Andy Laub

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

Published Apr 06

Most expensive dominos. Ever.

Speed Demon »

As of this past Monday I officially started my new job as designer / developer for Digital Dialogue, a small web design firm here in Wausau. Of course this means new hardware, and I mean new: I’m happy to be working on a brand new 20″ iMac Core Duo. I was a little worried about Photoshop’s performance when compared to my dual-core G5 at Eastbay and compared to my 1.0 Ghz G4 here at home, and it falls somewhere between the two. There is some lag occasionally when switching around to different programs and I think this can be attributed partially to Photoshop’s non-nativity and to a scant 512 megs of RAM (compared to 1 Gb and 1.25 Gb, respectively). Other than that, it’s excellent; I get the same eye-pleasing 20″ widescreen that I’m used to at home, and Tiger, of course.

Another happy note is that this machine is a little more open for me to configure as I need to, meaning I can install necessary software without involving an entire department (things like Adium for inter-office communications or FontExplorer for quick and easy (and free!) font management. Eventually it might be interesting to play with Boot Camp though that is probably best left until we see Leopard.

Other than that and aside from form factor, the new hardware is really no different than the old in any measurable way. I continue to use Apple’s Mighty Mouse as I’ve grown quite used to it by now (where is the Bluetooth version, though?) and I guess I have an iSight though it’s virtually useless. One thing of note, and this is something I’d read and forgotten about, is how amazingly fast the boot process is. Whereas with my laptop or even the old G5 OS X took at least a minute to collect its thoughts before getting going, the Intel build—I swear—takes literally 25 seconds, if that. It’s so ridiculously fast that I can press the button, turn around to hang up my jacket, and have it ready for me when I turn back to it. So, so cool.

So seriously – when are we getting the 13″ MacBook Pro?

That’s Wii, pronounced “wee.” Yeah, I liked “Revolution” better too.

Itch »

Maybe it’s all the time I’ve been spending on car boards or the fact that a friend of mine just got a new Acura RSX and has been talking about this, but I’ve been thinking that autocrossing (and subsequently track days) would be super fun. Except my car isn’t especially good at that sort of thing, and there’s no place around here to do it anyway.

I fantasize about taking a new MX-5 or Civic Si and just beating the hell out out of it on a road course for a day, savoring the sound of the motor and the snick-snick-snick of the transmission. The best part is that in addition to being fun, you have the opportunity to see how your car reacts to being pushed and you become a better driver because of it.

Downsides? Tires, brakes, and all the other miscellaneous wearable items that will go south even faster when you’re putting them under the stress of racing. Which means, of course, money.

Someday…

A Riddle: »

What has five doors and whistles?

(cr, you already have a hint so you’re not allowed to answer.)

Graduation Day »

If you know me or you’ve read some of the ancient history posts, you probably know that I took a full-time job as a web designer at Eastbay rather than finish up the 2 years of school I had left. There was always a lingering doubt as to whether it was absolutely the right thing to do, but I felt good about it because I was finally self sufficient and making money rather than spending it.

In a way it feels as though today, my final day of work there, was my very last day of school. It’s not as far-fetched of a comparison as you might think. Everybody comes into the department relatively young (fresh out of school in many cases) as interns (freshmen) or associates (sophomores). A year later I was made a non-associate (junior) and another year after that, I was fortunate enough to receive senior status. With the time spent and the different types of projects completed, my design and technical knowledge transformed me from a greenhorn into a marketable, real designer.

Sure, this can also be achieved by going through more schooling, but I don’t think it was nearly as valuable as actually doing it. I don’t know that a lot of students learn to market their designs to people other than their professors – people who don’t necessarily care about design for design’s sake and who would rather just have you make the main message bigger and also red. When you’re going from one environment to the other, it can be quite startling if you’re not prepared.

For the two years I could have been in school, I instead had a steady income, job security, and received a ton of experience dealing with real-world situations. I learned about office politics, how to come up with an on-the-spot explanation of why I made certain design choices (even if they were arbitrary), and how to cope with total redesigns even though I gave the requester exactly what he or she asked for. Again, all of this was invaluable knowledge, and generally much more entertaining than school anyway. Additionally, you’re showing other potential employers that you are indeed employable.

Don’t think for a minute that I’m suggesting every aspiring designer should drop out of school and find a job. But I’m absolutely confident that it’s the best career choice I ever made.

And this is why I will never again leave my computer.

Gruber pulls a Kottke.

Transcript of Tim Calhoun’s Weekend Update bid for the Supreme Court position.

Chicken Sandwiches »

In incomplete record of recent chicken sangwich consumption, in order of preference.

  1. Red Robin
  2. Culver’s
  3. Applebee’s
  4. Buffalo Wild Wings
  5. McDonald’s

I never met a Miata I didn’t like, except for all of them. »

Quite some time ago I mentioned the Mazda MX-5 Miata on my short list of cars I’m in the market for. Today I finally got to drive one, and though it was an automatic and therefore disqualified, I got a good enough feel for it to realize that for me the car just doesn’t work.

1990-1997 MX-5 “NA”. Photo from edmunds.com.

Put quite simply, I barely fit. I have legroom, and I have room width-wise, but I had to slouch just so I could see when I was sitting in the car. It’s a problem when your optimal seating position has you looking at the top of the windshield frame. For reference, picture your car when it’s frozen in winter, and how the windshield defrosts from the bottom up. Since you’re too lazy to just scrape the windshield, you’re driving with whatever the car has already defrosted for you which means you’re not using the top of the windshield like you normally would.

1999-2005 MX-5 “NB”. Photo from edmunds.com.

Now take that feeling of hunching over to see where you’re going and imagine having to do that all the time. The car I drove was a 1999 (shown above), so it was the first year of the refreshed body styles with the fixed headlights. Honestly I prefer the NA version (top) with the flip headlights except that the NB was a fairly substantial update, adding a glass rear window among other things. One thing that did not change was the size, so the NB and NA are equally unfitting.

2006- MX-5 “NC”. Photo from edmunds.com.

On the other hand, there’s the brand new NC MX-5, which is absolutely awesome. Not only is it beautiful, it’s also substantially larger without losing the feel of the original. And while I don’t see the Miata as being a good choice at this point (a shame), it will be the first “third car” we’ll consider (hopefully it will have reached the sub-$10K price range). Until then, the Miata is stricken from the list.

Everybody Googles »

Last month I wrote briefly about the music of SxSW, where I mentioned Happy Flowers and a song of theirs that I didn’t much care for. What I forgot when writing that was that everyone succumbs to that inevitable temptation to Google themselves, which I’m assuming is how I ended up with a comment from one of the band members on my post.

So suffice it to say, I feel bad. The difference between insulting a company and insulting a band is that bands aren’t necessarily in it for the money. It’s a creative expression and any comments made can be taken very personally. With that said, I apologize to the band since the my commentary could be considered rather harsh and possibly over the top. While the style of music is not one that I particularly care for the band’s talent for improvisation is one to be respected.

Hopefully this will serve as a reminder to me to rethink what I write in the future.

Rolling it »

The developer side of me gets a little giddy when I get to add new gizmos to the site, and so it’s that side of me that’s happy to announce the addition of a Rollyo search box on the archive page. I’ve been toying with the idea of adding some kind of search function to the site for some time and just never did, partially because the plugins I was trying didn’t work. I think has to do mainly with this site not playing with the WordPress templates.

Regardless, Rollyo offered a simple to implement and unobtrusive solution to my dilemma. Once you’ve signed up they have an area where you can fill in a simple form and have the appropriate code generated. While the pre-made ones look nice enough (example here, kind of), the dropdown menu (for site selection) bothered me as it really doesn’t serve a purpose. Rather than try to figure this out on my own, I looked to a site that uses a version similar to what I wanted: Airbag.

It took me a minute to figure out what data the form was using to tell it what site to search, and it turns out it’s this:

<select name='sid' style='display: none;'><option value='65987'>andylaub.com...

The highlighted number is basically the ID assigned to the site that you’ve added (for some perspective, Airbag’s number is 7080). In the standard dropdown menu it can handle multiple user-defined sites, each with its own number but in this usage only the one for andylaub.com is necessary. Also of note is the style attribute in the select tag which keeps the list from being shown at all; with only one option there’s no point in having it visible.

That’s it in a nutshell. I’m pleased with the result for now, at least as a stopgap, as it makes older stuff easier to find until I can create a more comprehensive and organized archive. The only issue I’ve noticed is the time it takes to index new pages, so putting in “Madonna,” for example, wouldn’t turn up the post I wrote Saturday (yet).

Impulse Wins Again! »

During a discussion about travel last week we were discussing places that we’d like to see. Among others, I mentioned Las Vegas just because it seems like one of those cities that everyone should visit at least once. I mentioned that it would be great to go if there was a really good reason.

Fast forward two days, and the first thing Abe says when I wake up is “Do you want to go see Madonna?” This is kind of out of the blue but after having seen what her performances are like I know that it is definitely something I’d want to go to. Abe says that she’ll be in Chicago in the middle of June.

And this is where it happens. My response: “where else is she playing? Is she playing in Vegas? Can we see Madonna in Vegas?” She indeed is playing in Vegas, as it turns out, but we’re pretty sure we can’t go because that’s in May before the school year ends. So we figure Chicago is a good enough alternative.

Abe calls me at work: “She’s actually in Vegas on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. We could go if you want to. Tickets for that go on sale Saturday (the 8th).” I’m kind of unsure at this point because I was halfway serious about the Vegas thing. It would be fun, but it will definitely be expensive. He checks out travel info anyway while I try make up my mind.

We are going to Vegas! That night we book the tickets for the plane and the hotel. We’ll be flying out at 9:00PM from Madison on Friday and returning at 12:00AM on Sunday night. The flight’s a good deal and with it timed the way it is, we only need two nights at the hotel. Now the only issue is actually getting tickets for the show, which has to wait until Saturday at noon.

That’s not to say we aren’t prepared. The iMac, Powerbook and Alienware are all in full-on ticket-buying ready mode, along with the two cell phones. We manage to snag two tickets along the side of the arena, much to our relief, and the worry ends. TicketMaster sells out by 12:05, but we don’t care:

We are going to Las Vegas to see Madonna.

The End of the Beginning »

The end of the Eastbay era.

Today marked PDF‘s last day at work. He’s moving on to bigger and better things. It’s honestly not a surprise but we’re still sad to see him go. Fortunately, when he becomes President of the West Coast I am guaranteed a job.

Something about his decision really resonated with me. I was sad that he was going but also envious that he was going someplace while I was not. Which made me really kind of step back from what I was doing and re-evaluate my plans for long-term employment. I figured I might as well update my Monster resume and then spent some time looking at potential jobs. Finding none, I called it a night.

The next day I found a message in my inbox from a small web-oriented design firm here in Wausau called Digital Dialogue. I had heard of them before and they’ve always struck me as a neat establishment. I met the next day with the owner and before long I’d done a sample project and an offer was made (and accepted).

So with that, within two weeks both Paul and I are bidding farewell to an employer that took both of us in fresh out of school and where we were able to gain a lot of experience with minimal risk. I’m certainly thankful for the opportunities I’ve had there and all the different projects I’ve been a part of, but Paul’s decision made me realize that I too was at the point where it was time for a change. Now it’s on to the next step in both of our careers.

Scamalot »

Found this beauty on Craigslist Milwaukee:

2001 BMW 740iL XENON-NAV-XTRA CLEAN MILES 89800 – $6200
Leather Seats Cassette Player Sunroof CD Player
Passenger Airbag Driver Airbag Anti-Lock Brakes Side Airbags
Cruise Control Power Windows Air Conditioning Power Seats
Power Locks

Also included with the ad were a few pictures of a very, very nice example of the car. One little problem:

Yep, you guessed it. There’s no nav in this car. Too-low price (25% of what it should be) and inaccurate description? I smell a scam. Let’s continue.

I sent him an email, so as to leave no stone unturned (I’ve seen pricing mistakes before):

What is the correct price of this car?

Thanks,

Andy

That’s absolutely it. Furthermore I used one of my nameless gmail addresses so there was no connection to andylaub.com. His response?

Good day,

Thank you for your intention to buy my car.I tried to call you (1) but because of a thunder storm my phone is down.The thing is that I really hate to lose it but I must sell it and the part that I don`t like is that I need to sell it on the Internet.However this is the only way I can because, ,I am American, but I recently moved to London, U.K due to work and family,therefore I need a vehicle which complies with their specs here.I`m a fresh daddy I can’t find the time to drive the car anymore.I know that you will say it`s hard to complete a deal like this but my intentions are very straight and serious.I don`t have relatives anymore in the states so I had to bring it with me. (2) The car is still registered in USA and if I’ll sell it to an American it will be more easy for the both of us.I realize that the price is a little low but if I will try to sell it locally it will cost me a fortune to register and nobody will buy.I belive that this means good news for you because the car is in mint condition, no accident history,clear title,no dents or dings,no scratches and it has the original color!I want everything to be O.K. for everyone.I will take care of the shipping and handling because I understand that nobody will pay for it.I post it as being in US, just to avoid paying additional fees.Please mail me back if you think we can make a deal !!!

God Bless You…

Wow, that’s alot of writing, so I highlighted the important stuff:

  1. OK. I never gave my phone number, so that’s… interesting. Maybe it was like that one episode of Family Guy where Stewie couldn’t remember the phone number and just started with 000-0000 and worked his way up. Then again, he didn’t have that thunderstorm to deal with.
  2. And here we go. The car is in London. Explain how it’s more financially prudent to pay to have a car shipped with you overseas and then try to sell it back to someone in America instead of just listing it cheap before you move.
  3. Finally, the nail in the coffin: The SCAM!!! listing. Yup, someone else was curious about the car as well, and (surprise!) was sent the exact same email. Hmmm.

Too bad. I really like those cars, though I’d take a 740i Sport over the long-wheelbase version any day.