Pink Lake, Gatineau Park

Posted: October 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , | No Comments »

Time well spent.

Happy Anniversary, Elise!

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Restoring headphone audio in Windows 7 Bootcamp

Posted: July 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

The earphone jack on my Macbook recently stopped working. Reading posts on various Apple forums indicated that this is a common problem. When it works, the internal speakers automatically mute when earphones are plugged in; when the earphones are unplugged, the internal speakers should automatically unmute. When it doesn’t work, plugged in earphones either don’t work at all and/or do no automatically mute the internal speakers.

The solution proposed on various forums is to reinstall Boot Camp or remove/recreate the Windows partition and start again from scratch. I didn’t have time or inclination to reformat, so I thought I’d see if there might be an alternative way. In the end, the solution that worked for me was fairly simple and required no re/installation of any software or drivers. Here are the steps.


Read the rest of this entry »

Bloody Caesar changeup: Alternatives to Tobasco

Posted: June 7th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

The summer heat starting to pick up and patio season is in full swing. My nominees for best alternatives to Tobasco in a bloody caesar: Sriracha hot sauce or wasabi (powdered or non-powdered).


Also throw some garlic in there!

Sets in the West

Posted: May 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Giant trees > giant ocean > giant hole in the Earth.

Gmail + iOS: Avoid line breaks in Mobile Mail

Posted: February 24th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Sending email from iOS’s integrated Mobile Mail app is typically more efficient than using third-party solutions such as Gmail for iOS or iMailG. Using Google Sync, I can get “push” email on my iPhone or iPad: I’m immediately notified on my device when new mail comes in (as opposed to having the device check for mail every 15 minutes).

However, things break down a little when I compose or respond to emails using Because of certain technical specifications, Gmail messages sent in plain-text mode automatically force a line break after about 78 characters. This happens after you press Send. Messages sent this way are laid out incorrectly, as you can see in the first screenshot below. However, by forcing to send messages in Rich Formatting mode, I can avoid the line breaks and have emails look the way they were intended.



Here’s how to make sure your emails are sent with the proper layout: Read the rest of this entry »

Happy New Year! 5×5 for 2012

Posted: January 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

I typically talk about my favourite apps or video games, movies or music. This year, I thought I’d offer a list of five top fives that generally won’t involve sitting in front of a screen.

Non-Catan board/card games worth playing!

  1. Dominion
  2. Ticket to Ride
  3. Agricola
  4. Apples to Apples
  5. Illuminati

Magazines worth browsing!

  1. The Economist
  2. Sun Magazine
  3. Wired
  4. Make
  5. Monocle

Books worth reading!

  1. Freedom
  2. American Born Chinese
  3. Room
  4. Fun Home
  5. Shortcomings
Sour candy worth eating!

  1. Sour Jujubes
  2. Sour Wine Gums
  3. Dino-sours
  4. Sour Skittles
  5. Sour Jelly Bellies

Best gifts given in 2011!

  1. Google Chrome frisbee
  2. Photo-video montage
  3. Kid’s first nerf gun
  4. Reader’s first graphic novel
  5. Stanford fleece (for mom!)

Silicon Valley: There and back again

Posted: December 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Counterpunch: Returning to Serve+Destroy

Posted: November 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

With the tennis season finally coming to an end, I finally had the opportunity to redesign Serve+Destroy. The new theme includes a tennis insignia in tandem with a green colour scheme. The site is a statistics manager that allows users to post their scores and see how they rank. Stats can be displayed in several different ways; e.g. by Wins, Points or Win Percentage.

In order to make it easier for users to share their scores, I added the ability to post a match result to Facebook. By clicking the Facebook Heart icon, anyone can post a link to their profile that includes the players, the score, the conference and the location of the match. This feature uses the Facebook API Feed Dialog. You can use PHP to place variables within the Javascript, so that each post shared to Facebook is unique. For example, the code for Serve+Destroy is the following:

Read the rest of this entry »

Simplify your WordPress Network Dashboard

Posted: October 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

If you’re setting up a WordPress Network or Multisite, there’s a good chance you’ll have users that won’t be tech savvy. In that case, you’ll want to make the WordPress backend as user-friendly as possible. One step towards that end is to simplify the Dashboard.

The WordPress Codex provides useful documentation about the Dashboard API, but it remains silent on how to customize the Dashboard across a WordPress Network. To remove Dashboard widgets, add the following function to your theme’s functions.php:

Read the rest of this entry »

Launching the re-design

Posted: September 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Just in time for the start of his fall semester, Ian Kerr’s new website is up at!

The objective of the re-design is not only to update the look, but also to improve usability. The new menu system features far fewer sub-menus, while the site as a whole uses larger and bolder fonts. Overall, the site is much cleaner. While the former iteration was based on Joomla, I elected to go with WordPress for the re-design. If a full-blown content management system is unnecessary, WordPress is a great choice for anyone looking for significantly improved backend usability. is a WordPress multisite install. The theme of the main site is distinguishable from the subsites, but maintains a similar colour palette. Here’s an example sub-site: The subsite theme is based off of Jason Millar‘s customization of Rising Sun. Featured in the header is some of the amazing work created by Eric Joyner.


How-to: Change the URL of a WordPress Multisite

Posted: August 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

WordPress has a great feature that allows for running many sub-sites off a single installation. I can install WordPress on, and then have,, etc up and running with much less hassle then setting up a completely new WordPress install each time. All it takes is a few tweaks, outlined here.

However, there’s not much information available on how to move a WordPress multisite from one domain to another.

I’ve been working on a new site, and needed to migrate the WordPress multisite installation from the development space to a live server. Since migrating a multisite install is much more complex than moving a regular WordPress site, I thought I’d offer up a short guide. It helps to have SSH access to both the target and source servers, though FTP and phpMyAdmin access should suffice.

There are two key tasks for a successful migration:

  1. Change the domain and absolute path in your mySQL database
  2. Change the database and domain_current_site information in wp-config.php

Read the rest of this entry »

Not so Artificially Intelligent

Posted: July 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

This month saw the world’s first Robot Film Festival. The event took place in Manhattan, New York, and consisted of over fifty short movies of differing genres. If you missed it, don’t worry: the organizers were kind enough to post most of the videos online. Here are a few of my favs:

Robot Film Festival Welcome, by Josh Ventura

Read the rest of this entry »

How to export your Facebook friends to Google+

Posted: June 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Google+ is making a big splash in the social networking world, promising better privacy and access controls to user-generated content. As Google ups the ante in its challenge to Facebook, many users will be switching to Google+. While some tools exist that allow users to export data from Facebook, reports indicate that Facebook is blocking those services.

However, there’s a relatively simple way to get your contacts from Facebook to Google+, and all you need is a Yahoo! Mail account.

Since Google+ uses your Google Contacts (located in Gmail), these steps will get you up and running with your old friends on the new Google service in no time. Keep in mind that this process transfers your Facebook friends who have email addresses visible to you: Read the rest of this entry »

Automount multiple network shares in OSX

Posted: May 15th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Applescript EditorYou’ve got multiple network attached storage (NAS) devices. They all have identically named volumes.* You want to connect to all the volumes at startup. You can try the easy way:

  1. Connect to the share volume(s) that you want to automatically connect to at login.
  2. Open System Preferences.
  3. Select the Accounts preference pane
  4. Click the Login Items tab.
  5. Click “+” to add an item.
  6. Navigate to the network share, and click Add.

However, this doesn’t work when your volumes have the same name. It will result in your computer automatically connecting to only one of the shares on startup. If you can’t rename the volume, you’ll have to create a small application using Applescript Editor: Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Human …

Posted: April 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

Read the full comic at SMBC

Check out more Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comics!

Giveaway: ToodleChrome approaches 10K

Posted: March 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

ToodleChromeToodleChrome will soon have 10,000 regular users!

In celebration, three fans will get a 1-year subscription to Toodledo Pro, or a copy of Appigo Todo for iPhone. Simply ‘like’ the ToodleChrome Facebook page @; when the extension reaches 10,000 users, I’ll contact three randomly selected fans who will choose what prize they want.

Note: I’m not affiliated with Toodledo or Appigo; the Facebook page is just the easiest way to contact the winners.

Building simple websites with Facebook’s API

Posted: February 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Facebook relationship map

UPDATE: Facebook changed the way their Graph API works. You’ll now need an “access token” in order to pull data from your Group or Page feed. You can do so by signing up to create a Facebook App (that will give you an access token).

Many small organizations face barriers to cultivating a web presence. They don’t have the financial resources to pay for website hosting. There isn’t anyone available on a regular basis with web programming experience. Or maybe they don’t have time to keep all aspects of their web presence up to date.

Facebook provides one possible solution to this dilemma. However, most organizations require more than a Facebook Group or Page. There is a sense of legitimacy that comes with an actual website.

I recently completed a project for such an organization, and thought I’d share some tips here. Here’s how it works. Read the rest of this entry »

In the toolbox: 3 great web apps

Posted: January 2nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Happy New Year! What better way to ring it in than with a list of three Internet-based applications that I could not do without.

At any given time, I have several projects on the go. Each project has different requirements and timelines. Some are in the same city, while some are based abroad. Web-based tools make my life a lot easier and help me stay organized and efficient. The Google suite of web apps (Gmail, Google Calendar, Reader, etc) are indispensable. Facebook is also approaching that status in my line of work. Many people are already using these online applications.

Dropbox, Log Me In, Toodledo

However, there are three services that I found myself recommending to friends and colleagues on a regular basis this past year. In no particular order, the top three are: Toodledo, Log Me In, and Dropbox. Here’s why they’re worth checking out.

Read the rest of this entry »

Checking out the Chrome Web Store

Posted: December 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

ToodleChrome in the Chrome Web Store

ToodleChrome is in the Chrome Web Store! The extension is still free, of course. Previous posts on this extension are here and originally here.

ToodleChrome updated; now Verified Author

Posted: November 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Update 28-Nov-2010: Version 0.7 adds some new badge options (thanks, Stephen!)

ToodleChrome infoGoogle Chrome users with the newest version of the browser are running into problems with some extensions that use popups. ToodleChrome 0.4 is one of these extensions. It looks as though the Chrome/Chromium dev team has changed the way popups are styled. As a result, many extension popups are starting to appear as very skinny windows essentially rendering them useless. While a number of bug reports were filed with the Chromium browser dev team, they’re super busy. So, I thought I’d just make a few changes to the extension itself.

Version 0.5 of ToodleChrome displays the popup correctly. It also adds the capability to detach the popup into its own standalone window; and there is now a small wrench icon that will take users directly to the Options page (thanks to everyone for the feedback and suggestions).

I’ve also added as the verified author: Read the rest of this entry »

Network printing from Windows to an OSX-connected device

Posted: October 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Consider the following hardware configuration: First, you have a printer connected via USB to a mac-based computer. That computer has a wireless connection to your router. Second, you have a Windows (XP or Windows 7) computer that also has a wireless connection to your router.


You want to print from your Windows computer to the printer connected to your Mac. When you try to add the printer via the Add Printer Wizard in Windows, you receive the “could not find driver” error.

I ran into this problem several times when we moved into our new place. And the solution is simple: Use Bonjour Print Services for Windows. Rather than messing around with “Local Ports” and “Custom Drivers,” Bonjour makes it easy and I wish I had found out about it sooner.

Install Bonjour on your Windows computer. Once launched, it will search for available printers – importantly, the one connected to your Mac. That’s all there is to it.

Making Fashionotes

Posted: September 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Fashionotes.comIt’s been a busy month, but I’ve made time to update the BF:BC2 iPhone app, and put together a new client website. Like most of my current projects, is developed using the WordPress content management framework.

There are four plugins in particular that helped accelerate the design and implementation process: Smooth Slider, Verve Meta Boxes, Lightbox 2, and the Disqus Comment System. While some of these addons indicate that they haven’t been updated to work with WordPress 3.0+, I’ve found that they are indeed compatible. With a few slight modifications, some of which I have documented in previous posts, these plugins form the core of the Fashionotes site.

The layout an design for this project is a collaboration with the team over at Moxie Creative. They’ve also made some handsome posters for World Cup fans!

[Check out]

WordPress + Smooth Slider + Verve Meta Boxes

Posted: August 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

When developing websites, more often than not, I’m dedicating a significant amount of time to making it easier for people to post content. The WordPress back-end does a great job getting people started, but more complex functionality requires plugins that aren’t always built to work seamlessly together. That’s where my job comes in, and I thought I’d share my experience on getting some extra mileage out of a couple great plugins.

I recently worked on a site that required a front page box displaying featured posts. The posts would be shown as a slideshow, while giving the visitor an option to select which slide to view. For this functionality, I used a wonderful plugin called Smooth Slider by Tejaswini Deshpande and Sanjeev Mishra. One of the many features of Smooth Slider is that it lets you assign an image to a sliding post based on custom fields. In this case, developers must have a URL assigned to a custom field called “slider_thumbnail.” Within the plugin settings, there’s no way to assign a different custom field, which is part of what I needed to do.

When creating a feature, authors often want to associate an image with the post, without necessarily having to put the image within the post itself. This functionality can be achieved with Verve Meta Boxes. This plugin, written by Komra Moriko and Vaughn Draughon, allows developers to add a visual interface for adding custom fields.

Smooth Slide and Verve Meta Boxes

In this case, I wanted to get Verve Meta Boxes to assign the URL of an image to a custom field, and have that image picked up by Smooth Slider. I also wanted to reposition the Verve Meta Box container to the admin right sidebar (out-of-the-box). To achieve this end, I had to modify the codebase of both plugins. The unfortunate side-effect of this process is that developers will have to re-edit the code if they decide to upgrade the plugins in the future. Nonetheless, I thought I’d share the steps. I may look into writing a small plugin that adds this functionality without needing to modify the original plugin code, but the steps outlined in this tutorial make for a pretty easy customization anyway. Read the rest of this entry »

There’s no place like

Posted: July 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

captain_higgins email_address polar_bear awkward movies

I’m moving back to the capital. Distraction: see all of Matthew Inman’s epic comics at The Oatmeal.

.au woot!

Posted: June 18th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , | No Comments »

Apparently, walking time is 203 days 4 hours. However, Google notes that “this route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths.”

Bad Company 2 + Objective-C = BF:BC2 Stats for iPhone

Posted: May 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

BF:BC2 Stats iPhone AppThe last couple months have been incredibly busy with website development, but I’ve also found a chunk of time to buckle down and create an iPhone app. The project is a companion application for Battlefield: Bad Company 2, a first-person shooter (fps) that has become one of the more popular titles in recent gaming history.

While playing the game with several friends, it became apparent that we needed a way to keep track of our stats. In particular, we wanted a way to see our progress in moving up the ranks, or to determine how much farther we had to go to achieve an award.

When I came up with the app idea, there wasn’t another iPhone/iPod project like it. However, now that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time conceptualizing and prepping (with Peter Fritz and Jeremie Clarke-Okah); coding in Objective-C; testing on various devices; and going through the tedious task of submitting the program to Apple’s AppStore, there are several similar apps available. Because it must compete with other apps for downloads, we implemented the following features that distinguish it from the rest: Read the rest of this entry »

Busy busy …

Posted: April 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , | No Comments »

See all of Stéfan’s photos: What Stormtroopers Do On Their Day Off


Drobo and the too Advanced Format transition

Posted: March 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

DroboAs hard drives increase in size, hardware manufactures are moving towards a new type of internal design that Western Digital calls “Advanced Format” (but it’s generally known as “4k”). You can read more about this transition at Anandtech. What’s important to know is that these new hard drives look the same as the previous non-4k hard drives that you are probably using now. And if you’re a Drobo user, you might run into problems with the new drives unless your Drobo is running the latest firmware (version 1.3.6).

Because I ran into significant issues getting the new firmware onto my Drobo, I thought I’d put up a short guide for those who are having problems as well. This tutorial assumes that you’ve already tried the typical firmware update method described by Data Robotics, found here (PDF), and that you’re already running the latest version of Drobo Dashboard, which you can find here (version 1.6.8 as of this post). I’ll also focus on first-generation Drobos running via Windows: Read the rest of this entry »

Gmail gadget: Getting Things Done

Posted: February 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Categorizing and managing actionable emails is something that Gmail doesn’t handle very well out-of-the-box. Labels, while useful, are unwieldy when it comes to workflow. After running into numerous problems with the Quicklinks feature in Gmail Labs, I decided to put together a small Gmail sidebar gadget.

Although this Gmail addon admittedly doesn’t adhere to the official “Getting Things Done” standard, it does come closer to that method than Gmail’s Labels, while also remaining easy to use.

Gmail GTD Screenshot

After installing this Gmail sidebar, you’ll also have to enable the Superstars feature in Gmail Labs. Then you’ll be able to go to your Gmail General Settings to select which special stars you would like to use. Here are the specific steps to get up and running with the Gmail addon:

Read the rest of this entry »

The need for feeds: Full-text rss

Posted: January 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

RSS feeds are a great way to subscribe to your favourite websites. The technology brings information directly to your computer or mobile device. This effectively saves you from having to visit each site individually on a regular basis to check for new items.

How RSS works (small)For those of us who currently consume news and information online through RSS feeds, it can be frustrating when some feeds only provide quick access to headlines and the first sentence of the article. This is especially bothersome when reading feeds while riding the subway or being anywhere without an Internet connection. It would be more useful to have access to the entire article without having to leave the RSS feed reader.

To help remedy the situation and to ring in the New Year, I’ve put up a web-based tool that generates full-text RSS feeds. The app is largely based on Keyvan’s open-source project at Five Filters, and is my attempt to help expand the reach and scope of his useful application.

The tool essentially loads up the feed items, parses out the main content of each item, and then creates a new feed. The version that I’ve put online will pull the 10 latest items and will refresh the feed every 20 minutes. However, I’m open to other configurations if people have different preferences. I’ve also been working on a feature to merge and filter items, so that readers can customize their feeds a little more.

If you’d like to bypass the web-based interface and prefer not to use the bookmarklet tool, you can generate a full-text feed via URL.[URL]

Simply replace [URL] with the address of your RSS feed. For example:

Once you figure out what feeds you want, try out Google Reader in conjunction with Feedly. It’ll be like having your own personalized online magazine.

[Check out The Need for Feeds: Full-Text RSS Feed Creator]


Posted: December 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 88 Comments »

Update 2011-Nov: 0.74 renames the extension to “Toodledo Tasks” in order to comply with Google’s branding policies. Get it here.

Update 2010-Nov-07: The 0.5 update fixes the popup issue and adds a couple features. Check out the details here.

Update 2009-Dec-12: The 0.4 update now includes an option to add a badge indicating how many tasks are due. I ended up foregoing the Toodledo API and instead decided to implement a solution that uses the Toodledo RSS feed (which can be customized) and the Google Ajax Feed API. This way the extension doesn’t need to ask for a username or password. While the Toodledo RSS feed is a public one, it is a unique address, and users can change the feed url or disable the feed entirely if necessary.

ToodleChromeThe ToodleChrome extension is based on Toodledo, a web-based todo application that I’ve come to rely upon on a daily basis. I primarily access my todos via an iPhone app called Todo by Appigo, but there are often times when I want to add some items from my browser.

Tooodle does have a web interface, but I’ve found the slim/mobile version of the site faster and easier to use, especially in conjunction with Appigo’s iPhone app. To make things even more efficient for my workflow, I thought I’d put together a quick and simple extension for the beta version of Google Chrome (my current browser of choice, mainly because it’s fast). Extensions will eventually be enabled in the regular version of Chrome but for now it’s limited to the stable beta.

If you are a Chrome beta user like myself, and need a good way to manage your todos, give the extension a try. It’s listed in the Chrome Extensions directory, and I hope to add some updates via the Toodledo API in the future (specifically, to show due and overdue items in the icon badge). Until then, I hope this small contribution makes it a little easier to keep on top of things.

[Check out ToodleChrome at the Official Google Chrome Repository] [Update: or in the Chrome Web Store]

Read the rest of this entry »

Classic gaming on the go

Posted: November 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

FalloutI’ve been having a great time playing contemporary games like Demon’s Souls, Uncharted or Call of Duty: World at War. But every so often, I pick up a classic that most new generation gamers probably haven’t heard of, and that many older players have forgotten. PC games like Space Quest and Richard Garriott’s Ultima series from the 1980s, or Dune, Day of the Tentacle and UFO: Enemy Unknown from the early 1990s.

It’s funny what we consider “classic,” though. I’ve been moving further into late 20th century releases, and recently decided to pickup Fallout 1 and 2. What’s great about older games is that they run well on low-spec hardware. I bring my netbook everywhere with me these days, and it’s an ideal platform for classic gaming. What’s more, there are often high-definition upgrade packs available, as Ars Technica recently pointed out in one of their features.

Fallout 1 and 2 are no exception. You can get the games off Steam (a downloading service here, though I’m sure you can find it elsewhere), and find the HD patches here and here.

However, if you’re running the newly released Windows 7, you may run into the rainbow effect, which essentially distorts the graphics in the game. The first step to solving this problem is to install the HD packs. The second step is to edit the ini files. Here’s how to do it. Read the rest of this entry »

Designing for A Higher Plane

Posted: October 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

A Higher Plane front page screenshotA Higher Plane is a construction company that uses sustainable development practices in home renovation projects. In adopting ecological stewardship as a central value, projects often use recycled and reclaimed materials, or employ alternative construction methods and innovative designs to maximize the efficient use of materials.

While the information architecture of the site is straightforward to maintain ease of use, the design for their new website called for an aesthetic reflecting the company’s focus on woodworking and its ethical values. We decided to go with earthy colours, using a forest green to help the logo stand out. The header and logo appear stamped into the wood paneling, while the main website content appears on a recycled paper background.

The site is based on the WordPress open-source content management system, using the Lightbox 2 plugin. Each page has a custom template, while blog posts are displayed as a list on the front page in the What’s Happening section.

A Higher Plane‘s new website should be launching soon. In the meantime, you can check out the company’s Gordie Wornoff in Junk Raiders, a recent Discovery Channel television program.

A short history of the universe

Posted: September 4th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , | No Comments »

“Hydrogen is a light, odorless gas, which, given enough time, turns into people.” – Edward R. Harrison (a cosmologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

VIsual History of the Universe

Serve and Destroy 1.4.1: Tennis League

Posted: August 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Tennis StandingsUpdate: This project has been updated and moved to

Almost every day for the past few months, I’ve been playing tennis with friends at the local public courts. Seeing as how all of us are very competitive and often discussing trends in our play, I decided to put together a small web application so that we could keep track of our wins and losses.

At first, I searched for a pre-made tennis app, written either in PHP, Ruby, or another similar language so that I could customize it. However, it seems as though there are very few coders out there interested in making an open-source, publicly available tennis application. One piece of software that comes very close is Peter’s Sports League Standings. Peter has done a great job making a versatile PHP/mySQL package that likely serves the needs of most users looking to set up a sports league.

Peter’s app seems geared mainly towards baseball,  football, or other team sports that have certain types of outcomes (win, loss, tie) based on certain type of stats (e.g. runs for, runs against). Because of my particular requirements in setting up a tennis standings system, I made a few changes to Peter’s original work, most of which are purely aesthetic. Apart from the design and layout, I also reworked the way in which points are calculated, and the Point totals now take into consideration Matches Won, as well as Games Won. The Set category was left out since it’s implicit in Matches Won or Lost.

Read the rest of this entry »

Designing for Performing Publics

Posted: July 18th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , | No Comments »

PSi16I’ve been doing some web development work for PSi16, an annual conference series hosted by Performance Studies international, an organization that brings together scholars and practitioners working in the field of performance.

The project was organized into two, typical stages: interface design (mockups) and implementation. We decided to go with the WordPress content management system because of available ready-to-deploy modules and ease of theme development. The site makes heavy use of page templates. For example, the front splashpage’s design and layout, while maintaining a dropdown menu system, differs significantly from the regular pages found throughout the site. Page templates are a more efficient method of applying custom theme elements to different pages and helped us speed up the development process.

The website will be launching in late August, with the conference taking place in June 2010.

Lost in the Maritimes

Posted: June 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

This month I traveled eastward with my spouse. It was a great time of the year to visit Prince Edward Island, “Home of Anne of Green Gables.” Deciding to go before the high season, we found empty beaches, and low season prices. If you decide to do the same (you’ll have to wait until next year, since high season starts at the end of June), here are some things to remember when in PEI:

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Custom Icons for Gmail Compactor

Posted: May 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Custom Gmail CompactorI use Gmail for my everyday email usage, but one thing that’s always bothered me is the screen real estate occupied by the menu items and search bar – especially on a small netbook screen. Enter: Gmail Compactor. This Greasemonkey-based script created by Pavel Gutin is a great way to save some of your valuable vertical screen space when using Gmail.

While Pavel is current working on a number of new features for the script, one much requested change is the ability to select your own menu icons. In the case of Gmail Compactor, the Inbox and Compose icons look very similar, making things a little confusing sometimes. There have been a number of requests to be able to use custom icons, but Pavel, like many other open source community coders, seems to be a busy guy.

So I thought I’d take it upon myself to make a couple changes in the script to make it a little easier for people who want to use their own icons. It was a simple change. Read the rest of this entry »

The Internet as a distribution platform for comics

Posted: April 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

In the last few years, we’ve seen how the Internet can provide a platform with amazing reach for emerging artists. Whether through portfolio websites or web-driven experimental art, new technologies are transforming the way we communicate and transfer knowledge. On the lighter side of things, the web platform is ideal for new writers and artists who want to publish a little humour through comic strips, without jumping through the hoops of syndication or print media. While I still read the occasional newspaper, I rarely read the funny pages. Instead, I rely on RSS feeds from my favourite web comic creators.

I use Reeder or Newsrack on my portable device, and pull comics through RSS feeds with the incredibly useful Darkgate Comic Slurper. Using this method, I don’t necessarily have to go to the websites themselves; Newsstand automatically updates me when new comics are available. Here’s a few worth checking out:


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Stop, Dropbox and Roll x 3

Posted: March 2nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , | 16 Comments »

dropbox-iconSome of you may already be using “cloud storage” in one form or another. Web-based services like Flickr, Gmail or Google Docs are good examples. The relatively new Dropbox is a great online data storage service for anyone who has multiple computers, or who wants to share a folder with friends or coworkers across the Internet. It’s handy for syncing data across multiple machines, or as an online backup storage space.

While Dropbox is incredibly easy to setup, a problem arises when a user needs to be connected to multiple accounts. I have three accounts: two 50GB paid accounts with each of my employers, used to share documents, code and design mockups; and one 2GB free account that I share with my spouse for photos.

I’d rather not have to mix the various accounts, and Dropbox doesn’t have a built-in feature for multiple dropboxes on the same computer. Windows XP users might have some luck with Dropboxen, but Apple OSX users seem to be stuck. After searching around for a solution, I decided to write up some instructions to enable multiple accounts on a single OSX-based computer. Please use this guide sensibly. Read the rest of this entry »

Full court WordPress from the desktop

Posted: February 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

The web development work I do for OpenConcept has always been focused on the Drupal platform. However, there are a number of other content management systems (CMS) out there with many users and developers.

The Rise of WordPress

One notable platform that I often customize and deploy for clients is WordPress. Like Drupal, WordPress is an open-source, php-based CMS. Yet, Drupal hasn’t seen the same surge in popularity. While Drupal and WordPress both have rich plugin architectures and effective templating systems, a key factor in WordPress’ rapid growth has been the user-friendly backend interface, the administrative section of the CMS used to manage the website. Since Happy Cog was approached by the WordPress team to overhaul the user interface in 2.5, the backend has improved by leaps and bounds. At the same time as the redesign, the WordPress developers were, and continue to add a plethora of new features, such as Auto-saving and Post Revisions.

But therein lies the problem. In the past eight months, ever since WordPress 2.6 was released in the summer, WordPress has been increasingly giving me, and the users I develop for, a hard time. A common problem is the Auto-Saving feature malfunctioning and not saving any content. The Save Draft function has also been acting up on a regular basis, either by not saving at all, or by reverting to an older draft. These problems are often difficult, time-consuming and therefore to costly to troubleshoot. While the WordPress user experience has improved significantly over the past year or so, many users I’ve spoken to have asked for better stability.

One solution is to use a desktop blogging client. Because most users only want to add a blog post every once in a while, something like Microsoft’s free Windows Live Writer is particularly effective in easing the headaches. Desktop clients generally provide the following benefits:

  1. Increased reliability: Drafts can be saved to a local hard drive, rather than to a server not user the user’s direct control.
  2. Familiar interface: Many desktop clients provide a similar feel to popular word processing applications.
  3. Offline access: Users can write a post without being connected to the Internet.
  4. Better formatting: Desktop clients can come closer to “What you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) functionality than WordPress’ own user interface. In the case of Live Writer, the word processing is overlayed on the blog design itself, giving the author a visual representation of what the final post will look like.

The WordPress codex also has a list of further benefits of user a weblog client. Smashing Magazine has a great list of fifteen clients for users beginner to advanced, Windows, Linux or OSX.

The WordPress userbase has growth dramatically for good reason: the developers have constantly been improving the user experience, making it easier and more fun to create content. The WordPress team, like many open-source communities, has been incredibly receptive to the demands of its users, and I’m sure many of the hiccups will be resolved in short order. But in the meantime, there are plenty of stable, more reliable solutions for posting content to your WordPress website.

Solutions for a tempermental Gmail

Posted: January 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

In the last few months, I’ve been experiencing outages in Google’s Gmail service. While still in beta, many people have come to rely on Gmail as their primary mail provider, without considering the consequences if Gmail should ever misplace or prevent access to an account.

Backup your mail!

Users should therefore have a Gmail backup plan in place. There are a number of tools that can do this for you. However, it’s pretty easy to setup on your own, without any third-party tools. If you use Gmail’s web interface, you should go into your Settings > Forwarding and setup automatic forwarding of your email to another account. If you use a desktop application like Thunderbird or Outlook to download your mail via POP, then you should already have the mail backed up to your computer.

iPhone SMTP backup?

I recently ran into a problem with Gmail on my iPhone Mail application. When trying to send an email, I was getting a “Sender address was invalid” error. After trying a number of different avenues for resolving this problem, I came up with the following solution. The goal is to add an additional outgoing mail server (SMTP) option to the iPhone. However, this cannot be done properly on the iPhone itself, and requires proceeding through the iTunes desktop interface:

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How-to: Adding dictionaries to the iPhone 3G

Posted: December 25th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: The Blog | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

DictionaryI’m sure it’s no secret by now that I have an iPhone 3G. Paradoxically, it’s proven to be a great productivity tool while at the same time being a little too handy for procrastination.

Like many other PDAs, third-party applications can be installed on the iPhone. One app that I’ve found particularly useful is weDict, a free dictionary program. While there are a number of dictionary libraries available to install into weDict, there are very few translation libraries.

After doing quite a bit of trial & error, as well as searching online, I have managed to install an English-French dictionary library, and I thought I’d write up some instructions so that others can do the same.
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