End to End

Flying has generally been reduced to a commodity in most consumer's eyes. They search multiple sites over the period of 20-30 days looking for changes in prices, gunning for the lowest fare. Airlines in turns have become ruthless at reducing upfront costs and charging for extras such as baggage, meals, drinks, seat upgrades and even charging for the loo. This has led to razor thin margins for airlines and frequent bankruptcies when the economy has dips an airline can't absorb.

Lately our team at work has been contemplating how to stand out from competitors in a world of highly competitive pricing. As someone who flies a few times during the year, price is a factor but it is not the only one and not the highest. If a flight is for business for instance I will consider service and convenience as more important than cost when asked to spend even a few hundred dollars more. I will opt for Porter Airlines if I can fly out of Toronto's Billy Bishop airport located downtown or I'll choose Westjet or Air Canada for travel in North America before choosing a US based airline.

Case in point. I flew Porter Airlines to Montreal for an early morning business trip last week. I was telling my colleague on the flight down how people frequently leave their iPads in the seat pouch when they depart the plane because it's so convenient to put them there and they aren't obtrusive so it's easy to forget about it. An hour after touching down in Montreal we were at a cafe before the big meeting I realized rather ironically that my MacBook Air was left in the seat pocket back on the plane. I panicked and quickly called Porter Airlines baggage claim to see if anyone had found it. Sure enough the agent on the phone after confirming my flight, seat and name said that the file had a note that a MacBook Air was left in the seat pocket and could be picked up at the check in desk before the return flight. When I got to the airport the check in staff all knew about the laptop and I waited a few short minutes while an agent retrieved it from security. Perfectly executed customer service. I thanked the staff and was on my way. I was also sure to check the pocket before departing the plane in Toronto.

Compare this to United Airlines. A friend of mine and her husband were travelling and she forgot her iPhone on the plane. Her husband, using Find My iPhone on his iPhone was able to pinpoint her phone at the end of the gangway, presumably still on the plane. Her request to United agents to let her retrieve it were denied, they wouldn't get it for her and to this day it was never returned.

Contrast this with my experience. She was still at the airport and couldn't convince United agents to actually retrieve it where as I had a note on file about the specific make of computer to properly identify it and tied to my name. I suspect the only reason they didn't call my cell phone is that our office manager booked the flight and didn't provide it.

This isn't the first story I've heard of United's terrible service. Besides numerous anecdotes about rebooked flights we have the famous United Breaks Guitars and United losing a 10 year old girl. The common element to all of these is that United Airlines employees and thus by definition United Airlines simply does not care about their customers or their level of service. They are providing a service solely based on cost seemingly at the expense of all other service factors. Their brand to me is now synonymous with apathy and low cost simply isn't a factor.

It is quite clear to me that while most travel websites and travel advertising constantly focus on price there is a tremendous opportunity to differentiate your product by experience and service. The majority of time we spend on our trips is in destination and so consumers will rightly focus on the value of the resort or hotel but a flight is the beginning and end so it will leave a lasting impression in your mind. I frequently relax when I'm at a hotel and begin to feel the tension return as I make my way to the airport and fly home. The entire end to end experience needs to be rethought as a consumer's final emotional impression of the trip may be disproportionately associated with the flight or even a taxi ride home. But when we're think about an end to end experience, as a travel agency we must always remember the experience starts with us.

Path, Privacy and Permission

Earlier today Arun Thampi published his investigation into data uploaded by the iPhone application Path. Arun was participating in a hackathon when he noticed Path making an API call that indicated it was submitting a contact from his phone. Upon further inspection it was determined that Path had uploaded his entire address book to their servers.

Dave Morin the CEO of Path quickly responded on Arun's blog when negative sentiment started spreading online about Path's contact uploading.

"Arun, thanks for pointing this out. We actually think this is an important conversation and take this very seriously. We upload the address book to our servers in order to help the user find and connect to their friends and family on Path quickly and effeciently as well as to notify them when friends and family join Path. Nothing more.

We believe that this type of friend finding & matching is important to the industry and that it is important that users clearly understand it, so we proactively rolled out an opt-in for this on our Android client a few weeks ago and are rolling out the opt-in for this in 2.0.6 of our iOS Client, pending App Store approval.

Dave Morin

Co-Founder and CEO of Path"

The general sentiment on Twitter at least is that Path shouldn't be doing this or at the very least should be asking user's permission before uploading their entire address book. I don't know Dave but it appears from his swift response and continued response on Twitter that this was not a nefarious use of data and truly was designed to enhance the user experience. Dave seems like a stand-up guy and Path will weather this, but it does bring up a good lesson for those developing applications be they web apps or mobile apps.

You must put yourselves in the shoes of the user and respect them.

At my previous job we investigated the use of aggregated, largely anonymous data to compare an individual to a larger peer set. This was essentially utility consumption data (electricity and natural gas) that would be aggregated anonymously such that a peer comparing it would never see the original data points but only see three aggregate comparison groups to their own consumption. We didn't collect names or even specific addresses but we encountered enormous pushback from various partners that insisted this data could not be shared without explicit user permission.

As a developer and prolific user of online and mobile applications this seemed overly protective and pessimistic. I was initially not able to put myself in the customer's position. Personal data, any personal data carries with it details about someone's life. Potentially damaging or life threatening secrets in the case of who you might have in your address book. 99.9% of the time contact lists and information like energy consumption are probably benign but the customer doesn't know how that information is stored or the entirety of its use.

I think people are concerned for the most part about the things they can't conceive of, not the things they can. Add to that the general and justifiable mistrust of companies and you can see why many of the comments in Arrun's blog post are in my opinion exceedingly over the top in terms of criticism towards Path.

I believe Path are taking the right approach. 1. Admit to the mistake, quickly and honestly 2. Deal with feedback in a calm and professional manner 3. Define how you will address the problem

Developers need to be conscious of the information they're collecting. Keep it to a minimum and ensure your motivations are to improve the experience for the user. Ensure that you're explaining your reasons clearly and always ask for permission.

Update: Path has issued an update to the app and a statement that they will remove all uploaded contact information and have added an opt-in prompt in the new version when you add a contact.

Thank You Zerofootprint

A little more than three years ago Zerofootprint Software Inc. was born out of the not-for-profit Zerofootprint to service the burgeoning green house gas measurement market. Radiant Core, the company I founded along with Jay Goldman became Zerofootprint Software's initial development team and for the first time I lead a development team on the client side rather than the agency side of software development.  

I have learned a great deal about software development in the past three years. The most important lessons have been less about programming and more about the management of people, be that downward, upward or sideways within an organization. The nature of the rapidly evolving green market caused us to have to continually refocus and redefine the products in order to meet changes in legislation or lack thereof and new market opportunities. No two start-ups are alike and although I had previously been in two others this lesson was again apparent at Zerofootprint where new challenges were constantly keeping me on my toes and leading to constant self-discovery.
Along with its products the people at Zerofootprint have changed as well. I want to publicly thank the entire team at Zerofootprint including past employees, current employees and contractors that I have worked with. Each of them have contributed a portion of their knowledge to my learning experience that I will take forward. From all of them I have learned that the start-up is the employee. These are not large bureaucratic organizations that won't notice a few people that drag it off course. The start-up, due to its size and position must engage all of its employees or risk its demise. Each employee needs to understand they directly affect the outcome of the organization and must continually participate in direction and performance. The current group at Zerofootprint is fully equipped to handle this challenge and I have tremendous confidence in their ability to execute.
I recently had the opportunity to work with a former client from Radiant Core in the travel industry that I simply could not pass up and thus last week my time at Zerofootprint Software came to an end, ready to meet new challenges starting next week. I will take forward all that I have learned in the past three years and move forward fondly remembering the time I had at Zerofootprint.
Lastly, the time spent at an environmentally focused company have profoundly changed the way I look at the world and the choices I make. Although I still continue to strive to be green I will always consider the ramifications of my consumption in a far more critical way. That above all is perhaps the greatest impact Zerofootprint has made on my life.

The Warehouse - the difference between storage and memory

Every now and then I provide computer advice to friends and family. Eventually the subject of their computer's performance comes up whereby I state that the most cost effective improvement to a computer's speed is more memory. This inevitably leads to a disambiguation between memory and storage space. So for the record, here is the difference;

Memory is the working area of your computer and the hard drive is the storage area. The best analogy I can provide is a warehouse. 

In a warehouse you have floor space and shelf space. When you need to access a package you take it off the shelf, put it down on the floor, open the box and work with the item. When complete you put the item back on the shelf. A computer's hard drive and memory are analogous. The hard drive is the shelving and the memory is the floor space. There is a noticeable amount time between telling a program to run and that program being available to work with. Like shelf space, a hard drive is optimized for storage and not working with files. The process to retrieve and return items to a shelf is much more time consuming than moving them around on the floor. Memory is designed to be very fast and as such is relatively expensive compared to the space space on a hard drive. So similar to a warehouse there is much more shelf space compared to floor space.
The reason I say that adding more memory to a computer will make it faster is similar to the warehouse floorspace. As you take items off the shelf the floor becomes crowded. Eventually you can't take anything else off the shelf without putting something back because the floor is full. A computer has this problem as well. Eventually you can't run anymore programs because the memory becomes full. Computers, much like in a warehouse get around this problem by putting programs back onto the shelf in a special area called swap space. As I mentioned, the shelf space is much slower so as you switch between applications the computer starts to react much slower as it has to put an item on the shelf and take the requested item off.
By adding more memory or floor space to a computer you have more room to work and the computer will spend less time swapping (1) items back to the shelf or hard drive.
A as corollary, if you run out of space to store your application or files such as a glut of digital photos or home movies you need more shelf space and have to get a bigger hard drive. Typically though people run out of memory before they run out of storage space. This is largely due to the fact that each successive version of an application tends to get bigger requiring more memory or floor space when upgrading and users tend to run more programs simultaneously the longer they use their computer forgetting to shut down unused programs or getting more comfortable with multi-tasking.
(1) Computer scientists and geeks will no doubt want to correct the difference between traditional swapping and paging but that clearly doesn't matter for the sake of this article.

Configuring the ZTE MF668 HSPA Rocket Mobile Internet Stick on Snow Leopard

I'm posting this for the other poor souls who've purchase a Rogers ZTE MF668 HSPA Rocket Mobile Internet Stick and can't get it to connect using Snow Leopard. 1. Attach the stick to the computer. It should appear as a mounted volume. Run the Connection Manager install program to install the drivers. If you can't see this they may already be installed but you can download and install from Rogers the ZTE MF668 MAC OS 10.4 Software.

2. After the install, go into System Preferences > Network. Unplug and plug back in the stick to ensure the device is identified properly. Two devices should appear, ZTEUSBModem and ZTEUSBATPort. Follow the next to steps for each. (Note: the Rocket Stick should have a red light that turns blue when successfully on the network.)

3. Select the device and enter wapuser1 for the Account Name and wap for the Password

4. Click the Advanced... button and in the Modem tab that appears select Generic for the Vendor and GPRS (GSM/3G) for the Model. Enter internet.com for the APN and leave CID at 1. Click OK to finalize the Modem settings.

5. Click the Apply button to apply these settings and repeat steps 3 and 4 for the second device.

6. Select the ZTEUSBModem and click the Connect button to test. If all goes well you should be connected within 15 seconds.

7. Disconnect and exit System Preferences and use the Connection Manager to test the connection again. You can connect using either but the connection manager is slightly easier to open and connect with especially if the end user isn't that technical.

Weak Passwords

You can read this rather detailed Lifehacker article on Weak Passwords by John Pozadzides or you can simply follow these rules.

  1. Change all your passwords to be a minimum of eight characters long
  2. The password must be a mix of lower case letters, upper case letters, numbers and special characters (e.g. !#@$%^&*)
  3. Do not use similar passwords for all your accounts. If one is compromised it's more likely that all of them will be

Combinatorics can be surprising. Going from seven characters to eight characters using rule 2 increases the possible time to crack your password from two years to two centuries.

Smitten Kitchen

My new favourite website is a feast for the stomach and the eyes, Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman with assistance from her husband Alex. I have it on my RSS feed list but you have to visit the site to appreciate the labour of love that goes into this site. I'm going to try to make at least one of these recipes a week. I'm not sure if Deb is going for a cookbook after this but the photos that accompany these recipes are incredibly beautiful. Willam Sonoma needs to get in there before the ad rates go up. Follow on Twitter @smittenkitchen and Facebook. Great work Deb!

Giving Back

I recently started using the mobile location application / game Foursquare. It allows you to share your location with friends and earn points and badges for how often you share. Foursquare also allows you to integrate with your Twitter account to announce when you've "checked in" at a location, earned a badge or earned the status of "mayor" at a particular location. I had thought this was all great fun until Mike Shaver popped up on my Twitter feed.

Foursquare Shaver Unfollow

I wouldn't say that I have a lot of followers on Twitter. 200 people seems like a lot but I'm sure a great deal is SPAM related so when someone like Shaver un-follows it makes me pause to assess the situation.

Twitter can be great fun to let your followers know what you're up to, where you are, what your eat or what's bugging you. There comes a time, however when you have to give back to the community. This applies not only to Twitter but to all internet content. If you're not creating and sharing, you're not adding to the community.

Also for what it's worth, I occasionally update Foursquare but have yet to figure out the long term value proposition.

Chest Pain at Toronto General

4:00PM - At the office. Still experiencing mild chest pains from the night before. These don't seem heart related but I decided to called Telehealth Ontario who had a nurse call me back five minutes later. Ran through a series of standard questions relating to chest pain and advised me to visit emergency at my local hospital even though it didn't sound like a heart event. 4:30PM - Leave office and walk to Toronto General Hospital

5:00PM - Arrive at Toronto General Hospital. Exterior construction keeps me searching for an entrance for five minutes.

5:05PM - Inspect the multi-stage process for seeing someone in emergency. Stage 1 - sign out form at triage station Stage 2 - wait in triage waiting area Stage 3 - consult with triage nurse Stage 4 - wait for registration in triage area Stage 5 - register Stage 6 - wait for doctor

5:15PM - Waiting for registration. Several people here. "Jeffery" is inibriated with a swollen and probably broken left hand which he announces to everyone in waiting is a result of punching a locked door.

5:20PM - "Rodney", inibriated, is brought in by EMT team strapped to stretcher. He is being told to behave.

5:25PM - Women asks EMT why her purse is humming. (Purse is not humming. There is a humming noise in the room from the ventelation system).

5:30PM - See triage nurse.

5:32PM - In response to my "I'm alergic to nuts" answer I'm branded with a red wristband that simply says "NUTS". I'm hoping the staff know this is an allergy and not my assessed mental state.

5:35PM - Register after a brief stage 4.

5:40PM - Jeffery believes Rodney is talking about him and he starts yelling explicatives in Rodney's direction.

5:50PM - Now at stage 6 waiting to be called. Rodney has been moved in and Jeffery leaves hospital obviously perturbed he had to wait so long. Hand is presumeably still broken as he did not see anyone.

6:00PM - Called by triage nurse to go in. Yes!

6:01PM - Arrive inside emergency room area only to be told that triage nurse made a mistake and there are no waiting rooms. No!

6:02PM - Waiting in hallway chair. Hey, Rodney is nearby sleeping it off! 20 something patient, Grant, waiting with his mom next to me.

6:10PM - Waiting. Realizing there appear to be several more stages to this game.

6:10PM - Rodney is awoken by nurse who is clearly not happy with the prospect that she has to clean him up as she announces to her colleagues that he's soaken wet.

6:15PM - Rodney protests but she eventually gets his wet shirt off (yes, I thought something else too) and gets him to put on a hospital gown and blankets.

6:20PM - Rodney continues to sleep it off.

6:25PM - Rodney wanders off to the bathroom.

6:30PM - Rodney returns.

6:35PM - Nurse asks me for a urine sample.

6:36PM - Bathroom was one Rodney used. Not pretty.

6:37PM - Realize that the name on top of the now complete urine sample is not my name. Hopefully it's the doctors?

6:39PM - Confirm that I was confused with Grant 20-somthing next to me. Now know Grant's last name. Sorry for stealing your sample bottle!

6:40PM - Let Christie know via text that I will confirm the nurses know who I am before accepting needles and medication.

5:50PM - Confirm with nurse that they're just busy and have not forgotten me.

7:00PM - Rodney now trying to steal medical supplies and disrupt things by dropping a medical waste bin on the ground. Nurse are oblivious to this and seem to be confused after I tell them.

7:05PM - Receive panicked tech related email from work. "Help to retrieve a deleted file!" Sorry, busy in emergency, please call our IT support firm.

7:10PM - Curious to see if I can read the eye chart bottom line from the required ten feed distance. Check!

7:15PM - Cell battery running low. Boot laptop to juice cell phone from laptop battery. Have to keep Christie informed.

7:20PM - Laptop battery now low from leeching cell phone.

7:30PM - UHN - Wireless Guest Network. Score!

7:31PM - Password required. THIS is how you treat your guests?

7:35PM - Waiting. Writing.

7:45PM - Waiting.

7:50PM - Start working on code. No wireless will make this less productive.

8:05PM - Noticing that even with all the signs, charts and process, nurses still seem to be confused as to who is in what room at what stage for what reason. Not inspiring confidence in the process. It seems like a busy night.

8:07PM - Now past the three hour mark.

8:15PM - Starting to think about the dinner I'm not having.

8:20PM - Laptop battery almost dead. Cell phone battery at 80%.

8:25PM - Nurse asked if I'd seen a doctor yet. Nope. Thinks perhaps my chart was misplaced after a doctor picked it up. Great. Checking to see who's got my chart.

8:30PM - Doctor sees me in the hall and performs brief examination. Examination reveals little. Possibly muscle related based on symptoms related to movement. X-Ray and blood work ordered

9:05PM - Four hours!

9:35PM - Brought to exam room. Confirmed they know who I am.

9:45PM - ECG and blood work.

9:50PM. - Gown for X-Ray.

10:00PM - Waiting at X-Ray. Now five hours.

10:15PM - X-Ray lady returns.

10:20PM - X-Ray lady leaves for the night saying "someone will be with you as soon as possible."

10:30PM - X-Ray dude shows up.

10:35PM - X-Ray taken. Dude apologized for wait. Busy night.

10:45PM - One hour since blood work.

10:50PM - Rodney is awake now. Laughing his ass off. Go back to sleep Rodney.

11:00 - 6 hours! Doctor says 10 minutes to diagnosis.

11:20PM - Diagnosis, muscle pain. Not through an injury, could be stress  Wait a few days.

11:22PM - Discharged! Night Rodney.

My Road to HD

For years I've watched with envy as others purchased their high definition flat screen televisions. Then a few weeks before Christmas my wife remarked that HD televisions had come down in price and would we be interested in purchasing one? Yes we would. We're big movie watchers and have grown to love our PVR for prime time shows. Those two areas were reason enough for me to jump into the fray. We were suddenly exposed to a world of a thousand flatscreen models and several add-on options. I decided to try to use my eyes to discern the possible differences in models with a quick trip to Best Buy.

Plasma or LCD

The debate starts at a rather large fork in the road. LCD or Plasma? Plasma has traditionally been heralded for its price, larger size and great contrast or rather, keeping the blacks really black. The downside is ghosting and screen burn in. LCDs traditionally have poor contrast ratios, suffer from a trailing effect and have been more expensive, but all that seems to have disappeared based on my research. My wife and I decided that for the size of our place a 42" would be the largest size we could accomodate, so we thought we'd lean towards LCDs.


The first thing we noticed when looking at LCDs is that the cheaper models (below $1,000) suffered from digital artifacting or jaggies around the edge of fast moving objects. What seemed to be the difference? Refresh rate. Or to be more specific, 120HZ.

At 60HZ fast motion in a scene seems to manifest itself in the form of jaggies around objects. At 120HZ the digital artifacting disappeared. I figured if we were going to spend a significant amount of money on a television that we would have for years we should spend a bit more to make sure the image looked clear.


Once we narrowed it down to an 120HZ LCD we did some online research using Amazon.com reviews. Fortunately 120HZ is a big selling feature. So much so that Amazon lists it in the title of their LCDs so it was easy to search for "LCD 120HZ" to get a rather wide selection of reviews. Being a guy I of course wanted the largest TV I could get so I was concentrating up around the 40" and 42" range. LG, Sharp, Samsung and Sony seemed to consistently get between 4 and 5 star reviews. The LG Scarlett series which is LGs 120HZ models seemed to have some of the highest scores. So it was back to Best Buy with my wife to validate the reviews.

Image Quality

In the end, it's your eye that does the talking. We honed in on 120HZ LCD models for the side by side test. I was surprised that for me the LG Scarletts did not appear to have the best picture but it came down to the  Samsung versus the Sony Bravias. In the end, for us, the Sony Bravias looked the best.


Since we were at Best Buy we decided to fan out to the other nearby box stores to get the best price. Trying to get big box stores to match on price is crazy because if it's not on the competitors website they won't believe you can get the lower price. Also, if you're looking to buy a Sony, the Sonystyle store won't be able to match prices.

I decided to call G&G Electronics out in Scarborough. I had purchased equipment years ago from Gary who owns G&G and got great prices. Gary did not dissappoint.

The Package

Going in we wanted to buy the Sony Bravia KDL-40WL140. Gary offered us Sony's new KDL-40XBR6 at a substantial discount (still higher than the 40WL140) but with a Rogers HD PVR for only $20 for the first six months (Sony pays Rogers for six months of a yearly rental). The XBR model had 10bit colour versus the WL's 8bit, so better colour, and the XBR has a better built in speaker. Since we didn't have a surround system in the budget for this round the better sound was also attractive. The XBR also has a thinner bezel so the TV actually takes up slightly less visual room. We had difficulty comparing the WL140 with the XBR6 as they were running different content. The picture on the XBR6 was running a Blue-ray disk while the WL140 was on HDNet. The XBR6 looked better but I now realize that television runs at 1080i as opposed to Blue-rays 1080p. In the end we decided the XBR6 was probably the better television and the difference in price was worth it. I would suggest if you're comparing ensure the source content is identical. The 40XBR6 it was!

Blue-ray and the Accessories

Gary to help sweeten the deal was attempting to disway us from purchasing a Blue-ray player to save money and afford the better model. He explained that he didn't own one himself and watched all his movies on Rogers Pay Per View. Something in my gut, or perhaps just my technolust was telling me to get the Blue-ray. Plus, we have a small DVD collection and since our previous DVD player was integrated with our old TV we needed a new player if we wanted to watch them at all. So it was a Rogers HD PVR and a Blue-ray player.

We purchased the Sony BDP-S550. In addition to playing Blue-ray discs it also plays DVDs and upconverts them to high definition. Not quite as good as a HD movie but better than a standard DVD player. What most impressed me about high definition playback was Blue-ray movies at 1080P. Sorry Gary, I can tell the difference.

Once we got the Rogers HD PVR authorized and up and running I could immediately see the difference. 1080i or 720p are excellent quality compared to standard definition but 1080p movies are incredibly sharp and free of digital artifacts. It's probably the combination of only 720 lines of interlaced video compared with 1080 combined with additional compression that Rogers puts on the signal that weakens the quality. In the end the clarity of Blue-ray really blew me away. I'm sure when next year's budget for a 7.1 surround sound system kicks in I'll appreciate the audio as well.

I purchased The Dark Knight for our first Blue-ray title and the IMAX content Christopher Nolan shot really shines. Now I'm waiting for Contact, the Star Wars series and the Star Trek series to come out on Blue-ray. The Pixar movies I suspect will look fantastic as well.


I think I found out what we liked so much about the Sony Bravias though I would have to return to the store to test this theory. Most of the competing sets seemed to be too sharp. That is, we saw too many of the pixels which seemed unatural to us. The Sony Bravia didn't seem to suffer from this and gave us a more pleasing image to watch. Upon renting our first Blue-ray we noticed up close an image that was still slightly more pixely than we liked. It quickly dawned on me that this was probably the default sharpness setting. A quick adjustment to slightly dull down the sharpness and we were very pleased.

I suggest when shopping that you access the sharpness settings first and move up and down the dial to make sure the image your looking at isn't the result of some over-eagar techie thinking the sharpest setting is the best for the shopper. While you're at it, if the colour also doesn't look right try exploring those settings. The Bravia by default has Vivid mode which boosts the saturation and provides for some very colourful but very unatural images. We dropped ours to Standard colour when we hooked it up.

Bravia Motion Enhancer

In addition to a Vivid colour mode the Bravias have a Motion Enhancer option that is turned on by default. Both my wife and I noticed that when watching certain content the actors seemed to pop out from the background. I think I've traced this back to the Motion Enhancer which we disabled. Motion Enhancer gets the image to 120HZ through interpolation rather than just repeating the frame multiple times but there is some sort of visual effect that we find distracting.


What has disappointed me most about this experience has been the lack of available HD channels and programming on Rogers, or rather in general. It has been almost 12 years since CBS first broadcast in HD and I'm surprised how slowly the market has been to react. Unless you're a sports nut the content lives mainly in prime time. The slow uptake by consumers probably due to cost, the chicken and egg problem and the high cost of HD television sets. I'm hopeful that since we purchased a higher quality 1080p set which has proven very capable by the Blue-ray content that we'll have this set for a while as shows continue to roll over to HD.

Should I Buy?

If you're not into sports on television and don't watch a lot of movies at home you may be dissapointed by the poorer quality image of standard definition shows on an HD set. That said, if you're only watching prime time most of your shows may be in HD. Check your television guide for the HD channels and see if your shows have an HD indicator on them (Rogers shows this for the HD channels in the on-screen guide).

If you're a movie fan then I highly recommend moving up to Blue-ray for the superior picture.

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.

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!