Andy Laub

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

Published Sep 05


As soon as the words left my mouth today I knew I had to write this.

We were discussing a particular site, and talking about how it was becoming cluttered and unusable (or rather, has been cluttered and unusable for some time). At that point I said that we were Fixing It With Addition, meaning that every time something went wrong the solution was to add something else instead of researching the cause of the problem.

It’s an issue that’s fairly abundant in all walks of life, not just the internerd. Your car’s not selling? Make it bigger, add more features, bigger engine, more power. A prime example of this was the Passat W8 of a few years ago. VW, and for this I think they are clever, developed a new W-shaped engine layout that meant you could fit eight cylinders into an engine compartment made for 6. It was a novel concept, but the problem here was that for all the extra power the W8 made over the V6, all it did was compensate for all the extra weight added by the motor itself.

FIWA’s best friend and partner in crime, I’m convinced, is DIBYC (Doing It Because You Can) and as you can see he made his presence known in that whole Passat situation.

Just because you can put a huge graphic across the top of your site to drive up sales doesn’t mean you should and definitely doesn’t mean it will. Maybe if your sales aren’t so hot you should consider a new marketing strategy and reexamine your target audience. Maybe they’re not buying because your site is too complicated? Maybe everything on the home page is equally vying for attention, and the decision of where they’re supposed to go just drove them away?

If that’s the case, maybe the ‘F’ in FIWA should stand for something else.

All sorts of engines in action.

Century »

100 posts. But which one is your favorite?

Stimuli »

One of my guilty pleasures is a little show on G4 called Cinematech which is, ridiculously, videos of video games. Absurd, but for some reason I’m drawn to it. I guess it’s cause I’ve always liked watching people play games (well) just as much as I enjoy playing them myself. And on the subject of playing games well, they were playing through Half-Life. The entire game. When I played through that earlier this year it took me a couple days, so maybe 10 hours or so to finish. They were slightly faster at 45 minutes. If you’ve never played Half-Life think of it as watching a two-hour movie, in its entirety, in 15 minutes.

And while we’re on the subject of games, I finished The Getaway : Black Monday and was not disappointed. Despite their rather mediocre ratings I’ve really liked both of the games in the series. They’ve got a nice feel about them and you can really see how the developers tried to inject it with a cinematic vibe.

As an afterthought, I need to direct you to their site again. It is a pretty impressive endeavor, not so much because of its design but because of its content. By clicking around you end up on a mini-tour of London and meet all the characters (played by their voice actors from the game). It’s a great way to introduce you to the environment or just kill some time.

Grit »

Screw, barrel, dirt.

es ca pe »

PDF’s side project relaunched this weekend and is a stylin’ wonder of an eCommerce site. Check the little things, like the sliding images for the different product views, the styled radio buttons for the size selection, or the color coded bars next to the blog/news posts. It’s a site that emphasizes function over form, but the form ain’t so bad either. I am pretty much glossing over the entire thing here, so go read his post about it instead.

Split »

An outing to an estate sale yesterday resulted in the purchase of four books, among them Michael Crichton’s Prey. It was so good that I read through the entire thing yesterday and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

As I was starting it, though, I couldn’t help but wonder which Michael Crichton wrote this book. It sounds like an odd question, but it’s funny because it seems as though he will write in one of two distinct styles. The first, seen in books like Disclosure, Airframe, or A Case of Need, is one in which the scenarios are totally possible and grounded in real life. They are things that could happen in our current society and probably do happen. They are suspenseful but could easily sit in the non-fiction section with minimal changes.

The other Michael Crichton is something of a sci-fi writer, evidenced by books such as Jurassic Park, Timeline, orSphere, all of which were made into movies. These are much more fictional scenarios, at least at this point in time. We haven’t yet cloned dinosaurs, traveled to a parallel universe, or discovered a spaceship from the future under the sea, but they are admittedly things that *could* be scientifically possible. That’s where Prey fits in as well – I guess you’d classify that and all of these as near-future sci-fi movies, because unlike I, Robot or Minority Report the world is exactly as it is now and the only thing that prevents these events from unfolding is that we don’t have the specific technology.

What’s really impressive though, is that for me both of the Crichtons’ styles are equally enjoyable. As a matter of fact, it’s almost more interesting to see how the real-world scenarios unfold because they have to remain grounded in reality.

You’ll also notice at the right I’ve debuted the “Intake” section, listing recent media consumption.

Replace »

New shoes.

Entry »

First, another shot of that hott STI that I saw that one day.

And second, after some thought and deliberation I’ve decided to go ahead and enter Autoblog’s iPod nano contest. It’s pretty simple, all I have to do is link to ten of my favorite Autoblog stories and explain why they’re so great. Here goes.

  1. Car & Driver reviews three new luxury cars only to find them luxurious

    The title alone gets this one on the list, and is supplemented by the tongue-in-cheek review of the review.

  2. Sensitive emo dudes give away custom Civics

    The title makes me laugh because it reminds me of Esca 23, and as a bonus it’s about a cool car and a cool band.

  3. MkV Golf dubbed Germany’s “Company Car of the Year 2004”

    Autoblog kicks us in the balls by not only reminding us that the new Golf is already available in Germany, it’s been out long enough to start winning awards. Maybe some day they’ll sell it here. I can just see the headline in 2010: Mk V Golf vs all-new Ford Ranger. Yee-ha!

  4. Criminal Justice student charged with carjacking, bank holdup, being a complete idiot

    Another great headline + sweet-ass graphic = another winner.

  5. MINI encourages motorists to bribe cops with doughnuts

    Two thoughts come to mind: a) I wonder if this would work and b) I have never seen a Krispy Kreme box like that in my life.

  6. Toyota to discontinue all exciting cars by 2006: Celica and MR2 told to pack bags

    It’s funny and sad because it’s true. But at the same time it shows how perfectly the Autoblog staff can describe such a situation.

  7. I call it my stable because that’s where I keep my 28,000 horses

    Probably the most mind-blowing thing I’ve seen on Autoblog. You have to go there now and revel in the shear godliness of these cars.

  8. Deer survives 25-mile trip in car bumper

    It’s amusing and amazing obviously because the deer didn’t die and because somebody had the presence of mind to say “hey, let’s commemorate the occasion with a picture!”

  9. Honda Ridgeline Reader Write-in

    Along with some fine alliteration, I was happy to see this because it was an excellent take on what the RL is all about and on what the typical owner intends to use it for. This would’ve ideally shut some of the crazy “not enough truck” naysayers up. Unfortunately, while it was informative and enjoyable, the very same naysayers returned in the comments to remind people that this is not a full-size pickup truck. Well, duh.

  10. 2006 Jeep Commander

    This marks the final entry on the list and it’s here because of the sheer horror that the writer expresses (and that I share) regarding the Jeep Commander.

Well, that’s that. Hook me up!

So… rats?

Black »

The internerd is the hottest thing since sliced bread, so it’s only natural that there’d be a hott new craze sweeping the web approximately every other week. Here are some hot-ass internet bandwagons for you to jump on ASAP.

  • Those Little Buttons With Pixelated Text They could be for a CMS, your website, your OS, a browser, or your dog, but one thing’s for sure: they are freaking everywhere. Be careful and only use a couple, though. It’s not hard to go overboard./li>
  • Red Cross Buttons Or worse, Red Cross splash pages. Yes, the disasters are very disastrous, and it’s very novel that sites want to help, but do these things work? Did they even exist before the tsunami last year? Now, in the wake of another distaster, they’re all over the place. That last one’s pretty sexy though. You may ask what the point is – will the five people who visit your site change their minds about donating thanks to the Red Cross on your site about cars? I guess businesses must do it so they don’t seem insensitive, so you should too because if you don’t you are heartless and will die an early death and go to Hell. HELL!
  • Drop Shadows Are either in or out, along with horizontal hairlines and making things look like they’re all glossy. If you have a site that is totally flat, sorry, you’re not cool so you’d better get some gradients in there hurry-up soon.
  • CSS …is a fad in the same way the iPod is. It came out, some people liked it; it got better, more people liked it and then it just kind of stuck around accumulating more and more users. Eventually everyone will use CSS and have iPods, like it or not, including you. That’s just how it goes with these things.
  • According to Time who gets their information from Technorati, this is the most popular weblog, which surprised me because I didn’t even know it was a weblog. Regardless, it’s cool and useful and relatively easy to import the content into your own site (hell, I figured out how to do it!) and that makes it a staple. You’ll need to watch this one though. Make sure the links you add are cool enough for all you web-friends to see. They won’t visit you anymore if you start linking to the latest Barbie video game or a bug that pretends it’s a tongue.
  • Useless Lists If you haven’t already, you need to post one of these STAT.
  • Blogs Duh, get a blog already. Otherwise how are you going to meet all these other criteria? Which gives way to…
  • Accessible CMS CMS = Content Management System = WordPress, Movable Type, TypePad, Blogger, etc. We don’t “hand-code” our entries. What is this, the stone age? It’s gotta be dynamic! It’s gotta have comments! The content is optional, though, and if it overshadows your wicked look, you Red-Cross button, or your links, than it may be best to leave it out. Another one of those fads that stuck around (thankfully), your site is potentially marginally cool if you are on Blogger, cooler if it’s WordPress, and the effing rawk if it’s on Movable Type or some other pay thing. If you wrote your CMS yourself, you may be hardcore but that doesn’t make you cool.

Once you have all of these things, put them together and viola! Your site is the new black!

Whine »

At some point the company that owns Macy’s bought Marshall Field’s which used to be owned by Target along with Dayton’s which was changed to Marshall Field’s since Target didn’t feel it was necessary to keep the two separated. Got that?

Well, it’s happening again. Macys’ parent company is planning to change all Marshall Field’s stores to Macy’s stores. This is not a totally illogical decision considering the similar (in my mind and obviously theirs) positions of the two brands.

But as the post title suggests, this decision isn’t sitting well with everyone, or more specifically, with the citizens of Chicago. We ended up watching WGN last night, and boy am I glad we did because I don’t think I will ever see another 20 minutes filled with as much meaningless and petty whining as I did last night.

I just cannot believe how ridiculous the whole situation is. People everywhere, threatening never to shop at the store again if they change its name. There was a survey on WGN’s website last night, and out of somewhere around 13,000 people, a whopping 90% said this affected their decision as to whether they would continue to shop at Marcy Field’s.

This is an astounding number, and I just have to laugh a little. I guess a similar reaction resonated from Minneapolis when Dayton’s gave way to Field’s, and this kind of uproar will continue to occur time and again as long as corporations continue to be corporations. But wow, if you really want to rile up some Americans, change the names of their stores.

Every Final Fantasy game ever.

Gripe »

From a conversation earlier today:

Me: Hey GameStop, I’m here to buy a copy of We ♥ Katamari.

GS: Oh, we don’t have them yet, they should be in tomorrow.

Me: Oh, OK…

Yeah, so that’s how it was. Explain to me how a game scheduled for release today is not in your store and available for purchase today. Yes, I understand Best Buy and Target don’t have it either, and they’re not scheduled to have it until the 22nd, but they are not game stores. You, as the only video game-focused store in town, are obligated to have games the day they are released, otherwise the release date becomes meaningless.

Let’s pretend for a moment that, instead of being a video game, this is Bon Jovi’s Have A Nice Day, a hotly-anticipated album also scheduled, coincidentally, for release today. What kind of reaction would stores get if they said, “well, we know today is the release date, but we’ll probably get it tomorrow…” I’d imagine that there’d be a lot of upset people.

So then, why are video games different? It seems that in most cases games occupy a lower tier than movies and music, but that doesn’t really make any sense at all. It’s a huge industry with expensive product and potential consumers are treated as though their time doesn’t matter; the stores and publishers can just adhere to whatever schedule suits them and we can just wait. As is the case with any kind of media, games should be readily available on their scheduled dates of release for purchase in physical stores. I don’t need to call Best Buy to find out whether a popular album is out; it just is. And yet, GameSpot wants me to call them to find out whether or not they’ll give me the privilege to buy a damn game?


Skilled »

PDF is an expert at skateboarding and code; sometimes both at the same time.

Keys »

in the air.

Sssss »

Sssssnakesssss are sssssomething elssssse.

Ssssser Seriously, they’re nice. I remember the very first time I held a snake – it had to have been first or second grade, maybe, but it was really surprising because they feel exactly the opposite of what you’d expect. They’re obviously scaly but still very smooth and not at all wet. And this was the first time I ever noticed all of its muscles working as it moved around in my hand.

Amazing. Nature has a way of doing that.

Juxtapose »

Mod buildings + greenery = success!

We went for dinner last night in Stevens Point, and while driving around there came across yet another nice car. This time it was a black 1990 Audi Coupe Quattro. However, mileage and age were still the deciding factor when I passed on the purchase. I have to continually remind myself that I want a car that is newer and has less miles than mine, not one that is older and has more. It is proving difficult.

I also had a chance to sit in the brand spankin’ new Honda Civic and I was very impressed. I’ve only seen the sedans, but they’re proving to be very handsome. The classic Honda solidity is there, and the overall feel is similar to the one in the newer Accords. I really like it, and if I needed a brand new car I think I’d be sold. There is some talk that Honda’s planning to resurrect the CRX next year as well, which is an exciting possibility and would make a great replacement for the outgoing Acura RSX.

Mature »

I work in an environment where casual dress is the standard. I’m talking jeans, tees, etc. And what I realized today is that I never had to stop dressing like a college student. Huh.

Wet »

What better word to describe a shower?

Zip »

Today I met Russell Simmons.

I wanted to get a picture of him, but couldn’t didn’t. Nothing to show for meeting a man who is arguably one of modern music’s most influential figures. Crap.

Fresh »

I guess I got a little bored and/or inspired at the same time, since the site is no longer the black & white wonder.

What really blows me away with this whole thing is that the entire process took maybe an hour. It’s this kind of situation where CSS really shines, as the entire update required changes only to the CSS, some of the PHP (more for consistency than anything), and just two (two!) new images.

I am happy with this. While I was (and still am) pleased with the structure at the initial launch, the look left something to be desired, as the black and white and horizontal lines came closer to Subtraction than I was comfortable with. The other thing that bothered me was the fact that the four main nav buttons were very similar in appearance to the section headings and therefore didn’t stand out as much as they should have.

I was also unhappy with the lack of color, and wrote that off to wanting to keep the site “neutral.” While the reasoning was good, it just didn’t feel like a site I could be totally happy with. I am much more satisfied with this iteration, as it a) fits with the season and b) will hold me over at least until the CSS Reboot in November.

Reflect »

The Landmark, as seen in the windows of Baird/.

Griffins… »

are the new black.

Passenger »

Sometimes when you’re stopped at a red light, and a grasshopper lands on your windshield, you’re lucky enough to have a camera with you.

Today was one of those times.