Marketing: my thermostat kicks your thermostats butt

Or does it? If yours is a nest, then not. If it isn’t, then it does both in looks and in functionality.

Interesting marketing observation; I recently found these two ads in Dwell by Nest Thermostat (which I do have and love BTW). What I thought is very interesting from a marketing perspective is that they appraise their thermostat for looks first.

Don’t get me wrong, the device is beautiful and very intuitive to use, but it’s main function is to make the task of programming your home heating/cooling more enjoyable and save on energy. I therefor found it interesting that they first hook you on looks and then on function.

What do you think?

Nest Ad

Perfectionistic Ideologies ≠ Progress

I’m very passionate about making a difference. My passion is to build high quality buildings that drastically increase comfort and quality, while lowering energy consumption.

I love getting things done and driving change forward. In my opinion, the passive house standard is a very good starting point.

No idea is ever bulletproof, but many times, trying to chase a perfect ideology (the perfect house, with the highest comfort, with the perfect materials, the best energy performance and the least possible embedded energy) leads to progress paralysis. Rather than actually executing on what we have, our minds get hung up with choice overload and we just walk away from progress all together – turning back to just the “same old, same old.” Has anyone else experienced this?

Should we not celebrate that some of us are actually executing? It might not be perfect, and things can be improved, but at some point we need to make decisions and just do what we think is the best solution given the current situation.

How to Pass the Certified 
Associate Project Manager (CAPM) Exam in Two Months

A few weeks ago, I passed the CAPM after studying for it for 2 months of studying time. I found quite a few others online that have been able to do that, but I can attest that it is a tough task to do it in that time frame. The complication for me lied in the fact, that I had no one to bounce ideas off, no teacher, no peers, which might have helped.

For now, here is how I did it:

Read through the PMBOK once. 
This is just to get a broad overview of the material. Don’t worry about really understanding everything, and how it all comes together.
– It took me 2 weeks (not studying on the weekends), 4-6 hours a day. I planned it first, and then measured against it. I ended up being faster than expected (I had planned for almost 3 weeks).
Tested myself with the tests at the end of each chapter of the CAPM Exam Prep book by Rita Mulcahy. This gave me a mark to measure my progress before and after reading her book. (I photocopied the tests, so that would be able to go through them multiple times.)
Read through CAPM Exam Prep by Rita Mulcahy. This is a great book. Nicely lays out the general structure of project management (according to PMI). The author also uses a great sense of humor, which makes it much more fun to read, as the subject is pretty dry. I made sure to read through this book very thoroughly on the first go, and I made sure to understand absolutely everything: how everything connects, all the terms, every single comment that Rita Mulcahy makes on what you need to know for the exam.
– This took me three weeks, roughly one chapter per day (first day two chapters).

Tested myself again with the tests at the end of each chapter. At this point I’d gotten from 60% to 80%, but this test does not really represent your big three hour CAPM exam.

I also took a full three hour exam from a website online, that offered one for free. I scored only 64%, which would have been a failing grade on the real exam. But at this point, I still had not really done some of the heavy lifting of learning yet, so this was a real kick in the donkey for me.

Read the rest in the PDF, that you can download here (file size: 8MB) (sorry, the file size is a bit big, maybe someone can tell me how I can make it smaller)

Two great flash diffusor/deflector designs for the pop-up flash of a DSLR

Want to get more out of your pop-up flash? Here are two designs, one deflector, one diffusor that I made for $0, which really improve the quality of your flash photography.

The first one is made by cutting out a diffusor out of a milk jug. Works very well. Originally I wanted to make something like this fellow here (the diffusor slips underneath the popped-up flash), but the hot shoe on the Nikon D3100 is not accessible from the front. So I had to go up and around the pop-up flash. Works very well.

TIP: If you make one yourself, make a cardboard version first, then zoom out all the way, snap a flash photo of your wall, and see if the light spills in on the edges. This will prevent your from making the diffusor too small.



Second one: a little Lego contraption, BONUS: I’ve got a director on set with me. The kids love it. This diffusor solved the issue that when I taped a business card to the camera, the light would be deflected towards the side, when snapping a portrait photo. I used this diffusor for my daughters birthday party recently, and I got some great results.





The following is an example of using the Lego deflector at the afore mentioned birthday party (sorry, the really good shots can’t be posted here, because I don’t have permission to use them), you can see that there is a very soft shadow from the bounce down from the ceiling underneath her elbow. The lighting in the art studio, the location of the party, was all fluorescent lighting, so choosing the right white balance wasn’t easy.


Gazelle Primeur Special

Riding bikes all life long, I recently became fascinated with classy bicycles, especially being able to ride a bike and still not looking like a pennyless student, maybe even in a suite. Inspired by Velorbis, but still with the budget of a pennyless student, I made out looking for a used Holland bike here in Canada. Not a very easy task. I was lucky when I found a used 80’s Gazelle Primeur Special on kijiji.

This bike didn’t really help my cause of looking classy at first, it needed a very thorough make-over. I would have loved to give this bike the Idealist-Realist-treatment, but that wasn’t in my budget, and I wanted to keep a bit more traditional as well.

I gave the frame and all other parts (including the plastic chain cover) a new coat of paint (oil paint, by hand, it is actually possible given the right technique to put on a very clean finish using just a brush and some oil paint) as well as updating many parts (new handle bar, new brake levers, new bell, antique brooks saddle – a gift from my father, new pedals, new bottom bracket, new bars on the fenders etc.). I also ended up ditching the original chrome light, for one that is much smaller and brighter than the original one. I love the look of the original headlight (and tail light for that matter, but that had been changed before my time), but the new one is much more practical. Most of the spare parts came from Germany, where you don’t need to take out a second mortgage in order to by them. After a few winter months, this is what came of it:

I updated the rear light with some electronics that keep the light on, when stopping at an intersection (nothing special in Europe, in North America my friends keep on reminding me that I left the lights on).

Front drum brake. Both front and rear drum brakes work well. Some of the chrome on the hubs was somewhat damaged, I ended up painting parts of it.

This bike is by no means perfect, and still has lots of dings and rust, but I love the detail like all the little red gazelle logos. Gives it so much character.

Tacky 80’s front fender detail fin.

These Holland bikes are mechanical neightmares. Just trying the change a tire, is quite the ordeal. I love the ride though. The smooth cruisers under the bicycles.

The three speed hub is made by Sturmey-Archer, and is still holding up fine.

I still want to ad a wooden crate on the front, it will make the runs to the market so much easier. Eventually, the tiny head light will go under that crate.

MBA in a Book – a jewel found in a book review on Amazon

I found a great review of “MBA in a Book – Mastering Business with Attitude” by Joel Kurtzman, with Glen Rifkin and Victoria Griffith on Amazon. In my opinion a total gem and worth much more attention than just being tucked away somewhere on Amazon (let’s not kid myself, it won’t get much more attention here either). It actually covers three “MBA-overview” books. See for yourself.

Title of the review: Essential Business Information & Diversity of Perspectives
(Jun 1 2004 By Robert Morris)
In recent years, there have been several excellent books which cover much of the same material found in this volume. For example, Steven Silbiger’s The Ten-Day MBA: A Step-By-Step Guide To Mastering The Skills Taught In America’s Top Business Schools and Milo Sobel’s 12 Hour MBA Program. (Both Silbiger and Sobel know it’s impossible to gain the knowledge-equivalent of an MBA degree in 10-12 months, much less in 12 hours or even in ten days.) Each of the their books is worthy of consideration as is this book. In fact, at least to business students and to relatively inexperienced executives, I presume to suggest that all three be purchased and then kept near at hand for frequent consultation.
Throughout history, all of the the most effective people were/are life-long learners. They fully appreciate the importance of knowing what they need to know; also the importance of knowing what they think they know…but don’t. As a result of all manner of new/better technologies, we now have access to more information than ever before…and both the quantity and quality of that information seem certain to increase faster than ever before. What we know as well as knowing what we don’t know are critically important. I am reminded of Derek Bok’s response to irate parents after a tuition increase at Harvard: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

In collaboration with Glenn Rifkin and Victoria Griffith, Kurtzman takes a different approach to various subjects than do Silbiger and Sobel. They provide a specific course of self-directed sequential study whereas Kurtzman provides a series of separate but related chapters, each of which focuses on fewer specific subjects but in greater depth and from several different perspectives. Although I recommend that Kurtzman’s book be read sequentially the first time, its greater value may derive — for many readers — from its discrete coverage of those subjects of most immediate relevance. Obviously, completing an M.B.A. degree program requires a much greater investment of time, concentration, energy, and (yes) money than does reading one or even several books. Even an excellent volume such as Kurtzman’s cannot replace that program, nor does he assert or even imply such a claim.

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Silbiger’s and Sobel’s books as well as Business: the Ultimate Resource, Stuart Crainer’s The Management Century as well as his The Ultimate Business Library: The Greatest Books That Made Management, Des Dearlove’s The Ultimate Book of Business Thinking: Harnessing the Power of the World’s Greatest Business Ideas, Daniel A. Wren and Ronald G. Greenwood’s Management Innovators: The People and Ideas That Have Shaped Modern Business, Daniel A. Wren’s The Evolution of Management Thought, (4th Edition), and The Leader’s Companion: Insights on Leadership Through the Ages (Thomas Wren, (Editor). In fact, every organization should have an in-house lending and/or reference library and these are among the titles which should be included.

Peachtree Decco Remote – Modification

I recently downsized my home stereo. My old stereo was just getting a bit dated and didn’t have the features I wanted. I started streaming all my music (apple lossless format) with an AppleTV2 and I was looking for the rest to go well with it. Mainly, I was looking for a great digital – analog converter, but without having all the hastle of the stereo to become too big and too complex. So I wanted it to sound great, look good, work well and be simple (read: wife friendly) and not break the bank. After some research and reading a lot of reviews online, I ended up buying a Peachtree Decco (version 1) by Signalpath (on ebay). It is powering my B&W DM301’s (old but great sounding bookshelf speakers, although the impedance is a bit mismatched, the B&W’s are very efficient which makes the stereo a bit loud). My main audio source is the AppleTV 2 via light pipe/optical cable for the cleanest signal path. I’m very happy with the system (although I had to do a few mods to the Decco, which are known to the manufacturer, but I’ll post about them another time).

My biggest issue with the system was the remote control of the Decco. Most reviews mention that it is not very good: the field of reception is very small and in my case, although the battery would test fine, it would run out of power fast. The original remote uses a lithium button cell batter CR2025, which provides 3V to the remote. It’s relatively expensive to replace it and doesn’t last long. I wanted to modify it, so that it would take two AA’s which provide the circuitry with a little bit more current. To make sure that two AA’s would work, I first simply rigged to batteries to the poles of the original remote, which worked well. After this proof of concept, I was sure to not waste my time with completely modifying the remote. I found a remote control from my local electronic recycler (thanx to NERRD), that used 2x AA’s and had a flat face plate that would be easier to modify and was also big enough to fit the circuit board. The exact model of the “surrogate” remote control is Pioneer VXX2866.

Here are some pictures of what I did.

Both remotes (Pioneer VXX2866, Peachtree Decco), side by side, circuitry and buttons in the middle
Original Decco Remote - The circuit board is already modified. I used the part of the Pioneer circuit board, which holds the power terminals in place. It connects to the original Decco circuit board. I also had to drill a little hole right into the center which made room for a screw in the "new" remote. I was lucky that there was a spot that would fit it, althought I had to be very careful not to hit some pretty delicate wires on the board.
I also needed to cut a hole into the rubber mat which holds the buttons.
This is the original IR diode and the new one. I had to extend the new one and guide the leads around another screw pole in the "new" remote.
This is how everything fits into the new remote. I used the original remote face plate to trace the holes that I needed in the modified remote. I used a Dremmel to cut out the holes. Again, a bit dodgy, but the new face plate is still coming.
This shows the screw posts inside the "new" remote. I could have simply cut the middle one out, but I kept it for the sake of stability (my little kids are not too easy on these devices).
This shows only the top pole with the IR diode going around it. Not too pretty, but it works.
The end result (for now). I'm still going to attach a new self adhesive face plate to the newly created remote.

The new remote sits nicely in the hand and has a nice weight to it. The original remote sits funny in the hand (there is actually a little weight in the remote, just because it must have felt weird to be so small and light). Intuitively, I would always hold the original remote upside down (which some people have mentioned online).

I also ended up using another IR diode for the modified remote. Many reviews mentioned that the field of reception was very narrow. I had a look into the Decco amp to see whether the receiving side was maybe too far into the housing and therefor blocked out the signal. It’s not really the case (compared to all my other devices which have great reception). This made me believe that the original IR diode must be relatively small in order to not draw too much power from the small button cell battery. I ended up using a much bigger and stronger diode (from one of the remotes that I took apart). I’m not sure of the exact spec’s of it, but it works great. The width of the field of reception is around 100 degrees now (I can use the remote almost from the side of the Decco amp now), which is exactly what I would expect it to be in the first place.

I hope this helps some of you, who are also annoyed by the original remote. Let me know if you find a better suited “surrogate” remote, maybe even a remote blank that works better. At 0$ so far (I still need to purchase something for the face plate), its been pretty cheap.

If You Could Choose, Where Would All Your Tax Dollars Go?

… what would it be?

I had a great conversation with Dave Klassen (who owns and operates Newport Landscaping) recently about taxes. It all started when I mentioned that I listen to CBC radio. In Dave opinion thought CBC is a complete waste of the tax payers money. Which brought me to a great question: If we only had one choice of dedicating our taxes to just one cause within the state, what would you want it to be?

At first we came up with job creation, and I think this would be the first choice for most people. But thinking about it further, I don’t trust people and the government enough to not just create jobs through tax funding that are only sustained by the input of tax money.

My final conclusion was, that I would want all my tax money to go towards manufacturing and innovation to boost productivity, so that Canada can compete internationally and sell its products abroad. In essence, isn’t that the only way that we can really increase this countries net worth?

This is all I wanted to leave you with today. Think about it: If you had the choice, where would you want all your tax dollars to go to?

As further reading, I recently found a great article in the Globe and Mail. It is titled: “Canada’s Innovation Window of Opportunity”