Please Explain AGO Policies

My wife and I renewed our lapsed AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) memberships this month and took our first trip to see the new galleries. I left the camera at home because I was fairly certain they had and still have a no photography policy. Upon checking in, I was reviewing their new policies and found myself pleased, perplexed and peeved at the revised list. The AGO Gallery Guidelines are now clearly laid out both online, at reception and within the visitor's guides. Kudos to the marketing person for trying to inject some positives in with all the negatives. Though this seems a bit patronizing to me as I'm critical of a few of these.

Protecting the Art

Keep a distance of one metre between you and the art.

This is a completely reasonable and understandable. If people are constantly breathing or getting their speech spit all over the art I would be upset as well. here are times I really would like to get closer to admire the details but we need to preserve these pieces.

Food and Drink

Food and drink are not permitted in the galleries.

Same as the distance rule. Plus, I don't think we want to have the smell and remnants of people's lunch strewn across the gallery. I would love to spend my lunch hour eating and enjoying fine art but the work comes first.

Cell Phones

Please turn your cell phone to the vibrate setting, and be respectful of other visitors when using your cell phone.

I believe this rule has been updated and I appreciate the AGO's recognition that their patrons can be trusted with a certain level of audible respect in the gallery. I received a very important phone call in the gallery today and quietly answered it and spoke such that I don't believe I disturbed the other guests enjoyment of the gallery. I think the policy of quiet should be added to the list if that's what they're going for as their was a particularly loud and obnoxious guest today that I tried to avoid.

Bags and Knapsacks

Bags, knapsacks, briefcases and parcels larger than 35 cm x 35 cm x 15 cm (14" x 14" x 6") are not permitted in the galleries.

I suspect this is a security measure for either explosive devices or theft. It's possible as well that large bags and items such as umbrellas (also forbidden) pose a risk to the pieces as people turn around and may be unaware of their bag's proximity to the art. A clarification on the website might be helpful though to explain why.


Photography is not permitted in the Art Gallery of Ontario.

This is the one I hate. Along with the other rules of the gallery there is absolutely no explanation for this rule. First, no flash photography is acceptable. Both because it may have a small deteriorating affect on the art (though this is debatable) but because it's just distracting. I would prefer if they had no flash photography instead. There are one to two staff members policing each gallery all the time. Surely they could have one or two at the entrance check that flashes are off or perhaps people could get some sort of wearable pass that certifies they've turned off their camera flash. Second, this surely can't be a copyright issue. Most of these pieces don't have a copyright and it's not like most people are capable of duplicating the work. MoMa allows you to freely photograph within the gallery and simply asks for no flashes. We captured some really great moments of our trip and now cherish the memory of MoMa, recommend it to all our friends when they visit and will return when we're back in New York City.


Before you sketch, please ask for guidelines at the Information Desk.

This one was new to me and strikes me as the silliest. The portion of this policy I believe I saw elsewhere is that you can sketch in pencil but not pen. I have no idea why you would be allowed to use pencil but not pen. As well, is there more to this sketch policy that they couldn't fit another few lines explaining it?

Video Surveillance

For the protection of visitors, staff and works of art, the Gallery is monitored by video surveillance.

This isn't so much a policy as it's just a notice that you're being filmed. I'd put security cameras in if I ran the gallery too so I don't have a problem with this.

And finally, the Security

I went into the gallery not having a camera nor a sketchbook, being fully aware of the rules and finding the staff watching the patrons like a hawk. In one instance, the guard noticed my wife taking out a notebook (she was jotting down the name of an artist) and I thought he was going to remind her about the "sketching" rule. Instead he had spotted the top of a closed water bottle in her purse and told her no drinking of beverages was allowed in the gallery. My wife noted that she wasn't drinking it and continued to peruse the pieces. But she and I both noted the off-putting nature of art guards hovering and observing your movements for the slightest infraction of the rules.

Some Explanation

There are clearly policies here that protect the artwork and the guests enjoyment of the art but I find a few of these to be downright restrictive considering the nature of the AGO, namely art. The new gallery is beautiful and I would have very much liked to photograph it and some of the incredible pieces in the contemporary wings to write about. So as an AGO member I will contact the AGO to see if they can shed some more light on these policies and provide an update.

My Top 10 iPhone Apps

Colleen Diamond is contemplating the iPhone switch. She asked me today what my favourite applications were. Here are my current top 10. 10.TimmyMe (Free) If you are Canadian, Tim Horton's is an institution. TimmyMe is a free locator that lists the five closet Tim Horton's to your current location. It will launch the Google Maps app to help you get there. There's also BucksMe their Starbucks version for $.99.

9. Lux Touch (Free) Games are plentiful on the iPhone so this may not be in my top 10 by next week but I am addicted to this iPhone version of the popular board game Risk. It pits you against four other computer players for a battle to control the planet without the annoying dice rolling. The only drawback is that it doesn't yet have a save function so you need to tuck in for about 45 minutes to an hour to win. Just pray you don't get a phone call in the middle of a game.

8. Google Mobile App (Free) There seemed to be very little value to the Google search app versus running Safari and typing into the Google search field, however Google has added an incredibly accurate voice recognition feature. I can often search much faster for items that are long to type or hard for me to remember the spelling. 37.2 degrees Celsius in Fahrenheit. Boom, 98.96 degrees Fahrenheit. Small, but useful. Plus this is a great demo app.

7. AirSharing ($6.99) When AirSharing first came out it was free and there are a bunch of substitutes but I use it more often. Air Sharing allows you to externally upload and browse files on your iPhone, which means that when you're on the go you can view the uploaded documents or share them with others through a web browser on a WiFi network. I use it to store my workout plan when I'm at the gym. I keep losing the paper versions.

6. Remote (Free) Use iTunes at home to play music? Use Remote to control it. Remote is made by Apple as a controller for iTunes on your Mac or Windows computer. It lets you browse your entire library and playlists. I use this so I don't have to run back to the computer everytime I need to change the song or adjust the volume.

5. Evernote (Free)

Evernote requires a bit more commitment than the average iPhone app as you need an Evernote account but it is the world's best note taking system. Apparently Evernote has the majority of its user base on the iPhone and for good reason. The iPhone version is handy and easy to use. It can do text, photo and voice notes. The entries are titled, tagged and uploaded to your online account. If you've taken a snapshot containing text their system will OCR the text as well. This gives you a fully indexed notes repository that you carry with your and can also be searched through the web or through the desktop version. It doesn't seem to translate voice notes but I have Jott and you can hook them together.

4. Shazam (Free)

The party trick favourite, Shazam is like magic. When a song is playing on the stereo, launch Shazam to sample the song for 15 seconds and it will tell you the song name and artist. It then lets you purchase the song right then from iTunes. I use it at restaurants, watching television, parties, clubs and bars to figure out what that song is and to impress the hell out of iPhone lookers.

3. Ace Tennis Online ($2.99)

My top game at the moment. Ace Tennis is a deceptively simple game that I crave whenever I have a few moments. You control your tennis player with your finger or thumb and control the angle of your shot by tiliting the iPhone. You can even play online against other Ace Tennis players, though so far the experience is a little bit sluggish compared to the computer opponent experience.

2. Twitterrific (Free, Premium is $9.99 with an extra theme and no ads)

I may get a lot of alternative suggestions for iPhone Twitter apps from readers but Twitterrific is probably the most popular Twitter client and gets the job done for me. Twitter is just plain addictive and Twitterrific cures the cravings. The iPhone still lacks background push notifications so until then apps like Twitterrific need to be checked regularly to get alerts. Probably best though, otherwise my iPhone would be beeping every 30 seconds.

1. NetNewsWire (Free)

The first application I installed and also the most used. NetNewsWire syncs with the original Mac version through NewsGator's free online service. It's a great way to catch up on my news feeds when I'm away from the desktop.

Flash 10 Still a Poor Performer on Macs and Linux

YouTube recently switched to a widescreen format and while browsing around to test out the quality I was still shocked at the poor performance of Flash on a Mac, specifically with video. The playback is jerky and constantly pauses in both Firefox and Safari. Restarting the browser helps a bit but by no means solves the problem.

I had recently downloaded Flash Player 10 (10,0,12,36 at the time of this post) and noticed a slight improvement in playback and performance but still not what I would consider acceptable for video. Ars Technica published an article in October benchmarking Flash Player 10. On a Mac Pro, Flash 10 used between 25% and 75% of CPU resources. On the same hardware running Windows it used 6% CPU. On my MacBook Pro 2.33GHz I see between 30%-45% CPU usage watching YouTube. The difference in performance here is enormous and I assume is the result of a product coded for Windows first and then ported to the Mac.

I haven't been able to find any peformance tweaks that would improve video playback but I did find a bug reported against Flash 10 for poor performance on the Mac in the Adobe Flash bug tracker.  Register a bug tracking account and vote it up please.

2.2 Podcasts - Right Order but Download Flaw

The iPhone 2.2 update brought a handful of new features including a few updates to the iPod application. I gladly realized after a day of listening to Podcasts that episodes appear in the order they were downloaded. This means that you can start at the oldest and not have to skip backwards to listen to the next episode in the sequence. A minor update but very welcome.

The most widely covered new iPod feature is the ability to download new Podcasts over the air directly to the iPod. Unfortunately it seems to have one critical flaw. If you don't have at least one episode of your subscribed podcasts left on your iPhone it doesn't list the show preventing you from checking and downloading new episodes. I subscribe to MacBreak Weekly but it's not listed as I deleted the shows from iTunes after having listened to them all.

I've checked the iPod settings and tried to figure out someway to access empty shows but it seems I'll have to conciously keep at least one episode around for each of my subscriptions for now.

Rogers un-connected calls?

For the past few weeks I've noticed a higher percentage of calls to my iPhone on Rogers that go straight to voicemail without ringing the phone. These occur in metro Toronto (at least) with full 3G signal strength. I am sometimes actively using the phone either with data or an application but more often than not the phone is simply sitting idle.

I know that the phone has not received the call as the "missed call" list remains unchanged but I receive the infamous Rogers missed call SMS usually followed by a voicemail.

I thought that this was just me but Jay Goldman had indicated that his wife was having this problem with her iPhone and he thinks that perhaps it's happening to him as well

I wanted to poll the Rogers subscriber base to see if they too are experiencing this and if it's only iPhone related or all phones.

Please comment or tweet me if you've experienced this as well.

The Developer Hat

Recently our small team's development schedule was seriously slipping. Although the Mythical Man Month tells us adding resources doesn't make a project go faster I had enough product and domain knowledge to speed things up and start coding. It's been been almost a year since I've been coding as part of a project and since that time I've felt something missing from my work life. Coding helps to round out my daily routine and brings out a youthful memory.

I've always found a great deal of satisfaction in building things. As a child I found playing with wooden blocks or Lego to be far more facinating than pre-designed toys. When I received my first computer I quickly tired of the one game that came with it and started learning how to program my own simple games.

Software allows you the freedom to build because it's very accessible but also extremely open. Programmers can easily get themselves into muddled code because software is so free form but we love the flexibility it offers.

Managing software development generally precludes you from being too involved in the code but it's nice to dip your toes in the water from time to time.

Home Depot Service

After an eternity of searching for a matching fume hood filter it turns out that I have to special order it from Home Depot. As I said before, service keeps me coming back and Elaine at Home Depot Leaside went above and beyond. I was transferred to her on the floor and she wasn't exactly the right rep but stepped over a few aisles to check stock. Finding none she determined that they don't carry it, took down my number and said she would follow up. Within minutes she called back indicating that she contacted Broan, how much it would be and to take my credit card number.

I inquired as to the the size, which she said she didn't have as it's not in their book but offered to follow-up. I told her it wasn't necessary as Broan had matched the filter to the hood by model number and I was just double-checking. But Elaine would have none of that! She called me back a few moments later saying she followed up with Broan and that they don't have the sizes in their system but confirmed the model number and confirmed my order with me again.

Home Depot, if you have an employee recognition system in place I'd like to nominate Elaine at your Leaside store. She went beyond the call of duty for customer service and made me a repeat customer.

Thanks Elaine!

Medical Myths

As the family know-it-all it is my responsibility to pepper conversations with almost useless knowledge and myth shattering news.

It is with great pleasure that I pass along these recent medical revelations. Here's the original study in the British Medical Journal.

  • There's a lack of medical evidence showing you need to down eight glasses of water daily.
  • We use every part of our brain, not just 10%.
  • Reading in dim light does not ruin your eyes.
  • Shaving does not cause hair to grow faster.
  • Eating turkey does not make you especially drowsy.
  • Cell phones are not dangerous in hospitals.

There is only anecdotal and no scientific evidence to suggest cell phones affect airplane equipment either but you don't really want your phone running at full power at 30,000 feet anyway.

Back to Camp

After missing a few democamps to put in time on my own software I managed to make it to DemoCamp15 held at UofT's Hart House.

The Great Hall is a fabulous room though not necessarily the best for presentations due to it's length and hard reflective surfaces making it a bit of an echo chamber. The projectors weren't co-operating but David grabbed a beer, Joey grabbed an accordion and we were patiently placated whilst the presenters and techs worked to get the systems back online. Thanks to Greg for venue and bar set-up. Always a welcome addition.

Pete Forde wins the award for best demo as he had a straight-forward overview, got right to the meat of his product and skilfully handled the follow-up questions. If you're doing web development check out Jester for client side code with Rails like ActiveRecord conventions. It works with Rails out of the box but supports JSON and XML.

The demos went a bit downhill after that. If I may offer constructive criticism because I really do want everyone to make more successful products and demos.

Aceora: I didn't understand why I would pay $19.95 for a currency converter or $9.95 for a tax calculator that doesn't round to two decimal places when I can fire up my mobile web browser and use something as simple as Google or use the calculator that I've had on my last three cell phones. That aside, the demo should be more concise by going directly to the "what's the pain" or "why I made this" and "what's the solution" or "check out why this is cool". Also, set your resolution lower when using a cell phone emulator. I don't think most of the audience could see what you were demoing.

OMESH Networks: Powerpoint presentations aren't allowed. Thanks to Pete for speaking up. I know the room felt bad for telling Liang to stop the Powerpoint and move on to the demo but we really wanted to look at all the flashing lights and see the promise of true wireless Mesh networking. I'd really like to see a more rehearsed demo that demonstrates the value of good mesh networking which overcomes the inherent latency and bandwidth problems. Conceptually I understood what was going on but in its current forms it's not compelling.

Ogrant: I wasn't as captivated by the demo but I'm clearly not in the target market. The product looks good and the audience was intrigued based on the questions afterwards. Perhaps focus on the efficiency of the process from the applicants point of view or one particular cool feature that sets you apart from the competition. I wanted to be more engaged.

ConceptShare: I love ConceptShare's product, I just wanted a more rehearsed walkthough of the new product features. It seemed a bit off the cuff walking through what appeared to be a random selection of features from the new product. 50% of the room was new as well so quickly reviewing the process from the first demo might have helped. That said I'm sold enough to check out the product again. Can you work Beta into the demo next time?

After the break we had the Ignite presentations. I haven't seen an Ignite presentation before but I was impressed and entertained. I think I'll give the win to Michael Bolton for his incredible energy but I have to give a tie for second place to Andy Walker and Rick Segal. John MacRitchie comes in a very close third as he lost a few points for all the excessive text on the slides but he really stayed on track managing to delivery an incredible amount of information. My biggest pet peeve with slide based presentations is overuse of text. Andy really drove home the fact that the slides should be there to deliver the overall message but not re-state what you're saying. He told the story while the slides made me think about the ramifications.

In the end it's easy to be an armchair quarterback and so I would like to thank the presenters for their courage to show their work and look forward to being on stage in the hopefully near future. Thanks to all the organizers and sponsors for doing such a great job as usual!

David is asking for feedback.

My submitted suggestions:
- test laptop projector compatibility ahead of time
- device demos should have a proper macro camera set-up or a clearly visible emulator
- can we vet presentations to ensure there will actually be a demo and that the presentation will be of a high quality?

Nuit Blanche 2007

Saturday night's Nuit Blanche was fantastic. I've uploaded my Nuit Blanche photos and was amazed by the number of Flickr photos streaming in as the morning moves on. I did a search for "Nuit Blanche 2007" and as I was paging I thought I was seeing either lots of duplicates or a Flickr bug. Turns out that as people are adding tagged images the pagination is constantly changing. This morning my search resulted in approximately 1,800 photos and is now approaching 3,000. Facinating.

Tim Hortons Pay Pass

During my morning commute I decided to stop by Tim Hortons. Their King and Victoria location is now accepting Mastercard and Mastercard's Pay Pass. Just no Interac. I suspect this is because Interac is too slow and would cause increased lineups and lost business or because Interac fees are too high for people purchasing coffee. Most stores have a minimum but I'm not sure if that's being enforced for Mastercard transactions.


Previously I have had serviced performed on my laptop at Carbon Computing but recently I decided to try out the Apple store Genius Bar when I suspected a battery problem on my MacBook Pro. I've had the machine less than a year but the battery was already down to less than an hour charge and the meter was incorrectly estimating the time left. This after applying a recent battery firmware update and reading an advisory that suggested my battery may need replacing.

I signed up the previous day online, arrived at the Apple store at the Eaton Centre the next morning and saw my name up on the board in slot number two. I took a seat at the bar with my Tim Hortons morning coffee and waited only a short period before the next Genius Jorge helped me out.

After explaining the problem, showing Jorge the advisory and my System Profiler power details he determined that my full charge capacity was rather low (<3500 mAh) for the age of my battery considering I only had 118 charge cycles. He quickly updated my registration information, swapped out the battery with a new one and provided some helpful initial calibration advice before I was on my way.

This is how computer service should be. Thank you Apple and thank you Jorge!

Why Starbucks

Any organization that becomes sufficiently large such as McDonald's, Microsoft and now even Apple will have the soulless corporate persona automatically associated with them. Thus is the image that Starbucks must confront. In addition, Starbucks is viewed as the overpriced yuppie coffee shop that clueless young urban professionals frequent for whatever vain reason it appeals to them.

I love Starbucks, but it's not for the atmosphere that the design creates and it's certainly not for the standard French roast coffee that they serve because I actually dislike that particular beverage. I will venture to a Starbucks over a Timothy's, Second Cup or a lesser known haunt when it comes to a fancy latte or mocha because of one thing. Service.

Yesterday afternoon I dropped into the local Starbucks and ordered my usual weekend Grande Mocha with Whip. The store was quiet and I was the only one in the queue. The service was upbeat and with a smile as usual and the order was promptly shouted to the barista standing by. I moved to the pickup counter to wait for my beverage and noticed that the barista had left her station and was tending to other duties.

Apparently the barista on duty had not heard my order placed and thus the empty cup with my order on it went unnoticed. I waited for about two minutes before the server noticed me and asked if they could help me. Upon realizing that my order had gone unfulfilled for two minutes the server, without batting an eye, apologized and immediately presented me with a free beverage coupon before promptly filling out my awaiting order.

That one small gesture is the perfect example of why I come back. I'm pretty easy going. People forget things and stuff falls through the cracks sometimes so I don't sweat it so I wouldn't have protested or thought about needing to be compensated. But Starbucks excels at customer service. They know that since I'm paying upwards of $3 a coffee at regular intervals it makes sense to rectify their mistakes immediately and properly.

Consistently good service is the reason I will now pass by a Timothy's or a Second Cup when looking for a fancy coffee and a spot to get online.

I shall endeavour to remember my Starbucks experiences during future client interactions and engagements.

DemoCamp Gender Bias

Jennifer McCarthy tables the issues of gender bias at DemoCamp events. I don't think anyone would disagree with Jennifer that every DemoCamp is biased towards men. Jennifer believes that our stereotypes of men and women in technology are the basis and that "We are all well aware of the idea that men are simply better at math and computers then women".

Now call me naive, but I've never heard the stereotype put this way before. I would rather characterize it as men like gadgets more. This is a personal observation rather than fact but if true, its amplified by DemoCamp as it's partly a gadget demo before a product demo.

When I attended Mesh, my business partner Jay pointed out the much more balanced ratio of women to men as is generally viewed in technology related conferences. I agreed but realized that Mesh was marketed not just to technology but at media, marketing and business in general as the name suggests.

Imbalanced gender ratios in technology are nothing new. I would be surprised if there were more than five women in my graduating computer science class. The issue is why. What are the aspects of technology as is that doesn't not attract as many women as men?

If we wish to make DemoCamp more attractive to women we have to ask what aspects other than the dearth of men are making the event undesirable. I would suggest that DemoCamp requires a more holistic approach factoring in product applications, design and marketing. Unfortunately because of the format of DemoCamp we can't enforce this but it can certainly be encouraged by questions from the audience. We can force the presenters to address issues beyond the "coolness" of their product and focus on the applications and implications.

Am I even close here or am I falling into the same stereotypical observations that my male colleagues are?

Australian copyright law vs robots.txt

Apparently Australia is attempting to enact a law which acordding to Google seems to require search engines to request permission before indexing a website.

"The Australian government says the new laws are designed to keep up with the fast pace of technological change"

Here's how content providers can keep up with the fast pace of change:

User-agent: *Disallow: /

Apparently adding this simple text to a robots.txt file on a corporate website is too much for lobbyists' clients in Australia.