A blog about the many neat things in life, along with the many other things that are lying around. Categories include: political things, philosophy things, design things, template things, garage things, music things, and lots and lots of other things!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Holy frick SEALS!!

Holy frick SEALS!!
Originally uploaded by agius.
Wow! These guys got really close to us in Monterey. They were just
chillaxin', sunnin', and barkin' (when those annoying humans got too
close). They were darn cute, though!

Big Sur cruise

Big Sur cruise
Originally uploaded by agius.
We drove south to Carmel and to Big Sur today. On our way back now -
gosh but this place is amazing! Driving along the cliffs lining the
ocean - just gorgeous! LOTS of pics coming later - I picked up about
300, some of which ought to be pretty good.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I love the beach

I love the beach
Originally uploaded by agius.
Even when it's presenting its foggy mystery rather than sunny visage.
Currently at the Miramar beach restaurant. Family visiting this
weekend, so I may be out of contact. Good times, though!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Coastal Hike

Coastal Hike
Originally uploaded by agius.
Hiked about a mile out on this rocky harbor barrier. It was awesome -
rolling water, fishing Asians, dogs, kayakers, and planes doing

Friday, August 22, 2008

Jakob Nielson and the "Over-designed" Web

So, Hank Williams posted on his blog last week about how Jakob Nielsen's web site www.useit.com is an eyesore. Hank's theory was that the lack of design on Jakob's page ultimately hurts its usability - when something hurts your eyes to read, you are less likely to read it.

I've found this to be true. I find Nielsen's site hard to read. I deal with it, because his writings were important in our Computer Graphics curriculum, and I think he has some really useful and pointed advice on practical usability testing. For example, several of our senior design project groups in CGT rolled with his theory that 5 usability tests are enough, and found that those tests caught all the bugs that might come up during a presentation / demo.

However, Doc Searls made a post on linuxjournal.com wherein he states that design is a bad thing, to be left up to the users and not dictated by THE MAN, or any other sort of designer. Opening paragraph:
Back in the mid-90s, when Linux was still at 1.something, website design was a simple exercise that left matters such as font choice up to the user. It was blessedly free of the Tyranny of Typography, the Legacies of Layout, and other controlling influences from the Provinces of Print. Better yet, it was free by design from withering rebuke by aesthetes whose high-minded "taste" made life miserable for both writers and readers. Back then the Web was meant to be maximally usable and minimally controlled by Authorities who knew more about what you need than you do.
Usability and design, of course, are potentially THE major flaws holding off mainstream adoption of Linux and open source software in general. I have had some pretty bad experiences with open-source software that ran with the "let the user pick everything with preferences" theory. I found Notepad++ to be nearly unusable in its downloaded state until I had spent hours sorting through poor font choices for code and comments (Comic Sans? Really?). Eventually I gave up and went with InType, which has better defaults. Same deal with the "build-it-yourself with plugins" music player foobar2000 - after trolling forums for a few hours in search of basic plugins that would get the features I wanted, I switched back to Winamp (and don't get me started on some of the 'skins' for that program).

I think this is what would ultimately happen to the web if we agreed with Doc Searles' view that the internet should be free of the "Tyranny of Typography." If everything was stripped to its 'glorious' raw-html formatting and rendered in OS default types, I think the web would become largely unusable. Not many people would waste their time customizing the defaults of their browser to make the internet fit them. Large, bold Times New Roman is an eyesore, and I could only take so much of it. Design allows branding and character, and if all web sites faded into a bland, terminal-like mesh of default-font text, they would become indistinguishable. Even the most amazing text would become bland and boring. I'm sure people would still use the internet - it's too quick and important a medium to be killed by a lack of design - but I don't think it would have caught on with consumers nearly as much, and I don't think most people would find it as generally appealing or useful. In short, it would be like Linux.

Doc Searles does have a point in that some sites abuse design, causing long loading times. But some sites like John Gruber's www.daringfireball.net manage to balance themselves out. Daring Fireball has a design that has been distinctive and eye-pleasing for years, uses few images, loads quickly, and looks great on my phone. Design can be used to brand a page, hold attention, and attract users without interfering with usability goals such as load times and mobile device visibility.

So, while I understand the mindset of the Doc, I disagree with his notion that designs on the web should be entirely left up to the user. I also disagree with Hank Williams' notion that just because Jakob's site is an eyesore, Mr. Nielsen has nothing useful to say about usability.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ren Faire

Ren Faire
Originally uploaded by agius.
Got here, got parking - so far going way better than the middle-of-
downtown misadventures.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Xbox Live Things

It's a good week for downloads. I have had very little downtime, and what time has been available has mostly been eaten by Dexter. But I got a little chance to play some games, and man this is a good week for downloads.

Firstly, Geometry Wars 2! Considering the first Geometry Wars was half the reason I bought a 360, I'm pretty excited about the new one. I got a chance to play the demo this week, and it is amazing. Video demo here. After playing the demo, I found it manages to retain the core gameplay (Robotron-style arena moving and shooting) while introducing new elements that radically change the tactics and strategy. With stuff like the shot-reflective barriers, new enemy types, and more vicious black holes, this is definitely an updated experience. Also, the graphics have been upgraded to be EVEN SHINIER and more epileptic-seizure inducing. I will buy the full version soon.

Secondly, one of my favorite classic arcade titles has received a massive update courtesy of Capcom. 1942: Joint Strike is an HD update of one of the original scrolling shoot-em-up games. From playing the demo, this is definitely an impressive shmup. Powerups are helpful and unique, enemies swarm with steadily increasing viciousness, and the boss fights are suitably awe-inspiring. The 'escape sequence' after the boss in the demo was unexpected and harrowing - one of those moments that racks up the tension and makes playing shoot-em-ups a blast. Preview video here.

Then there's Braid. The only game here I haven't played yet. This is an indy game now being sold on the Live Arcade for big money - 1200 Microsoft Points (around $15). For anyone who liked Odin Sphere, the appeal will be immediate and obvious - 2d scrolling action on beautiful pastel-looking sketches. Though I haven't played it, reviews are universally good, especially from Giant Bomb and GayGamer.net, my usual trusted sources on this sort of thing. Read the developer's blog here.

Finally, as I've twittered in the last day or two, Rock Band has put out some wickedly awesome music lately. Less pop, more industrial and metal, groups like System of a Down, Dream Theater, and Megadeth have been released in the last two weeks, much to my delight. I have played the guitar parts (which make me happy), and need to try out the drums - Megadeth and Devil Driver are not shy about using double bass pedals on their drums, and I want to see how Rock Band has compensated for the lack of one on their drum kit (oh, nevermind - they just don't have you play the actual drum strikes anymore). Needless to say, good songs for those who appreciate the challenge.

So, anyone want to play online?

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Monday, August 11, 2008


Umm... wow. Just... wow.

Now I'm amped to see if the Higgs boson exists.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Gumball 3000

Gumball 3000
Originally uploaded by agius.

Ferrari Testarossa? Whatever, it's EXTREMELY AWESOME!

Friday, August 01, 2008

I Love California

I love the fact that I live within 10 minute's drive of this view. And 30 minute's drive of downtown SF. I seriously think I landed in one of the nicest places on Earth. More coming on my Flickr.
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