Web development is not just about pretty designs. It's not about technical brilliance. Instead, it requires a zealous cocktail of creative ingenuity, technical ability and an eye for how we as humans use the web. Then you push boundaries.

FedEx Day 2

If I’m honest, our inaugural Fedex Day (18th June) was a bit of a disaster. All was not lost though because we learnt some hard lessons from it. So this time around, we were going to get it right. And we did.

I won’t dwell on the past, but we learnt that to make the project a success we needed better planning, full commitment from everybody (including myself) and a better start and end time. With these things in place, it was time to begin.

The day kicked off on Friday (9th July) morning at 10am and we began working on our very first Facebook App. Our idea was simple: build an app that would allow people to accumulate points by cycling and then use those points to save endangered animals. And so we decided to call our app: “Lifecycle.”

By 5pm, the troops were getting hungry so we decided to get some pizza delivered. Gosia brought a board game with her (The Settlers of Catalan) and we played together while devouring pizza. By 7pm, Tom had beaten us all and it was time to get stuck into Lifecycle again.

Against a backdrop of keyboard chatter and a Bruce Springsteen album, I began notice that there was a different energy in the room. With the four of us working simultaneously on the same project, it was clear that mentally we were all connected. Questions whizzed back and over. We scurried to and fro. We were in orbit around Lifecycle. It felt great.

At midnight, we were getting tired. But the fact that our modules were clicking together seamlessly drove us on. It was a great source of satisfaction and motivation. John sponsored two bags of wine gums and an energy drink – and we were good to go again!

As the clock ticked towards 4am and it was clear we were all fading fast. At this stage, the app was pretty much complete aside from some javascript and CSS tweaks – so we decided to call it a night. John and I would make the final adjustments in the morning.

We were tired, exhausted and proud.

It was a strange feeling leaving the office at 4am. Here we were as a team having built a Facebook App in less than 24 hours, and in doing that we had all contributed towards making something great. The atmosphere within the office was phenomenal and the feeling of autonomous achievement was incredible.

We had done it.

Update: There's a few bugs left to fix and we'll submit to Facebook for approval then. We'll let you know when it goes live on App Store on Facebook


FedEx Day

While on my usual web travels, I came across a great idea from the guys at Atlassian. Every so often, they hold a FedEx Day. The idea is simple, the team chooses a new project/technology that they would like to work on and the task must be deliverable in one day (hence Fedex Day - "We deliver.")

The rules are:

  • The project/technology must be something new i.e. something that the developer/team has never worked on before, but something that they'd like to try.
  • The task must be something 'out of the ordinary'.
  • Each developer (or group) chooses their own project.
  • Pizza must be bought in. The fridge must also be stocked with beer, juice and Coke.
  • The task must be something tangible (it doesn't have to be something ready to ship, but it must be something that can be shown to the team at the end of the 24 hour period).
  • Tasks can be team or individual projects.
  • Work on each project starts at exactly 4pm on a Thursday, work stops at exactly 4pm on Friday. Each project must then be demonstrated during the team review.
  • The developers must post a blog entry for each project once they team review has finished.

The inaugural Starlight FedEx Day will take place on Thursday/Friday 17th/18th June. The entire Starlight team will not be available during this period (no emails or phone calls). Watch this space.



I recently came across a really interesting group of people going by the name 091labs. They kinda remind me of those days as a kid sitting in the landing with my box of Lego surrounded by half the neighbours' kids. Quite simply, it's a group of people that meet up to share ideas, encourage one another and collaborate on tech/creative projects.

In these times of dreariness, it's nice to see some sort of spark in the Galway Tech community. I was particularly encouraged to see people who for one reason or another are not able to find work, participating with the group. It would be great to see some of those guys collaborating and starting companies off the back of the 091labs meetings. Hopefully we'll see some real magic emerging from there soon.


Backups with Bacula

When it comes to managing severs there comes a time you realise oh **** I need to backup my entire server and possibly others too. Looks like it's a job for Bacula.

Bacula is an open source network backup solution which is easily installed on our Ubuntu servers and with a little bit of configuration, can be up and running backups in no time. There is a mountain of information on www.bacula.org to get you started but be prepared to trawl through alot of text to find what you're looking for


Animated Scroll with jQuery

Recently I had to write a piece of code that would smoothly scroll through a div until the selected anchor tag reached the top of the div. I tried searching for the answer on the web but only found scrollers that worked on the entire document, not just a div. The answer however is explained below...

function scrollToID(id){
distance = $('div.friend').index($('#'+id)) * 200;
$('div.friends_right').animate({scrollTop: distance },'slow');

The relative distance of our element within the div was calculated by first finding its index (i.e. where it is positioned amongst the other elements in the div) and then multiplying that number by the set height of each element (in this case 200px).

And its that easy!



We start our starlight lab experiments with xpresso from smashing some things around. From now, from time to time we will post new networks solutions and combinations of nodes. pFragment node has many important implementations like welding sparks, fireworks or shattered glass. Feel free to ask any questions if you're struggling with it...

Watch the video on our Vimeo channel



Starting new experiments by drawing mangas with a big picture plan of animating them one day in new Corel Painter 11 onion skin tool... great fun!


Cineversity Live Session

Next Cineversity Live Session starts April 28th, 5pm Irish Time. You can ask questions on the Live chat and Network with community. Great idea, unfortunately only for members.


it's Snowing in the office

New version of SnowFlake for Vue was recently released and must admit some cameras features (rotation around the animated axis for example) or the shape terrain modeling tool are spot on.

Download SnowFlake v2.1 Manual



We're highly recommending new dynamics module in Cinema 4D R11.5 called moGraph2. Lots of fun, great flexibility and GUI designed for 10 years old kid.
Using that module we created a simple experiment as a visual startup screen for one of our XCake meetings.

Watch the video on our Vimeo channel