Canadians Talking Tech

How to prepare for a marathon

by Noah Bloom No Comments »

A marathon is a hell of a life goal. It’s really long and takes a lot of preparation. You can’t just show up and expect to survive. So you still want to do one? It’s simple:

  1. Get a good pair of shoes from a runner who works at a sports shoe or running specialty store
  2. Run as many days a week as you can, even if it’s short each time
  3. Don’t increase mileage more than 10% a week
  4. If you want to do speed work, which will make you faster and is fun training, get Jack Daniels training book and a GPS watch (yes the coach is really named Jack Daniels)
  5. Learn to eat something (gel, fig, Clif Blok) while running and eat that exact thing once or twice during the race. And drink water.
  6. Watch out for any minor injury which could get worse
  7. and then get yourself to the start line! and be prepared for a world of pain and awesomeness starting at mile 20. Enjoy every mile, smile (it’ll feel easier for a moment) and let me know how it went.

47650 639 004f How to prepare for a marathon
The author at the 2009 Victoria BC Marathon

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Walmart’s $99 Fixie Bicycle

by Noah Bloom No Comments »

Walmart is selling a $99 single speed bike (was $149). Wow. What does this mean? To the popular Bike Snob blog, it may mean that the supposedly cool, hipster stylings of the fixed gear bike has “officially attained complete pop-cultural absorption.” Is it time for hipsters to grieve? Bike Snob has more:

I began to liberate the Cachet from its packing materials. (Not an excited child, mind you; more like a really depressed child who suspects his alcoholic parents may have given him a single used sneaker again this year.)

The Fixed Gear Apocalypse is upon us…

walmart fixie Walmarts $99 Fixie Bicycle

At this point, I can be a snob and claim that, through my meticulous carings of my own bicycle collection and each tiny bolt and cable on it, this is a piece of crap bike, fit for nobody who appreciates bicycles. And I could complain that Walmart undercutting everyone on bike price is the sign of the capitalism bike-apocalypse. But I’d be completely wrong.

I’ve been apprehensive for years to commute regularly on a bike for fears of theft or, perhaps worse, public piecing apart. If you look on Craigslist these days, $100 will get you a pretty horrific piece of old rusting, steel mangledness. I’ve resorted to bike sharing like Bixi, but that just doesn’t do the trick.

Maybe this is the future. $99 generic bikes. Add some customization just to set yours apart. And then, just imagine, the government kicking in a subsidy. Eventually, this bike could drop to $79 retail. Have the government pop in a $40 per bike subsidy (that’s pretty nominal, no?). And then nobody will have an excuse not to get a $39 commuter that you’re not afraid to lose.

Is this the future? Well, as soon as I can get down the US (oh yeah there’s that, this is not available in Canada yet), you’ll see me cruising to the pool training, organic grocery store, and yoga class on this just-good-enough bike.

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Hands-on review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro [VIDEO]

by Daniel Wolfe No Comments »

One thing I “forgot” to mention in my review: I am an Android fanboy, so I often neglect the fact that the iPhone (and all touchscreen iOS devices to date, pretty much) multitouch and overall screen sensitivity and reaction is significantly smoother than any Android device I’ve seen yet. This Xperia Pro’s touchscreen, while strong, is still not as good as the iPhone 4.

Noah’s Review:

We at NorthGeek recently got our hands on the yet-to-be-released Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro. Fido here in Canada will be the first carrier in the world to launch this device. And it’s a great little Android number. The first things you’ll notice about it are the full slide-out keyboard, 8MB camera, 3.7″ screen with 265ppi pixel density, and Android v2.3 Gingerbread (the newest smartphone Android OS). Compare this to the Nexus S (my favourite Android device), which has a 4″ 235ppi screen and weighs just a bit less but has no physical keyboard. Also compare to the iPhone 4 which has a 3.5″ 326ppi screen.

For many people, the Xperia Pro will be the ultimate Android device. It’s fast, has the latest operating system, and has a physical keyboard. I’m of the camp that once you get used to the onscreen touch keyboard, you won’t need a physical one, but so many people would like exactly what the Xperia Pro offers.

Pros:

  • Keyboard: this is perhaps the most significant standout option against the Xperia line. Even just having hard text cursor movement arrows is great, better than the one on the Nexus One, and versus the nonexistent feature on the Nexus S
  • Perhaps the best camera on a mass market smartphone, but it still can’t replace my dedicated cameras
    Good use of three hard buttons on the bottom: back, home, options
  • Timescape: it’s a slick and fun little way to scroll through all your social media and phone messages. It’s a fun toy, but I find it quite over-designed and flashy, so not as functional or efficient as dedicated apps
    Device has a noticeable but not overbearing light for notifications
  • Apparently, the device comes with ANT+ compatibility, which would be awesome for the devices I use: heartrate monitor, bike power meter, etc. I’d love to see this more widespread and useful on smartphones

General Android pros:

  • The best Google products integration. I love my Google products and Gingerbread nails them so well. I’m not sure how you can live without Google Navigation, fully integrated Google Voice, or even Gmail specific email app. This is so superior to what the iPhone offers here.
  • Not the most exciting, but I love the unlock pattern option for the Android devices. So much easier than lifting your finger between digits on the iPhone unlock numerical code.
  • NFC: it’s not just hype. Payment services and so much more are here and upcoming
  • Now I can have Instafetch on my Android devices to read articles on-the-go and offline. You are no longer stuck with Instapaper on the iPhone

Cons:

  • I miss not having an iPhone hard button toggle to turn the ringer off. Some Android device will eventually figure this out.
  • Why is the user forcefully prompted to create a Moxier mail account and run antivirus protection? Very annoying
  • I’ve become so accustomed to using my device in vertical screen mode, that using the physical keyboard only when sideways becomes such an interruption to my workflow. Again I’m not personally sold on the physical keyboard anymore.
  • The screen is smaller than the Nexus S, albeit bigger than the iPhone
  • You will be missing iPhone only apps. Can you live with that? Really, what’s so impossible to live without: Instagram, Ness, another game that isn’t Angry Birds or Cut the Rope, etc?

Overall:
If you’re looking for an Android device with a physical keyboard, the most up to date Android OS, and would enjoy the bonus of an impressive camera and some Sony Ericsson features like Timescape, this is a 9/10. Compared to the Nexus S and iPhone 4 (in my opinion the two best phones on the market right now), I’d give it a 7/10.

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Ski season cometh

by Noah Bloom No Comments »

When the summer nights start to get cool, it’s time to think ski movies again. Here are the awe-inspiring trailers from the upcoming season:

MSP Films’ Attack of La Niña:

Teton Gravity Research’s One For the Road:

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How to ride a bike. Nay, how to call sport play-by-play

by Noah Bloom No Comments »

This video is without a doubt a lesson on how to ride your bike, by UK’s Danny Hart, world champion downhiller this year by 11 seconds. But it’s even more a lesson on how to announce a sport play-by-play. These announcers should inspire every other guy or gal out there how to do this!

“Danny, stay on your bike! … How does Danny Hart sit down with balls that big?”

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Failed US spectrum politics: TV broadcasters vs the carriers

by Noah Bloom No Comments »

Are local TV broadcasters the Open Mobile Video Coalition squatting on US spectrum, and by doing so clogging up your iPhone connection? This piece from TechCrunch, by Frank Barbieri, claims that local television broadcasters, along with the OMVC and some unknown broadcast startups, are sitting on some valuable spectrum that could be used to alleviate the squeeze on US carriers’ own spectrum. And they’re not giving up their lease on it easily. Could the FCC just take it away if they’re not using it for consumer benefit as it’s stipulated? Read more at AT&T Merger Fail Highlights Failure Of Spectrum Politics,

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Motorhead Messiah

by Noah Bloom No Comments »

Could 37 year old, high school dropout Johnathan Goodwin change Detroit? Goodwin is a car hacker in Wichita, Kansas doing some remarkable things in his workshop, according to this 2007 article from Fast Company. It makes you wonder why Detroit isn’t doing more to make cars faster yet more conservative on fossil fuels and emissions, when this small shop is doing just that. He says, “Detroit could do all this stuff overnight if it wanted to.”

About his modified H1, he says, “Think about it. A 5,000-pound vehicle that gets 60 miles to the gallon and will do zero to 60 in five seconds!”

The numbers are simple: With a $5,000 bolt-on kit he co-engineered–the poor man’s version of a Goodwin conversion–he can immediately transform any diesel vehicle to burn 50% less fuel and produce 80% fewer emissions.

He’s refitting cars for Neil Young and Arnold:

And word’s getting out. In the corner of his office sits Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 Jeep Wagoneer, which Goodwin is converting to biodiesel; soon, Neil Young will be shipping him a 1960 Lincoln Continental to transform into a biodiesel–electric hybrid.

Basically he’s advocating step 1) more diesel 2) diesel electric 3) hybrid burning biodiesel along with hydrogen, ethanol, natural gas, or propane. “You can feed it hydrogen, diesel, biodiesel, corn oil–pretty much anything but water.”

He joined the Pimp My Ride crew for a special Earth Day episode, where they converted a 1965 Impala into a diesel beast. Watch it here (Canadian link).

These days, it seems his focus is on converting H1s and H2s into monstrously fast and reasonably emitting trucks. Maybe it’s not the future we idealize of quick yet nearly zero emissions vehicles, but perhaps the catalyst for popularizing vehicles with lower emissions is fast and hot. Compare to the upcoming and gorgeous Tesla Model S — I think they nailed the design, and that probably sells better than any eco angle.

tesla model s Motorhead Messiah

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Inside The Olympic Dream by Cameron Sylvester

by Noah Bloom No Comments »

Cameron Sylvester, a member of Canada’s outstanding lightweight men’s double sculls rowing crew, on his quest for the London Olympics in 2012, put together this gem of a video. You’ll get a sense of the hard work it takes to compete at this level. A tiny, tiny sense.

Inside The Olympic Dream from cameron sylvester on Vimeo.

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Give Canada’s Visiting Brains a Boost

by Noah Bloom No Comments »

Sometimes the comment trolls get to you. A couple great profiles on the plight encountered by foreign entrepreneurs trying to set up startups in Canada, including our friends Mircea and Cristian from Summify, have been met by some infuriating comments. First, there was The Globe and Mail’s article, Immigrant Tech Stars Face Hurdles in Quest to Start Business in Canada, following four days later by this Globe Editorial.

They were met by some pretty ridiculous comments. Such is the Internet.

Here is the comment I had to make there:

It’s truly UNFORTUNATE to see this much MISUNDERSTANDING in the comment thread here and on the original article. People are doubting whether this company has any promise, whether it’s anything unique and if someone else could do it, and even if Mircea and Cristian are lying about receiving offers from successful, established companies. COME ON!

Who cares? What matters is that they’re doing something that has raised investments from legitimate, accredited investors in Canada (and from the US, but that’s secondary here) and that they have or will create jobs in Canada. As a bonus, if you just look it up, they’re actually getting favorable press, they raised investment from some rock star investors that have extremely high standards for tech companies, and they are proclaiming proudly that they’re a product of the growing Vancouver startup scene.

Instead of criticizing Mircea and Cristian’s company, we should use them as an example of what the Canadian government should accept. The US Startup Visa effort (startupvisa.com), for a great example, is trying to mend their current legislation to allow entrepreneurs into the US based on two critical accomplishments — raise a certain amount of investment from accredited investors (understandably lower these days with the dramatically lowered cost of starting a company) and create a certain number of jobs with a specific timeframe — and if you fail, you lose the visa. Easy. Simple. No extensive trickery or bureaucracy.

Let the process be quantitatively, merit based — not based on emotion. Canada should be so lucky to have entrepreneurs building legitimate companies and jobs in our country, and so unlucky to have people relentlessly and ignorantly criticize them.

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Pale Blue Dot, the Most Epic Photo Ever Taken

by Noah Bloom No Comments »

There’s a remarkable thread happening at Quora “What’s the Most Epic Photo Every Taken.” The top voted response refers to “Pale Blue Dot,” a photograph of planet Earth taken from a record distance of 3.7 billion miles, at the edge of our solar system, showing the Earth against the vastness of space. It was shot and transmitted by the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1990, almost 13 years after its launch.

pale blue dot 221x300 Pale Blue Dot, the Most Epic Photo Ever Taken

Dr. Carl Sagan, who originally requested that the picture be taken, famously reflected on its meaning. These words are particularly worth contemplating:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Look again at that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

pale blue dot Pale Blue Dot, the Most Epic Photo Ever Taken
Earth appears as a tiny dot the blueish-white speck approximately halfway down the brown band to the right.

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