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Monday, February 28, 2011

Pick of the week: Bitterbuzz

Are you feeling a little bitter about something or other? Is life making you miserable? Is your boss getting on your case regularly? Well, here comes Bitterbuzz to the rescue. Log in and vent away or take some time to read through other peoples' raves and rants about whatever it is that is driving them over the edge. To be perfectly blunt, I don't normally suscribe to this type of online "whinning" but some of the writing was absolutely hilarious and as such, I recommend the site as a way to release pressure by laughter!

Head on over and take a look, you'll get a good laugh I'm sure!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Software Review: Autodesk Sketchbook Express

As part of the software package provided with the Wacom Intuos 4 tablet I purchased recently, Autodesk Sketchbook Express 2011 is a fantastic product.

A simple interface and the common tools one would expect in a drawing program really help to make this application simple to use for almost any budding digital artist. What I found particularly great was the ability to use this application without ever using any other interface device than the pen and tablet. I've discovered that I never have to reach for the keyboard when I am drawing. Of course, I expected that the makers of AutoCAD would also know a thing or two about drawing in general.

A trial version of the application is available for download and if you have a pen and tablet, you might want to try it out and discover this great tool for yourself.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The pretty good but not quite perfect laptop bag

I had already decided on a laptop bag when I purchased my Macbook, but since I could only order the bag I was looking for (a Booq Taipan Shadow S), I opted instead to find a bag locally that I could get my hands on before purchase. I just like to be able to visually inspect any item that I plan to purchase, if only to let me gauge the quality before handing over some money.

On a weekend trip to MEC, I decided to pick up a very nice bag by Onsight, the Saigon Micro.

There are three sizes for this particular bag and I hesitated a bit before the purchase as I wasn't exactly sure that my Macbook would actually fit in the smaller size. The interior includes a padded computer pocket and that was the crux of my dilemna; the pocket looked a little small, but I figured that if it was, I could always use a sleeve to protect the laptop and slip it in front of the laptop pocket. I asked the MEC staff, but no one had tried this size.

After looking over the bag, I decided to make the purchase anyway, as even if the laptop did not fit at all, the bag was still of fantastic quality.

Well, for clarification, when I did get home, I determined that the laptop pocket was in fact too small for my Macbook, but the bag was large enough to fit the laptop in a sleeve. Quality materials, several well designed pockets, strong and easily adjustable strap and excellent stitching really makes for an outstanding product. Even the interior lining has been thoughtfully designed, with a lighter colour fabric to make finding contents easy.

If you are in the market for a new bag, why not take a look at Onsight; they offer several quality products are very reasonable prices. A lot of manufacturers could learn a thing or two from them.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Online Tools review: Initializr

Having a hard time with HTML 5.0? Finding it difficult to get started. Well, Initializr can help you with this task. Just pick from your choice of options, from HTML and CSS, Javascript, jQuery and even server configuration files and download your template file! That easy!

Based on the HTML 5.0 Boilerplate template, Initializr is a brilliant tool to help get the new standard out the door, properly. Head on over and take a look, I'm convinced that you'll find it useful.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wacom Intuos 4 tablet

After doing some research, I decided to purchase a Wacom Intuos 4 medium drawing tablet. A while back, I had purchased a small Wacom Bamboo drawing tablet for my wife, but one of the first things I noticed was that it was pretty small and not as responsive as I had expected. It was fine for occasional use, but I had decided that I wanted a larger drawing surface and better responsiveness.

After shopping around, I headed to Henry's in Ottawa as they were offering the best prices I had seen on Wacom products in the region and picked up the tablet. One of the first things to remark is that Wacom has taken care to produce an attractive looking and effective packaging solution.

One of the deciding factors on this specific model was the great software discounts for Adobe Photoshop CS5, almost 50% off the list price! Wacom has also included a very decent software package, which includes the following:

Nik® Color Efex Pro™ WE6
Wacom Brushes 3.0
Adobe Photoshop® Elements 8 for PC and Mac
Autodesk SketchBook Express® 2010
Corel Painter™ Sketch Pad
    I got home and unpacked everything. I wasn't exaggerating about the great packaging job that Wacom has done on this line of tablets. The box contains:

    The tablet
    The drawing stylus (or pen if you prefer)
    The mouse
    A weighted stand for the stylus
    10 extra nibs for the stylus
    A nib extractor tool
    A USB cable (standard to mini)
    A documentation package (which includes a driver CD, a quick start manual and a reference manual)
      I don't use a mouse with my Macbook Pro and I don't think this is about to change. Although the mouse is quite nicely shaped, with five fully customizable buttons, excellent resolution and battery-free operation, it's limited to the tablet surface to work and that quickly limits its use, in my opinion. I set the mouse aside and got everything else setup. I have to give some kudos to Wacom for the elegant design of the pen stand, which doubles as a storage container for both the extra nibs and the nib extractor tool.

      After installing the software (and let this be a general tip to less experienced computer users, always get the software installed and updated before plugging in the hardware; saves a ton of headaches afterwards) I plugged in the tablet. Another interesting design feature is the inclusion of two USB ports on the tablet, to allow the option of a proper cable orientation when used in right-hand or left hand mode. One of the most common complaints of Wacom's tablets was the general right-handedness of their devices. The new Intuos 4 models have resolved this issue by placing all of the tablets secondary controls on one side of the device. This allows the user to simply flip the tablet to allow both righties and lefties! The settings menu allows the user to switch modes and the tablets customizable OLED displays flip to the correct orientation.

      The displays themselves are truly useful, removing the need to memorize yet another set of custom controller parameters. The touch ring, another change to the Intuos line, has four modes, indicated by one of four small lights. This allows the ring to provide access to four linear-type functions, like zoom, brush size, canvas rotation and more.

      The tablet is incredibly responsive and a pleasure to use. The increased level of pressure sensitivity, together with very low starting weight (1 gram vs. 10 grams) really set this line apart from previous incarnations.

      If you've never tried a tablet, I highly recommend any of the models from the Intuos 4 line. If you already have a tablet, consider any of the models to be a great upgrade to the tablet you might currently be using. Really, a fantastic product!

      Monday, February 21, 2011

      Pick of the week:

      I'm not sure about you, but I suspect that I've written what amounts to several tens of thousands of emails in my life. That's a pretty remarkable amount, all things considered, and I imagine that set end to end, all of these messages would be several hundred pages of text. And there are times when I think that in the future, we will all be remembering that quaint technology called "email" and laugh. I say remembering because for all intents and purposes, all that text resides on someone else's computers and hard drives and no actual archive of this information exists. Until now, that is. Welcome to Memeoirs.

      Memeoirs offers a very original service: they will compile all of your email into a book format. Yes, a real, paper-based book, that you can read at will, as often as you like. Now, before you laugh this idea off as being a little silly, let me ask you what you believe is the lifespan of digital data? Do you think that in a hundred years, that digital data will still be around. For all the advantages of the digital information format, with its ease of copying and other features, it still remains fairly fragile. That data is dependant on some mechanism to be interpreted. Paper does not.

      The pricing model is based on the total number of pages requested as well as the option of printing a soft versus hard cover book. The process is fairly simple: pick an email address, pick a date and time period, and Memeoirs does the rest. The archiving process is quick, private and effective; Memeoirs strives to make sure that the printed content contains only emails of value. Account activation emails and spam are automatically filtered out and only your actual communications remain.

      A fantastic idea in the digital age; old school archiving! Head on over and take a look! You might find a great gift idea in the making!

      Friday, February 18, 2011

      Micro Homes: Zero House

      From Specht Harpman Architects, an absolutely fantastic micro home: the zeroHouse! The zeroHouse was designed from the ground up to be a completely self-sufficient and comfortable home.

      The zeroHouse was designed as a small, prefabricated house that can be shipped anywhere and quickly setup. It contains a complete kitchen, bathroom as well as all the necessary elements to support four adults. But the truly interesting feature of the zeroHouse is its ability to operate independently, without the need for any external utilities connections.

      High-efficiency solar panels produce power and store it in an onboard bank of batteries. A rainwater collection system gathers and diverts water into a 2700 gallon tank. All plumbing fixtures are gravity-fed, which eliminates the need for pumps, that consume far too much power. Another interesting feature is the organic waste processing, which is performed in a special "digester unit", which is located beneath the house. It converts the waste into clean, dry compost that needs to be removed only twice a year and can then be used to improve the soil for agriculture around the home.

      The zeroHouse is also fully climate-controlled, with a high-efficiency combined air-conditioning and heating system. The walls, roof, and floor are all insulated with closed-cell structural foam, and achieve a thermal rating of R58, which is pretty impressive.

      A great feature of the zeroHouse is that it can be installed in places that would unsuitable for standard construction, including water up to ten feet deep, or on slopes of up to thirty-five degrees. By using a system of helical-anchor foundations that touch the ground at only four points, the zeroHouse requires no excavation.

      Visit SpechtHarpman for additional information and complete specifications on the zeroHouse.

      Thursday, February 17, 2011

      Sharpie's Liquid Pencil

      I have a more than passing interest in notebooks (the actual paper kind, not the computers!) and writing implements of all types. I know, it's fairly geeky and I've been told that in the past as well, but that's never really stopped me before and it's not about to now. Walking through Staples the other day, I saw a new writing technological breakthrough that seemed to have some promise, the Sharpie Liquid Pencil!

      Yes, you read that right, a liquid pencil. The packaging promises all of the advantages of regular pencils and none of the disadvantages. Well, I was sold. And this is how my dissappointment began. When I got home, I excitedly told my wife about the fantastic new "pencils" I had discovered, promptly brought out the fresh, new package I had purchased, tore it open and gave her one.

      We quickly discussed the various methods in which a pencil lead could be turned into a liquid (my initial thought was that Sharpie had simply found a method to load a suspension of graphite in a solvent of some type), and immediately decided to test it out. Our first reaction was that although the writing action was fairly smooth, it was nowhere near an actual pencil. Our second reaction was that the lines drawn were simply too faint to really replace an real pencil. As advertised though, the liquid pencil was fully erasable, although on its own, that wasn't really a selling point for me.

      I suspected that over time, the solvent would fully evaporate from the lines drawn on paper, making the liquid pencil a little more "permanent" and closer examination of the packaging led me to discover that Sharpie was also making the claim that the liquid pencil would eventually be as permanent as a regular Sharpie marker. Hmmmmm

      Well, let me clear up that mystery right now... It's not!

      In the end, the Sharpie Liquid Pencil seemed like a good idea, but it's not there yet. So save your money and get some regular pencils. You'll get what you pay for at least!

      Wednesday, February 16, 2011

      Micro Homes: 2+ Weekend House

      There's just something about really small homes that really sets my imagination off! And this one really combines two aspects that I really like: micro homes and shipping containers.

      Created by the architect Jure Kotnik, the 2+ Weekend Home is a simple, two shipping container micro home designed to be set up quickly and effectively. Contrary to many homes designed with shipping containers, the ones used in this design were specifically manufactured for this home rather than recycled from a freight company.

      The layout is simple and tasteful, with enough room for a couple of people to live quite well:

      A thoughtful balcony has been added, accessible from the second floor, as well as front and rear decks at ground level.

      A nice effort to get the housing manufacturing sector to begin the process of mass producing these great little homes!

      Tuesday, February 15, 2011

      Online Tools review: GuerrillaMail

      As many other regular Internet user, I've often run into a situation when I wanted to sign up for a particular web service of some type and one of the most common requirements is a functional email address, where a confirmation message will be sent, which will need to be clicked in order to activate the account. But many of us have become a little guarded with our email address and with good reason; SPAM!

      I work in an electronic world and access to my clients is obviously crucial to my business success. So I've come to the same conclusion as millions of other Internet users, which is multiple email addresses. A business address, a personal address and a junk address. This last address is specifically created for use with web services in what I would call "trial" periods. As I'm discovering the service and its features, I can make an informed decision as to whether or not I will continue to use it and at that point, I can update my settings to point to my personal address.

      That's all well and good, but my junk account currently has more than 715 messages in the Inbox... since last week! Determining what is useful information from the garbage that invariably sneaks its way in is becoming a part-time job, with no remuneration at that! Time for a change of strategy and this is where comes in. With the ability to provide you with a functional but "disposable" email address, set to expire in 1 hour, I can now sign up to any service I want without fear. At any time, you can return to the GuerrillaMail page to view and reply to messages, as well as renew the address for another hour.

      As of the last time I checked (and this information is updated on the site every 10 seconds), GuerrillaMail has processed more than 89 822 846 emails and going!

      If you need disposable email, this is definitely the service for you. Head on over and test it out, I'm sure you'll find some use for this site quite regularly.

      Monday, February 14, 2011

      Happy Valentine day to my wife!

      I know I've wished you a Happy Valentine's day already, but I thought that you'd appreciate hearing it again:

      I love you very much and I am very, very happy that you are my wife! Happy Valentine's day; have a fantastic day, sweetness!

      Pick of the week:

      Are you a list addict? If so, then Listgorilla is for you! Currently in beta, Listgorilla is a fantastic site, with a great looking interface, that lets you view, create and modify lists created by you and other users. Personally, I think the best feature of the lists created on this site is the good/bad flags listed next to each item in a list, allowing users to "vote" for the placement of specific items in a list. Don't think that Spider Man is the greatest comic book hero? Vote that choice down from first place in the list.

      It is possible to log in to Listgorilla using your Google account, your Facebook account and even your Twitter account, but that's only required to create lists or to flag items as good or bad. Browsing the lists is open to everyone.

      Head on over to Listgorilla and take a look at the lists they've put up! While you are there, why not create your own or have your say about someone else's list? Enjoy!

      Sunday, February 13, 2011

      Long term review: Quinny Buzz

      When my wife and I learned that she was going to have a baby, like many expecting parents to be, we began to research the topic to no end! We read, checked, compared, tested and prodded literally tons of baby equipment. One thing we settled on pretty early (and thanks to Grandpa!) was the carriage we wanted, the Quinny Buzz. Our model is no longer the Buzz, but the Buzz 3. I've been meaning to take a look at what's been improved from the one we currently use.

      After having used this stroller for two years, I can easily find a few improvements that I would like to see implemented by Quinny:

      1. Larger diameter front wheel: Although still usable, increasing the diameter of the front wheel assembly would improve stability and directional control.
      2. Move the steering pivot point a little further forward: We have found that during use on rougher terrain, the front wheel tends to dig into any depression in the ground, leading the wheels to pivot in that direction, which changes the centre of gravity of the stroller.
      3. More positive engagement of rear wheel lock: With extended use, the wheel locking levers feel rather mushy and unresponsive, which makes it difficult to tell if the brake is properly engaged.
      4. Larger width of webbing material for belts: The current belts tend to twist, making them both difficult to thread through the plastic lock fittings, and uncomfortable for our boy as well.
      5. Better folding lock: In colder climates, like we have here, the plastic of the current design's clip becomes very hard and therefore difficult to press in order to release the folded stroller's frame to extend open. A better mechanism would be a improvement.
      6. Make it narrower: The current width of the stroller makes it difficult to get into some smaller car trunks and hard to get into city buses and other transports. Narrower and longer would be a simple solution to this one.
      Now don't get me wrong, there are many things we appreciate about this stroller. In the summer months, it is a great city stroller. It moves well, manoeuvres simply, folds fairly easily, all in a pretty lightweight model. We live and learn is the lesson. We now know what to look for in a stroller and we have become used to this one's quirks. But new parents, you might want to shop around and actually run them around the store a bit more than we did!

      Saturday, February 12, 2011

      Online Tools review: Prezi

      Are you tired of the same boring presentations? Have you been looking for a simple solution to this problem? Well, search no more; Prezi is here! Somewhat difficult to sum up in a few short words, Prezi is a Flash-based presentation tool that allows even a new user with little experience, to create beautiful, animated, zoomable, non-linear presentations!

      One of the great things about Prezi is that it is available for free, with some limitations, of course! A paid subscription (there are two levels of pay access, with various options) are available and really extend what is possible. Prezi uses a fantastic user interface that is truly intuitive and simple to use. If you want to create something that will blow you coworkers (and your employers!) away, head on over to their site with your next project and see what you can build with it! I am certain that you will be completely amazed!

      Friday, February 11, 2011

      It's in you to give...

      Today, I am going for my second blood donation with Canadian Blood Services, over at CBS Headquarters in Ottawa, on Alta Vista Drive. I've given blood for the Canadian Red Cross several years ago, but had stopped donating as it was rarely convenient for me. In the meantime, I've discovered that blood is always in high demand, no matter the time of year that it is (we often hear newscasts on the need for blood around the holidays) and that got me thinking about donating again.
      For about an hour of your time, every 56 days, you can donate blood and help save lives! I was incredibly impressed by the professionalism of the staff operating the clinics as well the level of competence demonstrated by every single person I had the pleasure of meeting on my first visit. Not only was the process entirely painless, but it was also very quick. From the time the staff were ready for my donation to the time that they stopped took a little less than an hour!

      So, why not take some time out of your day, head over to the CBS website, find a blood clinic in your area and go donate. It's safe, quick, painless and incredibly needed! It's in you to give!

      Thursday, February 10, 2011

      Where do you find these sites?

      Someone asked me a good question the other day, concerning the various websites and tools that I find and report on regularly. "Where do you find all these sites?" It's a valid question for sure and the answer is not some trade secret that I want to take to my grave. There isn't a single clear answer (but there are several not so clear ones!!!)

      One of the primary sources for new sites worth investigating is KillerStartups, a fantastic site dedicated to highlighting interesting Internet ventures of all kind. They promote 15 new sites a day and keep an excellent archive of their daily posts, as well as a top ten list that is worth exploring in detail. That's one of the answers; the other part of the answer is good search techniques and the final part of the answer is taking notes. Lots and lots of notes. Every little bit of information, URLs and images is usually captured using Evernote (and in some cases, when I am away from my computer or when it's faster, I also use GeniusScan!!!).

      Of course, it really helps to read a lot. But that's just a question of practice for most people. As a final clarification, let me point out that I browse the Internet an average of 1 to 2 hours over the course of a day (it does help that I work in a computer-related field though) and don't watch television. It's amazing how much time you liberate if you drop the boob-tube! Try it sometimes!

      Wednesday, February 9, 2011

      A new camera bag

      Although I originally purchased a camera bag for my wife, I have to admit that it was not the greatest bag ever made. I'm not trying to say I got her a cheap bag (perish the thought!) but I've always thought that bag selection was truly a personal thing. There is no such thing as the perfect bag for everyone and armed with this thought in mind, I decided to shop around for a new bag for her. I headed over to Vistek, in Ottawa to browse through their pretty impressive selection.

      One of the options my wife had commented on in a positive manner, at least with regards to my own camera bag, was the correct orientation of the bag's opening when worn as a sling. We both agree that any type of sling bag should be able to rotate from back to front, with the bag's open end facing up. I looked through the various sling bags that were available and eventually settled on a Kata Bags DT-213.

      Although not strictly a sling bag in the traditional sense (it's designed as a torso bag to begin with, but that does not prevent it from being worn as a sling), it performs remarkably well in this regard. Very solid construction, from fabric cut and selection, to stitching and fininishing, lend this bag a very professional feel. Some thoughtful details, like the yellow lining material, which lets you see to the bottom of the bag for those lost accessories, really set this manufacturer apart from many others in the same field.

      Since I gave it to my wife for Christmas, she hasn't had a chance to use it to its full potential yet, but I have absolutely no doubt that it will make more than a worthy replacement for that first bag!

      Tuesday, February 8, 2011

      Online Tools review:

      Graphic designers, artists, web developpers and many other computer professionals make use of a variety of drawing tools in their craft. Of course, as you may already be aware, one of the most popular choices when it comes to this type of tool is Adobe Photoshop. One of the great skills demonstrated by expert PS users is the creation of custom brushes. But not everyone is skilled in the "art" of creating new brushes to use for specific projects.

      To the rescue is Brushlovers, a fantastic site highlighting numerous free and paid brush packs. With an excellent layout, a great selection of free brushes and truly reasonable prices for the paid sets of brushes, Brushlovers is a great addition to your online tools. Head on over and take a peek at what's available; I think you'll be pleasantly pleased.

      Monday, February 7, 2011

      Pick of the week:

      Of all the questions that I regularly receive concerning using the Internet for business, the most common one by far is: how do I set up an online store? Of course, this is not necessarily the simplest of questions to answer. Until now, that is, thanks to our pick of the week, Currently in Beta testing, Goodsie is a web-based, online store builder. Now, before you decide to turn your nose up, serious web designers, head over and take a good look. In my opinion, Goodsie has better features and functionality in their Beta state than many competitors who have been around for years.

      A beautiful interface, enough options to create the custom online store of your dreams and a truly functional output, one would be hard pressed to find a better tool to help you build a great commerce site. Of course, there are other factors involved in the creation of an online business, but this is a great start! Head over to right now and sign up. Well worth seeing and I think you'll agree.

      Sunday, February 6, 2011

      iPad Accessories: Twelve South's Compass Mobile Stand

      There is a secret amongst iPad users; Apple hasn't made a big deal of this secret and the legion of iPad users don't really want to talk about it. But here it is: iPad users are notorious accessory hounds! My wife is no exception (the Apple iPad case, the iPad dock, the wireless keyboard and even a stylus!), but that's just not enough for the diehard.
      Well, after browsing some accessories myself, hoping to find some inspiration for a gift for my lovely, I decided to purchase the Twelvesouth Compass stand. 
      A lot of manufacturers have discovered that the iPad, although a fantastic device, can be a little heavy in the hand. And furthermore, typing on the device without some kind of stand to place it at a more appropriate angle, can be a little frustrating. All manner of stands exist for it, but few are as elegant as the Compass. A sleek, steel and silicone item, the Compass has two possible positions: vertical as can be seen in the image above and horizontal (a perfect typing angle), seen below:
      Being made of steel (and with the potential to damage the iPad, were it stored unprotected with the tablet), Twelvesouth was kind enough to include a fitted case to carry the stand during travel. It is unusually heavy, although it is my belief that without this weight, the stand would not function adequately. A beautiful, well made item, this is an accessory that iPad owners need to look at closely. Head over to Twelvesouth's website and see the Compass and several other great products for Apple hardware.

      Saturday, February 5, 2011

      Pick of the week:

      While looking for an nice "cheat sheet" for Apple's Magic Trackpad, I ran across a fantastic image, that eventually led me back to the site that originated it, What I found there was a collection of dashboard "cards" that contain keyboard shortcuts to some of the most popular Mac applications. And all of them, free of charge, a download away.

      If you have been looking for unified "cheat sheets" for your most regularly used applications, head over to Dashkards right now and see what they have available for you.

      Friday, February 4, 2011

      Update on Apple's latest interface device

      After writing about Apple's Magic Trackpad, I decided that it might make a pretty decent Christmas gift for my wife and so, I headed over to our local Apple store to purchase one.

      Sadly, on Christmas day, we discovered that the multitouch functionality of the Magic Trackpad is only enabled on Apple computers running OS 10.6.4 and above, which meant that my wife's iMac would need an OS update additionally.

      Never one to refuse a trip to the Apple store, I purchased a copy of Snow Leopard and returned home. A quick, painless installation later, we plugged in the Magic Trackpad and as the name implies, it "magically" worked! The first thing we both noticed is how absolutely quiet computer use can become using this device instead of a mouse. No more dragging sounds, no more scrolling sounds, no more clicking sound. Period.

      The multitouch functionality is a great addition, allowing the user to perform a number of common actions easily. The various possibilities include:

      It's a neat addition to the way that you use a computer, although I have to admit that it does take a little getting used to, but I think that really is a question of how ingrained your computer interface habits are in you. But I find that the gestures tend to be natural motions to perform and shouldn't really pose a problem to anyone. Worth checking out the next time you're near an Apple store.

      Thursday, February 3, 2011

      Online Tools review:

      Building HTML forms is not that complicated; the only real issue is access to a decent editor to code the form, but that's not necessarily the easiest way to visualize the actual layout of your form. In essence, it's approaching a design problem from the wrong direction. In come to the rescue! In essence, this tool allows you to visually create your form, add the features and elements that you want, then generate the code for that form, to be incorporated into any project you might be working on at this moment.

      A great tool and a handy one to add to your quiver if you are a mobile designer. Go take a look and try it out, I'm convinced you'll be quite impressed.

      More storage space...

      I've been a data "hound" for the last 20 years and that data takes storage space. I've gone through a series of external hard drives, which succeded each other as capacities rose and prices came down. But when I purchased my Macbook Pro, I realised that I would need an external drive that did not require an external power adapter (well, to be precise, I did not NEED, but did think it would be more convenient to be able to carry just a drive and adapter cable, rather than a drive, adapter cable, AC adapter and power cable). I had shopped around a little bit and settled on the Western Digital Passport Studio 500GB drive. The clincher for me was the USB2.0/Firewire 400/800 connection options.
      Another interesting feature is the eLabel, which WD touts as a simple method to distinguish several similar drives in your collection, as well as providing the user with a quick way to determine the amount of space left for data on the drive. Although the drive came with a pretty nice suite of applications from WD to simplify back ups, I decided to format the drive and use it exclusively as an Apple Time Machine drive.

      So far, I've found the drive both fast and quiet, which are obviously features that are desirable in a portable drive. I was also quite impressed that WD would include all three connection cables within the box (USB 2, Firewire 400 and Firewire 800). It has exceeded my expectations, except for one: total capacity. I would replace this drive in a second if it was available in a 1TB format, instead of the current maximum of 640GB.

      Wednesday, February 2, 2011

      My top ten iPod Touch apps

      After much debate, I decided, a couple months ago to purchase an iPod Touch. Having used my wife's iPad for a little while, I knew that I wanted a better device than the iPod Nano I had been using. Of course, I didn't expect that one of the primary uses of the iPod Touch would be the use of some absolutely fantastic applications and games. And with friends regularly asking for my advice concerning apps, I thought I would compile a list of my ten favourite apps to date.

      1. Evernote

      If there was one single application that I could install on my iPod Touch or iPhone, this would be the one. With the ability to keep created content synched across your devices and computer(s), Evernote helps you to remember everything, but does so much more. If you haven't experienced it for yourself, give your memory a helping hand and try the free version today.

      2. List Pro

      Obsessive list builders, this is the app for you. Not only can List Pro create pretty much any list you could care for, it also provides several templates and a free online list exchange service that contains some real gems. A real favorite of mine in any case.

      3. Facebook

      Having used the web version of FB for many years, I had become a little jaded by all of the extra (some might say unrequired but likely profitable) features available beyond the basic elements that made FB famous. Well, the FB app is back to basics for this application, with all of the basic features that made FB great and nothing extra. If you haven't tried this app, do yourself the courtesy of trying it, you will love FB again.

      4. Genius Scan

      Since I have discovered Evernote, I keep wishing that Genius Scan's great functionality could be somehow integrated. When confronted with an image, a printed document, a posted bus schedule, a posted bill, I whip out this great app, snap a shot, correct the skewing with my finger and save the image as a document accessible when I want it! Fantastic!

      5. VLC

      Allows you to play pretty much any video file on your device. Do I need to say any more?

      6. QuickVoice

      Turn your iPod Touch or iPhone into a voice dictation machine. With a better interface than the included Voice Recorder and simpler file management, truly a great tool.

      7. MyPDFs

      If you have any PDF documents in your library, this is the application for you. With a number of nice features for viewing even the largest PDF files, this is the application that lets you take your library with you.

      8. CIBC app

      Being early adopters, CIBC was the first Canadian bank to offer an iPod app. Great app, every feature you could expect! A great way to access your banking services.

      9. Skype

      If you've never used Skype, give it a try right now. One of the easiest ways to communicate with people the world over. Make international calls for pennies a minute with great call quality. Set up easy video chat sessions and more. The app works fantastically well for making calls all over, although you need to purchase credits to make calls to landlines.

      10. AppShopper

      Want a great way to find new apps? Would you like to know when some paid applications become free? Well then AppShopper is for you then! A simple interface, great controls and updated every day if not several times a day, this is the app for your app needs.

      I decided that I would post a similar list for games in the near future. Keep your eyes open for the next installment soon.

      And finally, a new Macbook Pro

      The moment I had been waiting for has finally arrived. Well, to be precise, the moment happened on the very last day of 2010 (way to stick it to the tax man!). I finally purchased a new computer: a new Macbook Pro 13.
      For those that know me, I don't purchase new computers very often. I continued trudging on with a rapidly dying, older generation iMac, then a radically underpowered Asus netbook, as well as using my wife's fairly new iMac. And none of those solutions were truly adequate. My iMac is far too loud (due to a defective HDD temperature sensor) to be used for anything other than basic browsing as well as being a pretty decent, if decidedly noisy, file, web and media server. The netbook is simply far too slow (and running Windows doesn't really help it gain points with me) and my wife's iMac is... my wife's iMac.

      I can easily say that my Macbook Pro is by far the best computer I have ever owned, bar none. It is decently fast (faster than anything else we have at home), well equipped (every feature that I could think of and Firewire 800 too) and absolutely beautifully designed and executed. The trackpad alone has completely changed my mind about the concept of trackpads, to the point that I have yet to plug a mouse into it. Multitouch, glass trackpads are simply the way to go, in my opinion.

      If you are in the market for a new computer, take a better look at the Macbook Pro line; there might be one in the series that is exactly what you are looking for as your next computer.

      Tuesday, February 1, 2011

      Welcome back

      For those who have been reading my blog for a while, I want to apologize for the lengthy hiatus I have taken from writing. Having started a new gig for Canadian Blood Services as an Instructional Designer a couple of months ago, I've been a little busy lately with the demands of this contract as well as the demands of my young family. But I wanted to let the faithful reader know that content is going to start appearing with regularity, starting this week.

      Some of the regular series I had been doing will return, including the Pick of the Week, Online Tools review, Micro Homes and Book Review, albeit with a few changes. I've decided to incorporate ebooks reviews with the Book Review feature, as I've been using my Kobo for reading pretty much exclusively (although I have to admit that I've also read a couple books on my iPod Touch and although not as nice as the Kobo for this function, is nonetheless a pretty useful feature for everyday use.

      Thank you again for your patience, and an enormous thank you to my wife, who was one of my most avid readers and took the time to point out that she had not read anything new in a long time and missed it. Thank you sweetness!