citiesSkylines

Cities Skylines

August 10th, 2016

Back in the 2000s when I just got my first computer and got to play video games for the first time, I got really into city builders. You know, those games where you are like the mayor and architect of a new city, you get some funding and a few roads to start off with and then have to build up your city and turn it into a grand metropolis. Yes SimCity 3000. Those were good times. I think the reason why I was so into these kind of games, was because they reminded me a lot of Lego, which I loved to play with at home. I guess this all also ties in well with how I am a developer now, I have a creative mindset – I want to create great things, maintain them and improve them.

Now, 10+ years later, there is new game of the city builder genre called Cities Skylines. The game actually came out over a year ago, but I only got into it after their Snowfall patch, which got the community talking about the game again.

This game follows the same principal as all the other city builders did before it, just better. Its stable, has a ton of customisation features and custom assets via the steam workshop, and just make the games feel less like a chore and more like an experience. In all honesty, the custom assets and mods are the best part of the game, and their existence allowed for amazing things like this to be created:

This is the city of Riga, where I was born and lived in for 17 years of my life. My home in one of my favourite games – thats amazing. If you are into creative style games, I’d highly recommend you give Cities Skylines a try, the possibilities are endless!

sass

Web, the SASSy way

July 24th, 2016

I’ve been designing and coding websites for a good 4 years now, but only as a hobby in my spare time, nothing serious or professional. It was all basically just simple HTML DOM together with a CSS file defining the look of my sites. Sometimes I would experiment with certain JS features to have menu bars and various animations, but hat was about it. Last year, when I migrated my blog hosting, I had to learn how to set up a web server from scratch using LAMP. And I did, twice: jamiejakov.lv and utsanime.net. Looking back now thats not a great achievement, especially with all the guides out there, but hey, when you don’t know anything, even something as simple as setting up a LAMP can be hard.

And now I think its time for me to learn more about web programming, about the frameworks that are used, about the nifty things that have been developed to make our lives easier and create intuitive and beautiful user experiences. And the first think I am going to learn is SASS.

What is SASS? Its pretty much CSS on steroids. It allows you to declare variables, nest code, add mixins, inheritance and much more. But why listen to me, when they got a clear guide on all the great features up on their website: SASS-Lang. I am just going through the codecadamy tutorial on SASS and am planing on implementing it in my future AnimeSydney and anime@UTS redesigns!

Also it is important to note that SASS is a pre-processor, so the browsers themselves can’t interpret anything form a .scss file. So we must compile the SASS file first, which will transform it into a browser readable .css file. Most text editors for code have plugins for SASS compilation. I, for example, use Coda by Panic.Inc for all my web development and they have a great SASS plugin available for download.

So try it out, see for yourself who much more efficient you will be at coding when you can use variables and inheritance. Happy Coding!

kyary2016

Kyary in Sydney 2016

June 25th, 2016

The fashion monster of Japan is back to Sydney for another live concert! This time as part of her 5 year anniversary world tour. Once again us Kyary lovers gathered to watch the pop idol perform. This time however, they had an option of VIP tickets, which allows the fans to get a photo taken with Kyary herself! (photos done by professional photographer and will be available for download on the 4th of July; See below!). Also included in the VIP package was the chance to be first in line for good and first to access the concert hall, which equals front a row position! That was probably the main reason that made this concert so much better then the previous – the opportunity to be really close to Kyary and actually see her face and cute smile.

And since I was so close to the stage, I managed to get some good photos with my phone. I say good, but phone photos of a concert can never be as good as a proper camera… But hey, at least its something. Link here:

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And also I caught some 1080p 60FPS video of Mondai Girl and Invader.

I sure hope these videos don’t get taken down for copyright… It is a concert after all…

And of course the highlight of the night, a photo of me together with KyaryPamyuPamyu herself.

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AppleDesign

Why I Make

June 21st, 2016

Adam Savage, one of the hosts of Mythbusters is in Sydney at the moment, so I looked through his tweets and found this video he stared in. Adam starts off by saying that making, is creating something that didn’t exist in this world. That is right, we as humans have an incredible ability to, literally, make anything possible. We can be all artsy and draw a painting, shoot a movie, compose a music piece, or we could be scientific and discover an element, calculate a physical value, compute code, etc…

I would like to say why I make. I make because I want to change the world. As corny as it sounds, I want to leave the world a better place then I found it. I want to use my skills to make peoples lives better. My skills are primarily focused around technology, but I believe that I have the ability to improve on things that most people would not care about, mainly UI and UX. There are designers out there that create great user experiences, but a lot of our interactions with technology are clunky, rough and just annoying at times. So I think it is important for people, that stop and think about the little things to exist, so that the people that don’t, have a much smoother experience and continue doing what they are best at.

As Apple said in their 2013 WWDC video: “If everyone is busy making everything, how can anyone perfect anything? We start to confuse convenience with joy, abundance with choice…” I think is where I started to feel like I can make a difference if only I slowed down and looked around at what is around me.

I wish that everyone would continue making, would continue creating, would continue doing what they can to make this world better for everyone.

spotlight

Spotlight Search

June 19th, 2016

If you use keyboard shortcuts, macros and various other workflow automation techniques, then you might consider yourself a power user. However if you have never used Spotlight on macOS and iOS, you are missing out on a great productivity improvement. So what is Spotlight? It is the universal search implementation on Apple platforms. It can search your folders, files, information from within apps like contacts, mail, and even suggestions from the web. But I guess the most used function of Spotlight is to quickly open the application you need. So instead of looking of looking for that one app in Launchpad on your Mac, or numerous screens of your iPhone/iPad, you can just simply launch Spotlight search (cmd+space on macOS, swipe down on home screen on iOS) and start typing the name of the item you are looking for. This can greatly speed up your workflow and just help you find what you are looking for.

Now that you know the basics of Spotlight, here are some advanced tips and tricks (on macOS), which I learned from this article:

  • Cmd + D:  View search term in the built in dictionary app (opens the app).
  • Cmd + L:   Quickly view the term in the dictionary (via Spotlight UI).
  • Cmd + B:   Do a web search in your default browser (opens browser window).
  • Cmd + R:   Open the highlighted results folder in the app which it is in and reveal it in Preview.
  • Cmd + O:   Open the highlighted result in the default program for that filetype.
  • Cmd + I:     Show information about the highlighted result.
  • Hold Cmd:  Show the full path to the highlighted result at the bottom of the spotlight window.

Hope these shortcuts help you improve your workflow and make your life just a bit more productive.

Clovelly Milky Way

Milky Way Photography

May 7th, 2016

Night photography is something that I have always wanted to learn to do well, but have failed over and over again. In the past, I wouldn’t have a tripod, so taking good night shots was near impossible. Then I had the technology, but lacked the skills. Now I have finally started learning how to take photos of the stars and what details to bring out in a photo, if I want to see beyond the horizon. ‘

Once again my coworker and mentor Anton, invited me to take some photos with him. This time though the goal was to get a perfect shot of the Milky Way. We set up at the cliffs near Clovelly Beach and started experimenting with various angles, exposure and ISO settings. After a few hours and about 50 photos later, we had enough to make something gorgeous.

Once a photo is taken, it does not mean its final, taking the photo is just half the work. When shooting in RAW, the camera doesn’t automatically post-process the photos, it leaves as much data about the shot as possible and leave the processing to us – the photographers. Thats why our job to edit these shots with software like Lightroom or Photoshop. We have all the controls: exposure, white balance, contrast, etc… and it is our job to make sure to bring out the best of the photo, without making it too unrealistic.

Well since this was my first time editing a shot of the night sky and the Milky Way, I had to seek some help online. I found some great tutorials and videos explaining the process of editing night shots, and the example I ended up following, is this one. If you are planning to take some night shots, then I would highly recommend you watch some guides, and listen to advice form professionals.

But, even though I followed the tutorials for editing my photos, some still came out grainy and hazy. I can not do much about that, as I actually did mess up the ISO and exposure settings a bit when taking these photos, as I did not adhere to the 500 rule.

As always, my photos are available on my –

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Lego

Sydney Brick Expo

April 18th, 2016

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved LEGO. This simple, yet complex game of building anything that your imagination can think of, has entertained me for numerous years. Alas due to the move to Sydney, I could not bring my trusty LEGO blocks with me and continue building (though I started building with the power of software).

Well, even though I might not have any blocks with me, that doesn’t mean I stopped liking LEGO! So Amy invited me to go to the Sydney Brick Show. At this exhibition, various artists (yes they are artists, they produce art with their creativity) show off their creations. Some were large, others were motorised or light up, some were references to pop culture, then others look plain cool. There was a lot to see, and a lot of people that came to see, parents and children all around. It was great to see so many lego enthusiasts loving their hobby and showing it off to the new generation.

Oh how I miss my LEGO. Also photos:

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Plex

My Home Media Server – PLEX

April 8th, 2016

Continuing on from my previous post about building a home media server, this time, I’ll tell you about a brilliant piece of software called PLEX.

So what is Plex? Its a media player system that automatically organises your media in a very lovely and intuitive interface. So say you got a folder of all your media (iTunes for example) and its jumbled up all over the place. So you would like to easily watch episode 5 of  season 4 of Game of Thrones? Good luck with that, you need to find the folder, then the subfolder wherever it was saved in, find the season, and then the episode. Now imagine that you are off at your  mate’s place and you wanna watch the episode together with him, well then you are out of luck.

Not with Plex. Plex has a number of irreplaceable features:

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My Home Media Server – NAS

April 1st, 2016

Ever since I got my own computer and started watching movies, cartoons and anime, I’ve wanted to have a great collection, and back in the day the only way to do that was to save them on your computer hard drive and view them on that computer. Then I learned about the these really convenient little things called portable (external) HDDs, so I could store my media on that and then view it on a different device, and that worked great… at the time.

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Sunrise Photography

March 25th, 2016

Ever since I got a new DSLR and lenses, I have been intrigued by the opportunities it has given me in terms of my photography. I have been trying out various angles, lighting, scenery (whenever I travel) and try get photos that would leave my viewers amazed. And I thought I was doing pretty well. But as with anything, there will always be someone who is better then you. Even though that sounds discouraging, I believe that its important to befriend that person and ask them to teach, to mentor you until you acquire skills similar to theirs.

That is exactly what I have done with my photography. First, my Singaporean friend Darrell showed me the ropes, taught me the basics of manual shooting. Then in Japan, our Turkish gaijin Burak showed me some tips and tricks with night photography, moving objects and just refined my skills overall. While I was away, my potato friend Seb learned a lot about photography and pretty much taught me how to post-process photos in Lightroom to make then even better. Now after starting my new job at WiseTech Global, I have met yet another person who has amazing skills, that I would love to learn – Anton. Please check out his photos on his website FotoForge and Facebook Page. He loves taking photos of the environment: landscapes, seascapes, buildings, anything. And he invited me to take photos of the sunrise at Maroubra beach. And as you can imagine, the views were stunning. Take a look:

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