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Mozilla Releases Framework for creating WebVR experiences

mozvrThe MozVR team at Mozilla released an open source framework in December 2015 called A-Frame. With A-Frame you’ll be able to create 3D and virtual reality experiences on the web. A-Frame works on desktop, mobile and the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset. Through the combination of HTML and javascript, this framework allows web developers to create Virtual Reality websites.

The examples on their website are reminiscent of the look of Second Life. For text based websites it doesn’t make much sense to create a VR website. E-commerce websites that sell clothing, vehicles or basically any type of product could present their product to both regular web users and VR users. This type of presentation could give users a great 360 degree view of a company’s product. This could be a very useful tool for the real estate industry, imagine taking a virtual reality tour through a home. There are companies developing VR experiences for Real Estate, but they are in their early stages of development.

It’s interesting to think about possible hybrid websites that could have an experience for regular website visitors and then a option for a more enhanced VR experience for the Virtual Reality crowd.

A-Frame works only with Firefox or Chrome currently.

When viewing on a mobile device, move your phone to look around or touch and drag to change your view.

Click here to view A-Frame MozVR examples.

Visit the A-Frame website for more information.

 

Keeping sane while dealing with crazy website clients

keeping-sane2You are about to read about some of the crazy things a web designer must do on the path to launching a website for their clients. First thing you must understand is that a web designer often is expected to read the minds of their clients. Clients often don’t know what they want, only that they want to be on the first page of Google search results within a very short length of time. Some clients may think that if they have a website that the money will just start rolling in. Sorry folks, it doesn’t work that way. 

Logos that came from the far side

One of the most challenging aspects of being a web designer is when a client brings you a logo that appears to have been created in Microsoft Paint and was created by the client. They have it plastered all over their business cards and they love the logo. As the web designer you’re already behind the 8-ball. You try to be subtle and suggest that it might be time for a refresh of their logo (to bring it into this century). You even offer to design a new logo for them (always charge a client for creating a logo). More often than not you must bite your tongue and create a website design around the logo. The requires you to make the other 95% of the website look amazing and hopefully detract from the logo in any way possible. The logos that originated as clip art are especially the worst, they show that very little time was spent on creating a logo. If only clients would trust us when we suggest that it might be time for re-branding and a fresh look and feel for their logo/branding. We are just trying to help them. And whatever you do, please do not use Comic Sans as a font in a logo.

Attack of the 50 foot Business Owner

Sometimes you’ll have a client that for some unknown reason wants themselves to appear very large on their homepage in front of a skyline or some scenic location. This breaks all the rules of proportion in design. No one should ever look like the radioactive 50 foot business owner that is taller than buildings and ready to go head to head with Godzilla. It’s a design trend that should be banished from existence. Unfortunately, the 50 foot business owner is still known to roam in the wild.

We need a website that Pops!

This is probably one of the most requested features that web designers get from clients. The funny thing is that there is no way for us to determine or define what makes a website pop! Is it the very large tag line at the top of the website? Is it a specific color scheme that is brighter than a neon sign? Or the wonderful wallpaper background that has a tacky repeating pattern? While all of these will get a consumers attention, they won’t get the right attention. A well balanced, carefully crafted website design that follows the tried and true principles of design is what makes sites pop or should I say…stand out from the rest.

Can you get my website on the first page of a Google’s search results when the site launches?

One thing that clients don’t understand is that getting good SEO (search engine optimization) is something that can take years to get right. They don’t realize that they must find their target audience and create marketing content that speaks to that audience. I’m always surprised that many business owners don’t realize that their website is just one part of their marketing plan (some clients don’t even have a marketing plan). While SEO for their website is important, even more important is original content on their website. You can build a website and do all of the right things to get the SEO for a website right and still not get traffic. Clients don’t realize it’s what you do after the website is built and the continuation of connecting with consumers through social media and off-line marketing is what will hopefully drive customers to their website. There is no replacement for communicating with their audience whether it is through a blog or a Youtube video. Customers want to know more about the business owner on a more personal level and feel like they have a connection with them. Then the client will see traffic to their site rise as the business owner becomes a trusted resource.

I like the website you’ve built but I have a few changes and tweaks.

So you’ve finished a masterpiece for the client and think it looks great. The time has come to show it to your client. They reply with a dozen changes. You try to persuade them to not use a bright and obnoxious color in the header of their site. But the client knows what he wants and wants the changes made. You spend time basically destroying and de-constructing your masterpiece and then present them the website with their changes completed. They don’t like the site design. You then receive an email saying they found a website that they think looks great and they want their website to look just like that million dollar website they’ve found. You kindly remind them that it might be time to re-quote them on the price of their website (might be time to add a few zeros to the end of their quote). They reply that they want to use your original design after all. (if only they would trust their web designer in the first place!).

Can you build a website for us ASAP?… We need it to be ready for an event that we are sponsoring within a few days and our new website address is all over our marketing materials.

This shows lack of planning on the website clients part. I’ve run into this multiple times and it is stressful for both the web designer and the client. Please think ahead and realize that if you want a website done right, don’t leave it as the last thing on your list of things to do when preparing for an upcoming event. The end product will be a rushed project that will only be as good as the time available. Web designers can do some amazing designs in a short time but we aren’t miracle workers. We like to think through a website design and not rush to meet a client’s predefined deadline (that took no consideration into the time it takes to build a website).

Can you write content for our website?

So… not only do clients want web designers to design their website but they also sometimes want us to be copy writers for the content on their website. While it’s one thing to maybe do some minor editing of content, to write content for the client will hardly ever work out. As the designer you aren’t an expert in the client’s field of business, so please stick to what you are good at…..web design.

Designing websites for clients can feel like an exercise in futility but occasionally you’ll have great clients that make it worth your time and effort. Keep calm and web design….

Do you have any client horror stories to share? Please post them in the comments.

Sherlock TV Series Review – Watch and you’ll be addicted

sherlock-tv-seriesSherlock is a modern retelling of the classic stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Each episode of the series feels like you are watching a movie. The show’s stars are Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Doctor John Watson. Only 10 episodes of the series have been produced so far. Each season contains 3 episodes, each one clocking in at 90 minutes. The unique take on a modern day Sherlock Holmes has been expertly executed. Seeing modern technology used in the story lines give the show a modern feel and help you connect with these characters on a whole new level. You must give this show a look, you will get hooked and probably binge watch all 10 episodes. Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant as Sherlock Holmes. He captures the high intelligence and enigmatic quality of the character very well. Benedict Cumberbatch read every Sherlock Holmes story in preparation for his role as Sherlock. Martin Freeman is great as Watson and is the perfect counterpoint to Sherlock.

If you watch just one episode of Sherlock you’ll be addicted and have to watch the next episode. This show tops my list of the best TV Series ever.

You can catch up on Sherlock by watching the show on Netflix. Click here to learn more about the show.

Series 4 of the show is filming in April 2016 and will debut in 2017.

Watch the Trailer for Season 1 below:

Tech News Time Capsule 3-19 thru 3-25-16

Recap of this week’s Tech News:

3.19.16A Revolution in Footwear. Protocell self-repairing shoes!

protocell-shoes-concept

3.21.16New Bionic Fingertip Allows Amputees to Regain the Sense of Touch

bionic-touch

3.21.16FBI backs off Apple, finds another way into iPhone 5c

iphone

3.22.16 – Streaming is now the US music industry’s biggest money maker

simple-forces
Image via Simple Forces Soundcloud.com Page

3.22.168tracks.com is raising a $30 million crowdfunding round

8tracks

3.22.16Is HoloLens the future of watching football?

hololens-football-on-table-view

3.22.16 Five Ways Virtual Reality Is Reshaping Industries

Oculus-Rift-5-resized

3.23.16 Youtube.com Launching Live-Streaming App to Take on Facebook Live, Periscope

youtube-streaming

3.23.16 Israeli cybersecurity firm, Cellebrite is linked to the FBI’s iPhone hack attempt 

cellebrite

3.25.16 Human-made bacteria has the tiniest genome ever

synthetic-bacteria-j-craig-venter-institute
Image: J. Craig Venter Institute

 

Is HoloLens the future of watching football?

hololens-watching-football-example Microsoft and the NFL are envisioning the future of watching football. A concept video was created to show the possibilities of using the Microsoft HoloLens headset as a new way of watching the big game. In the video HoloLens users are able to individually bring up stats on players and can watch a full wall view of the game that extends out beyond the edges of your television. If you want stats on a specific player, it would be available at your fingertips. Using real world objects as surfaces upon which users can see holographic images, and interact with those images, is how HoloLens augments your reality. This is the closest thing we are going to get to experiencing Star Trek’s Holodeck (at least in my lifetime). The possibilities for this technology are seemingly endless. If they were to create a 360 degree view of a live game, you might even feel like you were at the game. Watching all the action from the comfort of your own home.

How is HoloLens different than Virtual Reality?

Microsoft HoloLens spans realities.
HoloLens embraces virtual reality and augmented reality to create a new reality—mixed reality. Virtual reality immerses you in a simulated world. Augmented reality overlays digital information on top of your real world. By understanding your environment, mixed reality enables holograms to look and sound like they’re part of your world. (explanation courtesy of the HoloLens website)

The first development versions of the HoloLens headsets ship on March 30, 2016 to developers for a $3,000 price tag. The release date of a HoloLens headset for consumers has not been announced yet.

The big game is getting a whole lot bigger. Are you excited for the arrival of HoloLens?

Watch the Future of Football HoloLens Concept Video:

Click here for more information on Microsoft HoloLens

X-Files Season 10 Review

Image ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.  Cr:  Frank Ockenfels/FOX
Image ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Frank Ockenfels/FOX

The 6 episode return of the X-Files was an interesting mix of UFO’s, monsters and telekinesis. I’ve watched almost all of the episodes of the first 9 seasons of the X-Files and it was great to see our old friends Mulder and Scully pick up right where they left off. Season 10 delivered on the best conspiracy theories, those involving UFO’s and government cover-ups. There was a monster episode that was more comical than serious, but that is the nature of the X-Files, you can always expect variety. The strongest episodes were the first and last episodes of Season 10. I won’t spoil the plot lines for you…you should watch the series on demand on Amazon.

The last of the 6 episodes did end in classic fashion with a cliffhanger and leaves me wanting more X-Files!

Watch the trailer for Season 10:

Watch Trailer for Stars Wars Trials on Tatooine VR Game

stars-wars-trials-on-tatooine-trailer-image
Image courtesy of Starwars.com

Lusasfilm unveils a trailer for the new Trials on Tatooine virtual reality game. In the game you are a hopeful padawan heading to Tatooine to be trained by Luke Skywalker. Luke is rebuilding the Jedi order, so this game takes place in the time between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. The game is currently in development and a release date has not been announced. I wonder if 5 to 10 years from now, will we see a Star Wars movie filmed using Virtual Reality cameras? It seems like the next logical advancement in movie experiences. For now though stepping inside the world of Star Wars looks to be a very cool experience. Click here to read an interview with the game’s designers.

Watch the Trailer:

How to revive an old Windows laptop using Ubuntu

ubuntuMy Dell Vostro 1500 laptop is about 8 years old and for awhile it’s been becoming almost unusable. It still had Windows XP installed on it. Chrome was installed as the browser, but even Chrome was showing a message that there would no longer be updates to the browser because of XP. This was no surprise to me since Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows XP. So I decided it was time to try installing a Linux based operating system and Ubuntu looked like the best option. There were many steps in getting things ready for installation.

Step 1: Back up files

Over 8 years I had piled up about 20 gigabytes of data that I wanted to save. This part actually took the longest. For some reason XP did not want to save these files to a USB drive and also would not burn to a DVD-RW disc. Luckily, I had an external drive ready to go and so I proceeded to copy over 20gigs of data to the external drive. It seemed to take forever but after about 2 hours my data was safely on the external drive.

Step 2: Burn a copy of the Ubuntu Installation disc

On another PC I burned a copy of the installation file onto a DVD-RW disc, but the first time I didn’t realize you have to choose the option “Burn Disc Image”. (more info on how to do this). I had chosen the 32-bit version because of the age of my computer and the fact that I only have 2 gigs of RAM.

Step 3: Change BIOS boot order

To install Ubuntu it must boot from either a usb stick or DVD disc, I had chosen the DVD option so I had to edit the boot order. When I rebooted my computer, I hit “F12” very quickly to enter BIOS setup. I found the boot sequence and changed my DVD drive to be the first device to boot on start up. (more in-depth installation guide here).

Step 4: Place Installation disc into DVD drive and boot up computer and cross your fingers.

It was finally time for me to cross my fingers and hope that Ubuntu would install correctly. The Ubuntu installation screen appeared and I was off and running. I first had to connect directly via a wired LAN connection because Wireless wasn’t setup. I then proceeded to the next step.

Step 5: Install Ubuntu and choose to eradicate Windows XP from my laptop

This was the satisfying part of the process. I chose to wipe out any evidence of XP and have a clean install of Ubuntu. The installation took about 45 minutes. Quick and painless.

Step 6: Install extra programs

I installed Gimp for photo editing and VLC Media Player to watch DVDs and other multimedia. This was all very convenient to install using the builtin Ubuntu Software Center. An open source version of Office called LibreOffice was pre-installed upon installation of Ubuntu. Firefox comes pre-installed for the browser and works great.

Conclusion

The old laptop has new life and is working like a brand new laptop. Ubuntu is proving to be the perfect OS for those that need a lightweight but powerful operating system. Why did I wait so long to install Ubuntu? I’ve made the jump and I’m very pleased with the outcome.

For more information on Ubuntu, please visit their website.

Astronomers believe Planet X will be found within 5 years

planet-x
Artist rendering. Source: Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

A planet the size of Neptune lurks out in the outer most regions of our solar system. It is so far away that it takes 15,000 years to make one trip around our sun. The planet also has a very unusual elliptical orbit. The search for Planet X is not anything new. In 1906, Percival Lowell began a search for a missing planet which he called “Planet X”. You may wonder why Hubble hasn’t seen the planet, the reason for this is because Hubble has a tiny field of view. So looking for the planet is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Currently, astronomers are searching for Planet X using the 8-meter Subaru telescope which is located in Hawaii. This telescope has a large field of view and can capture very faint objects.  They believe the planet will be found within the next 5 years. Click here to read more information on the search for Planet X.

Watch the video below to learn more about Planet X:

How to promote your music online and reach your audience

Online MusicThe challenge most musicians have is promoting their music effectively. There are many social media networks and websites to upload your music but which services are most effective in getting your music heard?

The answer is that you must have a plan of releasing your music that actually reflects the classic way music has been released and promoted in the past. 

The old music model, that has been used for signed artists over the last 50 years, basically had a formula for promotion that seems to have been forgotten by many musicians. Artists would release a few singles and then announce a release date for the full album. There was a marketing push that included interviews, videos and press releases about the upcoming tour or local gigs that would follow the release of an album. 

Well, times have changed. Now everyone can immediately release an album very quickly and push their latest musical creation out into the world and hope someone is listening. This is the first mistake that many artists make. You must first create hype around your new music and release it as singles….just like the old days.

New Music Model for Album Releases:

Release Singles:
Release one single per month on Soundcloud.com to grow your audience. You will want to offer music blogs the exclusive first announcement and first release of the single on their blog (usually done by sharing the song via Soundcloud for the release). Music blogs like to be the first to find that new hit song that might go viral. Music bloggers and podcasts are like the Radio DJ’s of the past.

It’s all about building hype for your new music. 

Everyone has a short attention span, so releasing one song a month keeps the listeners engaged. Even after the album is released, continue with the once a month single release model to make sure to keep the audience hooked.

Announce a single’s release on Soundcloud to your twitter followers and other social networks such as Instagram. This will help get the word out. Instagram is great way to share those behind the scenes moments captured in photos. And people love to see glimpses into the creative process.

Marketing your music
There is a site called Feature.fm that allows you to pay to get your music targeted to specific demographics of listeners on a streaming website called www.8tracks.com. This will help cast a wide net to capture the ears of potential listeners.

Information about www.8tracks.com (courtesy of feature.fm):
Reach: 9,000,000 people
8tracks is one of the most popular radio streaming services in the world with over 9 million listeners across all genres who are considered music trendsetters. Because 8tracks is based on human curated mixes, your songs can be added to playlists for everyone to hear.

This is a very effective way to get people to actually listen to your music. The music gets placed into 8tracks.com playlists and you can use the url of your Soundcloud song as the track that is streamed. This means you get heard on 8tracks.com and get qualified streams on Soundcloud!  

According to feature.fm’s website, if you have a budget of $100 you can get 4,000 listens. This may be true but you have to target the right demographic to get the right audience for your music.  While promoting the release of Earthbound, the latest album from my brother Chuck Cote (a music project called Simple Forces), he used feature.fm to see which songs worked best with specific age groups and demographics. It was very interesting to see which songs got the most plays and to see the break-down of the demographics. The one thing that is lacking with feature.fm right now is that it needs more streaming partners. I do think it is a great way to get immediate listeners on 8tracks.com and I look forward to seeing the progress feature.fm makes towards getting more streaming services on-board.

So, now you know how to get your music heard. The challenge is deciding on a release date for the full album. 

If you take a look at the movie industry, they release the movie in theaters (this is comparable to releasing a single on radio). Then after a few months the movie releases on DVD/Blu-ray or on-demand rental (compare this to releasing CD’s and getting your music on iTunes for digital downloads) and then a few months later it is available for rental through kiosks like Redbox. Then months or sometimes years after that, movies stream on Netflix (this is comparable to Spotify in terms of the “all you can listen to” business model for a monthly recurring charge).

Step by Step process to follow:

  1. Release Singles once per month on Soundcloud (remember to start connecting with music bloggers to give them the option of getting to be the first blog to release the single and do cross promotion on twitter announcing the single).
  2. Use feature.fm to get people to actually listen to the songs.
  3. Announce release date of album on your band’s website and through social media.
  4. Attempt to do interviews on podcasts and music blogs. If you have the time, produce a lyric video to accompany the single.
  5. Release full album on iTunes and other digital streaming partners. (Streaming basically is the new form of radio). It would be wise to release at least 3 singles before publishing the full album to digital distribution.
  6. Rinse and Repeat.

So how do you make money in this new music model? It all comes back to performing in front of an audience in live gigs and tours (and possibly online gigs) if you’ve grown a big enough audience. The real money is to be made with selling merchandise at shows.  It all depends on whether or not you took the time to grow that fan base and find those die-hard fans that will come out to see your live shows and buy all the merchandise you have to offer them.

It will be interesting to see if live streaming concerts and the beginning of virtual reality concerts will help smaller bands to reach wider audiences (only time will tell).

I’m currently in the process of writing and recording music with the Reverse Engineers and we will be experimenting with the subscription model introduced by bandcamp.com (click here for more info about offering subscription services through Bandcamp). This is a relatively new music model, I will follow up with another blog post at a later date to share information on whether or not the subscription model is working for us. 

I’ve detailed just a few ways on how you can promote your music online. Just remember on taking time to focus on writing great music first and then have the courage and drive to get the world to hear it!

 

 

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