Pew Pew Laser Blog

Code. Glass art. Games. Baking. Cats. From Seattle, Washington and various sundry satellite locations.

Past Blogs

When to Use a Split (or AB) Test.


Hey marketeers; here's a little blog on page optimization and testing. Are you wondering whether to do a split page test or a multivariate test? These are the situations where split testing is appropriate:

All other situations really do call for multivariate testing. You can get a lot done by using multivariate (not full-factorial) testing.

Remember that any testing campaign should be run for a minimum of two weeks. Doing so is a critical step to smooth out traffic spikes due to the season and statistical anomalies.

Alpha Transparent .PNGs in IE6 Using Fireworks.


I have finally got around to researching Alex Walker's article on PNG8 and their potential to solve the old IE6 grey background with alpha transparencies problem. I am pleased to report success with this method, and I've written an article about how to edit your alpha transparency .PNGs for use in IE6.

The great news about this technique is that this works just fine, and gives you one single file that works in IE6 and earlier, but has no loss of quality in the other browsers. The bad news is that your image will have a faint jagged edge when viewed it IE6. The bad news is that if you have a lot of alpha transparency in your image, it will look pretty bad in IE6. If this is the case, you should consider re-matting the image against the desired background color.

Bear in mind that you may not need to worry about IE6. Check your your web site's stats to see if you're getting a sufficient number of IE6 users to justify the effort involved in changing all your images. The only statistics that matter in making this decision are your own.

State of Xbox 360 Gaming.


I'm looking forward to Lego Indiana Jones so that the husband and I can play together. And we'll probably buy the Xbox 360 version so that we can earn achievements.

Valve's Portal (part of the Orange Box) is awesome. I watched the husband play through it the first time while I was baking Christmas cookies. It's frightening, funny, and a challenging puzzler.

This brings me to one of the other games in the Orange Box: Team Fortress 2. I played the original Team Fortress a decade ago, and it was fantastic. This sequel is also fabulous. It's got a great art style, and I love the strategic class choices and focus on teamwork. I assure you, the core game here is a superior first person shooter to Halo 3. (There are some lag issues when too many players are on, and group of noobs stands no chance against a group of entrenched Engineers.) I watched the husband and his posse play a bit, and while that was fun, I very much wanted to play with them.

But I can't. Not without handing Microsoft another $50. I've got my own Xbox Live ID (or profile, if you prefer). My ID collects my achievements, my history, and my GamerScore. They're mine, dammit! But it's only a Silver Xbox Live membership, so my profile can't get on-line. I really think that the $50 annually that the husband pays should allow all profiles on that Xbox to play online. I see the membership as a fee for network access, so it should apply to all users of the console. Curse you, Microsoft!

I do realize that my refusal to pay $50 for online gaming, while dropping over 2 grand for a shiny laptop is bizarre behavior.

I Regret Nothing.


After hands on testing, careful consideration of all of the available options, I've done it. I ordered a Macbook Air. In December, I went to a couple conferences and had to haul a big work laptop around. This made me really want something light and easy that I could take to conferences or use to code or surf on the couch.

I put my hands on the Dells and the Sonys, but none of them felt as light or as sturdy as the Air. I'm aware of all of the limitations to the Airbook, but they do not matter for my use of a laptop. I am not looking to replace my desktop computer. The applications and file formats I use will work with both Windows and Mac. I use my iPod for music, and flash drives for data.

I had the husband order the Macbook Air online; using his employee discount saved a few bucks. Now I just have to wait a couple weeks for Apple to configure and ship it.

1 comment(s).

Cats and Mice.


Calico cat with a handmade toy mouse. Tabby cat with a handmade toy mouse. This Christmas, my mom enacted a policy of "no presents from China" - which meant a lot of hand made stuff. She was kind enough to include the kitties in the gift-giving. She knitted these wool mice, and filled them with organic catnip. Do the kitties like them? Why, yes, they like them very much. They get very excited when we go near the drawer where the mice are stored.

1 comment(s).

iTunes and Album Art Learnings.


It used to be that all you needed to do to get iTunes to pull down the Album Art for your newly ripped CDs was to set the Album Artist on your songs to match the iTunes store's Artist. Not anymore, as I discovered when I ripped a couple of new discs.

To get the Album Art directly from iTunes, you must match both the Artist track Name (Title), and Album on a single local track song to the Album Artist and Album title from the iTunes store. This isn't too difficult to do manually. Once I've ripped all the tracks, each with it's proper track name and artist, I just change the first track. I then ask iTunes to get the album art, and change the first track back to the correct Artist and Name. iTunes then applies that Album Art to all the tracks in that album.

This works well enough most of the time, but the logic behind it isn't quite right.

For instance, on the Monty Python's Spamalot — Original Broadway Cast Recording, the first track is the orchestra tuning up. The name of the track is "Tuning", and the artist is "Orchestra". This is the correct information, from the CD insert itself. But to grab the Album Art, I needed to change that track's Artist to "Monty Python", and the Album to "Spamalot (Original Broadway Cast)". Clearly, since Monty Python is merely a fictional titular construct, he cannot perform an entire Broadway musical. And of course each track has a different artist; a variety of artists perform each song.

This behavior is even more incorrect for the variety of trance and techno compilations I have. The iTunes store knows that, on Bond Beat & Bass — The Elektronika James Bond Themes, track 1 is called "Intro", by "O.T. Zehn". But iTunes won't download the Album Art until I change the track's Artist to "Various Artists".

Contemplating the Dark Side.


I've been thinking about getting a laptop for myself. The new laptop would be my secondary machine - so portability is much more of a concern that storage or horsepower. Even my work in Photoshop just isn't taxing to any modern machine.

I've been comparing Dells, Sonys and even a Toshiba and a Panasonic. But the Macbook Air is just so sexy. Yes, there's a price premium for that fancy design and the Mac name. But I'm not laptop shopping on a shoestring budget - my recent raise at work means I can afford to splurge a bit.

Last night, I dragged the husband to the Apple Store to touch the Macbook Air. Just as expected, it was very light, and pretty sturdy with the aluminum case. The larger Macbooks, a 5 pounds, felt very heavy. Then we went to the Sony Style store at the same mall. Sony's laptops were very light, but very flimsy feeling, and really no cheaper than the Macs. Blech.

I really ought to touch some Dells before I choose. I think I'll have to call a Best Buy and ask if they've got any in stock, since Dell is closing their kiosks.

Superbowl 42.


It seems fitting that The Answer is also the universe's answer to Tom Brady. I had a great time watching the Superbowl. We really wanted the Giants to win; I much prefer the underdog story to perfection and alleged cheating. But it had been so long since our team had won that we thought we were cursing the teams. It was very exciting and heartwarming watching Manning the younger and his stunning defense shut down Pretty Boy Brady.

The ads were okay. No monkeys — not even a Trunk Monkey. There were only a few dot-come ads that stuck out to me. The Career Builder "Follow Your Heart" ad was very good. GoDaddy's implication that you might see some boobies if you went to their site was... odd. I'm not sure how large the crossover between Superbowl-watchers and domain-name buyers is. At this point, I think that Go Daddy keeps buying Superbowl Ads because owner Bob Parsons has a major bone to pick with the network censors. On the other hand, perhaps the strategy is simply to keep a reputation as the thought-leaders in domain registration. Lastly, there's SalesGenie. They dropped a few million on their ad last year, and did a couple ads this year. They've got a very confusing homepage - I keep thinking that they should get some landing page optimization from Widemile. But Salesgenie's already using Omniture, so I guess that's working out for them.

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