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Techlife » Sports and Recreation

Sports and Recreation

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Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Raise your hand if you love, absolutely love “Calvin and Hobbes” the comic strip created by Bill Watterson which ran from 1985 to 1995? Now those of you with your hands up, keep them up if you even marginally like your computer. What about when it doesn’t do what you expect? I’m not surprised how many hands went down. “Calvin and Hobbes” and your digital devices tap into emotional centers in our brain. It’s the emotion that ties us to people, places, and events.

Bill Watterson has taken a page from W.P. Kinsella’s portrayal of JD Salinger in “Shoeless Joe”. He’s near invisible publicly. Bill has been private, very private, since he retired his beloved best friend philosophers. In a connected world that’s a lot harder, so you might assume Bill isn’t connected at all. As Techlife recently learned, he may not love technology but he effectively uses email to shield himself but stay connected on his terms.

Bill apparently turned down a call from Steven Spielberg inquiring about making a feature length “Calvin and Hobbes” film. But apparently an email  from the famed director might have gotten through. How do we know? Because self-deprecating Stephan Pastis, himself a comic strip artist of  “Pearls Before Swine” and author tells the story of what happened when he emailed Bill and the story is amazing. (A must read!)

In short, he emailed Bill who shocked Stephan with the fact he was a reader and fan of “Pearls Before Swine”. He went on to astound Stephan  saying he had some strip ideas he wanted to ask him about.  The result was a collaboration, in secret, of three strips of “Pearls Before Swine”. And yes readers, this is real. After nearly 20 years of silence we were treated to three strips full of humor and art in true Bill-like fashion.

Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis with special guest Bill Watterson

The best part for Techlife readers. Bill struggles with the same technology foibles we all do. Stephan recounts working together over distance was a challenge as Bill doesn’t like scanners or Photoshop or even large email attachments. Stephan admits the joy in helping Bill over email with tech support we can’t claim to be so lucky. The novelty for Stephan even might soon wear off if the requests keep coming.

Without getting cute and suggesting Bill draw himself out of the problem or use a cardboard box he converts to a Transmogrifier. What should a private person do when they aren’t going to use social media to ask for help or don’t want to ask the neighbor girl who’s a wiz and they aren’t even a world famous beloved recluse? You need your go-to, the internet. Bill could lurk in a forum or chatroom. He could use an alias such  as Susie Derkins or Miss Wormwood. Safe behind his avatar he can ask the world, how he might go about hooking up a wireless scanner to his computer or what service is best for those extra large attachments all while remaining his private self. For all I know maybe Bill reads Techlife and is just looking for this invitation.

Dear Spaceman Spiff,

Please share with me the terrestrial mundane issues you face while navigating your home world. Is it the laconic lexicon of texting or the subject of the simple smartphone? While we can’t claim to provide answers as interesting as your immersive imagination, we’ll do our best to provide you with the weapon of knowledge to fight the ferocious forces of technology.

Techlife of the Planet Earth

BILL WATTERSON: A cartoonist’s advice by Zen Pencils

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Tic Tactics Game Play

Every kid’s menu at every restaurant that provides them always includes a few games of Tic-Tac-Toe. It’s a staple. It’s simple. And it’s why you are about to be addicted to an updated classic game. Techlife has been heads down testing Tic Tactics by Hidden Variable Studios to ensure our readers would fall in love. Ok, who are we kidding we have been playing games all in the name of fun.


Tic Tactics takes the game we all know and adds just enough complexity that adults and kids alike can play and discover what’s old is new again. Tic Tactics is a multi-player, free game for both Android and iOS. The game starts with what looks like a big Tic-Tac-Toe board, a 3×3 grid. Looking closer each square of the board is subdivided again into another 3×3 Tic-Tac-Toe board, providing a total of nine little games of Tic-Tac-Toe that make up the big board. The goal is simple, get three in a row in any direction of the big board to win.

How To Play Tic Tactics

Each player at the start of the game places nine of their X’s or O’s spread among the board. Tic Tactics won’t allow a user to complete a line in this initial setup phase, by taking away squares as you place each of your symbols. After both players have placed their initial moves, X goes first.

Each player then alternates playing a piece. The strategy is that each move impacts the full big board. When you place a piece the location corresponds to the placement of the next piece by your opponent. Place a piece in any of the  little boards’ upper right corners and the next move made by your opponent will be in the upper right corner little board.

Once a user does play three in a row on any little board they own that square on the big board. Getting three in a row on the big board wins you the game.

Tic Tactics You Won

Tic Tactics Strategy

My first time playing I had some questions and Techlife’s strategy section should help new users as well as experienced players. What happens if a little board has a “cat’s game” or a draw? If the last piece of a little board is played (9 in total) and the board is a draw, both players get to claim that board as a wildcard toward the goal of three in a row on the big board. This can include winning someone the big board.

Just because a little board is claimed, the empty squares on the little board are still in play, but they hurt you. A lot. Avoid getting into a situation where your opponent keeps forcing you to play in a little board that has already been won.

Each little board has one square that when played makes the next play on that same little board. Use these squares wisely, both on offense and on defense.

Giving up a little board isnt’ a bad thing. Be willing to sacrifice a little board.

When you start Tic Tactics you will notice your rating is 1500. This is because the game uses the Elo rating system. This system, invented by Arpad Elo allows the Tic Tactics server to try and set up fair matches between random players. Tic Tactics users can click on the person they are playing against to get a full game stats biography.

Keep your battery charged as you won’t want to put this game down.

Tic Tactics User Profile

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Settlers beats Smartphones by Dave Kaufman

Settlers beats Smartphones by Dave Kaufman

Put down that phone, I’m talking to you.”

“Can I get a moment of time when you aren’t on that thing?”

“Look at all of us, out together, but on our smartphones. So funny…and sad.”


“I Forgot My Phone” by Charlene deGuzman

It won’t solve all of these problems but Techlife accidentally discovered a secret. Come closer, I don’t want this one getting out. Are you ready? If you find something that is engaging from start to finish people will stay engaged. Are you saying to yourself, “Not a secret, I already knew that.” Sure you did.

Today’s television dramas are all about your second screen experience. Live sporting events and rock concerts are all about telling people you are there and then looking up stats or recording your favorite song or texting the big screen. Even driving which should be engaging as YOUR LIFE (much less the lives of others) is on the line is still losing.  The smartphone wins the attention war.

“Aha!” says the detective in you, “Theater, as in the title of the column is a place where I can’t use my phone.  Be it a movie, play, opera or musical all of them request you to not just refrain from using them but to turn off the devices too.” True and most people follow these rules, but not by choice. They have to be told. Over and over.

In a crude experiment, I have discovered a form of entertainment that has people voluntarily not using their smartphones, a board game.

Settlers of Catan

I happened upon the secret while playing many, many games of Settlers of Catan. Unlike Risk or Monopoly or their popular brethren “Settlers” as it is known, is an intriguing game where the board is different each and every game. By using two randomizing elements; first movable hexagons and secondly assigning them numbers during setup, the board is unique each game. In addition while the goal of the game is a race to ten points, the multitude of combinations to achieve the goal means each player is using a different approach which changes each game.

The other part, the part that is the secret is this game uses an open outcry market. In other words there is a lot of vocal trading between players each round. The result is players stay fully engaged for the entire game. “I’m a born multi-tasker,” you might be saying thinking you can play Settlers and compose an email. Maybe something simple. But you can’t jump headfirst into your smartphone for the length of the Settlers of Catan game and expect to do well. You will miss trade opportunities and subtle shifts in strategy.

Field Research Results

In early field tests, 26 different people ranging from age 6 to 68 made up of 15 males and 11 females were observed during game play. Each person played at least two games with a small group playing more than 30 games and while smartphones may have been on the table or glanced at for an incoming text, only during one game did two people try to multi-task. In all other cases the players were fully engaged and 100% focused.

Techlife’s conclusion, more testing should be done. Everyone who reads this should join the experiment team. Run your own tests. Silently observe your friends and family. Can you find other ways to voluntarily engage people while they forget their smartphones for a little while? Share your secrets, we all will thank you.


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Imagine gripping your handlebars tight, gunning the engine, shifting your weight while hanging on during a forward full flip of you and your motor bike all from the comfort and safety of your mobile.


Turning back the clock to your earliest days with a Nintendo Entertainment System you may recall the classic Excitebike and exclaim, except for the flips you remember that game. Then long time fans of Techlife may recall the physics based builder Line Rider where you guide a rider and sled over a hand drawn course. It wasn’t a game as much as a chance to build your own track.

Then we have our faithful readers, you lovers of the mash-up bring us a motorbike-riding physics-based simple-line-track with user created levels and multi-player cross-platform experience. (Let’s let the rider race over the hyphens in that last sentence). How does it work? Addictivley well.

How to Play Bike Race

Visit your favorite app store and download Bike Race. Level 1 is a simple tutorial which explains the right side of the screen is “go” and the left side of the screen is “stop”. The game forgoes actual visible control elements but you shouldn’t need them. The game uses the accelerometer. Tilting left while on the ground pops the bike into a wheelie. Tilting left while in the air the rider and bike perform a backflip and tilting forward does a front flip.

You progress through each level as a time trial. Complete the level more quickly to earn the maximum three stars. Just after starting I got an invite from the loyal reader to play them in a multi-player match. Multi-player is a turn-based style game awarding you a win if you beat your opponent in head to head match of a single race. While you wait for them to race you can race other people or continue the single player racing.

Like Line Rider and the grand daddy Excitebike, Bike Race offers a track creator for those who want to build their own. Bike Race will take care of sharing them in the game and let others play your levels too. It gets addicting quickly so be careful that you have a few hours to kill before you try and build your masterpiece.

Thanks as always to the greatest readers for finding some real amazing things. We had quite a little struggle this month as reader suggestions came pouring in and made the job of curating just one a tough chore. Send those small ideas, fun things, and creativity to techlife at dkworldwide dot com.



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ISS  - International Space Station

“There are people up there? Real people? How did they get there? What do they eat?” and of course “How do they go to the bathroom?” These were the questions that came up the first night we went out to see the International Space Station (ISS).

Space is  a vast place that is hard to comprehend. You see stars but are told the light you are seeing is from years ago. Perplexing. Some stars we see today on Earth have not been around for millions of years. Head scratcher. Jupiter the largest planet in our solar system  is just a “bright star” as seen from Earth, but it really is more than 300 times the mass of Earth. Whoa.

Humans have long been fascinated by space travel. Children and adults often list astronaut as a career they would like to have when they grow up. One thing that brings the vastness of space a bit closer is to experience it.

Best Reader’s On The Planet

See what I did there? I said it because it is true. Techlife’s readers ask and inquire about many things. One reader loves the photos from NASA and sends amazing images every so often. A few months back the reader over some information about the ISS. I was busy and didn’t think much about it. But I bookmarked it for reading later. Turns out it was a chance to see the ISS from anywhere on Earth.

The International Space Station is third brightest object in space as seen from Earth after the sun and moon. The difference is that it isn’t found in a fixed area in the sky so the only way to see it is to know where and when to look.  NASA offers up “Spot the Station” a website for just that.

How do I see the ISS?

There are a few key facts to understanding the ISS and Spot the Station. First off the ISS orbits the Earth at an inclination of 51.6 degrees.  The ISS never travels past 51.6 degrees latitude north or south of the equator, so Techlife readers in Alaska won’t see it directly over-head.

To be notified you visit Spot the Station and sign up for either an email or text message notification which is based on the location you provide. It appears any country, state/region and city work across the globe. Then you wait.

The cryptic message delivered from Spot the Station looks like:

“ SpotTheStation! Time: Wed Jan 30 6:45 PM, Visible: 2 min, Max Height: 64 degrees, Appears: WSW, Disappears NE. ”

The quick breakdown of this message is the time is based on your timezone. A cool aspect is that messages will always be for just after sunset or before sunrise by no more than a few hours. This is the best time to catch the sun reflecting off the space station and provides an easy to find object in the dark sky.

NASA ISS Spot the Station Diagram


As the ISS is orbiting the earth it appears from below the horizon and then disappears back below the horizon. The visibility provides you with the length of time it will be easily seen. The longest I have seen is six minutes, but it was a cloudy overcast night that evening.

Spot the Station provides the maximum height in degrees, which combined with where it will appear and disappear gives you a viewing path to find the ISS. A simple hint, the horizon is zero degrees and straight above you is ninety degrees. I bisected those two spots to find the approximate 45 degree mark which helped. Also the letters of where it will appear and disappear relate to a compass markings.

What am I looking for?

The ISS is a small dot since it is more than 200 miles from the surface of the Earth. Seen with the naked eye it appears to be a shooting star. It moves pretty fast and evenly like an airplane. Mission Control calculates 4,600 sighting locations and suggests picking a nearby town if yours isn’t listed. Due to how far it is from Earth your location need not be the exact city listed.  Don’t worry if you don’t get notified for a while. Mission Control only includes what they consider “good” sighting opportunities. This means you might go a few weeks without getting notified.

It’s a great family or co-worker event opportunity and a great chance to learn more about what they are doing up on the ISS too. Let the ISS staff and Techlife know what you see.

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Super vision. Check. Super plans. Check. Super funded. Check. This is the story of a Chicago designer with the plan to take over the world.

Matt Marrocco and Ryan Stegman

Matt Marrocco and Ryan Stegman

Meet Matt Marrocco, unassuming product designer who raised more than $300,000 in 2012 from people who want to learn to draw. Matt launched the “I DRAW ____” series first with the successful book “I DRAW CARS” and then in his second product he donned a cape, mask and ignited the world of crowd funding with the book “I DRAW COMICS Sketchbook & Reference Guide”. Matt used Kickstarter, a platform for raising money for projects. Tefchlife caught up with Matt right after his amazing project was successfully funded. He was changing into his super hero costume , but we both averted our eyes after all we are both professionals.

I DRAW COMICS book exterior

Techlife: Hours ago you just closed a successful round of funding for your book project “I DRAW COMICS.” The goal was $10,000 and due to the help of more than 6,400 people ended up raising more than $245,000 on Kickstarter. How do you feel?

Matt Marrocco: Honestly, a little overwhelmed.  If I hadn’t done a Kickstarter already I think I’d be freaking out.  It’s a lot to manage – keeping in communication with all of the pledgers, solving the myriad unique shipping and logistics issues and making sure everyone is happy.  All that aside from the most important goal – successfully delivering on your promise and shipping product.

TL:  Let’s rewind a bit; the project launched August 19, 2012 and ran for just 30 days. How far in advance did the planning for “I DRAW COMICS” start?

MM: Conversations with Ryan (Stegman) and my manufacturer began late last year, I believe.  I was still handling some issues with the I DRAW CARS stuff that needed a lot of attention; once that was all ironed out I was able to focus on a new creative endeavor.

TL:  Previously you successfully launched  “I DRAW CARS” on Kickstarter as your first project. It ran for 30 days raising more than $55,000 from more than 1,400 people. What made you choose Kickstarter?

MM: Kickstarter seemed new and exciting – crowd funding in general is still in it’s nascent stages and has HUGE potential.  I think when I saw how successful the Lunatik watch project by MNML was, I just wanted to do that.  I wanted to make a thing that people wanted and deliver it to them.  Period.  To go through the entire process from the very front end ideation phase, to then physically fulfilling orders at the end of the Kickstarter was an incredibly educational experience.  And yes, fun.

TL:  How is “I DRAW CARS” doing outside of Kickstarter?

MM: Great!  We’re always being picked up in more and more schools, and always fulfilling orders.  My wife has become our marketing/sales/fulfillment department full-time!  So I guess she’s going to be busier with the “COMICS” book now.  Maybe she’ll need an intern?

I DRAW COMICS inside the book

TL:  Did you ever consider a traditional publisher when you first started or is the goal to build your own publishing empire?

MM: I never had visions of starting a publishing empire – I just wanted to see what it takes to get a book made and ship it.  It has been a great education going through that process, but I don’t know whether that means I want to be a publishing house.  We’ll see.

TL:  Have you been contacted by publishers now?

MM: We have, yes.  It’s something we have to think about – no plans yet.  We will be sending samples to many of them once we have product in hand.

TL:  How did “I DRAW CARS” do as “I DRAW COMICS” campaign began gaining momentum?

MM: Well naturally with more exposure, the other products under the “I DRAW” umbrella have had a decent uptick in sales.  There are also many pledgers who have added a “CARS” book to their “COMICS” pledge – something we encouraged from the beginning.

I DRAW COMICS story lessons

TL:  Have you had an celebrity backers for either project?

MM: One notable celebrity for the Comics project was author Joe Hill. My wife and I were peeked when he took notice and pledged. I think she cried a little.  Many well-known artists and designers have pledged for both – hard to name all of them.

TL:  What was the biggest difference outside of sheer numbers between the two campaigns?

MM: We’ve had a lot less shipping-related questions this time around and I’m not sure if I just worded things better in the campaign, or if it is because there are more American pledgers.  We’ll see when I get the surveys back.

Also, in spite of our big numbers, there was very little blog coverage this time around.  A lot of the blogs I follow are design-related, and think they maybe thought comics just don’t speak to their audience?  In any case, there were a few highly reputable comic blogs that posted it, and any other attention was mostly from twitter and the Kickstarter platform.

TL:  The transparency of raising $300,000 in 2012 must have family and friends asking questions. What’s the most interesting?

MM: HA – my family is happy for us, of course.  People seem to think I’m going to all of sudden quit my job and just start selling books 24/7.  Although that is an attractive proposition, my first love is still product design.  Publishing, sales and branding are hobbies – they do, however, pay me more than my design job.

TL:  While you are making a profit (I hope), what costs are you seeing?

MM: There are costs associated with everything – from running a website, to planning logistics, to order product.  I would say the biggest cost is time.  My wife and I spend an ENORMOUS amount of time discussing projects, product details, timeline, cost, etc.  When I’m not at work, I’m working with her on this brand so any time I get to relax and not think about anything is welcome.  I think we need a vacation.

TL:  Do you see opportunities to streamline the process?

MM: I think getting on board with a publisher could be a step in that direction.  Someone to handle a lot of logistical issues we deal with on a daily basis would be nice.  As well, there are other projects in the pipeline that we’d love to get started.  They require a certain amount of attention, so until we get into the swing of the new product addition we’ll have to hold off on development.

TL:  Did you make any mistakes? If so, what were they?

MM: One big mistake is thinking I can just do everything.  There are some things better left to professionals, so when I can I try to hire those people to do those things.

TL:  What advice would you provide to anyone thinking of using Kickstarter?

MM: 3 things:

TL:  How did  you conceive the the concept of working with an automobile artist and a comic artist for each project?

MM: Hiring a pro to work with me seemed the best way to make the whole thing legit.  For instance, I can draw a car and a figure(kinda), but I’m not the person to be telling people how to do these things.  When you have a professional (and in Ryan’s case, a WELL KNOWN professional) working with you, it adds an air of validity to the project that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

TL:  What’s next for the “I DRAW” brand? Will you continue to use Kickstarter?

MM: We’ve got lots of exciting ideas in the pipeline – stay tuned.  Kickstarter is a great place to generate funds, but also to simply get the word out!  Many projects don’t’ really need the funds, they just want the social bump that having a kickstarter gets you.  I’ll have to cross that bridge when I come to it.

Here’s the video Matt made for the project:



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Leon Kiriluk - NES Reproductions

Father’s Day used to mean a neck tie, a steak dinner and some quality time with the old man. Today’s dad grew up not wearing a necktie and swears off too much red meat. So that leaves quality time. For those Dad’s who grew up playing the  Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), we have the ultimate Techlife 8-bit gift this Father’s Day; never released Nintendo Games ready to play on Dad’s NES. Often called ROMS, these games for many reasons were never published or in the case of my personal favorite Super Tecmo Bowl, have a loyal fan following that has updated the ROM with new player rosters and stats and even a few more teams.

Meet Leon Kiriluk of NES Reproductions. Leon was kind of enough to sit down for an interview and this will only add to the gift for dad; the backstory.

Techlife: What is NES Reproductions?

Leon Kiriluk: As a collector and gamer, I love playing NES games on the real system, rather than the artificial constraints found on a PC game emulators.  Through sheer luck, I discovered a community of game hackers that took these game dumps and put them back on original NES carts.  Being proficient with electronics, I decided to experiment with making my own NES games as well.  After I successfully reproduced a few of these never released NES games, I posted my creations to a popular video game forum.  To my surprise, many collectors, less electronic savvy than me, messaged me pleading me to make these games for them.  NES Reproductions was born.

 TL: When and why did you start this hobby?

LK:  I grew up with Nintendo (the original) in the late 80’s.  As with most kids, my Nintendo was eventually sold off in a garage sale as the family upgraded to better and newer video game systems.  Sometime around 1998, my brother brought home an NES system with a handful of games which he purchased at a flea-market.  I was hooked.  We played for hours on that system, bringing back all my childhood memories.

For the next 5 years I made it a personal mission to collect as many NES games as I could; I completed my NES collection a few years later.  In the process, I discovered that there were many NES games in development that were never released for one reason or another (mostly due to marketing pulling the plug in the last minute).  These game prototypes went home with the engineers and eventually made it into the hands of game collectors, such as myself.  These collectors proceeded to dump the games from these prototype boards and provide them for free on the Internet.  Gamers are now able to play these games on their computers using NES emulators.
Over the next decade, it grew to not only reproduce never before released games, but also game hacks, such as the community based hack to Tecmo Superbowl.
TL: What is your background?

LK:  From a very young age I was interested more in how toys worked rather than play with them.  Every new toy I ever got, I proceeded to disassemble it, learn what made it function, and then put it back together.  Over the years, as my interest in electronics grew, the tools of the trade naturally grew with it: soldering stations, desoldering stations, memory chip programmers and erasers.

TL: How did you figure out what hardware you needed?

LK:  There’s a big community out there (thanks to the Internet) that can help anyone do what I do.  Someone just has to be driven enough, and invest enough time/money in this hobby.  It’s also not that expensive to get started.  I started with a cheap 40$ programmer and 5$ soldering iron.  These tools will suffice for half a dozen reproduction carts, but for any significant volume, investing in professional equipment is a must as with any “hobby”.

I use the word hobby because that’s what NES reproduction is for me.  A hobby that fills my time most evenings when my kids are asleep.  I’m fortunate enough to have a very good full time job where I don’t need to supplement my income with making these games – I consider it a way of giving back to the community, for gamers such as myself.  This is the main reason why I never raised my prices for reproductions in a decade.
NES Reproductions - A Collector and Gamer's Dream
 TL: How long does it take to create a cartridge?

LK:  On average, about 30-45 minutes per cart.  Surprising, the finishing touches on a cart (making the label, cleaning the cart, installing the cart, and testing it) take a lot more time than the actual electronic desoldering/soldering of new memory chips process.

TL:  Of the 52 titles listed on your site what’s the most popular title?

LK:   Earthbound followed by Super Mario Brothers 2 (Japan) by far; both made by Nintendo, and both killed for silly reasons.

Earthbound courtesy of NES Reproductions

Earthbound courtesy of NES Reproductions

Earthbound only came out in Japan.  Nintendo did have a full english translation completed, but for some reason never released it.  It wasn’t until the SNES release of Earthbound did North Americans got access to this wonderful RPG game.  But in reality, Earthbound on the SNES is actually Earthbound 2.
Super Mario Bros. 2 courtesy of NES Reproductions

Super Mario Bros. 2 courtesy of NES Reproductions

The other game, Super Mario Brother 2 – Japan, looks and plays the same as the original super mario bros, except it’s a lot more difficult.  It wasn’t released in North America because Nintendo felt the game was too difficult for us.  Instead, they took a different game, hacked mario characters into it and released it as SMB2.  Nintendo fans aren’t stupid – anyone can see how different SMB2 is from every Mario game that came before it, and after.  Simply put, it’s because it’s not a real Mario game.
TL: Have you seen requests steady since you began?

LK:  For the most part, yes.  I have also taken breaks (4 month breaks when both my children were born, as my families’ needs took precedence.)

TL: What’s the most unusual request to date?

LK:  Oh .. that’s a tough one (for the most part, game reproductions boil down to the same process)  I think special or custom game hacks.  I’ve had customers request special one off reproductions and requested of me not to share the games with anyone else, which I complied with their wishes.  I actually did have a couple of customers request a special NES game made for them, which they can use to ask their girlfriend to get married.  Unfortunately, I’m not that good at actually programming a new NES game.

TL: Have you had any companies or individual game makers approach you? Any interest or even legal hassle?

LK:  Not yet.  🙂

Truthfully, for any game hacks, such as Gamepad Hero 1 & 2, I e-mailed the game developer first, and attained permission to offer a game reproduction of their games.  In most cases, the company that made the game is long gone, or simply doesn’t care anymore as there really is little to no money in these old titles.
Even Nintendo itself lost the patent on the NES a few years ago due to the original Nintendo patent expiring – this is why there’s so many NES clones on eBay these days – and there’s a lot more money to be made selling NES clones than game reproductions.
TL: What is the best game in your opinion that was ever released?
The Goonies courtesty of NES Reproductions

The Goonies courtesty of NES Reproductions

LK:  That’s a hard one.  It depends on the gamer.  The best RPG game is Earthbound (because it’s so different from any other RPG on the NES), for shooters nothing can touch Recca (I can’t believe this is an NES game! It really pushes the NES to its limits). I personally love playing The Goonies – what a great puzzle game.  And the soundtrack is awesome too!

 TL: What’s are some things you are requested to do that are not possible?

LK:  I get a lot of requests for games that only came out in Japan or Hong Kong pirates that simply can’t be reproduced.  They use special circuit boards that were only released in that part of the world, and as such I can’t reuse any of the game carts that came out in North America in reproducing these games.  This is a shame as some of those games are actually really good .. many of these games were created long after the last NES game was shipped.

 TL: What’s the most interesting story to come from this hobby?

LK:  For me personally, I can’t believe how long it lasted.  I initially created it just to help a few people on a popular chat board which I was an active member of.  Over the last decade, it grew to so much more.  I’ve had happy customers from all over the world, places that I never thought I’d ship a video game to.  It really shows how international the NES has become.

TL: Do you have any future plans for your hobby?

LK:  Truthfully, so much has changed in my life in the past decade.  Getting married, having kids.  Priorities in life have changed, and hobbies always tend to be the first to suffer.  Can I see myself still making NES reproductions a decade from now?  Probably not.  Heck, even hobbies change!  About 5 years ago my wife and I purchased our first home (a century old home) and my hobbies have moved away from working with electronics to doing home renovations.

TL Bonus question: We met when I found out you had Tecmo Super Bowl updated rosters. For the updated teams and rosters, how did you determine things such as “speed” or “quickness” or any other stat that has a no single statistics associated with it?
Tecmo Super Bowl 2K11 courtesy of NES Reproductions

Tecmo Super Bowl 2K11 courtesy of NES Reproductions

LK:  The Tecmo Superbowl updated NES game is developed by a team of developers on the Tecmo Superbowl repository web site.  I only provide the service of putting their game on a cart.  I’ve contacted the web site owner a few times, and sent him free reproductions as a ‘thank you’ for all the great work he does for the Tecmo community.

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Click. Click. Click. There is not much more satisfying a sound. Sorry I realize because this Techlife you likely think I meant the sound of a mouse or a keyboard. Actually something much more clickable – LEGOS! There have been countless articles, fan sites, acronyms (AFOL, SNOT) and more created for this very physical toy which has grown in spite the of the evolution of the digital age. It’s a testament to the creativity and simplicity that allows anyone to sit down and start playing immediately.

But this is Techlife, and we want to provide five very different LEGO experiences in the online world. Our summaries won’t do these justice, so please jump off and explore them all.

Life of George

Help George with your building skills. A LEGO official product that combines a free iPhone/iPod app with physical brick set. This takes the best thing about LEGO; the ability to create endless new things with the same bricks and combines it with an interactive story about George. The challenges you are presented with help move the story along. A race against the clock puzzler combined with a cool snap a photo of your creations to check accuracy make this a really unique meld of physical and digital and story and game. (may contain an easter egg or too)


Rebrickable makes replay endlessly amazing. It’s the ultimate unofficial LEGO replay resource. LEGO sets always provide instructions to build the pictured item. Some sets even allow for a few more items from the same pieces.  Simply enter some existing LEGO set numbers you own and the power of the database sparks to life. As of this writing, 6436 sets and more than 1 million parts power the database and the suggestion engine often provides multiple sets you could build with your parts on hand. Even better there are photos to help you along the way, just like real LEGO instructions.


Unusual name. Still in beta. Cuusoo is an official LEGO site that is a simple to use crowd sourcing tool. Non-employees who are fans for LEGO submit designs they have built. If the designs reach 10,000 supporters, LEGO turns on the production of these into official sets with the designer sharing in the proceeds. To date three projects have hit the 10,000 supporter mark including a submarine, a satellite, and most recently a Minecraft model. Interesting to note how LEGO really adds value in helping design the models after they reach evaluation.  The creative initial Minecraft model is quite different from the production model, Minecraft Micro World which looks even better.

The Brothers Brick

Earlier I mentioned AFOL, and The Brothers Brick is a blog for Adult Fans of LEGO. Started in 2005, the same time as Techlife, The Brothers Brick is a showcase for LEGO creations from around the world. They sprinkle in new set releases, news about events, and even a bit of education. I learned and built a Studs Not On Top (SNOT) creation after reading about how many AFOL use this method to showcase how the small bumps that connect one brick to another are hidden with this method of building. One of  The Brothers Brick contributors was a bit part in helping get the Minecraft Micro World built on Cuusoo.


Rebrick is another LEGO official site also in beta. The site attempts to form a community of users around LEGO creations. Rebrick promises in multiple places it won’t use the site to advertise or market. With a name that’s confusing compared to Rebrickable, contains less high end quality builds and writing than highlighted on The Brothers Brick and lacks the interactivity of Cuusoo, Rebrick is worth exploring for a few minutes.  It has an easy-to-use tool to bookmark and share things found in other online locations. Re-brick could use a bit of a re-think.

Have another online place you love to explore the world of LEGO. Share it.

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Sharing this corner of the world with you takes the effort of many. It starts with folks who make and do amazing things from a 15 year old artist to my mom’s hack of Gmail to IBM’s researchers who built a thinking computer in Watson. While Techlife shares some things you have seen, and some you haven’t the goal is always the same giving some focus to these talented people and their efforts. It’s great when organizations get behind sharing too. Often they do it to showcase their own wares, while providing a spotlight on the exceptional. So for all the print and mobile readers, spend some time with “GL doesn’t stand for Good Lookin’ but it could” in a full screen browser, it’s worth it.

Made to showcase Google’s Chrome browser and the advanced features it can support, Chrome Experiments is a site with a curated “best of the best in cool” all showing off user-submitted works. (Techlife ran some tests and some of the developers were kind of enough to still play nice with others, so the latest Microsoft Internet Explorer, Firefox or Opera Browser might work just as well.)  In just over18 months the site has posted 277 works, starting with the first one “BallDroppings” by Josh Nimoy which has gotten nearly 5 stars from over 1500 people. It reminds me a lot of Line Rider.

Some of the best works involve animated water you can interact with in the browser, such as “Chrysaora” by Aleksandar Rodic and “WebGL Water Simulation” by Evan Wallace.  The first is a collection of jellyfish and the second is a simple ball in pool of water. But when you consider both are using just the browser to render and animate you begin to understand the genius behind these works.

As expected there is quite a collection of games, all of which aren’t built in Flash which has been a common building block of web based games.  “Dots, the Game” by Nicolas Smith and Aviv Keshet, “Z-Type” by Dominic Szablewski, “Asteroids, Inc.” by Jarred Draney, and “Word²” by Massively Fun are all examples of the future of web gaming built right in the browser.


The Techlife favorite of these Chrome Experiments is an interactive digital short using Arcade Fire’s “The Wilderness Downtown” by Chris Milk and Google Creative Lab. Sure the team works for Google, but it does not diminish the effort.  For online viewers we have embedded a screen capture of the interactive experiment, but trust me it doesn’t do it justice compared to typing in your own childhood address and it building a custom show for you. (Be aware not every address works.) This has taken music videos to the next evolutionary stage of development. And I like the direction.

As a final fun, enjoy the “Shaun the Sheep” by Google Chrome Team, clearly an entry by the team that has all the tricks at their disposal. They don’t disappoint.

As the future of browsing evolves into what we see here, the enjoyment and fun of even everyday work and entertainment should keep interfaces and applications from all looking and acting the same. I like the future.

*So what does GL stand for then? Nothing fancy, just “Graphics Library.”



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Jeremy Young - Stare into Me

Jeremy Young - Stare into Me

When you were 15, were you cool? How about humble? How about talented? Meet Jeremy Young, a digital artist from New Zealand who’s artistic talent had him winning awards as young as six. Techlife was lucky enough to sneak in an after-school interview with Jeremy. He has a ton to share, so less of me and more of him.

Techlife: How did you get started?

Jeremy Young: I have been doing digital art since 2008 but as long as I can remember, I have had a passion for designing with expressive use of colour. I won my first colouring in competition at age six and went on to win the next eight which I entered. I guess I’ve always loved colouring and design, using a computer enables me to create images which I couldn’t create using traditional drawing/painting methods.

TL: What is your main medium and why do you use it?

JY: My main medium is vexel. Vexeling is basically vector work done in photoshop. I love vexel because of the precision and clean lines which you can achieve. I prefer to vexel rather than vector because my knowledge of Photoshop is far greater than my knowledge of Illustrator. I also like it because it gives me more freedom to experiment and bring other elements in when I want.

TL: How long does it take from start to finish to complete a piece?

JY: It really depends. I will often go at my own slow and leisurely pace, working on and off on each piece. Because of this they usually take around  3-4 weeks. If I really concentrated and set myself a deadline then I could complete each one much faster.

TL: Many of your works appear to be painted, have you transferred any to canvas or even photo canvas?

JY: All of my works are made almost entirely in photoshop, I have had a few printed for family and friends  but apart from that they remain solely on the computer.

Jeremy Young - Mindless Wisdom

Jeremy Young - Mindless Wisdom

TL: What would you define as your style?

JY: I aim to make my works vibrant yet clean lined. The structure of the designs is very minimal; I combine this with extreme colour which gives the works great impact. However I am currently working on a black and white piece.

TL: What other artists influence your work?

JY: There are really too many to name, I am influenced by countless artists I have found online, but also by famous artists in history such as Andy Warhol.

TL: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

JY: Even though I’m surrounded the beautiful landscape of New Zealand, nature doesn’t particularly inspire me. Instead, I am fascinated by objects that are man-made. I’m also inspired by other art, people and cultures.

Jeremy Young

TL: What does your studio space look like?

JY: Since I’m 15, I don’t have a studio but work in my bedroom, overlooking the sea.  My workspace is a very large desk clear of everything but my computer. I also like to surround myself with art I enjoy.

TL: Why did you choose DeviantArt.com as a place to showcase your work?

JY: It is a fantastic place to meet other artists and get feedback. It has a great sense of community where you can learn from other artists and let them easily see your works.

TL: Have you had any major news coverage, journals, magazines, blogs or other media?

JY: Yes, I was featured in Advanced Photoshop magazine last year and have just done an interview for a feature in the French edition of Advanced Creative Magazine. My work has also been featured on numerous blogs, sometimes without my knowing. I often will stumble across a website featuring me through googling the names of my works and my name. I have also had three main page ‘daily deviation’ features on Deviantart.com. They were Stare into Me, We’re All Mad Here and Mindless Wisdom.

TL: Have you shown your work in a gallery, museum, festival or other public place?

JY: Getting my work into galleries has certainly been a goal of mine but I have yet to approach a gallery and see if they would take my work.

Jeremy Young - We're All Mad Here

Jeremy Young - We're All Mad Here

TL: Have you done any private, public commissions?

JY: No I haven’t done any commissions. I have had requests, but previously I have been focusing on my own style and wants. If a great offer comes my way I would happily accept.

TL: Are you making a living/spending money doing this today?

JY: I’m currently a school student and therefore don’t have time to be a doing graphic design as a living. It is more of a hobby for me at the moment. Who knows where it will go once I finish school though.

TL: What do your teachers, parents and friends think?

JY: My parents are obviously very proud of me and encourage me to keep doing design work. I don’t do any ‘computer design’ subjects so my teachers are unaware of my interest in art. I don’t like to talk about graphic design much with my friends, but I seem to have gained a reputation of someone who knows what they are doing when it comes to design. Only one or two of them know that I am in magazines, etc.

TL: What are the future plans for Jeremy Young?

JY: I’m definitely going to University but I’m unsure of what I want to study. I love being creative and that will always be a part of my life but I have a broad range of interests and I am unsure if I will take a career to do with digital design. My family is very supportive of my design work but they also are aware of my other strengths, so they try to keep me broad in my choice of subjects. At the moment I’m tossing up ideas of economics, medicine or design.

TL: How could someone contact you for more information?

JY: Flick me an email at navrasmail {at} gmail {dot} com or send me a note on my deviantart: http://navras2535.deviantart.com.

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Danger, Will Robinson!”  Attention, science fiction writers, time to find new material.  Reality has arrived. In the form of a supercomputer named Watson. Most Techlife readers probably heard about the Jeopardy! match between Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, two of the game show’s all time champions and a machine built by IBM named Watson after the founder of the company.

Since there have been science fiction storytellers, there have been sidekicks and stars, villains and heroes, useful and funny characters who were created by humans but took on a life of their own. What made these characters so endearing was not their intelligence which was often portrayed as super human, but their inability to “get it.”

In Star Wars, when C-3PO mistakenly understands his owner Luke Skywalker is being crushed by the garbage compacter, but in reality Luke is cheering loudly at being saved and is happy.

In Terminator 2:Judgement Day, when John Connor attempts to explain how to lighten up and joke to a cyborg, who is able to mimic but not truly get the human idea of a joke.

On three consecutive days in February 2011, Watson, a computer competed and crushed two of the best Jeopardy! human contestants of all time.  Ken Jenning’s even joked in Final Jeopardy with the famous meme quote, “I for one welcome our new computer overlords.”  (from The Simpsons “Deep Space Homer”)

What is Watson?

Simply a computer with a focused problem to solve.  The ability to answer questions posed by anyone.  At first this seems relatively easy until you begin to dissect the vast knowledge humans have amassed, and even more so the sinews of connection between something that we know and something we are trying to process in a new way.  As an example asked today, “What do they sell at the Apple store?” Most 5 year olds in the civilized world, will answer “iPods, iPhones and Macs.” 25 years ago most 5 year olds would say, “Apples.” Both answers are right, in the context of time.

To be able to understand a question, the programming team had to take into account millions of variables of this type. To assist them they begin feeding Watson with data.  At the time of the match Watson had 200 million pages of information and was not online during Jeopardy! Watson itself is housed on 90 high end IBM servers with nearly 3,000 processors.

What now Watson?

Speed is the killer factor in computing.  People write into Techlife asking how do I make my PC faster. The number one answer I give people, add more RAM. IBM added more RAM, than repeated until they had 16 terabytes. (1000 gigabytes) I venture to say most readers don’t have more than 2 terabytes of hard drive storage, and this was RAM, the fast stuff.  So now Watson moves the tassel of graduation to the right and starts careers — with an s. First up, and fitting is Dr. Watson to aid in patient diagnosis.  Next Watson’s employer might be legal eagles using the brainpower as a research computer. And of course Five Star General Watson, as IBM counts the U.S. government as a big client, where Watson will be asked to do who knows what.

What would you do with Watson at your beck and call? Share with me.

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Do you like fairy tales? This one has explosions, wizards and two arch enemies.  While there are no princesses or frogs there is a columnist and a few game developers and most of all a happy ending.

Once upon a time, back in 2007, a lowly columnist was penning his latest April Techlife column titled, “chick chick BOOM – Baby Chick gaming warfare at its best“. The article spoke of a mysterious, fun game for the web browser. Then all of a sudden this highly addicting game vanished. Our lowly columnist was asked about this and in February of 2009 made a bold prediction, “…maybe they will release it one day as WiiWare for the Wii.”

As if this voice was heard whispering on the wind, a return voice whispered from Frankfurt, Germany where the game developer “tons of bitscame out from the shroud of silence to tell their tale of the resurrection of chick chick BOOM in multi-player for Wii Ware.

Techlife: How did the original chick chick BOOM get started?

Tons of Bits: Before chick chick BOOM we had developed another flash game called Mission in Snowdriftland, which had a great impact and positive response by the players. Mission in Snowdriftland was created as an advent calendar with 24 jump ‘n’ run levels for christmas. The idea of making a game for Easter was an obvious next step. chick chick BOOM was born.

TL: Sounds like it was hatched. How long did it take to plan and implement?

TOB: The whole project was realized in a pretty short time for a game of this complexity. From scratch to release it took approx. 8 weeks.

TL: What was your measure of success?

TOB: The constant positive feedback from the community. In the form of comments on the web but also as direct e-mails; or for instance fans writing a detailed article in Wikipedia.

TL: Why did it disappear?

TOB: It was planned as a limited easter event. We thought it wouldn’t feel right outside of this seasonal context if we would have kept it online.

TL: Is the new chick chick BOOM the same game?

TOB: The new chick chick BOOM has been completely redesigned and improved. The core idea “two chick teams fight each other in a whacky way” is the same, but the presentation and the game mechanics have been completely changed. The focus was on optimizing the game for the Wii, especially on the feature of simultaneous use of the Wii remotes for the multiplayer mode.

TL: What are the coolest new features?


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Travel. That single word sparks thoughts of exotic beaches, hidden towns, memories, and enjoyment. Techlife has covered unique mapping toolsmaking your own mapsfinding the perfect place to stay and more. Our diverse readership, You; often comment how much travel is a part of your life.

Meet Travelista (Techlife slang for Travel Expert) Anne Hornyak, who holds a Masters in Music; loves photography and travel; and has a day job advising Travel and Convention Bureau’s. We asked her to help Techlife readers with an education in what travel means in today’s super connected world of mobile sharing, bite size ideas, and off the path finds.

Techlife: How did you get started in the Travel and Tourism industry?
Anne Hornyak: I began my tourism career with Chicago Plus, a regional tourism office for Chicagoland. As a staff of one, I mostly managed marketing projects for the 17 Chicagoland Convention & Visitors Bureaus but also handled everything from finance to social media.

TL: What do you do today for the industry?
AH: I work mostly as a Social Media Strategist for tourism clients. I’m a cofounder of #tourismchat, a biweekly twitter chat focusing on social media in the tourism industry, and frequently tweet and blog about the same topic.

TL: Why is online travel and tourism so big? And how big is it?
AH: People love to travel and share their experiences with others. Social networks, especially Facebook, are perfect for this type of sharing. Many are also planning their trips, searching for the best discounts and then booking these trips, all online. Everything from Frommer’s to Budget Travel, Expedia to Priceline, Flickr to YouTube and travel blogs to a simple Facebook update about a friend’s recent trip…it’s all online. The travel industry is massive. Over 7.4 million U.S. jobs are directly related to it.

TL: How do you disconnect from the digital realm?
AH: I used to joke about needing a “social media detox” every once in a while but it has become rather habitual lately. Whether hiking in a state park or photographing lighthouses along Lake Michigan’s coast, I have to make time “off the grid.”

TL: What digital tips do you have for a traveler pre-trip?
AH: Research! Ask your Facebook friends and Twitter followers for recommendations and tips. Take advantage of CVBs (Convention & Visitors Bureaus) in your preferred social networks. Many of them are on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube, and have blogs and interactive websites that can help you plan your trip. Find them on your network and connect before you travel.

TL: In-trip?
AH: Have fun! If you have a smartphone, send photos and updates to your friends on Facebook and Twitter but be sure that it doesn’t get in the way of your experience. If you’re on Flickr, upload your photos regularly so you can add descriptions and geotag them accurately.

TL: Post trip?
AH: Talk about it! Create photo albums on Facebook, upload Flickr photos and YouTube videos, write a special blog post and add write reviews to TripAdvisor. Share your experience with others who are in the research stage.

TL: As of this question being written you had 3,673 Followers on Twitter who have seen 16,406 updates via your username “WhosYourAnnie“. What’s one thing you never talk about? Why?
AH: Tweets about my family and personal life are usually kept pretty vague. The internet is public and safety is the primary concern. I’ve received a few google alerts for random things I’ve tweeted about my dogs. I don’t need to give stalkers extra information.

TL: What percent of your followers and updates are related to your career?
AH: I would say that 65-75% of my followers are somehow related to the travel industry, either as travel bloggers, CVBs, or people who just like to travel and talk about it. Probably 50% of my updates are conversational replies, most of which are to friends within the tourism industry, leaving around 30% as content tweets directly related to my career.

TL: Is Twitter your main channel?
AH: Most definitely! To me, twitter is all about connecting and having conversations. It’s a little surreal but some of my closest friends, a few I have yet to meet in real life, started as twitter followers.

TL: Last question, Who’s Your Annie?
AH: I’m your Annie.

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Cameras exist everywhere today, from ATM machines to mobile phones to government meetings. With the increase of the lenses surrounding our world, the artist inside springs forth from all walks of life to see the moments captured from a falling leaf to a speeding locomotive.

While many mainstream photo storage sites attempt to appeal to photo artists, Lance Ramoth felt differently. Lance’s vision was fotoblur.com which now includes both a website and a printed publication, Fotoblur Magazine all crowd sourced or created by the artists from the inside. With a passion for photography and technology Lance’s efforts tell a story of hardwork and love. It is an inspirational tale in how a niche can evolve into a group collaboration in this case, photographers who believe in the Art of the Moment.

Techlife: How did fotoblur.com start?

Lance Ramoth: I first started Fotoblur as a side project in 2007. I had been quite active in a number of other online photo communities and was actively submitting my photos to various printed publications. At first, Fotoblur was just a small corner for a few of the photographers that I had met at other communities where we could have complete autonomy of how it all would work. I got a lot of input from the first group of members and that helped shape the way Fotoblur works today.

TL: How has your focus changed since you started?

LR: Well now we’ve grown. Although we are still very small in terms of other photo communities we have some amazing photographers from all corners of the globe. Now we focus on aesthetics of the design, providing a cleaner and simpler user interface. We’re always looking for ways to improve how the community members interact with one another based on what we see them doing. From day one, the development of Fotoblur has been an organic process, allowing the community to determine where our focus should be applied. Fotoblur Magazine, which started a year after the initial launch of Fotoblur, has also been a main focus.

TL: Do you love how fotoblur.com has grown?

LR: Indeed. I love to see how the members interact with one another. They are very supportive of each other and have created a very positive dynamic environment. This I couldn’t have developed in the code, or the design, but comes from the members. How the community has grown amazes me every time I’m browsing the gallery.

TL: What’s your favorite photo of 2010 so far?

LR: Wow, there are so many. We have a section of featured images where I select, based on my opinion, the best images of the day. The community also has its own voice in the Community Favorites section of the front page. The way the community favorites works is that each member can promote an image that they appreciate, and the ones with the highest number of promotions makes it to the front page for that day. So its a good mix of the community favorites and editor’s choice that goes into showcasing the best of the best.

TL: What’s your favorite story a photographer has shared with you?

LR: Most photographers can leave descriptions of their images and some are quite moving after reading them. For instance photographer Greg Brophy submitted an image that was quite moving after reading the description.  Apparently the subject of his photo was a dear friend who died at an early age and the image seemed to be a tribute to her.
James Andre Mortram posted images of individuals who suffered birth defects from the drug Thalidomide*. The image was so striking it was published in Fotoblur Magazine, Issue 5.

Images have been submitted depicting waractivism , hardship, and culture.  People post images of all types. Some are purely artistic in nature but some have messages that teach us about something that has touched another individual.

Background of Thalidomide:
Thalidomide was sold in a number of countries across the world from 1957 until 1961 when it was withdrawn from the market after being found to be cause birth defects in what has been called “the biggest medical tragedy of modern times”. It is not known exactly how many worldwide victims of the drug there have been, although estimates range from 10,000 to 20,000.

TL: Has publishing fotoblur.com changed your life?

LR: Not really. Fotoblur has become an extension of my creative interests. Its a bit of work obviously to meet our deadline for Fotoblur Magazine but its also fun. I never know which images the community is going to select as the top images for publication so that is always exciting. Seeing the breadth of talent out there is inspiring and bringing that talent together and formulating a way of presenting it, also in an artistic way, has been both a challenge and creative endeavor.

TL: Has there been any negatives to fotoblur.com?

LR: Sure. We’ve had our handful of trouble makers in the community. I think you get this with any online community where members are mostly anonymous. But what I’ve found is the strength of the community takes care of this.

TL: What should new readers and users expect to see in the next 12 months?

LR: Expect to see some amazing work both on the site and in the published magazine. Word is spreading, and we’ve had some amazing artist join our ranks within the past year, so expect more of the same awe inspiring photography you’d come to expect from Fotoblur in the future.

TL: Are you currently working on any other projects?

LR: Fotoblur is a full time job that takes most of my spare time. As a technical person at heart I’m always fiddling with new technologies and approaches to problems that I can use to better the user’s experience. We’re excited by the fact that HTML5 has been gaining a fair amount of traction this year and hope to incorporate more of this technology into Fotoblur in the future.

TL: What’s a dream job for you?

LR: Anything thats creative. I love the creative process whereby you have the opportunity to build something from nothing. To have ultimate freedom of creativity and expression is all that I could ever hope for in a dream job.

TL: What’s a dream photoshoot for you?

LR: Where I enjoy the world around me. I like to take long exposures when I shoot whereby each image can take up to 4-6 minutes to expose. This gives me the opportunity to soak up my environment. It slows down the world in such a way that I feel at one with it. This is a personal experience and can be very spiritual in nature.

TL: Have any famous people or photographer’s who you were surprised to find fotoblur.com fans?

LR: Oh yeah. We’ve had fine arts photographers such as Cole Thompson, Russ Martin, Marcia Martin, Jennifer Short, Tom Hoops, Xavier Rey, and Pierre Pellegrini join our ranks, plus many more. We’ve also recently had some large followings in Italy and Saudi Arabia. But we have many intermediate to beginning photographers as well. Fotoblur is a dynamic landscape where all can benefit from the social aspects of the community. It has brought photographers from all over the world together.

TL: What’s your advice for someone who has up to now just shot their family and friends for getting artistic with photography?

LR: Shooting family and friends can also be artistic. Photographer Jennifer Short makes it her main subject of work. Regardless, the advice that I would suggest is that the camera is just a tool and that it takes an artist to create the art. An artist attempts to communicate through their photos. Whether its emotions, wants, needs or desires, attempt to communicate that in your photos.

For me its about communicating the loneliness of life’s journey. Yes, I have family and friends but I’ve always felt alone and my images depict this feeling.

At Fotoblur we view photography as an art form. Its a matter of expression and personal experience. To shoot for the sake of shooting is not conducive to being an artist. We want photographic artists at Fotoblur and that’s what each one of us is trying to develop in ourselves.

At the time of this writing the Fotoblur community was just shy of 5,000 users, with 5 published magazines volumes, and nearly 43,000 images.  Along with an active comments and forums section of the site, the growth of a niche community based on a something you love is a great  way to get other passionate users involved who want a hand in creating a place for, in this case photographic artists, to gather and trade tips, admire work, and get inspired.  Where do you find inspiration for your passions?  Share it with us in the comments.

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Techlife 500 = 100 pushups + 200 situps + 200 squatsOk be honest, did the headline scare you?  It scared me.  Did you think Techlife did a 180 degree turn? Well we didn’t.  We still sit squarely in the camp of “where the crossroads of technology and life intersect.”  So again you ask yourself, why is Techlife covering a hundred pushups, two hundred situps and two hundred squats?

One word: Mashup.

We have covered mashups in the past, see the archives.  Basically a mashup is taking two or more separate things and combining them.   In our column we often cover technology mashups so today is something a bit different.

One hundred pushups

A little over a year ago, Steve Speirs created the website HundredPushups.com.  The concept was simple to inspire and help people achieve a goal that seems difficult to most, to do 100 consecutive pushups. Wait, wait — don’t go.  Don’t stop reading cause, ewww he mentioned fitness and feats of strength. I know this is the holiday season and Festivus is upon us.  But you can do this.

Pushups printable sheets

Steve’s idea is something we often pass on to clients.  When you are sharing information, keep it simple.  HundredPushups.com provides an easy to follow six-week plan, some simple printable worksheets and that was it.  The interest spiked enormously due to the simplicity.

Even better Steve’s community of fans stared building mashups.  For regular readers there are three iPhone/iPod touch applications that act as digital tracking tools for people in each of the three programs.  Swedish developer Viktor Nordling created a web app for those regular Techlife readers, pushuplogger.com.  Finally, a fan named Eddie created the mashup for you long time readers, a Pocket Mod of the entire program that fits on a single sheet of paper in foldable Pocket Mod format.  This was my favorite item.

200 situps200 squats

Steve was inspired by the outpouring for his well crafted website that he soon rolled out the sequel, twohundredsitups.com.  Same concept, different muscles, new goal. Most recently he launched twohundredsquats.com.  Steve’s brilliance was to keep all three sites nearly the same.  Fans who understood one program can easily start the next.

Now for mashup, the Techlife challenge.  I sit behind my monitor way to much.  Cranking out good articles for the faithful.  I have started my new year’s resolution early and I want you to join me.  My goal stated publicly, is to achieve the Techlife 500. The goal is to max out with being able to do in a continuous test, one hundred pushups plus two hundred situps plus two hundred squats totalling 500 reps.

Who’s with me?  Add  a comment below if you are joining and feel free to check back here and update us on your progress.

Techlife 500 = 100 pushups + 200 situps + 200 squats

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