Category Archives: Technology

Jackson Pollock

It’s not every day a website comes along and truly captures both the imagination and artistry that can be the world wide web.

www.jacksonpollock.org is one of those websites. It was made by Miltos Manetas (with original flash made by Michal Migurski)  way back in 2002, yet I just saw it today in 2016 for the very first time thanks to Amanda Harryman.

Much like the rest of the internet it could be gone tomorrow. So enjoy it while it lasts. It needs no facebook, twitter or app.

But does require flash so is not viewable on your tablet or phone.

For the love of Flags

Roman Mars of 99% Invisible spoke about city flags at the 2015 Ted Conference in Vancouver. It’s awesome, brilliant and speaks to the urbanization of our culture and our love of design. Give it a watch it is certainly worth you time.

oh ps. I asked Roman about Vancouver Canada’s Flag and he gave it a thumbs up.

Apple’s new OS Yosemite

Dear Apple and the National Parks Service. I recently had a conversation about the new OSX called Yosemite with a fellow web developer Paul Clark.

PC: Because @10up is distributed, Yosemite is my office today. We’re hiring.   #php #css #js #WordPress pic.twitter.com/hrW0FoFVOr 

RD:  You weren’t looking for the OS were you?

PC:  Rode through without a windshield. Still working out the bugs.

RD:  I am just glad you didn’t crash exploring the new OS…

PC:  I was surprised it was on a drive. Thought they switched to cloud distribution.

RD:  But I bet it was a swift ride!

PC:  Now that you mention it, the Dashboard did say I was going pretty fast.

RD:  Was it a test drive? http://appleseed.apple.com/sp/betaprogram/ 

PC: All good things have to come to and end. I heard from my Notification Center.

You can read our conversation here… It was totally geeky on the fly and a little silly fun on a Wednesday Night

ps. No… neither of us work for Apple or the National Parks Service.

Spoilers…

In a world where you can consume media whenever you want on whatever device you want. All of that convenience can be compromised by social media if your not watching it with everybody else.

Social Media the spoilers of live entertainment and tv shows like Breaking Bad.

ps. Nothing was spoiled by my friends. Merely an observation on what I am seeing in my twitter stream.

Man with t-shirt that says I am not a tourist with an iphone infront of him

Apps for Easy Travel

I recently traveled down to Seattle for a couple days and I had switch over my old iPhone 3GS so I could use on it on the US network without fear of major roaming charges. All links go there respective apps. But many apps are available for android as well. *The Chihuly exhibit is a HTML5 app. Featured photo courtesy of Jeremy Lim Used with Permission.

Google Maps 

Google Maps App Google Maps or your favorite map application. Looking up anything using  Google Maps is a good idea. Jon Jennings and Flynn O’Connor and I drove down to WordCamp Seattle  and we used Google Maps to find my hotel and to keep us going in the right direction. Although Google did give us a funny  Once in Seattle, I used it to walk to Speakers Dinner, the traffic was horrible and it was a beautiful night, the walk was far better then a cab. I also Found my cousin house in West Seattle,  Almost everything… But when my roaming phone wasn’t connecting I went searching for a paper map and directions from local business owners which was less fruitful in not tourist area’s and I felt somewhat bothersome.

Transit App

The Icon of Transit AppUsing Seattle Transit is not foreign to me but schedules and stops change since I used it four years ago. But what made this trip special was that Transit App which recent became completely free in the App Store. I switched the location to Seattle and I was able to instantly find the transit listing using an App I already knew how to use. I Decided to take the bus from Downtown to the Seattle Center. Easy as pie… Seriously… I closed down the Chihuly Garden and Glass at 10:00pm and was on the next Monorail to Downtown then on a bus back to West Seattle in no time flat. Monday Night in Downtown Seattle many not be one place I want to hang out in. But the Transit app give me clear and concise directions to the bus stops. I don’t think a regular cab could have done better and certainly not for $4.50 in total.

Uber

Logo of the Uber Car Service AppI only took Uber once in Vancouver with some visitors from Portland before the BC Government pulled the plugin on them. But Uber was giving a great deal to get us to WordCamp Seattle. I called the Car from the hotel OMG it is spectacular!!! I have never had such a delightful trip across the city and felt very “Presidental” arriving to WordCamp Seattle in style. Both Flynn and Jon used them extensively as well.

The Uber app didn’t like my US Phone as I used the App originally from my Canadian Phone at the Hotel via Wifi (my fault for installing on the wrong phone)… But I guess we can figure that out later… I think it may have been more my phone then the Über app… Which as you might think is pretty Über.

Car2Go & Get2Car App

Logo of the Get2Car for Car2go serviceMuch like the Transit App all I had to do was switch the location of the app and I could find all the cars in the local radius… After a walking tour of Downtown Seattle. We were standing with in 200 feet of an available car. So I tried to rent the car so it could take me to the Seattle Central Public Library. I would need a US membership Card to Car2go and then I could use it in any America CIty and visa-versa. Nothing against the app It worked flawlessly and I am seriously considering getting a US Car2go membership as it seems to be growing.

Although Car2Go now has it’s own app. They didn’t when I first joined the service back in 2011. But the company listed Get2Car as an approved app. The Ge2Car app is reasonably priced at $1.99.

Wikipedia App

Icon on the Wikipedia App for the iPhoneThe Wikipedia App and for that matter there mobile website as well allowed me to research more about Dale Chihuly while I was waiting for the sun to go down at this his Garden and Glass Exhibit. Also according to wikipedia no one know who Elliott Bay is actually named after. Which makes sense because my walking tour guide didn’t know either. ( Side note: I highly suggest the Seattle 101 walking tour thanks Jake! )

1Password

Logo of the 1Password AppIf I liked something on Facebook I got a free goodie from this sweet shop. Ya I got a bit of sweet tooth… I don’t have Facebook App on my phone but after found my 1password I signed on got my free dark chocolate covered marshmallow and bam! Thanks one Password!

Audio tour of the Chihuly Exhibit

Chihuly Exhibit Audio Tour Mobile WebsiteThe Chihuly exhibit also had a free audio tour via a html5 mobile website (and provided free headphones so you didn’t use your speaker phone). The audio tour was really well done and gave more insight into the artist and it could only access via your smartphone. They included free wifi to access the web app so you didn’t waste your data. It was a slick interface and allowed complete choice for your immersive experience of the exhibit.

Conclusion

So after my first real trip to a somewhat foreign city these list of app made transportation easier and my time spent in the Emerald City much easier and more fulfilling. I made my way home via Amtrak Cascades  train to Vancouver and I booked my ticket online and the included QR code was scanned from an email on my phone. No printer required!

Seattle I will certainly be back but not without my smart phone.

Lighthouse Pub Formerly the China Gate

Expo 86, Lies and Wikipedia

It all started with a conversation in the pub… But many things do I suppose…

I heard the Lighthouse Pub in Sechelt was formerly the China Pavilion from Expo 86. But after talking with the pub manager Dale Schweighardt he told me it was a restaurant near the China Pavilion. And so 15 minutes later the mystery was solved…

I had also remembered Tim Bray speak about Wikipedia at Northern Voice a Vancouver blogging conference in 2011. I can’t remember his exact words but I remember the sentiment quite clearly.

If you see an error on Wikipedia you should try to correct it as a small part of your responsibility as a human being is to share your expertise. ~ A paraphrased quote from Tim Bray.

Serendipity

The serendipity and a generous amount of curiosity lead me to read all about Expo 86. I didn’t see any mention of the Lighthouse Pub and its history. A subsequent google search only lead to me a very old and outdated website and mentioned that the Lighthouse Pub was formerly the Munich Festhaus!?!?

Sacrebleu!

Munich Festhaus
The Munich Festhaus at Expo 86.
Photo Credit Brad Wood ~ obLiterated

Being a former journalist my spidey senses were tingling… So I went on an investigation… I first found out the source of the wrong information was a book called VANCOUVER’S EXPO ’86 by Bill Cotter. But after looking at photos of Munich Festhaus on Flickr there is no way the lighthouse pub could be the Munich Festhaus. The Lighthouse Pub just wasn’t big enough… See this aerial view of The Festhaus is in red. You could fit three Lighthouse Pubs inside of that place.

So after a quick visit to the Sechelt Archives I was directed to check the newspaper archives of The Coast News via the historical newspaper database of community newspapers. To see if I could find news of the grand opening or an advertisement of the pub in the newspaper. I was foiled again because the two words Lighthouse and Pub were all too common in the long deceased community newspaper The Coast News and the fact that not all issues and editions of the paper have been digitized yet.

Not being able to find previously published evidence of how the Lighthouse Pub came from the Expo Lands to Sechelt. I finally gave  Nadina Van Egmond a phone call. She is still living on the Sunshine Coast and her husband Len Van Egmond was the original developer of the property.

She reported that Len purchased the buildings on a Rainy November Afternoon in 1986. The buildings that comprised the lighthouse were then deconstructed and moved piece by piece via BC Ferries to Sechelt and reconstructed on site.

A Gateway

She spoke about how Len saw the spaceship from the McDonalds and saw how to could be a Lighthouse if the wings were removed.

It was a two year process with the pub finally opening in 1988. Len Van Egmond passed away in 1993. But looking back Nadina suggest Len had a vision for what the Pub has now become:

“A gateway to Sechelt” ~ Nadina Van Egmond

I can’t disagree with her…

If you sit at the pub on any weekday afternoon and watch the traffic out on the water. It is a constant stream of boat traffic from up the inlet and float plane traffic from Vancouver, Richmond and Nanaimo. It’s one of the most unique combination of services I have found anywhere in the lower mainland.

Epilogue

China Gate Cafe
China Gate Cafe

I told Dale about my investigation and how there was some Erroneous Information about the history of the pub. He found the some photos in an old box of files from the day the China Gate Cafe. He scanned and sent them to me for upload to Wikipedia. These photos clearly show the pub was originally the China Gate Cafe.

Why did you do this? What was so important about the history of a pub?

I would have never written a blog post if it was just the construction of a pub… But I felt this was more then just a search about a place where people get a little tipsy… It was a fun treasure hunt of trivia, something to do on my days off from web design. But also this has more to do with Expo 86 then the pub… See my parents had seasons passes to the fair and we saw every pavilion, road every ride and memorized the location of every washroom of that fair… I think fondly of those days and wanted to re-visted memories of my childhood.

 

iGoogle Sad

Google Reader… We should have seen this coming…

But let me be clear I never used google reader. But what I did use every hour of every working day was iGoogle and its rss feeds.

It did a lot for me and served as my home page for years, yes years…

I made good use of the services offered to me via iGoogle and will be sad to see them go. RSS feeds on the left, weather in the centre. Translators on the right.
I made good use of the services offered to me via iGoogle and will be sad to see them go. RSS feeds on the left, weather in the centre. Translators on the right.

I had a very minimal apps / widget usage that included RSS feeds (in blue) from the global and mail and CBC along with weather widgets for Both Sechelt and Vancouver (red) and google translator and metric conversation tools (purple).

It was all the home page I ever needed for years and has remain unchanged throughout the launch of twitter, google wave, google +, etc….

First to go was the google weather API in late august of 2012. It was open but was unpublished so developers who used it did do at their own peril. The weather widgets of iGoogle still work but the API associated with them was closed long ago. Then word of the iGoogle shutdown. Now granted they did give us more than a year of warning. But this was a clear departure from the customize your own google experience to you’ll get what we give you.

So when I heard that google was shutting down their reader I was momentarily surprised but then I though “We’ll that figures…”

Gone are the days of the developer focused company, where customization of an open standard was common. Where don’t be evil was the unofficially company slogan. I still don’t think Google is evil. But it is certainly doing it’s own thing. I am not sure if I will ever be able to find a replacement to iGoogle. But my web habits will certainly change after it’s closure.

Also allow me a moment of pure speculation…

What is next to shut down from Google?

Will Google say…  Were not going to support jQuery libraries anymore… Or were not going to support google fonts anymore…

I am not saying any of this will actually happen… But why put your website in that position?

Which is why whenever I am asked. Yes, I embed all my font directly on the server when ever possible… Yes I use the embedded jQuery that comes with a WordPress install and yes I use an RSS reader that is based on my computer. And yes I used my own server to host all of email…

Why? Because I control the switch, And no external company has control over it and as were seeing once again… That is a very good idea…

Now if only I could find a decent replacement to my iGoogle home page.

The London 2012 Games was a real social sport

When the Olympics were in Vancouver in 2010, I volunteered and enjoyed connecting with other volunteers during and after the Games, mainly via Facebook. People have called the 2010 Games the first social Olympics, and while I agree with that, I think the London 2012 Games were the first to really take hold of the technology and run with it. Pun intended.

I have two stellar examples that demonstrate this.

My father and I were watching the men’s eight rowing from Eton Dorney and we kept seeing a large number of cyclists in the background following the rowers. Dad wondered who they were–members of the audience, judges, or crew members.

Meanwhile, I was wondering how the rowers at the front of the boats could hear the calls of the coxswains at the back of the boats.

Neither of  had participated in the sport, so I searched on Google for answers to our questions. I found more about the coxswains than I did about the cyclists, but not exactly what I wanted. During my search I came across the Twitter account for Rowing Canada and I sent my two queries in their direction.

The next day I found responses to both of the questions waiting for me.

Wow! Answers directed right to me. In the old days you had to rely on the TV announcer to provide everything and if he didn’t mention it you were left to ponder. (It certainly made for more lively conversation around our house about the amount of coaches every team has.) 🙂

The second example left me a little more starstruck.

I was watching the closing ceremonies live and I thought I would send out a thank you tweet to a number of Olympic athletes who were on Twitter and whom I had watched during the games.

Regardless of whether they won medals or not, I just wanted to say thanks for wearing the maple leaf. To my complete surprise, Simon Whitfield, triathlete and opening ceremonies flag bearer, replied back from the middle of the field during the closing ceremonies.

It was the first time I had ever watched a live event of this scale and communicated with a participant in this way. Although the Games were 7,578 km away, I felt a part of them. And even though it was only a small part, it was an exciting moment for me nonetheless.

These two examples show what kind of interaction, what kind of support we can show our athletes when they dedicate the vast majority of their lives to sport, hoping to represent their country in front of the world.

I look forward to the Sochi Games when I will be patriotically watching our athletes represent our home and native land. And knowing they are interacting directly with fans like me.

Fujifilm x10 Digital Camera

My first shoot with the Fuji X10

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed as a Featured Photographer for This is East Van – a community photography project that has its second book in production. As well, my web design company, 32spokes, was recently hired by Uprising Breads Bakery to provide some food photography. These things got me thinking about my camera equipment – and that it was high time for an upgrade. The last time I actually purchased professional gear was back in 2005 when I bagged a used Nikon D100.

I went to Mike Mander, the head of the digital department of Beau Photo in Vancouver, and spoke to him about my need for something with more going for it than my phone camera.

Mike told me about the Fuji X10, which he described as “The baby brother to the Fuji X100,” but with much better macro capabilities and the capacity to use the raw format. (Mike hasn’t lead me astray with any of his advice or suggestions in the past and it’s one of the reasons why my first stop is usually Beau Photo.) He piqued my interest and I asked if I could see one. Then he said it wasn’t going to be released for two months …

I put in a pre-order and waited, but not for long. In just shy of two weeks Mike called, saying my camera had arrived and it was one of only two in stock. I decided to take the X10 out for a test drive at the local Remembrance Day ceremonies in Sechelt.

The Cenotaph located at Sechelt BC
The cenotaph and wreaths before the ceremony

My first impression was that it’s a small but solid body with a visual viewfinder that’s actually large enough to be usable, along with a shutter release and zoom dial that are in easy reach when the camera is brought up to your eye.

I find the twist on and off feature of the camera ingenious and problematic. I love it when I am using the camera but if I want to turn the camera on I can’t do that without exposing the lens. I just have to hold down the playback button for a few seconds. (and thanks to steve for the clarification in the comments.)

One thing that amazed me about the X10 was its frames per second capacity for a camera in its price range. I set it to capture both jpg and raw formats at medium speed, which the manual states to be about 3 fps and it wasn’t far off. My beloved FM2 with the motor drive was only 2.5 fps and my F90X topped out at 3.5 fps. The technology has certainly come a long way over last couple years.

Sechelt Remembrance Day Ceremony - Less we Forget
The light and wind made for a beautiful ceremony

Once the Eye-Fi card was set up, I found the transfer process puzzling. It treats the raw and jpeg image types as different entities and wants to put them in different folders.

I ended up returning the Eye Fi card and just got a regular SD Card as it didn’t really work for me and it drained my battery quite quickly. I know Eye Fi works for other photographer I have talked with, but it just didn’t work for me.

A camera with very few minuses. But here are a few…

The NP-50 battery will last for an hour or two of shooting, but having a second battery on hand is certainly recommended.

The LH-X10 Lens hood does mount quite easily and accepts a standard 52mm filter. But once the lens hood is attached it does block the visual viewfinder a bit. Not a big miss, but worth a mention.

I also ended up returning the shoe mounted flash EF-42 and it was just far to large for the camera. I would say it is more like holding a feather and then putting a gorilla on top of. I felt it was completely unwieldy. I did some weight testing and the camera only weight 20mg more then the flash. I know a large flash can disrupt the balance of camera, but making a flash that weights almost as much camera is not well thought in my honest opinion by the folks at fuji.

I look forward to when Adobe and/or Apple add the X10 to their list of raw converters and to learning how to use the dynamic capture feature to its fullest potential. All in all, it feels great to have a new camera and I’m very pleased with the picture quality I’ve seen so far. I love the feeling of a real camera in my hands and I love the feeling of a shutter release with a hole in the middle. It is something that a phone just can’t deliver… the feel of a real camera in your hand.

PS: All the images displayed were captured on jpg and adjusted with Photoshop CS4.

John Biehler's MakerBot TK-421

The world of 3D printing… with John Biehler

John Biehler's Thing-o-Matic TK-421
John Biehler’s Thing-o-Matic TK-421 and a collection of objects he has made since he ordered the machine.

I was able to visit John Biehler and his  Thing-O-Matic by Maker Bot on Friday and I was pretty awestruck but the entire technology.

When I first saw John on Canada Day he only had a few samples with him from  his two weeks with the machine.

He is certainly the first and only person I know who owns on and, john correct me if I am wrong, but you ordered your bot he got his shortly after I saw it featured on the Colbert Report.

When I visited his home and saw the apply named TK-421 Thing-O-Matic he had a huge assortment of stuff he has tried and showed me a few amazing samples of what the technology is capable of.

John is also making a second more advanced 3D printer called a Prusa Mendel and most of the pieces are made from his original Thing-O-Matic.

This tech is not for the faint of heart as you have to assemble it yourself and John spent some considerable time learning how too maintain and operate the machine properly but if you have some computer tech hardware knowledge along with about $1200 cdn you can start 3D printing too…

The loaded question I had for John was could he print me something I was looking for?

I was looking for a cable holder for my office at home. I hadn’t needed one until recently, but a quick catalog check and I didn’t want to pay $10 for a piece of plastic I knew only cost at most a buck to produce.

With in seconds john had found a design on thingiverse, a vast catalog of designs that you can print. You can find everything from busts of Yoda and Steven Colbert to that cable holder you always wanted…

Keep the Change TK-421
The change I joking left on the table for the actual cost of the cable clips.

The software even tells John what it will cost him to produce the product.

“That be a total of 37 cents Robert, will that be Visa, Mastercard or Amex?”

Search in my pockets for some change I found 40 cents and left it on the table. We both had a chuckle over that… 20 minutes later I had the piece in my fingers.

John also has complete control over the density of the product and the speed it would be printed.

In closing 3-D printing is quite the technology and I Look forward to this technology advancing in the coming years. We’re along way away from having a Star Trek Replicator in our homes, but for the first time I seen something that can make a product upon request with in minutes…

The Cable Catcher s3 in both Green and Orange
The Cable Catcher s3 in both Green and Orange
Close up of cable clips
Close up photo of cable holder Photo by John Biehler using his new iPhone 4s