About three weeks ago I finally told myself “Ugh, what the heck, let’s buy a bitcoin! I want one just to have one.”. I had looking into buying many times before, even before the rush to $1000, then in the subsequent drop and finally bought after the “crash” resulting in Ghash.io having over 50% of the hashrate. The main reason I hadn’t bought any before is that it’s a hassle for a non-american to set up accounts with Exchanges to buy into it, you need all sorts of address and identity verification which is a bit of a turn-off. However, kraken.com allows you to transfer a modest amount of money without sending in copies of bank-statements and passwords so I transferred the money for 1 bitcoin to them. By the time the money was there the price had dropped by about 10% so I bought slighly over 1.1 bitcoin. Now, having 1.1 bitcoin is obviously annoying, so what should I use the 0.1 bitcoin on to satisfy my OCD? Spending it on other coins seemed like a good idea! I bought ~2 Litecoin and ~ 100k dogecoin. Dogecoin is the most fun cryptocurrency and, I later found out, one of the easiest to mine! Mining bitcoin and even the second-largest cryptocurrency Litecoin hasn’t really been that profitable for anyone who don’t have the money to turn it really big-scale. Without going into too much explanation of the whole thing, mining requires a lot of computational power, and the difficulty constantly increases. Buying a piece of hardware that might profitably mine today, could be unprofitable in just a month because the cost of power might be higher than you can actually mine with that piece of hardware when the difficulty has increased. So in order to make a profit you need to make sure you have a return on investment (ROI) within that month of profitability, so you need to be able to mine very quickly during that time. Dogecoin has the benefit of being very small and obscure and so not a lot of people are mining it. It also has the benefit of being worth very little per coin, making it more fun to mine! It’s more fun to mine and get 5000 coins per day than to mine and get 0.000001 coins per day, even if the value is the same. So I mined Dogecoin on my computer for a day or so to get a bit deeper knowledge on the subject and then found a guy who had built a rig out of 3 of these GAW Fury ASIC miners. I promply looked into that whole thing and it turns out ASICs are the way to go. ASIC is Application Specific Integrated Circuit. Think of it as a computer that is purpose-built for the task of mining scrypt-based coins (the underlying cryptographic algorithm for coins such as Dogecoin and Litecoin, Bitcoin is SHA-based, which is a completely different thing). This little computer can mine coins like no regular computer can, but that’s the only thing it can do, ask it to add 2 + 2 and it won’t be able to give you an answer. This piece of hardware has a USB cable that you can plug in to any computer to control it. It’s like a printer, for cryptocurrencies. You can’t print something if the printer isn’t connected to a computer. So to make use of an ASIC you need to plug it in to something. My personal computer is a laptop, and I switch it around a lot, I’m not always by my desk. So here enters the fun! What do I connect it to if I don’t want it always connected to my laptop? A Raspberry Pi of course!

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This is a tiny little computer that has 2 USB ports, an HDMI port, network port, uses an SD memory card as hard drive and is powered by a USB cable. It basically runs a full linux distribution like any other computer and is the perfect candidate for controlling the Fury. I love electronics and I had almost forgotten how much I love doodling with this stuff. It was a really long time ago I had this kind of “low-level” project, and it’s fantastically fun. Today I received my own GAW Fury miner and I promptly hooked it up and started mining for some Dogecoin! image_3

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As the picture above shows, I’m getting 1.3MH/s with the Fury. That means 1.3 million hashes (calculations) per second. The CPU of my laptop for comparison created 10,000 hashes per second. So about 130 times more powerful that my laptop. (You wouldn’t really mine on a PC with a CPU though, it is much more efficient to use a GPU.) With this little setup I am making about 5000 dogecoin per day, which is about 2 bucks a day. Just paying back the investment cost will take me something like 3 months, and taking difficulty increase into account, it is unlikely that I will ever make my money back, but it’s so fun to learn about all of this stuff and digging into the whole sphere that I would be willing to pay double the price and still not expect a return!


tetris



I’m writing this post for anyone who is interested in building web applications. The topic is really “Are you sure you want to be a webdesigner?”, and I’ll talk a little bit about _my opinion_ on what a good webdesigner needs to do and what their job is.

First, I want to clarify the terms a little bit. Designer is an extremely broad term and I generally break it down into three categories.

Designer

Required Knowledge: Photoshop

I tend to use the general term Designer for someone who is 100% focused on the design of something. That means they spend their time in Photoshop and send PSD files to the client when they are done with their part of the job. A designer is usually not as valuable as the other categories that I cover below, because they are not able to take the project from concept/drawing to actual product. In other words, they don’t implement what they design. A really good designer can still be invaluable though, if they know the constraints of implementation and the experience to crank out really phenomenal designs then they can certainly make a very good living off of just Photoshop.

Interface Designer

Required Knowledge: Photoshop, HTML, CSS

Interface Designer is pretty much just the term _I_ use for this category of designers. The Designer above is still designing the interfaces, but it’s the job of this designer to both design _and_ implement them. You need to be proficient with HTML (and preferably their slimmed-down versions HAML and/or SLIM) and CSS along with a modern CSS framework like Bootstrap. This type of designer can be the most key element of any startup, they can also be an extremely valuable addition to any consulting team. The design comes first and foremost, you might do some work in Photoshop or you might do everything in HTML and CSS from scratch (which many recommend). But your primary focus is always to make the product look good, you don’t care about what happens on the back-end when you click a button, it’s your job to make sure that the typography, positioning and look-and-feel of that button is right.

Experience Designer

Required Knowledge: Photoshop, HTML, CSS, JavaScript

The Experience Designer is responsible for exactly the same thing as the Interface Designer but they are one step up on the value hierarchy, they have some experience working with a back-end (not writing it, but communicating with it) and they have full responsibility for how the product behaves. This goes beyond just look and feel, but what a button says, how menus work, etc. It is your responsibility that the user who comes to a site has a great experience, this means being met with a pleasant functional design _and_ an easy to understand usable interface. You don’t take directions on how a site works, you decide how it works, design it, implement the front-end part of it and makes sure that the back-end meets the expectations you set.

What does it take to be a good designer?

There are few factors that go into being a good designer, no matter what type you are. First and foremost, you need to have a passion for design and for the user. It is always your job to look after the user. It can be to just make sure that what they look at is pretty, or it can be to make sure that they have a fantastic overall experience  visiting the product you are working on.

You need to be born with a sense of aesthetics. I usually hate to say that you need to be born with something, and it is true that you can train to become a great designer, with enough time and experience you can get there. If you’re really passionate about it then you will probably have already made that trip by now and you won’t be reading this article, so if you’re reading this, then you are likely to need to have some successful prior experience with some type of artistic endeavour.

I am not born with this sense of aesthetics. I can tell the difference between Arial and Helvetica and I can tell a good design from a great one, but I can’t sit down with a blank canvas and decide what colors to use and what fonts to use. I have read many of the resources that exist on becoming a good designer and I can recognise these factors on an existing website, but starting from scratch, applying that bulk of knowledge and ending up with a fantastic product requires that spark of creativity that is extremely hard to train.

So, to answer the titled question, answer this: Do you like people, like figuring out how people think and act, and have a spark of creativity that allows you to create something beautiful from nothing?

Resources

Alright, let’s talk resources; how does one practically become a good web designer? Let’s start with the holy grail of web design resources: https://github.com/dypsilon/frontend-dev-bookmarks

If you read everything that is linked on this site then you will know almost everything there is to know about web design and front-end development. If you are unfamiliar with the term front-end development then that is the same as my term Experience Designer. Front-end relates to everything that the user sees, back-end relates to everything that is on the server that the user doesn’t have any knowledge of.

Of course, the above link is extremely dense and hard to get in to, much of it is irrelevant and you should certainly not try to start learning everything that is on there.

My own personal recommendations follow a bit after what you aim to do.

Hack Design To learn generally about design, what to think about and what is important. This is a prerequisite for anything you intend to do in web design. It is absolutely not the definitive guide on the matter, there are many e-books, web sites and blog posts covering the same topic, but this is a good start.

Codecademy Web Track Codecademy is generally a good place to learn programming and they have a web track to learn the basics of HTML and CSS. Start here if you want to actually be able to implement your designs.

For further study after this, I will refer to sections of the above holy grail resource link, I refer to them here in the order I think they should be learnt.

  • Read the rest of the links under the “Guides” section.

  • Page through the links under “Programming & Markup Languages” -> “CSS” to deepen your knowledge a bit on CSS.

  • Take a look at the “Typography” section and try to read some of the material there. If there’s an article you don’t understand, just skip it, there are some esoteric subjects or some articles that requires knowledge beyond what you would have right now. You can revisit those later if you wish.

  • Check out some of the introductory material under ”Programming & Markup Languages” -> “JavaScript”, especially the book Eloquent JavaScript

  • When you have a grasp on JavaScript, start taking a look at jQuery under “Frameworks” -> “JavaScript” -> “jQuery”, you can skip the stuff on developing your own plugin, as you likely won’t be doing that any time soon.

  • Learn more about a CSS framework, I suggest Boostrap, under ”Frameworks” -> “CSS” -> “Twitter Bootstrap”

  • Finally, to see where your new skills can lead you, browse through the various links under “Jobs & Hiring”

Working with design

Once you have legs to stand on in the design world, you want to start working with design as soon as possible, the sooner the better. The only way you will become truly great is to work with many clients in many different circumstances with many different types of requirements. When you’ve seen enough situations you will know what to do in each of them, which solutions have worked before. Most importantly you will know which jobs aren’t worth taking, there are many of those.

Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your preference, the role of the designer is often temporary. There are many companies (especially startups) that appreciate the value of a good designer and will have one or several on board full-time to create and continually sculpt their product. However, there are many more companies that just want to create something and have a designer on board initially, and after an initial design is provided there is no real need to continually update the design and thus the designers role becomes redundant. For this reason many designers only work on a project-basis and are either banded together as a design firm or will be working as freelancers by themselves. Something that will boost your ability to get work is to team up with a willing back-end programmer (or learn that yourself as well) so that you can create full websites from end-to-end. The amount of people looking for web consulting work creating their company website is infinite, while the amount of jobs looking only for a designer is quite limited in comparison. However, the quality of the jobs only looking for a designer is almost guaranteed to be better than the quality of the jobs looking to create “a company website” of some sort.

The ideal way to work and what to aspire to will differ greatly among people. Personally, I think the peak of a designers career is to work on a product of their own, whether that means starting your own company for this product, being part of a startup or just work in a company where you are responsible for the design of a product given to you; if you control the design of the product you have ultimate freedom to create something great.

That said, most jobs will not have  you in a position where you have total freedom and you will see your artistic abilities limited, sometimes you will even see your creation destroyed by horrible committee decisions. There’s nothing you can do about that other than take the cash and move on to the next job with that experience in your backpack. Soon enough you will learn to recognise these situations and perhaps take command of them so as to not let it happen again.

So the question is, where do you find work? The best way, as always, is obviously through contacts of your own. Make sure you network and that you put your name out there, don’t be afraid to take on work that you think is over your skill/capacity, that is one of the few ways to improve. All programmers, designers and I’d argue most other professions as well learn on the job, so should you.

If the above method fails there are three primary resources I would use until I had a solid portfolio to show off.

  • Participate in 99designs competitions! Participate in as many as you can, this is essentially work for free, but it’s an excellent opportunity to see real projects and try out and practice your skills. If you start winning some competitions there’s possibility to earn money as well, and the better you are the higher the chance to win something. The benefit is that it doesn’t matter if the result is terrible, you don’t _have_ to deal with a client. It’s also a good opportunity to find out if this is actually something you like doing or not.

  • Create a profile on Odesk and Elance. One company recently bought the other so they are essentially the same now, but they still have quite different cultures and users. Some like Odesk and some like Elance, my tip is to create a profile on both and start looking for projects and apply to them. With an empty profile it will be hard to get any work, but if you get a portfolio with 99designs and have a properly filled out profile then you are a step ahead of many others on the site. You also get to set your own price (or choose to work on projects with only an acceptable payment), so you can try to increase your likelihood of getting something by starting out low and progressively increasing your price.

  • Look at remote job boards for temporary (or permanent if you want) positions. There are quite a few good boards for remote jobs now and I will leave you to google for it yourself, but I can recommend 37signals latest board We Work Remotely.

  • Check out Folyo, if you can land a spot there then you are pretty much golden. Unfortunately they have removed the ability to browse the designers in their registry so you can’t draw much inspiration from them anymore. However, all accounts there have Dribbble and/or Forrst accounts, and you should too. So you could look there for inspiration.


tetris



It’s been more than a year since I wrote the last post on this blog. That’s quite a while! Time has really flown by. A lot happened in 2013, lots of ups and downs with work, lots of trips around the world, good and bad, but I haven’t really covered any of it here.

Last year I visited the USA, Ireland, Thailand and UK for work. As personal vacation I went up to the Swedish mountains to hike, to Barcelona and to Germany for a board-gaming convention as well as two or three weekend trips to various locations in Scandinavia.

I have gotten out of the habit of writing quite a lot. I don’t have a lot of motivation for it when I’m really focused on something else, like work. At the same time though I think it’s a wonderful habit to have, to write and improve written communication skills.

I’ve never had this blog for the readers, it has always been for myself. I am certainly more weary of putting information about myself online because it’s being monitored to a much higher degree. As a kid you don’t worry about future employers seeing what you write and judging you on it. I do now, so it requires a higher quality of writing, something that is quite inhibiting.

Looking back though, I regret not having any posts other than the few from Portland for the entire last year.


tetris


Last week one of my co-workers here got a bit sick, some fever over the night and general feeling-bad for a day or two. (He had been to Portugal before coming here.)

On Sunday I started feeling a bit of a soar throat without thinking much of it, the night to Monday I got a major fever, all of Monday I had a major fever, all of Tuesday I had major headaches and wednesday was dedicated to an incredibly painful throat.

On wednesday I looked down my throat and actually saw all the symptoms for strep-throat / tonsillitis (those are the best translations I could find to Halsfluss).

So on Wednesday morning I actually went to a “hospital” here, an Urgent Care Center to be more accurate. Got to see a doctor, they took a strep-test to see if I had any bacteria in my throat, all in all it was about 1h 55min of waiting and 5 minutes of talking to Doctor/Nurse. It cost me $150 and I found out there was no bacteria.

Today (Thursday) I’m pretty much back on my feet again, I went in to the office and even though I have a bit of a soar throat and a cough it feels good to not be cooped up in the hotel room.

So the leading theory now is that this virus was brought by my co-worker from Portugal to the US, where it somehow mutated (possibly with the help of American drug-resistant super-bugs or something) and is now the ultimate weapon to take down Sweden.

I have pretty much never been this sick in 10 years, and even though each phase (fever, headache, throat) passed relatively quickly, the phases were rather extreme.

What’s worse is that the disease has infected all my hardware as well, the memory on my video card has somehow fried so when it tries to use the fried piece of memory the computer totally crashes. Luckily I have two video cards (an integrated one as well) so I can tell the computer to only use the integrated one and it doesn’t crash.

When I took out my headphones today to have a Skype call, the right cup had started glitching and either plays some buzzing noise or nothing at all, or if I hold my head just right I have sound in it.

So yeah, the American-Portugese Super-Virus took out 3 days of my life, my video card and my headphones. Congratulations.


tetris



Today me and Jared went into Portland proper to check out downtown. We had gotten some tips (specifically check out Voodoo doughnuts, which was on the Portland episode of No Reservations as well) and so we did.

Voodoo Doughnuts!

The place was insanely busy and we had like a 15-20 minute wait outside.

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After getting a hold of our Doughnuts of choice we got a box and went outside to eat. They were as you would say in Swedish “kränkande”.

Voodoo Doughnuts!

Crazy crazy stuff. Like a pound of refined sugar.

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Voodoo Doughnuts!

Voodoo Doughnuts!

Voodoo Doughnuts!

Then walking around and checking out Pioneer Square (a mall) and generally looking around in downtown.

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Really nice little city. Not very big though, it’s possible to walk across the entire downtown area in like 10-15 minutes. One other really cool thing about the place is the food-carts. Sprinkled all over downtown are these food trucks with various kinds of nationalities and flavours and they all generally seem very authentic. There was this Japanese one where I got an Okonomiyaki which was actually really good!

Food trucks

Food truck!


tetris