Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Nine Days of Screwing...

Now there's a post title that'll drive some traffic....pr0n seekers -  sorry to disappoint...

It is remarkable how stressful and distracting it is when you get your car broken into, and then you proceed to get bent over and screwed by your insurance company, insurance broker and two different mechanics. It's 9 days later and I still don't have my car back from what is supposed to be a 4 hour repair.

This little descent into hell began when I found out I was not (and never have been) covered for a rental car. Then the first mechanic told me the parts were back-ordered to the end of March. I felt he was lying and that he thought I was some sort of idiot (no - that was the guy who started all this). After 2 days of unreturned phone calls from my broker and insurer, I managed to get the car to my own mechanic who told me they could get the same parts within 2 days. Now it seems the 2 days has turned into 4 days.

The most frustrating thing is that everybody I've talked to (other than the mechanics) tells me it's a 4 hour repair. Nine days for a 4 hour repair??

Okay, maybe there's a delay getting parts. But NINE DAYS!!?? C'mon people!

I'm a nice guy (trust me). I absolutely hate getting angry with people. That's why I almost never ever do it. But if I don't get my car back tomorrow (as has been promised as of this morning) I'm going to be very ashamed and guilty of my behaviour.

To top things off, my insurer now tells me that my aftermarket car stereo depreciates in value 10% per year (which is fine) PROVIDED I have the receipt for it. Grrrrr. Otherwise they only reimburse for 50%. I have the box. I have the manual. Cripes, I think I still have the remote control!! (provided Idiot didn't take that too). But the receipt? C'mon. We'll be sparring over that one folks.

Sorry for the venting post. Be glad they're few and far between for me.

Go look at some nice XMMS2 logo entries if you need some happy-fying like me. Inkscape doodling has been a saving grace for me this week.

I'll go get a coffee now and see if I still hit 'send' when I get back...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I Bought a Nokia 6265i - opinions wanted...

One of the other things stolen from my car was the car charger for my cell phone. My desktop charger was ruined a year or so ago in a kitchen sink mishap (don't ask), so the car charger was my sole means of keeping my trusty 5 year old Audiovox 8300 phone ticking.

Well since the battery was almost completely spent, I decided to head to a local Telus store up the road from my work. It turns out that the only charger for this phone was in a Telus store somewhere in Quebec and it was gonna be several days before they could get it. Aaargh - frickin car stealing idiots!!

So instead I decided to get a new phone. With my service plan unchanged and renewing for a 3 year contract (I've been satisfied if not happy with Telus for the past 9 years) I picked up a Nokia 6265i for zero cost plus the activation fee.

I am not a convergence device guy. I wanted a good phone that I would be using probably only as a phone. It would be nice to have data capabilities if I need them in the future, but it wasn't crucial. I probably only text message a couple times a month so that wasn't a key feature either. It's got what is supposed to be a good 2 MP camera, but being a DSLR owner I know I probably wouldn't be overly impressed and truly, it wouldn't have been a deal-breaker if it didn't have a camera at all.

So it has a slew of fancy features, most of which I probably won't ever use (mp3 playback and an internal fm radio too).

It's sad to say, with me being so interested in technology and the information age, but what really sold me was the sliding keyboard and internal antenna. Everyone and their grandmother has a flip phone these days - I wanted something different. And hey, you've got to admit those phones in the Matrix were kinda cool :)

Now if Brad Kellet or others could just chime in here and give me a much more educated opinion on my purchase it would be much appreciated!


I've been called a lot of things in my 39 years on this planet, but indefatigable hasn't been one of them - until now. That's what I was called on the XMMS2 Logo contest blog today. While I assumed (correctly) it was a compliment, I am nothing if not honest about the fact that despite what my daughter might think, I do NOT know everything, and that includes the definition of indefatigable.

Did I ever mention that the Google search keyword "define:" is one of my best friends? Well me and the Google define: keyword have been intimate for quite some time.

A quick search yielded "showing sustained enthusiastic action with unflagging vitality". Not bad. Quite nice actually.

While not really wanting to toot my own horn, it is quite remarkable how a single word compliment can raise your day.

Check out the XMMS2 contest blog for the slew of great entries so far.

Monday, March 19, 2007

New 4GB CF Card - $129 Not Bad Eh?

On a lighter note, the day before Idiot broke into my car, I picked up a new 4GB compact flash card for, get this, $129.00 CDN.

I took a look at an old Shutterbug magazine from November 2003, its cover story touting the news that Lexar had released the worlds first 4GB flash card. At that time, it's street price was $1500.00 USD!!

I heard just a few days ago that flash memory pricing has taken a real dip as of late. So if you're interested in a new card, maybe now's the time.

Idiot breaks into my car steals stereo, leaves DSLR

At work today, sometime between 8:50am and 12:20pm, I was paid a visit by a person henceforth known as "Idiot". Idiot proceeded to punch out the door lock on my car and enter the vehicle. Then Idiot hammered in the ignition switch on my steering column and twisted the steering column housing. After this, Idiot ripped out and stole the my cheapy $140 car stereo. And in a final despicable act of sheer cowardice, Idiot took my cell phone car charger.

After a couple of hours and phone calls to my insurance company, police and auto shop, I was in a tow truck on my way to a 300 dollar deductible and a rental car.

One thing I didn't know was that while my insurance policy has comprehensive and collision coverage, it doesn't foot the bill for a rental car (hence the low-buck Hyundai Accent rental currently sitting in my garage). I guess that's the price I pay for a circa $100 monthly car insurance bill. ;)

And while I could think of a million other creative names to call the offender, I think 'Idiot' is the most appropriate only because there was a knapsack-style camera bag holding my Canon Rebel XT DSLR, 3 Canon lenses and a miniDV camcorder in the front passenger side footwell which Idiot somehow missed.

Needless to say, when the camera bag accompanies me to work, it's coming into the office with me from now on.

Hopefully my car will be fixed up in a day or two. Twelve years and 330,000km aside, the car's still in very good shape, but I think I'm only a few months away from a new car purchase, so I don't think I'll spring for a car alarm system on this one (not that it necessarily would have stopped Idiot from being an idiot anyway).

Hope everyone had a better day than I did.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Formula 1 - 07 goes tonight!

Jeez.. I almost missed it. The 2007 Formula One season is already underway and Round 1 in Australia is on tonight!

Better yet, I can finally cheer for Ferrari (not that I necessarily will) once again now that Schumacher is gone. I've been sworn enemies of Ferrari's F1 effort ever since 1997 on that dark day in Jerez, Spain when  the German intentionally tried to drive Canuck Jacques Villeneuve off the road.

I haven't followed much if any of the pre-season shenanigans, but I've always like Kimi and cheered for Alonso in his battles with Schumacher (no surprise there).

I'm still not behind any specific horse at this point. Let's see what happens down under tonight.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Develop your Inkscape chops (and maybe win something too!)

Seems like everybody and their grandmother are holding a logo contest these days: is a project whose aim is to facilitate the sharing of things like code, media and infrastructure between various free and open source creative applications (think Inkscape, GIMP, cinepaint, scribus, Audacity and the like). They're going to be holding a logo competition. It's supposed to start soon. If you're looking to improve your Inkscape skills and stretch your creative muscles at the same time, then have a go when it starts. It'll accomplish both things. The contest is supposed to have started, but I see no confirmed details posted about it yet, but there are some tentative details over in the wiki.

Xmms2 as you might imagine is a project aimed at providing a followup to the venerable xmms media player application. They're holding a logo competition too. And in this one, they're offering a $400 Amazon Gift Certificate to the winner! This one has already started and entries are being accepted until the 13th of April. Drag your butt over to the Xmms2 Logo Competition page for details.

If you think you haven't got what it takes, I've got a small piece of advice for you:

Just drawing *something*. Anything. Don't go into it as something you have to submit on the first go-round. Once you come up with something, go get a coffee and stare at it for a while. Play with it. Before long you'll see what you like and don't like about it and you'll refine it (or even scrap it). But by that time your creative juices will at least be flowing. You'll then likely see off-shoots or completely different ideas. And even more importantly (IMO) you'll figure out different way of achieving the results you want. All the while, you'll be building your chops bit by bit. What is the worst thing that can happen by trying?

I am absolutely killer at throwing up obstacles to getting unappealing work started. I can be extremely creative in finding ways to avoid scary or potentially daunting tasks.  But if I just summon up the willpower to do something (usually the easiest, shortest portion of the task), I quickly find myself achieving more and more progress. It's getting the boulder rolling that's tough. Once it's going you'll find it's a lot easier to keep it moving.

Cheers and good luck.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tag clouds please step to the right...

Astute visitors to this blog will now notice a nice tag cloud over on the right. Please direct your applause to phydeaux3. About 3 cut and pastes and 5 minutes later, my template was modified to show the cloud in all it's glory.

Now onto the task of revamping my blogroll and adding the Flickr zeitgeist....

Speaking of Logo Design

The Open Font Library logo contest closes tonight. I've made a dozen entries (although a few are just reworks and revisions of others). There's 5 days of judging and then a decision. It was fun coming up with ideas and I learned a good chunk more about Inkscape along the way which is good.

In a related note, in one of my Technorati search feeds, a link to a site called came up. Man, if you're looking for inspiration and interested in seeing oodles of high quality creative logo work, check it out. I was blown away and completely humbled at the same time. There are *very* few logos on that site that I didn't find appealing. It's amazing how much good colour and design work can influence the quality of a logo. All my contest entries look like absolute $#*% to me now. ;)

One of my favourites (and one of the simplest) is this one for Tidy Tom's Cleaning Company. Awesome.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Inkscape Screencast 7 - Funkified Text

My 7th Inkscape screencast is up. This time I used inkscape to produce the "Funkified Text" [ patent pending ;) ] you see above.

Like all the others, I had a fun time doing it. I hope somebody, somewhere finds it useful.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Bigger, Badder Desktop

I am a rational guy. I consider things objectively and hopefully take the time to weigh things on their relative merit.

But bring in a big honkin' faux stainless steel PC case with glowing lights and black venting and I'm all a shudder.

You could almost hear the screams of petrified laptops and notebooks everywhere scurrying for cover when my co-worker unboxed his new Dell XPS 710 desktop.

I haven't seen a pc-case so tall and massive since we got rid of our 486 towers from 10 years back. It's so ominous and evil-looking that it's a crying shame that it'll be tucked under a desk. You want this baby out in the open - just to intimidate people.

To add insult to injury, he also got a 24" Dell LCD monitor to go along with it. Cripes it's nice. Now I squint at my 19" LCD as if it were a postage stamp.

Such is the pissing match that goes on in a small office full of pseudo tech guys.

It almost feels like the equivalent of a 16 cylinder Bugatti in a room full of Honda Accords. And don't get me wrong, I know that in another 2 years it will be strictly middle of the road. There will be faster laptops sold at Staples for 500 bucks, but damn is it nice. ;)

And as garish as front panel lights, ominous black grillage and faux stainless steel might be, they've actually done something smart which I haven't seen before (although this might not be a first..): they put white LED lights on the *back* panel shining down on to the peripheral ports. So when you're hunting around under desk to plug something in, you can actually see what you're doing - although the power must be running to do so.

It's a crying shame that XP (64bit) will be put on this machine. I'd love to smuggle it home and Ubuntify it. But I'd likely need a pickup... ;)

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Upside of Further Template Meddling

Back in November, moments after switching to the new Blogger, I espoused the greatness of having categories or 'labels' at my disposal:

"...But I'll be keeping it simple with pretty standard tags like 'photography', 'linux', 'family', etc... Keep an eye out for those labels..."

So now, having switched to a new style Blogger template, I now have a neato list of labels over on the right sidebar. Keeping it simple? Huh? I've got over a hundred different labels created over the past 90 or so posts. This is a terrible example of 'keeping it simple'. But at least it's sorted by frequency so you can easily get a glimpse of what I write about most.

Besides, I knew going into this that I'd likely be all over the place with my posting, and you can't cover 'all over the place' with 10 different labels now can ya.

Other nice tidbits so far:

While messing around with my template's html, I decided to widen the main body of the blog. I always found this limiting but never bothered to change it. I can now post larger pictures on my posts. Limiting them to 400px wide always bugged me.

There's a cool outliner style archive of blog posts on the right (Dave Winer would be proud) that also lists quantities, so I (and you) can easily see how much I've posted in each month and in the course of a year. Maybe not terribly useful, but neat for me just the same.

I'll be updating the blogroll as well. If there's one thing I never bothered to keep up with, it's updating my blogroll. I think I'll be revising that to better reflect who it is I'm following.

Avert your eyes dear reader...

Over the course of my lunch here at work, I managed to do two things: eat my lunch, and mangle my blog layout.

I chose to switch to the new layout template format in Blogger and silly me, didn't realize I would wipe out the customizations I had made. Luckily I have a saved version of the old template to work back from.

In any case, it should be back to normal (with some nicer stuff like labels on the right hand side) by tonight.

For now, please avert your eyes.. Keep Moving... Nothing to see here...


Are You Using GMail for Taking Notes?

While I'm big on pencil and paper, and I enjoy sketching and planning ideas on paper, I'm also deadly good at losing papers in the quagmire that is my desk. So I'm looking for a way to take quick notes (like documenting phone conversations) electronically. Ideally, the solution should be:

- cross platform
- accessible from anywhere (ie. online)
- searchable
- simple to use

While I found a vast number of note-taking solutions, I'm leaning towards using Gmail. Here are some reasons why:

- I already use it extensively. No additional tools in the belt.
- I always have it open at work and at home, so it's quick to access.
- It's inherently dated and timed by virtue of being an email.
- It's Gmail so it's searchable and can be filtered.

I'm interested in making it a little more useful to me as a note-taking tool, so I'm trying to hone my use of shortcut keys, and I'm looking into how I can organize the subject line to make the Gmail filtering into a useful system.

Do you take notes? What do you use? Any ideas (or other sources) for using Gmail in this way? I'd appreciate the input.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Colour Scheme Tool - Or How Not To Make Nauseous Colour Combinations

If you've been reading this weblog for any length of time, you'll certainly know that I like to pretend to be a lot of different things. Depending on factors such as my current hobbies, projects and interests (and the phase of the moon) I might pretend to be a photographer, programmer, tech pundit, writer, or any number of other things.

Lately, I've been running around with a beret and palette doing a bad impression of a graphic designer. Let's be clear. I'm no graphic designer. But I do enjoy pretending to be one and sharing what I learn.

In that vein, my sense of colour coordination is not finely honed. I can draw things, but when it comes to making things look attractive with splashes of colour, I'm not your go-to guy. I need a little help.

I did a fair bit of reading about colours and web design in the days immediately prior to starting this blog (at that time I was pretending to be a web designer and HTML codemonkey). I read enough about colour theory to know I had no sense of taste when it came to combining things - I know a relatively tasteful colour combination when I see it, but for me to come up with one is quite painful.

But that little bit of research did explain that there was a method to colour-combination madness. Things like colour wheels and triad combinations told me that there actually was a science to this, and that it wasn't all black magic.

Since racking my brain to submit some decent logos for the Open Font Library logo contest, I went in search of a free colour combination tool to help me out. I found Color Scheme Generator 2 which seems to do what I need it to do at the price I like the most ;).

So if you really are a graphic designer (or just playing one on the web like me), you might find it a useful tool if you're all thumbs when it comes to colours.

I know there are lots of other similar tools on the web. If you've got a suggestion for a better one, please post it in the comments.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Open Font Library - Logos Wanted Baby...

As you may have read on other Inkscape and open-source related blogs, the Open Font Library is holding a contest to come up with a logo. Since the rules require submissions to be in SVG format, Inkscape is generally the tool of choice.

The goal of the Open Font Library project is to: "... collect public domain fonts so that they may be used freely."

I've been having fun coming up with ideas and have submitted four so far. I've learned quite a few new things about Inkscape, most notably nodes, curves and what you can do with them. It hasn't made for anything interesting enough for a screencast, but it's fun figuring things out. Just like with programming, writing or other creative pursuits, it's amazing how much you can learn when you've got an interesting problem to solve.

There are lots of good entries. Check them out.

Sowing the Seeds

An update to my post a few weeks back about turning on a co-worker to Ubuntu...

Today I hear a grumbling conversation between my colleague and the person who looks after our computer systems here (he's a structural engineer too, but just happened to draw the longest straw when our previous IT-type guy left us). There's some moaning from my colleague about problems updating his XP machine. Seems he had to download 46 updates and it failed on the last one...

Long story short, my colleague's final statement of the conversation was:

"Jeezus.. no wonder people are moving to Linux..."

Consider the seeds sown. ;)

Friday, March 02, 2007

"100+" Another Thing I like About Google Reader

I have really fallen behind in my blog reading over the past few weeks. Being so far behind has made the Firefox tab title "Google Reader (100+)" an all too common sight in my browser.

I have to thank Google's engineers for sparing me the sight of '253', or '576' or heaven forbid '1152' unread items. Instead it just says '100+'. Kind of like "Hey man, you're getting behind here, but we won't rub your nose in it".

I appreciate that because whether it's 100+ or 1000+, you can bet dollars to donuts that I will be leaving a pile of unread but discarded blog posts in my wake.

Maybe they should take a page from Flickr, and instead of capping it at "100+", they could change the tab to read "A Lot", "Too Many", or "Fuhgeddaboutit".

Posting via email once again... maybe..

I've been put off posting to my blog via email since moving to the new Blogger system. Every time I tried posting via email it either seemed to take a full day for the post to appear or it didn't appear at all. It didn't take more than one or two failed attempts to dissuade me from using it.

But alas, I miss the convenience of it. So forgive me for taking up space in your aggregator (and 2 minutes you'll never get back), with what is, in essence, a test post. ;)

If it works you might see more frequent posts popping up here than in the recent past....