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Monday, August 25, 2008

Bike accessory alert!

I realized something the other day; I can't wear both my camera bag and my CamelBak at the same time. And since I love to ride, I thought that I might take advantage of the weather to go take some pictures. I did not want to add a rack to my sweet ride, but the other day, I spotted this one in a small bike store in Ottawa:

Made by Axiom, the model is called the Journey, is offered in silver and black, in a four-bolt or quick-release version (QR), mounting to the seatpost rather than the bike frame! I find that the QR version is exactly what I've been looking for! Of course, this method of attachment does reduce the useful load to 15kg, which is still ample for my needs. With a small fitted bag to carry my gear, this would allow me to continue to carry my CamelBak while riding (I can't go back to regular water bottles now, I'm spoiled!)

After seeing the construction quality of this rack in person, as well as the very, very reasonable price (around $45CAN), I think I've been convinced to make a purchase.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Insects in Canada

I've always been fascinated by insects, as I believe many people are, from a very young age. And Canada is a fascinating country for insects, if you take a moment to look. Here is a little fellow that was climbing just outside my place the other evening:

For those who might be traveling to Montreal, Canada, be certain to check the Montreal Insectarium (on the grounds of the Montreal Botanical Gardens). Well worth the visit to see the fabulous collection of bugs.

Otherwise, take a moment to look around your place, and I'm sure you'll find some interesting bugs!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

After some time with my Canon 40D

I've been using my Canon 40D for a few months now, and I can safely say that I have been extremely satisfied with the performance of this camera. It has performed without any issue for over 5000 shots now, and I keep finding new ways to use it every day. I'm glad that I made the decision for a smaller than full-frame camera body; I find that I enjoy the 1.6x factor on the lens I use. Of course, this does have an effect on the overall width of any wide angle lens that I use, but I did expect that.

I have noticed dust buildup on the sensor, and since I have not yet purchased a cleaning system, I tend to keep my shots at wide open aperture, to reduce the appearance of dust. I highly recommend to every DSLR user to use a nice clear sky to their advantage and take a shot with the aperture shut as tight as possible. The resulting image, when focused on infinity will bring out all dust particles on the image sensor (well, actually, on the filter over the image sensor assembly!). Here is a result, after months of use, with a zoom lens, which acts like a "dust vacuum":

Take a closer look at the image above to see the dust particles, particularly on the top left side of the image. I will need to investigate the various cleaning systems available to clean DSLR image sensors. But that's a topic for another day.

As I mentioned, the 40D has performed without any problems, but this does not mean that there are not things that I might change to improve this already fabulous camera. My number one complaint has to do with the power button, which I find inconveniently placed, and with the two positions, I find myself a little more confused than anything. My second concern is with the placement of the operation buttons below the LCD screen. I find that the buttons have a tendency to get pushed when the camera is worn on a strap. I think that this could be resolved by returning the buttons to the left side of the LCD. I have also sided with others with regards to the LCD itself. It was nice of Canon to include a 3 inch display, but it would have been nice for them to include a high resolution display. As things stand, Nikon's LCD displays are FAR superior, for the same level of camera. In a future version of this camera model, I expect that this will be changed.

I will continue to use this camera with great pleasure, and will comment on further use in the future. Bye for now, I'm off to take some night pictures!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Picked up my camera!!!

My apologies for the lack of posts in the last 2 weeks... But I have some news to report; I've picked up my new camera, courtesy of Henry's in Ottawa!!! After extensive research, I was a little torn between the Rebet XTi and the 40D, but finally decided that the extra expense was worth it, and got the Canon 40D. It's the successor to the very popular Canon 30D, and so far I am very, very impressed!

For those who are familiar with DSLR cameras, the 40D is a real treat! Fabulous construction quality, with a solid feel and weight. And the camera's still OFF!!! Powered up, it's like a sports car; fully loaded with all the options one could possibly want and more. Here is a good shot of the front of the camera:
and the back:

Several very complete technical reviews have been done on this camera, so I will spare you the details, but is still recommended. Here is an image by Canon, providing an inside view of the camera components:

More to follow later!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Shopping for a new camera

For those who know me, I've decided to get back into photography. I was very interested in photography for several years, and gave it up when the Digital SLR camera launched. I was fully aware that one day, the dSLR would eventually replace film cameras, but I knew that I would have to wait a while until the technology evolved to the point where these cameras were really competivite.

So I have been doing some research to find the best camera I can get for my money. Currently, I believe I have settled on the Canon 40D, and I'm really anxious to get my grubby little hands on it!

More to follow!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Modern and minimalist housing...

For those who know me, my obsession with modern and minimalist housing is only increasing with time!!! Good Lord, I should have been an architect rather than a computer geek! Actually, the concept of this type of housing includes several ideas that really appeal to me, such as prefabrication, energy efficiency, use of natural materials and more.

Currently, it seems that there are many, many concepts, but very few actual products for sale. As I discussed in a previous post, architect Rocio Romero has been selling her idea for quite a while now. Some others are doing the same, including a Canadian company called sustain, which has been marketing the MiniHome:

The MiniHome is actually listed as a travel trailer by the Canadian government, so it can be towed to its location, without special permits:

And here is a look at the interior:

The more I research this topic, the more I realise that I am not the only one with this obsession... I wonder what I will find next?

More to follow...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

More of my obsessions...

Ever since I got a look at some modern, prefabricated housing, I have been bitten by the bug... This is exactly the type of house that I have been looking for, and I believe that I have found the one!

After doing some extensive research, I have pretty much settled on Rocio Romero's design for the LV house. Although there are several interesting designs available online, this is the only one that I have found that has been built several times, and the layout seems to be the most rational:

One of the main reasons behind my interest in this type of housing is my concern about the lack of thought going into today's North American housing market. Careful research has led me to conclude that most builders in Canada (if not the USA as well) are far more interested in profit than intelligent construction. I have also concluded that most houses do not cater to the needs of their inhabitants, but rather seem to be built to impress visitors more than anything.

Here is a look at the internal layout for the LV house:

More to follow.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Software review: iBank

I've decided that this year was the year I would get my finances back on track, and being a OSX user, I thought I would forego the usual PC choices and select an application that was designed from the ground up for this platform. This led me to iBank. Now, keep in mind, I'm not sure if this is the solution I would select if I was a multimillionaire, but I think that in my case, the scale of the application mirrors my needs perfectly.

I can tell this was designed by someone from my generation, when one of the built-in expense categories is Dining: Coffee! In my book, that truly deserves a category of it's own! Here's a look at the main interface:

It's been a pleasure setting up my budget, and the excellent Budget Monitor feature let's me see at a glance if I am sticking to my budget. With scheduled transactions, alarms and reminders indicate bills and due payments, so missed due dates are a thing of the past (knock on wood!):

I have been having some technical issues with the application though, with several crashes in the last couple of uses. Of course, I have not yet rebooted the system, and I would like to make sure that the OS is not the culprit here, rather than this program.

More to follow...

A weird obsession...

I have developed a fascination for japanese lunchboxes, also known as Bento boxes. After seeing my first bento box, I was completely hooked. I have searched the Internet to find out as much as I can about where I can procure these fabulously designed boxes. I have been looking at a specific model for some time, and have now located a source in Ottawa:

This particular model is made by the Zojirushi Corporation in Japan, and they have several other models available, apart from a wide range of products for Japanese households.

For those who have never seen a bento, it is essentially a lunchbox with separate containers, that fit together to make a complete lunch package. Very efficient design, and I believe that it can adapt well to Western cuisine. During my research, I found several types and makes of boxes:

I will let you know more as soon as I pick up my new bento!

New Bluetooth keyboard

Hello all! First of all, my apologies for not creating a new post in quite a while, but I plan on making the most of 2008.

For my first post of the year, I thought we would take a look at Apple's new Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard:

This keyboard follows Apple's new design and improves on the portability of the keyboard by removing the extra numeric keyboard available on the wired version.

A side view of the keyboard is a testament to the minimalist design philosophy that Apple has adopted lately, and as some have said "either you love it or you hate it!"

Personally, I am in the LOVE camp, and I can't wait to get my grubby hands on one. I don't make much use of the Bluetooth functionalities of my Mac, and I think it's high time that I did. The keyboard is wisely powered by 3 AA format batteries (included with the initial purchase no less!!), and the smart power management turns the keyboard off during periods of inactivity, only to resume function as soon as the user begins typing again. I would really like to know what real-world power usage is like for one of these babies!

More information will follow as soon as I have performed some testing.

Until then...
Well, I do have an update. My wonderful wife got me a new Apple Keyboard for Christmas, and let me tell you, it is by far the best keyboard that I have had the chance to use. Not only aesthetically pleasing, this keyboard has a fantastic action that is the same as the wireless version. I was very happy to receive the wired version, as I make use of the USB ports on the keyboards, and these are still available on the new version.

A sweet keyboard!!

Resolutions for 2008

Since the new year is upon us, it's time for some new resolutions... Of course, I know how traditional it is for us in North America to simply abandon our resolutions at the first sign of trouble, but I am determined. I want to make some of these changes, and could even say, need to make some of these changes.

First on my list is quitting smoking, and today's -18C weather is helping my resolve. I have decided to take a moderate approach to quitting this horrible habit, and am confident that this will be the year I quit for good.

Second on my list has been to create and maintain a budget and I have enlisted the help of an OSX software called iBank, and with careful tracking, I believe I will also meet this goal.

Of course, I have several other resolutions, but I really believe that the two listed above are really the critical ones! I will continue to update you with more news on how I cope with these two changes to my life!