Bring Something to the Table

Last night, I watched dozens of people pitch an idea to the gigantic crowd of Startup Weekend. I had a front row seat and I was filming the whole time, so I was paying close attention.

Here’s what I was thinking the whole time: if you aren’t a coder or designer, you better bring something amazing to the table.

No offense to anyone who was pitching, but chances are that if you can’t build it or you can’t design it, you better bring some other extraordinary skill to the table. Hell, at least be able to sell me on the idea so I’d want to help you build it!

People have been saying this over and over again in the startup world, but it rings true: ideas are a dime a dozen.

If you can’t execute, your idea is worthless.

Soon-to-be Real Life

I attended an event today as a panelist at the University of Toronto Scarborough for soon-to-be graduates, separated by industry/stream.

I was lucky to have a very outgoing panel who had plenty of knowledge to drop all over the students. During the discussion, several points kept coming up that I feel I should share:

  • Work hard. Your entry level job isn’t going to be your dream job, but you’re going to have to be persistent and tough it out until you have the skills and knowledge necessary to get there.
  • Take small steps. You can’t go from student to super-star CEO of a company immediately, you have take a look at where you want to go and create a strategy on the steps you need to take.
  • Don’t be afraid to look dumb and take risks. You’re going to have a lot of naysayers if you’re not following a traditional path. Ignore the haters and carry on.
  • Have something to say. You need to have the knowledge to speak with your peers in your industry, and what better way to show that you have that knowledge by having opinions on important matters for that industry?
  • Network, network, network. It’s easier said than done, but you have to hustle hard and create meaningful relationships with people and create that repor that establishes credibility.

The session had many more gems from the super intelligent people I was sitting next to, and in my opinion, these are the important ones.

I would love to hear any tips they would give to soon-to-be graduates from university. Leave them in the comments and I’ll add them to my list!

Here are some of the additional tips I have received:

  • Know what you want? Chase it and be aggressive. If you have an idea of exactly what you want, you should actively chase it and aggressively ask for related responsibilities. (by Wendy Kwan)
  • Learn to think outside the box, and be proactive. It shows that a person is analytically inclined, and capable of solving problems in new and innovative ways. (by Slxia1215)

Creating an Image with Dynamic Text in PHP

As Christmas approaches, many of my friends have begun their countdowns to that wonderful holiday at the end of the year.

One of my friends started her countdown back in August, when she opened up her calendar and had to count the number of days until Christmas and continuously keep track of what day it was and where her count was. I told her that I could spend the 5 minutes to help her out using the power of the internets, and that’s how my Christmas page was born.

Today, I spent a bit more time spicing up the page. It now has a Calvin & Hobbes image that has a bunch of static text, but will update the number of days dynamically.

To preface: I had no idea how to do this, and found out that PHP has a rather sizeable GD and Image Function library. I used this example to start:

header("Content-type: image/png");
$string = $_GET['text'];
$im     = imagecreatefrompng("images/button1.png");
$orange = imagecolorallocate($im, 220, 210, 60);
$px     = (imagesx($im) - 7.5 * strlen($string)) / 2;
imagestring($im, 3, $px, 9, $string, $orange);

Unfortunately, you can only use some LATIN2 font with imagestring(), and did it fit the style of the Calvin & Hobbes comic I was using, but it was a good start.

In order to load your own font and dictate its size, we can use imagettftext(). I had to include the Comic Sans (Don’t hurt me!) font file in the same folder as the PHP file.

Here is the complete code for my dynamic Christmas image:

// Filename: christmas-image.php
header("Content-type: image/png");
$string = $_GET['days'];
$im     = imagecreatefrompng("calvin_resolutions.png");
$black = imagecolorallocate($im, 0, 0, 0);
$font = 'comicsans.ttf';
$initialX = '153';
$initialY = '35';
$increaseY = '23';
$fontSize = '16';
$fontRotation = '0';
$firstline = 'What do you mean';
$secondline = 'there are ' . $string . ' days until';
$thirdline = 'Christmas?! What am';
$fourthline = 'I supposed to do until';
$fifthline = 'then? WAIT?! I am';
$sixthline = 'not a patient man!';
//imagestring($im, $font, $px, 20, $string, $black);
imagettftext($im, $fontSize, $fontRotation, $initialX, $initialY, $black, $font, $firstline);
imagettftext($im, $fontSize, $fontRotation, $initialX, $initialY+$increaseY, $black, $font, $secondline);
imagettftext($im, $fontSize, $fontRotation, $initialX, $initialY+($increaseY*2), $black, $font, $thirdline);
imagettftext($im, $fontSize, $fontRotation, $initialX, $initialY+($increaseY*3), $black, $font, $fourthline);
imagettftext($im, $fontSize, $fontRotation, $initialX, $initialY+($increaseY*4), $black, $font, $fifthline);
imagettftext($im, $fontSize, $fontRotation, $initialX, $initialY+($increaseY*5), $black, $font, $sixthline);

The positioning of the text is specific to the Calvin & Hobbes image I used, and I made it easier on myself by creating a variable for the X and Y positions as well as the amount I wanted to push the next lines down.

All you have to do now is refer to the PHP file and pass the variables through the URL.

<img alt="" src="christmas-image.php?days=&lt;?php echo $remainingDays; ?&gt;" />

The PHP file will create a PNG that has the updated text. That was pretty simple, no?

Lessons from Filming a Wedding

Yesterday, I attended Belle and Kevin’s wedding at Hazelton Manor, and they also asked me to help them capture their day with video. I was a nervous train wreck for the entire week leading up to the event because of two reasons: I have never shot a video before, and I love Belle and Kevin to bits and didn’t want to screw up.

Photo: Tim Chong Photography

Well, I survived and I think I did alright. Here’s a list of things I learned about shooting weddings:

  • You will have to fight for position. Chances are that there will be a photographer there, in addition to everyone else who is holding a camera.
  • Get a vest and stabilizer. Weddings are very long, your arms are going to get tired very quickly.
  • Be familiar with your equipment. I have never used a Steadicam Merlin before, and I didn’t have enough time to get it balanced properly, so I couldn’t use it, which sucks!
  • Bring all the wires you could possibly need. I brought a Zoom H4N to record audio, and I got lucky that the DJ had a spare set of XLR wires. I have perfect audio of the reception thanks to him.
  • Scout the venues ahead of time. I didn’t get a chance to take a look at the venue beforehand, and I had to make some really quick choices at the very last minute on how I was going to shoot everything.

Lessons for next time. Working on getting the videos together, but thankfully I can start showing people the video I helped them make to kick off their reception!

Thanks, Steve.

In 2006, I decided to purchase a 13″ white MacBook, the first of its kind to have Intel-based CPUs. My first ever Apple product.

I made this purchase because an Intel-based CPU meant I could dual-boot to Windows, for gaming, and use the OSX side of things for my media-related work.

Fast-forward five years and the machine is still in use, and it still works just as good as the day I got it. That MacBook saw me through all of university, helping me learn the ins and outs of much of the Adobe Creative Suite, learn how to edit videos with Final Cut Pro, and to develop iOS apps. I have since purchased an iMac, an iPhone, an iPad, and a MacBook Air, and it’s not easy to keep my loyalty toward a single tech company.

Steve, you were a legend, a hero, and an amazing role model. It sucks that you left the world so early, but your legacy shall live on through Apple.

As usual, I don’t deal very well with sad news, so I leave you with a bit of humour that I hope will put a smile on your face.

Rest in peace, Steve.

Thanks for having me, New York City

I made a visit to New York City from September 28th to October 1st, and I had a blast. I had dozens of restaurants mapped out, some attractions lined up, and just a plan to enjoy myself and explore a city that I have never had the chance to explore.

We grabbed some tickets from Porter Airlines for 50% off, flew into Newark, and caught the NJ Transit train into New York Penn Station; that was the start of an amazing adventure.

I have compiled a list of things that I have noticed during my time in New York. Hope you find them useful!

  • Pedestrians are quick to jump the light or jaywalk; running yellows (as a car) is dangerous in New York because you never know if you might hit someone who has jumped the light early.
  • The subway system may seem complicated at first, but you can easily learn. I started by looking at the closest subway stations for my destination and looking at what train line it was on, then how would I get onto that train line. The real mistake we made was not realizing that some subway stations aren’t connected on both sides and you MUST use the proper entrance. Google Maps directions will be your friend here.
  • Airbnb is an awesome way to secure a decent apartment for much cheaper than any hotel room you will find in Manhattan. We were minutes away from Times Square, and we had plenty of food options around us as well as subway entrances!
  • Figure out where you want to eat and map them out so you can easily figure out places to eat as you plan your day. However, feel free to just walk down the streets and look for any restaurants that interest you. Walking down 9th street from 40th all the way to 60th, we ran into MANY restaurants that we could have eaten at!
  • Walking is FANTASTIC for discovery. It was a great way to explore the city, find interesting shops and restaurants, and get some much needed exercise. (Much needed because I was stuffing my face.)
  • Many New Yorkers are super kind and helpful people. A lost traveler on the subway asked me for directions, and I really didn’t know much aside from which subway stop he should get off at, but plenty of others jumped in and gave him good directions.
  • Listen to what the street solicitors yell at you; we managed to secure tickets to Avenue Q for almost half the price of retail ticket price, thanks to stopping and listening to what a guy off the street had to say.

New York was a blast to visit, and I definitely want to go back to experience more. Food, shops, shows, what else could you really want out of a city you are visiting?

Thanks for having me, New York.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the map we used for food: New York City Eats

Games I’m Playing!

One of those things that I get asked semi-often: What games are you playing?

I don’t have all that much time for video games, but I do set aside from some time for gaming because it’s a fantastic outlet for me during really stressful times.

That said, check out my new Games I’m Playing page to take a look at what I am playing!

My Gorillapod is Here!

As some of you know, I am heading to New York City at the end of the month to eat all the food I could possibly eat. However, stabilization while traveling is one of those luxuries that I really never had.

Until now.

Ordered the Joby Gorillapod SLR with bubble level from Amazon a couple weeks back and it finally came today!

Watch out New York, I’m going to do my best to use that sucker on every imaginable surface.