Kooky Embrace
The thing I love most about doing Lazylaces musical Friday (when I actually do manage to do it) is by sharing what I'm listening to with everyone, and you doing likewise, I've found lots of music I genuinely love now, that I otherwise would have never heard of. I hope, at least some of, you find the same. Even if you don't, I love a bit of music on a Friday to set me up for the weekend, and even to get me dancing in front of my PC.

So this week I have introduced myself to The Kooks and Embrace, two great British bands, and reacquainted myself with another two great British bands Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs. They all have at least some audio on their sites for you to check out. So, now I need to know what you have been listening to. If you think I won't have heard of it, because it's local to where you are, that's perfect. If you can give a link to where we can hear it, then even better.

Entry 1831, Friday, April 7th 2006, Filed In Diary
Comments(47)

Lazylaces On Teletext
Well today was a day to mark down in Lazylaces history. Today was the first time that the site has been on television. Well, sort of. In the UK we have a service called teletext, I have no idea if the same sort of thing exisits in any other countries, but it's kind of like really basic web pages on your television - it's been going since about 1974, which means it's the same age as me, and hasn't changed much in all that time (unlike me). Anyway, if you are in the UK switch on your telebox and go to Channel 4 Teletext Page 309/5. And there I am. Today anyway. Not the greatest moment of fame really. However, all the same, thanks to Alex for getting me on there, and thanks to Adam for telling me about it. I took a photo for prosperity, I was so excited. See the larger version of the pic here.

Entry 1825, Thursday, April 6th 2006, Filed In Diary
Comments(43)

Pigs In Hats
A few people have commented to me that I hardly ever write anything about what's happening to me in my diary any more. Possibly this is because I have a limited amount of free time and there are so many games to post when I do get the time, but I submit this post to persuade you that this might not be a bad thing given the warped way my brain works. So...

I work in an office. Most days I sit at my desk for 10+ hours. Looking at a drab desk for that length of time, sometimes you do stupid things to brighten the place up. So when I acquired (they were given them away at all the mainline London railway stations) a little foam rubber pig that was advertising pigsback.com it seems natural to garnish my desk with it's presence. Especially since you could also play catch and football with it when the boss was out... Oh how we chuckled in the office.

Anyway, with this creative feat accomplished, the little pig remained on my desk, some what forgotten. That was until December when Innocent Drinks adorned all their juice and smoothie bottles with little woolly bobble hats. "How cute" we all thought as we supped our nutritious fruit based beverages at lunchtime, but what do we do with the little hats once we have consumed 2 of our 5 fruit/veg portions for the day?

This is where Graeme's warped brain kicked into gear. I looked at the seemingly useless mini-bobble hat. I looked at my until recently forgotten pig type desk ornamentation. With stunningly fast mathematical equations zipping through my brain I reasoned that with a minimum of stetching that little hat would fit over the ears of the pig. Bingo! It worked. With one stroke of genius I had created the ultimate winter desk accessory for the bored web developer. See my pig in a hat creation in the picture above (in a very abstract way that's my desk in the background).

Well obviously I was very chuffed with myself. My desk was adorned with a one off artistic masterpiece which was a talking point among all my colleagues. I had fused together random items found in the course of a working life in London to produce something that was a physical commentary upon the modern man's working desk environment, through the medium of a pig in a hat. Brilliant. Perhaps I should take it down to the Tate Modern down the road to see if they would be interested in exhibiting my work?

Anyway, as always in the office, time moved on. Within a matter of a couple of months everyone had forgotten I was an artisitic genius and expected me once again to earn my living developing and installing intranet systems. So it was on a cold February day that I found myself in one of London's fine black cabs making my way to Fenchurch Street (home to many of the biggest names in International insurance - if you've travelled on a plane, a ship, or a space shuttle it's insured here - I kid you not).

Arriving at the client's fine offices (don't even get me started on their view), I was offered the choice of doing my work either a). In a super chilled server room with no human contact and the possibility of death by halon, or b). Sitting at a nice comfy desk, near the coffee machine, with a window view (damn that view!). Having discovered through many past experiences that while the cold is bareable, and halon infrequent, in server rooms, they almost never feature a chair. And certainly not coffee. Coffee is frowned upon when you are surrounded by thousands of pounds worth of business critical servers. I found that out the hard way. So I opted for "b"; the desk.

So I've done my job for a while now, and I know if I concentrate hard I can get all my files copied, web server configured, database set up, etc, in under half an hour (personal best: 4 systems in an hour), and head out onto Fenchurch St. where I know for a fact that there are at least three quality coffee houses within a 5 minute walk (Lloyds of London started as a coffee house fact fans), even though one of them has "bucks" on the end of it's name.

Thinking hard about coffee primarily, getting the job done quickly, and, I suppose, not looking too much of a g33k in front of actual business people, I barely noticed the desk I had been assigned, home to some poor grunt that was not in that day. So it was a good 10 minutes or so later (while I was still waiting for remote access to the server) that my eyes settled upon a curious object on the shelf in front of me. What was that? Surely it couldn't be? A pig. A pigsback.com pig. But wait. What was that stetched accross it's little foam rubber ears. Nooooooooooo. An Innocent Drinks bobble hat, maybe not the same jaunty yellow number that my little porker sported, but certainly from the same line.

Step one was to snap the evidence with my phone camera - see the pic below. Step two was to find out who the regular inhabitant of the desk was - perhaps they were a member of the project team I was delivering for? Perhaps they had visited my office to view the prototype system? Perhaps they had stolen my invention???!!! No. I had never had heard of them. That could only mean one thing. They had independently created the pig in the hat! Or perhaps someone had told them about my pig in a hat, and they thought it was such a great idea they made there own. No. That was ridiculous. So they had independently created the pig in the hat! You could have knocked me down with a feather. Who knows how many other people in London had seen the possiblities enshrined within these two simple objects? Perhaps it had spread further afield? Where would it end?

Pigs In Hats

And so folks, there you have why pigs in hats are this season's "must have" item for your office desk, and why it's a good idea I just stick to posting games most of the time.

G:o)

PS. Of course I encourage you to send me pictures of your "pigs in hats". Bonus points if you use the same construction materials as I (and mysterious Fenchurch St Worker) used. Double bonus points if you had one before reading this.

Entry 1745, Friday, March 3rd 2006, Filed In Diary
Comments(22)

Just to let you know I've made a couple of minor site updates. Firstly I've now added a "Permalink" feature to the site comments (just click on the faint number in the top right of the comment). This lets you either link to a specific comment from another web-site, helps you move around the page (bit of an unforseen feature this one), and also allows you to hold your place on a comment thread if you are constantly refreshing comments, on a game for example, and want to see what's happened since you last viewed the page. Hopefully this feature will be useful - it came from a question Eva-Marie had, and I certainly think she'll find it useful.

Secondly I've updated the mobile web pages, the style has changed slightly, and look more like how you would see the pages on a mobile phone when viewed from a regular web browser. Also I've added an icon link from the regular pages to the mobile site.

That's it for now. I do however have a 'to do' list for the site, which may you be interested in, want to comment on, or have suggestions of your own. In no particular order the 'to do' list reads:

  • Create a custom 404 page.
  • Create a custom Database Error Page for when things go horribly wrong. Damn you MSAccess.
  • Consider moving database to MS SQL Server or MYSQL (both have size, and potential cost issues - MSAccess is at least free, at any size, with my web host).
  • Create a "blast from the past" feature, that puts an older post on the homepage periodically.
  • Add Articles, and article specific comment threads, to the mobile site.
  • Add a "Vote On This Post" feature, which will let me do a dynamically generated "Top Ten Games Hit Parade".
  • Most ambitious "to do" is to create a Lazylaces adventure game. I have a couple of storyline ideas, built up from all that gameplay I've linked to, but I don't know flash so the game will be a JavaScript/Image/HTML construction (thanks to DreamIsle for the chat which persuaded me I could do this).

Entry 1707, Saturday, February 11th 2006, Filed In Diary
Comments(20)

Site Updates
Appologies for the pitiful number of posts today, but I've been busy making some site updates... If you're just here for the games read the short version of what these are, or you could even skip that and get on with some gaming, but if you are a sad g33k, such as myself, read the full version:

Short Version
I've improved the back end of the site so that you should see less error messages (hopefully none at all), and a side effect of this is that you might notice a difference in the way the pages on the site "build" in the browser, especially if you are on a slow connection, or you are viewing a larger page (like one with many comments). That's it.

Full Version
As much as I was blaming the constant error messages on the site on the MS Access database I use for storing all posts and comments (I will move this over to SQL Server one day), in the end I had to admit that some inefficient coding was also to blame, which didn't matter so much back in the day, but now the site traffic is really increasing it was starting to be a real issue.

First task was to move the results of some common database queries into Application variables (thanks to devguru for the reminder on how to use these properly). This cut out at least 3 database queries for every page viewed, less trips to the database = increased efficiency.

Next I cut down on the time recordsets and database connections were open. I think this was the major issue on the site. I did this by loading results of most queries into arrays of objects (see code snippet in the pic above), and then writing out the contents of these to the screen, rather than keeping recordsets and connections open while content was written out.

Finally I did a quick review to make sure all objects, connections, and recordsets were dropped correctly after use. I'm normally quite good at this but there were a couple of major omissions. I also added a few more "Response.flush" commands to make sure more content gets to the screen when it is available, so screen content starts building quicker on the browser even if the whole page isn't ready.

That really is it. If you spot any issues let me know, I've already spotted, and corrected, a couple of bloopers, like the comments coming out in the wrong order (all those "first!" comments were showing "last!"), but any feedback you have would be handy. For now, it's no more coding in the evening for me, I need my sleep.

G

Entry 1646, Wednesday, January 18th 2006, Filed In Diary
Comments(18)

Graeme

After the logo competition you've probably spotted by now that I've updated the site with the new logo, but have you spotted that the icon of me (thanks Scottish Graeme) is on every page now? It's not hard to find, especially for all you point and click fans, even though the tab key cheat doesn't work, and no one has posted a walkthru yet. If you click on the link on me, when you find it, it'll take you to the updated about page. Oh, what a busy bee I've been.

PS. On an unrelated subject, but while I'm doing a personal post, if you're thinking of sending me a link to "The Ugly", forget about it. That game is just too sick for me too post, for reasons I'm not going to dignify the game by going into.

PPS. For the new icon of me on the site pages I haven't been able to test the new site style sheet, that positions it, on a Mac yet as I'm away from home, all seems to be ok on IE, FF & Opera on a PC, but if you see a problem on your Mac please let me know. Ta.

[thanks for extra work chris and scottish graeme].

Entry 1594, Wednesday, January 4th 2006, Filed In Diary
Comments(15)

Lazylaces Logo Competition Winner(s)
OK, remember the Lazylaces Logo Competition? First of all I'd like to say thanks for all the entries. I didn't expect to get so many, and I was amazed to see how much superb effort had been applied. I'm truely impressed. Anyway I've now reviewed all the entries and selected a winner, and from what I've seen it's the popular choice too, the clear winner for me was Chris H's entry, which takes the $30 prize. I think I also mentioned at the time that I'd actually like to use the winning entry on the site, which I'm still very keen on doing, but there are a couple of small changes I'd like to make before doing this, which I've asked Chris about doing - so watch this space, or rather the one at the top of the page.

Also, I didn't mention anything about any additional prizes when I announced the competition, but I was so pleased with Scottish Graeme's (no relation!) icon picture of me that I'm also awarding additional prize of $15 to him for his superb work, and the icon will be making an appearance somewhere on the site soon.

Anyway, those are all the winners, thanks once again to everybody who entered, your hard work was much appreciated.

Entry 1593, Tuesday, January 3rd 2006, Filed In Diary
Comments(34)

Welcome To 2006
Welcome To 2006 everyone, hope you had a great 2005, but here's to a happy new year and plenty more games. Hopefully you've all recovered from your celebrations last night by now, I'm just about back in the land of the living, but I would like to thank The Prince Of Wales pub for my huge hangover today. Hope you all had a good time, and I'll have some new games for you soon.

Entry 1583, Sunday, January 1st 2006, Filed In Diary
Comments(28)

Logo Competition : Entries So Far
The Lazylaces Logo Competition is still underway, with entries open until 28th Dec 2005 at 09:00GMT. Read my original post for all the rules, competition details and, most importantly, what the prize is. I have now also put together a page of the entries so far so you can see what you are up against - I've included all the entries regardless of what I think of them - do you think you can do better?

Entry 1563, Thursday, December 15th 2005, Filed In Diary
Comments(57)

Lazylaces Logo Competition
I've just done some work to update the blue stylesheet version of this site - you can switch between the site stylesheets at any time by using the red and blue squares at the bottom of the righthand column (or use the hyperlinks I've just written out). Anyway, that's not my point. While I was doing the work I got to thinking that it's about time I updated the lazylaces logo...

The original, and still in use, logo was created when I took an image from the results of a google image search for "laces" and then had some kind of artistic accident with it in Paint Shop which I still don't fully understand. Anyway it's meant to show some shoes tied in a lazy fashion - I have no idea if it succeeds - I stopped thinking about it about 3 years ago. What I'd like to do is replace it now, and if someone with more artistic ability than me can help, all the better, so in that vein I propose a lazylaces logo competition... here are the details (which I am not making up as I go along - honest):

Prize
The creator of the best entry will receive a token to the value of $30 for Amazon.com (or the nearest GBP equivalent for Amazon.co.uk). I'm afraid my budget won't stretch any further. In addition if I love the entry enough it will become the new logo for the site. All other reasonable, and probably all awful, entries will be featured on the site with a credit.

Guidelines

  • The logo should either be, or be able to fit within, a banner 630 x 80.
  • In GIF or JPG format, with as small a file size as possible.
  • It would be nice, but not essential, if the words "lazy" and "laces" were somehow represented.
Rules
  • The Closing Date is 28th Dec 2005 at 09:00GMT.
  • Artwork may be altered by me for use on this site.
  • All submitted artwork may be distributed and used by lazylaces.com free of charge.
  • Graeme's decision is final.
Ok. That's it I think. Hopefully someone comes up with something cool, otherwise the new year will see me having a painful session with Paint Shop. I'm sure I'll do an update before the closing date so look out for that [idea from a comment by Oxyacetylene].

Entry 1545, Saturday, December 10th 2005, Filed In Diary
Comments(68)

Just a quick update on the "should there be a lazylaces forum" poll I ran the other week. I can't work out how to close off the poll, but I'm taking the votes as of now as the final result, so, in reverse order:
  1. Don't care - 172 votes.
  2. Yes - 473 votes.
  3. No - 506 votes.
So, no forum for now. Maybe I'll rethink this at some future date, but for now I'm happy with the result. As a number of you pointed out I'm busy enough as it without patroling forum threads half the day which was something I hadn't really thought through. I would like some kind of general posting/chat area at some point which I thought I could do using a forum, but maybe I'll put my thinking hat on and see if there is another way of doing this.

PS. Thanks to Quimble for the quick and easy polling - a sinch to set up and so easy to use - recommended (and free) if you have any kind of poll to do.

Entry 1544, Saturday, December 10th 2005, Filed In Diary
Comments(12)

Well I'm still not well, but I've had enough of sitting around feeling sorry for myself and watching really bad daytime television from under the bedcovers, so it's time to post some stuff...

The first thing that cheered me up this week was Samorost 2, for me it's the gaming equivalent of a big *hug*, but some other news has penetrated the lazylaces bedcovers (ooo-er). The current issue of Web User magazine, "The UK's biggest selling internet magazine", featured Lazylaces in their "best new web sites" review! Oh the fame. Admittedly by "featured", I mean "was tucked away in a byline on page 17", but you have to take what you can, and they did describe me as an "old favourite". Thanks guys. Next time I'm aiming for at least a half page spread ;o)

Entry 1536, Friday, December 9th 2005, Filed In Diary
Comments(10)

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