GUTS code

G.U.T.S. – The future of SMASH! ticketing.

August 1st, 2019

SMASH!, the largest anime convention in Australia, with over 22,000 people coming annually. And to support this convention we have a range of systems: website, recruitment, and ticketing. And now, in 2019, we have to rewrite the ticketing system from scratch. As a bit of backstory, let me tell you how we ended up in this situation.

The backstory of SMASH! ticketing systems

SMASH! is purely volunteer run, and because of that, it simply lacks the necessary funding to pay for expensive systems like Ticketek or Eventbrite. However SMASH! is run on passion, passion of people from all sorts of backgrounds. And who would have thought that the majority a lot of people who want to dedicate their free time to help grow such convention are IT professionals working in the field. And what do IT guys and girls like doing more than hacking systems? – that’s right, building new systems! So at some point, the IT team of SMASH! built it own ticketing system (frontend and backend), and payment link system, and pass issuing system, and local redemption system and infrastructure. One might ask why build so many systems? The answer is always simple: cause there was a need for it.

With 5 systems, maintaining them became quite the challenge, and all of 2018 was spent to just support the existing systems and add 2 minor features. However it became clear that something needed to change when the 2 tech leads, who built the ticketing system and payment link system, retired from SMASH! after 8 years of service, each.

So even before SMASH! 2018 weekend happened, Yaakov and I started taking about the future of SMASH! ticketing.

The decision

We had 4 options and we had to make a choice… Read More

WiseCamping

May 7th, 2019

What better way to spend a weekend in May, than to go camping with your favourite coworkers! So we gathered Axle, Justin, Jordan, Josh, Cody, Mark, Tim, Kal, Steven, Sandra and myself together and set out to a campsite around Ulladulla.

We had 3 groups leave at different times, due to work commitments. Car 1 with Axle, Justin and Jordan left at midday and their job was to setup all the tents before nightfall. Little did we realise at the time, that none of them had much experience with setting up tents and that we would arrive to a disaster. Car 2 with myself, Cody, Kal, and Sandra departed at 4pm and we were carrying the food for the evening, the curry that Sandra and I cooked for everyone the night before. And Car 3 with Jordan, Josh, and Steven came last, as they got stuck buying stuff for the campfire.

We got there, re-setup the tents, had a camp fire, fought a possum, drank a lot, and then slept in the cold tents. Some people really struggled with the cold, but still managed to survive somehow. The next day we spent at the beach, in Ulladulla itself and just more drinking and partying.

I took some time to take some beautiful shots of the night sky, the milky way, and some light painting.

Overall everyone had a great time and I hope we can do this again soon!

Photos are on my Flickr.

Lightning Photography

February 12th, 2019

Have you ever wondered what it feels like being under a lightning cloud while in the middle of a desert? Well neither did I, until I was under a lightning cloud in the middle of a desert!

Over the weekend my photography mentor Anton and I set out on a sand dune photography trip. We did one of these a few years back, and it was really fun and produced a bunch of beautiful shots (check out the album from 2017). However this time there was 1 major difference – there was a storm heading toward Sydney that weekend.

Once we arrived at the Airbnb place, we straight away went to the dunes to get a glimpse of the storm, and we got exactly what we asked for. While it was not directly raining in the dunes, there were lightning clouds all around us. It was quite a frightening experience, but that’s the only way to get amazing shots like the one above.

Another highlight of this trip was that we were staying at a house of an oyster farmer. He showed us a drawing someone made in an oyster for him, so I asked him for 1 oyster as well to give to my friend Sandra to draw in. She took this photo that I took, and turned it into an oyster painting! How cool is that?!

The full album of the 2019 sand dune trip is available on my Flickr.

Skiing in Seefeld

January 5th, 2019

This Christmas & New Years I thought of giving my parents the best gift I could – myself. I hatched a plan, to buy tickets home and surprise them. However I needed to make sure that they wouldn’t be traveling somewhere, otherwise it would be a rather awkward situation. So I ended up collaborating with my dad to make sure that this plan would work and we would surprise mom.

So dad booked us a trip to Seefeld so we can all enjoy the Alps together and learn to ski, one catch: he didn’t tell mom about me coming. For about 5 months we managed to keep her in the dark, but then we ended up cracking. In November, about 4 weeks before my flights, we told mom about our secret plan. She was shocked that we would keep this from here, and that she never noticed the hints that we let slip.

Even though mom wasn’t too pleased with us keeping such a big secret from her, she was overjoyed to see me back home for the holidays and for us all to spend time together in the Alps.

This was the first real time I got to properly ski, and I think I did pretty ok. While I wasn’t brave enough to hit the slopes, I still managed to learn to cross country ski with a decent speed just after a few days of failing and falling. Surprisingly cross country skiing is a lot like ice skating, so I managed to pick it up quite quickly.

The whole time the weather was great, the food was amazing, and of course seeing my parents was a pleasure. After our mini holiday in Seefeld, we spent New Years at home in Riga eating traditional foods, watching our president(s) wish us a great new year and just have a good time together.

You can check out my adventures on my instagam: @jamiejakov (don’t forget to look at my stories).

Otherwise my DSLR photos are available on my Flickr

Sagiri

Welcome iSagiri

December 21st, 2018

iPad is a very interesting device category. It mostly fits between a laptop and a phone in terms of portability and comfort. However it gets closer to the phone in terms of productivity, but closer to the laptop in terms of screen realestate. So what gives? Why even own an iPad?

An iPad has its benefits and I believe that in a few iterations of iOS, the iPad will be able to do everything a laptop can do, and keep the benefits it has right now. That’s why I got myself a brand new iPad Pro 11″. Welcome to my iFamily – iSagiri.

Read More

iPhosphophyllite

Welcome iPhosphophyllite

October 23rd, 2018

I’ve been holding off on getting a new phone for quite some time now, but the wait is finally over. Let’s welcome the latest edition to my tech family: a brand new iPhone XS Max – iPhosphophyllite.

Why did I wait so long? And why did I finally decide to upgrade?

My previous phone was an iPhone 6S Plus, and it was an absolute powerhouse for its time. However over the past 3 years apple has greatly improved the iphones screens, their processors, their speakers, but most importantly – their cameras.

Read More

portugal

Portugal 2018

May 10th, 2018

Its been a while since I’ve been in Europe, but here I am flying to Portugal (Country #54) in a Singapore Airlines A380 Business Class seat. Thats right, this time around we fly with the big boys.

Portugal is one of the few European countries that I haven’t visited during my teen years, but I am glad I got to go there now. Why? Because of the most delicious drink you can have – Sangria. Thats right, this drink is what my parents and I drank pretty much every day for lunch or dinner, alongside some garlic bread and a seafood dish. Coming back to Sydney, I’ve realised how much I miss Sangria.

The first few days in Lisbon touring the city centre and eating delicious foods. Then we flew to the island of Madeira, which is famous for its wine, levada irrigation systems, poncho alcohol and Cristiano Ronaldo.

We spent all our days there exploring the island via various tours. May I say its amazing how many different and exciting things a small island like that had.

The main reason why we gathered in Portugal in May is because it was my mom’s 60th Birthday. And what could be a better present than a family reunion, and having great food and delicious drinks together.

And as always you can see the photos from our trip on my Flickr.

flickr

owls

CSS Quirks and Oddities

March 15th, 2018

CSS is a weird language. Some people don’t even want to consider CSS as a programming language. However to me it will always be one, maybe even THE one.

Of course CSS can only be used to style your webpages, but it evolved into the one thing that defines a pleasant user experience. Without styles there would be no layout, without styles there would be no hierarchy, animations, responsiveness, interactions, etc. Of course the majority of these can be executed with javascript, but it never going to be as performant as pure CSS.

However it has its quirks… Some things in CSS just dont perform the way you’d expect them to in certain situations. I stumbled upon this article by Medium about Lesser known CSS quirks & advanced tips, and there they go into detail about some of the weirder things.

Some such weird things are:

  • Vertical padding is relative to element’s width not height
  • Margins overlap, but only sometimes
  • Opacity can change the z-index stacking order
  • Height: 100% may not do what you think it does (because parent element’s height is not set)

One really cool thing I found though is the concept called the lobotomised owl selector. Yes, thats right, the lobotomised owl selector.

*+*

It allows you to setup a default behaviour for all layout elements on your page, so if a new one is added it can already respect those values even before its properly styled. I quite like this idea of setting up defaults, however it is really hard to implement on large project that has been deployed.

design in 2018

Webdesign in 2018

March 15th, 2018

Design is an ever evolving industry, and web design is no exception. The practices that were revolutionary in the beginning of the 21st century, seem archaic by modern design standards. Some may say it is hard to keep up, but there are always those that want to drive progress even further.

I aspire to be one of those people, that is why I jump at every opportunity to learn something new, whether it be code or design. Since I never really studied design, I may not have the keen eye that some of my friends do when it comes to layout, or hierarchy, or just plain taste. However I can tell good design apart from the rest.

Recently I stumbled upon this article on Medium titled 7 Practical Tips for Cheating at Design. Of course I read it and pretty much agree with all the point they’ve raised:

  1. Use color and weight to create hierarchy instead of size
  2. Don’t use grey text on colored backgrounds, make the text closer to the background color is what actually helps create hierarchy
  3. Offset your shadows
  4. Use fewer borders
  5. Don’t blow up icons that are meant to be small
  6. Use accent borders to add color to a bland design
  7. Not every button needs a background color

If you notice, I highlighted #4. That is because I was shocked as to how much cleaner you can make an application by removing borders. I tried it at work and for my personal projects and the results were just great.

Here on my blog I never really had borders, so it was already decent, but I now I see why this is.

Its already 2018 and our standards keep evolving, so good design is no longer a feature, is a requirement.

Mt Fuji sunrise

Japan 2017 – 2018

January 9th, 2018

Its been over 2 years since I was last in Japan, and I find myself there yet again. This time I went Kyoto, Kanazawa, Shirakawago, Mt Fuji and Tokyo. The majority of the trip was to meet up with friends and to take photos of Shirakawago and Mt Fuji. But of course being the otaku that I am, comiket was also on the list.

Day 1 – 24th – Kyoto + Osaka

The first few days I spent in Kyoto and Osaka. I met up with my old friend Kosuke, who took me around famous anime locations in Kyoto. These included and were not limited to: KyoAni shop, Shimogamo Shrine, Kamogawa river delta and Demachi shopping arcade. In the evening of the same day, I went to Osaka to have dinner with Tsujikawa-sensei, my teacher from Arc Academy, which I went to in 2010. We have a pleasant catch up and chat in a local izakaya (bar) on Christmas eve.

Day 2 – 25th – Kyoto: Arashiyama & Gion

Next morning Amy and I set out to the shopping areas around Gion and Nishiki markets. Then we went to Arashiyama, the famous bamboo forest and the surrounding temples. After lunch we headed back to Gion to visit the Gesha district. That was a very beautiful location and I managed to take a lot of great photos there.

Day 3 – 26th – Kanazawa + Shirakawago

On the next day, at 6:50am we set out to Kanazawa. There we visited the old chaya (tea houses) and walked around their fish markets. In comparison to Kyoto the weather in Kanazawa was worse. It started hailing at one point. But nevertheless, we broke through the winds and hail and got back to the station to catch our bus to Shirakawago. I was praying that there would be snow when we got there, but I wasn’t ready for what we saw. We drove right into a snow storm. There was a good half a meter of snow at Shirakawago, and it just kept falling. Thankfully there was no wind, so it was very pleasant. Unfortunately due to the snow, I wasn’t able to get any good shots of the area, as it was just too snowy. Another great thing about Shirakawago was the onsen. Onsen are my favourite thing about Japan, and I am so glad I got to bathe in them again. Since we were staying in a ryokan (japanese style inn), we got treated to delicious food and drinks for both dinner and breakfast.

Day 4 – 27th – Shirakawago → Tokyo

The next morning, after another hot bath in the onsen, we set out on a long trip to Mt Fuji. 1hr bus ride to Kanazawa, 2hr shinkansen to Tokyo, 2.5hr express train to Mt Fuji. When we finally reached the town, it was already sunset and very very cold. If in Shirakawago it was snowing and about -2°, in Mt Fuji it was really windy and -7°.

Day 5 – 28th -Mt Fuji + Tokyo

In the morning I set out for the first proper sunrise photo shoot during this whole trip. It was gorgeous. Mt Fuji lit up in red and then yellow. Even though there was no sun, it wasn’t too cold as I had 4 layers of clothes on; just like during my photography trip to New Zealand. Once the sun rose, and the transport started running again, we took a cable car up atop a nearby mountain to get some shots of Mt Fuji and the town from up top. Then we went to one of the most famous locations in all of japan the Chureito Pagoda. Because it was so beautiful up there, we staying a bit too long and almost missed our train to Tokyo. In the evening Amy and I went to a butler cafe in Ikebukuro called Swallowtail.

Day 6 – 29th – Comiket

Early morning, lots of lines… Thats what comiket is all about, right? Being back in the otaku scene was great, but unfortunately it has changed quite a bit since I last came. There is a lot more focus on gaming these days and less on anime. I did buy some goods, but not many. At the end of the day, I got sick and could barely move. But first I had to go to meet up with my friends from Kagoshima, who are all working in Tokyo right now. It was a great night, but would’ve been a lot better if I wasn’t sick.

Day 7 – 30th – Sick day

Tried to go to Tsukiji markets to buy knives in the morning. Bought some, but then realised how sick I felt and went back to the apartment. Then just spent the whole day sick in bed with a 38° fever 🙁

Day 8 – 31st – Shopping & NYE

Fever gone, time to go shopping. Literally spent the whole day running between Tsukiji, Ginza, Tokyo, Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Akihabara and back to Kinshichou, where we were staying. Had steak in Akiba for dinner and celebrated the Sydney New Year there as well. Then went back home for the Japanese New Year and took a hot bath. So now I am hoping that I will spend all of 2018 in hot baths (in Russian we have a saying: how you meet the new year, thats how you will spend it).

Day 9 – 1st – Hatsumode and Akiba

By Japanese tradition, on the first day of the year you must visit a shrine and pray to the gods there for luck, fortune, happiness, whatever. So we did that just that. Went to a small shrine in Ueno, threw some yen and prayed. After Amy left for her flight, I went to Akihabara to play games, shop for some cheap anime goods and just enjoy my last few hours in Japan.

 

Thats all folks. I don’t know when the next time I visit Japan will be and where in Japan I will go, but I must definitely go back at some point, I cant stay away from the land of the rising sun.

Photos here:

flickr