Wooden Clock: Tibet!

Ever since I created my Wooden Clock for iPad app I wanted to update it to have the option of letting users pick from an assortment of different clock types for some variety once in a while. Well after over 2 years and many early weekend mornings I finally got around to doing that and the update just went live in the App Store.

wooden-clock-settings-201502The new skin – the first of hopefully more to come in the future – is the “Tibet” clock. I’ve been fond of Tibet for quite some time … probably in large part due to the film “Seven Years in Tibet” and my eternal fascination with Mount Everest – so I figured that theme would be as good as any to start out with.

The App Store database isn’t entirely updated yet so here’s the details of the new version in case it doesn’t appear in the App Store yet:

A brand-new clock has been added … the “Tibet” clock!

The new Tibet clock was hand-carved, assembled and painted in the majestic foothills of Mount Everest near the city of Lhasa. Ok … actually it was all done in Photoshop and a text editor in a dark office .. but that’s almost as inspiring right?! In any case I hope everyone enjoys the new clock!

Seven_Years_in_Tibet_coverFirst – in standard fashion I have to insert a disclaimer here that while I am calling this the new “Tibet” clock, I in no way am implying that I am capable of producing authentic, Tibetan artwork nor is the clock I’ve constructed anything anyone who actually lives in Tibet would recognize or find attractive at all. This is simply my humble attempt at creating a visual homage to Tibet … as well as a geek from the US suburbs is capable of anyway.

I did do some research on Tibetan furniture and artwork before starting. As one might imagine a large part of Tibetan culture and artwork is based on the Buddhist religion – but for various reasons I steered clear of that route and went with a more general, flowery and colorful approach instead. But even with that generic approach, I do hope the final product gives that classic Tibetan vibe … the bright yellows and reds against a bright blue (mountain) sky. On a technical note – the flowers and leaves on the clock were painted with the Procreate app on my iPad and the rest of the clock was created using Photoshop.

While I was packaging things up I went ahead and updated the app icon a bit too. I’m not in love w/the new version but like it much more than the last one I used.

New Icon

Old Icon

The update with the new Tibet clock went live on the App Store today so users will get it the next time they update. If anyone has ideas or suggestions on new clocks I could add in the future swing by the Facebook page and post it!

Oh yeah – here’s the short app preview in included in this update – it shows the new clock in action!

Adobe Flash Graveyard

Ok so the silly graphic I made for this post is not entirely accurate. Adobe Flash did not die … but for all intents and purposes it did back in 2010 when Steve Jobs wrote his infamous letter about it. While Adobe made some smart moves since then to stay in the game it definitely was somewhat forced to move on from being the primary, most popular platform for creating slick animation and interactive experiences on the web.

While I do enjoy the new frontiers of design and development my job and hobbies involve that, sadly, have little to nothing to do with Flash, I have to say it’s a lot more work to produce stuff as shiny and fun w/the new, non-Flash tools we use today. That may just be a reflection of my skill/experience levels not being what they should be … but I also think it’s just a fact that nothing has come around yet that allows designers and animators the ability to create stuff as quickly, as creative and as polished than Adobe Flash did.

Much of my early career invovled a lot of Flash work but as the years go by it becomes harder to keep track of them – let alone keep them online somewhere where eveyone can still access them since no Apple phones/tablets can view them anymore.

Anyhow … I know this whole topic is years old but recently I decided I would create some screencast movies of some of them for safe(r) keeping and to provide a more convenient way to share them w/a world that has for the most part moved on from the “Flash Plugin” days. Anyhow … see below for the Flash things I’ve archived so far. I may/may not add to the list. If you’re bored feel free to play one or two of the below … make sure to click the HD and fullscreen buttons! 🙂

My Portfolio: 1998-2008

What’s It Going to Be 2008

What’s It Going to Be 2006

Baby Announcement (Lincoln)

Super Golf

Guitar Chord Tutor

Think or Swim (Wheel of Fortune)

A Day to Remember

My 1999 Website (so old and cheesy!)

Christmas Card 2014

The printed cards have finally shipped out so it’s probably safe to share the digital version now. Head over to http://cards.chris-emerson.com for more detail about this year’s card, related sketches and artwork and a really cool time-lapse video.

As always – if you usually get a paper version in the mail and haven’t gotten one yet feel free to wait for that before checking out the online version. And to those who didn’t get a paper version please know it’s only because I either forgot, ran out of time/materials or simply don’t like you anymore … but usually not the latter. 🙂

Suburbs: You Are Here

I’ve been watching a lot of war documentaries this year from WWI to WWII to Korea and Vietnam – so I guess it’s no surprise that some artwork like this would come out. All these documentaries inspire me to create artwork that pays homage to the soldiers and the human achievements and tragedies from all the different wars … but so far I haven’t come up with much besides this yet. 

For what it’s worth this piece isn’t really what I intended it to be as it was originally going to be a standalone WWI scene more along the lines of that intense WWI scene in Legends of the Fall – but it morphed into something else. Anyhow even though it falls quite short of conveying what I’d like it to and the fact that it skews things a bit too much towards the USA – I figured I’d finish it off and post it anyhow. 

Beyond whatever issues myself or others may have about any given war, at the very least learning about each of them makes me appreciate (and feel plenty guilty about) just how fortunate I am to be able to raise a family in the safety (bubble) of an American suburb. Here’s to all the people, from the past to the present, who have put their lives on the line to defend the freedoms I enjoy today.

 
(My Grandfather’s WWII era photos)

DIY Projector Ceiling Mount

I am not a handyman … by ANY stretch. But after almost a year of having my projector sitting on a tupperware container in the attic with it’s wires unattractively strewn across the attic ceiling I finally had enough and I attempted to build my own ceiling mount.

The general concept and motivation behind my “design” came from the various DIY web articles I found where guys with actual handyman skills had created their own ceiling mounts. However the problem was that my ceiling mount situation was unlike any of the ones in those articles … so my “design” came out fairly unique.

Before starting I accepted the fact that the odds were pretty high that chance that I would fail miserably and the only thing I’d have to show for my effort would be a few receipts from Lowe’s Hardware. Honestly I wasn’t sure right up till the end if it would work – but for now it seems to be so I’m enjoying the moment. I suppose there’s a chance it will come crashing down one day – but let’s hope not!

The end result definitely doesn’t look like something you’d buy in a store. One of my friends said it looks like something out of a horror movie – and I guess that’s not far off. Thankfully it’s pretty high up and the attic is normally dark so hopefully it doesn’t give anyone nightmares. 

Anyhow – here are the photos proving that once upon a time I attempted a handyman project and, at least for now, it appears to have worked out!  PS: If anyone reading this has handyman or general engineering skills please do chime in on whether I should patent this thing or wear a hard hat when walking under it!

    

The Insane iPhone

I’ve meant to post about this for a long time – but it was just one of those things that kept getting put off. But after recently watching a hilarious bit from the comedian Louis C.K. about cell phones and how much we take them for granted (video: Warning Adult Language!) I got the final bit of motivation I needed to get this posted. 

Maybe most people are over the initial fascination with “smartphone” era that the iPhone kicked off – but I am still constantly amazed by how much these devices can do and what an integral role mine plays in my day-to-day life. Admittedly I am nerdier than most – I have no idea how my wife manages to walk around 80% of the day w/out her phone on or near her person! – but even though I may be a fringe case who uses the iPhone more than the average bear – and who would be helpless if/when all cell phones stop working – I’m sure everyone can at least appreciate how much these smartphones in our pockets can do.
So – here’s my super nerdy list of all the different ways I use my phone each day. Some days I use only some of these things – others I use almost all of them … But any way you slice it it is just plain insane how much you can do with a smartphone – it really is like a modern Swiss Army knife!

Personal/Family Stuff

  • Family grocery list! (Grocery IQ)
  • Exercise (Weight Lifting) (Strong)
  • To-Dos and Project Mgmt (Omnifocus)
  • Bank Account Mgmt
  • Shopping (Amazon, eBay, Starbucks etc)

Work

Media/Social

  • Telephone (Remember phones with cords, or the thing you would plug wireless phones into?)
  • Text Messages (Would take a book to sum up how this changed everything) 
  • Digital Camera (“… When I was a kid it took 6 weeks to get your film developed!”)
  • Video Camera (Our family video camera in the 90s was the size of a VCR… )
  • Music (Google Play)
  • Movies (Plex, iMDB, HBOGO, TV Guide)
  • Photos (40,000+ of my photos at my finger tips Flickr, FlickrStackr)
  • Twitter / Facebook / WordPress (I wrote half this post on my iPhone)

Utilities/Tools 

  • Clock (the last time I wore a watch was 1997?)
  • Dictionary
  • Encyclopedia (The other day the kids and I did voice search with Google to find “World record longest spaghetti?”… Answer: 12,000 ft).
  • Maps / Driving directions 
  • Calendars
  • Medical Advice (WebMD, etc)
  • Instant Weather (Dark SkyWeather Channel)
  • Recorder Pro (I love recording audio of my kids, ambient noise, etc)
  • Remote Desktop
  • Cloud File Access/Mgmt (Dropbox, Box)
  • Password Mgmt (LastPass
  • Flashlight (when replacing a video card in my computer under the desk)
  • Timer (“10 more minutes on Wii, kids…)

Learning

I’m sure I’ve left some stuff out but think I hit all the big ones. So now you know some of my favorite apps – and how nerdy I am. I can’t even imagine how I would do all of the above without my phone- at the very least my desk/office would have a lot of clutter/stuff lying around!

I know it’s probably going to be what kicks off SKYNET and will end up being the death of us all … but until then I am definitely thankful for what my iPhone can do!

Thanks, Steve.

Owls and Pals

Here’s a new iPad painting I’ve been kicking around a while that I’m finally calling done so I can move on. As with the last one, I started this one from a sketch I did while drawing w/the kids.

I had fun with this one but it definitely reminded me how hard it is to make realistic water – let alone with reflections, shadow and stuff! But I gave it my best shot.

Original Sketch



My first Chrome App: Searchr!

I stayed up far past my bedtime tonight to get this thing wrapped up and shipped so I figured I’d put up the post for it now too.
This evening I finished the first release build of my first Google Chrome app named “Searchr!“. What in the world is it? Well here’s the app description I’m going with:

Searchr! is an easy-to-use flickr photo search app for Google Chrome focused on speed and convenience! Tired of clicking 15 times just to get to a download link for your favorite flickr photo? This app makes that simple and fast in addition to other time-saving features.

Honestly I figured there would already be dozens of this kind of thing out there – and I’ve looked for them for last couple years – but unless I was looking in all the wrong places it’s just not. Yeah there are a couple flickr Chrome apps and extensions that do various thing – but nothing that useful or impressive AFAIK.
Anyhow – if it’s not obvious this was an app I made for myself because it drives me nuts how long it takes to get to a URL or download (original) link for an image on flickr … plus pretty much anything on flickr takes too long for my impatient self – so this app addresses that.

There is definitely more I want/need to do here. Right now it’s heavily reliant on “tags” for finding photos. Eventually I’ll expand the search scope to parse more than that – but since I live and breathe by tags this will work for me for a while. So when I want to find my “favorite,lincoln,corgan” photos between 2009 and 2010 … I can now do it in seconds!

On a technical note – this thing wasn’t very hard to build. Most of the work here leveraged skills I use at work (and play) every day anyhow so while I did learn a few things along the way it wasn’t a big deal at all to put this together – it’s really just a wrapped up web app. I also had a good laugh that I got it published in mere minutes after uploading the files to Google … contrast that with Apple’s 1-2 week review time for the App Store!

Hopefully other folks will find it useful. If any of you dig it or think of things that I should add or alter drop by the Facebook support page and post a note!
https://www.facebook.com/searchrapp

The official download link for the app on the Google Chrome web store is here:
https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/searchr/phldilnakifhbgllkiopclbdchkdcfoc

2019011x Update

Just FYI Google has stopped allowing “web apps” in Chrome so eventually Searchr! will not work in Chrome anymore. I think if you have it installed already it will keep working but eventually you won’t be able to find it in the Chrome app store (still here as of 2019011x though).

Given this I’ve migrated Searchr! to be a standalone web app for people to use/bookmark if they want in future here: https://chris-emerson.com/searchr/. Note the “authentication” piece no longer works (for now) so you’ll only be able to search public photos until/unless I update it to add Flickr authentication back in.

Bears of Anarchy

A couple weeks ago I drew this picture while coloring with the kids and I thought it might be neat to see how it would turn out in color so I brought it into my iPad painting app and gave it a shot.

While working on the iPad I added a couple references to the “Sons of Anarchy” – an awesome TV show on FX that I recently just finished devouring 6 seasons of.

In any case – this was a fun experiment – I may try it again…

Strong and SETS

1461529_523644671076609_2032885128_nI recently found a workout logging iPhone app named Strong from Endangered Apps and had to post about it (for my millions of readers of course). It doesn’t have any bloat – just the basic features you need – workout logging, custom exercise and routine management, history/stats and import/export abilities. On top of everything, the UI is very clean and easy to use. If I was being picky I’d say I wish the workout controls were more “fat finger friendly” (I have large hands!) but that’s a nitpick really.

Aside from it being a great app the reason I’m posting about it is because once I found the app I was able to abandon an app I had been (slowly) working on for the past year or so. The app I was building, tentatively named “SETS”, was going to basically do most of what the Strong app does – but it just doesn’t make sense for me to finish mine since Strong does everything so well.

Since I’m mothballing my app I figured I should post a couple images of it for historical/reference – so click the images below to see the “SETS” app icon and some screenshots of what it was going to look like.

Anyhow – thanks @strongapp! Love the app! Now to think of a new app I can start building … hmm.

Dark Souls (PC)

Please pardon the geeky, gamer note here but I just had to post something for the record books to commemorate my finally finishing the PC game Dark Souls last night.

The game was refreshingly difficult to beat, set in a beautifully-imagined (bleak) world and took a looooong time to beat (probably over 60 hours over course of a year and a half). This game will definitely go down in my top 5 or 10 games of all time. I do wish I had started it on the Xbox or PS3 because couch gaming is always better than PC/desk gaming IMHO – but it was still a great ride and I was able to use my Xbox controller on Windows 7 thankfully.

Check out some of my screenshots here – the quality of the graphics aren’t amazing maybe to modern day standards – but the design of the game world was so well done that with some of the modifications people have made for the game it looked just as good as any cutting-edge graphics game today (IMHO).

Special thanks to FROM SOFTWARE and Hidetaka Miyazaki for creating such an unconventional, non-mainstream masterpiece. It was a great escape and adventure and I can’t wait for the sequel!

Christmas Card 2013

This year’s Christmas cards shipped out a couple days ago so I guess it’s safe to send out a link to the digital version now.  I changed my mind on where to host them so they’re back at a (slightly updated) standalone website now. Head over to this site for card notes, related artwork and the time lapse video: http://cards.chris-emerson.com.

As always if you get a paper version feel free to wait for that before checking out the online version – and for those who don’t get a paper version please know it’s only because I either forgot or just ran out of time or materials!

Wooden Clock Update for iOS 7

A large part of the reason I made Wooden Clock a couple years ago was just to try out the, then new, Adobe AIR-to-IOS development and deployment process to see if there was any life left in the notion of hanging on to my Flash “developer” roots. In the end while I obviously got the app published to the App Store I was not won over with the Adobe tools or workflow for the job. It wasn’t as bad as Android development (still is) but I still definitely did not enjoy it since the app’s performance wasn’t what I’d hoped for, the testing workflow was annoying and buggy and working in the Flash IDE was often infuriating for multiple reasons.

As time went on I worked more and more with the Cordova (a.k.a. PhoneGap) platform – which Exports native mobile apps from HTML web apps – and I grew pretty fond of it. Naturally after a while the question popped in my head:

“Would Wooden Clock re-written in HTML perform as well or better than the old Flash version in the App Store?”

Since free time was (and still is) so hard to come by this wasn’t something I could justify trying out anytime soon so I just tabled it for a rainy day that would likely never come. But after getting a few blog comments and emails about Wooden Clock having problems with Apple’s latest software update (iOS 7) I decided I may as well kill two birds with one stone and attempt to migrate the app from Flash to HTML.

So over the past couple weeks using an hour here and there I exported the various clock graphics from Flash and rebuilt the app as a HTML web app.  Overall Things went fairly smooth and I was surprised to discover that the app’s performance seemed as good if not better than it was in the Flash version.

New Flat Style

As I was rewriting the app I wondered what difference, if any, using flat imagery would have on the performance of the clock so I created a secondary set of graphics to allow users to toggle between a flat style or the default (wooden) style. Honestly it would have probably made more sense if I had tried comparing the image performance against canvas object performance since I’m pretty sure image complexity/color-count has very little affect on performance – but I’m not a canvas pro so I stuck with images. The clock does seem slightly more fluid/responsive when using the flat design but the difference is pretty subtle.

Flat Style

A side-effect of throwing in this flat style is that I may actually be able to create full-fledged additional clock skins in the future too – this would never happen if the app had stayed Flash-based.

Flat Icon?

Since iOS7 has a new “flat” look to everything I made an attempt to update Wooden Clock’s icon to fit in. However since most of this app’s cool-factor is based on how realistic and rich the graphics are coming up with a flat version of the icon is a pretty challenging (possibly impossible) task. I landed on something I could live with for now but I’m not in love with it – so maybe I’ll come up with something more interesting later.

iOS7 Icon
iOS7 Icon
Original Icon
Original Icon

For comparison here’s how Apple changed one of their own icons:

iOS7 Icon
iOS7 Icon
Original Icon
Original Icon

App Store Timing

The updated version of Wooden Clock is currently in the Apple App Store review process and should be live in a few days.