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Saturday, July 31, 2010

New iMac updates from Apple

Almost coinciding with the iMac's 10th anniversary, Apple has just released an updated version of their most popular computer. As updates have been appearing steadily in the last few months, it was expected that Apple would introduce some changes to one of their best-selling product lines.

As with the previous incarnation, Apple has maintained the sleek aluminium and wrap-around glass case, in the same dimensions, 21.5 and 27 inches. But now, all iMac have received a LED backlight update, as well as the introduction of IPS to a larger display. IPS, or In Plane Switching, is one of the technologies developed for the iPhone 4, which was deemed of high enough value to warrant its inclusion in desktop computers. IPS increases the angle of view of LCD monitors, allowing a similar quality of image whether from the front of the display or off to the side, providing a viewing angle of almost 178 degrees vertically and horizontally. Another interesting feature concerns  specifically the 27 inch models; the screen resolution has been increased from the default 1920 x 1050 to a whopping 2560 x 1440, a 78% increase in number of pixels between a 27 inch and 21.5 inch display.

The display improvements don't end with the actual panel. Apple has chosen to upgrade the graphic processor, providing users with two choices, either the ATI Radeon HD 4670 with 256MB of dedicated memory or the ATI Radeon HD 5670 with 512MB of dedicated memory. But for the 27 inch model, the choices are even better. The same ATI Radeon HD 5670 with 512MB of memory or the ATI Radeon HD 5750 with 1GB of GDDR5 memory. As a side note on graphics, all iMacs now feature:

  • Mini DisplayPort output with support for DVI, VGA, and dual-link DVI (adapters obviously sold separately); 27-inch models also support input from external DisplayPort sources (adapters obviously sold separately)
  • Support for extended desktop and video mirroring modes
  • Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to a 30-inch display (2560 by 1600 pixels) on an external display

One of the expected upgrades was, as can be expected, with the processor architecture.
With the inclusion of the i5 and i7 processors in the Macbook Pro line, it was to be expected that this processor line would make it over to the iMac. The base model is now available with one of these choices:

  • 3.06GHz Intel Core i3 processor with 4MB level 3 cache; supports Hyper-Threading
  • 3.2GHz Intel Core i3 processor with 4MB level 3 cache; supports Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost
  • 3.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor with 4MB level 3 cache; supports Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost

The 27 inch model is now available with one of these choices:

  • 3.2GHz Intel Core i3 processor with 4MB level 3 cache; supports Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost
  • 3.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor with 4MB level 3 cache; supports Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost
  • 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 processor with 8MB level 3 cache; supports Turbo Boost
  • 2.93GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7 processor with 8MB level 3 cache; supports Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost
Along with the improved processor choices, Apple has also updated RAM capacities, with all iMac now coming with a minimum of 4GB (two 2GB SO-DIMMs) of 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; although all machines feature four SO-DIMM slots to support up to a maximum of 16GB of RAM.

All models retain a Firewire 800 port, as well as 4 USB 2.0 ports and as with all new Apple computers:

All models have also gained an SDXC port to conveniently provide access to SD cards without the need for a separate card reader.

All in all, a well balanced set of updates. I look forward to my next trip to the Apple store to get some hands on experience with these new machines.

Friday, July 30, 2010

An iPad in the family...

Ever since the Apple iPad came out, my wife has been busy trying to determine if she should get one or not. I've watched her pour over reviews and comments, look through the Apple App Store to find applications she likes, browse various manufacturer's sites for accessories and so on. Well, this evening, she returned home with her very own iPad as well as the Apple dock for the device and an iTunes Store gift card!

Apple iPad Tablet (32GB, Wi-Fi)

In two shakes, the device was out of the box and after a few moments of fiddling, she was playing around with it.  I imagine that the next few days should provide some interesting first hand information regarding its use.

Book review: Egypt's Sunken Treasures

Browsing through books at discount prices, one often finds some rather interesting discoveries, including this fascinating book, Egypt's Sunken Treasures, which details the discoveries made by French underwater archeologist Franck Goddio, founder of the European Institute of Underwater Archeology.

With some pretty remarkable photographs of the excavation process, as well as the numerous finds which includes statues, stone tablets, jewelery and architectural elements, the book also dwells on the interactions between the cities of Alexandria, Heraklion and Canopus and ancient Greeks, and the influences they had on each other. A great book to add to you collection and especially worthwhile for anyone interested in ancient history.

The book is available in several languages and makes an excellent gift.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wedding Photo Project - Anna and James

Another wedding project for my wife's studio, Photo Pulse; as before, I've volunteered to help her as a second on her shoot. In this case though, the client has requested a fairly limited package, so we will not be shooting as much as we did for the last wedding we did. But I'm looking forward to the session as I always love to watch my wife work.

I also enjoy getting to work on an aspect of photography that I am far from mastering. But practice makes perfect!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Inside look at the new Mac Mini

It usually doesn't take very long after a new piece of hardware is out that someone decides to take it apart. That was the case with the new Mac Mini, which iFixit was kind enough to tear down and document. Take a look at some of the pics they posted on the process:

Very nice indeed. You have to hand it to Apple, the hardware is always a step in the next direction!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bon Appetit Lunch Box Set

I was at the art supply store Omer Desseres with my wife the other day, when I spotted an interesting looking "lunch box" (yes, I can actually find even a lunch box interesting!). The Bon Appetit Lunch Box, by Martin Blum and Dan Black, is a modern twist on the japanese bento box. Made of polypropylene and copolyester, completely BPA free and microwave and dishwasher safe, the box is a great way of packing various items for a nice lunch:

The dimensions for the box and matching bag are as follows:

Box: 7.5” sq / 2.25” deep. 
Bag: 10.5” high / 11” wide, open as Mat: 21” length / 11” wide

The box includes 2 containers, as well as a fork and a recipe book is also available separately. It's not a very large container and I know a few men that would be left feeling a little bit hungry following a lunch packed in one of the these, but the idea is very well executed and the materials are top quality.

Go take a look at this and other offerings over at the site.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pick of the week: PostSecret

This week's Pick of the week is a fantastic site called PostSecret. PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail (yes, real mail!) in their secrets anonymously on one side of a post card. There have been some very moving cards sent in and most are worthy to read. On an interesting side note, the people who manage PostSecret have developed a great relationship with the woman who delivers their mail, who herself has been quoted as being a fan of the project and site.

Worth taking a look and who knows, maybe participating in this great idea.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Kolo Albums

As my wife has been working on completing a wedding album for Gen & Dave, customers that she photographed in July, she discovered a fantastic manufacturer called Kolo, who specialize in high-quality albums and scrapbooks of all types. I was very impressed by both the designs available as well as the overall material quality:

A lot of selection available and as you can imagine, a fairly premium price, but you are paying for quality:

Have a look at their website or visit Omer DeSerres art stores, who are a licensed distributor.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Where to get ebooks?

Since I've received my Kobo as a gift, I've been searching high and low for free sources of ePub format ebooks. I have managed to find several interesting sites that provide high-quality public domain work, including:
And of course, a great source of reading material, who is slowly providing ePub versions of their online library:
Enjoy many great books of the past; anyway, most of them are better than what has been written in the last 100 years!

Update on Wedding Photo Project - Gen and Dave

Well, the wedding was a great success. Elena and I shot a little more than 2500 images (although almost 500 were deleted on site for various reasons) and had a very long, but very productive day. Elena had rented some equipment, more specifically:
I got to use the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens all day and here are a few things I would like to point out concerning this lens: it is very, very heavy for all day use! It might have been tolerable had the temperature stayed below 38C, but that was not the case. But that was really the only downside!

The image quality is out of this world. The lens is very, very sharp and produces accurate colours in most situations. It is very quick to focus and quiet as well and the IS system is really helpful when trying to handhold this lens for varying situations. I was also surprised by the reasonable minimum focusing distance of this lens, which I expected to be much further than the 1.4m that it focused at.

I got a chance to shoot a few hundred images with the 24-70mm f/2.8L and although I found it very sharp, with great colour as well, it just wasn't a focal length I was really comfortable with and that is an entirely personal thing.

Now we are going through the images, selecting the appropriate ones for the package to hand in to my wife's customer. I'm looking forward to hearing their feedback, but I'm certain they will be blown away!

PS: I've finally seen the final selection of images after some masterful editing and cropping by my very talented wife. I'm blown away and I am certain the clients will fall heads over heels in love with the images.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A sketch of 221B

I came upon this sketch the other day, by Russell Stutler, an American artist living in Tokyo. After reading all 60 Sherlock Holmes stories twice, while taking notes on any item of note listed amongst the texts, he designed and drew this fantastic representation of Holmes's fictional residence:
I just wanted to share this fantastic art work with you. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Update on the Kobo eReader

I am very happy to report that my wonderful wife, for our second anniversary, decided to get me my own Kobo and I thought that I would point out my experiences so far. The device is well packaged and comes with a single accessory, a USB cable (standard mini USB cable in white). The device is cradled in a combination of foam and cardboard, with a screen protecting membrane installed on the face.

I removed the device from the package, removed the USB cable and plugged the device into my wife iMac. It took a moment and the device mounted in the Finder. At that point, I discovered that the device contained a folder with both the Windows and Apple version of the Kobo Desktop software. I quickly installed the Apple version and looked over the functionality. Well, let me say, this version of the application lacks a little "polish".

After determining that I was unable to view the 100 free included books in the application, nor could I remove them, I ejected the device (which should be done with any USB data device) and looked it over. The free books were there and I took a few moments to open a few and browse, as well as to check the various features of the Kobo. At least the device itself is fantastic: easy to read screen, great format, light weight, easy to hold and with a secure feeling in hand.

I decided to install the Windows version of the application on my netbook and see if this version was a little more complete. Alas, it is the very same application. Feeling somewhat disappointed, I logged on to the Kobobooks website, created an account, and started exploring what was available. According to the site, I can add books to a personalized section labelled My Library, which would sync them to my Kobo Desktop software, which I would then use to transfer the books to my Kobo. Sounds simple enough, I thought. I looked through the free section and  discovered that they were the very same books that I already had loaded on the device I had in my hand. I wasn't up to purchasing a new book, so I decided to determine if I could add books I currently had, many of which are in PDF format. I was aware that the device supported PDF display, but I was curious to see how well it would work. Since the device was available as a data drive, I dragged over a PDF file, ejected the drive and powered up the device.

The PDF file was available within the Document section of the device, and loaded up quickly and with great resolution. Basic PDF display commands were available, including the all important resize, which worked quite well. But that is when my troubles began. I decided to remove the PDF file from the device, first by connecting the Kobo back to the computer, letting the device mount and deleting the file from the drive. Several folders were now being displayed in the Kobo, including the PDF file I had dragged over.

The Kobo supports ePub and PDF formats at the moment, although the maker has hinted at further support down the road with firmware upgrades to the device. I have been downloading ePub files left, right and center to test with the device, since finding some advice online about using another application to send books to the device, called Calibre, which has been working a lot better for me than the Kobo Desktop.

I've been enjoying the device tremendously though; who could have thought that I would be able to carry hundreds of books in such a small and convenient device. I will post more concerning my experiences with this great device as I learn more about it from regular use. I can tell you that within a couple days of receiving it, I've already re-read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Most Dangerous Game and I am quarter of the way through The Count of Monte Cristo.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Online Tool review: Allmyapps

A few weeks ago, I introduced a great online tool called Ninite, which is an automated application installer for the Windows platform, easily allowing a user to pick and choose from a pretty complete set of common applications that normally get installed on most computers.

Well, Ninite has some competition in the form of Allmyapps, a very similar tool, with different options that may be a better fit for you than the previous choice. Take a few moments to see what they have to offer and I am sure you'll agree with me that this is a fantastic tool

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pick of the week: Waterpebble

When I saw this little device, I thought it was pure genius. The Waterpebble is an elegant solution to learning to conserve water, our most precious natural resource, as well as energy, in the form of wasted hot water. Unobtrusive and quite clever, the Waterpebble sits near the drain, learns from your daily shower habits and indicates, using colored LED, your water consumption in comparison to a baseline you set.

It is also possible to reset the device and create a new baseline to improve on. Hot water use is the second highest energy consumer in an average household and this neat little device can help you reduce your expenses in a reasonable and simple manner.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Online Tool review: Titanpad

Ever need to work collaboratively with a group of people, only to realise that none of them have ever used any conference-type tools like NetMeeting? Here is an easy solution to the problem: Titanpad. With no signups required, the user simply launches a new "pad" and invites other users by email. The invitees follow a link which will place them in the same "pad" environment, immediately able to cooperatively edit the document.

Great tool and a real time-saver for those who must work in groups, without the helpful tools to do it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A look at the Kobo Reader

On one of our regular trips to Chapter's, I could not help but notice the rather large Kobo display that had been set up near the middle of the store. For your information, the Kobo is Chapter's/Indigo's attempt to rival the pretty established Amazon Kindle e-Reader. And a lot of people feel that they may have a winner on their hands. The Kobo is a pretty standard looking, e-ink based display device to read e-books. Like the Kindle, it links to an online bookstore for purchases, this time making use of the large, 2 million title library offered by Kobobooks. The average price is around $9 a book, but many free downloads are available.

With the device's internal 1GB memory and an SD slot that can accept cards up to 4GB, this gives the Kobo an average maximum capacity of 1000 books, which is a small library on its own. The device itself is quite plain, but up to the task it has been given:

I feel that the design is probably the least technologically intrusive of the current batch of e-book readers, but that may of course change with the introduction of the iPad.

The Kobo gets you started with a list of 100 classic books, free with purchase of the device, which at $149 CAN, could almost be considered a bargain. Another way to look at it is $1.00 a book and $49 for a reader, which seems practically fair! This is a better offer than any of the competing manufacturers and I hope it becomes a business practice for the others.

Head over to the site, or even better, head to Chapter's and have a look for yourself; it might be time to add this tool to your reading arsenal!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Online Tools review: Sketchpad

This is one of the really neat tools I've found lately; a great demonstration of the possibilities of online tools. Welcome to Sketchpad, an online sketching and drawing tool. With a beautiful interface, a great set of tools and ease of use, this is a tool you'll want to try and use regularly!

Friday, July 16, 2010

My experience with the Blue Snowball

I've been using the Blue Microphones Snowball USB Microphone for the last two months and so far I have been rather impressed. I had been in the market for a new microphone for a little while; I was torn between the expense of a standard microphone and preamplifier setup and the ease of use and lowered expense of a USB microphone. Then only real drawback of a USB solution is the lower recording quality inherent to the devices currently on the market.

But the Snowball changed that; the recording quality rivals some of the lower end standard microphones, but the ease of use sets it in a category of its own. It really is a plug and play device and only requires slight system setting modifications to work on practically all home computers, whether Windows or OS X-based.

My only negative comment to date is essentially cosmetic: the shell of the microphone is made up of two sphere halves, connected at the midline and the resulting seam covered by a chrome-type sticker. This sticker has a tendency to come off regularly, though in most cases, it simply loosens on one end or the other. Nothing  major and in no way does this impact the recording quality, but it's a visual annoyance nonetheless.

I can sincerely vouch for the worthiness of this microphone and for the price, I feel that it is an excellent value indeed. Highly recommended.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The joy of mind mapping

I was introduced to the concept of mind mapping by a work colleague several years ago and following this revelation, I discovered many applications and a couple online-based tools specifically designed to aid in the process of mapping your thoughts and ideas. For those unfamiliar with the concept of mind-mapping, it can be easily summarized as a method of diagramming ideas, concepts, tasks, thoughts or other items around some central topic, which allows the user to both visualize and classify information in new ways, often leading to increased insight and perception into the information. Great stuff for people with lots of things floating around "up there" (I think that I fit that description fairly well)!

Although traditionally, mind maps were hand-drawn, with some fantastic examples available online (one such example is provided below):

As beautiful and useful these maps can be, they can also be notoriously difficult to complete without careful planning (or a tolerance for imperfection, which honestly, wouldn't happen to someone willing to make a mind map). This is where a software solution comes in handy. As I am an Apple user at home, I tend to lean towards the applications that have Mac-specific offerings, although I have tested some of the Windows-only versions as well. Here is a list of the most popular ones:

As I mentioned earlier, there are also some online tools that can accomplish the same type of functionality (although most of the applications provide more options than their online counterparts!). Some of the more popular choices include:

If you have never tried mind-mapping or mind-mapping tools, give it a try and I am convinced that you will be hooked. It might just help you sort out your ideas and plans for that next big project.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wedding Photo Project - Gen and Dave

I'm really looking forward to a great photo project later this month, organized by Photo Pulse, my wife's photo studio: Gen and Dave's wedding. My wife has asked me to act like her second during her shoot and I was very pleased to accept. It's an excellent opportunity to add to my portfolio while getting to spend some time appreciating my wife's skill and talent. She has organized some equipment rental to provide her (as well as myself) with some additional tools to help make this project exceed the customer's expectations.

I will post more information following the event itself as well as some reviews of the equipment I will get to use during the project.

Project Update:

The wedding shoot was a rousing success! It was probably one of the hottest days of the year though, so everyone was sweating buckets; the old chapel we were in had no air conditioning, but the ceremony itself was quite quick and then we were outside for the group shots and portrait session.

A beautiful day and a beautiful wedding; what more could you ask for?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Online Tools review: Bookwhen

I've been delivering training of all sorts for the last ten years now and one of the primary issues I've encountered when trying to coordinate attendees is the flood of email back and forth between attendees and myself. At the same time, it also leaves attendees free to attempt to contact me (in some cases, a little incessantly even) in the future.

In comes a great web tool called Bookwhen which provides a great interface to coordinate all types of appointments, classes and any other venue where guests and attendees need to confirm their attendance. Go take a look, might just be the tool to save you some organizational headaches!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book review: Just A Geek by Wil Wheaton

I've been a Star Trek fan since I was a young boy and that has not stopped since. I watched STNG with my father and saw every episode and although the writing sometimes left a little to desire, the show was still great. One of the main cast, young ensign Wesley Crusher, played at the time by a young Wil Wheaton, was not a favourite character, but I quickly recognized that writing had more to do with it than the actor's intrinsic skill.

Cut to several years later, and Wil Wheaton has discovered an additional talent, writing. I have just had the pleasure of listening to an audiobook version of one of his books, Just a Geek. Unlike most Hollywood actirs, Wheaton has a decidedly honest and interesting point of view on an industry that he decided to leave behind, a situation that caused him his fair share of heartache, as he poignantly describes in the book.

I highly encourage any Star Trek fan to read the book, for a candid and interesting peak into the lives of people who helped the story to come to life. I also highly encourage anyone to read this book, if only to learn that some actors are far more complex, interesting, genuine and honest people than what we may have come to believe.

Note: The audiobook version of this book is read by Wil Wheaton himself, which probably serves to make this version even better, as he adds details that are not in the written version of the book.

Pick of the week: Global Action Atlas

If you watch the news, even irregularly, I am fairly certain that at times, you have been confronted with issues that made you want to do something, to help. Well, the people at Global Action Atlas think the same way and they've built a great site that can help you find and "support efforts across the globe to reduce human suffering, protect natural landscapes, and more".

Don't wait until someone asks for help; be proactive and find out how you can help.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Book review: The Wedding Photographer's Planner

As my wife's photo studio, Photo Pulse, offers wedding photography, she continues to research the topic in order to remain on top in this very competitive field. Not very long ago, she came home with a great book by Kenny Kim, called The Wedding Photographer's Planner. I have had the opportunity to read this excellent book from cover to cover and can easily recommend it to any professional wedding photographer, as well as anyone interested in moving into this field.

The book is well broken down, the photography is both beautiful and original and the reference sections alone are worth the price of the book. Although some of the chapters concentrate on the proper use of equipment, rarely an issue for most professionals, the bulk of the book concentrates on the elements that are particular to wedding photos.

Kim offers some interesting ideas and suggestions and includes many tips derived from years of experience in the field. This information is worth its weight in gold, in my opinion and can only be a benefit to anyone involved in weddings.

A great addition to our (and perhaps your) photography reference library.

A new choice in construction material

I've always had an interest in materials science (yes, I am very much a geek!); simply put, matter is simply fascinating, in all its forms. But the really interesting part of that comes in the applications of materials. It is how we choose to use materials and the ingenious methods used to transform materials into other forms that is truly interesting.

Here is a new material that I believe has a lot of possibilities: Bamboo lumber. It's nice to see that some people keep thinking outside of the box!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Online Tools review: Kukuklok

I've noticed something strange in the last couple years; with access to cellphones, many people have decided to stop wearing the traditional wristwatch. Not that this is a problem in itself (although a paranoid portion of my mind keeps wondering if the cellphone networks' time is actually accurate, you know.... Not beyond the scope of reason to imagine that "longer" days and "shorter" nights might actually be of benefit for many corporations) but it has also led to a lot of people losing access to a common wristwatch function, the alarm.

I know that as an avid and hardcore computer user, I have fallen asleep at the keyboard more often that I care to remember. Well, Kukuklok to the rescue. An online alarm, easy to set and use and will work even if your Internet connection fails. The only requirement is to keep the page open and that is easy to do with today's tabbed browsers.

Even if you don't fall asleep at the computer, you can always use it as a kitchen timer!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Online Tools review: Divine

Cutting up and slicing your carefully crafted PSD files into a workable website is a real art. A long, time-consuming and sometimes frustrating art! But here is a tool that hopes to "lighten" your load, so to speak, and automate the process as much as possible. Divine is the tool for such a purpose. Of course, there is still some work on the part of the user, but much of the difficulty has been made easy.

Take a look and try it out. It may be the time saver you've been looking for.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Online Tools review: Dummyimage

In the creation of websites and other work involving images, it can sometimes be useful to have what are referred to as "dummy images" of the correct size and proportions, so as to help in the creation of the layout. This saves the designer having to source several images during the design process, which can interfere with the creative process.

In to the rescue is Dummy Image, a great online tool that will quickly and easily create dummy images of any size and proportion, with several templates available for an even faster workflow.

A great tool, with tremendous usefulness for any graphic or web designer.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Online Tools review: Zootool

In the world of the Web 2.0, it seems that online tools have really become a central part in which people work with the Internet. One of the really great tools developed specifically for collecting and classifying all the information we find during regular browsing sessions, Zootool. A beautiful interface and simple operation make this site a truly useful addition for any regular Web user, but even more for hardcore information and data fanatics.

Have a look and try it out. You may just find it the next best thing since a bunch of little Post-It notes all over the place.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Online Tools review: UD Namecheck

Half of the battle when coming up with a new business/product/website/project name is making sure that soon-to-be brand isn't in use by someone else. Of course, it is possible to do some research yourself, but a note to the next generation of designers: not every company has an online presence!

Before you get started on logos/letterhead/illustrations/etc, why not check and confirm that your new name is not in use already. A great tool to help you determine the validity of your choice is UD Namecheck. This tools checks, with a single search interface:

  • Domain names
  • Social Media usernames
  • Brand names (trademarked)
It's not an exhaustive list, but it is a good start and can serve your purposes pretty adequately. Check it out!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pick of the week: Bookshelf Porn

If you like books, chances are you'll absolutely love this week's Pick of the week: Bookshelf Porn. An archive of bookshelf photos that will completely astound you. But reader beware, for book lovers only! There's not much more to say about it!

You've been warned!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Electrolux Design Lab

You may have heard of Electrolux before, a leading European designer of a variety of home appliances. Every year, Electrolux holds a design competition to help develop new ideas and concepts in this very competitive field.

And although they have long been eclipsed as an appliance company by some of the larger corporations, many of the ideas generated during the contest are absolute genius! Take a look at this year's contestants and ideas and judge for yourself at Electrolux Design Lab.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I am not a paper cup, really

During many of our frequent trips to Chapter's, my wife and I had often seen these great looking coffee cups, shaped like a standard paper cup, but made from a double-walled ceramic, glazed on the inside and matte on the outside and supplied with a silicone snap-on cover that mimics the standard disposable plastic covers available at most coffee shops today. Appropriately, they are named I Am Not A Paper Cup!

From what I had seen of the display model, fingerprints and smudges seemed to be attracted to the matte finish and I wondered how the cup would fare at home. I was also concerned that the disposable appearance might lead one to forget its permanent nature and attempt to throw it out. So I kept looking at it, but never purchased it.

But my wife, in her infinite wisdom and kindness, purchased it for me as a surprise. And so far, I've been very satisfied with it. After several months of use, the cup maintains its brand new appearance, although I've changed the silicone cover from the original white to a newer black version. But don't get me wrong, the original cover is in fine condition, but unfortunately, it has been stained from constant contact with coffee, which has been my only complaint thus far. I also believe that the manufacturer is aware of the issue, hence the sale of additional covers in several colours, including white, black, red and pink.

The cup performs very well, although its internal volume is far less than the cup's external size indicates. Its double-wall construction keeps contents hot or cold for quite a long time, even in colder external conditions. There is a silicone plug at the bottom, which can be removed to allow access to the hollow portion of the double wall, allowing the addition of hot or cold liquids to increase the thermal capabilities of the cup.

The fragile nature of the cup precludes its use as a travel mug, but it is a fantastic desk mug and my current favourite!

A great photo accessory

Photography can become a pretty gear and gadget intensive hobby, but one continued requirement has been power, usually in the form of batteries which eventually need to be charged. Welcome designer Weng Jie's brilliant concept:

Sometimes, you just have to appreciate people's ingenuity. Harnessing the power of light to power a device that is intended to record light. Truly elegant. Get the complete story here.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Online Tools review: Ninite

I've been an Apple user for more than 10 years now, but I still use a Windows-based computer for work and as such, I've found myself installing applications and re-installing applications on a pretty regular basis.  And I'm not talking about commercial software packages, I'm referring to the basic, free tools that we all install on our computers.

Well someone turned me on to Ninite, a truly ingenious method of selecting and installing the most common, free applications for the Windows platform (I'm in process of begging for an OS X version!). Of all the online tools I've reviewed, this one strikes me as one of the most useful to date.

Take a minute out of your day to take a look. I know you will not regret it!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Geek humour & analysis


I couldn't help but love it when I saw it. Can you find yourself using this nifty Venn diagram?

Happy Canada Day

Just wanted to wish all my fellow Canadians a happy Canada Day!!! Go out and enjoy the festivities, take some pictures, see the sights and stay safe! My wife and I are planning to take our boy to see some of the festivities on Parliament Hill; I will post some pictures of our day later in the evening.