Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Sunday Walk

 Since Sunday was such a nice day here in Denver I took a long walk through downtown. This is a very short of photo journal of a fairly long walk.

Walking north from my house I headed into the Five Points area. It's not exactly the nicest area, so this picture seemed appropriate. Although really it is a bit nicer than this might lead you to believe.

Heading north I came upon this antique truck. It's a pretty truck, but I was mostly amused by an antique truck parked in front of a building with not one but two satellite dishes. Yes, I'm easily amused. (Also, my time at Echostar tells me that one on the balcony is a Dish 500, probably covering the 110 and 119 degree orbital slots, and the one on the roof is a Dish 300 wingdish pointed at 148. Stupid Echostar.)

Further up the block I found this bird's nest "floating in the clouds".

Farther north is a light industrial area around Walnut Street. I like the area because there are some interesting pictures to be taken. Also, there aren't a lot of people around on the weekend, so there are less people looking at me funny for walking down alleys taking pictures of smokestacks and grafitti.

There are a lot of storage lots in the area. This one stored a lot of PVC.

Heading towards downtown there are scattered lofts being developed. This building is being rebuilt, probably to serve the new residents. You can see where a window was bricked up, painted over, and is now being revealed again by the removed paint.

Downtown trivia: there's half a block covered in rusted out, graffiti covered double-decker buses.

Coors Field has acres of parking lots, nearly deserted on a Sunday with no game. The only activity is a teenager using all that empty space to practice driving.

After an interminable trudge across the empty parking lots, I finally ended up downtown across from the Denver Chophouse. The side of the building contains this dedication which, while touching, is oddly placed facing a bus-only entrance ramp you can see in the reflection. There's also some irony to be had in the backwards "Wrong Way" sign reflected in the window.

PPD 71

I like this picture because the bushes just look like summer... or maybe I need to put down the bong. Also because it looks like it could be out in the country somewhere, when in fact it's at 24th & Ogden.

Taken: Sunday, March 25th

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Editor's Desk & NewsGator Buzz 2.0 Beta

The project I've been working on since December, Editor's Desk and Buzz 2.0, has finally been released to public beta! If you don't know what that means, it's basically a way of getting content (news, pictures, video, whatever you can get an RSS feed for), and putting it on your site.

There are similar offerings from a number of places, including Google. It's always a bit nerve-wracking to be competing with Google, but frankly you can do a lot more with our product than any of the others that I'm aware of. Check out the gallery page for some examples. You know it's cool, so just go sign up for your own demo account. Go to Newsgator News and click the "Add Buzz To Your Site Today" link in the upper right.

Also, since we're on the topic of beta software, Newsgator has a sick number of betas out right now. The count is somewhere around 10. I can't remember them all (or probably talk about them all), but some of them are Inbox, NG Online, NG Desktop, NetNewsWire, NG Enterprise OnDemand, and Go J2ME. So I think we need a new motto for NewsGator:

"NewsGator... we release more betas before 9 AM than most startups do before they go bankrupt!"

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Beats Working...

Messing around with Buzz Boxes is definitely more fun than the stuff I'm supposed to be working on. But it's sort of work anyway, right?

So here's my latest creation. It's based on our out-of-the-box Paging template, but I ran the post descriptions through the Yahoo Term Extraction Service and then highlighted all the phrases that came out of it (they're bold and have a dashed underline). I'm not really sure if I like it, but it is neat. Plus I think it's my first "mashup". I'm only about 2 years behind the trendiness curve on that one. :)

Obviously it's less polished than the photo rotator, but then it's only got about an hour into it, as opposed to ten (and counting...) for the rotator.

Tangentially, it occurs to me that you could view this whole Buzz Box thing as a big tool for doing RSS mashups. Basically we just give you a convenient way to get RSS feeds into the browser, without having to worry about all the crazy variations in the feeds themselves. Plus we let you shove together posts from dozens of different feeds without having to retrieve all of them. Just a thought.

Oh, and here's the script block for that box:
<script src="" type="text/javascript" language="javascript"></script>

News In Pictures

Now I've become obsessed with this little photo paging widget of mine, so I've done yet another version. This is like the previous one, but it also rifles through the description for images, rotates pictures automatically every 10 seconds (until you click forward or back), and scales images larger as well as smaller.

All of which is handy for news photos, which tend to be smaller than the ones from photo sites. So I fed it some top news feeds from Yahoo and Google, and stuck it on my sidebar right below the other photo one.

Thoughts? Comments? Anybody want one? :)

Everyone's A Critic!

Sheesh, you try to post something neat and someone (usually named John Carmichael) has to complain! Combine that with a case of insomnia, and you end up with v2 of Brian's Photo Rotator. So what's changed?

There's now some specialty logic to detect SmugMug and Flickr photos and munge the URLs to get more appropriately sized pictures. So instead of downloading Scott's 6.5MB, full-size photo and then resizing it down to a teeny-weeny little square, it gets the 143KB version and resizes THAT down into a teeny-weeny little square.

Another improvement: the old rotator would just look for enclosures and use those, which meant it only worked with certain feeds. For instance, in Flickr the Atom feed worked but the RSS 2.0 feed didn't (or was it the other way around?), and things like the Yahoo News feeds would never show anything. Now it parses through MediaRSS extensions looking for thumbnails and image content, and tries to make an intelligent decision based on the reported sizes of those images. In the future I'd like to maybe try rifling through the description text to find likely looking images in the event that there are no pictures available through MediaRSS or enclosures, but that'll have to wait for another day.

A pretty good early-morning's work, if I may say so. Which brings up a nifty side-effect of the single-script-block deployment model: I didn't have to change my blog at all. All the improvements were done in the admin site, and they just took effect on my blog as soon as I hit "Save". If anyone else had grabbed a copy of it (yeah, right) their sites would have likewise been updated without any action on their part. Which is pretty neat, especially from a maintenance standpoint.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Picture Rotator Rotates Back Around

Back in December I put together the first version of my picture rotator. At the time it was using v1 of the NewsGator Buzz framework. It was kinda cool, but it had some problems. For instance, as my boss helpfully pointed out, it didn't work in IE.

Well, we've been busy around NewsGator since then, and we've come up with a new version of the Buzz framework. So I created a 100% new version of the rotator and got rid of the old one. The new one is in the upper right corner, where the old one was.

So what's the difference? Well, let's see here. For starters, it works in Internet Explorer. Not that I think anyone should ever use IE, but I guess I can't stop you.

It has a nifty fade in/out effect, thanks in part to jQuery.

I took out the random rotation effect, because I didn't really like it anyway.

It also includes pictures from John Carmichael and Scott Ingram as well as myself. Not too many from any of us though -- one of our new features is to limit the number of posts from any one feed. This is handy because we all tend to post a lot of pictures at a time, so otherwise you might see all posts from just one of us.

Last but not least, it now needs only one line of script to get on the page. If you recall, in December it took multiple files and was a huge PITA thanks to Blogger sucking. This time around it was much, much easier. In fact, it worked the first time! This also means that you can get this little widget on your site easily. Just stick this line of code onto your page:

<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript" src="" ></script>

Yep, that's all it takes now. I love technology!

We'll be releasing the tools behind building these Real Soon Now, so you could build your own that looks different or has different stuff in it. I'll be sure to blog about that when it happens. And now, back to work.

Happy π Day!

Today is 3/14. If you're sufficiently geeky, that means today is one of the several Pi Days that occur during the year.

Do you know where your radius is?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

PPD 70

"No, Michael Jackson, put the cherub down!"

This nifty little architectural feature is on the side of a building on 15th & Wazee. I'm not sure why it's there. The rest of the building is nice but not really outstanding. But I guess there's no accounting for architects.

Taken: Monday, March 12th
Edits: Cropped, color balanced, histogram adjusted, partial edge-preserving smooth


Wendy has taken to watching the show Miami Ink. It's a about a tattoo parlor, the people that work there, the customers that come in, and what they get tattooed on themselves. Sort of like a body art version of American Chopper.

Most of the time the customers do a mini-interview about what they're getting tattooed and why. Some typical comments:

  • I'm getting my dog because we have a special relationship and he really understands me and I never want to forget him.

  • I'm getting a coy-fish because it symbolizes strength and that's something I need to embody.

  • I'm getting a hibiscus flower to represent my bond with my grandmother and it's her favorite flower.

  • I'm getting a picture of my wife tattooed on my back because it's something I can always take with me and never forget.

You get the idea. Now, I'm not one to ever get tattooed -- it's just not my thing. I don't have any jewelry at all. Heck I don't even wear a watch anymore. But if I were going to be on that show, it would be go like this.

I'm getting a picture of myself tattooed on my chest. Because I'm really awesome, and I totally love myself, and I never want to forget that. And when I get to be older I want to always be able to look down and remember how much I kicked ass, and how much I still kick ass. Plus I have a really special relationship with myself, and I really symbolize strength to myself. Plus all my friends are doing it. And I'm drunk. Really, really drunk.

Okay, so I'm not really that conceited, but come on, it's still funny. What would your "getting a tattoo" interview sound like?

Monday, March 12, 2007

PPD 69 - Windowblinds

I found a garage in an alley downtown, with a small gap in the doorway. This picture is stitched together from 12 photos, each showing just a small sliver of the garage behind the door. I think it's kind of a neat effect.

Taken: Monday, March 12th
Edits: Lots and lots of rotating and masking

Walks With Nutjobs

One of the dubious pleasures of living and working downtown is random encounters with interesting people. In the past I've talked about guys that wanted to get jacked up, the lost and demanding, the overly protective of my lawn, the uncommonly friendy, and my previous triple-play post about the upscale beggar, Sweet Baby Jesus lady, and Sidewalk Sleeper. Now I add two more random encounters to the list.

Crazy "Ex-Military" Lady

I took a long walk on my way home tonight to enjoy the beautiful weather. I ended up walking down Park Avenue West, which is not the nicest neighborhood in Denver. Surprisingly, I made it past the herd of homeless outside the Denver Rescue Mission without even being talked to, but a couple blocks later I ran into a talkative stranger. She was a mid-30's black woman, fairly well cleaned up and not really homeless looking, walking the opposite way down the sidewalk. As I approached, she started with that perennial favorite opening line "You better be careful or they're going to kill you," and then she reversed direction to keep pace with me. This signalled that it was time to dust of my specialized vocabulary for conversing with nutjobs, which consists of the scintillating phrases "yep", "nope", and "oh yeah?"

In this particular instance I opted for "Oh yeah?". She allowed as how I looked Sicialian because of my black leather jacket (it's actually a brown LL Bean bomber jacket, but whatever) and they don't like Sicialians around here.

"Oh yeah?" Yeah, and she should know because she was in Sicily in the late 60's and early 70's flying with the Thunderbirds and some other demonstration flying team I'd never heard of. I'd give you even odds that she was born before 1970, but never mind.

"Oh yeah?" Yeah, and she was in a war in 1986 and the Gulf War, yep, she spent 50 years in the military, but then she got out and now she's a cleaning lady, which is way better than being a tunnel rat. I can only guess she was referring to the soldiers in Vietnam that were given the unenviable task of clearing out VC tunnel systems. She must've been very busy indeed during the 60's to be a tunnel rat and then retrain as a pilot in time to join the Thunderbirds. In any event, being a cleaning lady is almost certainly better than being a tunnel rat, therefore,

"Yep." And what's wrong with all these people? If they want money why can't they just ask for it? She was brought up to just ask for whatever she wants. Apparently she hasn't met the same beggars I have - most of them seem to have no hesitation at all to ask for money. Slightly baffled, I improvised with

"Uh huh." At that point, probably in awe of my conversational skills, she turned off down a convenient alleyway. Alas, I completed my walk this night without any company.

Crazy Cop-hating Guy

My other encounter ocurred a couple weeks ago around 18th & Champa downtown. As I was walking down the sidewalk I noted a young-ish man, wearing a knit cap, compulsively smokeing a cigarette and talking animatedly at another guy. As I was passing, the second guy got into a car and drove off, leaving Mr Crazy to latch onto me. Thanks, Car Guy.

The man immediately turned and started pacing me and spouting a nonstop stream of crazy-guy smalltalk. Once we had established that things were tough all around, the weather was cold, and I didn't have a cigarette for him, he got down to business.

Him: "So can I get your undivided attention for a minute?"
Me: "No."
Him: "Why, are you a cop-lover or something."
Me: "Uhhh... just busy walking home."
Him: "Well I gotta tell you about what the cops did to me."
Me: "Oh yeah?"
Him: "Yeah, see the cops man, they like beat me up for no reason."
Me: "Oh yeah?"
Him: "Yeah man, the cops were trying to arrest me, and I gave up and they just started beating me with sticks and shit. See, look at my head! (Takes off hat to show an impressive set of stitches on top of his head) They shouldn't be doing that shit should they?"
Me: "Nope."
Him: "Yeah! They got no right! I got me a lawyer and I'm going to sue, I just want them to admit they did something wrong. They say it was ok because I ran away from them for a while and resisted arrest and shit, but that doesn't give them the right, does it?"
Me: (Thinking, yeah, it really does give them the right) "Nope."At this point we crossed paths with some other poor pedestrian, and he peeled off to harangue that poor soul.

Now come on, who wouldn't want to live downtown after reading things like this?