Bamidele O. Shangobunmi

JANG Speaks!: 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

More Forza 3 fun

All of the cars I've bought or used so far in Forza 3 are just ones that I like in real life, so I'm mostly using whatever among them will be good enough to win offline races. Once I get all of the career stuff done, then I'll finally go back and start tuning up some strong cars and focusing on a couple classes.

This evening, though, I thought I'd do something useful with my GTI and put it in the C class world championship I'm rolling through. Going through the upgrades, I saw that you can add AWD now, so I thought I'd try that out for kicks on top of all of the usual stuff. In Forza 2 the car had mild understeer and I figured AWD would only worsen that, so for my first shot-in-the-dark tune I tried to put in plenty of anti-understeer settings. Well, my first test drive was in a race, and what I ended up with is an oversteering, traction rolling, high-flying wacko of a car! Soooooo much silly fun though!

For Le Sarthe and New York I threw together this hide-the-women-and-children beast and did my first artsy photo:

Completely unedited, straight out of the game. That car has way more rubber than it should for a straight-line specialist though and has tons of grip. I'll surely take some of that away and give it to speed. I'm just so glad they put that hood in the game!
Again, full-sized photos are in my Forza 3 photo gallery.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Forza 3 is mine, all mine!

Picked up the Limited Collector's Edition or LCE with the Game Stop preorder goodies today!  Well, technically it was yesterday, but who's counting.  I played it as much as I could in the first day, driving 326 miles, reaching driver level 15, earning about 600k credits, hitting 209mph in a stock ZR1, and earning 31 of 50 achievements. It gets much harder from this point on though, at least achievement-wise (the 31 only count for 355 gamerpoints).

The only thing that bugs me so far is that my favorite camera view (just in front of the windshield) now floats a bit ... it turns slightly like your head would. Makes it tough to judge your slip angle sometimes. Otherwise though, definite kid-in-a-candy store material! I like that they split out "E" and "F" classes now, so there are some truly slow classes again.

Here's my purchased/modded car list so far:
  • Corvette ZR1, 2009, stock
  • Ferrari F40 (A), tire upgrade only
  • Camaro SS, 2010 (B), tire, wheel, suspension, aero upgrades, all for looks (I call it my Bumblebee) but has earned me a lot of money
  • Ford Focus RS (C), 2009, very mild mods just to get through various races
  • VW Rabbit GTI Mk.I (C), 1984, pretty heavily modded but only did it to get that one burnout photo
  • Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X GSR, (C) prototype URC livery car
  • Porsche 944 Turbo (C), to match the one in my driveway of course
  • Honda Civic Type-R, 2007 JDM/EDM (D), forget if I did any mods, just got it to earn dough
  • Lancia Stratos HF Stradale, because it's a Lancia Stratos
  • Toyota Yaris S, 2008 (F), stock, my first car that led to all of the rest
Don't forget the reward cars:
  • Ferrari California
  • Honda NSX-R GT, 2005
  • Leon Supercup, 2007
  • Lexus IS-F
  • Lotus Exige Cup 240
  • BMW M5 E60
  • Maserati GranTurismo
  • Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, 2007
  • Vauxhall VX220 Turbo
  • Renault Sport Clio V6
  • Volkswagen Sirocco GT, 2009
  • Alfa Romeo Brera Italia Independent, 2009
  • Fiat Abarth 500 esseesse, 2010
I'll be putting full-size originals of all of my photos in my Forza 3 photo gallery on Flickr.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Traxxas Slash 4x4

Traxxas has released the new Slash 4x4 and details are up at Ultimate RC.  This follows a week of swirling speculation after their popular "10-8-09" teaser movie went online.  The new truck is loosely based on the 1/10th scale Traxxas Slash platform but features an all-new single-motor, longitudinal shaft-based 4WD system driving Revo-spec differentials front & rear.  Learn more here:

Traxxas Slash 4x4 >

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Porsche 944 Turbo: A few new interior bits

Okay, things are slowly starting to come together for this car now, starting with the inside.  First I got a replacement center console caddy that that's in much closer-to-new condition than the chipped up original.  Next came this beautiful handmade leather-on-wood cassette box top, which is slightly taller than stock but looks a thousand times better than the old splitting beige vinyl stocker.  Then came the custom-ordered embroidered Lloyds floor mats and of course the Rennline pedals shown in my previous post.  Still to come are some custom leather seat covers and a lower-profile radio head unit that'll fit with the theme of the car much better.

There are a few more new photos in my gallery on Flickr:

Porsche 944 Turbo: Rennline racing pedals installed

One thing on the 951 that has bugged me from the start is the pedal spacing.  After four years of fast & easy rev-matching downshifts with the Lancer Ralliart and the Evo 8 before it, I was finding it almost impossible to even attempt the same on this car.  Hoping to remedy this, I went all out at Pelican Parts and got the black powdercoated pedal set with rubber grips, and even got the full heel-toe accelerator pedal extension which attaches from behind.

These 1/4" aluminum pieces are sturdy and well-finished and they come with all of the hardware you need for an easy installation.  Or so I thought.

I started with the dead pedal since it'd be the easiest -- just pre-drill 3 holes and drive in self-tapping screws.  Unfortunately the fittment isn't so good in my car because my undercarpet padding is fairly thick, and in searching discussion forums out there I've found that I'm not at all alone.  I eventually managed to get it firmly attached by pushing extremely hard against the pedal before setting the holes, using an automatic center punch (don't even think about installing this set without one) a million times on each hole, and using 1 1/4" self-tapping auto trim screws from a hardware store, which are about twice as long as the ones supplied with the kit (and still a real stretch to get them to bite).

Next up I did the accelerator pedal, which was a cinch.  I popped out all of the rubber pads temporarily so I could find the best holes to screw through, and used a strip of double-sided tape to temporarily mount the pedal while I carefully marked the holes with a silver paint pen (infinitely easier to see than a sharpie against a black pedal).  For alignment I just lined up the right side of the new pedal against the old.  The stocker is plastic, so drilling & screwing through it was easy, and you can see where I put the screws in the photo.

The brake pedal was next, so I could get it lined up nicely relative to the accelerator.  The Rennline instructions suggest doing the brake & clutch before the accelerator, but you should give it some thought of your own before starting the whole project.  Though I'm a big fan of symmetry, I ended up going for a staggered pattern of two mounting bolts, with the pedal overlay shifted a little to the left of center.

On the clutch pedal, I did two bolts right down the middle, which put the new pedal as far left as I could go with it, so my long legs don't have to twist quite so far inward to reach.

The feel with the new setup?  Outstanding!  I can heel-toe (actually more like side-of-the-heel-roll) shift now!  The start of the installation was a pain, but wow, it was worth it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

What's wrong with this picture?

What's wrong with this picture?  Is it:
  1. The decked-out, customized Murcielago?
  2. The location its driver was visiting?
  3. All of the above.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Forza 3 Demo impressions, from a different angle

If you haven't heard, the playable demo for Forza Motorsport 3 was released on XBOX Live this morning.  I just loaded it for the first time and ran 4 laps on the one included track (made top 5% on the leaderboards kthx), and I can sum up my impressions with a single cynical question:
"How am I playing Gran Turismo 5 when my PS3 isn't on?"
Honestly, I've never in my life seen such a big-budget, exceptionally executed, shameless copy of anything in the digital world, much less a game.  It feels like an April Fool's joke.  They copied the exact trademark camera movements and angles around a vehicle when you're choosing a color, and even the "accept" and "cancel" menu sounds are distinctly GT-esque, as are the background music tracks.  Once you're on the track, the lighting model, default control responsiveness, and overall driving dynamics are again Gran Turismo fare.  There is absolutely zero "Forza flavor" in this game.  No finite quantity of words can comprehensively describe the depth and breadth of my puzzlement and astonishment, and I'm not what you would call an easily excitable guy.

All of that said, though, I did just sell my copy of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue on eBay, and the chances that I will purchase the full version when it comes out next year are now very, very slim.  This is coming from a total Gran Turismo nut who lived & breathed GT4 before stepping up to a PS3 (which didn't play it very nicely).  I've been playing Forza 2 for awhile now, mostly because it was the best thing out there to tide me over until the release of GT5.  I've run & won all of the races, unlocked & bought all of the cars (legitimately), and tuned up some pretty decent multiplayer cars.  I like Forza 2's upgrade & tuning interfaces, and the custom paint & vehicle graphics features are downright awesome.  However, I've always found the driving experience in Forza 2 to be unrealistic, and tuning responses are sometimes quite inaccurate.  The concept of tire slip, for instance, seems to be either emulated or completely missing.  A vehicle with 20psi in the tires is no sloppier around a corner than with 100psi, the tires just warm up faster.  Translation of steering input is almost instantaneous, regardless of setup.  It's fun, but just not right.

Forza 3 has gotten it right.  The car I chose for my initial jaunt was the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, and I can say with a great deal of confidence, that this thing drove like a real Evo X.  Mind you, I'm not talking out the wrong orifice here.  I owned an Evo VIII, and even raced it successfully.  A VIII is not the same as an X, true, but I've watched enough videos of the X and read enough detailed reviews from professional drivers who were intimately familiar with the previous models to have a decent enough understanding of how it drives.  Forza 3, I'll repeat, got it right.  The beautiful response to trail braking.  The weight transfer.  The understeer.  The overdrive oversteer.  It's all there.

Folks holding the reins at Turn 10, you should be ashamed of yourselves for what you've done, but what you've done is phenomenal.  Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are going to become better drivers thanks to Forza 3.  You've successfully brought the one & only true "driving simulator," Gran Turismo, to the XBOX platform where users can benefit from a thriving community and numerous online features that Sony's PSN & Polyphony divisions simply aren't going to match.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I have a homepage!

You would think that someone who has been doing online design work since 1993 would always have an up-to-date personal web site of his/her own, right?  Not in my case.  In 1996 I launched my first "homepage," but it was reallly just a sci fi-themed experiment in technology.  The following year I did a whole new one, but again, the site wasn't really about me, it was just about, well, itself, proof that I could do a lot of cool stuff for the sake of doing it.  In 2001 I got sick of looking at the same old thing, now hopelessly stale & outdated, so I replaced it with a very simple, flat, temporary screen with a handful of links to meager content pages.  That hardly grew over the years, and it was never something to be proud of in any way, shape, or form.

Today, after a little over a week & a half of part-time work, I have launched my very first proper, true homepage,  It's not at all fancy and not at all high-tech, but it has a significant amount of content that has sat in my head, in some cases for most of my life.  Basically, it accomplishes what it was built for, telling folks who I am, what I do, and bit about how I got to where I am today.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bye bye, PayPal

Wow!  That's it!  It's over!  I'm done!  Earlier in the year I promised the execs my team would get us to 50 complete standards by the end of the year, and as of last week, we had 37 code complete and a further 14 UED complete and undergoing implementation.  That's right, we actually narrowly beat our numerical goal, but did it nearly four months ahead of schedule.

I do believe that's called "kicking butt."  Now it's time to finally catch up with the rest of my life for awhile!  Of course, for almost a decade I've been a PayPal user and that's not going to change any time soon.

Here's to the next chapter!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Take a number, please

Yesterday I worked from home to improve productivity and save 1 1/2+ hours of  driving.  Today when I got to work, it was quite literally 30 minutes before I had four designers lined up at my desk for quick consultation, all with different questions on different projects.  While helping those four in sequence, another two got in line!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Made it to the top

Over the past six or seven months, I've led or been deeply involved in more presentations than I could ever have imagined.  Some of the earlier ones were small group affairs with UED managers, and we've slowly been working up the chain through directors, VPs, and recently to a senior VP.  Today, we finally made it to the top, presenting our backstory, progress, and plans to the company president and his direct reports.  I'm just glad that we've reached the end of the line on this particular little trek, because now I can start pretending to forget how to use PowerPoint so people will stop bugging me for help with their slides.  Trust me, you never want to be known as a PowerPoint wiz.

Friday, April 24, 2009

My baby's back

One of the parallel efforts that the PayPal standards team kicked off is "refactoring" -- web developers lightly rewriting thousands of legacy pages to use shared layouts and our new standard components.  Because we don't yet have a full "critical mass" of completed standards, and also, frankly, because we have a lot of weird stuff on the site, web developers frequently ping me for design advice when refactoring some particularly hairy pages. 

Today, a developer in our Chennai office wrote to confirm that he had gotten button alignment right on our common file upload page.  It sounds exceedingly mundane, except for the fact that file upload was my very first project at the company.  It's good to see the old gal again!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Making progress

My first full quarter leading the design standards effort at PayPal is in the books.  In these few long (!) months, we've more than doubled the number of documented, coded, usable standards at the company.  Each standard includes a design pattern document on a central intranet site with interaction details & best practice recommendations, a link to a neatly layered Photoshop template file for visual design (new for 2009!), and a collection of code (both server- and client-side) that will ensure that what any project-level designer asks for will be precisely what gets implemented, pixel-perfect.

Not a bad start, I suppose, but I'm itching to do more, faster!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Courtesy -- you never know when it'll come in handy

On my way to an important, potentially tense & politically-charged meeting today, I took an elevator with a complete stranger.  We both were going to the same floor, and when the elevator opened, I held the door and politely yielded, ushering him out ahead of me.  About 30 seconds later, I was sitting in the meeting room when that same gentleman came walking in.  As it turns out, he's the director of one of the groups we were meeting about.  When we were introduced, I could sense that we were both silently thinking, "Ah, but we've already met, in a way."  Things started off on a very positive foot.

It always pays to be kind.  Well, maybe not always, but it certainly never hurts.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

I am so sorry

With the February product release, four of PayPal's most-sent emails were redesigned, a very difficult effort that took quite a long time to pull off. It's the first time these emails have been been fundamentally updated since I can personally remember, and I've been a PayPal user since 2000. The new emails look much cleaner, require far less scrolling to get to important info, and even have more useful information in them. Oh, but there's bad news.  For some reason, most of the text is rendered in footnote-sized 11-pixel Arial medium-light gray text. I don't know how this could have happened, but to all PayPal users with less than perfect vision and/or high monitor resolution, I sincerely apologize.  I'm escalating this problem to some high powers and I will make sure this gets fixed as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A rare type of compliment

I don't know exactly why, but I usually don't take well to compliments.  I'm just not into receiving accolades for getting work done; I'm into just getting work done.  Today, though, I received an in-person endorsement that I actually very much appreciated.

I was in the elevator on the way to lunch, and heard a voice behind me say, "Hey that was a great presentation the other day." I turned around and had never seen the person before. He's a content manager of sorts who has been trying to "change the mindset" within the company with respect to presentations, and thought my LEGO-themed standards presentation at a large all-hands gathering a few days back set a good example. We've had senior VPs revolting against neverending PowerPoint decks and insisting that presentations have literally no more than 5 slides.  As a result, some teams now fill up 5 slides with 30 slides woth of bulleted lists in tiny fonts.

This gentleman in the elevator said he was watching people at the preso I gave and it was unlike any other large meeting he's attended at the company.  Nobody was thumbing away at their blackberries, and no heads were buried in laptops during my talk.  Every slide was basically one fun, but effective image, and I was walking people through a cohesive story using plain English.

This was really great to hear, and I hope many people in the future will be able to receive the same feedback.  I just figure, if nobody is going to follow a presentation, why give it at all?  It's better to present a managable amount of information with a delivery that the audience can connect with, rather than trying to push out huge amounts of rock-solid data that's going to fly over everyones' heads.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ah-HA! Take THAT!

I worked all day & night Sunday, and got more actual tangible work product completed than I did the entire week previous.  I've literally completed tasks that have been on the "to-do today" list for over a month!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Different wavelengths

My new work with design standards at PayPal is going so-so, or at least that's how I feel.  UED and development managers seem to disagree.  They're raving incessantly and passionately about what our tiny cross-functional standards "SWAT team" has been able to accomplish in just over three short months, especially compared to the previous status quo.  Me, I simply do not share their enthusiasm.  There have been far too many meetings for the sake of meeting.  Literally every manager or lead in the design organization has tried to get a piece of the new standards pie, and I've been fighting tooth and nail to keep things lean and results-oriented.  If I was able to just do my job, the way I planned out & proposed in October, I estimate that I'd have accomplished literally three times as much by now!

C'est la vie, though.  The fight will continue as I patently refuse to allow "design by committee" syndrome take over an effort with such huge potential to improve both company efficiency and consistency of the end user experience.