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Creative Programming for Digital Media & Mobile Apps

I really wanted to take a course on Coursera this summer to learn something new. Learning stuff for the sake of learning is great. So after checking out what was being offered this summer, Creative Programming for Digital Media & Mobile Apps from the University of London International Programmes caught my eye. It sounded like some fun stuff.

The course was pretty nice. No additional materials were required besides downloading some open source software (Processing, Audacity, etc.). With video lectures posted every week and discussion forums to ask and answer questions.

The first week of the course started a bit rough. Setting up a working environment can always be tough, and it seemed that many were having similar issues in the forums. There were some coding errors in a few of the early examples that were giving me issues. Most notably the javascript examples. This was a pain to deal with, especially early on. But luckily, I’m a skilled enough coder already to of figured out and fixed it for myself. If I wasn’t already comfortable coding, I probably would have left the course though.

The remaining weeks the coding issues disappeared and it was much easier to follow along with the lectures. The video lectures were great and of very good quality. The instructors were easy to follow and a bit funny as well.

The quizzes and assignments were great too. Though I really aimed a bit too low with my first assignment, doing the peer reviews really had me step up what I’d do for my final assignment.

With the suggestion of a friend I decided to re-create Donkey.bas (the original DOS game) using Processing. I found a video of it being played on YouTube and just went from there.

It does have some gaming flaws as speed picks up still, and has been formatted to a mobile devices screen size. But overall I thought it turned out ok, and kept the cheesiness of an early 80’s DOS game.

All in all I was very satisfied with my experience with taking this class. If you’re into learning something new and don’t really care about a degree or grades to prove it (so overrated to me), then I can’t imagine there’s ever been a better time to gain new knowledge. It’s really an amazing time to be around with all the information so readily available.

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Building a Lego Sculpture Tips

I’ve recently completed a life size Lego sculpture of a Jack Russell Terrier as well as the head of a capybara. Using Legos as a creative platform has turned out to be even more fun than I anticipated it would be. However it can be a lot of work and get expensive rather quickly, so I will share my tips on how to build a Lego sculpture.

  1. Like any project you need to have a plan in place before you begin. Give it some good thought about what you would like to construct. Sketch something out on paper first or use the Lego Digital Designer to help you prototype before actual building. Discovering that something might not work in the planning phase could save you much time and money.
  2. Color – there is a limited color palette that is at hand. For instance, you’re going to find it to be very difficult if not impossible to find certain brick colors (good luck with purple). So be sure to be aware of any color limitations that you might run into.
  3. Amount of bricks necessary. This can be very difficult to gauge. I highly recommend using the Lego Digital Designer to assist you in figuring out just how many bricks might be necessary. I find that no matter how many bricks you have, you always somehow seem to need more.
  4. Next you’ll need to acquire bricks. You might want to start off asking people if they have some lying around that they wouldn’t mind parting with. This didn’t work out so great when I attempted, but free bricks is worth a shot. If you’re really serious you’re going to have to stock up at a Lego Store or online using the Pick a Brick. Stocking up of Brick Buckets always helps too.
  5. Now I begin the fun part, building. I tend to start with the area that will be the most detailed, then build around that. I found that approach to work best for me. Also be sure to give much thought to strength and stability when stacking bricks.
  6. That’s really it. I will ask others for their opinions and then make any adjustments if necessary. Usually end up needing to scrounge up even more smaller bricks to get more detail into the sculpture.
  7. Have fun and show off your masterpiece to everyone you know!
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Going to Make a Lego Dog Sculpture

I’ve decided to make a Lego sculpture over the summer. I kinda wanted to be a Lego designer growing up and somehow lost track of that one, so out of the blue a week or so ago I thought that finally making a Lego sculpture of my own would be a good idea.

I decided that I would be making a dog for my first attempt. I’m modeling it after a Jack Russell Terrier I was once lucky to know named Rocky. He’s not too big, has short hair, and I figured it’d be nice to make something in memory of that crazy guy.

The first task has been to gather up as many white and black bricks as possible. I’ve bought a few bucket sets already, found some bricks that are older than me that were still in my parents attic (so glad I stopped my Mom from throwing them out years ago now), and ordered some individual bricks from lego.com.

It’s so cool that you can order individual bricks online, they have pretty much every shape and color imaginable. Another very useful tool I found was the Lego Digital Designer which is a free download. It allows me to build virtual prototypes before ordering any bricks, so far it’s come very much in handy.

Very eager to finish this creation up and will be sure to upload some photos once it’s complete.

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Landscapes & Interiors

Finishing up a website for Landscapes & Interiors. They’re a landscaping and cleaning service located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. The client wanted an original website that they would be able to easily maintain and have the ability to make simple edits on their own.

We decided to build the website  on the Joomla! open source CMS (content management system). I’ve built many sites with Joomla! recently and each client has been very much pleased with the rich CMS functionality that we are able to deliver to them at a very reasonable cost. It really amazes me just how much functionality they are getting from an open source project.

We also relied on the Yahoo! YUI library to build the site as well. The site makes use of the following YUI components:

  • CSS Reset
  • CSS Fonts
  • CSS Grids
  • Yahoo Global Object
  • DOM Collection
  • Event Utility

YUI really helped us to work faster and knowing that their library is used and tested by Yahoo! for A-Grade Browser support is a real time saver.

The client did an excellent job in providing and organizing content for use on the site. I cannot stress how vital it is for a client to provide appropriate content in an organized manner for a site to be successful. They are the content experts and when we can mesh our respective areas of expertise a great site is almost always the result.

Since the business is new and this is their first website, special attention was spent to make sure that there is room for growth. The content regions and navigation elements all are easy to add or edit via Joomla! with little if any CSS adjust necessary to manage additional or changed content.

There are still some further tweaks and adjustments to be made to the site, but we did go live today, so check out www.landscapesandinteriors.com and see what great services and support that they offer. Again, it was a real pleasure working with this client, I had a great deal of fun and they are very satisfied with their site and that’s always great to know.

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Playtown Cafe

Playtown CafeFinished up a site a few weeks ago for Playtown Cafe in Boca Raton, Florida. They were looking for a website and overall design package that was unique, fun, and really stood out. Geoff designed a logo for them that really nailed all those requirements.

The site is powered by WordPress, so that the client can easily maintain the site on their own. The client who claimed to be, “horrible with computers” was able to pick up the WordPress CMS in very short time and has really run with it. It’s always great when you can have a client see how easy it is to keep a site fresh and up to date using the latest web technologies available today.

Under the hood this site is using some very impressive technology to power it.

Working with client was a great experience. They had a great idea of what they needed, but also were open enough with creative and tech input that was a pleasure to work with. Check out Playtown Cafe.

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sjrates.com

sjrates.comJust finished up building www.sjrates.com. It’s a site that makes comparing local rates easy and convenient for those in Southern New Jersey.

The client approached with with a sound idea of making it easier for local people to compare rates. Instead of having to search each financial institution individually, he wanted to group them all together to save users time.

The site makes use of many technologies.  Notable uses include:

Working with the client was a real pleasure. I thought we had a great client – developer relationship and I this really helped contribute to a really nice finished project.

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