Ian Hoar – Passion for Technology – Geeking Out - Technology, Web, Toys, Games, Design, Entertainment, Gadgets, & Geeking Out

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie WarI finally finished reading World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. I haven’t had as much time to read lately, but I sat down earlier this morning and decided to finish it.

The book title may sound silly, and if you have read The Zombie Survival Guide by Brooks you may even be expecting some humour, but you will find very little in this book. This is a much more serious and tragic novel about a writer who is chronicling a factual book about the Zombie outbreak 10 years after it has occurred. This writer also put together the official UN reports and felt that he needed to write a more human account of the tale.

Without giving too much away, the entire book is made up of short chapters sometimes only a few pages long chronicling the lives of individuals and their experiences throughout the Zombie War. The book is fantastic, and there are plans to turn it into a motion picture. Every story is well thought out and most of them are very believable and convincing.

If you have ever watched a Zombie movie or even read Zombie books, usually they are fairly hokey or they deal with one small isolated situation like a mall or even a city. World War Z covers the entire spectrum of the planet and many different scenarios. The book delves right into the politics and how badly many governments screwed up, but it also covers many other situations. Ever wondered what would happen to the oceans during a worldwide Zombie outbreak, or the mad rush to flee cities? What about the internet addicted shut in who follows the entire outbreak from the illusional safety of his room in Tokyo right up until the Zombies knock on his door? What about someone who is blind with no one to help them during the chaos. The book covers many personal stories like these.

This is every Zombie fans must read book and most have probably already read it by now, but because it’s so different from the run of the mill Zombie genre, I think many non-Zombie fans will really enjoy this book too. I guess it’s classified as horror, but it’s really not that scary and actually far more emotionally tragic.

Dahon fold up bike

So I finally got sick of the mass transit in Toronto which recently was threatening to go on strike. The TTC, our transit system is pretty annoying lately. My ride to work ranges from 40 minutes on a good day to the extreme of 2+ hours. With horrible service, zero reliability and constant fee hikes, I’d had enough.

I live outside the downtown core right on Lake Ontario, so I am lucky in that I have a beautiful paved bike path all the way downtown for about 95% of my ride. So I headed to the Urbane Cyclist a bike co-op downtown and after two days of talking to the most helpful staff I think I’ve ever have the pleasure of dealing with and testing bikes out I decided to go with a Dahon 7 speed folding bike. Before I entered the shop a fold up bike had not entered my mind.

Why did I decide on the fold up bike? Well a few reasons, the first one being I live in a condo and they want everyone to leave their bikes in the garage downstairs in bike cages. Unfortunately they had no bike cages available for me and bike theft is extremely high in Toronto. You aren’t allowed to bring bikes through the front entrance, but what if you are carrying it in one hand? Well, so far no complaints.

Another reason was I often work late, so if I do I can go downstairs and fold the thing up and put it under my desk at work. Bike theft usually happens at night. I can also keep it in my front hall and stick it in a closet, it is that small. Check out the pictures below.

The bike also comes with mudguards. These things are a must on a commuter bike. I have already road to work on a rainy day and gone through puddles and mud. The wheels are splattered, but I am totally clean on arrival. It also has a great rack on the back with three bungee cords. I have fastened my lock down, a fleece, and my dinner picked up on the way home. I plan to get a bag eventually for it too.

So far I am extremely happy with this bike and my biking experience; it’s been years since I owned a bike. It takes me no more than 30 seconds to fold it up, and the workmanship is fantastic. Everything feels and looks solid. All the hinges work perfect, and I think it looks pretty damn cool. My ride into work right now is about 35 minutes and I’m pretty out of shape, so I’m hoping I can get it down to 30 or even 25 minutes on a good day. This also saves me on the costs of a month transit pass and saves my sanity.

This bike is a great little gadget. You’ll also notice people looking at you when you fold it up because it’s pretty cool. I can’t recommend a fold up like this enough, and the bike only cost me $475 Canadian. If you live in Toronto and do plan on getting yourself a bike, any bike, do yourself a favour and go to Urban Cyclist, these guys are phenomenally helpful.

Adobe launches Photoshop Express

Abobe launched there new Photopshop Express web application the other day. This is a completely online version of Photoshop power by Adobe’s Flash.

“Crop, rotate, tweak, and show off your photos here on Photoshop Express, on your blog or Facebook page. Give your friend a tragically oversized head or get rid of the mole on his cheek that’s the size of a small asteroid. It’s totally up to you.”

With an account you also get 2 GB of storage space for your photos. There is also an online test drive, I only tried out the gallery, but it is nicely animated and very slick looking. I don’t think I’ll be dumping the full version of Photoshop anytime soon, but I’m sure an app like this will be great for a lot of people out there just looking to touch up and show off their photos.

Earth Hour – Tomorrow

I wanted to remind everyone that tomorrow is Earth Hour in a lot of cities and places around the world. This is a World Wild Life initiative and it is to make a statement about climate change.

“Earth Hour was created by WWF in Sydney, Australia in 2007, and in one year has grown from an event in one city to a global movement. In 2008, millions of people, businesses, governments and civic organizations in nearly 200 cities around the globe will turn out for Earth Hour. More than 100 cities across North America will participate, including the US flagships–Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix and San Francisco and Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.”

For more details visit the Earth Hour website.

Photoshop Tip #2: border keyline / stroke

Okay, this may be super obvious for some people, but in case it’s not, here’s a neat tip. When I do borders or keylines, I usually like to make the layer on the very top.

The easy way to make a keyline is to draw a box with the rectangle tool, make sure it’s a shape layer, this makes editing it later easy. Right click the layer you just created, select Blending Options, then select Stroke. This should be pretty easy. I usually stroke on the inside; the default is outside but this will not give you sharp corners.

Okay, now you have your keyline; go back to the Layers window go to the Fill slider and bring it down to 0%. Opacity and Fill are very similar with one important difference. Opacity affects the entire layer, while Fill only affects the fill of the layer. This means our Blending Options will remain unaffected.

So why not just create a box with stroke and put it on the bottom layer? Well this works for some layouts, but what if you want patterns or shapes that overlap the box, but do not overlap the keyline as shown in the image below. This is where this technique comes in handy. The only real downside is when you use the Direct Selection Tool you end up selecting your top layer, so you may need to turn this layer on and off.

Photoshop example

Street Fighter 4

Well I’ve been posting about Super Steer Fight II Turbo HD Remix; I thought I would also mention Street Fighter 4.

Street Fighter 4

Although this doesn’t get me quite as excited as the Remix version, it’s still pretty cool. I may not get to play Street Fighter 4 for awhile since this will be an arcade only title at first. I’m sure it will make it to the consoles soon after though.

The big problem for us in North America is in many areas the arcade is dead. It’s more of a place where junkies hang out than game geeks. I guess Arcades are still big in Asia, and Capcom has even mentioned that it will be hard to distribute in North America. I’m not sure I would even want to go to an arcade to play, but I will wait in eager anticipation for a console version.

There are some great screenshots at Gamersyde and some trailers of it in action at Gamtrailers. The screenshots sadly do not get me near as excited as the Remix versions though. I find the characters a little too bulky and chunky, but this is of course still a work in process.

Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix

I have been following the progress of this game for quite some time. For those who haven’t, Capcom has been painstakingly re-drawing every single Super Street Fighter II Turbo sprite in beautiful HD goodness while maintaining the original look and feel. When I look at the screenshots for Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix I often find myself wiping drool from the corner of my lip.

Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix

The game will be released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 arcade platforms. A big issue with the 360 version was the file restriction on live arcade games. Today it’s official; there will be no file size issues on the 360 version. You can also read Capcom’s official blog update on the progress of the game so far. Now the only real issue facing the 360 is a good arcade stick. I may by this game based solely on whichever console has the best fighter stick at the time of release.

You Suck at Photoshop – More hilarious YouTube videos

I posted the original five “You Suck at Photoshop” YouTube videos because I really wanted to spread the word, these videos are fantastically hilarious. Anyway, the guy known as Donnie Hoyle is up to it again with three new videos.

I really can’t get enough of these, if you haven’t heard of them yet, check out my original post on “You Suck at Photoshop“. You can also keep an eye out for more on the MyDamnChannel YouTube page.

How to center Google AdSense ads

It took me awhile to figure out how to center Google AdSense ads. Searches showed that many other people were running into the same issue, so I thought I would share my method for centering.

At first I tried things like margin:auto, center and padding in a <div> wrapped around the ad, but nothing seemed to work. The reason for this is the AdSense box is absolutely positioned. The easy fix for this is to create a CSS class or inline style as shown below.

CSS class

.adSenseCenter {
	position:relative;
	width:120px;
	margin:auto;
}

Container <div>

<div class="adSenseCenter">
	adSense code goes here
</div>

Or quick and dirty inlines style.

<div style="position:relative; width:120px; margin:auto;">
	adSense code goes here
</div>

Don’t forget that the width of the <div> must equal the width of the adSense ad. Now you can center your ads.

Email html design and deployment quick tips

I create a lot of emails campaigns on a regular basis. Creating emails that work in all the mail clients can be a daunting task, if not sometimes impossible. Unlike web pages, you have many more combinations of email clients and browsers that may view your email. Add the fact that many email clients are blocking images, stripping CSS, or just outright ignoring all the great web standards we have worked towards for years, and you have a real mess.

There are some simple rules you can follow which should make life a lot easier. Testing of course is still required and many strange anomalies will pop up. Web based clients change without warning, so constant testing before every email deployment is a must. Below is a quick list of things to watch out for.

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