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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Update on changes

This is just to inform that as requested, I've added an Online Tools link list to incorporate the sites reviewed in the Online Tools review posts. The list is below the Pick of the Week link list.

I should have added this section a long time ago. Thank you for the suggestion.

Online Tools review: Keyonary

If you've been working with computers for a while now, you might accumulated a dizzying quantity of keyboard shortcuts, for various applications and operating systems. Although most applications provide some method of determining the most common shortcuts (usually through the use of the Help section), many of them remain quite cryptic. In comes a fantastic online database called Keyonary, which is truly a useful shortcut search tool. With a simple interface, quick response and extensive database, it's the place to go to find a shortcut for an application you're using.

Take a look and add to your reference bookmarks, it's worth it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Online Tools review: Launchlist

Launchlist is a web-designer's friendly and basic list to check before launching a site. It lists 28 basic items and allows you to add your own fields to the list and modify it to your heart's content! A great GUI and an effective tool, Launchlist will easily make it into your list of online tools.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pick of the week: Ref Desk

This week's Pick of the Week is certainly not going to win any prizes for its fancy design and aesthetics, but it is truly functional and when you need information fast, Ref Desk is the place to go. I can't do justice to the sheer number of reference sites linked in some way to this site; go take a look for yourself and put this on your browser's link bar. You'll be glad you did when you get that call from your friend on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Lacie Starck USB 2.0 External HDD

Every once in a while, I find hardware that functions well, is well designed and looks good too. And that's exactly the combination I found with the Lacie Starck 1TB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive. Some of you might already be familiar with Philippe Starck, the world-famous designer and some of the beautiful works he has created during his career.

This latest cooperation between Starck and Lacie, the well-known hardware manufacturer, has resulted in a line of beautiful devices, including both portable and desktop models in several capacities, starting at 500 GB all the way to the latest 2TB model. This article concerns the desktop version of the hard drive.

The Starck hard drive is a 195 x 115 x 52 mm aluminium enclosure, built a beefy 3mm thick, with a sculpted, polished steel face featuring the Starck logo which is backlit and angled in such a way as to project the logo on the desktop in front of the device. Somewhat pointless, but original in its application:
Another interesting point is that the entire front facade is actually touch-sensitive, with the capacity to recognize both light and hard touches and can be associated with different actions, from mounting hardware to launching applications. The easy to use Lacie Desktop Manager software lets you set these settings easily.
One of the features that most appealed to me was the lack of a cooling fan; the thick aluminium shell is designed as a massive heat sink to keep the drive at a correct operating temperature, with little to no sound. That's a true blessing for audio recording and other uses where external noise is an issue. Like many other external desktop drives, an external power supply is required to operate the drive and this makes less of a portable solution. If this is a concern, the portable version of the Starck hard drives are bus-powered, but with correspondingly smaller capacities.
This is a USB 2.0 drive and most of the tests that have been run by third parties have demonstrated that this drive falls within the range of the faster hard drives currently available. That makes it an great candidate for more demanding users.
If you're looking for a new external drive, this might be the solution for you. Did I mention the great price and pretty universally positive reviews on this family of drives? Sounds like a good deal to me!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pick of the week: Geek Dad

This week's selection for Pick of the Week is a little obvious, as it follows the review for the book that I received on Father's Day, Geek Dad. The book is based on the very popular blog on called Geek Dad. Ever since my late teens, I've known that I was a geek; nothing wrong with that and if we take a moment to think about it, this generation is really the Geek Generation. I mean, the majority of the world's richest and most successful people are geeks!!!

But geeky or not, the blog is fantastic and absolutely packed with great articles that any geeky father will love. og take a look for yourself.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Book review: Geek Dad by Ken Denmead

Today is my second Father's Day and an awesome day it has been. I called my own father in the morning to wish him a happy Father's Day and I was then surprised by my wife and son (well, I admit it, mostly my wife) with a great gift, a book I had looked at on my last trip to Chapter's, Geek Dad.

Geek Dad was the brainchild of Wired editor Chris Anderson and was originally a blog, still in operation today. Click here to view the Geek Dad blog. Eventually, Ken Denmead joined as a contributor and was eventually chosen to take over as editor in chief of the blog, which has become since then, an integral part of

It was during this time that Ken decided to write a book on a rather specific topic related to geeky fathers. The result was Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids. The book encompasses almost 30 projects that fathers and kids will enjoy together while tapping into the infinite possibilities of their imagination.

I've had a chance to read through the book completely and can tell you that I am looking forward to incorporating some of these activities with my boy. He's perhaps a little young at the moment, but now that I've been exposed to some of these projects, I can help to "prepare" the terrain, so to speak.

Some of my favourites so far have included:

- Parenting using Role Playing Games

- See the world from the sky

- And for older kids, a Wi-Fi signal booster for getting connectivity while "in the field"

There are some truly entertaining projects in this book, many of which will lead to hours of thought provoking conversations with your children. If you know a geek father, this is the book to get them. I can tell you with absolute certainty that they'll thank you for it. And so will the kids!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book review: Mechanika by Doug Chiang

Every time I'm around Chapter's, I can't help but step in and take a look around. And I'm not the only one with this problem, my wife seems to be afflicted by the same issue. I had been looking at an art instruction book the last couple times I was there, and finally, I caved and decided to buy it, if only to support the artist that wrote it.
The book is called Mechanika: Creating the Art of Science Fiction, by Doug Chiang. For those who may not know who the author is, let me tell you that he has won an Academy Award for his work, which has included Star Wars 1 and 2, Beowulf, Polar Express and many others, as well as authoring several books, including the one reviewed.

One of the reasons I had looked at this book in the first place was the fantastic marker techniques used and clearly explained by the author. There are very few books detailing the use of markers in drawing, and even fewer detailing them so well. Furthermore, the author's easy going manner, great skill ad clear explanations and reasoning make this book an excellent reference for any type of artist.

If you enjoy drawing and the subject matter, science fiction, appeals to you, take a look at this great book and get inspired to draw the world in your mind.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My introduction to Copic markers

Those who have known me for a while also know that I enjoy drawing and sketching and have for as long as I can remember. I have always been a pencil artist, although in the last couple of years, I have begun to use pens and markers as well. I was partial to the Letraset Tria markers for a while, until I was introduced to Copic markers. These markers share several similarities with other brands, including dual tips (one on each end) and colour-matched, alcohol-based inks. 
If you have never used illustrator's markers, you might be in for a surprise. First of all, the pigment density of these markers is far higher than anything else you might have tried. Secondly, these markers can provide very even coverage, but to achieve this, one must be quite skilled, and most of all, quick! These markers are wet!!!

Copic makes several lines of markers, although only two lines can really be considered as illustrator markers, the Original and the Sketch. The Original is a square bodied, dual tip marker, usually sold with a chisel tip and a fine line tip. These markers are garanteed to not dry out for a period of three years (this is one of my main complaints against the Tria brand). The Sketch markers have an oval body and share the dual tip configuration, although these are usually chisel and brush point tips instead.

Copic markers also have replaceable tips, which means that it is now possible to change the tips if they ever become worn. These markers are also refillable from bottles of Various Ink, also made by Copic, with each bottle able to fill between 7 to 10 markers (based on the type).

The Original line features a set of 214 colours, while the Sketch line features a set of 334 colours. Take a look at the available colours from the charts, but do yourself a favour a see them in person at your local art store! Many of the colours are also available in a Wide format, with a two inch chisel tip, for broad colour application.

And another unexpected update, this time from Microsoft

For any console gamer out there, knowledge that their Microsoft Xbox 360 was slowly, but inexorably headed towards the dreaded Red Ring of Death was hard to deal with. Well, we have waited long enough and Microsoft has finally announced the release of an updated Xbox 360 console.

Dubbed the Xbox 360 Slim (although that is not yet an official label), the new design has promised to address some ongoing issues with the console. First of all, the new console is now black, with a glossy finish. I personally liked the previous white console, but a cosmetic upgrade is always nice. Secondly, MS now includes a 250GB HDD with the new console, and with the ability to copy games to the HDD, this seems a reasonable new feature. Thirdly, WiFi is now built into the device, allowing access to Xbox Live without cables or separate adapters.

Fourthly, MS has managed to reduce the operating noise of the console significantly, which will be a blessing to those people that have been using their Xbox 360 as a multimedia entertainment centre. And finally, MS has apparently addressed the Ring of Death issue and claims that the new console will not suffer the same fate.

There are precious few images circulating online, so I have taken the liberty of using MS provided wallpapers of the new console to wet you appetite. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

100 things I love about my wife

A little while back, I read a list that someone put together about the things that they loved about their wife, and I thought I would do the same. Here goes:

  1. She loves me
  2. She gave me a wonderful son
  3. She is beautiful
  4. She is intelligent beyond most
  5. Her great sense of humor
  6. She tolerates my odd behaviors
  7. She is very patient
  8. She is a fantastic mother
  9. She cooks very well
  10. She makes me feel like I am better than I really am
  11. How proud I am to introduce her to other people
  12. Her great compassion
  13. Her attention to detail
  14. How she sings when she thinks she's alone
  15. The way she looks at me when she wakes up
  16. The fact that she did not know that Stevie Wonder was blind
  17. Or black
  18. She cries when she is happy
  19. Because she thinks that everyone she meets is as nice as she is
  20. How she says the word robot
  21. How she calls Lord of the Rings the walking movie
  22. The fact that she runs the water in the sink when she pees
  23. Because she worries about what I will think of her when she is sick
  24. The way she looked the day we got married
  25. The fact that she was 15 minutes late to our wedding and made me wait at the altar
  26. Because she has not left me because I didn't take her somewhere nice for our honeymoon
  27. The day she told me she was pregnant
  28. Her incredible artistic talent
  29. Because all my friends love her
  30. Because I am a better person because she thinks I'm a better person
  31. How she never remembers a movie she's seen
  32. She thinks I'm sexy
  33. She never judges me
  34. She snuggles nicely
  35. She enjoys having deep conversations
  36. Her appetite for chocolate
  37. And mayonnaise
  38. Her great sense of fashion
  39. The fact that she has kept all of our sons clothes since he was born, hidden in garbage bags
  40. That she thinks I'm funny
  41. That I actually make her laugh
  42. That she finds the same things funny as I do
  43. That she gets jealous about other women
  44. That she has kept every little scrap and note I've left her
  45. That she supports all of my dreams
  46. That she still blushes when I whistle at her
  47. She skips when she is happy
  48. She thinks that Peter Sellers and Bill Murray are funny
  49. She gets very competitive when she plays games
  50. She is completely faithful and expects the same
  51. Sometimes she cries when she thinks about our little boy
  52. She smiles when she sleeps and she doesn't know
  53. She is gracious
  54. She was born in the wrong century
  55. When she gives me money, it's always in an envelope, like a payoff
  56. She is elegant
  57. Her imagination is incredibly funny
  58. She meows when I squeeze her in a bear hug
  59. Because she still believes that men should be men and women should be women
  60. The way she wags her eyebrows at me
  61. Her hilarious dirty frenchman accent
  62. The fact that she has four pairs of glasses and hates wearing any of them
  63. How easily she understands the most complex subjects
  64. Her willingness to try new things
  65. The fact that she forces herself to try things she did not like again, hoping she might learn to like them
  66. The way she never notices that most men stare at her when they see her
  67. That she still married me after our first date ended in a car accident
  68. Because she loves science fiction
  69. Her obsessive need to achieve perfection in everything she does
  70. The fact that she never folds her underwear
  71. Her drive to improve herself
  72. Her dedication to her family
  73. She always needs covers, even in the middle of summer
  74. She is always cold, even though she is from Siberia
  75. That she accepts from others what she would not accept from herself
  76. That she finds our son better looking than me
  77. Her beautiful blue-green eyes
  78. She kisses me every time I leave, even if it's for five minutes
  79. She thinks "that's what she said" is funny
  80. The fact that she can create a card from scratch in 5 minutes
  81. How sensitive she is
  82. How she comforts me when I continue to fail her
  83. How I trust her more than anyone else I've ever known
  84. How safe she makes me feel
  85. That she laughs at my wordy humour
  86. How she is always the prettiest woman in the room
  87. That it takes her ten minutes to get out of bed in the morning
  88. That she can't get ready in less than 20 minutes
  89. How brave she was during the birth of our son
  90. The fact that she hurt herself kneeing me in the jaw, and was more upset about hurting herself than potentially hurting me
  91. That she puts up with the fact that I like to tickle her
  92. She wakes me up when I snore
  93. That she can tell if I lie, all the time
  94. She never puts on too much makeup
  95. She looks fantastic naked
  96. She thinks that the toilet paper should unroll correctly
  97. She puts up with the fact that I speak too loud, too often
  98. She tells me that she will miss me, even before I leave
  99. She doesn't complain if I don't shave every day
  100. I love her

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A quiet but overdue update, from Apple

Along with the announcement of the fourth generation iPhone, Apple has also revamped the fantastic Mac Mini. In an effort to maintain a consistent look and feel across the entire Apple product line, the new Mac Mini has received a substantial stylistic upgrade and is now also an aluminium unibody-type construction:

Although the hardware has been upgraded to within a hair of the Macbook Pro line, as well as major changes to the chassis, the really exciting news is the integration of the power supply circuitry into the device, allowing Apple to finally dispense with the ugly power block of the last generation of Mac Minis. Another interesting feature included by Apple includes an easy to open bottom panel:

This feature allows easy access to the user-upgradeable RAM modules, although Apple still recommends going to an Apple store for any hard drive upgrades.

All in all, the new Mac Mini looks great and I look forward to seeing some performance reviews soon.

Images courtesy of Apple Inc.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pick of the week: Carbonmade

Following the advice of a friend and professional acquaintance, I visited Carbonmade, specialists in hosting portfolios and galleries, and I created a quick gallery. I found the site and the interface so enjoyable, that I used up all of the free options and am now seriously considering upgrading to the paid version, which increases the capacities by more than a factor of ten.

Feel free to come take a look at and create your own portfolio today at Carbonmade.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pick of the week: Sketch-A-Day

Following last week's post on Industrial Design and sketching, here is another worthy site, and coincidence of coincidences, it is also by the same young designer, Spencer Nugent. The site,, is essentially a gallery of the designer's daily sketches and ideas and is a veritable visual treasure trove of sketching ideas and topics.

Take a few minutes to view some of the very talented work on display.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pick of the week: ID Sketching

I've always loved to draw and sketch and the Internet is a fantastic resource for any artist. In my regular browsing, I came upon and I have been hooked since. Built and maintained by a talented young industrial designer called Spencer Nugent, the site offers several excellent articles and numerous videos, as well as an interesting forum section.

The site is well worth a visit.