About Me

Good Bye Info-Tech

Thursday September 3rd is officially my last day at the Info-Tech Research Group where I have been since December 2006.  I had a blast in my eight years, eight months and twenty four days, but it’s time to move on.

I’m incredibly grateful for everything that Info-Tech did for me. We were able to move from Ajax to London, and during the transition, I worked out of the Toronto office from December until March 2007 when we officially made the move to London.  We managed to cut our expenses so much that Charlene was able to stay home with Kaylin and then later with Maks without having to worry about our finances too much (although times were tight during those diaper-heavy years).

About Me

Mark is not really the worst

I’m getting pretty tired of saying goodbye to my friends at work.  Unfortunately it’s one of the realities of being a long time veteran at a place.  Before Info-Tech, my longest tenure at a place was five years.  I’m in my ninth year here right now though.

Yesterday I said goodbye to Mark Litnewski, a guy who I’ve known for my entire eight and a half years here at Info-Tech, one of my first friends in the building, one of the first people I managed here, and one of the people I relied on the most…even though I consistently and repeatedly called him “The Worst”.


See You Around Mike


Today is my friend Michael Halliday’s last day at work.  I’ve been at Info-Tech for seven years, he’s not the first person who’s left, and he won’t be the last…but he’s the one I’ll miss the most.

It all started when I didn’t hire him.

Mike came in for an interview at Info-Tech with my boss Gord and I.  He was charming, personable, and incredibly bright.  He’d worked with Gord before, and was a solid coder.  He answered everything right, and told us he was doing iOS development (this is four years ago when that was still a relatively rare skill).

We left the interview promising him we’d get back to him, and had him on our short list.

But I didn’t hire him.


Designing Fun

Waaay back in May, my team and I designed a new T-Shirt for our most recent Info-Tech co-op class. I usually help brainstorm these, but this time I had a solid concept in my head that I really wanted to do myself – and how often do I get to use my super-power as part of my job?

It took a good solid 8 hours to come up with this, composite it, and put it all together, but in the end I’m really happy with the outcome.  I had some great assists from my team too, with help from Randall, Sean and Aaron with little finishing touches.

Here’s the process.

We started out with a brainstorming session, my kids are pretty obsessed with Adventure Time right now, and I thought that an Adventure Time inspired T-Shirt would be fun, and relatively easy to pull off.

Adventure Time - The Comic

Up next was to figure out a good composition, I threw together a few thumbnails and settled on one I liked.

Adventure Tee Rough

Since I wanted everyone to have decent likenesses, I created a little composite with the actual faces of the people I’d be “Adventuring”.

Info-Tech Time Rough (with photos)


Since I knew I was going to assemble it all in Photoshop, and I wanted to work fairly quickly, I did all of the drawing with pen and ink, scanned the composites in, and composed them into one image.

Up first, the composites.

Composite Images


While I was working on this, Sean put together an awesome Adventure Time inspired logo.


After that, I put everything together, and I ended up moving people around, added an Ice King for some tension, and gave it more of a comic book cover feel.  When all that was done I passed it over to Randall, who refined it more, and sent it off to Aaron to get it to the printer.

Info-Tech Time Final


A pretty fun little project, and an awesome T-Shirt.



About Me

Remembering CES

Vegas baby, VEGAS!Last year I checked something off my bucket list “Go to CES” as part of the Info-Tech crew who went to Vegas to cover the Consumer Electronics Show.  It was a great year to go.  CES 2012 was the last year that Microsoft would keynote, the launch of 4k and 8k TVs, and the first 55″ OLED TV.  We saw the end of Kodak, and the rebirth of Windows Phone, which would become Windows Phone 8.

On top of the show, I had some fun extracurricular activities as well.  I had the best sandwich from a truck ever, one of the best meals of my life, saw an awesome magic show, and one of the top 5 best runs at the Craps table I’ve ever had.

There were downsides too. We walked a ton, because cabs were nearly impossible to catch (and everywhere in Vegas is FAR).  In my wrap up last year, I talked about the horrible bandwidth, which prevented me from uploading video, and the fact that I came down with pneumonia shortly after returning from CES.

Reading all of the CES coverage a couple of weeks ago, I came to the realization that while I love Vegas, and want to go back, I don’t think I’d go back for another CES.

  • Album of the Week: David Usher – Songs from the Last Day On Earth
  • Comic of the Week: Saga #8 (they better stop teasing about The Stalk)
  • Podcast of the Week: 5by5’s Quit
  • Media of the Week: I have watched a TON of classic WWE documentaries on Netflix this week.
  • Website of the Week: I’ve been digging Forrst lately, which I didn’t even know existed until Zurb acquired them.  By the way, the Zurb Manifesto is one of the best things on the internet.


About Me

What I’ve learned so far

I went through a really tough time about a year ago.  My buddy Ryan thought at the time I was having a mid life crisis.  He was probably right, but the problem was just as likely that I was moving out of my comfort zone of “doing” and into an area I was less comfortable with of “managing”.

At the time I had tons of experience the “how’s”, but not nearly as much experience with the “why’s”.

As I roll towards the big milestone of 40, I’m looking back and reflecting on my life.  This isn’t where I thought I’d be when I was 20, I thought I’d be either Michael Bay or Kevin Smith by now, but fate moved me in a different direction.

Now I’m a web guy, I’m in IT (I NEVER thought I’d be in an IT department).  I’m a Manager (capital M), telling rather than doing.  I’m a leader (lower case “l”), who rallies and motivates people.  I’m an entrepreneur, I started Canada’s Online Comics Superstore All New Comics (plug), opened and closed HeadsDown Internet Design, and I’m a partner in New Ninjas Inc..

Over the last year or two I’ve been compiling a massive post of what I like to call “What I’ve Learned So Far”.  This is a list of things that I’ve taken away from each job I’ve had, and stuff that has shaped me into the person I am today.

Netstar / TSN / (January 1997 – January 2000)

Pressure is good for the soul

I always hear people upset that dates are arbitrarily made.  I believe in deadlines and dates.  Trade Deadline is March 3rd.  The Draft is July 6th.  The Olympics are February 12th.  You cannot miss those deadlines.  That kind of pressure inspires you to work your hardest.

Get things done

We just did stuff.  We said we’d do it.  We worked together.  We got it done.  One of my favourite memories is of a micro-site that the sales guys had sold for Honda Power Tools.  Two of us built a 12 page site in 6 hours one night, from design and concept through populating content.

Get things right

Bloggers think that it’s most important to get it first, at TSN it was hammered into my head a billion times that it’s most important to get it right first.  In three years nobody will remember who broke that trade story, but they will remember when you got it wrong.

Be able to scale

When I arrived at TSN we had one single web box, it was even called Webbox.  It was an old Sun server, pretty tiny really, and it just served up our website…out of our building (right behind the security guys).  By the time I left (the first time), we had 14 custom Dell Opteron servers and we were serving up about five times the traffic we had in 1997.

Learn something new

I came into TSN knowing CSS and HTML,and that was it.  I learned how to program a batch job, how to create shell scripts, how to use UNIX.  I taught myself how video encoding worked, and became our best encoder of video, constantly tweaking and improving our video encoding and our ability to stream.  Meanwhile I spent time in the video editing booth, doing SportsDesk and Soccer Saturday shows, and some time in the graphics department learning how to use their sweet $50k O2 machines that built the graphics packages. I learned about business plans and business cases. In those three years at TSN I did a masters’ degree worth of learning, and got paid for the privilege.

Don’t be afraid of change

As we were rebuilding our website, going from an all flat HTML site to one that included things like “Server Side Includes”, and a “content management system”, Joe, our Tech Guy decided we should move to this funky new “ASP” platform by Microsoft.  I got on board and started building pages as quickly as I could.

Activate (January 2000- January 2001)

Work Hard

I only worked at Activate for a year, but I put in about two year’s worth of time there.  I did so much stuff that was cutting edge and at the far limits of what I was capable of.  I templated most of my work so that I could do more custom development, and took on anything they threw at me.  Sure I was crusty as all hell most days because of the never-ending torrent of work…but I was doing a LOT of good stuff.

Don’t be an idiot with your money

When I arrived at Activate, its parent company had a $4billion war chest.  I watched as they squandered millions of dollars on the most ridiculous of things.  Saw them burn through cash at an alarming rate, and witnessed stupidity like company events for twelve people that cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.  All while we weren’t making enough money to cover our base costs.

A good network is the most important thing you will ever build

When I was laid off at Activate, I sent out an email to all of my contacts.  Five minutes later I got a call asking if I wanted to meet for lunch.  Over lunch I had a job offer.  The next day I started my new job at Alliance Atlantis.

Up Next: Alliance Atlantis, Centennial College, Bell Globe Media, All New Comics, Info-Tech, and New Ninjas Inc.

Internet Our Family

Changing streams

Ruby on Rails
Ruby on Rails

At my day job we’re currently redesigning our long suffering website using Ruby on Rails.  The fun started back in October when a small team of mine started looking at a couple of different technologies including PHP with Cake, Django, and Ruby on Rails.  After a really brief look at other stuff (a day or so) we went with Ruby on Rails.

To my friends who aren’t web nerds, I apologize, this is probably going to be boring for you, to those of you who are interested in seeing how I tend to make decisions (quickly and full steam ahead), this might be interesting.


Rock Band: Better with a group

Rock BandI’ve been playing Rock Band off and on since Christmas, and other than one night with the guys, we usually play just Char and I. We have a great little two person band ala The White Stripes going on we’re known as “Chip and the Dips”. The two of us have fun together rocking out (Char on drums, me on guitar), but yesterday during our team building session, I experienced Rock Band as it was really meant to be played.

Internet – A review

A funky little InfoTech pageI had a few very elaborate HTML pages to build the other day and just simply didn’t have the time to write clean HTML code. Rather than hack up something that I’d later HATE, I decided to try out a service that I’ve seen reviewed in tons of places. Their gimmick is, “You design, we XHTML, in 8 hours.” All right smart guys, let’s see how well you do.

I went to the website and clicked on the “Order now” link. I selected the “professional package” and under the advanced options I added “commented”. The total for all three pages, coded in “W3C Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Table-less CSS markup. Compatible with IE, Firefox, Opera and Safari with W3C Valid Shorthand & Optimized CSS.” with commented markup was $324.00. I filled out my personal information and uploaded my files. Then I entered my credit card info, and hit submit.

Our Family

Our London Year

One year ago March 2nd we took posession of our new home in London. A year ago today we made the long commute from Ajax to London for one final time, closing the old house and taking over the new one. It’s been a year, and a ton of things have changed for us in that time. Work is challenging and awesome, I like where we live, and having my parents close by has given us the opportunity to go on a vacation without the munchkin.