Porsche Paint to Sample Explorer (PTS) built with Bootstrap, Photoshop Scripting and AR QuickLook

Key Technologies: Bootstrap (HTML/CSS), JavaScript, JSON, and AR QuickLook

PTS Explorer is a quick way to find instagram photos of a given PTS (paint to sample) color. A few months ago I noticed there were many Instagram accounts centered around PTS colors – this worked well to see many examples of different colors, but what if you didn’t know all the colors, or wanted to see many examples of a certain color?

These questions prompted me to create PTS Explorer.

Responsive layout using Bootstrap. Tap image for larger view.
Filter colors by name. Tap image for larger view.
Filter colors by hue. Tap image for larger view.
View instagram photos tagged with color. Tap image for larger view.
Example 2. Tap image for larger view.
On iOS12 via Mobile Safari preview colors in AR QuickLook.
Use photoshop scripting to quickly generate swatches from JSON data file.


Command: a macOS app that interfaces with the NCE usb module via RS-232

Key Technologies: RS-232, Hex, and Cocoa (Mac)

Command for Mac is a [native] application I built to run DCC trains on my office layout. It works by using the USB Interface for Power Cab to bridge the gap from the computer to the NCE cab bus. The application uses the RS-232 serial interface to send hex commands to control the locomotives.

The application’s main interface can be accessed from the OS menu bar, this interface allows you to open the manage the connection, add/remove trains, and create new throttles.

Want to develop your own application? Hex command documentation can be found here.

Menu Bar Application. Tap image for larger view.
Manage Trains Window. Tap image for larger view.
Single Throttle. Tap image for larger view.
Multiple Throttles. Tap image for larger view.

HO DCS Wiring Guide

A simple approach to some DCS basics.

I started working on a small HO DCS layout about a year ago and found it pretty complicated to find clear answers on wiring best practices. I would ask simple questions in train forums and get back long, complicated answers filled with personal opinion (I also found out that most people are or think they are electrical engineers, which I am certainly not!) and more times than not the answer didn’t address my question completely.

So this site is my attempt to list out anything I’ve learned over the past few months, as simple as I can put it. I will be updating this website as I go along, please feel free to ask me any questions or suggest any additional information, we’re all in this together.

Imprortant Points:

  • • MTH HO PS3 engines require DC voltage.
  • • MTH TIU takes upto 24VDC, 10.0 AMPs. You can find a list of MTH recommened DC transformers here. I find it simpler to use a filtered DC power supply, right now I’m using a spare HP laptop power supply that puts out 19.5VDC 4.62A 90W (watts = volts * amps)
  • • Most Diesel engines take 0-24 VDC ~230 – 650mA, so look for a power supply with higher amperage output to run multiple trains at once.
  • • Only Fixed 1 and Fixed 2 can take DC power, and you must use Fixed 1 to power the TIU if you are not powering the TIU via the Auxiliary port. You can power the Auxiliary port with a power brick like Z-500 or Z-750 e.g. Variable Channels are AC only.
  • • PS3 Engines eliminate the need for a polarity switch on the engine and the engine can receive the command signal from either track (All MTH HO trains are PS3). Although the PS3 engine isn’t polarity sensitive, the TIU is, so make sure you have the right power connections at the TIU.
  • • PS3 engines require your TIU/Remote be upgraded to DCS version 4.20+
  • • You’ll often hear home run or star wiring in the DCS books, see the image below for a simple explanation:

Okay, let’s see some examples.

Simple Loop with Single Feeder

Large Loop with Multiple Feeders

Multiple Loops with 2 TIU Channels

Atlas Turnout with Circuitron Capacitor Discharge Unit

You can also skip the Capacitor Discharge Unit and hook the AC power right into the Snap Switch, however this is highly discouraged as it’s very common for the solenoid in the turnout to burnout if the switch is pressed for too long or gets stuck.

Atlas Turnout with Circuitron Capacitor Discharge Unit and Atlas Snap Relay controlling a NJI Dwarf

Visualizing lipstick virtually with ARKit! Our interns Summer project.

Key Technologies: Swift, ARKit 2, Cinema 4D

I had the distinct pleasure to help with this year’s intern project – a proof of concept app to test out viewing virtual makeup with augmented reality.

We chose to model a popular Nar’s lipstick that was visually interesting, and had some great colors.

  • Created the mesh and animation sequence in Cinema4D / took accurate measurements to endure model closely matched its real-world counterpart
  • Exported as Collada file
  • Imported into Xcode and converted to SceneKit file
  • Textured in SceneKit
  • Changing the mesh material at runtime to show off different lipstick shades
  • Added scene lights for realistic plane shadows

Ulta’s Day of Code, a  Everyone Can Code event for Chicago public school kids

Hello World.

In partnership with Apple and CPS, Ulta hosted a Day of Code at our downtown Chicago office. Students from LakeView High School and Michele Clark were walked through the development lifecycle of a feature, from requirements to development, to getting the app on the app store. We also spent some time introducing the students to the Ulta Beauty brand and high level stats about our company.

Joe Rago, Director of Digital Innovation starts the day off.

We also built an app just for this day so the students could have something tangible to correlate some of our coding topics as we provide the students with the GitHub repo for the app. We did our best to represent all common iOS app view patterns, as well as latest Swift syntax.

Another cool feature in the app is we did a little of  the school branding and let students choose their school – doing so updates the app icon and provides with school specific details.

Sasha Smith and Jenni Urban talk about CX while having the students work together on prototypes.

US Technology patents and commemorative wooden cubes

Nov. 21, 2017
Gathering in-store employee ratings using triggered feedback solicitations

Feb. 27, 2018
Drive-thru system implementing location tracking

Sep. 4, 2018
Using a mobile computing device camera to trigger state-based actions

Dec. 25, 2018
Seamless user retail experience based on location

Feb. 12, 2019
Systems and methods for facilitating enhanced device functionalities within a retail store

4.0.1 to 5.2: Reflecting on my first 2 years with Ulta Beauty

In our latest release we added support for iOS11 and the iPhone X, a major milestone for our development team. With that release I thought it was important to take a look back and see just how much the app [and team] has changed in my time at Ulta.

Key Initiatives:

  • Cleaned up, simplified, and modernized the codebase. Established a cadence for structuring code aimed for readability and understanding with emphasis on in-line comments explaining business logic. In most cases I tell my developers to structure their code linearly so that it mirrors what’s being displayed.
  • Identified redundancy in models/views and consolidated
  • Removed all non-essential third party code (that isn’t mandated by business partners)
  • Banned the use of cocoa pods and dependency managers.
  • Removed all unused and old assets / converted new assets to PDF (vector)
  • Created a “Core” which handles all our application/session/configuration management, as well as contains our own web services client
  • Established rules on native first UI/UX patterns with creative partners and an understanding of maintaining code over time e.g. I don’t want to be fixing custom controls with each OS release.
  • Compartmentalized storyboards based on features [performance/readability]

*It’s important to note that the above initiatives reflect my viewpoint on how a large enterprise project with multiple [sometimes fluid] team members should be treated. When creating my own apps I have similar from different goals and I can take certain liberties knowing only I will be maintaining the code.

The screenshots below are a few examples of said changes. On the left is version 4.0.1, the app I inherited when I started, and on the right, 5.2, our latest release.