gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Archive for the ‘Gadgets’

Fun with LEDs

December 23, 2013 @ 01:25 By: gordon Category: Gadgets

Yesterday was the annual Christmas geocache event in the middle of a forest (GC4V00C). The last few years I’ve brought mini chemical light sticks to decorate the tree, but because of the cold they tend not to last very long. This year, I decided to upgrade and created little blinking lights to hang on the tree using some LEDs, batteries, tape and pipe cleaners.

I searched the Internet for flashing LEDs and found some that changed colours and flashed without needing and fancy circuitry. And they came in both slow and fast versions, so I ordered 15 of each.

Next stop was eBay to find some 2032 batteries. I’d bought some in the past from a seller near Toronto and happily he (?) was still selling them, so I ordered up a bunch.

Everything arrived in a timely manner, so Friday evening I started building my little lights.

LED closeupThe construction was fairly straightforward because basically you put a 2032 battery between the leads of the LED, being sure to respect the polarity, and tape the leads to the battery. A little bit of pipe cleaner wrapped about one lead — not both leads because that could short it out — acted as a hook.

The tricky bit was coming up with a way to pre-build them and be able to turn them on only once I had arrived at the event cache. After a little experimentation I settled on using triangular wedges of waxed paper. By sticking one between one lead and the battery and leaving the wide end of the triangle poking out, it was possible to gently remove the paper without undoing the tape.

The result was a festive tree in the middle of a forest…

CCC Christmas tree

I took a short video of the lights when I returned home in the evening before I took them apart for another day:


DIY Panoramic mount for GoPro camera

September 23, 2013 @ 23:20 By: gordon Category: Gadgets, Photography

Rob sent me a link to a video recently about a panoramic mount for a GoPro camera made out of an egg timer. I had a bit of free time this past weekend, so I thought I’d give it a try.


I’m going to miss the skeumorphs

September 18, 2013 @ 10:35 By: gordon Category: Gadgets, General

iOS7 is being released sometime later today for iPhones and iPads. In addition to the changes “under the hood”, it also introduces an updated look-and-feel.

“Conspicuous ornamentation has been stripped away. Unnecessary bars and buttons have been removed. And in taking away design elements that don’t add value, suddenly there’s greater focus on what matters most: your content.” — taken from the Apple website

Judging by the screen captures on the iOS website, and things I’ve read elsewhere, this means that the skeumorphs are being eliminated.

Find Friends skeumorph (cropped)Skeumorphs are the little graphical elements that make an app seem like it’s a physical thing as opposed to a collection of pixels. For example, the Find Friends app has a stitched leather motif with a line of stitching at the top of the screen and subtle shading and texture to give the impression of leather. One of the ways you can display your books in iBooks is like in a bookcase. My first generation iPad, which is forever stuck using iOS5, looks like a leather notepad portfolio when you’re using the Notes app.

Functionally, skeumorphs may not add anything to the operation of the apps, but I kind of like them and will probably miss them when they’re gone.

Skyfall: My review

November 14, 2012 @ 08:29 By: gordon Category: Reviews

Spoiler alert: I am going to be talking about plot elements so if you haven’t seen it yet you might not want to read the rest of this before seeing the movie.

I saw Skyfall, the newest member of the James Bond franchise, on the weekend. Overall, I give the movie a score of 8/10.


Weighing the options: BlackBerry vs iPhone vs Android

May 15, 2012 @ 15:40 By: gordon Category: Gadgets, General

Assuming Rogers doesn’t once again change the eligibility date for a hardware upgrade, I should be eligible for a new phone in a couple of days. Currently, I have a BlackBerry 9700 Bold, which I’ve generally been happy with, but there are now other types of phones available that weren’t viable as options when I got my first smartphone a few years ago. These include iPhones, Androids, and Windows 7 phones, along with various other propriety almost-smartphones. There are also newer BlackBerrys to consider.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I’m looking for in a phone (besides the basic functionality of placing and receiving phone calls) and I’ve come up with a list:

  • The screen must be larger than the one in my BlackBerry 9700: While the display on the Bold is fine, having more screen real estate would make it easier to use. The BlackBerry Torch has a larger screen.
  • The screen must be a touchscreen: I’ve gotten so used to interacting with my iPad by touching the screen that I even find myself trying to zoom and scroll à la iPad. When I let other people use it, they try to scroll by touching the display, even when I tell them as I hand it to them “it’s not a touch screen” and “don’t poke the screen” — even other people who have identical phones to mine. iPhone owners are completely baffled if they try to use my BlackBerry that I eventually take pity on them. Some of the newer BlackBerrys have touchscreens, even if they have a screen similar in size to the 9700.
  • Forward-facing camera: It would be nice to have the ability to make video calls, possibly with Skype. iPhones and Androids have them, but I’m not aware of any BlackBerrys that do.

Given that most phones these days have large touch screens, it’s really the forward-facing camera that’s starting to influence the decision. But it’s the next two that are the deciding factors:

Dark Matter #4: A review

April 13, 2012 @ 11:50 By: gordon Category: Comic books, Reviews

Dark Matter #4 coverThe final issue of the Dark Matter mini-series was released this past Wednesday. Written by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie of Stargate fame, the series has taken us from when the crew of a spaceship wakes up with amnesia in the first issue, to learning about who they were in DM #3.

At the end of Dark Matter #3, the crew was split into two groups: one that was on a planet making a delivery and the other which had to leave them on the planet to avoid getting into a battle with another ship.

In Dark Matter #4, our heroes manage to get back together without getting blown to smithereens. They also manage to save the settlers on the planet before riding off into the sunset, so to speak, with an implied “to be continued”. (If you want more details then you’re going to have to visit your local comic book shop and pick up a copy for yourself!)

Overall, I enjoyed the series and I’m sad to see it end. It’s well-written and the drawing it top-notch!

Joseph Mallozzi has mentioned on his blog a number of times that Dark Matter is being pitched as a television series. Personally, I’d like to see it on tv, but I hope that Dark Horse Comics decides to sign Dark Matter up for a long run, too!

Read my review of Dark Matter #3 here.
Read my review of Dark Matter #2 here.
Read my review of Dark Matter #1 here.

Dark Matter #3: A review

March 19, 2012 @ 02:26 By: gordon Category: Comic books, Reviews

Dark Matter #3 coverI picked up Dark Matter #3 by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Scullie this past Wednesday from Silver Snail along with a couple of other titles. The third in a series of four, this is the issue where our amnesiac crew comes to grips with their rather checkered pasts, which they have discovered in the ship’s computer. At the same time, they have to contend with threats from another ship that showed up at the end of Dark Matter #2 while some of them are on a planet delivering weapons to some settlers. (Of course, there’s a bit more than just a delivery run, but you’re going to have to read the issue to find out what I’m not telling you!)

Discussions between the two ships ensue with ultimatums being issued. The result is that the crew on the ship have to leave immediately, leaving their crewmates on the surface behind.

Duh Duh DUH!

I’m still enjoying the progression of the story. It continues to have the feeling of elements of Joss Whedon’s Firefly combined with the uncertainty of Stargate Universe along with elements from other sci-fi stories I’ve read over the years. The writing is tight and the artwork is dark and gritty, which is perfect for the story.

I’m a bit sad that there’s only one more issue to come in the series because it’s a great medium for a story like this. Joseph Mallozzi has said in various entries on his blog that there’s serious interest in a Dark Matter television series, which would be great and I would like to see come to fruition. However, though I’m by no means an expert on the industry, I suspect that a comic book series would be much less subject to arbitrary cancellation unlike a television series. (For proof of this one needs look no further than Stargate Universe, which was effectively scuttled by Space, or Firefly, which was cancelled by Fox. Neither series was really given a fair chance and both were top-notch television.)

There’s probably nothing precluding having both a television series and a comic book series in parallel, so hopefully this is something the Joe will entertain. I don’t believe he’s really said anything about this one way or the other on his blog. (Care to comment, Joe? Winking smile )

So, it you haven’t picked up Dark Matter #3, what are you waiting for? And if you haven’t read any of them, then get in touch with your local comic book shop and order them today!

Read my review of Dark Matter #2 here.
Read my review of Dark Matter #1 here.