BrainBlog

BrainBlog is the Brains4All weblog. Established 2004 in The Netherlands. Brains have been working in IT since 1983, working on the internet since 1993, and using their own agile development process for design and application development since 2003. We talk about about design and usability, the industry of software and web development, web applications and simplicity, beautiful and spectacular things.

A walk in the city

marko

Gerard Goudriaan, Ruud van Soest en Bert Franssen are city enthusiasts and journalists, who'd love nothing more then to take you on a tour of our beautiful countries capital, Amsterdam.

The city center is one of the really highlights of Europe. Amsterdam was in the 17th century a world power in itself, and the unbelievable riches at that time resulted in a marvelous and large old city center, very well preserved and still to enjoy. A walk runs from the medieval center, pieces of the old city wall, along the famous canals, China town, the former Jewish district, not to mention a bit of the famous Red Light District.

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As a matter of fact, Amsterdam is an impossible city. Around 1200 the piece of land was a swamp, everything sunk in the mud. An almost inaccessible harbor. No direct connection with the North Sea - which was not realized until the 19th century. Nevertheless Amsterdam became one of the most important cities in the world, a major science and cultural center. Since 1650 Amsterdam with 200.000 inhabitants was the third largest city in Europe, after London and Paris. How could that happen?

During the walk you learn about key aspects of the history of the city, while walking along the highlights. They do not tell 'everything'. Their guiding is "light", but highly competent! With explanations about what you really see.

Guided walks Amsterdam.
Guided tour of the Amsterdam Medieval Center.


  



Diamond skull comes to Holland

marko

diamondSkull.jpgThe famous diamond-bedecked skull by British artist Damien Hirst will be exhibited in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam from 1 November until mid-December.

The museum’s director Director Wim Pijbes says that the contract for showing the work is the strictest he has ever signed. “The skull has to be placed in a dark room without anything else around it. Everything we have to do is in the contract. We can't even mention who the owner is...”

The skull, that of an 18th century European covered in platinum and 8,601 diamonds, was sold in 2007 to a group of investors for € 75 m, the largest sum ever paid for a work by a living artist.

The sculpture is titled "For The Love of God". The title of the piece comes from Hirst's mother who asked her son, “For the love of God, what are you going to do next?”

For Hirst all his art is about death. This piece was influenced by Mexican skulls encrusted in turquoise. “I remember thinking it would be great to do a diamond one — but just prohibitively expensive” he recalls. “Then I started to think — maybe that’s why it is a good thing to do. Death is such a heavy subject, it would be good to make something that laughed in the face of it.”

Later he was quoted saying: “What have I done? Because it’s going to need high security all its life.”

What do you think of the Diamond Skull?

  



You've got 40 seconds...

marko

doeo_thumb_100x75.png

This is a Doeo. Doeos are sneaky, pink and square little things that have the tendency to appear suddenly in unexpected places. They disappear just as suddenly and as quickly and for no apparent reason whatsoever. Doeos are quick, nimble, cheerful and of course utterly evil.

In this action packed and spectacular game by Raitendo your objective is to gather 100 Doeos in 40 seconds over 5 splendidly designed levels until you find and capture the Doeo King (Apparently they have a King) and finally put an end to the madness.

To gather a Doeo, just touch it with the mouse pointer. This is a fun game to help you improve your hand/eye coordination and mousing skills. Important for any professional takes their on-line presence seriously. (Okay, okay, you got me; it's just an excuse to play a game on Friday :)

Mouse over the Doeo below and find the Play button to start the game.

Playing tip: You don;t have to click the Doeos, just touching them with the mouse is enough...

doeo.png

Anyway, cheers and thanks to Marcus Richert for this well Designed and very original game! Happy Weekend!

  



Fall into the pavement

marko

Julian Beever is gifted with a crazy talent, or rather, passion. On any pavement in the U.K., Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Germany, the USA and Australia, you can find his pavement drawings that he's been making for over ten years.

The most spectacular are what his site calls:
Anamorphic illusions drawn in a special distortion in order to create an impression of 3 dimensions when seen from one particular viewpoint.

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Make Poverty History drawing was requested by Live8 to support the pressure campaign on the G8 in Edinburgh. It was done in Edinburgh City Centre. Check out the author standing on top. Even his signature is in 3D.

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The same drawing but viewed from a different angle, it was 13m (40 feet) long. These drawings only work from one viewpoint otherwise the image appears distorted.

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A giant lobster

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Again, from the other side.

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Check out the Web 2.0 shadow and reflections on this one... :)

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Save me from falling into the pavement!

  



Oh no... not Trajan!

marko

Do you love movies? We do! But do you ever wonder why every movie uses the same font? So does Kirby Ferguson in this very funny video.

Via: Adaptive Path

  



Kamperland is more easy then USA

marko

According to Pablo Delgado, comparing the road infrastructure and signaling of the village where our office is located.

  



Gizmoz.com spectacular 3d Avatars

marko

You know we fancy spectacular stuff here at Brains4All. We're always peeking around the corners of technology to see what the future has in store for us.

Gizmoz.com (love the Z in the name!) is a web service that lets you create your own 3d avatars, using a single picture of a person plus their recorded voice. Check out my bad Borat imitation being exited about 14Dayz. They have some nice christmas avatars, so go over there and create a personal greeting card and send it to your friends. When you're done playing around with it, we'd love to hear your thoughts about how technology like this might be applied for other things then entertainment.

  



A couple of photographers...

marko

What is better then sharing a hobby?

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This young couple from Essex share their love for the camera as well as their love for eachother. It is nice to see both their views on the same subjects. Nice moody pictures, some nice light working here and there and there are some brilliant greyscale shots here. The picture of the clouds above is altered, but who cares? It's spectaculair!

  



Autumn

marko

autumn

n. *Fluidness
1. the property of flowing easily.

Water & Color Fluidness,
Petit Lac Cache, Mont-Tremblant National Park, Quebec, Canada. by Gaëtan Bourque

It's autumn, and to get into the mood here is a set of spectacular autumn photos by Canadian photographer Gaëtan Bourque. What I like about his photos is his almost awkward sense for natural colors. His colors seem almost chemical and alien in nature. Nature is so beautiful and such an inspiration. Gaëtan knows where to look for beauty and color and how to capture these inspiring moments.

  



Line riders and shadow monsters

marko

Check out these two spectacular projects of electronic artist Philip Worthington.

Shadow monsters:

shadowMonsters.jpg

Watch as shadow animals, you know, the ones you can make on the wall with your hands and a bright light, come to life. Using video capture techniques, ingenious animation software adds spikes, teeth, hair and sound to your shadow character...

Lineriders:

lineRiders2.jpg

Line riders are the result of research done for Mattel to examine possible increased interactivity with their successful Hotrods brand. Watch as virtual toy cars drive around on a racetrack you can draw and extend yourself with a felt tip marker...

The exciting element about these exploratory investigations into the future of human and computer interactivity are the new and simple ways with which we can interact with computers (and hopefully each other) in the nearby future.

“The beauty in the system lies in the iterative design process the child goes through in order to drive his/her car to the limits of its capability. The construction phase is an integral but often overlooked phase of the play experience, and too many overly prescriptive toys leave little room for innovation here. In contrast the line riders play experience is open ended in a way that actively encourages children to experiment with household objects and their surroundings.”

Also check out the Lineriders video and the website of lineriders programmer William Denniss for details.

  



A garden of wireless analog pixels

marko

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Genius Loci stands for the spirit of the place, a common phrase in architecture for the poetic context, for the cultural reading of a site. Ping, the most basic command in computer networking, is a sort of greeting among computers, if I ping an address, it replies, so we know we can communicate. Ping Genius Loci (PGL) is an architectural installation trying to build a network into the poetics of the place.

PGL is built up from 300 radio networked, solar powered, self sustainable intelligent analogue pixels, that are placed on a 20 by 20 meters grid. These pixels function in the bright sunshine, and are interfacing the people walking in the grid.

Check out the video: http://www.aether.hu/pgl/

  



Dutch Design

marko

rietveldRedAndBlueChair.jpg

One of our beta testers, Donna, pointed out to me “I know 2 young men who started their own design company here in the U.S. They call it "Dutch Money" because they admire the beauty and artistry of Dutch currency.”

Since the infernal coming of the Euro, which is quite bland, this famous money (5 10 25 50 100 250 1000) is no longer in circulation. If you are interested in Design, check out this competition. A Dutch newspaper is trying to find the best Dutch Designs of all time. One of Ootje Oxenaar’s Designs for Dutch money is amongst the top 25 nominees. My personal favorite is “Red and Blue” chair, by Gerrit Rietveld. Amazingly it sits as good as it looks.

    It all started with Rietveld’s ambition to design an armchair that could be put together easily with cheap materials. He stripped the armchair – which until then had always had an air of pomposity about it – of all superfluous referrals to tradition and etiquette. It was just about sitting, leaning back and being supported, felt the young Rietveld.

Rietveld is an inspiration for Brains4All. Do one thing and do it right! That is why I love this Design. It is simple.

Which of these 25 Designs do you like best and why?

--sorry for the Dutch newspaper link, it has some nice photo's though.

  



What people are saying...

marko

What people are saying about 14Dayz...

Our beta tester crowd consists of the most amazing people. People from all over the world who are playing a pivotal role in the evolution of 14Dayz into the simple and useful application it has become. And we’re not stopping now or slowing down, no sir! We’re just picking up the pace. All the great feedback we’re getting from you motivates us even stronger. We will push just a little bit harder after every wonderful comment. To give you the simplest and most valuable service we possible can.

Here is a selection of the most praising feedback our beta testers have bestowed upon us;

    “I’m really happy to see the improvements on this new release. Thank you very much [...] it’s awesome.”
    Caffo

    “The site and application look terrific.”
    Scott Maggelet, Independent contractor

    “Its a cool serivce.”
    Caglar

    “I think the design is very clean, and the use of AJAX-type interaction is very nice. They certainly did do the job well, and they represent timesheets nicely. I think people will like it”
    David Seah, Productivity Master and freelance New Media Developer

    “Thanks. Looks interesting and I like your philosophy.”
    Jon Leland, president & creative director ComBridges

    “I’m using 14dayz for almost 5 days and it’s awesome. I was looking for a simple solution like that a long time ago. Thank you very much”
    Rodrigo Franco

    “I am very impressed with your product! Here’s what I liked/loved about it:

    - Dashboard: Wow. Very Clean. Very Simply.
    - Timesheet functionality: It acts like I expected it to (like a spreadsheet).
    - Love the way new categories are created!
    - Reports: Extremely organized, functional interface to deliver the data to the user. Love the exports for PDF and Excel!

    Keep up the great work!!!”
    Kevin Old

    “It does one thing, and well: time tracking.”
    Michael Arrington, TechCrunch

    “This is super simple. My grandmum could use it.”
    Saul Weiner, A Zulu in Sillicon Valley

    “I think your application is tremendous.”
    Henk van de Goor, Project Manager

    “Keep up the great work. Your UI looks great.”
    Larry Velez

    “Looks pretty nice so far.”
    Ronald The, Freelance Designer

    “The user interface of 14dayz.com just dropped me completely off my chair. What a marvelous piece of technology and simplicity!! My compliments.”
    Jan van der Meer, Internet Developer INOXA

    “I like it, it’s pretty cool!”
    Raoul Pop, Healthcare Executive and Business Consultant

    “Thanks [...] for a very handy tool!”
    Rene Verhagen, Netserve

    “Looks great guys… a day early and everything. Keep up the good work.”
    John Philip Green, Married Inc

    “Attention Freelancers: Border-crossing time registration service…”
    Tim Bakkum, Nieuwe Revu

Thank you all for your kind words.

A special debt of gratitude should go out to these dedicated testers that have worked closely with the team to help improve 14Dayz. They are commended here because they have invested their time and often their professional insights and expertise to the benefit of every current and future user of the system: David, Raoul, Rodrigo, Rene, Steven, Stephen, Jon, Peter, Serge, Scott, Saul, Marco, Justin, Joel and Arthur. Thank you for your continued constructive criticism and positive feedback. You have gone way beyond the call of duty. You are wonderful persons! We feel privileged to work for you.

To all beta testers currently involved; Keep up the great work! We would welcome some feedback on the planning of next week’s iteration.

If you’d like to become part of this wonderful team of beta testers or if you’d like to be notified when 14Dayz is ready for public release; please leave your email over at http://www.14dayz.com

  



Japanese bank to embrace Mac

marko

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The Wall Street Journal reports that Japanese bank Aozora has announced it will make the unusual step to move from desktop PCs to Apple Mac. This concerns about 90 percent of a total of 2300 computers. About a third of the staff al ready owns an apple shaped logo. According to the head of technology, OS X was the business driver in this remarkable turnover. Apparently OS X would provide the necessary functionality and stability for their banking needs.

  



Japanese bank to embrace Mac

marko

tiger.jpg

The Wall Street Journal reports that Japanese bank Aozora has announced it will make the unusual step to move from desktop PCs to Apple Mac. This concerns about 90 percent of a total of 2300 computers. About a third of the staff al ready owns an apple shaped logo. According to the head of technology, OS X was the business driver in this remarkable turnover. Apparently OS X would provide the necessary functionality and stability for their banking needs.

  



Beatrice

marko

beatrice.jpg

The Royal Dutch Library is publishing a remarkably beautiful early 13th century document online next Thursday. The manuscript is also on display up to April 30th.

The medieval handwriting that has been part of the collection for over 200 years is the only one in which the story of Beatrice survives. The Royal Library has digitized the handwriting and plans to publish it integrally on a special website.

The poem tells the story of a nun who leaves the monastery with here lover. During 7 years they live happily and have two children. Then bad times arrive and Beatrice's lover leaves her. She is forced to prostitute herself to provide for herself and her children. Another 7 years go by in sin and bitter poverty, but she stays close to her calling and prays regularly.
Finally he repents and decides to return to the monastery. To her surprise no one has missed her. It appears Maria herself had taken it upon herself to tend to here duties for 14 years.
The Beatrice website will include a digital scan of the manuscript, a transcript of the medieval text as well as a translation into modern Dutch and background information.

I am just inspired by the beautiful handwriting and artwork in the Manuscript.

  



Warning Event Notification

marko

warningEventNotification.png

Excuse me? I was working on some issues with Daniel from Medical Media when we were both flabbergasted by the sudden and unexplained appearance of this popup. "What?"

Now when you hear me ranting about software being too complex, this is what I am talking about. That is un-usability that is. I can’t even go into everything that is wrong with that.

If you are ever in a discussion, advocating simple software; Show 'em this screen.

I rest my case.

  



Block

marko

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As with all games there is winning and there is loosing. Not that any other countries' speed skating team would call getting the bronze medal on the speed skating team pursuit loosing. The Dutch team were the absolute favourites. They knew they had the strongest skaters. The coach could line up any combination of athletes and still have a team of winners. Then disaster strikes as silver medallist Sven Kramer steps on a block and takes a fall.

Such a small thing to come between you and victory. And sometimes that is just the way things happen. You fight against such things. Like we do. We look at every little detail and try to get it perfect. If we see room for improvement and if we think it can matter, we dig into it. However small. And still bad things happen. Bad luck.

Then do like the Dutch team did. Keep going. Keep your head up and try again. Even in the face of the huge dissapointment they had to swallow, the Dutch skaters dicide to take home the max of what that they can get: The Olympic Bronze Medal. Well done.

  



Gold!

marko

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Today to everyone's surprise, including her own, on the 3000 m speed skating in Torino, Ireen Wüst is the first Dutch athlete to take the Gold medal on the 2006 winter olympics.

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A nice AJAX throbber for you

marko

Here's a nice AJAX throbber that I made. I have no particular use for it just now. The throbber is based on the zebra pattern in Photoshop. Some bevel and a lens flare make it look a bit like a marble. The movement is supposed to be that of a marble rolling in different directions. Remember Marble Madness? It is hard to capture that motion in Image Ready. For it to look like a real marble it needs smoother transition of movement in different directions. Like the sinoidal transition in scriptaculous. Image Ready knows only about linear transitions. Still, I think it's quite nice and I hope someone finds some good use for it.

B4AzebraThrobber.gif

Share and Enjoy!

The animated B4AzebraThrobber.gif image above is licenced under the creative commons licence. You can use it anywhere you like, edit and modify it, as long as you share your modifcations under the same licence. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

Creative Commons License

  



World Party

marko

olympics.jpg

Like billions of others tonight, our family has been watching the opening ceremony of the 2006 winter olympics in Torino, Italy. What a spectacular event! So well organised, and yet it made me feel free and happy. The effort that has gone into it was clearly tremendous. We all loved the flaming ice skaters. As the commentors said: "They are something of a diversion in between the important elements of the show." Yeah! In a way our products are like that. When they are working for you, they help you do your job. Well organised, yet they make you feel free and happy. And in between important elements you are having fun and you enjoy yourself. Why does work have to be tedious? These athletes are going to work, and they're having a good time or so it seems.

It was good to see so many high spirited athletes from counties all over the world. I found their excitement and enthousiasm contagious and it felt good to see that each and every person radiated the knowledge that they were part of something special; like a world party! Where taking part, and being there, is more important than winning.

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