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The Tech Deck

Archive for November 2013

Nerd Wikis

So, one of the things about nerds is that they're sticklers for details. Let's take a simple quiz to gauge your ranking in the nerd herd:

1) Approximately how old is Yoda? (n00b nerd)

2) Gandalf was of what race? (well-qualified nerd)

3) What are the “Eyes of Ibad” (overly-qualified nerd)

If you're one of the qualified nerds, you're probably qualified to edit one of the nerd wikis hosted on Wikia. If you're not one of the qualified nerds, you'll be amazed at the sheer amount of time that some people have on their hands. I've grabbed just a few of the better nerd wikis to peruse, but be forewarned: they are rabbit holes, and you will come out the other side sporting Spock's immaculate beard.

I'm actually quite surprised that Marvel edges out Star Wars and that the Star Trek wiki is so puny in comparison. Of course, the entire Star Trek universe was split into canonical and non-canonical sources and each entry tends to be extremely exhaustive (5000 words for Captain Elias A. Vaughn ?), because Trekkie.

There are also tons of video game wikis, a Disney wiki, and all sorts of other stuff deemed too “low-brow” for the almighty Wikipedia, so check it out.

A Journey Through Middle Earth

I know it's a promo piece for the new Hobbit movie (of which, I don't know why they split it up into multiple parts. It's not like it was a long book to begin with), and it's a glorified powerpoint presentation, but hey, it's still kinda cool.

Google and the Hobbit movie people made a cool info site that's a huge mashup of different web technologies to let you “journey” around Middle Earth.

It's a Chrome thing, so if you're on Firefox or IE or *laughs* Opera, it won't work as expected.

FTL: Advanced Edition

With all of the talk about the new PS4 and the Xbox One and all the next-gen games, there's really one one game I'm excited about. It's the new Advanced Edition of FTL: Faster Than Light.

At just $10, you'll get more replay value out of this one simple app than half of your console collection combined. I've put in many, many hours into this game and I've yet to beat it. It's hard, but in a good way. It challenges you to think, it challenges you to react and make decisions, and it will bring you to your knees every time, but you'll want to get back up off of the ground and try it again because you were “this close,” every time.

And that's just the original version.

With the Advanced Edition, they've added tons of new stuff that will only enhance the replay value, and the killer feature that will likely make them a billion bucks once the whole world catches on: They made a version for iPad.

For full information, check out the announcement post:

Cosmic Sans Neue Mono

Well, if that isn't disappointing. If you're going to name your font after the greatest of all fonts, the incredible and nuanced Comic Sans MS, then you had better deliver.

A guy made a programming font called Cosmic Sans Neue Mono, which had everyone's heart palpitate just a little, but it's not really anything special.

My official recommendation is to pretend you never heard of this and go on with your lives.

Google already knows you want this mug

In a bit of tongue-in-cheek jesting, Microsoft is selling a coffee mug that takes a jab at Google's propensity for “data aggregation,” AKA, “Do no evil.*

I think it's a jab at Gmail, since I know that's one of their selling points for their email products.

I was going to buy one, had it in my cart and hit “submit,” but apparently between first seeing the mug and trying to check out, it sold out. Either that or their ecommerce system is a piece of junk. But I would never accu$e M$ of using broken $oftware, so it mu$t have been $old out.



* Googlespeak for “collect all your data and sell it to the highest bidder.”

How the WSJ handles comments

Brian Boyer (@brianboyer) of NPR posted this interesting link about how the WSJ handles comments on one of their pages.

Here's a screenshot of what they're doing on that page:

There are a few things going for this method:

1) It pushes the comments off of the story, preventing the comments section from detracting from the actual story. At the Spokesman, we have more trolls than Khazad-dûm, so this is one way to keep their bile from polluting and coloring stories that are otherwise quite neutral and peaceful.

2) Instead of a free-for-all comments section, they've directed the discussion by asking a relevant, interesting question. Your vitriol is not welcome, trolls.

3) They encourage intelligent discussion by highlighting decent, humane comments that were written intelligently. You can dissent and you can have your opinion, but you can also speak like a reasonable person.

Do you have any thoughts about the WSJ's solution here? Thoughts about how the Spokesman could better handle our comments sections?

How Minecraft was born

If you haven't seen it, has a fantastic article on the history of Minecraft. It covers the origins of the idea, how it was inspired by other existing games, and how Notch was eventually able to bring it to the marketplace.

As someone involved in the startup community in Spokane, one quote caught my eye:

“The reason that I released the game so early was that I would never have been able to finish it otherwise. Charging money was the same thing. I knew that I would never feel that it was good enough to put a price tag on. So I charged from the start,” says Markus today.

He might not have known the term “lean startup,” but that's the essence of what he did. He created the minimally viable product that he could sell and put it out there. Elsewhere in the article he talks about how he made sure the development process was completely transparent and open for everyone to be a part of.

It's a good read if you have a chance.

Pixelkit Bootstrap templates

If you're a web developer using Bootstrap, sometimes the base styles are a tad boring. (Bootstrap, btw, is a CSS framework that makes web development really easy. I used it for, and odds are that it will be coming to too.)

The base styles aren't flashy at all, and if you need just a little more panache and pizzazz, it usually takes a bit of work.

That's where Pixelkit comes in. They've released a set of free Bootstrap UI Kits under Creative Commons and MIT licenses for you to use in your next dev project. (An MIT license means you can literally do whatever you want with it, including modify or re-sell or whatever.)

I'm not a huge fan of all of that skeuomorphism personally, but sometimes it's just the thing your project needs.

Un-boxing a Playstation 4

Remember, remember, the 15th of November… as Playstation 4 un-boxing day!

After an exhaustive search through the box, we discovered to our delight that Sony has thrown in an HDMI cable, which they skimped out on when I un-boxed my old PS3. Of course, now I don't need it, because I bought one for my PS3. Thanks, Obama.

Here is a thoroughly annotated photo of the contents:

Can't wait to get it home to play.

The Tech Deck Retro Desktop Wallpaper

Because everyone needs something as rad as this as their desktop wallpaper.

(Click on the image to go to the large version)

If you're interested in how I made it, I created it in Adobe Illustrator following the gist of this tutorial:

Create a 1980s Inspired 3D Text Effect in Photoshop

Since I wasn't using Photoshop, none of the actual instructions apply to AI, but you can fake it till you make it like I did. Some things are significantly easier in Illustrator and somethings are impossible, so YMMV.

And yes, that solar flare is ridonculous.

Calvin and Hobbes available on iTunes!

This is some of the best news this year! Calvin and Hobbes is one of the best newspaper comics of all time, right up there with the Far Side in terms of influence and sheer awesomeness. And now for the first time, it's available in the iTunes store for your iPad.

Thanks for the heads up Chad!

Burger King delivery followup

A fellow Burger King eating compadré of mine had this to say about Burger King's delivery service:

They delivered in 20 mins when we ordered by phone. Wonder if there was a delay in getting the order from the website to the store.

And that is a very fine point to make. I shall have to do further research. I don't feel like paying $15 for another BK meal, however, so let's split the difference using a thing I like to call “math”:

70 minutes - 20 minutes = Zip's is right around the corner

I should just walk.

In other musical news…

One of my other friends also reminds me of this classic from Robin William's musical Popeye:


Testing out Burger King’s delivery service

As a service to humanity, no need to thank me (unless you want to), I decided to test out Burger King's delivery service through their website. What's that? You didn't know that you can have a tasty cheeseburger delivered to your domicile or place of employment?


Go to and enter your zip code in the box. They'll check it against their datin' base to see if you're in their coverage area. For me at the Spokesman (zipcode 99201), I can see that their delivery range covers most of central and north Spokane. I don't know what they have in the Valley or on the S Hill, you'll have to check it yourself.

Once you're in, you can order your food. I decided on an original chicken sammich, because they're good and because I know from prior experience that they're still tasty if lukewarm.

You thought the up sells in the drivethrough were annoying?

Gotta leave it to them, they're extremely thorough.

After you've finished going through the selection process, handing over your credit card info, adding tip, etc, the transaction is complete. Now I have to wait.


Imma have to run over to Dick's and get a burger to tide me over until my Burger King gets here.

Finally, my delivery arrives. The dude was cool, friendly. No issues, no hassles, no problems. The order was all there and the fries were still relatively warm.

Total price for an original chicken sandwich, fries, and a drink? $15.11

Verdict? The website works great and the service works as advertised. But waiting an hour for a burger isn't worth the wait. (actually, it was an hour and ten minutes. But who's counting?) And for $15, I'd rather get a pizza. If you're really craving a burger and can't get out of the house, this might be your ticket. Otherwise, no.


No burgers were harmed in the making of this blog post. Only chickens, who are like the axe murderers of the animal world. He had it coming.

Doge meme Python shell script

Familiar with the doge meme? It's dumb. Sometimes funny, but always dumb.

Programmers, of course, have to take memes to an n+1 level, so Github user “thiderman” has created a Python shell script to create a doge in your console, with lots beautiful text and a very doge colorful.

File this under “useless programmer time-wasting app” or “awesome programmer app,” depending on your preference.

If you're a Pythonista, install via PIP:  pip install doge

Star Wars .gifs

I'm going to start a new feature here on the Tech Deck. Every Monday I'll post my favorite Star Wars .gifs.

Because the world needs someone to recognize some of the greatest pop art in the world.

And because the world needs more of this:

If you have any, feel free to send them to me


Not much to explain, really. I actually remember this Sesame Street bit from when I was a wee little lad and computers were as mysterious to me as they were to the alien guys here. Yep.

Internet Explorer 11 released

Microsoft announced today that they were releasing Internet Explorer 11 into the wild for Windows 7 users and will be rolling it out in their auto updates across the world. If you're a Windows 7 user, this means you'll soon have a brand new baby browser in the coming months! Congratulations! (I guess. I use Firefox.)

Curious to see the amount of IE 11 traffic to, since that's the default browser bundled with Windows 8/8.1, I whipped out our trusty Google Analytics to see the actual numbers. Overall, IE users account for 40% of our site's traffic (does not include mobile data), with IE 10 taking up the biggest chunk of that. IE 11 comes in at…

Wait a second…

Seriously, we have no traffic from anyone using IE 11? Do people REALLY hate Windows 8 that much?

When it comes to analytics, if the data comes out über wonky like that, it's likely a technical problem, not a behavioral pattern. And guess what? In this case, Google Analytics itself is actually broken. For those of you wondering, Google Analytics stupidly reports IE11 as a Mozilla browser. Derp.

Here's the missing data set, hidden under “Mozilla”:

I expect this number to rapidly rise now that Windows 7 users will be getting it installed automatically with their system updates. Just one more browser to test for, I guess.

Let us know if you run into any issues using and IE 11 by emailing us at

Museum of Mario

I hate to talk too much about Mario since I'm not really much of a gamer anymore, but IGN recently put up a Museum of Mario HTML5 webpage that is a great use of newer web technology to create an interactive and entertaining experience. It's a fully responsive design, which is fantastic considering that there is animation going on. It seems to work best using Chrome, but Firefox works fine and I'm assuming Safari is too. You're on your own with IE, since I don't use it.

Sword making dude youtube playlist

There's a dude who makes swords, and he's on YouTube. And there's a playlist of his videos. I know that's probably one of the worst SR headlines you've ever read, but it's accurate.
And it's cool. In a different life, I too was a blacksmith/machinist. Check it out.


Nikon Df: Nikon’s throwback camera

For the past few years, I was a Pentax guy. Old Pentax glass is amazing and their newer digital bodies themselves are good, capable and affordable. I flirted briefly with a Canon 5D, but I traded that away for a motorcycle, so now I have no camera at all. That makes me a sad panda.

But today, I see a Wired article about the new Nikon Df, and an overwhelming sense of desire comes over me. Imagine a classic F body with the brains of a modern digital SLR. Just take a look at this this thing, and tell me you're not instantly in love with it:

Waves of nostalgia for an era that was old even before I was born wash over me just thinking about it. The Df isn't just a pretty toy, it's got the full-frame sensor of their top of the line D4 camera hidden in there, and the price tag to boot. The body alone is almost $3k, so I'll probably remain a sad panda for a long time, but a fella can dream, can't he?

The Spokesman-Review is a Nikon shop, so I'm curious if I can get one of the photogs here to get one and let me borrow it? (Hint hint.)

Just look at how cool that thing looks. Rawr. Read more of the specs on Nikon's website.


Kid gets awesome 3D printed cyborg hand

If you wanted one reason why 3D printing is the next wave of awesome innovation, look no further than this. A Massachusetts father found the plans online for a prosthetic hand for his son, spent $2000 on the 3D printer itself, and about $10 in materials to give his son a working hand.

There are some small local groups such as and places like the Mead High School where kids can experiment with 3D printing, but we really need to raise awareness of just how insanely useful and awesome this technology is. If you have any info about what you or any locals are doing with 3D printing, please send me an email to


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