Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle

ImageKind Launches

Finally, a service appears that appears to offer decent services for the prosumer photographer.

ImageKind isn't the normal “host your pictures here” site, although it certainly provides those facilities. In addition it provides a mechanism for photographers to sell their work via second-to-none printing on some pretty decent materials (including canvas).

This is pretty cool. You could upload your stuff just to print out your own work (like me), or upload it to sell, or just upload to share. The site goes very deep on the details of the printing process - I learnt a few things.

Anyhow, the site is in beta now, with a few rough edges but appears very stable - they're very responsive to comments or bug reports.

Highly recommended.

Oh, and you can check out of couple of my pictures at my gallery.

RIP E3? Maybe More Of A Metamorphosis

It looks like E3, the videogame industry's largest annual event, is going to be going through some serious changes.

In contradiction to an earlier report from NextGen that the event is going to be cancelled for next year and the foreseeable future, Ars Technica is reporting that the conference is going to refocus and move to a more closed-door format.

That's pretty big news, although interestingly enough I never made it to the event - too much like marketing for my then developer centric viewpoint :-) I wonder if this means that the marketing focus will switch over to GDC. I've been to almost every GDC since 1995 and increasingly it's been an event where more and more deals are being done.

I wonder if that, along with the increasing expense of exhibiting, made it no longer worthwhile?

More to the point, with the exposure that new games get online these days, what, if any, was the point at all?

As a side note, one of the big problems with E3 from a game development standpoint was that E3 had to effectively be a milestone in your schedule. If you were shipping that (or even the next) year, you had to show at E3 and that meant producing a playable stable build that was good enough to put in front of people that might determine the future of your products sales.

And that build had to be produced no matter how disruptive it was to your development schedule. If effect, E3 could lengthen your schedule.

Inspiring Speech On Urban Renewal

I just watched the speech that Majora Carter from Sustainable South Bronx gave at this year's TED conference. She talks about “her commitment to environmental justice and her vision for a renewed South Bronx”1 and it is everything that Guy Kawasaki and Kim Pallister say it is.

Her speech is inspiring, emotional, riveting and deeply interesting. If you have even the slightest interest in urban renewal, sustainable development or just doing the right thing by communities, then this is required viewing.

Plus she is a master speaker - check out Guy's critique.

I highly recommend that you spend the twenty minutes to watch it.

You can stream it from the TED site, or download it from Guy's site.

1 Taken from the blurb describing the video. 

Pub Quiz Heaven

Those that know me will know that I'm a huge fan of Pub Quizzes. They are a big thing in the UK (or at least were when I lived there). For those of you that are not familiar, they a typically run at a bar where you form a team of four to six people with your friends. You make up an amusing name for your team and answer questions read by the quiz master. You write the answers on a provided sheet of paper and there are typically four or five rounds of ten questions. Each round is usually themed as something like “sport” or “general knowledge”.

In between rounds you exchange papers with another team and mark each others papers as the answers are read out.

Lots of fun, but sadly not very common in the US, apart from the Irish or English bars.

Now, an Irish bar recently opened in Kirkland, the Wilde Rover - a decent bar with a great atmosphere and great food. Handily it also started up a pub quiz night on Wednesday evenings.

Tonight I hooked up with Andy (The ZMan) and his running club friends for the quiz. We started out badly with a two out of ten and proceeded to do mediocre things. There was even a round themed on “fashion”, which, surprisingly, we didn't do too bad on.

Anyhow, when round three which was announced as “the classic video game round”, we were a little bit ecstatic to say the least.

We were writing down answers before the quiz master and even finished the question. I believe “Dragon's Lair” was written down before he'd finished saying “Which laserdisc game featured…”.

There was even a four point question if you could name all the ghosts in Pacman. Four points scored. Inky, Pink, Blinky and Clyde.

We only got two question wrong, the first being the number of enemies in the first wave of Space Invaders. We had 56, but the answer was 55.

But it was the second that was really interesting to me: “What was Sega's first game?”

I had a problem with this question as I knew that Sega started out shipping coin-op games to US Military stationed overseas. I thought the answer should be “pinball”, so I asked for the clarification “game or video-game”? The answer was video-game and we were stumped.

It turned out to be Periscope.

Anyhow, that round thrust us into the lead and we held on it.

We won!

The $60 almost paid the bar tab, and when delivering our winnings to us, the quiz master quipped “You smoked that game round - you guys didn't get out much as kids did you?”

To which Andy had the perfect response: “We spent so much time playing video games that we didn't get laid until we were 35!”

A fun evening.

My Market Timing Is Always Off

Ignoring the meltdown that was 2001, in 2003 I decided to dip my toe in some stock purchases. Notably Apple Computer (AAPL) and ATI Technologies (ATYT).

I picked up Apple at $33 and ATI at $18, and while Apple did well, ATI tanked into the $15 range and stayed there.

Now, Apple did indeed do very well for me, bumping up into the $60 range before dropping to the low $50s. At that point (last week) I decided to get out of both of them and take a tidy 30% profit.

Of course, two days later Apple releases stellar earnings again putting it at $60.81 (as of right now) and AMD announces the acquisition of ATI today, putting ATI's stock higher than my buy in price for the first time at $19.50.

If I'd waited a week to sell, I would have made 56% profit.

Even though I made a tidy profit for over the two years, I'm still pissed off that it wasn't more.

Isn't that always the case?

That Just About Sums It Up

The Independent on America's domestic policy vs America's foreign policy.

This week, George Bush used his presidential veto to block a bill on stem cell research, saying he couldn't support the 'taking of innocent human life'. In Iraq, six civilians are killed by a US air strike, while casualties in Lebanon and Israel mount. George Bush (and Tony Blair) oppose UN calls for an immediate ceasefire.

Or, how about this one:

[Image via Kottke.]

The Boy Done Good

This is one of those “bloggers who post boring shit are annoying, why do I care about their personal lives?” posts. If you're one of those people, please skip to the next post.

So anyhow, on Tuesday morning I'm summoned from the shower by the wife who declared “Steve! Come here now!”

Dutifully I appeared upstairs rather sharpish, when the boy declared “Daddy! I made a snake!”. Yup, he had finally taken a dump in his potty.

It's not that he doesn't understand what's going on, he knows exactly what his body is up too, it's just that he “chooses” not to use the potty because he doesn't need to - the diapers are functional and playing with the trainset is a lot of fun and not to be distracted from.

Well, Nabila did the smart thing and just let him run and naked - and there's no way he'll take a dump in the middle of the room - he's too neat for that.

Smart thinking Nabila, and by the way, Happy 5th Anniversary!

CAPTCHA - A “Hot” Web Service?

Due to the deluge of spam comments and trackbacks that I regularly receive at this blog, I'm always on the lookout to find ways to reduce it. Most recently with Automattic's Askimet service. Askimet has been pretty successful for me, but that doesn't stop me from thinking about adding some level of CAPTCHA functionality to the blog.

A lot of services now use CAPTCHA. These include Blogger and most signups for various web services, but apart from the fact that they're easily broken, like most people I find them highly annoying - the letters that you're supposed to pick out of the images and sometimes just downright impossible to discern:

Huh?

I've often thought that there must be better ways to do this, when out of left field, Tim O'Reilly points us to HotCaptcha from the folks that brought you HotOrNot?. Here you're presented with nine pictures of individual people, only three of which are judged “hot”. Pick the right three and you're a human.

Now, ignoring the potentially NSFW content, this is pretty cool. They have provided a webservice that uses the collective intelligence of humans to put together a question set that is almost impossible for a non-human to answer. Pretty cool.

Now, where could this go? How about something like presenting a bunch of pictures from Flickr and a set of tags, where only one of the tags applies to all of the pictures?

I'm sure that there are a bunch of potential solutions in the same vein that can get us better results than standard CAPTCHA and with none of the annoyances.

Hopefully we can stop squinting at bad CAPTCHA soon.

The World Cup

LET THE WORLD CUP BEGIN!

This is why it is the greatest game on earth.

July 4th Recap

With a nod to the danger of this becoming a photoblog, we had some fun at the beginning of the week. First of all we attended our friend Andrew's birthday bash at Agua Verde in Seattle.

I'd never been to this part of town before, and it was spectacular - right by the water and great food.

Down by the water

On July 4th, Julian and I nipped downtown for the annual Kirkland parade and then we all went along to our neighbour's house for an afternoon party. Their garden is wonderful.

Flags

Finally, we had our own “5th Annual Independence Day Celebration” - hosted by the brits. A few of the neighbours and associated kids came along - much finger painting and burger eating ensued, though a bit quieter than in previous years. By the early evening we were on our own, when friends Sam and Jessie turned up and watched the fireworks with us - thanks for coming!

Boom!

When the fireworks finally appeared I grabbed by tripod and attempted to take some pictures - totally guesswork on my part - I wish someone had posted a link to the New York Institute of Photography's article on shooting fireworks before the the 4th!

The End Of Conference Pro-Photography?

Chris Pirillo posted today about The Myth of the Press Pass: Busted. Although not exactly on the same topic, I'd argue that the value of the pro-photographer is declining.

I would bet money that it never even crossed Chris' mind to hire a conference photographer for Gnomedex. In fact his opening remarks included something to the effect of “expect to be photographed and those pictures to end up on Flickr”. He also cautioned attendees not to take pictures of any of the children that were floating around.

With pictures like these, who needs pro?

© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.