Friday, June 03, 2011

What have you been working on?

Okay, I'm breaking a long radio silence to announce that I've caught the game development bug again. And after a "while" of development, I have a brand new iPhone/iPad game to show for it.

Tilt-a-Bowl is a game idea that dates back to the original NO2 Games days in Cincinnati. At the time I pictured something that was a cross between a bowling alley and a pinball table--in fact, the original name was PinBowl, but someone beat me to the name in the AppStore.

Check out the Tilt-a-Bowl website, and if you are a friend of mine (real or Facebook) check this link out to see how you can help me promote the game to the masses.


Sunday, April 03, 2011

Your Personal Cloud

Now that Amazon has launched their cloud storage solution for users, I think there will be a return to the classic home file server to access all your stuff on the go, but the term for it will be a much fancier one--your Personal Cloud. The word "cloud" might be overkill for something you run at home, but getting at your stuff wherever, whenever certainly provides cloud-like benefits.

If you are a DropBox user you already have some of this behavior. In fact I've been tempted to upgrade the storage space, but I would never pay to store all my music on it. Now, I've had various home files servers, Personal Video Recorder servers, etc. but the idea of a server that goes beyond just "serving files" and starts to make all your important files and media available on your laptop, desktop, mobile and even iPad has so considerable merit.

After looking at a few options I settled on adding Tonido to my home Linux server. Tonido is a really impressive option that runs a server on your Windows or Mac Desktop (in the background), on a dedicated computer or on a cute little $99 computer that looks more like a power adapter than a PC.

No matter what you choose, adding a terabyte to your personal cloud as a simple USB drive. At the time I wrote this, you could get a 1.5TB USB drive for $70 on Amazon. If you would have told me even 18 months ago, I could have a 1.5TB networked drive accessible from my cell phone for $170, I would have more than chuckled.

Now this is pretty volatile storage. Only accessible when your home has internet and power, so I would put it in the 98% uptime arena depending on your ISP and other factors. Add a second drive (for real-time backup) and run your server on a netbook (so you get a built-in battery backup) and your uptime could approach 99% and we're still under $400 total. The dual-drive netbook option is what I'm configuring as I write this.

The desktop software is free, but certain add-ins could have costs associated as they are trying to build an App store like everyone else on the planet. The photo, music and file plugins are free as well as the iPhone, iPad and Android apps, so it's hard to go wrong simply trying it out.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Playmobil TSA Checkpoint User Reviews

Not unlike the Three Wolf Moon T-shirt that made its way on to Amazon and provided hours of enjoyment reading the user reviews and looking at doctored photos of Kim Jong Il sporting the fashionable shirt--today I stumbled upon the Playmobil Security Check Point.

Classic reviews contain one-liners like, "This toy would be a lot more realistic with about 350 people standing in line for an average of an hour." And, "I bet al-Qaeda is training the next generation with this very product. I am saddened to learn that Playmobile hates America."

I think it's interesting that even the lowly user review has become a source of comedy writing.

Of course, it's hard to beat the Best of Craigslist.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

New site and identity work...

If you saw the post below, you would have seen some new business cards I'm using to promote my consulting work in 2011. The cards came in this week and they good, but not as good as I hoped. Don't get me wrong, they will do the job for $20 and they are much better than I could print myself. I know business cards are a dying breed anyway, but I still find myself using as a stop gap until that person makes it into my contact list.

So, I went with a clean two-tone design that's a little easier on the eyes than the "green screen" look that this blog shares with my text based hub page at This however, left me in a quandary as my business cards look nothing like the site the cards tell you to visit. is a great site--in fact I want to enter it into some award shows (like the Webbies ) this year, so I do want people to experience a bit of that site before they get my sales pitch. I needed a transition between the two designs to make things work.

Luckily, I own waaaay too many URLs, so I spun up a quick site at (note the middle "e" for my middle name--Eugene) to have a similar look as my cards do.

Insert a stock bio and drop in some icons for my other presences on the web, and now I have instant content.  This will certainly be a work in progress, as I will want to include information about my consulting practice, but for now a on-line biography is just fine.

Now I needed a way to link people who visit to this page. It has a good amount of traffic, almost 250,000 page views in 2011, and it still gets tweeted about every few days.

I decided to carry over the "voice bubble" look into the lower right hand corner of the site. This area has pretty much nothing going and sits polar opposite of the top navigation. All I needed was a quick mock-up of a an alert bubble over a rounded button to the site.

The code to make that bubble stay in place (with resizing) and allow you to click to launch the site was not easy. However, a few hours of playing around with it seemed to get it to work across all major browsers, including the iPad (which doesn't really run the site because of keyboard input, but now you can click on the menu items.)

Now, if I can only get the pop up bubble to fade away after a few seconds my evil plan will be complete.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Business Cards

It's been forever since I had to make business cards, so I was surprised how many on-line resources there we're out there to design and print what seems now like a relic in the business world.

I went with a simple design based on a template at Overnight Prints. Mocked it up and it was wrapped in less than an hour.

These will have rounded corners to mimic the voice balloons, the front (the top image is technically the back, but I'm calling it the front) will be glossy and the other side not so much. The cards were about $10 and so was shipping. Crazy I know, but I think shipping is where these on-line printers make their margins.

Now to make some for What's in it for Tina?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Waiting on Superphone

I find myself in a bit of a quandary, the iPhone 5 is maybe just a few months away and I just had my iPhone 4 pulled from my cold dead hands. At first I had considered the Verizon iPhone with it's (hopefully) better coverage and reception in the greater New York area. My wife has the iPhone 3GS on AT&T and they were nice enough to give us a MicroCell3G that makes calling in and around the house a fairly pleasurable experience. 

What's a boy to do?

I could lock in for another two years with AT&T for a phone that drops connections every time I step two feet to the right.  Do I begin a similar relationship with Verizon and hope it's better?

Out of principle I should own an Android device. A no-contract smartphone on that platform could be a decent hold over device until the next shiny bobble comes from the Land of Jobs. 

iTouch + Google Voice + MyFi? Crazy I know, but I think that's where things are eventually going.

So, here's what I'm trying out. Virgin Mobile has a very cheap android phone now, the LG Optimus V. Their plan is $25 for 300 minutes, and get this, unlimited data over the Sprint network which is rock solid in NYC. (Now it doesn't work at my house, but that's another story.) No contract too, so the most I'm out is a $149 phone.

At home I talk mostly via Skype's SkypeOut while working, so I don't plan on going over those minutes. The only bummer is Virgin Mobile's known issues connecting to Google Voice, but that's a post for another day.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Most Things Go Out of Control Slowly

How does a project get to be a year behind schedule? One day at a time.
Fred Brooks

I read a book (forever ago) called The Mythical Man-Month written by the man quoted above. The gist of it is "adding manpower to a late software project makes it later." But how do we get to the point where we're simply tossing resources at a problem to fix it?

Even smart people can misrepresent how much much work they think that they can do. There's a process of  where one imagines their most productive hour and multiplies that by 40 hours, then by four weeks, then by twelve months. One minor slip in that logic (for example, you may only have four productive hours a week) and the effects are staggering.

Communication, organization and other pieces of daily work life are all transaction costs in delivering any sort of project. It's very hard to estimate how much time these kinds of tasks will take.

I'm tackling a few personal projects over the next few weeks and I'm trying to limit them to things I can do by myself in 48 hours over a weekend. This process is one I learned doing films in a weekend for the 48 hour film festival. When you start planning a few hours at a time it's amazing what you can get accomplished.

So, now I'm thinking small+fast=done.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Back to Blogger (or Blogger does DOS)

As much as wanted a self-hosted Blog solution, I decided that keeping all my older (possibly worthless) content in the same system was important. When you blog consistently from 2005 on it's a bit of street cred to keep all that in one place. Also, it's nice having RSS feeds, spam resistant comments and a generally nice look and feel on the site.

I know "real bloggers" don't like Blogger and particularly the BlogSpot hosting service. Believe me, I was as mad as anyone when they moved from their FTP publishing system which was nice for spinning up quick blogs and plugging into larger sites. I had more than one site that broke when that change happened.

But blogger has been a solid service for well over 10 years, and I think a lot of practical knowledge comes with that amount of time in a digital platform.

In fact, I opened my blogger account in 1999 when I was running a game development blog called turbo. The Wayback Machine has posts starting in 2000, but I remember pushing out well before that.

So, here is as close as I could get to a CSS based DOS-like design running in Blogger's blogspot system.


Monday, January 10, 2011

A DOS-like CMS is a Go!

Thanks to Kure I now have a very light weight CMS/Blog system that mimics the DOS side of my website. No comments, RSS feed or other fancy-pants stuff yet, but it's a start. The big deal is the PERMALINK to the main article everyone retweeted changed, but other than that we should be good to go.

No doubt I will upload my DOS template for the Kure CMS (nerd alert) once I work out all the bugs and implement the commenting system.

I’m looking forward to updating my DOS website from my iPhone on the train.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Day Aftermath

The party is officially over and now I'm stuck cleaning up this mess. Hundreds of red plastic cups are everywhere. I would like to say thanks again for all the Reddit readers that stopped by yesterday. I don't really believe that you're a poor man's Digg, it was just Internet fame getting the best of me.

Now for the numbers--what is a page one, top of fold spot on Reddit worth?

  • 138,224 unique visitors in about 18 hours
  • 196,390 page views (the site had only one page for the first 12 hours)
  • 8,297 views of my belated blog post
  • 100+ new Facebook friends
  • 70+ new Twitter followers to @stopwilson

    Enough with the quantitative, on to the qualitative.

    Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. It was more fun than it should have been staying up late and watching the Internet swirl. As the day progressed, awesome people awesomely tweeted about both the site concept and my writing. Some internet ladies claimed to have crushes on my site design! My wife would claim that that site design is spoken for, but she's not reading this.

    I'm sure you are so bored that you want to read each and every one, don't you?

    What's next?

    The meat and potatoes of this site are these blog posts (like the one you are reading now) and are hastily hand coded HTML. So there are no comments, no blog archive, or anything we've come to expect from even the worst blog platform.

    I will be thinking over the next few day how to DOS-ify commenting most probably using the Twitter JSON API which powers the "tweets" command on the landing page. Any other ideas are welcome.
    Everyone keeps yammering for Easter Eggs and I think I have one good idea, so we'll see how long it takes to get that going.

    So for now, tweet your comments to @stopwilson.
  • Tuesday, January 04, 2011

    The Five Things I Learned about Being Internet Famous for a Day

    Just my luck that this first Blog post will go live after the largest single day of site traffic I will ever get. I guess I shouldn't complain, seeing how I don't know too many other bloggers who have graced the front page of For those of who don't know Reddit, it's a poor man's For those of you who don't know Digg, it's USA Today meets the National Enquirer if all the editors had Attention Deficit Disorder.

    Alas, I made it there with only the idea of how my content would be presented and a little help from my friend(s). So if you are one of the few people who will stumble upon this site after its 15 minutes of fame, I present to you the five things I learned about being Internet Famous for a day.

    ONE / Don't become famous on a day that you're super busy.

    It was our first day back in the office after the holiday break. Also it was a brand new office we had just moved into a few weeks before--crap everywhere. And my calendar was chocked full of stuff that didn't include surfing the internet or fixing spelling mistakes that were tweeted to me like a thousand times. Seriously, I was so busy that I tried to squeeze an extra day out of a deodorant that was two days past needing to be trashed. To my nearby co-workers, I apologize--to the spelling police on the interwebs, not so much.

    TWO / Why don't I have any cool pictures of myself?

    This was my chance to be discovered as the next big--something. I needed to have a cool picture of myself doing something cool. Both my Facebook and Twitter profile pictures are pretty lame, I've got some corporate photography that my work uses for speaking engagements and such, but that is somehow lamer. From now on, I will keep a picture of me alone, laughing and eating a salad.

    THREE / The internet is fickle.

    I like to think I know stuff. For example, I've been called out of important business meetings to setup a projector. Knowing this, it is logical for you to believe that I have a firm grasp of nerd irony. But what surprises me is that "comment people" could agree that I was smart enough to put together this web site, but not smart enough to know that "ls" was a UNIX command (not DOS) and therefore should be removed from my fake website and stricken from the public record before Google finds out.

    Also there was a guy that hit me right in my sweet spot by saying, "Your blog layout is genius. Literally. I mean, it takes a genius to design a genius layout, thus making you a genius. Or genie. Like the one in Aladdin. His name is Genie. But he's played by Robin Williams. Therefore, you are comparable to Robin Williams."

    Make up your mind, Internet.

    FOUR / Originality is for suckers.

    When I thought this idea up, I almost peed my pants I thought it was so original. Then I searched around the internet and saw 50 other nerdtastic guys in their 30s had thought it would be cool to retro up the web with a DOS-like look and feel. In fact, some of the code for this site was borrowed from various forum posts on the same subject. That's right I said borrowed, I plan on giving it back when I'm done with it.

    The really sad part is that these people have done it as good, if not better. But most a little suckier.

    FIVE / When your website has nothing on it traffic is not an issue.

    I really sweated having 30,000 people an hour visit my site since I have the crappiest server in the world. It is held together by Bubblelicious and dreams. But then I realized that my whole site is one page and that one page is 10 times smaller than an animated GIF of James Van Der Beek crying.

    So, I managed to keep the site content free enough to stave off the onslaught of new readers who came to read nothing. 129,345 page views never looked so wrong, but felt so right.

    Enjoy the blog, I hope there's more to come.