All posts by andy

On web and UI design

Web and UI design, just like any kind of design used by real people, is not just about making things look pretty.
UI design involves multiple interdependent disciplines and requires knowledge in UX (user experience), accessibility and usability.
Choosing fonts, colours, and design elements involves thinking in all of these categories. Sometimes simultaneously.

Experience in writing code helps when making visual design decisions and vice versa. Same applies to system- and server-specific configuration knowledge when it comes to performance tuning and speed improvements.

I am by no means perfect in most things I do, so don’t just take my word for it. I’ve made smaller and bigger mistakes going by my best understanding at the time. Not always those decisions turned out to be correct but I’ve learnt a lot with every failure.
As Adam Savage of the Mythbusters fame once said: Failure is always an option

I’d like to add that failure can be total if one doesn’t take a lesson from it.

On Mental Architecture

If I may, let’s compare someone’s mentality and world views to buildings or dwellings.

Someone can live in a cardboard box under the bridge their whole life and feel fine about it. Anything outside their box is frightening and foreign. Yes, it’s gloomy and damp but it’s their home and their palace.
Who can blame them? It is a big an dangerous world, indeed.

Another person might live in a posh mansion. It’s surrounded by lush, green gardens, dotted with Greco-Roman sculptures. Here, anyone is welcome to wander and explore the surroundings. The owners usually don’t mind new additions to their property and oftentimes may tear down and rebuild whole parts of it. I like this kind of places but not all owners are as inviting.
Some of them even own horses. High horses. And when they’re on a Sunday ride, oh my…

Then, there are some who live in a fortress, surrounded by embattlements and a moat with sharp sticks. Only friends are welcomed inside, but foes – and most everyone else – have to walk around wondering what lies beyond the walls.
There might be a cosy tavern inside, where one can sit down to enjoy a jug of mead amongst friendly folks. The citadel could house a library which holds scrolls of wondrous stories about heroic adventures in faraway lands. Or there could even be a carptenter’s workshop where anyone can find helping hands.
Alas, you’ll never know, unless you put in the effort to scale the walls or persuade a guard to open the gate.

But I digress.

A small hut on the edge of a high cliff might look out of reach and not even worth a visit. But don’t let that first impression dissuade you. That homestead might hold a warm and inviting fireplace with a steaming pot in it.
Here, you may sit down for a tea or enjoy a bowl of home-made porridge to mend your hunger and cold.
I’m sure, you know a friend or two who might live here.

What kind of building is your mind, my anonymous reader?

No matter what kind of building your mind is, you have to keep it clean and tidy. You never know who might pay you a visit.

What kind of building am I? Well, I’m not quite sure.
Perhaps, a combination of many but not the cardboard box, for sure.
To be hones, mine is not even close to tidied. I think it would resemble a huge storage house packed full with stacks of paper sheets, random bits of information scribbles on most of them. Yep, that feels about right.
However, the door is wide open most of the time and the owner is inviting to visitors.

Thank you for reading this far. I appreciate your time.

Giving old tech a second chance

A bit of re-soldering and cleanup and this old Swedish-branded, Taiwanese-produced Esselte AV-system tape recorder/player will have a second life as a portable speaker system. Unfortunately, someone had tried to fix this box before me, had reassembled the cassette mechanism incorrectly and few springs are missing so I could not make the tape part work.

ESSELTE AV-system cassette tape recorder/player
ESSELTE AV-system cassette tape recorder/player. Model: JCC-420C

After a friend gave this box away as a useless piece of garbage, I decided to research it. After some frustrating and fruitless scanning of Google results, I found someone in Sweden selling a similar system for 900 Swedish krona (about 96 €).

Sysadmins these days

How can a person working as a server admin look at following PHP lines and in all seriousness decide that it’s suspicious?

if ( preg_match( '/^\s*(create|alter|truncate|drop)\s/i', $query ) ) {

              $return_val = $this->result;

            } elseif ( preg_match( '/^\s*(insert|delete|update|replace)\s/i', $query ) ) {

            if ( $this->use_mysqli ) {

             $this->rows_affected = mysqli_affected_rows( $this->dbh );

                } else {

              $this->rows_affected = mysql_affected_rows( $this->dbh );


Yes, it’s impossible to knows every PHP function, but not bothering to RTFM and not being able to “decipherer” a fairly simple regular expression, shows complete lack of competence.
I’d stay away from any company employing this tech monkey who asks for help on Twitter. The second noun in his Twitter moniker explains more than the first. Hi there, @monkeypigs.

His allegations would not bother me if not for subsequent spreading of FUD on Twitter and forums. That was a prick move and not acknowledging the mistake is irresponsible at best. I didn’t deny responsibility for my actions. Now’s your turn to show some responsibility and retract your failed allegations, Garry.

Final verdict: People should not make any decisions if they don’t understand what they are talking about.

Paris – the lost & found film

While cleaning my home before Christmas I found an undeveloped film and I had no idea how old it was or what was on it. It’s been at least five years since the last time I shot on film. So I gave the film to photo shop and ordered scans. I had to wait a while because they don’t get many films nowadays and turning on the machine is too expensive for single film.

Two weeks ago I received a text about my order but I delayed picking it up. The other day I finally picked it up and to my surprise the film contained pictures from Summer 2007 when I and two other guys went on a Eurotrip during which two of us stayed in Paris for four days.

Just to be clear, I have not used any effects or filters apart from adjusting contrast. There are (d)effects because the film had deteriorated lying around for seven years in changing temperatures and humidity.

Live each day as if it’s your last

There is this saying:

Live each day as if it’s your last

I never liked it because it allows for wide interpretation.

I believe, everyone should strive to live every day so that people have something nice to say and remember when you are gone. They shouldn’t have to come up with general phrases like “He was a nice person” and similar.

I’m a Star

About four years ago, after a party, good friend of mine, who also happens to be one of the most popular DJs in Latvia, introduced me to Andy, You’re a Star by the Killers from their 2004 album Hot Fuss. Somehow he felt that it was related to me then. I still like to listen to it sometimes, although it’s not in my regular song rotation.

Thank you, Toms. Whatever you meant when you did it.

Well, today is my name day (yes we celebrate those in Latvia) and I sent a tweet to the radio station where the friend is doing morning show, asking to play first song that came to his mind in relation to my name. I already knew what it would be and, sure enough, it was this one.

After the song was over, I decided to look up the actual meaning of following lyrics:

In a car with a girl, promise me she’s not your world
Cause Andy, you’re a star
In nobody’s eyes but mine
Andy, you’re a star
— The Killers

Apparently the Andy mentioned in lyrics was one of those high school bullies, according to this:

A guy named Andy Messersmith went to school with Brandon Flowers. They went to Juab High School in Nephi, Utah, and Andy was the popular sports star, and he tortured Brandon and made his time there miserable. So Brandon wrote this song sarcastically.


Hopefully, the lyrics can be attributed to me without sarcasm and perceived in a positive connotation.
Oh, by the way, my real name in Latvian is Andis but I choose to introduce myself as Andy to English speakers as it is easier to remember and I don’t mind being a star.

Alan Turing – The Codebreaker

An obligatory TL;DR

Alan Turing was a genius who defined the basic principles of how computers operate and he helped to end World War II by working on deciphering of Enigma messages. He was a homosexual.

The actual post

In the light of upcoming flick The Imitation Game, I re-watched an earlier TV documentary about Alan Turing – Codebreaker. This time it touched me more than the first. What follows are my thoughts and expansion on the main facts.

When Alan Turing took his own life, he didn’t leave a note. However, he left a legacy with far reaching effects and it has to be appreciated.

UK could have become the major player in computer technologies if they hadn’t treated the genius as badly as they did. Especially during his last years. Many people  nowadays should be thankful for having jobs and opportunities that would simply not be there if not for a man who started the revolution of computing machines. Although, society has come a long way since then in regard to treating people with different sexuality. Who knows – first personal computers could have been created by the Brits as early as 1960s if it wasn’t for the draconian laws of that time that were made even worse by cold war paranoia.

This could and should be used as a perfectly valid argument to make arguing homophobes shut up if he or she had ever used a computer or even works in the industry. And don’t get me started about those on-line comments by homophobic trolls.

If you are homophobic and you’re not reading this on a piece of paper, just think about the hypocrisy. Even the screen you are reading these words would not be possible without the basic principle of using ones and zeroes in computers, and it was invented by a gay person.

I’d like to finish this piece with a quote;

Science is a differential equation. Religion is a boundary condition.

— Alan Mathison Turing

Post image: Decoding Alan Turing by Charis Tsevis