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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Micro Homes: Micro Compact Home

The Micro Compact Home, or m-ch is the brainchild of a team of researchers and designers based in London and at the Technical University in Munich. It was developed as a way to meet an increasing demand for short stay living for many different types of users, including students and business people.

The m-ch is a timber frame structure with anodised aluminium external cladding. It is insulated with polyurethane and fitted with aluminium framed, double-glazed windows and front door with security double lock.

The m-ch measures 266cm x 266cm x 266cm. The ceiling height is 198cm and the door width is 60cm. The unit weighs 2.2 metric tons (this is an important factor since the m-ch can be shipped pretty much anywhere in the world). 

The interior, although small, is entirely multifunctional:

The m-ch features include:
  • two compact double beds, each measuring 198cm x 107cm, with covered cushions
  • storage space for bedding and cleaning equipment
  • a sliding table measuring 105cm x 65cm, for dining for up to five people
  • flat screen television in the living/dining space
  • a shower and toilet cubicle
  • a kitchen area, which is fitted with electrical points and features a double hob, sink and extending tap, microwave, fridge and freezer units, three compartment waste unit, storage shelves, cutlery drawers with gentle return sprung slides and double level work surfaces
  • thermostat controlled ducted warm air heating, air conditioning, water heating
  • fire alarm and smoke detectors

For more information, feel free to visit their site at

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Micro Homes: Cell Brick by Yasuhiro Yamashita

When thinking of small living spaces and micro homes, Japan is often a country that jumps to mind. With real estate at a real premium in most of Japan, this type of architecture is really becoming popular in this country. One of the very interesting microhomes to come out lately is Cell Brick by architect Yasuhiro Yamashita (not to be confused with the Judo champion of the same name). Built in Tokyo, this small home is unique in many ways:

One of the truly interesting things about this very small and modern home is the fabrication, which is made up of steel bricks that are interconnected by bolts and also serve as accessible interior storage spaces:

Each box measures 900mm wide × 450mm high × 300mm deep, with appropriate spaces left between some boxes to serve as windows. The exterior is clad with ceramic, which serve to improve the thermal performance and efficiency, reduce ambient noise and is very low maintenance. The interior is another story:

Although small, the home includes a living room, kitchen and bedroom on the main floor. There is an upper floor, a roof deck as well as a small basement. The primary advantage of this building technique is a drastic reduction in the need for furniture, as the steel boxes themselves make excellent storage areas.

Pretty amazing things coming out of Japan's exaggerated real estate prices. By saving money on a much smaller piece of land, a more unique and functional home can be created.

Micro Homes

Having always been interested in architecture and more specifically with small living spaces, I thought that I would establish a new column on this blog, on that very subject. Every week and more often when possible, a new Micro Home will be discovered and shared. My goal is really to get people thinking and talking about smaller homes and how they use their living spaces.

I hope you enjoy and encourage you to share any information you might have on some Micro Homes that might not have been discovered yet.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Online Tools review: Aviary

Online tools are really taking off and Aviary is really heads and shoulders above the rest at the moment. With a complete suite of online tools, from music creators to image editors and screen capture tools, Aviary is truly a useful tool when working away from your desk. Hell, it's good enough to use at your desk and that's probably the best endorsement.

Take a look and try out some of the tools, I think you will be very impressed.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Online Tools review:

As far as online tools goes, this one is a little different. is an online brainstorming/mindmapping tool that lets you do things with the mindmaps that you create. Some of the possibilities include:
  • Create colorful mind maps online
  • Share and work with friends
  • Embed your mind map in your blog or website
  • Email and print your mind map
  • Save your mind map as an image
The only negative aspect is that an account must be created (leading to another username/password combination to remember), but the functionality is superb and the tool truly useful. Take a look, it might be worth adding to your toolkit.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book review: Posters of the Canadian Pacific

Not too long ago, I got a fantastic deal on a book whose topic is one that has long been a favourite of mine: Art Deco travel posters. And one of the great leaders in this field was the Canadian Pacific. Hence the book, Posters of the Canadian Pacific, a treasure trove of some of the most beautiful posters developed during this fascinating period.

I happened upon a french copy of the book, but that is of little consequence (as I speak and read french) as the art works are essentially the same in both languages. I have always really enjoyed the Art Deco movement and these images always invoke that feeling for me.

If you enjoy vintage travel images, this is the book to look at. I am sure you will find it enjoyable and its a great reference book for graphic designers trying to inject a little retro into their projects. A lot of inspiration in this volume, both for traveling and for art.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Online Tools review: WobZIP

Ever find yourself in a situation where you need to unarchive a file of one type or another, but simply do not have the tools, or privileges to install an application to do it for you? Well, here is WobZIP to the rescue! The tool supports numerous archive formats, including: 7z, ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2, TAR, RAR, CAB, ISO, ARJ, LZHCHM, Z, CPIO, RPM, DEB and NSIS

There are several advantages to using this tool, as outlined by the makers themselves:
  • Web-based means hassle-free: Now you can unzip your files in school, at work or anywhere as long as you have access to the Internet. No longer will you be limited by the inability to install programs onto admin-protected computers.
  • Uncompressing online means safer: We scan your compressed files using an anti-virus scanner so any infected files will be removed before you download them onto your computer. 
  • Uncompressing online means the freedom to choose: Our aim is to allow users to uncompress as many compressed file formats as possible. This means that you can compress your files using the compression format of your choice and send it to your friends. Tell them about WobZIP and uncompress on the fly.

A great addition to your toolbar, WobZIP is a truly useful tool!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Pick of the week: Unicat

I've always enjoyed travel and outdoor adventures, but with a young family, it's a little more complicated. I had always envisioned being able to travel in comfort and security, but without being tied down to North America's road system. Then I discovered Unicat and some of the wonderful expedition worthy machines they custom build and I found my dream:

This model, the EX70 on a 6x6 MAN chassis is not the only model made by any means. If you can dream it up, the people at Unicat can build it for you! Head on over to their site and take a look at some of the fantastic vehicles they have built to date!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Online Tools review: Box

Ever run into issues trying to share files with coworkers who may not necessarily be in the same country? If you work with material that is not really of a secure nature, you might consider using a tool like Box. With this tool you can:

  •'s online file storage makes it easy to securely share content as a link or a shared folder with anyone — inside or outside your company
  • Create an online workspace where you can share project files, add comments, assign tasks, start discussions or create new content
  • Discover new content by viewing all the latest Box activity within your company or by searching the full text of all shared files with no extra investment
Fantastic tool for collaboration. Take a look and try it out.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Apple's latest interface device

Having revolutionized device touch interface with the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, as well as by the inclusion of trackpads on their laptops that mimic the functionality, it stands to reason that Apple would eventually attempt to bring this fantastic feature to their other computers and even competing computers. The answer was the Magic Trackpad.

The Magic Trackpad is really an aluminum trackpad, with a wear-resistant glass surface, very much like the trackpad on the Macbook and Macbook Pro laptops with two significant differences: it's wireless and about 80% larger than any other trackpad made by Apple. With a similar form factor to Apple's wireless keyboard, it's a great fit on your desktop:

One of the nice improvements in touch interface has been the development of multi-touch and the Magic Trackpad brings this feature to your desktop.

Overall, a fantastic device from Apple and the user feedback has been very positive. Score another one for Apple's innovative design team!

Friday, August 6, 2010

A real tongue twister...

Apparently, the ability to recite this "poem" with accuracy indicates that you are more capable than 90% of native English speakers worldwide:

Dearest creature in creation,

Study English pronunciation.

I will teach you in my verse

Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.

I will keep you, Suzy, busy,

Make your head with heat grow dizzy.

Tear in eye, your dress will tear.

So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,

Dies and diet, lord and word,

Sword and sward, retain and Britain.

(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)

Now I surely will not plague you

With such words as plaque and ague.

But be careful how you speak:

Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;

Cloven, oven, how and low,

Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,

Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,

Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,

Exiles, similes, and reviles;

Scholar, vicar, and cigar,

Solar, mica, war and far;

One, anemone, Balmoral,

Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;

Gertrude, German, wind and mind,

Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,

Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.

Blood and flood are not like food,

Nor is mould like should and would.

Viscous, viscount, load and broad,

Toward, to forward, to reward.

And your pronunciation’s OK

When you correctly say croquet,

Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,

Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour

And enamour rhyme with hammer.

River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,

Doll and roll and some and home.

Stranger does not rhyme with anger,

Neither does devour with clangour.

Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,

Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,

Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,

And then singer, ginger, linger,

Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,

Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

Query does not rhyme with very,

Nor does fury sound like bury.

Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.

Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.

Though the differences seem little,

We say actual but victual.

Refer does not rhyme with deafer.

Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.

Mint, pint, senate and sedate;

Dull, bull, and George ate late.

Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,

Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,

Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.

We say hallowed, but allowed,

People, leopard, towed, but vowed.

Mark the differences, moreover,

Between mover, cover, clover;

Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,

Chalice, but police and lice;

Camel, constable, unstable,

Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,

Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.

Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,

Senator, spectator, mayor.

Tour, but our and succour, four.

Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

Sea, idea, Korea, area,

Psalm, Maria, but malaria.

Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.

Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,

Dandelion and battalion.

Sally with ally, yea, ye,

Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.

Say aver, but ever, fever,

Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.

Heron, granary, canary.

Crevice and device and aerie.

Face, but preface, not efface.

Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

Large, but target, gin, give, verging,

Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.

Ear, but earn and wear and tear

Do not rhyme with here but ere.

Seven is right, but so is even,

Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,

Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,

Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)

Is a paling stout and spikey?

Won’t it make you lose your wits,

Writing groats and saying grits?

It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:

Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,

Islington and Isle of Wight,

Housewife, verdict and indict.

Finally, which rhymes with enough,

Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?

Hiccough has the sound of cup.

My advice is to give up!!!

Hope you enjoy it! I am not the originator of this exercise, but am reposting it for your pleasure. It's a fantastic way to practice speaking for a living!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Book review: Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook

Being a preparedness freak (very distinct from what most people term "survivalist"), I was ecstatic when my wife got me a copy of The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. In essence, the book is a collection of all of the Complete Worst-Case books and a CD that contains a web-version of the same books and some pretty nice wallpapers.

If you have anyone on your shopping list that loves to know what to do in the oddest  situations, this is the book for them:

        • Need to know how to handle a stampede of rhinoceros?
        • Need to know how to escape a sinking vehicle?
        • Need to know how to jump with two people and one parachute?

The book boasts more than 500 pages and although some of the situations are a little unlikely, most of the advice provided is pretty well thought out. Well worth owning and a great conversation starter with guests.

Have fun and survive!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The great RAW versus DNG debate.

Being a digital photographer, it has come to my attention that between my wife and I, we are using digital SLR from the same company (in our case, Canon), but both produce RAW files that are a little bit different from each other. And this is a pattern that repeats from device to device and manufacturer to manufacturer. This leads to some issues concerning the archival safety of digital pictures as a whole. If everyone is using a proprietary format, where will that leave us in 10 years? Or 20 or even 30 years?

Adobe has been working on this issue for a few years and the result of their work has been the creation of an open standard labelled DNG. It is Adobe's hope that by creating a well and publicly documented with readily available specifications will lead to greater adoption amongst manufacturers while allowing changes in the technology to be easily accommodated as they appear.

Adobe lists some pretty convincing arguments for both hardware and software manufacturers, including:
  • DNG removes a potential barrier to new camera adoption, since raw files from new models will be immediately supported by Photoshop and other applications.
  • The DNG format allows R&D savings by reducing the need to develop new formats and by simplifying camera testing.
  • A common format allows greater control over the quality of conversions by third-party applications.
  • The specification allows the addition of private metadata to DNG files, enabling differentiation.
For early adopters, Adobe has made an application available for both Windows and Mac platforms, to convert RAW image files into DNG, in batches and great renaming functionalities. If you are a digital photographer, you owe it to yourself and your images to read up on this debate, as it may have a greater impact than you may be aware.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Amazon fights back against the Kobo eReader

In a pretty clear demonstration that Amazon seriously believes that the Kobo eReader could potentially be a threat in the eReader market, released a new version of their Kindle at a price point to beat out the Kobo in price and features. With WiFi capabilities for $139US and 3G capabilities for $189, Amazon is putting more than the Kobo in jeopardy.

I still believe that one of the great features of the Kobo is the ratio of screen to controls, which leaves the device feeling more like a book than purpose-built computer or over-sized  Blackberry. As others have said, the Kobo was relying on price point and access to a great library to win over a part of the market. Now that this strategy may no longer be valid, it will be interesting to see what comes up on that front.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pick of the week: DIY Audio Projects

High fidelity, audiophile quality equipment has always been very expensive and out of reach for the average person. But this has not stopped many from building some of the highest quality audio equipment in the world and sharing the research and results.

DIY Audio Projects is a gold mine of plans, pictures, information, research and more on the construction of almost every type of audio component you can imagine, from high-end turntables to class A mono tube amplifiers and more, the site is a dream come true for electronic enthusiasts and musical fanatics on a budget.

Worth taking a look if only to remind ourselves that every item, no matter how well made, is made by someone. The lesson is that anything can be made!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Some websites for iPad users

It occured to me that putting together a list of some of the more interesting iPad-related websites might actually be something really useful for my wife and her new toy. So here goes:
There are of course, several manufacturers that have already dedicated themselves to creating accessories for the iPad and one site is a great repository of review information on many of these:
And finally, this last site is iPad-related in the sense that it provides wallpapers for iPad users:
Enjoy, iPad users (that means you, love!)