Archive for July, 2007

Google Image Labeler – Using the User

July 26, 2007

Have you ever tried out Google Image Labeler? I had never heard of it, and I’m not sure if it’s new or not.

Doing a quick image search on something, I was presented with the question at the bottom of my results asking whether or not I wanted to try it. Curious, I clicked the link to find out what it was. According to their web page, Image Labeler is:

“…a new feature of Google Image Search that allows you to label random images to help improve the quality of Google’s image search results.”

So you get paired up with a partner and for two minutes you are shown a variety of images. As each image is presented, you (and your partner) enter plausible labels for the image. When you and your partner match up on a given label, you move on to the next picture. At the end of it, you’re presented with a score and ranking.

It’s no surprise to me that Google has given a neat way to help improve their search product and involve the user in the process. They don’t hide the fact that yes, they are using you to improve their search. I took a few minutes out to do it and it was quite fun to see how high I could get my score. It didn’t bother me in the least. How effective it is at improving their product I don’t know.

[note: I’m assuming you need a google account to use Image Labeler – not entirely sure]

DIY Linux Box (literally!)

July 26, 2007

Anybody who has ever seen the Red Green show will have come to know the full potential of duct tape. If Red Green wanted a linux box, you just know he would have made it himself, and it would have looked something like this one.

[via digg]

Screencasting Workflow Mess

July 24, 2007

I was a bit overwhelmed last night putting together my last screencast. The actual recording of the screencast was done early last week and took about 25 minutes. But last night I set about getting things in order to upload things to the site and to YouTube. Needless to say the whole process was a dog’s breakfast and took me several times longer than it should have.

So in order to try and get a handle on it, I’ve used Gliffy to do up a simple flowchart (see below) of the shameful process I used. You will plainly see that I don’t know what I’m doing. But that shouldn’t be news to anyone. 😉

Have a look if your interested and give me some suggestions if you see some step or process that is plainly retarded.

I’m going to try and streamline this mess so that it doesn’t take me 3 hours of fiddling to get things online once I finish recording a screencast. We’ll see how that goes. 😉

Device Graphic – Inkscape Screencast

July 24, 2007

Amidst the quagmire heathenx and I are calling ‘Codec Hell’, I did manage to get another Inkscape screencast done. This one demonstrates the use of Inkscape’s guides, gradients and some shadow effects to come up with a decent looking 3D device graphic. This one is about 17 minutes long (my longest to date), so I had to split the YouTube version into two parts. Hopefully I won’t lose anybody at the halfway mark. With their 10min/100MB limitation it makes screencasting about something substantial a bit of a tough one. But that’s one of the reasons we started So if you want to see the whole video in one piece, and in significantly higher quality, check it out there instead.

Also, please let us know via our blog at or via the comments here if you have any trouble watching the video.

New organic food logo…

July 23, 2007

The Canadian Federal Government has come up with a new logo for organic foods that have been tested and certified by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

I have nothing against organic foods or the logo, but at first glance it reminded me of the Maple Leaf Foods logo for some reason.

Even though you'd find it tough to argue that the two logos were anything but distinct, there was enough there, that as a Canadian consumer, it's the first thing I thought of. And if that feeling is widespread, it might be quite beneficial to Maple Leaf Foods Inc. in the long run. Lucky break maybe.

Police Reunion Tour – Awesome Concert

July 23, 2007

A nice last minute opportunity gave the wife and I floor seats (16th row) for the Police reunion tour concert in Toronto tonight. I'm not always a big fan of rock shows, but this was awesome awesome awesome!

Even the opening band (Fiction Plane, fronted by Sting's son Joe Sumner) was pretty darn good. He's got a very strong voice reminiscent of his father and Bono. There was a lot of young middle-agers there. And while it had its fair share of cougars and cougar-wannabes, there is something to be said for an audience who's there to sing and dance without the aggression and stupidity of youth. Not quite as friendly and nice as the beautiful James Taylor concert we went to years back, but very nice nonetheless.

The Police have always been one of my favourite bands. And I think they've stood the test of time so well because of their complete lack of schtick and the fact that their music has always been so unique and honest. Just three guys rocking out without the hairspray, pyrotechnics and gimmicks.

They played for about 90 minutes and then did two encores as well. I could have sat there just watching Stewart Copeland drum all friggin' night. What an amazing band – very very impressed.

My favourite of the night: Truth Hits Everybody (from the album Outlandos d'Amour). I hadn't heard this song for years, but it brought me right back to a 1982 trip down to Florida in the back seat of my uncle's Monte Carlo.. tape deck blaring. 🙂

If you get a chance to see them on this reunion tour, I highly recommend it.

Intel Onboard Graphics Performance Upgrade in 10 Seconds

July 21, 2007

I’ve had this desktop computer for two and a half years. I’ve been running Linux pretty steadily since October 2005.

Today, July 20, 2007, I figured out that I could enter the bios upon bootup and increase my onboard video card’s shared ram (default 8MB) to 32MB. This took a total of about 10 seconds.

Performance is now significantly improved everywhere on my system.

I, faithful reader, am an idiot.

So if you own a pc with an Intel onboard graphics chip (mine is an i915) and it uses shared ram, do yourself a favour and check if your bios will let you increase the default amount.

Now excuse me while I go tar and feather myself.

8 Things You Didn’t Know About Me

July 18, 2007

Earl Moore has tagged me to supply Eight Things Previously Unknown. They ended up being a bit wordier than expected so apologies there, but let’s get down to it:

1. I eat a bowl of cereal almost every night before bed. I’ve done this since I was probably 5 years old. Special K – lightly sugared, is my absolute favourite.

2. Out of high school, I applied for Architecture at 3 schools. One of them accepted me, but at that time they were not fully accredited with the Ontario Architect’s Association (they are now). I declined and went into engineering in Ottawa instead. The rest is (a lower paying) history. 🙂

3. I worked for my father’s company in plumbing and pipe-fitting work for years. My first duties were answering phones, filing, and accounting/payroll ledger work starting at the tender age of 13. I moved on to actual construction work at 16. From the start I learned that an honest day’s work is something to value. Since then I’ve always respected hard honest work much more than easy money. Spoiled son of the boss, I was not. My dad wouldn’t have put up with that crap.

4. I have an older brother (2 years older). We got along well (and still do) but in a lot of ways we’re as different as the day is long. He’s a licensed plumber and moved out west to Edmonton several years ago. We speak about twice a year on the phone. He’s a man of few words, always has been. But still we get along remarkably well. We accepted our differences long long ago.

5. My father was born in northern Italy, my Mom in Manitoba. I only ever had an Italian set of grandparents since my Mom was basically abandoned as a young teen by her family. And although some of her family is still alive, I’ve never met them and never care to. I think my Dad, Mom and brother went out to visit them before I was born, and we’ve never ever been back since – I guess that tells you how well it went. 😉 Do I feel at a loss? No. Not at all. My mom has always been remarkably strong and self-sufficient. I love that. I can’t speak much Italian and my Nonno and Nonna couldn’t speak much English, so I never really had the typical grandparent-grandchild relationship that most others did.

6. At age 9 I was at a week long summer hockey camp. On a dare, I picked up a pay phone, dialed zero and said ‘There’s a bomb here..’ and quickly hung up. I almost soiled myself 15 minutes later when police and fire trucks arrived to evacuate the community centre. I was never caught, and I never made another crank call again. Boy, you can be remarkably stupid at nine years of age.

7. After graduating from university, my first engineering job involved being a technical specialist for a startup company developing a new extruded concrete building product. The money was great and I had my own big office. I thought I had it made. After 4 months it turned out that the owners were trying to take the company public and were swindling shareholders in the process. It all ended for me during a shareholders meeting at a downtown hotel. I sat in the audience and was called out by the owner to tell everyone when the product testing certification was finally going to be completed. He expected me to say one month. I told the truth and said six months. I was let go shortly after. I was glad I left. The owner ended up in big trouble with the securities commission and was even sentenced to some jail time. Talk about a rude introduction into the engineering world.

8. I did all kinds of semi-embarrassing things as a kid. I learned to knit at age 5, took tap dancing lessons around age 7, accordion around age 7 or 8 too. I learned to do laundry well before 8 years of age and could cook a decent supper shortly thereafter. At around 7 years old, using one of my mother’s cookbooks as a guide, I made and baked an apple pie from scratch while she napped (Mom was a shift-working emergency nurse). She told me the kitchen was an absolute disaster area but the pie tasted great. As a result of this type of upbringing, one of the things I always encourage of our daughter is self-reliance. Don’t wait to be taught something if you can learn it yourself.

Now to tag 5 others to share their own 8 unknown things. Feel free to ignore if you’re not into meme’s or if you’ve done it already:

Perwari Naan

Donncha O Caoimh

David Airey

Will Simpson

Rich Burridge

My new favourite blog post…

July 17, 2007

You've got to hand it to Dave Slusher. He took all of my heightening disinterest in Web2.0, social networks and  startups and splattered it all out in one fell swoop. Bravo sir, Bravo!

Three cheers for Dave!!

iPhone’s style was originally based on something else…

July 17, 2007

… the Zenith Space Command remote control from the 70’s! Plink!

Wonderfully chunky, rounded-rectangle device. Friends of the family had one and I was jealous. We were still using one of those rectangular brown plastic boxes with the 20 buttons along the top (kuh-chunk!) with the wire running to the tv.

Little did I know at the time, but the Space Command remote didn’t even require batteries. It worked on sound frequencies, something akin to a tuning fork. To me it was very cool. Almost like something from Space: 1999.

I wax nostalgic.. Sorry.