Showing posts from September, 2013

Designers, Rejoice: Nix Portable Will Scan Any Colour and Send It To Your Smartphone

Pick a colour, any colour!

How many times have you sat down to design a site, an app or even the colour scheme for your bedroom and thought: Oh, there was a [shirt, wall, stone, book cover, photo] that would have been the perfect colour for this! Or maybe you've been to one of those paint chip scanners in Home Depot and thought, if only I could bring my [curtains, bedspread, other huge item] with me.

And let's face it, taking a pic on your smartphone does not yield a match. It can be close, but with variances introduced by lighting and the camera software in your phone (not to mention the smudge marks on your camera lens), capturing the perfect shade can be very difficult. And in the world of computer-aided design, you then need to take all this guesswork and convert it to an RGB, HEX or other value. MOAR HEADACHES.

Until Nix.

Nix is a portable scanner that scans your colour of choice, sends it to your smartphone and registers its value in a number of ways (RGB, HSL, HSV, Lab,…

Kewl Design Alert: Rotating Wall Outlets Exist?!


Gadgets and their plugs: there always seems to be some combination of those plugged into the outlet that's smack dab in the middle of the kitchen. And when hubby, the Dude and I are all vying to charge something we need to bring with us in the morning, we usually head to that particular outlet. Which means we can end up trying to Tetris a couple of giant bulky chargers together into a standard outlet.

Now, I've mentioned before that, had we thought about it, we would have opted for some of these handy USB outlets when we were first wiring and painting the house. But alas, we discovered them too late. Of course, there were these handy USB power bars, which could permit charging a few phones off the same outlet (along with a couple of other standard plugs. Very, very handy.

And now, I just learned that Home Depot carries these rotating plugs. (Before you ask, they're not like the baby-proof ones which misalign the cover and the actual outlet openings until you ro…

How Do People Disappear? (In A World Filled With Tracking Technologies)

So here's an interesting video that explores a somewhat (ok, very) dark question: In a world filled with tracking technologies and closed circuit television cameras everywhere we go, how does a person simply disappear? How is it possible to lose track of people when our every move is pretty much trackable?

Yup, this iteration of VSauce brings you 13 minutes of macabre and, yet, fascinating stories about the circumstances under which people disappear and what happens after they go missing. It's definitely the longest VSauce video I've sat through but it was worth it for the breadth of topics and all the crazy examples to explain:
people who disappear, premature obituaries, people switched at birth, unreported missing, "missing missing" andthe legalities of going missing. At the end, it takes a sudden unexpected detour into the volume of information that is available in the world, based on the work of David Wang on the concept of "infobesity". But I'l…

Lego Business Card Holder Might Be The Most Fun Thing In Your Office

My friend and colleague @mikehitsTheRoad sent me a note this weekend, knowing I would love to see the birthday gift his nephews bought him. And he was right! Check it out!

That, my friends, is all from one Lego kit (#850425): male and female minifigs, a business card and a card holder. I think this is one of the cutest (and practical) Lego kits I've seen.

Imagine having this in your office; anyone who walks in and sees it would comment for sure. (I can attest to the power of Lego-as-ice-breaker: the Dude made me a mini version of my cubicle and I have it on my desk. People ask me about it all the time.)

Short of working at Lego and carrying around custom Lego minifigs as business cards, I'm not sure you can find a better Lego office accessory. And it's reasonably priced too - only $15. Might make a great stocking stuffer. (Too soon?)

Gorgeous Batman Anatomical Skull Print Is Great For Office or Study

If you have a Batman fan (or are a Batman fan) who isn't really into the more pop culture themed paraphernalia, then this might be right up your alley. A lot of the branded items out there can be somewhat kitschy, which depending on your needs can be either awesome or awful.

Some of us wouldn't hesitate carrying a logo-ed lunch box or bag to work or hanging a comic book cover in their office. But that might not be appropriate in all circumstances, which is why I love coming across higher-end, executive-looking art pieces that are themed after comic book characters.

For instance, take this poster of an anatomical Batman skull. It has a scientific feel, with all the handwritten notes. The colouring is as far from cartoonish as you can get. It really feels like a whimsical piece that could hang in an executive's office. Or even my house.

So much like.

Available from Aetherium Emporium on Etsy.

$100 3D Peachy Printer is a Canadian Kickstarter Project

3D printing is a little like Hansen: so hot right now. (That's a Zoolander reference, for those of you who are a little lost right now.) As they become more popular, prices for 3D printers are dropping but still range anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, which means that they still aren't all available to all demographics. Thankfully, there are some (Canadian!) groups working on making them more accessible and affordable for all.

A few months ago I told you about a local Indiegogo campaign raising funds to purchase community 3D printers that could be brought to schools and community centres, particularly in lower income areas in order to teach students and youth about the technology. (They were successful, BTW.)

And now there is a Canadian KickStarter campaign (based in Saskatchewan) aiming to produce Peachy, an affordable easy-to-use 3D printer.
We want to lower the cost and difficulty of 3D Printing to a point where it's accessible to the masses. We w…

Today: Carleton U Science and Engineering Activities for Kids

First of all, it's a rainy Saturday so your kids might be hanging off of you as you try to enjoy your coffee, expressing their boredom. So, naturally, the first thing comes to mind is science! Right? Well, it should be because Carleton U has two great family-oriented events going on today to keep your kids busy (and maybe even teach them something):

1. Engineering workshops: Take the kids to the Canal Building lobby (see campus map) between 10am and 12pm  for a series of short workshops to build snap circuits, balloon cars and earthquake towers. (That last one sounds amazing!)

Too short notice? (I know, I know I just found out myself, sorry!) Then how about this one later tonight:

2. Chemistry Magic Show! This one is at 5pm at the outdoor theatre between Southam and Paterson Halls (or indoors at Theatre B if the rain doesn't stop). Recommended for ages 5 and up. Based on the preview video, it looks like a fantastic time: lots of fire, explosions and loud noises.

Happy rainy …

Sunday: Wizard's Tower Fundraiser for Families of OC-VIA Crash Victims

Last night, I came across this post on the Facebook page for Wizard's Tower Barrhaven:
Today we learned of the loss of two members of our gaming community, Kyle Nash and Connor Boyd. We at the Wizard's Tower were grieved to hear that both men were victims of the accident on September 18, 2013. All of us at the Wizard's Tower remember Connor and Kyle to be men of great kindness, patience and humility. We send our sympathies and condolences to the families and friends of those who were lost yesterday and all those who have been affected. This weekend, Wizard's Tower is running a series of launch events for the latest Magic: The Gathering Cards this weekend. In order to honour the loss of their community members, Wizard's Tower has decided to donate the proceeds from the launch event scheduled for 9:00am Sunday September 22nd for the families of the deceased. They will also be accepting on-site donations.

According to the rep I chatted with on their website, of all t…

Are E-Ink Covers The Next Big Thing in Smartphones?

A few companies have been recently showcasing e-ink smartphone covers which kind of make me scratch my head.

I mean, I get it: people are less likely to carry both their e-readers and their smartphones when they go out, so why not bundle them into a handy unit. But the execution seems a bit lacking in the ideas I've seen.
In fact, one cover actually reminds me of the Lifesaver books we used to get in our Xmas stockings as kids. Do you remember those? With 5 rolls of Lifesavers on either side?
Case in point, the Cover Reader from PocketBook:

Right? Ok, you might think I'm seeing things, but consider: the thickness of the phone + the thickness of the case that encloses it + the thickness of the flip cover... we're almost back to Gordon Gekko phones.

Ok, maybe not, but the Pocketbook case is definitely no longer sleek and pocket-friendly, no matter what the name says.

Now, I do love e-ink. In fact, I think it should be a mode enabled on all computer monitors: reading a doc? S…

Kewl App(s) Alert: Little Outline and Fargo For In-Browser Notetaking

My job requires a lot of reading and writing, so by the end of the week I often find myself incapable of sitting at my computer staring at the screen for another 8 hours. So I like to enjoy "Whiteboard Fridays" which is just as it sounds: I (often with colleagues) spend time standing up at a whiteboard working through problems, or planning projects or rethinking my work.

The physical nature of Whiteboard Fridays is a welcome change from my usual position (think slouching homo sapiens at keyboard) and I find it stirs my creativity; I end up with a productive and creative end to my week, without feeling exhausted to start the weekend.

The one glitch with these whiteboard sessions is the follow-on: we take pics of the whiteboards that results from our brainstorming and working sessions but photos don't turn into project files and to do lists magically. Enter Little Outliner and Fargo.

Developed by Dave Winer, Little Outliner and Fargo are two apps that you can use instead …

Code For Kids Redux: Blogging and Design Workshops

Code For Kids really had their work cut out for them this weekend, running two different workshops for two different age groups. And once again, they really delivered.

Workshop 1: Blogging The morning session was dedicated to teaching kids aged 7-9 to run their own blog. Each child was given a Wordpress site to work from, which they can continue managing afterwards. They learned all the basics:
writing postsembedding links, images and videosadding captions and attribution (including a brief overview of intellectual property concerns)Internet security (disclosure, comments, chatting with strangers)blog look and feelI was lucky enough to have been invited to present part of the session and I truly enjoyed myself. The kids really latched onto the concepts quickly and were cranking out short posts complete with links, images and videos within a mere couple of hours. A number of parents stayed for the workshop, since their kids were so young, and not surprisingly some of the kids caught onto…

3 Reasons To Join Me At Code For Kids Blogging Workshop (Tomorrow!)

Remember last week when I told you that Code For Kids is running two new workshops on blogging and design? Well, the design workshop is sold out but there are still a few tickets left for the blogging workshop!

Now the blogging workshop is aimed at kids 7-9 and you might be wondering... isn't that a bit young for blogging? Actually, although the workshop is about blogging, it's about so much more. And I should know that because I'll be leading part of the session. :)

Here is a sneak peek at what your kids will learn:

Blog basics: what is it, why they might want to start one and how to set it up Internet security: how much information should they share online, should they comment on other blogsIntellectual property: how to respect the ownership of images, video and content they find online While these are all important concepts, that last point is one that isn't really discussed at school and at home. At their age, 7-9 year olds are using computers at school for researc…

Kewl Design Alert: USB Water Bottle Humidifier (Because Winter Is Coming)

If you work in an office with central air conditioning and heating, then you are probably freezing your @$$ off this month at the office while the systems transition from summertime cooling to heating (which is on for the other nine months of the year).

Once that heat goes full blast, though, there's no turning back. Winter is coming. And apparently there's no humidity left in the air after October at least in any building I've ever worked in because I spend the winter months feeling like a dehydrated static machine. [Don't touch me when I'm in my chair and my feet are touching the carpet... ZAP!]

So someone ginormously brilliant came up with this:

In case you're wondering that is a portable humidifier that sits atop a water bottle and plugs into a USB port.

And look at the design: Pop in a filter, add a couple of drops of essence to the water if you so choose, and plug it in. Honestly, it doesn't get much simpler than that. It has an auto-shutoff feature (…

Where Was The Big Bang? (Spoiler: It Depends)

So here's an interesting little video from Minute Physics that really seems to have the greatest minds of our generation some YouTube commenters utterly confused.

You see, the title of this enlightening little video is: Where was the Big Bang? The content, however, is entirely about how the universe expands and how our point of reference could make it look like we're the centre of the universe. Check it out:

What it doesn't explicitly state is that the Big Bang was a fast (and ongoing) expansion of the universe, and that it occurred everywhere at once. So, where it started is completely beside the point because no matter where you are, you might think that the universe is expanding from there. That is, depending on your location in the universe, because it is continually expanding, you might think it's origin is exactly where you are; that you are at its centre.

The video is a bit euphemistic in its approach to the topic, and I think it does a great job. But boy, does

Today, Sept. 10: World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Take a moment
Take a moment to check in on those you know with mental illness, from depression to anxiety to anything else.
Take a moment to talk with your kids about the importance of talking about their feelings, whenever they feel nervous, anxious, bullied, or sad.
Take a moment to create a safe space for those around you to express themselves and share what they are going through.
Take a moment to tell those important to you just how important they really are.

Find a local event
If you're in Ottawa, there are activities happening on Parliament Hill from 11:30-1 (bring an umbrella) and if you're anywhere else in the world, you can check out the International Association for Suicide Prevention website for events in your area.

Join the Discussion
Follow #wspd13 on Twitter

The Six Million Dollar Question: How Will The Future of Prosthetics Affect Human Performance and Self Esteem?

(This is a post that I have had milling around in my brain for quite some time but knew that I needed a few hours to really get it down properly. Here's hoping I was able to do it justice.)

Earlier this summer as I was out for a training run, I was listening to a podcast in which they were interviewing amputees and people who had prosthetics. Some of the prosthetics were traditional, while others were technologically enabled making them easier to use. There are some being built that can even interact with the user's brainwaves, to read brain signals in order to trigger movement. It was an intriguing episode and I spent a good deal the day thinking about the topic, even after the podcast ended:
First of all, it made me hyper-aware that I was running down a busy street, on both of my legs and that I am fortunate to do so. Secondly, it made me think about the mechanics and motivation behind my running.Third, it made me wonder how a technologically-enhanced prosthetic would affect …

Friday Fun: "Soft Sheldon" Might Even Be Better Than "Soft Kitty"

You know that every time Sheldon ask Penny to sing Soft Kitty, you sing along. You know you do. Well, you might find yourself singing a new tune after you check this out. In fact, I might actually prefer this version, although I think you could equally replace the "little friend named Spock" with "you are in his spot" ;)


Source: (ShowMe Nan)

Code For Kids is Back With 2 Workshops on Sept. 14! (Exclusive scoop ahead!)

If you've got a little geek on your hands, you'll be excited to hear that Code For Kids just released tickets for their September workshops and they're happening next weekend, Saturday Sept. 14th!

This time around, they have tailored their curriculum to suit two different age segments:
7-9 year olds can learn blogging, and9-12 year old can learn design skills. How kewl is that?
The blogging course is intended to get kids interested in typing, writing and will even set them up with their own blog before they leave the workshop! And the design course will get kids thinking about design thinking, with a little problem solving and teamwork thrown in for good measure. 
I love the new take on the workshops. If you missed the first couple of sessions, Code For Kids has covered game development in Scratch, as well as HTML and CSS. I'm a sooper huge fangirl and have been to all of their sessions. (And yes, I've signed up the Dude for all of them. In fact, he's even star…

6 Reasons To Submit Your UXcamp Ottawa Talk ASAP (updated)

So now that the kids are back to school and your summer vacation is officially over, it's time to stop procrastinating and get working on your UXcamp Ottawa submission.

It's our fourth amazing year and we've got some surprises in store, so you'll definitely want to join us for some serious UX awesome. We've been putting the event together since, well, to be honest, since the last one ended. And we truly believe that this year is going to be a-wait for it-mazing.

If you've been considering submitting a speaking proposal but haven't done so yet, let me tell you that time is running out! If you need a little motivation, then here are 6 reasons you should submit your talk ASAP:
You can talk about successes or failures. Whether you've solved some niggling design issue or had a UX project completely blow up in your face, bring it!You'll be sharing the stage with some of the biggest names in UX, from Jesse James Garrett to Ross Unger to Ottawa's own Jo…

3 Tech Skills Every Kid Should Learn At School (But Doesn't)

It's back to school for us today. And with every passing school year, I have mixed feelings when I drop the Dude off in the school yard on the first day. No, it's not because he's getting. so. big. Or the fact that we're in double digits so he's a senior at his school this year. I mean, those things do affect me, but they're not what bugs me about starting a new year.

No, it's the curriculum.
(Yeah, I said it.)

Being part of the public school system, he's still essentially learning the 3Rs (especially during equalized testing years, don't get me started). And while that was an effective way of teaching kids who were growing up in an industrialized age, it doesn't meet the needs of the information age. He's not learning skills that will help him truly understand the tech world he takes for granted. Right now, it's up to hubby and I to instill that understanding into him. But he should really be getting it at school.

Consider: The Dude and…