Deck Rack: The new longboard rack in town!

Some time ago, I was looking for a good longboard rack, to have a nice looking rack that can hold my sons skateboard and my longboard. I couldn’t find a good one, so I decided to build my own one and documented it in a blogpost.

Some months later, I checked my blog statistics and … wow … this post got some love from Google. The overview for search queries showed that the query for „longboard rack“ is in average on Google position 1.2??? What does it mean? I checked it right away…typing „longboard rack“ in Google search bar…and baaam: the very first result is an image of my rack. I was very happy, because I didn’t do anything for that. So my next thought: „Can I use that somehow?“, and yes I will try.

The idea: sell these longboard racks and put a link to the sale on the original post.

For selling it I needed some good, but cheap boards. After some research I got some help from Christian, a good friend and man behind TEN Skateboards (ten-skateboards.com). He organized 10 blank wooden decks, for a good prize.

Now I had to craft them, but my space at home is very limited. If this project would be successful, there is no chance to make them at home. First idea: let them do in a carpenter’s shop. That would work, for sure. Second idea: my father could help me building the racks. My father taught me how to do all the woodworking and has a big garage with all tools available. Beside that he is already 60 years old and unfortunately has to do night shifts, still. So maybe, he can build the racks and if they are successful, he could go into pension a little bit earlier. Then he could do some work he loves (woodwork), do it at home and only he decides when he will work on it – bye, bye night shifts. That would be my dream! Lets see if that works out. And to take the pressure away from him I can still go to a carpenter’s shop, if demand gets too high.

I organized all parts: decks, screws and angle brackets and some days later at christmas we visited my parents for a week, and we crafted all 10 racks. We improved the design a little bit. Now the rack can only hold 3 boards instead of 4, but on the other side, it shows the boards better, the construction can handle more weight and we need only 2 angle brackets (makes it a little bit cheaper for the customers).

This is how it looks:

Now the first batch of racks are ready to sell. First I wanted to sell them at amazon, but there you need a bar code, which I don’t have. So I sell them on ebay, only in Germany for now, but if you are interested write me a line (mail@deck-rack.com) . In addition to that I built a small website, with the help of two awesome friends (Mario did the logo, Hassan did the logo font), gave it a name and registered the websites for it. The name for that project is „Deck Rack“, and the brand new Website is available under

deck-rack.com

 

Let’s see if it will be successful, I will keep you up to date.

 

 

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Goodbye Flash

Goodbye Flash

it was a nice time. My first digs into flash have been in 2000 with Flash 4. But I only did a bouncing ball tutorial and not much more. I rediscovered it while I was studying in 2003, it was then called Flash MX 2004. Since then I did a lot of Flash websites and apps. But it has been mainly animations and timeline scripts. In 2007 I started as Flash Developer at a beautiful Web agency called argonauten G2 in Berlin. There I met a lot of highly skilled people, I learned a lot about Flash, external Actionscript and Software Architecture. I used AS2 and AS3, and even did a big project with Flex. I liked it a lot and it was a real good way to become a Software Developer.

But with the iPhone, Flash started to fall down. Everyone wanted at least a mirror of the Flash site in HTML or even just only HTML. I think it was good move, because with the power of HTML5 you can do very beautiful website without Flash. So in the end I only did Banners – I hated it. Ok it was a challenge in the beginning. You have to bring a lot of graphic, algorithms and even sound into 35kb. I knew nearly every trick to save the last bit. It was also a chance to test local connections. But hey in the end I have been the guy that is doing this annoying ads. So I had to stop it – Don’t do it if you don’t like it.

That was the reason that I moved on and went to Wooga in 2010. Since then I had the chance to make wonderful Flash Games for Facebook, that are free, and highly polished. Again, more high skilled people. So I could progress even more, as a developer and learn a lot. I used Flash mainly for games. Or from a developer perspective: big apps that have to be efficient, maintainable, stable and user-friendly. Flash was perfect for it, as long as the majority of Social Games happened at Facebook. We try a lot of new stuff at Wooga and are free in our decisions. That was the reason why we (of course) tested HTML5 for developing a Game and started with iOS and also Android.

So whats the current status? It’s only my thoughts, but thats my opinion of the current situation, as a developer:

HTML5

Don’t get me wrong, I like the features and all the beautiful websites and even apps that are done with it. And yes you can do games with it. But no it’s not the best choice for big games. – One example here is, you can only play one sound at a time, but basically you need more in a good game.- I don’t say you can’t do a game, we also did it, you can check it out: It’s called Pocket Island and we open sourced it. But for me HTML5 feels like Flash 5. It’s something you should use for webapps or websites. It’s the best for that, and not Flash anymore – I completely agree. I also see a big future in it. The community is growing like hell. Frameworks, Tooling and support is popping up everywhere. And I also think it will be usable for big games in the future but not today.

Android

I had an android phone and I liked it. The number of devices with Android is big. Very big. Also the different versions of software, resolution and capabilities also (too) big. Google is trying to reduce this fragmentation, because it’s quite necessary. For me as a developer Android is nice because it is an open system, but on the other side if you are done, you have a million different devices where you have to test your app. Especially if you want to do games for the masses. – Also one example: there are 4 different versions of Samsung Galaxy S 3 (like one special for Verizon and so on). On 3 of them your Game is running and on one it’s not,- Thats terrible, but Google will work on it and Android will become bigger and bigger. So it’s an interesting platform, and it will be very important in the future. But I really don’t like that also the phones getting bigger. A screen size of 3.8“ or 4“ is ok to put in your pocket, but 5“ is too much. Unfortunately there is no powerful and small phone on the market any more – and no I don’t want to watch a movie on it. So I couldn’t live with such a big device, and that’s the reason I can’t develop for it. You should use the system you develop for – and I can’t at the moment.

iOS

It was a big invention, and it changed the way we use phones. It also changed the look and feel for these group of devices. Every phone looks like the iPhone, every tablet looks like the iPad. And if not it’s basically not successful. Apple is quite strict in with what you can do and what is only allowed to them. It is a big plus when it comes to user interfaces and usability. Also the frameworks are well designed, and because you develop native (you should) the apps run much, much faster than Flash. They have a huge Appstore and you can make a lot of money there. Really? I think as a big company yes, if you are just one developer without money to promote your app, it will be very hard to get users (and money). For me iOS is the most interesting platform I would develop for. Of course apple is not perfect. One small example: With a Sony Ericsson T68i you could took a photo and share it over Infrared or Bluetooth, 10 years ago. Now with an iPhone you can’t, just because of all the restrictions – Sometimes they just restrict too much.

Flash

I liked it. I learned a lot of Software Architecture with it. It was easy to start and easy to see your results and it had the possibilities to make complex apps with. Flash gave us a lot: Browser compatibility, Animations, Fonts, Sound, Video, 3D and Games. Flash made it available for everyone inside the browser. Because of the plugin they could do fancy stuff, that was available to a lot of people in a short amount of time. They made it possible that you can use this „App for making Animations“ with Object Oriented Programming! Not bad. In addition to that, there was also a really huge community around it. But now it feels like also Adobe don’t believe in it anymore, so that they not even mention it on their own conference Adobe Max. I’m not sure if they could handle it better. In the end we have to look forward, and I think they will stop the development for it soon. Moving everything into the cloud and with that FlashCC is a good move for Adobe, because they are not forced to implement new features every year, but they still get money for it. So it will be alive, and of course has to be, for a long time, because HTML5 can not replace it completely, yet. But also Adobe will try to shift us developers to HTML and JS. You see this move in all presentations Adobe makes on conferences and think back how much new features in Flash IDE and the Plugin we get in the past every year and what we get now.

Flash you just feels old and left alone. I’m sorry, but I will move on to a new wonder woman named iOS, take my knowledge and develop for Mobile Devices. I like iOS the most, but will also try Unity. Especially for prototyping, Unity sounds really interesting for me. I’m looking forward!

 

Hello iOS

 

Reminder: thats just my opinions of what I see as a game developer, but I’m also happy to discuss that with you. So please leave a comment or feedback if you want.

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Hacking: longboard rack (Update)

Beside all productivity and coding, now a complete offline topic. Here is my last weekend project, I built a rack for my longboard made from skateboard decks.

 

If you want more informations have a look here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Skadeboard-Rack-made-from-Skateboarddecks/

Update: Yeah, I’ve been featured on the homepage of www.instructables.com and because of that I got a full year pro membership on this platform. Thank you instructables 🙂

Update 2: You can buy the racks now on deck-rack.com. Read what happened in this blogpost.

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Tool: Spirited Away, hides inactive applications

 

Spirited Away is a productivity tool that helps you to stay focused on what you do.

The description on the developers page explain it as: „Spirited Away checks each running application’s activity, and if an application isn’t active for a certain fixed time, Spirited Away hides the application automatically.“

The tool shows up in your Macs statusbar as a little icon. From there you can exclude these apps you don’t want to have closed automatically and the Preferences.

The Preferences Panel is also very simple and allows you to set the time an app has to be idle until it’s closed.

 

I use it at work and it’s active the whole time. It’s cool to have a cleaned up Desktop and only the used apps open. For me it helps a lot to stay focused and in the „flow“, because it minimizes the distraction from Browser windows and especially Facebook. Try it out its free, but for Mac only.

 

 

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Use and sync your bookmarks

I saw myself with lists of bookmarks. Unsorted, different between browsers and also different between computers. Especially after I got  a fresh workplace at work, I had to import the bookmarks from home, and that is really a pain, if you are not allowed to import files because of security reasons.

1st step: syncing bookmarks

Ok I needed a tool for syncing my bookmarks between different workspaces, browsers and operating systems. Thankfully there is one: Xmarks. It will sync between Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer, you can use it on Mac, Windows and Linux and it’s also available for iOS and Android (both only with premium account, see „extra tip“ for that). On top, all you bookmarks are reachable through a webapp.

Now, if I get a new computer, browser or mobile phone, I will install Xmarks and everything is synced. The basic service is free, but there is also a premium service, if you want to save your passwords and use it on mobiles. It also have some more features like sync open tabs and so on, but I don’t want to discover that because I don’t use it.

Xmarks had some trouble in the past few month with Safari on Mac, but now everything is fixed and because of that I’m writing this article.

2nd step: sort bookmarks

Ok I will not force you to use my folder structure, but I will give a few hints that helped me a lot.

At first I sorted all my lists of different bookmarks and took them in folders and subfolders. That sounds simple but it takes ages for me, because I had A LOT of unsorted bookmarks. After that I used a tool to delete all dead bookmarks. So everything was clean and I could sync my bookmarks.

But over time there are some bookmarks that I use really often, like Goole Reader, some mail services, Facebook, Google maps and so on. Searching in different folders and going through subfolders are not that productive I wanted to have that. So I made a special folder, let’s call it „favorites“ and but it to the first place.

Then after a while I got a lot of folders titled with some meaningful words. But for example on my MacBook the space of the toolbar is a little bit limited, and because of that I had to get rid of the long words somehow. So I replaced the long words with shorter ones, if it was possible and also replaced some words with icons. E.g. „favorites“ folder is now ★★★ (3 stars if you can’t see it). Or I had a bookmark (JS snipped) to maximize Safari on Mac to fullscreen, but „fullscreen“ was too long so I renamed it to ↑ (arrow pointing to top). At the end, all main folders are visible in the toolbar.

3rd step: read later

For me it happens a lot, that I read a Blogpost or get a mail with an interesting link, but I haven’t the time to read it at this point. At the beginning I dropped them to my desktop, but new lists of unsorted and unsynced bookmarks appeared. Of course it was the wrong way, I have solved this problem so let’s use it. The difference was that I wasn’t sure if I should keep this bookmark, is it really interesting or is there nothing new in that link. I also had to decide which category it belongs to. In addition I wanted to keep track of that „unread“ links. The solution was really simple, I added a folder at the second place beside my favorites called „read later“. Everything that seems interesting and I should have a look later, I drop in that folder. It syncs automatically and I can read it at home, or on my iPhone later. In addition to that, I also use a folder titled „watch later“, thats the same for videos or bigger platforms, that means it will take more time to get through it. So at the subway I can go through the „read later“ stuff and at home or at the weekend I can sort out the links of „watch later“.

Ok to tell the truth they called only „read“ and „watch“ – you know I need the space and I know the meaning, and only I have to work with that.

4th step: finding a bookmark

Ok, I sort, sync and organize my bookmarks. But sometimes I know, I had a bookmark about that special topic, but where is it. You can of course find it with some plugins of your favorite browser or Mac Spotlight. For me the best the fastest way is Alfred, a productivity tool I surely will discover later. But for that functionality, you press a shortcut and type some words and it suggests you some bookmarks (and files, mails and so on).

5th step: readability

I stumbled over Readability and Instapaper a few times, I knew it’s useful but it either was too expensive for me to read an article in a clean and readable way, or it lacks at some platforms like Android. I already solved the problem of „read later“ articles, I just need the readability functionality. But I use Safari as my favorite browser, it already has a reader option if you open blogs or something similar. I also use an iPhone, and I discovered it also have that same function in the iOS version of Safari. Thats’s really cool to read, and in other browsers like Firefox and Chrome, there are plugins to show the website in a more readability form.

Extra tip:

I don’t like the Xmarks app for iPhone, sorry, but I will explain that. You have to open it to sync (it should work in the background, but to limitations of iOS that’s not possible) and you have to pay monthly fees for that. I would pay one time, of course, but I try to avoid subscriptions where I have to pay each month.

But there is a simple solution, you can sync your iPhone bookmarks with your Mac (or PC). You will find that option in the Info panel of you iPhone at iTunes. So every time you sync your phone, you also sync your bookmarks in both ways and you don’t need that app anymore.

 

If you have some more tips about using bookmarks or use other ways please leave a comment, maybe I can optimize it a bit more and it will help some more people.

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Google Analytics and german laws about data privacy

Today I tried to make my blog a little bit more ’save‘ in terms of data privacy laws. BUT as long as I live in germany and host this site in germany it’s not that easy.

I will not write a lot about the laws and what’s standing behind that. All of that is of course useful and important. But to come to the point, what I have to do if I want to make my blog save, in the matter of data privacy? In general it’s not hard to do that until you want to use Google Analytics. In that case you have to do the following, if you located in Germany:

  1. Anonymize the tracked IP by adding 
    _gaq.push(['_gat._anonymizeIp']);
     to your Analytics tracker (Documentation)
  2. Fill out a contract about the data privacy, sign it, send it to Google and they will send it back to you (contract)
  3. Add „Terms and Conditions“ to your site and especially change the „Privacy Policy“ to the correct terms for Google Analytics (Sample Privacy Policy, scroll down to see the english version). In there it will be good to mention the Google Analytics Opt-out Browser Addon
  4. Delete your old data on Google Analytics (delete your account and recreate it, no other way to do it)

 

To step #1, that’s easy, check – I’ve done that.

Next step #2, I printed out the contract (15 sheets) and so long I didn’t read through it. I think it will cause a lot of headaches if you are not doing that law stuff every day.

Step  #3, now it’s getting really hard. If you try to find some model contract, no chance. There are a lot, but without the Analytics terms. And the most of the pages tell you, that it’s hard to match every usecase. That means if you want to make sure your „Terms and Conditions“ are correct, you have to consult a lawyer. WTF? I only want to track how many users read that site, but don’t ask a lawyer, and pay a lot of money for that.

In the last step #4 I have to delete all my data, because everything is stored with the full IP and that’s not allowed in Germany. Google don’t let you delete the data, so you have to delete your account and create a new one. That also means you will get a new id and maybe have to change all your scripts for tracking.

For me that’s too much at the end. I disabled the tracking and will not see the number of clicks, anymore. Maybe I will take the step to consult a lawyer in the future, but for now I wont.

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activeden – my test

What is activeden? To say it short: on activeden your can sell you Flash Apps.

 

To me it sounds quite nice, I can develop some stuff at home and can easily sell it on a platform and get money for it. So I told to myself: „Go for it and try it out.“

I started to browse a little bit on the activeden platform, looked at the apps already there and directly started to create an account. As a seller you have to pass a test after the registration process, it should make sure that you have the rules of the platform in mind, understand the review process and understand the copyright stuff. It took some time to pass the test, but you can try it as often as you want.

What should I sell? I discovered a very useful site, where the people behind the project tell you what they need and what they don’t need. Among other things it says that they need Flash games. Ok, I’m developing Flash games at work, so that should be no problem. With that in mind I started to write my own game, it should be called ‚Memory Music‘ and is similar to a normal memory game, but you have to find a pair of the same sound snippets instead of images.

While I was developing, I often had to reduce the concept, because the development shouldn’t take too much time. So I ended up with around 120 hours of work. It’s still too much but I wanted to make the little game intuitive and with a nice UI.

I uploaded all files and my nice and long documentation and waited for the release of my little game. The game was rejected two time, but after changing some stuff I get it through. And that’s it: Music Memory

Now the interesting part started for me. How much money can I get with it?

The first week I sold it 4 times, the second week 2 times an in the rest of the month 2 times, so I’m now at 8 sold items that makes 32$ for me.

For me it’s a test if the platform is useful for me. I haven’t needed anything for building the game, I have a notebook, licenses for Flash, FlashBuilder and Photoshop and did it after my work at home.

BUT,

there are also a few drawbacks

Documentation: I had to comment all methods and classes and write an extra Documentation. That’s for sure is ok for the buyers, but it takes a lot of time. In normal projects (e.g. freelance projects) that time will be much less.

Code: The project had to be a Flash (IDE) project – a *.fla  file which will start the hole game . If you want to deploy it as a FlashBuilder project (only FlashBuilder and FlashSDK) you have to put it into a specific category with nearly nothing in it. And in addition you have to make an extra preview version.

Rights: You give all your rights exclusively to the platform and can’t sell it elsewhere.

Price: You have no influence about the price, it will be set from the activeden stuff.

Income: It will start with a rate of 50%, that means for every item you sell you will get only the half of the money (in my case the game costs 8$ and I get only 4$). This will increase after a certain amount of sold items.

As summary for now, it’s a good platform if you do a lot of projects where you can extract some stuff, with only a little amount of additional work, and resell it on activeden. If you have a lot of items on your portfolio, you get more visits and will sell more stuff. You can also sell graphics, videos, javascript and so on in the envato marketplaces (the company behind activeden). It accumulates than to one account. But if you develop only for activeden, it’s not worth the time I think, because you will probably get more money if you will do freelance projects or some other stuff. And it’s for the money only – if you want to do it for fun or fame then please do it as an open source project.

I’m not done with my test yet, because I actually didn’t any advertising or something like this. That’s the next test 😉 because you also get money if someone registers over your referral link and buys something later. I will keep you up to date

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Evercube

Evercube is finally ready for shipment.

What is it? It’s a smart little storage server — designed for 24/7-operation in your living room. Small, stainless steel and up to 5 TB capacity. Here are the facts:

dimensions 150 x 150 x 150 mm
material stainless steel, 2 mm, brushed
processor Marvell „Kirkwood“, single core, 1.2 Ghz
memory 512 MB DDR2
disk slots 5 x SATA2, 2.5″
max. capacity 5 TB
network 1 x Gbit Ethernet
power 20 W — 5 VDC, 4 A
cooling ultra-silent fan, 140 mm
kit price € 429 (includes 19% VAT)

And a few images

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‚Making successful Social Games‘ presentation

Last week I did a talk at ‚Hochschule Mittweida‚ about making successful Social Games.

 

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Simplicity – Architect

I think I will write a little bit more about Simplicity in the future, but at first this is a good Talk about it. It’s about the tendency developers have to create bigger and more complex systems, but don’t trying to be simplistic.

http://www.infoq.com/presentations/Simplicity-Architect

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Tool: WasteNoTime, blocking time-wasting sites

 

I searched a long time for a good Safari browser extension for blacklisting some of the most time-wasting sites. In my daily work a have to do a lot with facebook and facebook games, its very cool but I have to avoid too much procrastination. With WasteNoTime I found a good solution.

With this extension you can set white- or blacklists for sites and define a time how long you can visit the blocked sites today. So you can have a look on your favorite facebook game, but after your defined time runs out, the game will be closed and a site opens up which says „shouldn’t you been working“ or something like this. Of course you can also define your own ‚Block Page‘.

Try it out. Its free and I think its for Safari only, but maybe there are some similar AddOns for Firefox or Chrome.

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Ok, third and last try

I started to write my own blog a few years ago. It has been in German and about Flash Lite. After I ended my Diploma Thesis about Flash Lite, it became uninteresting for me, but also the Technology itself became unnecessary. So I wasn’t writing any articles anymore.

The second try to restart this blog was again in German and than about Flash, Flex and the Technologies around that. But after my third post I stuck again, because I didn’t focused enough on this blog to keep it running.

Finally this will now be the last try to run a blog. This time in English, because I currently work at wooga  and the main language spoken there is English. With writing a blog in English I try to improve my English, and of course a lot more people can read the blog now. So if the English is not perfect, no matter I‘ m working on that. The content of this blog will not be a specific one. It’s all about technology, development, productivity and so on.

 

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