nintendo console (code named 'NX') will over, and there is still much to come for the current Wii U system's legacy, including the upcoming vast open world of the next Zelda game – that could be the Killer App that gives life to the Wii U. Time will tell.
There may be a new contender for the champion of this generation of video game consoles – a company that, like MS and Sony, is both focused on the market of serious hard core gamers, and as with Nintendo, a company who's sole focus is gaming. Valve, the creators of the Half-life series of games, and developers of online streaming service Steam, a convenient distribution method for gamers to purchase games from many publishers, is developing an open gaming platform that will work on many different machines – the Steambox.
True hard core gamers have always preferred PCs over consoles because of the pure power possible on PCs that just cannot be matched on consoles. Valve is bringing their Steam platform from PCs to the living room with the Steambox open platform and handing it over to system makers to create a variety of devices to match consumers desire for the latest and greatest specs.
Integral to this is the development of the Steam controller which provides the ease of a traditional console controller but with more advanced functions that mimic the options of a desktop environment. This advanced controller could be the make or break for the Steambox. Either way, the prospect of PC quality graphics in a living room environment should provide serious competition to Microsoft and Sony. Valve, like Nintendo, has a solid collection of intellectual property that continue to offer worlds of fun. It would be worth getting a Steambox just to play Half Life and Portal in HD on your living room screen.
One of the things I've been busy with is a new personal portfolio website - Dream With Pixels. It's kind of a place to showcase a little of my work - mostly fun projects I have done with friends and web work I've done for Habitat.
One cool example is this map I made of uptown Charlotte:
It's been a really long time since I've done any serious blogging here. So much to talk about. Too much to talk about. I've just been a little busy, is all ... hoping to change that and keep this blog up to date.
Anyway, I will say I am looking forward to lots of movies coming up! First on the list: The Martian! (The book was SO GOOD!)
And after that, we have the new James Bond, the list Hunger Games, Star Wars Episode 7, just to name a few. It's going to be a great Fall for movies!
Also of interesting note: Today I experimented with Virtual Reality (VR) for the first time ever trying out the free Google Cardboard app. It's totally awesome!!! Walked around Paris a little quickly getting lost, checked out some museums, and stood on Mars. All without walking into a wall in my apartment.