Andy Laub

Andy Laub is a designer & developer in the Twin Cities.

Published Aug 05

Rusty »

Some kind of machine, outside of the old Wausau East High School which recently reopened as apartments.

Reserved »

K-West’s new album Late Registration hit today. Give it a listen.

I had originally planned to run over to Best Buy and pick up a copy but work ended and to be frank I was just too lazy. So instead I bought it off of iTunes. This is the first album I’ve gotten that includes a digital booklet. The concept is kind of interesting – instead of the typical paper booklet you’d get with a physical CD, it’s a PDF’d version of that booklet.

The bizarre thing is, like your AAC files, it’s housed in iTunes, and when you launch it then Preview (or whatever your default PDF-reader is) opens up. It works perfectly fine as you’d expect, but that made me wonder: can you just throw any PDF into iTunes?

As it turns out, sure. Drag the PDF onto iTunes if you’re on a Mac and it responds exactly the same as it would with an audio file. iTunes just uses the document name (whatever.pdf) with the extension dropped off. This also works with MOV files, but the playback isn’t so hot. From what I can tell the movie plays either in the area that usually displays the album artwork or at full screen. Neither of these is really that useful, so unless you’re going to load them onto your nonexistent video iPod then there’s really no need to transfer them from your other media management system (the Finder).

Radiate »

Sun + mirror + shoes (cropped) + lens.

Seen »

It was a three-rental weekend.

Sin City was a spectacular visual experience. Even if you could care less about the story it’s worth just watching at least once to take in the gorgeous cinematography and rendering. The story on it’s own was impressive an interesting, and together with the style of filming it was a perfect combolation.

Assault on Precinct 13 was good as well but was almost more trouble that it was worth. Apparently this is a remake of a movie released in 1976, which I didn’t know until it started. 20 minutes and at trip back to the video store later, we were watching the *new* version, which was good enough but could not compare to the others.

Teacher’s Pet was a free impulse rental from the kid’s section. It’s yet another Disney movie based on Saturday morning cartoon series, but there’s one thing that easily sets this one apart from all the rest: Baseman. Those not familiar with Gary Baseman out to Google him (or better yet, Google image). I would venture to say that his style is among the most well-known today, and it really adds to a series that would’ve been just another Disney series otherwise. Add to that the voice talents of Nathan Lane, Debra Jo Rupp (from That 70’s Show), Megan Mullaly, Kelsey Grammar, Jerry Stiller and more and you’ve got one heck of a Disney movie. And singing – there’s singing too. I’m rather surprised at this but out of the three movies we rented I’d recommend this one the most.

Another fish-themed riddle from Coudal.

Faster »

PDF’s post got me thinking about some of the great little aesthetic and/or functional and/or usability details you find in software (both in applications and in operating systems) these days:

  • Screenshots: OS X has a couple of screenshot options. Cmd+Opt+3 takes your full screen and Cmd+Opt+4 lets you choose a specific part of your screen. These alone are perfectly well-known and very adequate, but if you press the space bar when after the latter command, it turns to a camera and you can screen shot a specific window. Furthermore, because screenshots in OS X save as PDFs on your desktop by default, it will convert a full screenshot of a multi-display setup to separate pages for each display.
  • Scroll Bars: I don’t generally look too closely at OS X’s scroll bars, but if you do look at them when scrolling, you’ll notice the background does not move; rather, the outline of the scrollbar functions as a sort of mask over the background. A neat little touch as well as one that gives the effect of motion while scrolling
  • Dragging: One of the things I’ve gotten incredibly used to with Mac OS is the concept of dragging your file onto things to make things happen. Drag your file into the email to create an attachment. Drag it along the bottom of the dock to see what apps will open it; let go to launch the file (and the application, if it’s not already open). Works for one file, works for 10. When I need to work on a Windows machine, this is the feature I miss the most.
  • More Dragging: Guess what! This works on the internerd too! Drag a link to your desktop to make a bookmark. Drag an image to your desktop to save it. Drag a non-linked image to the address bar to view the image by itself. Internet wonderland!
  • Upside-down Scrolling: By far the best little detail I’ve ever seen is Illustrator 10’s upside-down scrolling. Using a scroll mouse? Try scrolling up – it goes down! Scroll down – it goes up! Why does it do this? I don’t know! This functionality is second only to the Tools palette disappearing every time I close Illustrator. Hott!

Speaking of functionality, you’ll find that the archive now has a category list. Yee-haw!

Streak »

We played with our cameras on the overpass.

The final part in a series of cars I’m looking at. Today: the Hondas.

Big surprise, someone who drives a Honda looking at another one! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, though: if you’re looking for a Honda, resale is going to screw you. The amount of money I’m willing to spend means the Hondas I’m looking at are generally a few years older than the other cars, potentially as old as the car I’m already driving. And it’s hard for me to justify spending more than what was spent on this car 4 years ago when it’s the same age as mine is.

The tradeoff, however, provided you find one that’s been well-maintained and driven sparingly, is that you’ll get a car that is essentially bulletproof with good performance and comfort to boot. I went through a phase where I thought an Accord coupe would be nice but there’s not much of a performance increase over my car now, I’d imagine, and I’d rather have something more interesting. That led me to the Prelude and the Del Sol. The Prelude is in because even at 10-12 years old a well-kept one is still a looker, and the Del Sol is in for the same reasons the Miata is, with the advantages of front wheel drive and a standard hard top. I drove a Del Sol earlier in the summer but it wasn’ t in real great shape so I didn’t pursue it any further. Despite that it was a very enjoyable ride and a great compromise between a traditional convertible and a formal coupe. The Prelude, along with the Miata mentioned yesterday, is the only other car on the list I’ve never driven, because I’ve yet to find one that’s even interesting.

Even with all the choices lain out on the table, I still can’t break these vehicles into any kind of ranking. There are just too many variables, and one of them out of whack with what I’m looking for puts it behind other choices. There is some sort of unfathomable and unexplainable matrix in my head that helps me keep track of all this, but I’ll be damned if I can put it into writing.

Instead, then, I’ll change the subject to this Saab.

Market »

When you go to the farmer’s market, you’re bound to see some vegetables. I don’t even know what these are.

Part 4 in a series of cars I’m looking at. Today: the Mazda Miata.

You’ll start to notice an abrupt shift in the type of cars on this list for today and tomorrow. The Miata is the quintessential anti-Volvo. It’s tiny, it’s impractical, it’s rear wheel drive, and it’s for those reasons that they’re so much fun. It’s also one of the only two cars on the list that I’ve never driven. I kind of wonder what driving one will be like.

However, there’s a lot to worry about with a Miata, and it seems like it’s moreso than with other cars. It doesn’t seat very many people and it holds even less luggage. They’re not bred for cold weather, exactly; not until 1999 did glass windows with defrosters become available. There are hardtops available with this same feature but they cost at least a 1/4 of what I’d pay for the car. It’s because of that that the Miata, along with the VWs, is edging toward the bottom of the list and all but falling off. But what keeps it on? It’s a sports car, and it’s a convertible! If only I were looking for a secondary car, this would have to be it. A low-mileage example is not hard to find because so many people keep them as summer cars and the miles stay off. It’s for that same reason that you can find a Miata that hasn’t seen winter even here in the Midwest.

I’m thinking about it, and I’m sure driving one would seal the deal. It’s just finding the one to drive that’s the issue.

Poles »

Saturday morning we went to the big farmer’s market that happens every weekend during the summer. It sits right next to the highway, so when you’re wandering down there you can look up and see things like this.

Part 3 in a series of cars I’m looking at. Today: the Volkswagens.

Reliability is a key factor in the cars I’m considering, so I don’t even know why these are on the list. Is it because I’ve enjoyed every VW and Audi I’ve ever driven, even the slow as dirt New Beetle convertible? Maybe. Is it because they’re interiors follow the less is more philosophy (or used to, at least)? Maybe. All I know is that they seem to be darn good cars. The Audis are unfortunately still financially unattainable for me, unless I settle for a first-year A4 with more miles than my car, and I don’t see that happening. VWs, however, seem to be depreciating to a point where they may actually become affordable. The Passat is the logical choice given that all of the engine and transmission combinations would be acceptable, and they’re available as wagons. I mostly like the 1.8T with a manual, although I’ve only driven the Tiptronic versions which have been fine as well. The wild card is the most uncommon of the 4th-gen Golfs. That’s the four-door GLS with the same 1.8T motor as the Passat mated to the 5-speed manual. I’m not even sure the car was made for more than a year, and that was 2001. Yes, you can get that same drivetrain with more power in the GTI, but this has four doors!

So then the drawback, because there always is one, is the VW’s spotty reliability. This is unfortunate because it is a major blemish on some otherwise very nice cars. I’ve heard that this is because there’s a tendency to overcomplicate things internally, and it doesn’t really surprise me. It’s just an unfortunate set of odds, given the safety and driving aids they like to fill their vehicles with.

Just briefly, props to PDF for figuring out that when you have any kind of dialogue box open in OSX (such as the “Don’t Save / Cancel / Save” menu when you close a file in Photoshop), you can use the keyboard to tell the box what option you want: pressing ‘D’ for the above box would tell it not to save, ‘C’ would cancel, etc. I’ve only tried this on Photoshop but I wouldn’t expect it to work differently in any other app. No more remorse at the non-functional tab key!

Is 1,050 pixels too wide for a site?

This ad is made better only by not knowing what it’s for until the end.

Overpass »

Taken just up the street from where we stayed over the weekend. This is 35W, I think, but I can never remember 36.

Part 2 in a series of cars I’m looking at. Today: the Volvo 850/V70.

This was another car I initially didn’t much care for; I just didn’t get the full-height taillights that have become the calling card of Volvo’s wagons. But as my opinion of Volvo as a company changed so did my opinion of this car. Abe bought an 850 sedan (the naturally aspirated version) back in 2001, and it was always a really nice, fairly basic car. The inline 5 was capable even in base form (more powerful then than VW’s new and larger 5-cylinder, and the car had some helpful cold-weather and safety features which came in handy quite often. The car was gorgeous – it was a 1996 with white over tan cloth, and it had the rear spoiler which really made it stand out from other 850s.

The major drawback, and the reason it was sold to make way for his CR-V, was that it was a sedan. Unfortunately finding a healthy 850 wagon for a reasonable price is something of a challenge, but if the search is a success it will be totally worth it. I test drove a turbo model over the winter and while the car was in horrible shape, it went like nobody’s business and there was absolutely no slippage on the ice-covered (I’m not exaggerating; it was like a skating rink) parking lot. There were just so many cosmetic/interior things that were wrong with it that it would’ve been too much of a hassle.

I know less about the V70. I’m pretty sure that it’s the mechanical twin of the 850, or very close to it, with a more modern interior and exterior. I don’t like that they took away the body-colored strip between the bottom of the headlights and the bumper, and I don’t like that they changed the black rub strips on the car to body-colored. Overall it looks slightly cheaper. Because of this, the ideal would be a 1996/1997 850 Turbo wagon with a manual transmission and heated cloth seats. Then I’d get a set of the taillights from the V70 and replace the 850’s red/amber with the red/white. So cool!

Hatch »

You can tell you’re in downtown Minneapolis when there’s a skywalk on every block. What a novel idea for a city that actually gets winter!

I realized last week when I was giving a local dealership a list of cars I was looking for that it is indeed an eclectic one so perhaps some justification is in order. Today: the Saab 900/9-3.

Sometime at the end of the 90’s I 180’d in my opinion of the Saab hatchback. They’re made for cold weather (heated seats!), they’re safe, reasonably fast, and they are vaguely interesting without being tiny. A friend of mine had a 2002 9-3 Turbo for a brief period of time and it was a really neat and surprisingly roomy car. Unfortunately the 9-3 is just a little out of my price range so I’m looking for 900’s as well in spite of them showing their age a little more. The ideal would be a two-door model with a manual transmission. Something about the idea of a Swedish convertible appeals to me so if it’s a droptop I can’t say I’d mind.

I”m not even considering the new 9-3 because I can’t afford it and even if I could, I find the sedan bodystyle rather boring. It’s unfortunate that America doesn’t realize the value of a good hatchback because that’s what killed the 5-door (and 3-door) Saabs and homogenized them into the A4 knockoff that exists today. I’m sure it’s a perfectly fine car but the hatch was the only thing that differentiated it from other even more perfectly fine cars (like the aforementioned A4 before its nose surgery or the still perennially lovely Acura TSX).

Peak »

Still another shot at the kittens’ new home.

Garage »

Another shot of the kittens’ new home.

Ghosting »

By the time this has posted I’ll be well on my way to the Twin Cities. My parents are taking a weekend there and we’re going to go meet up with them and then just hang out for the rest of the weekend. Of course, I never leave for the Cities without a shopping list, and this trip is no exception:

I’ll be back sometime on Sunday. In the meantime I’ll have a couple ghost-posts set up so there is still some daily content.

Rabid »

I finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince less than 24 hours after starting it, as is the case with pretty much all of the series, and it was good enough. I guess there are some people disappointed in the storyline, which is understandable because some unpleasant and irreversible stuff happens, but that’s how these kinds of things are. Remember Return of the Jedi where it ended with Luke losing his hand and finding out Darth Vader is his dad? This is kind of the same thing – the ending of this book is inconclusive, but that’s to be expected when you’re talking about a series of at least seven books. And if this is truly the penultimate in the series, then it should be leading you up to something really big in the final book.

The other source of disappointment seemed to stem from the lack of action, and while it’s true that this book wasn’t as adventure-packed as the earlier ones, it feels right that less physical action is happening. It’s ridiculous to expect that they’ll go on exactly one huge groundbreaking journey every year, and this was much more about providing us with more insight and background on all of the characters than it was finalizing everything, which is fine. I enjoyed it, so there.

Some dude at EA made some art out of some other art for the upcoming Burnout Revenge.

Stuff On My Cat is exactly what it sounds like.

Cool Shades. Drippin’ Yellow Madness.

Paused »

Pricing and package information for the Xbox 360 has finally been officially released by Microsoft, laying to rest a few areas of next-gen speculation. The bad news? Pretty much everything. The base model will be shipped almost totally barebones, with only a controller and some basic A/V cables. For just $100 more, you can get a whopping 20 Gb hard disk drive, a headset, some great digital cable or something, and a wireless controller. How exciting is that!

I have to be honest – despite my long-harbored loathing for Microsoft’s general practices, I really thought that they were going to do something right here. But they just kept getting it so wrong. They started off really well, what with a strong console design and a new, lower free tier of Xbox Live. But from there, the rumors (I had so hoped that’s what they were) just went south. Limited support for “the best” Xbox games? Late arrival of HD-DVD? True, that latter one proved to be false (they’re just leaving it off period), but the first one is what really burns me. I have held off on getting a plain-jane old Xbox for months on the premise of being able to play those games on the 360. If that’s not a guarantee, then there’s no point in even getting a 360 right now because I could care less about their launch titles.

To quote Daring Fireball:

What possible purpose does it serve to offer a 5 GB model, other than to make it hard to decide which one to buy? It needlessly complicates the product lineup. Remember: every decision you force a customer to make is another chance for them to decide to just walk away.

While the above discusses competitors to the iPod, it functions just as well with regards to the 360. What possible purpose does the Xbox 360 Core whatever serve? If Microsoft is touting the 360’s abilities as a media center (and they will) how is that going to work? What about Xbox Live – doesn’t that make use of the hard drive? And what about games that use the HDD to cache data – is that gone too? Because if you’re taking all those things away, what you have left is a mediocre product for $299.99, and one that’s not even worth buying.

Obviously that should leave all but one choice: the $400 model. But somewhere between $300 and $400 the line gets drawn, to a point where it loses the “I’ll buy it because I can” status. With that in mind, I have a feeling that more than a few spots on the preorder list will be opening up.

Soon »

So it’s getting to be that time of year that students and teachers hate to think about while the rest of us working stiffs really could care less. But September means another Festival of Arts (I have reservations about linking to their site; it’s just so awfully bad) which means more even more occupation for ABE.

A new question that fall brings for this site is that of content – do I have to start showing fall-ish pictures? Is there a grey zone where I can show both, or can I show an obviously summer picture in October? Just wondering.

PDF was confused by yesterday’s post because it didn’t involve any depth-of-field blur and wasn’t a macro shot, two things which are admittedly very prevalent on this site. I am not sure whether this example proves him right or wrong.

My 50th post was 5 days ago.

I don’t even know why this disassembled eMac is so interesting.

Storage »

The kittens’ new home.

Write your deepest secret on a postcard and send it to PostSecret.

Acclimation »

So Operation : Cat Transplant occurred yesterday with almost zero hitches. We were unable to apprehend the mom, so after half an hour of looking and some heartfelt goodbyes the kittens were on their way to their new home. The coming weeks will be filled with more learning and exploration, with plenty of mousing practice I’m sure.

I’m listening to Keith Urban’s Be Here right now and actually liking it. This is the first country album I’ve ever, ever bought, but it’s one of those that totally blurs the genre line. It has its share of southern influence in the instruments that are used but at the same time I’m totally fine with banjos and the like being part of any kind of band as long as the music is good. The only thing that really defines it as country is the twang in his voice, which is interesting considering that he’s from Australia.

In more media-related occurences, we watched Constantine on Friday and Win A Date With Tad Hamilton last night; both were decently good but nothing I’d need to see again. And, after some hemming and hawing, I finally picked up Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I’m only about 4 or 5 chapters through it because I’ve not had much time to read since yesterday, but it’s good just like all the other ones are so I can’t wait to get further into it.