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Preview: Avalonstar

Avalonstar, by Bryan Veloso

Last Build Date: Wed, 30 May 2012 21:30:51 PDT


Passion, Drive and eSports Commentating

Wed, 30 May 2012 21:30:51 PDT

I’m 4 episodes into Vlogalonstar—3 if you don’t count the introduction.

I’ve changed the angles around, I still want an DSLR (depth-of-field is sexy), I’ve switched from Final Cut Pro to Premiere and back to Final Cut Pro. But you know what, none of that matters if you can’t ship a video.

(I’m using an iPhone, by the way.)

Two weeks ago, that happened. Three times. I had one relatively serious video where one of the segments didn’t record any sound. After the frustration passed, I made a relatively silly video answering questions off of Formspring and the iPhone overheated halfway through and never saved the segment.

After that frustration passed—desperately wanting to actually record something—I went to Twitter for questions. Thankfully! I got a few, recorded and nothing terrible happened. So here you go, questions on passion, drive and the new Vlogalonstar Live.



Wed, 30 May 2012 21:29:52 PDT

Good artists copy, great artists steal. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Clichés we’ve come to know and love. For what seems like an eternity now, I’ve been encouraging people trying to get into our field to get into the practice of replicating. When used as a learning tool, replication can be an invaluable teacher and an invaluable motivator.

So this week on the hastily-named-but-I-sort-of-like-it-now Vlogalonstar: Replication.

(This time I managed to talk slower and keep everything under the 4 minute mark. Next time I hope to talk about something a little less… teachy. That is, unless you’d all like me to keep being all… teachy. I can go either way with this.)


On Photoshop, Defaults and Panel Options

Wed, 30 May 2012 21:29:56 PDT

You know, it figures that the first episode of the hastily named “Vlogalonstar” would be on Photoshop. This, my friends, is my first real test at the new format. More so than the first video, this was both a joy and a challenge to make.

I really feel that if I keep at this, something good will come out of it. That said, I hope you enjoy it! (o^_^)b

And now for an errata. I had said in the inaugural video that the Vlogbrothers had 5 minutes per video to keep their audience’s attention before being “punished.” That was incorrect—the correct number being 4. So with that in mind, I managed to fit what I needed to into 3:54.



Thu, 05 Apr 2012 20:00:15 PDT

Welcome to an experiment. Video blogging is something that’s completely new to me, but it’s something that I’ve been wanting to try and have been mentally preparing for—on and off—since the beginning of the year. I felt that now was a good time as any to get started.

This is an introduction and a background as to why you’re seeing my face in this video as well as what I plan to do. While today was a warm-up, I’m excited to get started. I could go into length about it here, but that would kill the need for a video wouldn’t it? ;)

Finally, If you have a topic request, let me know!


My Humanscale M8

Sun, 01 Apr 2012 12:12:50 PDT

I’ve been on a mounting spree as of late. First, my TV. Then my microphone. Now, my iMac. This, the Humanscale M8, is the last piece of the puzzle I alluded to in my last post. While I didn’t have the best luck with actually getting it—it took me nearly a month to receive it since it was on backorder—it was definitely worth the wait.

In the spirit of practicing for my next endeavor, I took a timelapse of the installation.

If you’re interested in getting your own M8, do use Google to find it. Unless you like torturing your wallet, you can get this for around $225 USD (Humanscale sells it for over $400).


On Removing Barriers to Writing

Fri, 30 Mar 2012 03:00:24 PDT

This’ll probably be the second and final post in mine in February. Has my fire been put out? Nope, but there’ve been a few roadblocks.

The first? A plan I had hoped to hatch this month has been put on hold due to a couple of “components” being backordered.

The second? It’s really easy for barriers like designing to get in the way of progress—almost too easy. It’s partly why I’ve left this place unfinished since I re-released. My content needed to look “good enough” for me to start writing and it worked! But now, I’m thinking of expanding on this place and it’s starting to get to me. This is what I’ll quickly jump into.

I love Harmony, I always have. It’s run by some of the best guys in the industry in my Ordered List co-workers. However, there have been a few minor points that I’ve lived with ever since I moved my blog here. The main one is the online template editing. My problem with it? It’s online. As awesome as it is, it’s not Sublime Text. It’s not a desktop experience. So there’s a barrier. It’s a barrier to finishing a design, which is a barrier to me continuing to write—you see can see where this is going.

So with a heavy heart, I’m going to be moving off of Harmony and onto GitHub Pages and Jekyll over the course of the next few weeks. It’ll be more of an experiment than anything else. I’ve said on multiple occasions that a static-site generator can’t hold my plans for Avalonstar, but with further research, I think it can. By bringing blogging to the same level as my development process, I hope to effectively knock down these barriers.

That said, tonight I’ve thrown Avalonstar up on GitHub in preparation for the move. Let’s hope this goes well!


Don't Clobber The Web

Thu, 09 Feb 2012 12:45:33 PST

“Don’t Clobber The Web.” Those words have lived with me since Chris Wilson, who was on the Internet Explorer team at the time, uttered them at a Webmaster Jam Session a few years back. As much as the team wanted to tweak or improve on the standards they had set in the past (notice I didn’t say “mistakes”), they couldn’t. Why? Developers. Microsoft owned so much market share at the time that they didn’t want developers to upgrade to a more standards-compliant version of IE and have anything break. They were so apprehensive because the developers would blame the IE team for all of the changes to the legacy specifications and not take it upon themselves to make the necessary corrections to bring the site into compliance. I thought, how could developers be so lazy? But it made sense, “breaking” IE for developers would ultimately mean “clobbering the web” for users. Developers at the time would never consider their coding practices wrong. IE would obviously be wrong. There’s that cliché, ““those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” but it’s intriguing to see which parts of history are to be replayed. Huh? Implement a webkit vendor prefix to the CSS spec? Erm. Feels like 1999 again. And didn't we agree that was a bad thing?— Mark Boulton (@markboulton) February 9, 2012 Today is a personal milestone, but its significance will be lost on all except those who’ve known me for an adequate amount of time. Why? This is the first time I’ve celebrated an anniversary at a startup. This startup, obviously, being GitHub. Wow, a whole year. Exactly! A whole year. I worked at Facebook way back in the day and Automattic as well, but for 10 and 4 months respectively. Why’s that? “The culture wasn’t a great fit.” “I ran into a boss that didn’t respect me or my opinions.” “The place got too corporate.” “I have to make an appointment now to talk with the CEO?” “There was nothing to be motivated about.” “All I was doing was ” I was an upstart designer with a degree in entrepreneurship that wanted to go out there and conquer the world. What that means in layman’s terms is that I was fatally stubborn. I still am. And I still want to conquer the world. But it was that personality that got me where I was and adaptation wasn’t in my playbook. Looking back on all of that now—sure it’s trivial, silly and borderline childish, but sufficient attempts at following a dream like mine are indistinguishable from a person blind to conventional responsibility. I could’ve shut up and lived with it, but I didn’t. I suck at poker faces. I live life under the mantra that life is too short to not be doing what you love to do. And if you can’t do that at this second, you work towards it. (Look, an automatic goal.) From the minute I parted ways with Facebook to the minute prior to getting hired by GitHub, I wanted that to be Revyver. I wanted my future and that of my (now) wife to be conquering niches all over the world with scoped products that gave them the same awesome that everybody else had been giving the same people over and over again. But I didn’t think of the consequences, and as such, sustainability became extremely difficult. And I did that to us. When we were forced out of Seattle, the sheer gravity of the situation gifted me a much needed slap across the face from reality, but it also allowed me to compromise. I learned from my history and I tamed my inner zealot. No longer did I need to entertain the vicious cycle of “doing-things–I-didn’t-want-to-do-just-so-I-could-have-time-to-work-on-my-projects” and I opened myself up to the fact that the right company would work. But could somebody with my history ever find a company I could work for and not suffer the exact same repercussions? Yes folks, there is hope, by findi[...]

On Foreman and Procfiles

Sun, 01 Jan 2012 16:44:04 PST

Over the last few years I’ve amateurishly covered the entire stack from design to server administration, and on that tirade I’ve managed to break many rules. Premature optimization? Check. Refactoring without reason? Check. Overengineering? Check. I’m obsessive-compulsive about a few things. For example, I always fold chip bags into little squares before throwing them away. But that has nothing to do with anything. I’m a very detail-oriented person, but to a fault. If I find something interesting about a particular process, for instance, I will spend exorbitant amounts of time learning its ins and outs. Wasteful? That’s a fair assumption. But I’ll spare you the rest of the details and talk about my find of the day, the Foreman gem and the Procfile. But don’t you program in Python? Shut your face, that mentality is so yesterday. I will prefer the Python implementation of a program as opposed to that of its rivals if and only if it is a more elegant solution. SASS and Compass proved that to me. Anybody remember CleverCSS? Yeah, thought so. Practicality beats purity. Alright, class is in session. Let me flip this around and show you my Procfile first, then explain what happens inside of it: compass: compass watch static db: postgres -D /usr/local/var/postgres redis: redis-server /usr/local/etc/redis.conf web: python ranking/ runserver So what does it do? Instead of opening a tab in Terminal for each of those items or starting them as a daemon, it allows me to concatenate the operation into one simple command: foreman start -f Why .dev? In my case, the sans-extension Procfile in my project is for Heroku with production-only commands. If you run foreman without the argument, it’ll look for Procfile by default. After you run that command you’ll be greeted by this lovely sight: 14:14:37 compass.1 | started with pid 3115 14:14:37 db.1 | started with pid 3116 14:14:37 redis.1 | started with pid 3117 14:14:37 web.1 | started with pid 3118 Like what you see? Great! If you’ve gotten this far, you should’ve already installed the Foreman gem by now and created a Procfile. Now, there are a few gotchas when working with your services in Foreman, especially if you’re using Homebrew, Redis and PostgreSQL: Foreman doesn’t like daemons. If you throw a command into your Procfile that dameonizes the process, Foreman will start the process only to shut down entirely because it disappeared like it was supposed to. To that point, test the commands that Homebrew gives you when you run brew info and see if it daemonizes. Here’s a freebie: the PostgreSQL command that Homebrew gives you: pg_ctl -D /usr/local/var/postgres -l /usr/local/var/postgres/server.log start WILL daemonize it. You’re going to want the command posted above instead. If your program logs to STDOUT it’ll all be aggregated. But if you’ve ever run redis-server through Homebrew, it’s VERBOSE. To regain your sanity, go into /usr/local/etc/redis.conf and change the loglevel to notice or warning. On a slightly related note, I love Homebrew. I just hate the way it instructs you to start processes. It’s shit, especially if you’re coming from a Linux development environment where upstart lives to massage your feet and feed you grapes. Do yourself a favor and grab this script, throw it in your Homebrew’s bin/ and profit using brew services start , even if you don’t use Foreman in the end. If you do a quick search on Foreman, you’ll rightfully see a slew of Ruby-centric articles. However, the amazing thing about this gem is that all it does is manage processes, so you can throw anything in there, no matter what language you happen to be programming in. Over the weekend I’ve been working on moving a wiki of ours to PHPFog, for my local install I[...]

Best. Year. Ever.

Fri, 30 Mar 2012 02:00:41 PDT

2011: A year that felt like five. It’s quite unbelievable how much we managed to fit in and it’s equally unbelievable that we’ve come out unscathed. So let’s start from the beginning. On January 3rd, I joined GitHub as a Creative Badass. What started out as a reply to a retweet Kyle’s made from the @githubjobs account was quickly followed by my first surprise interview (while inebriated, I might add) ever followed by an offer letter… in a Gist. The very next day, I had designed my first logo for them, then quickly established the branding for what would later be known as CodeConf. A few weeks later, I joined them in beautiful Sonoma County, California for an amazing retreat, wherein I presented on the topic of Morning Musume for the first time. February was actually quite a normal February, or what I refer to them as, Jen-uary. Why’s that? February 6 — Jen’s Birthday. February 14 — Valentine’s Day. February 21 — Our Anniversary. It was definitely normal for us: normal entailing lots of boba. Design wise? At the GitHub retreat the month prior, I was approached by Leah—who at the time was CEO of a startup named Convore—and asked me to create an identity for them. I unveiled it in February and it definitely tops the list as one of my favorite designs. March came and things started to pick up. Right off the bat I was on a plane to my first PyCon. Thanks to GitHub I was able to go to Atlanta and take in my very first developer-focused conference. I saw a lot of people I knew of from the Internet—some old friends and and a lot of new ones. After touching back down at LAX, preparations for the wedding started accelerating quickly. Jen and I jumped right into our Save-the-Dates and thanks to the guys at Aardvark Letterpress, they looked (and felt) amazing. Hell, we even got video of the process: src="" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitAllowFullScreen" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" allowfullscreen="allowFullScreen"> Yet even with all this, I considered this the proverbial “calm before the storm.” I nicknamed April, “the month from hell,” with my final reprieve being my birthday on the 2nd. Four days later, I was back in Austin, Texas for the first time since 2009 to join my brothers at Sidebar for the first of three Sidebar Workshops. Barring the informal talk I gave at the GitHub retreat a few months prior, I hadn’t engaged in any form of public speaking since the first workshop we held in 2008. While it went better than I had hoped (which is usually the case, isn’t it) I was on the first plane back to Los Angeles to pick up Jen and then the next plane to San Francisco for CodeConf. I had been hard at work on the printed material in the weeks working up to the event and with some awesome Octocat magic from Cameron, everything looked spectacular. Hmm… a new paragraph must mean a new month. NOPE. Our trip home from San Francisco gave us only a few weeks time until we would head back up the Pacific coast to our favorite city in the union, Seattle, for SakuraCon 2011, Berryz Koubou and Hello! Party 2. Time for Bryan’s fandom cap. When Morning Musume came to Los Angeles in 2009, Jen and I (but mostly Jen) threw a very well-received fan party, so by the time the group’s little sisters were slated to come to the states, people were asking for the sequel. Despite the usual hitches and technical difficulties, we were able to hold another successful event. As for the conference itself, SakuraCon was amazing and we met a huge number of fans who we quickly befriended. We even… rioted. (If you’d like to see the author of this blog in a completely different light, he urges you to watch that video.) But the real kicker? We were able to get [...]

The Spirit of Giving

Sun, 25 Dec 2011 01:20:27 PST

First off, if you celebrate it, Merry Christmas! Since today is historically considered a day of giving, I’ve decided to let loose an idea that I’ve had for a few months that will allow me (and hopefully many others) to give to those in need—through gaming… a lot. Let’s start from the beginning. Quite a few games have been hitting their silver anniversaries: Mario and Zelda to name just two. Next year, my favorite series of all time—Final Fantasy—will have it’s turn. I felt like I needed to celebrate the occasion somehow. On a whim I started to look up the Japanese release dates of each of the games:   Release Date (JP) Release Date (USA) Final Fantasy I December 18, 1987 July 12, 1990 Final Fantasy II December 17, 1988 April 8, 2003 Final Fantasy III April 27, 1990 November 14, 2006 Final Fantasy IV July 19, 1991 November 23, 1991 Final Fantasy V December 6, 1992 October 5, 1999 Final Fantasy VI April 2, 1994 October 11, 1994 Final Fantasy VII January 31, 1997 September 7, 1997 Final Fantasy VIII February 11, 1999 September 9, 1999 Final Fantasy IX July 7, 2000 November 13, 2000 Final Fantasy X July 19, 2001 December 17, 2001 Final Fantasy XII March 16, 2006 October 31, 2006 Final Fantasy XIII December 17, 2009 March 9, 2010 I thought to myself, “What if I marathoned all of those games on the day of their release for charity?” Crazy? Of course. Sure, the idea certainly isn’t new. But what better way to not only show my appreciation for the 25th birthday of a legendary gaming series but also give to those in need as well? I’ve done the initial research around holding one of these and they’re not easy to coordinate, but I’m not letting that discourage me (even though I’ll essentially be throwing 12 of these). I have about a little over a month until I start on my first target, FInal Fantasy VII and here are a couple of my roadblocks: Deciding on a charity. I have a couple in mind. Finding a few other gamers willing to take the jump with me. It’s highly discouraged that I attempt any of the longer ones myself. The other logistics. Website, promotion, etc. While this isn’t an outright call for assistance, if this sparks your interest, catch up with me on Twitter or Facebook. I’m equally anxious and excited to get this started, and when I have more information, I’ll post more information. ;)[...]


Fri, 30 Mar 2012 02:01:07 PDT

Let’s talk about one of my favorite games of all time, MegaMan X. I’ve played them all, and I’ve beat them all—yes, even the 3D ones—but I’ll focus on the inaugural edition.

Like many of the games that have defined my history as a gamer—Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario Bros.—the nostalgia kick the X series gives me is, to this day, immense. The gameplay was extremely fun, it wasn’t stupidly difficult, the artistic direction was a welcome-but-faithful departure from its predecessor, and the music still gets me going to this day. I still listen to the themes of Armored Armadillo and Storm Eagle on repeat once.

But here’s where I’ll stop and encourage you to watch the video below. It is a bit long, but don’t let that stop you! Even if you’re not a fan of this style of presentation, the message behind this video is powerful and equally universal.

src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen">

Did you finish it? Good. Now nod if you agree with it’s message. Note that Arin expectedly only mentions game developers when it comes to the notion of introducing a user to your experience, but it applies everywhere.

Not only did this video expose me an entirely different viewpoint of one of my favorite childhood video games, it also spoke to the builder and designer within me, while confirming a belief I’ve always held about user experience. I’ve always been a proponent of exploration and discovery: the sense of motivation, accomplishment and wonder that comes with being able to finding things on one’s own rather than being bugged by Navi. This notion of overtly spoon-feeding—guided tours, pop-ups and the like—is something that spits in the face of exploration and experimentation… [INSERT BIG ASTERISK] or rather, unless it’s done tastefully.

In fear of veering off-topic, I’ll save you the blabbering and let you take the video for what it is: a prime example of getting your point across while swearing at the same time. But in all seriousness, if you’re reading this, you already understand the fact that you shouldn’t be underestimating or worse, insulting your users’ intelligence.

Nothing annoys somebody more than being forcefully taught something they already know.


Asking the Right Questions

Wed, 14 Dec 2011 21:01:30 PST

As I start to write this I’m realizing that asking the right questions is an important–if not required–skill in both design and programming, but since the latter feels a less natural to me, the development of said skill has been a lot more noticeable (read: painful).

Without Google and Stack Overflow, I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as far with programming as I’ve gotten today. Either that or I would have annoyed a hell of a lot more people to get to this same point. Nevertheless, it’s been an amazing journey to acquire the knowledge to understand “the complete stack.”

A quick look at my profile shows that I’ve asked about 18 questions over the period of two-and-a-half years. But what isn’t apparent is the amount of time I spend researching. Before I even think of asking a question on Stack Overflow, I spend as much time as I can stand searching Google scrambling and honing search terms that’ll hopefully lead me to the right answer. This helps, because if I do require the help of Stack Overflow’s hive-mind, I have a decent idea of the question I want to ask.

Mind you, I dislike not getting answers, so I’ll take an unusual amount of time making sure the question can garner an answer (or outright plead for one, if that’s the case).

So I’ve almost become obsessed with asking the right question and I optimize for wasting the least amount of anybody’s time. All of the above applies when it comes to asking my peers for help as well. In fact, the barriers are even higher, as I’d rather bother Google or Stack Overflow. It takes a lot for me to ask anybody anything, let alone something that requires the time commitment that a programming question usually does. To be honest, it’s an odd anomaly since over the years (especially when instant messaging was “a thing”) I’ve always been happy to sit down and answer any and all questions.

The word that comes to mind is… masochism. But that’s a story for another day.


My Process is Circular

Tue, 13 Dec 2011 19:33:44 PST

When one runs into a problem with something—say, designing—one tends to overanalyze the process they’ve been using to try and conquer said problem. Needless to say, I’ve been doing that; call it designer’s rust from the honeymoon or just a general slump from the status quo. Nevertheless, I began to notice something that was historically an unconscious behavior for me.

Granted I haven’t attended many design talks over the past few years, so my views may be antiquated. Whenever process was brought up as a talking point, it was usually presented as a linear process:

$ ./start_designing
Developing idea.............................. done.
Sketching thumbnails......................... done.
Converting sketches to wireframes............ done.
Adding detail in Photoshop................... done.
Unsuspecting developer to pass this onto? [n/n]: N
Code it yourself? [y/y]: __

Script done, job done. Well, not for me it seems.


(I don’t usually sketch, but when I do, I take way too long on them.)

I present to you, My Design Process in a Diagram, presented as an Instagram. My process is circular and can start on either end depending on how scatterbrained I happen to be that day.

To be honest, this diagram formalizes this process a bit more than it should have.

For instance, if I start sketching, I’ll draw a box and then all of a sudden get an idea (hence “EUREKA!”) and move to Photoshop. I’ll draw a few boxes in Photoshop, place some text and then jump back to sketching after getting K.O.’ed with a serving of designer’s block. For the brief time that I’ve remembered to count, this happens about 10-15 times for a given mockup.

However, my brain doesn’t discriminate as this’ll happen while I’m coding or programming as well. I don’t know how most programmers flesh out their more high level (for lack of a better phrase), but I’ll write out what I wish to code in plain English, much like Behavior-Driven Development, but I dislike the concept of actually coding that way. Also, Gerkin.

So there you have it, my circular (maybe ovacular?) process. Whatever gets the job done, am I right? ;)


To Come Into Being

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 02:47:29 PST

Definitely an odd feeling, working on this place again.

Version 26, Redemption, was up for a pretty long time—a little over 840 days to be exact. When I see it like that, all of a sudden I notice the dust that piled up around here. But not only that, it’s been over 840 days since I’ve worked on Avalonstar.

Poor guy, I missed a couple of birthdays too.

When it comes to personal sites, especially my personal sites, the ideas love to pop up suddenly. Very ninja like. The first neuron fired during the Japanese-leg of our honeymoon with one word, “rise.” Once I felt it—as much as one person can feel a neuron firing, which is impossible and subsequently besides the point—I closed my eyes.

In my heyday, per se, I would’ve been able to think of my design, close my eyes and slowly see that design start to come together in a sort of 3D plane. Talk about rusty. I closed my eyes and all I saw was white with the word “RISE” at the top, my immediate thought being along the lines of “this shit’s broken.” The idea stayed with me for a few days, but I chose to wait to see if it was a fleeting thought or something my mind really wanted me to go with.

Sure enough, when I opened up Photoshop, I typed in the word “ARISE.”

rise, arise, revive, phoenix… I’m obsessed.



Sat, 10 Dec 2011 21:52:56 PST

I’ve forgotten how it feels to write.

Blogging? Sure. I’ve done that. Find a topic, write a few well-thought out paragraphs, publish and then profit. I used to hold my own in that arena, but I felt better off leaving the blogging to those who had a passion for it. Passion as in the love of educating, entertaining and critically thinking. Thousands upon thousands of people can blog, do blog and blog extremely well.

One day, a long time ago, I just wrote about anything.

As time passed, I started to focus on a specific subject matter. The activity and its aftermath became riveting and exciting. I gained an audience. More time passed and the excitement transformed into obligation and then became a roadblock—the motivation and will to write, gone. Now here I am, attempting to rekindle something long lost as I seem to have come full circle.

Somehow, I’m confident this time around, because I know what I need to do:

Just write.