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The Tech Deck

A few of my favorite Spokesman things

The Spokesman-Review has been printing the local news for 130 years, but in the past few years we've been able to stretch out a bit on the web with cool features that you can only find online at spokesman.com.

As the new guy here I'm still discovering different features of the site that I didn't know about, so I put together a list of a few of these features. Check them out:

Link: Letters

The Spokesman-Review prides itself on printing an exceptionally high amount of letters to the editor. Our letters page lets you read all of our most recently published letters and gives you a handy place to submit your own letter to the editor (sadly, not available via mobile. Yet.) Oh, and don't forget to read the Spokesman-Review's editorial pieces too.

Link: Then and Now

Francis and N Division

As someone with a deep love of history, I think my actual favorite feature of our site is the Then and Now section. It's hard to describe what Spokane looked like 25, 50 or 100 years ago, so why not let the photo archives of the Spokesman-Review do it for you? We have so many great photos of Spokane that our archives are a real treasure for the community.

Link: Twitter

You might be aware of us on Twitter as @spokesmanreview, but did you know we have a whole range of reporters, editors and generally good-natured newspaper folks who maintain active Twitter accounts? Check us out! As a side note, I need to figure out how to get my favorite account (@dangayle) listed on there.

Links: Feeds & Newsletters

If feed readers are your thing, we've sliced and diced spokesman.com into numerous different RSS feeds for you to consume. You can also subscribe to a custom email newsletter to get your news in your inbox. Follow stories by topic or check out our blogs, whichever way you want.

Link: e-Edition

Want to see the *actual* newspaper online, in its original paper presentation? Check out our e-edition, an alternate version of the Spokesman-Review online.

Links: Audio & Video

Admittedly, as a newspaper we don't do too much audio/video (it's a tad hard to print), but when we do, it goes here on spokesman.com.

Link: Soundslides

Speaking of audio, our Soundslides feature is criminally underutilized, but it makes for such great story telling that I have to include it here. The most recent soundslide has fantastic photography from Kathy Plonka along with audio of the septuagenarians in their own words. Speaking personally, would I normally spend much time reading a story about septuagenarians? No. But presented in this manner, I thoroughly enjoyed it. You will too.

Link: Data

At data.spokesman.com we try to put out information and data that might not otherwise be publicly accessible or useable. If you have ideas for a project, let us know.

Link: Today

Because the news is always flowing, sometimes it's a little hard to find an article that was in the print edition. That's where the Today feature on spokesman.com comes in handy. Every story and article that is published in the paper is organized into one easy to scan place. Everyone at the paper itself use this feature extensively.


That's all I have for now, but keep your eyes on this space. 2014 should introduce some new features to spokesman.com, some small and some big. Really big :)

Fonts.com Fontacular sale (last day)

You need to buy some of these fonts today from Fonts.com Fontacular Sale, which ends today. Some of them are darn good deals. I purchased Freight Display, because the Freight family is amazing and I need to start somewhere. This one is a headline font, useful in similar contexts to the Chronicle typeface used by the Spokesman, but sharper and a touch more oldstyle and with a much, much quirkier Italic.

I'm also considering purchasing some of the following:

Mundo Sans, which is an incredibly understated humanist sans that can and should replace any use of Gill Sans someone tries to foist onto you. This one is a real workhorse sans-serif and it's so transparent and easy to read that it makes one of the best body copy text faces you'll ever use.

Bodoni Egyptian is a historical fiction designed by Nick Shinn, who does a lot of bespoke newspaper typefaces. You will not find a more knowledgeable and discerning type designer on the planet, IMO. This one is a re-imagining of Bodoni as a monoline square-serifed Egyptian, which has an elegant yet rugged feel.

There are a few others in there that are really great also, so if you were in the market, there's something for everything. The ones I picked aren't sexy by any means, but they are serious workhorses that will stand up under the harshest of scrutiny and give your designs real street-cred amongst the font Illuminati.

Google autosuggest A to Z

For giggles, I decided to see what Google autosuggested for the phrase “is <insert letter here>.” Here are the results:

google autosuggestion for is a google autosuggestion for is b google autosuggestion for is c google autosuggestion for is d google autosuggestion for is e google autosuggestion for is f google autosuggestion for is g google autosuggestion for is h google autosuggestion for is i google autosuggestion for is j google autosuggestion for is k google autosuggestion for is l google autosuggestion for is m google autosuggestion for is n google autosuggestion for is o google autosuggestion for is p google autosuggestion for is q google autosuggestion for is r google autosuggestion for is s google autosuggestion for is t google autosuggestion for is u google autosuggestion for is v google autosuggestion for is w google autosuggestion for is x google autosuggestion for is y google autosuggestion for is z

My thoughts:

Must be chemistry finals?

Does no one wonder about the women celebrities?

The answer is to the question “Is 'vaping' safe” is: You look stupid.

Lastly, darn that pesky gluten.

Man of Steel vs Batman Comic Con reveal

I hadn't watched this until today, but if you're going to reveal to the world that Batman is going to be the, uh, villain? in the next Man of Steel movie, you couldn't do a better job than how Zach Snyder and Harry Lennix announced it at Comic Con 2013.

If you haven't read the Dark Knight Returns graphic novel (not to be confused with the Dark Knight Rises movie, which isn't related at all), you seriously need to get up, go down to Merlyn's, find a copy and READ IT. It's not only considered one of the greatest graphic novels ever, it's an even tossup between it and the Watchmen as *the* greatest. The art is great, the story is great, and the EPIC dual between Batman and Superchump is EPIC.

“I want you to remember, Clark…

in all the years to come…

in your most private moments…

I want you to remember…

my hand…

at your throat…

I want…

you to remember…

 

the one man who beat you.”

The movie won't be the Dark Knight Returns, but if they can capture some of the essence of that classic, the next Man of Steel movie will be awesome. I loved the first one, so I'm really excited to see how they manage to do justice to the two duking it out.

In a side note, apparently Wonder Woman will be in the movie too, because Justice League.

EDIT:

Snap. I also forgot to mention that it's in the Dark Knight Returns that you get to see the conclusion to the lifelong feud between Batman v. Joker.

“No, Joker. You're playing the wrong game. The old game. Tonight you're taking no hostages. Tonight I'm taking no prisoners.”

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: http://www.ftlgame.com/?p=598

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, Wired.com 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 http://www.nwprepsnow.com, and odds are that it will be coming to www.spokesman.com 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?

Yes!

Go to http://bkdelivers.com 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.

AN HOUR.

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.

Disclaimer:

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 dang@spokesman.com

Yep.

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.

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Online developer Dan Gayle's musings about all things in the world of 1s and 0s.

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