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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Online Tools review:

Following last week's small article on the online diagram tool called, I received a comment indicating a preference for another online diagram tool called and promised that I would review it, as at first glance, it really does look like a much better application than Several features really set Lucidchart apart from its competitors.

First of all, Lucidchart is an online diagram tool, designed to replace applications like Visio. Like most diagram tools, Lucidchart support several file output formats, allowing you to export your work to other applications if required. Secondly, Lucidchart provides several interesting features, which include collaboration (the ability to have several people working on the same file from different locations), which can be very handy for those that actually make use of such technologies. Of course, this feature is really augmented by the inclusion of a revision history feature, which lets users determine who made what change to a specific diagram, and when this change was made. Add to these features a library of hundreds of shapes and templates, as well as full compatibility with any of the modern browsers under any platform and you have a recipe for an excellent application.

But (and there is a but here) I'm not as ecstatic about paid subscriptions and this is something required if you really want to access all of the interesting features provided by There is a free account, but with several limitations (including a single user per file, a maximum of two collaborators, 25MB maximum file storage and a limit of 60 objects per chart) and these are severe enough to limit the type of diagram you can create without paying for a better account. There are several choices though and I believe that most users will eventually find the account type that is right for their needs.

Following a comment I made, I still believe that is a better application from a charting perspective, but offers the not inconsiderable advantage of being free, which in this day and age, really makes a difference.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Online Tools review: TikiToki

Although the task of creating animated timelines is not necessarily the most common, for the times that you have this task on your to do list, you might consider checking out Tiki Toki, a fantastic online, animated timeline maker. With several types of accounts (including a free one!), Tiki Toki makes it easy to create attractive and interactive timelines, which can display images and videos as well as text. With great integration with Flickr, Youtube and Vimeo, its easy to integrate your online media into your created timelines.

Head over to Tiki Toki and try it out for yourself. I think that you might find yourself creating more timelines, just to use this tool!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Online Tools review:

Do you find it difficult to organise schedules for your events? Do you need a simple method to confirm attendances for meetings, parties and other gatherings? Well, problem solved with! With several pricing options, including a free, limited functionality account, you can easily create bookings and have your attendees confirm online at their leisure.

Head on over to and try it free! I'm sure you'll find the solution effective and efficient!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Online Tools review:

Diagrams; either you love them or hate them. For those who have been around long enough to become Visio experts, you might actually appreciate that you can get the same kind of output from an entirely free tool, With numerous features and an easy web-based interface, here is another tool to your work anywhere, with any computer quiver!

No need to sign up and no fees make this a really great tool! Head on over an take a look, I'm sure you'll feel the same way I do!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Canon T2i DSLR

For my wife's birthday, I decided that I would spoil her a little by getting her a new camera. Her photography skills are beyond compare and I figured that she deserved to have a better camera at her disposal. She had been using a Canon Rebel XS for a little while and although a decent camera, some of the improvements made in the last couple years really dated her current device.

I settled on the Canon T2i for several reasons. The first and probably most important in my opinion was the transition from 12 bit images to 14 bit images; for the mathematically challenged, that may seem like a small change, but it's the difference between 2^12 number of colours versus 2^14 number of colours. That's an enormous difference for sure. Secondly, the T2i also includes HD video capabilities, at full 1080p resolution, with adjustable frame rates. That feature alone makes this camera far superior to the previous model. Thirdly, the improved speed of autofocus, startup, continuous shooting and more, really improve the camera's user experience.

Looking forward to seeing some more results from this camera, but as it was a gift, I guess I will have to wait and see what my wife will do with it; no doubt it will be amazing!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pick of the week:

In a world of social networking sites like Facebook, the word "friend" has become a little diluted, for lack of a better word. I've seen people with 500-600 "friends" on Facebook, but no one person that they feel they can confide in. What about those 500-600 people? Are none of them actual friends? You know, those people that actually care about you?

Here comes to the rescue! allows you to create 5 true or false facts about yourself. Afterwards, you can quiz your friends on these questions by directing them to your profile! See how well they really know you. The results can also be shared on Facebook or Twitter, for those so inclined.

Head on over and take a look, I'm sure you'll find it fun and enlightening!

Happy birthday to my wife!

Just wanted to take a second to wish my beautiful wife a happy birthday! I'm very happy to be able to share another fantastic year with you, sweetness!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Time for a new phone...

I know that smartphones are all the rage and as a dedicated Apple user, it would seem that the iPhone is the device to get, but it's just not doing it for me... I know that the device is great and that's not really the issue. The real problem are the providers and the exhorbitant fees they charge for iPhone packages. I just can't justify that kind of price point for unlimited service, let alone services with so many limitations. As I began to browse through the different canadian providers websites in search of a new phone, I could not help but notice that almost every device available are touch-screen, iPhone-clone smartphones. Where are the plain, regular phones?

Well, Rogers has decided to keep a few of these devices for the "old folks" like me. One of these really caught my eye and after doing a little research, I decided that this would be my next phone: the Nokia 6700 Slide.

I am partial to stick-type phones and although a slider, I still consider this one to be in the same category. What really sold me was the construction quality though; all metal body and very stiff sliding mechanism lend a feeling of durability to this phone. One of my main gripes with "smartphones" is the massive size of the device and the relative fragility of their screens. I know very few people who have not dropped their mobile phone at least once in their lifetime and I would like to know that my mobile will survive the inevitable drop and rigors of daily life.

Although not the only phone to contani a camera (trying to find a camera-less mobile phone today is a virtual impossibility), at least, the one included with this one is quite good. You have to give Nokia some points for trying to benefit from the associated quality of Carl Zeiss lenses by including a CZ-designed and manufactured lens with this device.

I will update this post with my impressions once I get to use the device regularly.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Online Tools review:

Portfolio sites are really a dime a dozen, but one has really caught my eye, due to its great layout, ease of use and sales-centered orientation. is a new player on the scene and I've been very impressed with their site! With two options, free and paid, portfolios are easy to create and maintain. Head on over an take a look if you have been looking for a way to showcase your artwork.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Skullcandy 50/50 earbuds review

My daily wear earbuds recently died (I often refer to them as "disposable", as I have rarely kept a pair functional for more than a year) and I decided that a replacement was in order. I do have a pair of over the ear headphones at home, but due to their very "open" design, sound leakage is a significant problem (well, to be honest, it's not really a problem for me but rather for those around me!). For those looking to purchase new earbuds, the choice is literally astounding today. The real problem is finding an earbud that sounds good; specifications provided by the manufacturer don't tell the whole picture.

The previous pair of "disposable" earbuds I purchased were from Skullcandy and as I had been quite satisfied with them, I decided that I would look at other models from the company. Now I am aware that Skullcandy products are not the best that can be found on the market. But as they are easily available, usually pretty decently priced and fairly durable, they are usually a good solution for daily wear earbuds. Looking over the various models on sale at The Source (yes, I still shop there once in a while!) I saw the Skullcandy 50/50s in a separate display.

I looked over the package to see the specifications on these buds, set at almost double the price of other Skullcandy products in the store:


Speaker Diameter: 11mm
Magnet Type: NdFeB
Frequency Response: 20-20k Hz
Impedance: 16 ohms
Max Input Power: 100mW
Cable Type: TPE
Cable Length: 1.3M
Plug Type: 3.5mm Gold Plated
Nylon Mesh Carry Case

But specifications are not always what they appear to be. The real test is in the listening and I can safely say that these earbuds are quite good, considering the price point and the mass production aspect of Skullcandy. One of the pleasant surprises was to find a carry case in the box; one of the primary causes of damage to earbuds is incorrect (or improper) storage and a carry case can really help in this regard.

So far, I am quite satisfied with the sound, although I suspect that a break-in period will only be a benefit that far too many users forego. If you are using an iPod Touch or iPhone, there are several applications that are designed specifically for this purpose. For users of other devices, simply create a varied playlist and use that as your break-in sound source. Nonetheless, these were quite good, right out of the package, which is very surprising. The comfort level is quite high and the finish is also quite good.

If you are in the market for a new pair of "disposable" earbuds, do yourself a favour and see what's available at multiple price points; you might just find a new set that makes your music new again!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Online Tools review: Mr. Icons

Collecting resources for training development is an activity that I have pursued actively since I've started working in the field. But one resource is a little harder to find then others: icons! I have purchased sets and collected as many royalty-free icons as I could find, but as luck would have it, whenever I need a specific icon, I never seem to have it in my collection.

Well, if you have experienced the same problem, here is Mr.Icons to the rescue! With more than 125174 icons in more than 437 sets, the icon you need is available, for free!

Head on over to Mr.Icons and browse through their extensive collection, you'll be glad you did.