‘Missing’ Calgary Herald Gargoyle found on eBay? Owner asks $4500

For many years, a gaggle of gargoyles presided over the Len Werry building that housed the Calgary Herald.   Rebuilding and renovations saw them removed from the building, and some were sold off to history and art buffs or former employees, while others were put away for storage to be re-used in the future.  Some, according to an article in the paper, are ‘missing’ or perhaps their ownership was never properly recorded. Continue reading “‘Missing’ Calgary Herald Gargoyle found on eBay? Owner asks $4500”

Smart charging cables & accessories for your phone

belt-cable-long-native-union- chargingPhone batteries never last long enough, so making sure you’ve got a backup plan is important. I’ve been checking out some new charging devices and accessories that can help you stay powered up, while looking chic, and solving some annoying problems. Continue reading “Smart charging cables & accessories for your phone”

Modern Homes Tour shows Calgary’s chicest modernist homes

img_5776Calgary Modern Home Tour, Sep 24, 2016 – Calgary architecture has come a long way. From being known for its sandstone buildings years ago, to newer, more revolutionary buildings and structures like The Bow, or the Peace Bridge, Calgary is increasingly able to boast architectural structures that are worthy of bragging about.

Probably not surprising then there was an excellent turnout today for the first ever Calgary Modern Home Tour. Featuring five home in three quadrants across the city, this home tour featured a mix of brand new builds, more recent construction, and both show homes and lived-in family houses.img_5744

Each of the five homes was stunningly beautiful in its own way; whether it was unique and distinct architectural features, or elements of interior design that set it apart.

Organized by the Modern Architecture + Design Society which is based in the US, the events are, “carefully curated by and for lovers of all things modern, we capture the finest and most original innovations in architecture, design and lifestyle.”

The homes were largely located in central Calgary, and easy to see in the time allotted (11am-5pm). At several of the homes we were able to chat with the architects, designers, builders and even homeowners about why design decisions were made, how the homes were decorated to maximize features, and even what it’s like living inside an architectural gem.img_5788img_5783

At one home overlooking the Bow river (built by Newgrowth Fine Homes), a central feature of the home was a poured concrete wall, complete with the imprint of rough-hewn wood left behind from the cribbing. The homeowner told us is was a feat of engineering (her husband was the engineer, so she should know!) and took careful planning to avoid a blowout. The pour was done in three stages, basement, main floor, then upper, and took about a year to complete. The wood imprint provides a wall that’s strong and structural, but also appears both natural and warm.

img_5771-1The Modern Architecture  + Design Society writes on its website, about the wall that it’s, “an implied barrier between the public and private spaces. It remains exposed as a central core – the stair floats upward in a ribbon against it, the archways lead to new spaces and it is the dramatic kitchen wall.”

Another fascinating home near Marda Loop was modular; the outer shell is crafted (by housebrand), floors are put in (oiled oak) and then instead of traditional drywall walls, giant deep modular floor-to-ceiling closets act as room dividers, meaning the interior of the home can be customized or adjusted as the family’s needs grow and change.

juniper-home-calgary

Perhaps the most distinctive home simply from an aesthetic perspective was an industrial-modern property that used corrugated metal and grates on the outside, with a sleek but bright inside. The stunning and huge all white kitchen features touch-latch cabinets that make it seem as though everything is stashed behind hidden panels, and gives way to both a wide-open dining area and a living room. Gorgeous maple accents and floor-to-ceiling windows on both the main and lower level ensure the home will never feel too stark.calgary-modern-homeThe home tour was a real treat and a chance to peek inside some amazing houses. Visit the MA+DS website to read more about the 2016 homes and to see some stunning professional photos.

img_5778 calgary modern home tour bath tile calgary modern bathroom calgary modern bridgeland Modern home calgary

Great gear for back to school – CTV Tech Talk

tech-talk-sept16This week on CTV Tech Talk I showed you three cool gadgets that can make back to school easier and more fun.

Moleskine Smart Writing Set

moleskine-smart-writing-set-erinlyycThis gadget has really surprised me in terms of how versatile it is, and how well it works. It would be great for students, artists or just compulsive note-takers who never want to lose their notes, or who need an easy way to share them with others.

We barely had time to scratch the surface of everything this device can do on Tech Talk, so be sure to click the link below and read the full review.

The Moleskine Smart Writing Set  consists of a thick notebook in traditional Moleskine style; a bound and wrapped cover with an elastic to keep it closed, plus a special pen (called Pen+) that has the ability to connect to your smartphone, and automatically and seamlessly transfer whatever you draw or write in the notebook, direct to digital format, using the free Moleskine app.

The pen is larger than a standard pen and has built-in technology.  You push a button on the end of the pen, and connect it to Moleskine’s M+ Notes app.  Then, it tracks where you write on the page, and transfers it in real time to the app, in your own handwriting, or converted to text. The uses for this really cool technology are almost endless.

Read more about exactly how the Smart Writing Set works, and my full review of it here.

Roku Insignia Smart 4K TV4k-UHD-Insignia-Roku-TV-Best-Buy-Canada-1024x536

4K TV is the newest innovation in TV technology, and it’s all about the pixels. A 4K TV has millions more than the next best TV which is 1080p.

If you think of a TV screen as a giant grid made up of minuscule squares, a 4K image has about 4,000 horizontal pixels (that’s where the name “4K” comes from). In total, it has about 8 million pixels on the screen, or about 4 times as many as the next best TV. To explain it in a visual way, manufacturers are jamming as many total pixels as there are in all of a 1080p set, into about a quarter of a 4K screen. That’s a lot of pixels.

While the screen resolution is amazing, the Roku Insignia TV is also smart. You can stream shows with it, using Netflix, and you don’t need a seperate streaming device.  You can also surf the web, watch YouTube or play digital content. A 4K Roku TV brings you the best available resolution plus all the smartest TV features.

Click here to read the full review I did of this TV, as well as more about 4K technology.

Epson Ecotank ET-2550 Printer

It’s been more than a decade since I’ve had a printer in my home.  I haven’t missed having one for many years, that is until I started testing some new ones.

It’s not that I haven’t needed to print anything, but you know, you find other ways around that; snapshot photos, email copies, and yes, printing stuff at the office.

I have to say, that since I’ve re-adopted having a printer in the house, I’ve found them quite handy; and so has my family. Particularly because they’re now easier to use, more versatile, and there’s less fussing with ink and cartridges.

No ink cartridges in this printer!

epson-ecotankOn Tech Talk I showed off the Epson Expression ET 2550 EcoTank Printer. It’s a wireless printer/copier/scanner/fax/ethernet, which has a unique feature: it doesn’t use printer cartridges.  Instead it contains “eco-tank” ink bottles that are equivalent to about 20 cartridge sets. The printer I have includes enough ink to print up to 4000 pages in black or 6500 pages in color. That’s a long, long time before I’ll need to worry about running out of juice; possibly a couple years.

I reviewed a different model of EcoTank printer, one that has a slightly higher print capacity; read that review of the Epson Workforce ET-4550 here.

Whether it’s watching documentaries in glorious 4K resolution, printing book reports without the fuss of cartridges, or taking and sharing notes instantly and digitally, these three gadgets can help make back to school season easier, more productive, and more fun.

Contest – Enter to Win!

Want to enter the contest we talked about on CTV? Click here to be re-directed to the contest page. (*not active until Tuesday Sept 13)

Write on paper, see it on your phone or TV instantly; Moleskine Smart Writing set

moleskine-smart-writing-set-erinlyycIf there’s one gadget that’s blown my mind this year, it’s this; Moleskine’s Smart Writing set is a paper notebook and special pen, that allows you to enjoy the tangible feel of writing with the power of technology.

What is the Moleskine Smart Writing set?

The set consists of a thick notebook in traditional Moleskine style; a bound and wrapped cover with an elastic to keep it closed, plus a special pen (called Pen+) that has the ability to connect to your smartphone, and automatically and seamlessly transfer whatever you draw or write in the notebook, direct to digital format, using the free Moleskine app.

The pen has black ink (but with refillable easy-to-replace 4C replacement cartridge you can switch it to whatever you prefer). The pen, which is larger than a standard pen, but not too unwieldy or heavy, has built-in technology.  You push a button on the end of the pen, and connect it to Moleskine’s M+ Notes app.  Then, it tracks where you write on the page, and transfers it in real time to the app, in your own handwriting, or converted to text. The uses for this really cool technology are almost endless.

When you flip a page in the notebook, the app knows it, and starts a new page in the app too, so your notes are always organized.

But you can go one step further, and digitally organize the pages in a different order if that makes more sense for you. The app also keeps several notebooks organized, so if you have more than one, they’re all digitally archived for sharing, or in case you lose it.

Moleskine Smart Writing set – How it worksMoleskine smart writing set 1.jpg

Using the special Moleskine Pen+, you write in the notebook, which has tiny dots on the page. The Pen+ has “a hidden camera that traces and digitizes everything you write,” Moleskine explains on its website.

“The Paper Tablet uses invisible NCode™ technology by NeoLAB Convergence embedded within each page that allows the Moleskine Pen+ to recognize where it is inside the notebook and to transfer all your freehand notes from page to screen in real-time. It allows you to smoothly digitize, edit, organize and share handwritten notes and sketches made on the move for seamless integration between paper and cloud.”

While the pen will work with other paper, just like a regular pen, and the paper notebook can take notes written by another pen, for the kit to work and digitally transfer your notes, the Pen+ and the notebook must work together with the app.

Other amazing functions – Moleskine Smart Writing set

Moleskine transcribe smart writing erinlyycTranscribe function

Amazingly, the Moleskine Smart Writing kit can also transcribe your handwritten notes and turn them to text, which can then be shared via e-mail, Dropbox, or other services. While the app has some trouble seeing shapes or scribbles and understanding those, for the most part, if your handwriting is neat, it does an astonishingly good job at accurately digitizing it.

Use Tags to organize

Your pages can be easily organized or searched in the Moleskine app; just add keywords or tags to the digital file, and they’re instantly archived.moleskine-4

Playback function

Want to see how your sketch took shape, or how that idea you whiteboared came about?  A super-neat Playback function with re-create your words, art or notes in the order you wrote them as a video. While it looks particularly cool for drawings, it can be really helpful for recalling the order of meeting notes and conversations. The next step for this feature would be the ability to export that playback as a video, which I couldn’t seem to do; perhaps that’s a feature that can come in subsequent updates.

Voice input

The pen and app also have a voice dictation function. You record notes, meetings or whatever you need, then play it back by clicking on the ‘play’ button in the app (the same one that will play back your drawings as a video). You can listen to meetings again, or check quotes against your notes. The digital pages in the app keep track of which pages have voice notes associated to them.  The only think missing with this feature, in my opinion, is the ability to dictate notes to the pen, and then have the pen transcribe it into the virtual notebook for you like Apple’s Siri does. As it is, you can only listen back to the recording. But still… a pen that’s that smart and functional?  Impressive.

Calendar and GPS

Another neat function I discovered is that the app records your location and activity in its built-in calendar. Not sure whether you sent that page to your team? Can’t remember where you or what triggered that great idea? The calendar keeps track of all the data to remind you.

Sharing optionsmoleskine smart writing 3

Your notes, drawings, scribbles, whiteboard brainstorms, or meeting notes can be easily shared, saved and sent using a huge number of services. Pages can be saves as images or PDFs, as text/transcribed pages, or as SVG for Adobe illustrator files. You can also connect and share seamlessly with services like Evernote, Dropbox, Spark, Pinterest, or Google Drive, among others. Another cool feature?  Just check the tiny envelope icon on the top corner of the page, and your notes will be instantly emailed to you; you can even pre-set the send-to email address for instant delivery.img_5486

Editing Modes

With a tap you can make changes to your digital notes. Undo/Redo functions make edits or corrections easy, plus Select/Deselect lets you work only on certain areas. A pen or highlighter function means you can feature words or content too.

Use it with mirroring and a TV – Amazing for whiteboarding ideas

A function I thought was super cool is the ability to ‘broadcast’ your notes as you write.  I used Apple TV and the iPhone screen mirroring function to display my scrawls on a large TV screen. This would work great for a presentation, or brainstorming or whiteboarding session where everyone can watch what’s being drawn out, and can then receive a digital copy of the session. Check out my YouTube video to see this feature in action.

Overall review -Moleskine’s Smart Writing set

The Moleskine Smart Writing set really and truly surprised me at how well it worked. The connection between the Pen+ and the app was instant and seamless every time. The connectivity and real time transfer function was also consistently trouble-free.

From voice notes, to video playback of your work, calendars so you know when you worked on items, instant emails and sharing, and tags to make notes fully searchable this kit does a whole lot more than you think.

The kit is expensive, yes, ($249 CAD) but in terms of the technology and versatility, you’re getting your money’s worth here.

Get the Moleskine Smart Writing kit from Moleskine’s website, from select Indigo stores, or Indigo.ca 

 

 

MiTagg lamp – multipurpose tech & charging center

MiTagg lamp 1I get some of my most interesting ideas for tech gear and blogs from coworkers; Neena stumbled across this unusual gadget, and had to know if it was all it’s cracked up to be. The MiTagg desk lamp is much more than a light; it’s a multi-talented tech and charging center.

What the MiTagg lamp does

The minimalist c-shaped lamp is purpose-built; the top is an LED light, with dimming abilities, while along the base are different options for charging; there’s an Apple Watch charger, a phone charger, plus a space to keep a power bank ready for when you need to grab it and go. You can use these docks individually, or all at once, with the lamp on or off.

The lamp is made from an aluminum skin and has been given a brushed finish.

Testing the MiTagg Power StationMiTagg lamp 2

This lamp would be at home in an office or a house, depending on your aesthetic.  I kept my sample on my desk at the office and had many a coworker come over to take a look at the unique contraption. Most people thought it was handy, and I have to agree.  All the plugs in our office are located under our desks, so charging anything while at work requires crawling around on the floor, and hoping for a spare outlet. Of course, there’s never one down there.

With the lamp handily on the desk (I unplugged another dumber desk lamp to make room for the MiTagg) and now fully powered, it was easy to dock my phone nearby while working, and have it stay powered up. Of course having this device take up just one plug, while allowing me to charge multiple devices, and still providing desk light was a smart solution, as far as I was concerned.

There’s no set up or complications with this power center; unpack, plug and it’s ready.

mitagg nukiOptional accessory – NuKi power bank

The lamp I tested came with a small battery pack or power bank called NuKi. The NuKi comes with a separate charging cradle, which seems redundant when most power banks today can recharge with any USB plug or outlet. MiTagg’s website calls this ‘frictionless’ charging, and indeed the NuKi can simply be dropped into its cradle for a recharge, but of course that cradle has to be plugged in via USB somewhere (probably your lamp).

Valued separately at a whopping $69 USD the extra power supply is “a compact, portable keychain backup battery solution with an integrated Apple® MFI Lightning Cable and convenient detachable keyring means you’re always ready for instant power on-the-go,” according to MiTagg’s website. Considering powerful and long lasting power banks can be had for a fraction of that cost, I’m a little surprised this one can only deliver 75% charge (1800 mAh) to an iPhone for that price and size.

Mysteriously, the NuKi also comes with a detachable key ring, so if you did want to weigh your keys down with a large and awkward key chain, you could.

NuKi has location trackingNuKi_Silver_4_large

NuKi also comes with built in location tracking, as some power banks are nowadays, probably because they’re so easy to set down, or plug in and walk away then forget.  You’ll need a separate app for that feature.

A thought for next time – MiTagg Power Station Lamp

If I had one complaint about this product, it’s that the light itself could be more powerful and cast a wider glow. As it is, the light is very down-focused, meaning it lights up the devices it’s charging on its base, more so than my work area.  It can’t be adjusted either; if the LED could be swiveled to provide more directional task light, I think it would be far more useful. I found myself not using the dimming feature, and instead wishing the lamp could be brighter, perhaps to spill off the base and get where I needed some light the most.

The MiTagg Power Lamp Station sells for $299USD and is available at the MiTagg website.

If you have a gadget I should check out, please reach out on Twitter or Instagram @ErinLYYC

Misfit Ray is pretty; but does it track well? Review

ray4Want to automatically track sleep, steps, calories and exercise, without having to worry about constant charging? The Misfit Ray might just be for you. The Ray arrived to my test center recently for a review, and I strapped it on right away to get started.

Misfit Ray is a sleek cylindrical fitness band that looks a lot more like a chic bracelet than a fitness tracker made for the gym; and that’s a good thing. I had high hopes for the device after having a positive experience with the Misfit Shine previously, but I was to be disappointed with the new device.

What Misfit Ray doesimg_3456

The Misfit Ray is a lot like other fitness trackers with some notable differences. For starters, if you often forget to charge your band, and your 5K run doesn’t get tracked, you’ll like the fact the Ray doesn’t need charging.  It uses a replaceable battery (three tiny ones, actually) that should give you six months of tracking and data, according to Misfit’s website. Sadly that was not the case for me, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Ray also:

  • Automatically tracks steps, distance, calories, and light and restful sleep
  • Has vibration alerts for call and text notifications, movement reminders, and alarms
  • It’s swimproof, with anodized aluminum or stainless steel cylinder with multicolor LED progress display
  • Monitors sleep duration and quality
  • Shows steps taken and distance traveled
  • Allows for tagging of specific activities, like cycling or yoga
  • Tracks calories burned
  • Can be used to take selfies and control lights and music; Smart button enabled to control connected household devices

What’s in the box:

Inside the package you get the Misfit Ray, 1 Band (your choice of Sport or Leather), batteries and a Quick Start Guide. The leather watch-style band that came with my device was comfortable, easy to get on and off, and pretty.  Overall the device looked nice and felt very light on my wrist.  Almost immediately I stopped noticing it was there.

Getting Started with Misfit Ray

img_5351 img_5352 Installing the batteries was the hardest part of operating the Ray.  In the tiny pictograms in the Quick Start Guide, it appears as though a sharp tool is being used to pry the end cap off the Ray’s cylinder.  After much poking, prodding and gouging, I was mystified, since I could absolutely not get the device open.  An online tutorial helped explain the battery compartment is actually accessed by pinching the band as close to the cylinder as possible, then twisting it to the left.  Finally!  Armed with this new and more accurate info, the batteries slid into a small sleeve, and I was good to go.

Pairing Problems

As an owner of a Misfit Shine (read the review of that here) I figured pairing would be easy. I loaded up the app, and selected ‘devices’. Much to my disappointment, I was unable to pair the Ray.  It seemed to me to have something to do with the Shine, which was still on my account, blocking access to the Ray somehow.

After numerous attempts, I pulled the batteries out of the Shine (because there’s no turning it off) and started over with the Ray.  It finally connected!

Misfit Ray – Data & Statsimg_4645

I wore the Ray daily for several weeks, on the same wrist as my Fitbit Alta. After about the first week, I started comparing the data.  I saw immediately that the Ray was counting far fewer steps than the Fitbit.

I know my Fitbit is correctly calibrated for me, because I’ve adjusted it to my stride and counted along as I walked to verify it. For me my Fitbit is a very accurate benchmark with which to measure other devices.

No calibration, and step numbers were way off

img_4629The Ray was just not adding up for me.  Calorie counts I found were similar on both devices (but unless you’re inputting accurate calories with an app like MyFitnessPal, you’re likely just getting an average anyway).

Sleep seemed off a bit as well – sleep times for the Ray were actually overestimated, compared to the Fitbit numbers. The Ray clocked more sleep for me, by anywhere from 25 minutes to more than 50 minutes’ difference as compared to the Fitbit times.

Most concerning for me was the low step count, and no apparent way to adjust it. I couldn’t find any guides or help online in this area, so I reached out to my Misfit contacts to inquire if there is a way to calibrate the band to achieve more accurate results, however I wasn’t able to get an answer back even after several weeks.

App doesn’t give me what I want easily

The Misfit app was not my favourite either.  I found the focus on “points” instead of steps within the app confusing, and not tangible enough for me to take action. The number of steps is buried in the bottom right of the app screen, seemingly like it’s not as important as other data.

Accessing old data is hard

As I was writing this article I’d hoped to post a more detailled comparison of step counts between the Fitbit and the Ray, however the app only allows me to view my activity “points” when it came to historical data.  I couldn’t view my daily step counts like I can on Fitbit’s app.  Not very helpful for stats junkies or folks seeing concrete feedback. As a result, you’ll just have to take my word for it that the data was regularly incorrect.img_4772

Misfit Ray does other things too.. but…

Misfit knows it has to compete with other smarter devices like the Apple Watch, Fitbit and Jawbone, so it added some smart functionality.  There are message and app notifications for calls or texts, but other apps that play nice with the Ray aren’t likely to be on your must-have list of alerts; Skype, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, What’s App and Gmail are among the very short list of supported apps that will vibrate when an alert comes in.  However there’s no screen to check; alerts come in the form of a subtle coloured light on the top of the band. However I found it confusing trying to remember which coloured light corresponded to which app or service’s alert.

Batteries didn’t last .. or the device stopped working

Not really enjoying my overall Ray experience, I put the band away for a few weeks and then went to do some more testing.  I found I couldn’t wake the band up. Having only had it for about 3 months, I was surprised.  I pulled the batteries out and reinstalled them, tried waking the band, reinstalling the app, but the device was dead. It could be the batteries that came with this unit were duds, but by this point I wasn’t in love with the device enough to go and find new batteries, so I called it a day on the Ray.

Overall review of Misfit Ray

If you want a fitness band, do yourself a favour and get something other than the Misfit Ray. For the money, a Fitbit is more accurate, easier to use, and has more functionality and an easier to read and interpret app.

The Misfit Ray is pretty, but that’s it.  It’s all looks and not enough substance. It sells for  about $135 CAD/$99USD.